HERE, WATCH THIS

Saturday, 13 January 2018
I have watched an unhealthy amount of television over the festive break, so I thought I would put my binging habit to good use, and recommend some of my favourite series for you to enjoy while you procrastinate during the coming semester.

SEINFELD

















The continuing misadventures of neurotic New York stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his equally neurotic New York friends. 

Seinfeld is the pinnacle of situation comedy; it is endlessly entertaining. It is, fundamentally, about nothing – each episode revolving around the everyday events of the four principal characters, Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), George Costanza (Jason Alexander) and Kramer (Michael Richards). Despite 180 episodes, the characters do not learn, nor do they grow; it is stripped of complexity (something I often gravitate towards), leaving room for flawless comedy. Despite the lack of progression, each episode, each situation, feels fresh, and while being stupidly funny, it remains exceptionally clever. Jokes carry effortlessly through episodes, the use of secondary characters is exceptional – some appear sparingly (like Jackie Chiles), some often (like Seinfeld’s parents, and Jerry’s nemesis, Newman), but they all find a way to charm or excite an audience. Watching Seinfeld, it’s influence on subsequent sitcoms (like Friends, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and How I Met Your Mother) is evident - perhaps without knowing it, these shows borrow from plotlines pioneered by Seinfeld. In all respects, Seinfeld is the perfect series. If you are looking for something entertaining – to binge or to wind down with – watch this show. I guarantee that you will fall head over heels in love with it.

THE END OF THE F**CKING WORLD




















James is 17 and is pretty sure he is a psychopath. Alyssa, also 17, is the cool and moody new girl at school. The pair make a connection and she persuades him to embark on a road trip in search of her real father.

You can watch the trailer HERE.

I stumbled upon an advert for this show one morning and, six hours later, had watched and adored every episode. It contains everything that I look for in drama – wit, complexity, satire and heartbreak – and delivers a detailed look at the way that we characterise ourselves, and the effect of human connection and experience on that characterisation. James (possible psychopath) and Alyssa (very angry teen) have, on the surface, fairly singular notions of self. But, as their relationship intensifies, prior ideas are torn apart and are replaced with complex layers of suffering and emotion. Alyssa’s character (played by the incredible Jessica Barden) was particularly interesting. On the surface, she is selfish, antagonistic and angry. But underneath this brash exterior, there is a poignant desire to be loved, that she cannot express. (MILD SPOILER) There is a scene that I love that develops this idea, in which Alyssa initially escapes arrest (for shoplifting), and stumbles across a lost child. She chooses to return the child to her father (forcing her to return to the shop) despite knowing that this will result in her arrest. It is a simple scene, but it offers a view into Alyssa’s battle with what she desires, and what is right, that is shown throughout the show. The End of the F**cking World is a phenomenal series. Perfect if you want something quick, but also packed full of emotion.

LOVESICK




















After finding out he has an STD, Dylan must get back in touch with every girl he has ever had sex with to let them know the bad news.

You can watch the trailer for the first season HERE - don't mind the fact that it used to be called Scrotal Recall. Or do, because it's hilarious. 

Lovesick is phenomenal – I watched all available episodes in less than 24 hours. Told somewhat retrospectively, it details the influence of past experience on the current predicaments of the principal characters: Dylan (Johnny Flynn), Luke (Daniel Ings) and Evie (Antonia Thomas). As each mid twenty-something navigates the dating climate, Lovesick explores what it is to love – both the possibilities and difficulties. I adored this show for multiple reasons: it's set in Glasgow, a city that I know and love, full of familiarity; the story is both poignant and hilarious; the characters are imperfect in wonderful ways. Luke possesses a deeply complex sensitivity; Evie’s cynicism is very apparent, but it changes in subtle, interesting ways as the series progresses; Dylan is (minus the STD) me. Dylan tackles nothing with logic, worries too much, pushes people away while attempting to pull them closer – despite the negative notion of each quality, it is always nice to feel represented on screen. What I presumed would be a simple comedy, turned out to be a poignant look at friendship, love and heartbreak – honest, and a little bit beautiful, while also being very funny (in a typically self-deprecating British fashion). A good watch if you want to laugh, but also want to feel involved in something. 


Thank you for reading!

REVIEW: LA BELLE SAUVAGE BY PHILIP PULLMAN

Sunday, 7 January 2018


I am underwhelmed. But prequels often frustrate me, so perhaps I should not be disappointed by my disappointment. There is little suspense when I can answer the riddles, and already know the fate of the characters that I love. 

Saying that, La Belle Sauvage is okay. The plot is interesting, and speaks of Pullman’s effortless talent for blending realism with fantasy. Malcolm Polstead, son of Oxford innkeeper, is thrust into danger as a result of a set of chance encounters. He, alongside his companion Alice, must navigate perilous waters, guarding the life of a baby girl we know as Lyra Belacqua. 

Pullman, as always, adds beautiful magic to his dark tale. I particularly liked a scene in a realm in which Malcolm, Alice, Lyra and their dæmons appear invisible - a realm that is adorned with lush vegetation and festivity in what should be a flooded winter. Pullman again writes of acutely evil bodies - the Consistorial Court of Discipline (CCD) haunt the children, and The League of St Alexander seek to eliminate atheism and force religious connection. As in His Dark Materials, the tyrannical oppression of the church, and the possibilities of Dust, are the main focal point of this narrative. The saviour of Lyra by the two children is an adventure tale within a bleak existence.

Though I did not expect LBS to achieve HDM levels of brilliance, I did not expect it to fall quite so short. I found the characters rather boring: Alice is snarly, but protective (stereotypically soft underneath her exterior rage); Malcolm is, well, unexciting (he is perfectly adequate, but not particularly gripping). Part of the wonder of HDM is the evident complexity of human nature, and I can’t locate this in LBS. Even Lord Asriel is remarkably tame. Pullman’s villain, Bonneville is also somewhat stereotypical. However, his use of sexual violence is striking, and coupled with the fevered anger of Alice that involves significant swearing, this novel distinctly lacks the feel of children’s tale that HDM possessed behind its allegory. 

Despite maintaining his wonderful writing style, Pullman’s plot often seemed lost and unfinished. But I hope that each loose end is resolved in later novels. I know that Relf will reappear, alongside the CCD and The League of St Alexander. But I also wish to know more of Albion and the enchanted realm - the small, spectacular moments that were so wonderful, but seemed rather random in the grand scheme. 

Overall, I didn’t adore this book, but I will read the next instalments nonetheless. It was wonderful being in a world so familiar, and yet new. But in terms of character, it let me down. I can only hope that the next volume will adapt to the complexity that I love, and unravel mysteries that I am perplexed by. 


Thanks for reading!

REVIEW: A SHIVER OF SNOW AND SKY BY LISA LUEDDECKE

Tuesday, 2 January 2018


Lisa Lueddecke is a beautiful writer, with a flare for spectacular setting. Her protagonist, Òsa, resides in Skane: a snowy island that is at one with the stars; an island that has a fortune foretold in the light of the sky. If the light shines green, the Goddess is happy; blue, and a storm is afoot; red, and danger is coming. For the first time in seventeen years, the sky bleeds red, and a threat both new and old works its way towards Skane. Òsa must make a perilous journey to save the island that she calls home. 

I found A Shiver of Snow and Sky difficult for the first third. I initially thought it was slow, but I now think it was the opposite. Too much information was hurled at me - I had no time to get to know the characters, before they were plunged into mortal danger. I feel there was a depth there that could have been explored, that wasn’t. I would like to have known more of other villagers, and their impact on Òsa, as I would like to have known more of Ivar (his home life, his motivations). It made the first third feel a bit random and stunted at times; like it’s growth couldn’t be achieved because I wasn’t invested in the story. 

But once Òsa is in the foothills, Lueddecke finds a voice, and it is beautiful. Her narrative is divided between oncoming danger in Skane and Osa’s journey. The two blend in a wonderful way, and suspense forms at the end of chapters (as the narrative shifts effortlessly) that leave you craving more. The world within this novel will give you goosebumps. Lueddecke paints dazzling skies, and illustrates enemies both human and monstrous. Òsa discovers beings seemingly made of snow, and spectacular animals (including an owl called Uxi that will steal your heart). There are many beautiful moments, and an ending so spectacular it will knock you off your feet. 

Within Òsa, there is resilience and light; a reminder that we must navigate the darkness in order to find the light. Though it is a cliché perhaps overused, Lueddecke spins it into a very beautiful tale. 

In my opinion, it is worth the initial struggle for the hope and wonder that you find.