I don’t usually watch a lot of telly but I can be persuaded to go to the cinema for the odd blockbuster. I adore huge films with massive explosions as well as adorable indie films which few people have heard of, but in recent years the bits they don’t talk about in the blockbusters – how many non-superheroes have died or how many buildings were destroyed – have started to piss me off a bit, so I’m veering towards more of the lesser explosive stuff.
When it comes to telly watching I am unbelievably picky. Sitting in front of a small screen feels like a real commitment from me so it had better be worth it. Having said that there have been a few winners over the past year or two…Brooklyn Nine Nine was a delight to find and The Good Place (particularly seasons one and four) made me very happy. Russian Doll was WAAAAY better than I thought it would be and for consistent smiles there is always the Great British Bake Off.
But for films and TV I can sink into and be comforted by there are just a few that will do it every time.
Films – Castaway On The Moon. I went through a phase of watching Korean films and although all of them seem to have the same start (someone is throwing themselves off the bridge into the Han river) this one is sheer bliss. It has despair, longing, pain, resourcefulness, empathy and redemption as well as black bean noodles and interesting facts about the realities of life in South Korea. Beware – this could be the gateway film into a whole new country’s cinema, it was for me.
Angel-A. (Not every film I love has subtitles and people trying to end their lives by jumping off bridges…honest). French. Black and White. An antidote to brutal reality. Say no more…
Grosse Point Blank. Hitman wavering in his commitment to his career then deciding to go to his High School reunion? Oh yeah.
Mary and Max. The tale of a penpal friendship between an Australian girl and a middle-aged man in New York. Both of them struggling in different ways and both of their lives utterly enriched by each other. This is animated and you WILL cry at the end unless you are completely heartless…but it is totally worth it.
Telly programmes – These are a bit harder to find because I am less likely to commit to sitting through enough of them to know if they are worth it, but I keep going back to The West Wing and The Newsroom by Aaron Sorkin for their optimism and intelligence. Yes, there is a lot of monologuing but I like what they have to say so they’re forgiven. Both are full of decent people trying to make the world a better place, for some reason that really appeals to me right now…
Derek. I am NOT the biggest fan of Ricky Gervais. I did not like The Office and I didn’t watch Extras. Afterlife was watchable but not really enjoyable to me. Having said all that Derek is unbelievably good. I started off with major trepidation, I didn’t know if this would be some obliviously over privileged bloke making money off a ‘humourous’ portrayal of someone with a learning disability…I was wrong. Utterly, utterly wrong. In fact, I apologise here and now to Mr Gervais for making that assumption. This is sensitively made AND hysterically funny. It has deeply heart-warming relationships and everyday struggles that everyone faces. It is lovely, although at some points I was laugh/crying so hard I had mascara all the way down to my chin.
BBC Earth Story. This is my favourite telly programme in the whole wide world. It is presented by someone (Aubrey Manning) who is genuinely happy to learn new stuff (which makes a very pleasant change from all the people who pretend they already know everything there is to know). Although the episodes describe complicated and challenging subjects they are not over simplified, yet are still easily understandable by all. I don’t fall asleep to these programmes, I actively watch because my brain is soothed and reinvigorated by them. I treasure this series (downloaded to the laptop, possessed on DVD and forever in my heart).