This Week in Geek (17-23/01/21)


At home: It's normal to feel a bit weepy towards the end of a show with the proper emotional core, but Schitt's Creek was doing that to me on a regular basis through my quick watch of Seasons 4 through 6. People doing right by each other just gets to me, y'know? Amazon Prime presents a very emotional making of after the final episode streams, and there I learned just how brilliant Catherine O'Hara really is, as it seems the wigs, the weird accent and the flowery vocabulary was what she brought to the role (what was even on the page?!). Many times, I've asked myself how they wrote her fantastical dialog. And I also want to  give newcomer Annie Murphy a round of applause. Surrounded by comedy legends, she nevertheless managed, over the show's six years, to be funny, expressive, cute, strange, and as often as Dan Levy, the emotional core of the show. You couldn't have guessed how much heart this show was going to have based on the premise, but it has HUGE amounts of heart.

I had trouble finding the fourth season of Continuum at an affordable price, so it took me way too long to get to the last six episode, so long it's just not my kind of TV anymore (I'm really tired of high-concept sci-fi conspiracy thrillers). Six episodes to wrap things up, fix the present (or not), get Kiera back to her time (or not), defeat Kellog (or not). There's a lot of action across the season, much of it quite good, though I felt like the finale was an interminable fire fight with dodgy effects. Those power suits from the future look like they come from Halo machinima. Once you get through the paranoid who's working for who and who can you trust shenanigans that have always been part of the show's DNA, what you need is to at least stick the landing. Continuum does. I don't want to spoil it, obviously, but it plays fair with the audience and with the rules of time travel as laid out for us. It's even a little bit brave in terms of what you expect from mid-range television.

When compared to Armando Iannucci's other political comedies (The Thick of It/In the Loop/Veep), The Death of Stalin is rather violent, but then it's based on a historical regime that wasn't exactly known for its niceties. And it's also more slapstick than I would have expected. What it has in common with Iannucci's other work is that it captures the systemic ineptitude of bureaucracies, deflates the myth of the "great leader", and especially in the context of a fascist state like Stalin's USSR and what sprang out of it in the wake of his death, offers real theater of the absurd. Well, it would have seemed more absurd maybe - cough cough - four or five years ago. I'm all for dark comedy, but either it hit too close to home in terms of the rise of fascism it KNOWS it's referencing, or the tonal shifts are tough to juggle, but I had a hard time finding it particularly amusing. Where was Malcolm Tucker to sort all of this our?

Based on the play, One Night in Miami creates a fictional conversation between Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown the night of Cassius' world championship win and eve of his conversion to Islam. He's the pretext, as the real core of this examination of the responsibility that comes bundled with celebrity - especially in a minority context - is really X and Cooke calling each other out on their shit (the second act is the best part). It's great to see Leslie Odom Jr. post-Hamilton, and he does do all his own singing. Brown is really a supporting player in this drama, more on edge than anyone, but keeping it in and doing a lot of truth telling; Aldis Hodge probably gives the most subtle performance here (but I can be expected to sing his praises, as I've loved his work since Leverage). Eli Goree does a good Clay, while Kingsley Ben-Adir can never really escape Denzel Washington's long shadow as X, but is nevertheless effective. Whether you look at the film as an exploration of what it means to be a successful black person in 1960s America (not all that far from 2020s America, unfortunately), or just as a drama about friends who are comfortable enough to confront each other's values, One Night in Miami delivers.



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