The UPSIDE down of Film and TV in 2016
THE UPSIDE: for me personally, finally getting through Breaking Bad (I know, I know, waaaaay overdue) was a huge highlight this year. Other television standouts were Stranger Things, Daredevil and the Icelandic thriller, Trapped. So far as films go, I loved Sing Street, Snowden and Hell or High Water.
THE DOWNSIDE: I failed to be gripped or compelled by The Fall and Sully left me wanting.
It’s certainly not news that Breaking Bad is outstanding television. It has been heralded one of the best television dramas of all time with good reason. For too long I had put off diving in to the world of Walter White, daunted by the amount of television I had to consume in order to catch up, and yet all the while afraid I was missing out on a great masterpiece and on something everyone else knew – Breaking Bad is seriously good. Not just good good, but insanely, mindbendingly, reaching-new-heights good. It’s confirmed, I now know what the rest of the world knew a long time ago.
Bryan Cranston is a revelation as Walt and series creator, Vince Gilligan, is clearly a genius. I have no doubt he has etched the Breaking Bad universe firmly into the zeitgeist. All the cast are terrific and make memorable their characters. I missed them and all their antics once my Heisenberg binge was over. It was too soon, however, for Better Call Saul. I needed to let the dust settle but don’t think I’ll wait as long as I did with Breaking Bad to discover this one.
My favourite new release of the past year would have to be Stranger Things. Typical of Netflix, it simply appeared one day as a new original and with its catchy, nostalgic design it jumped out and I hit play on spec. I was immediately hooked and felt like someone had given me a great, unexpected gift. It struck this unique tone with its setting in the eighties and the young cast, excellent design and soundtrack and the intriguing plot. It was utterly satisfying and given its huge popularity, I’m obviously not the only one who thinks so.
Another surprise for me was Netflix original, Daredevil based on the Marvel comic book series. The production values are really cinematic which helps to make everything feel big, which you need in a superhero genre. The overall look is dark and gritty and polished, and the fight choreography is impressive. Those elements stand out to me as some of the best features of season 1, and the character development and interwoven backstories are all fed at the right time. It’s very cohesive and complete which owes a lot to the writing and Charlie Cox, particularly, gives a great performance as the series’ lead, Murdoch. There’s plenty to sink your teeth, or nights, into here.
On a different note, I love a good murder mystery, crime drama. More on the naturalistic side, set in a remote Icelandic seaport town, Trapped exceeded my expectations. It is a compelling drama with interesting characters and an unravelling plot. Refreshing to watch something from another region also, as I must admit it can be hard to move away from the American and British dramas which dominate our screens – and streaming platforms.
It would be remiss of me not to mention a new addiction I have, too. More like a glass of champagne than an aged whiskey, TV Land’s Younger has become my latest indulgence. Strictly for viewing when my partner isn’t around – deemed too girly – I’ve been loving the characters and storylines. It’s fresh, modern and unashamedly fun. Don’t worry what it’s about just go and watch an episode, like a good glass of bubbly, it’ll take the edge off and make you smile.
I’m a sucker for drama, so when something more light-hearted comes along and cheers me up a bit I think it’s worth celebrating. There were 2 films that did that to me this year; when I came out of the cinema feeling better about life than how I felt when I walked in. They were Sing Street and Eddie the Eagle. Pure, unadulterated fun with a lot of heart. Both fairly small productions that relied on the strength of their characters and performances and charming storylines to win you over. They got me, at least.
Now back to the hard stuff. There have been some great thrillers this year. 10 Cloverfield Lane, Don’t Breathe and The Conjuring 2 were all excellent. Performances by John Goodman and Stephen Lang as the creepy guy were a highlight of the first 2 films, and James Wan’s direction in The Conjuring 2 kept me on edge.
So far as more traditional dramas go, Hell or High Water was the most satisfying film for me, followed by Snowden. The personal stories at the heart of Hell or High Water and the knockout performances from Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster make this much better than your average modern western or other films treading similar territory.
Other films that made an impression were Midnight Special, Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Deadpool and Rogue One.
As we close out the year, there are a number of releases circling around all vying for Awards Season attention, and I’m looking forward to catching LaLa Land, Silence, Nocturnal Animals and Collateral Beauty. Back to television, I must make time for Westworld too, before it’s 5 years down the track and I’m feeling out in the dark wondering what all the fuss is about like I was with Breaking Bad.