(UN)POPULAR CULTURE

The home of writer & author A. J. BLACK

Welcome to November! Because there’s not enough useless information floating around on the internet, I thought I would update readers of this blog as to what I’ve watched/read over the previous month, each month, in the form of TV, movies and books.

Some of this I will have reviewed on the blog but others I’ve just been watching for enjoyment with Mrs Black.

Let’s start this month with TV…

TV

Last month was a bit of a bust when it came to TV but now Mrs Black and I have returned to more of a groove, we’ve hit our stride a little more with a few different shows.

Having previously tried and failed to watch the first couple of seasons (on account of them being a bit too unsettling), I finally dipped my toe into American Horror Story with Season 8: Apocalypse and, well… it wasn’t the best place to start! Apart from being very much tied into two previous seasons I hadn’t seen, it was also camp as Christmas and stark raving bonkers at the same time! Will give other seasons a try but I can’t say I was sad to see it end.

Similar sentiments really with Amazon’s big budget fantasy series, Carnival Row, which despite being just 8 episodes felt more like 80 by the end of the first season. Orlando Bloom feels miscast as a Peaky Blinder wannabe and Cara Delevingne’s accent is all over the shop. Did pick up in its last two episodes and the finale left me intrigued enough to try the next season but it really should have been a book series first, TV show second. A propulsive plot often gets lost in the derivative world building.

Thanks the saints then for Succession, which we started watching as everyone and their dog have been raving about the recently finished Season 2. Immediately from the pilot, I was down. Feels like Arrested Development meets Wall Street with that Thick of It sensibility thanks to creator Jesse Armstrong. Great cast, very darkly funny, with shades of Game of Thrones epic betrayal and Shakespearian gravitas, not to mention a brilliant score by Nicholas Brittell. Four episodes in and it’s quickly becoming a favourite.

Oh and can we all just agree Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen, two episodes in, is a masterpiece and leave it at that? It’s already become my new TV crack.

MOVIE

I’ve done well this month for films, managed at least one a day and a few trips to the pictures in the mix for good measure.

Joker kicked off the month in suitably controversial fashion (and I also wrote a piece on its thematic connections to The Dark Knight Rises), but I also enjoyed Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy around the same time as preparation for that film – my first watch of that classic.

Particular highlights this month have included Steve McQueen’s Widows, a slick slice of 1970’s-esque crime thrills; I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s pretty harrowing tale of inequality and benefit system tragedy in the North East of England which left me shaken by the end; and I really enjoyed John Huston’s 1956 Moby Dick which I’ll be reviewing this month – looks stunning in revised technicolour.

In terms of reviews, check out thoughts on Ang Lee’s awkward but not terrible Gemini Man, 70’s schlock horror flicks Fright & And Soon the Darkness, 80’s Frederick Forsyth thriller The Dogs of War, exhaustive 80’s horror documentary In Search of Darkness, Arnie-starring 80’s action thriller Red Heat, a collection of fine 50’s pictures in the Fuller at Fox set, another documentary all about sound design called Making Waves and finally El Camino, the much-hyped Breaking Bad sequel movie.

Plus, my scene by scene breakdown of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan continues and its enormous fun. Five of ten parts in the bag and I’m already thinking of what I might do in this format next…

BOOKS

Again, I’ve barrelled through a few books this month, but it’s always steadier going due to limited time.

After scaling mount It, you’d think I’d be reticent about reading more Stephen King so quickly but The Shining was terrific, and not as disconnected to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece as the writer may like to believe. I’ve struggled much more with Doctor Sleep though, but thankfully the film was a stronger proposition, if still a bit flawed.

I read a cracking piece of cinematic history in Hollywood Black, charting the story of black people across decades of the form, and that’ll be reviewed with a couple of other film books in the next month. You can also check out my review of Nina Allan’s twisty, etherial time-travel story The Silver Wind, which is a knot that defies being untied.

PODCAST

I’ve turned out a few podcasts this month for various different of my We Made This projects.

Carl Sweeney and I put out two episodes of our Motion Pictures podcast, discussing our favourite movies and then the anti-hero in cinema to tie in with Joker. We had planned a Brexit films podcast for end of the month but much like Brexit itself, it’s been postponed until a later date…

Halfway into the month, I did another Primitive Culture with Duncan Barrett, discussing Star Trek and show revivals. That was a great chat and I’ll be back on that show in November at some point.

I popped back up on The X-Cast as the month kicked off to talk, with Darren Mooney, the Season 4 X-Files finale Gethsemane and round off the season. That was huge fun and I’ll be back for Season 5 next month at some point.

Also, as the month ended, I put out a special Cultural Conversation talking BBC TV series Years and Years with Wynter Tyson, and reunited with Darren on Millennium podcast The Time Is Now to talk The Curse of Frank Black.

Have a great month, folks!

T x

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