Wolf Hall – one of the best things on TV in a generation

Wolf Hall BBC Hilary Mantel

I think that Wolf Hall probably has been the best thing broadcast on the BBC in the last 5 or so years. Sublime drama – pure Game of Thrones territory in its ability to capture the imagination (sans dragons and gratuitous sex of course).

I’d never even heard of the guy that played Cromwell – Mark Rylance – now lorded as the ‘greatest actor of his generation’. It was all rather devastatingly good though. I’m not the world’s biggest history buff but it brought that period home in spades. Visceral, political, real. Incredibly vivid and accessible, not dusty at all.

Go forth and watch it or risk revelling in your own philistinism!🙂

Blackout (Channel 4; Review)

Blackout (Channel 4; Review)

blackout channel4I watched Channel 4’s film ‘Blackout’ last night. The premise is simple – the UK is the victim of a cyber-attack that brings down the National Grid. This power outage – that affects the entire country – lasts for several days (I think it was 5 days in total).

What this dramatisation sought to show was a rapid decline into lawlessness and ‘dog eat dog’. Imagine people ‘coming together’ and supporting one another? Uh uh. That’s not going to happen (according to this film). It was quite ‘edge of the seat’ stuff, much of it filmed (and told) through camera-phone and camcorder footage (think ‘Blair Witch Project’). The tension was certainly ratcheted up and the end was quite shocking. I thought the acting very good and the characters believable. They had an ‘every man or woman’ quality that made them easy to believe in.

Sadly – I don’t think that the scenario put forward by this film was ‘only the stuff of fiction’. I could see it happening. The London riots of a few years ago have made it very clear that such things are entirely possible here. The UK is an extremely individual-orientated (versus community-orientated) country and those scenes of neighbours not knowing one another, massive mistrust of strangers and the general feral instincts of some of society’s more unpleasant components were – to my mind – entirely plausible.

I’ve made this comment once before – but I think back to when I was last in France and engaged in a long, long conversation over dinner with a very ordinary British couple who have lived in rural France with their family for 10 years and who have said how entirely different it is – values and community-wise – vs the UK. I was struck again by that thought last night.

Anyway, if you’re in the UK and haven’t seen it – I recommend it. It’s presumably available on 4od for a while.

Make Me German

So I watched the BBC doc ‘Make Me German‘. Germany is really rather different to the UK, though I suppose I knew that. Much more community-orientated. Very different approach to bringing up children and thus the lives of working mothers (the vast majority of mothers do not work). Nothing open on a Sunday. Most people joining clubs of one sort or another. The UK is so… individualistic. English friends of my mum (who have lived in France for 10+ years) said the same thing and how different France was to the UK in that respect.

Why is it the UK is so obsessed at the individual level? It’s the whole ‘Englishman and his castle’ thing I suppose.

Personally, I regard myself as more community orientated in contrast to being individualistic, but I think that’s probably the ENFP in me.

Anyway, I’m working on a big project for my German client at the moment. Am not any clearer in my mind about whether I want to live out there or not, yet. The feeling that I definitely, definitely want to get out of the UK remains, however. That desire has persisted for more than 10 years mind you.

This song (which I’ve blogged before) is so very German and quite fun.

Review: Burton & Taylor

Really enjoyed the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton bio-pic/drama on BBC the other evening, as I knew I would.

(click images for larger slideshow)

Helena Bonham-Carter was excellent as Liz and Dominic West got Burton’s voice down pretty well I thought. The explosive nature of their relationship was captured very well. You could see they were utterly in love with one another – and yet, they couldn’t really live with one another. Each had too big a personality and they both seemed such dominant types.

The very sad news, though, is that this drama was the last in BBC4’s long lineup of docu-dramas, many of which I have blogged about on this site over recent years. Why? ‘Budget cuts’.  My suggestion to the BBC is that if you want to cut budgets – get rid of that awful BBC3. Anyway, this Guardian journalist pretty much sums up my own thinking on the subject:

Budget cuts, they say: yet the BBC’s coverage of the royal birthing was batshit-crazy. They had a chuffing helicopter hovering over Paddington. I wept hot salt tears for Nicholas Witchell’s degradation: no longer a man, but a souffle of gingered hagiography, despised by all, especially the royals. Why does he do it? The BBC’s coverage of this week’s “events”, I would respectfully suggest, was pornographic, in that it diddled, and titillated, and mirrored real life in no way whatsoever.

Hum ho. Dom West was pretty good, as I said: the careful timbre of his voice got Burton’s chocolate-threat to a T. As did HBC’s swaying mad vowels. They could, obviously, only use the voices, though they tried their best to do the looks. No one today, sadly, can look like Richard Burton; and only a very few like Liz Taylor. But there was a wizarding chemistry between these two actors, and, briefly, we were transported to 1983, before he died and she went a bit tootsie, and when disco was also in need of a savage wash of brine. And we were able to recall the joy/misery, insert as applicable, of falling, tumbling, into love with someone who was quite, quite needy or quite, quite addicted. And – it’s the definition of insanity apparently – doing it over and over again, both unwilling and unable to forget your mistake. It (West/Bonham Carter) was a towering performance, as was the Taylor/Burton thing, in life. Source: Guardian