May Media Musing

Some of the stuff I watched in May…

Film

Her Smell
We almost bailed on this early in the film ā€” the drugged-up, erratic Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) wandering around the green room of a concert venue screaming at people was a real turn-off. However we stuck with it and were glad we did. Moss delivered a nuanced and engaging performance as a messed-up rock star whose addiction and mental health problems destroyed herself and those around her. Brutally annoying in parts, but there is some peace and optimism in the ending.

Stiv
Speaking of the rock star life, this documentary about the life of Stiv Bators of The Dead Boys shows just how intense that life can be. With interviews from friends and former bandmates (although, notably, not any of the members of the current line-up of The Dead Boys, including Cheetah Chrome), the film details Bators’ life from the early days until his death in 1990. The irony of someone who did all the drugs and booze and who liked to car surf for kicks getting hit by a taxi and walking away only to die of internal bleeding hours later is not lost. And the story about his girlfriend snorting his ashes is true (many of the funeral attendees did as well).

The Lion’s Share
It’s not “wimawe” it’s “mbube”, and a real South African man named Solomon Linda wrote the line decades before The Tokens recorded The Lion Sleeps Tonight, or it was used by Disney. This story of Linda’s children trying to win back royalty rights and be compensated for the work their father created is fraught with that special flavour of racism found only in South Africa (the lawyer hired to defend the adult daughters talks about them as if they’re mentally-challenged children). Ultimately they win… something, but after all the lawyers get their share, Linda’s daughters aren’t left with much.

Television

Back to Life
Daisy Haggard (best known for her role in Uncle) plays Meri, fresh out of an 18-year stint in prison, returning to her hometown to try and restart the life she lost as a teenager. The viewer doesn’t find out why Meri went to jail until the end of the series, and the plot is full of twists and turns. Great performance by Adeel Akhtar as Miri’s neighbour.

Ghosts
The original Horrible Histories cast returns as a collection of ghosts haunting a derelict country pile. Based partially on the story of West Horsley Place (where the show is filmed), Alison (Charlotte Ritchie, Save the Midwife) and her husband inherit an estate. Alison falls out a window, lives through a coma, and when she returns she can hear and see the ghosts. Much hilarity ensues. There’s a caveman, a headless Tudor courtier (presumably based on Sir Walter Raleigh, whose family owned West Horsley Place and whose head was supposedly kept in a bag found on the premises ā€” the bag, not the head), and a whole host of other characters. Oh, and a pile of plague victims in the basement. This might be my favourite show of 2019 so far.

A House Through Time
Historian David Olusoga traces the history of a single house in Newcastle, using census reports and other records to find out more about the building’s occupants. In Series 2, Olusoga discovers the Newcastle house was the home of IRA members and the famous naturalist Joshua Alder. This is a really engaging series (third season is in the works) and I love Olusoga’s laid-back but engaged presenting style.

It’s Bruno
This is one of those great little series of 15-minute episodes (like Special and Bonding) that Netflix has picked up recently. You couldn’t have made TV like this even 10 years ago but the need for piles of content means that fun, quirky little shows this this one about a guy and his dog in Brooklyn, not only get picked up but become hugely popular. Solvan “Slick” Naim plays Malcolm, a man devoted to his dog. Everybody loves Bruno. Well, except his rival Angie and her owner, and the guy who runs the supermarket and makes Bruno stay outside. Every episode is drama-packed and full of charm.

What We Do in the Shadows
I wasn’t loving this series as much as the movie it is based on, but it picked up significantly about halfway through the season. I’m even warming to Matt Berry (Lazlo), who I was never a real fan of previously. Every episode is better than the last, with notable highlights including werewolves, the pub crawl episode and the massive, amazing cameo-filled vampire council episode, made up of actors who have previously played vampires including Tilda Swinton and Paul Reubens. The real question is can they convince Catherine Deneuve to take part in another council episode next season?

Deadwood The Movie
Aw, y’all. This is still my favourite TV series of all time, and like so many others I’ve been waiting for some closure for more than a decade. It was good. Lots of references to the series (although I felt the flashback clips were superfluous), including those fucking peaches, and lots of circular references that echoed events from the series that did, ultimately, give us some closure. (Most of) the people you want to see have a happy ending get one, and the bad guys get their comeuppance. Which is pretty much what you want from a Shakespearean western, right? (Did y’all catch the uncredited cameo by Deadwood alum Garret Dillahunt? He’s there!)