For some, the #PolymathLifestyle is more than just an excuse to sit on their ass and watch TV all day. For the rest of us, there’s TGE’s Pop Culture Quickie.
The Witch is the best horror film I’ve seen in ages.
We’re still a week away from Captain America III: War of the Civil War washing away the stinging disappointment of Batman v My Childhood, but you know what? I braved the cinema, which I hadn’t done since my second round of Dawn of Justice, and saw something really good.
The Witch is set in New England in the 17th century and offers a horrifying observation of a family slowly falling into ruin and despair. A family of pilgrims gets shunned by the community and end up building a tiny farm on the edge of a forest. Their world is inhospitable, made of grey weather, bad harvests and barren of wildlife to boot. But on the bright side something creepy is definitely going on in those woods. And that black goat’s been acting kind of funny.
This is a classic horror movie. It doesn’t rely on jump scares or dumb tactics but instead unnerves you through a mounting sense of dread. The oppressive gloom is perfectly captured in the cinematography too. This is just a really creepy movie on all fronts. I was especially bugged out by those little bastard twins and Black Philip, easily a top 5 scariest movie goat of the decade.
If you like horror movies that rely on atmosphere to profoundly unsettle you, like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, give The Witch a shot. Score: Black Philip / Black Philip.
Everyone’s talking about The Night Manager – I’m catching up so it might improve, but for now I find it well-made but unfocussed and a little boring. But the show that’s got me jumping up and down these days is American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson.
Looking for more of that moral indignation from when you outrage-watched Netflix’s Making A Murderer? Look no further.
This is an anthology series in the vein of True Detective, in which each season tells a single self-contained story from beginning to end (so no need to keep things unrealistically hanging, to be resolved in future seasons). Like TruDec, its debut season is sensational.
This faithful retelling of the trial of the century features a fantastic cast – highlights include the terrific Sarah Paulson as prosecutor Marcia Clark and Sterling K. Brown as her loyal partner Chris Darden. I enjoyed the surprisingly raw turn from David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, but my favourite’s got to be John Travolta’s batshit crazy take on Bob Shapiro. Now that’s a defence attorney:
Travolta is so weird throughout it’s amazing to watch. He even nails the Shapiro eyebrow.
The writing is Peak TV level good too. This was a watershed moment for pre-Internet media and celebrity culture: a murder case involving a major A-lister, staged against a backdrop of racial tension and the recent Rodney King beating. As a guy who hadn’t followed the original news story, I found this show super-informative.
But The People v OJ‘s main strength is in telling the story from the perspective of the different players, each of whom gets their own individual episode. My favourite is Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, where we really get a sense of the insane position the head prosecutor was thrown into. The episode conveys all of Marcia Clark’s supreme dedication, as well as her mounting frustration at the media’s influence on the proceedings. Her story is made all the more tragic by our knowing that her attempts to secure justice are ultimately doomed. I loved it.
You should watch this show. I enjoyed the hell out of it and, so far, it’s my favourite new series of 2016. Score: 0.14/0.16.
Here’s a release from last week that seems to be made for virtually anybody who likes music. It’s already on my Best Of The Year list.
Kevin Morby is a singer-songwriter in the vein of past Greats such as Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen, and Singing Saw is his best album so far. Morby’s world-weary tone and penchant for storytelling evoke Bob Dylan’s travelling raconteur period (think John Wesley Harding). The little tableaux he paints about life on the road, open skylines, and chasing a bus ticket-in-hand are reminiscent of other brilliant troubadours – Simon & Garfunkel and Johnny Cash spring to mind.
And even with its variety (from the soft, acoustic atmosphere of the title track to the rocking propulsion of Dorothy) there’s a common thread throughout the album – a constant sense of intimacy. No matter the tempo, Morby’s sincerity makes it feel like you’re listening-in on a private moment. He really did transport me into his world.
It’s an absolutely beautiful album, and one that I suspect will end up on many Best Of 2016 lists come the end of the year. Score: Kevin Morby / Bob Dylan