Twenty Twelve: Season 1-2 (TV Review)

Twenty Twelve: Season 1-2 (TV Review)

Twenty Twelve is another pseudo-documentary from Britain’s BBC, that is, of course, pretty solid. It seems like every TV show out of Britain is at least pretty good, going all the way up to excellent. They are simply different from what we are used to, and there is generally always success.

The story of Twenty Twelve is quite simple: a group of people are in charge of organizing the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and they are being filmed while trying to get things done, while avoiding humorous crisis after humorous crisis. The gang in charge, all with their own level of British silliness and foibles, are generally enjoyable, as they do their best not to muck up what is to be the largest sports spectacle in the world. The characters range from the head of the whole thing, the PR lady, the head of legacy and sustainability, the traffic guy, the doting assistant, and the poor former athlete, who is generally confused with what is happening the whole time, while delivering some of the worst motivational speeches you will ever see. The actors here, as with many British shows, have been seen before: there are people from the gamut of UK television and film, like Downton AbbeyShaun of the Dead, and the hilarious Peep Show. It provides the show with an instant sense of familiarity, and allows us to instantly like the characters, even if they are annoying at times.

2012Twenty Twelve is typically British, in that it really does use the typically sedate and dry sense of humour in order to push the show forward. There are some spectacular scenes, including the discussion on the bathroom situations in the athlete’s village, and the double-entendre discussion of how plumbing works for men and women. Something lovable about British TV shows, is that we can honestly ask ourselves if something was meant to be funny, or just was, or that’s just the way they are. As usual, as with most TV series from across the pond, it feasts on our ability to watch awkwardness, and Twenty Twelve is another solid producer in this. Not to the extent of the original The Office, but there are still scenes that are able to make our skin crawl, because it is just painfully awkward.

As usual, I stumbled across this show on Netflix, and it is a decent watch. The two seasons are short, only a few episodes each, so there are not significant demands on your time to pour through the two seasons of the whole thing. The stories themselves are pretty engaging, and manage to provide some decent entertainment. The leadership group getting lost in London due to the miserable traffic and construction delays is excellent watching.

2012-3This show does not belong among the cream of the crop of British TV. It is consistently good, but never really great. As with these mockumentary-type shows, it is partially about the humour, and a little bit about the drama. There is that blend here as well. Neither are exceptional in Twenty Twelve, but neither are bad, either.

I wouldn’t rush out to watch the show, but if you have nothing else going on in your Netflix queue, there are worse things you could be viewing than Twenty Twelve.

My Week With Marilyn (Film Review)

My Week With Marilyn (Film Review)

I am not a believer that Marilyn Monroe is a person worthy of the female worship that she receives on daily Facebook posts and updates. The quotes attributed to her demonstrate a strong woman, in constant control, aware of how the world is manipulating her image, and how she, in turn, manipulated it. In reality, Marilyn was a wreck. Crippling insecurity lead to failed romance and drug addiction throughout her life, leading to her early, and mysterious, death.

But this is not to say that Marilyn Monroe is one of the most fascinating people in Hollywood during the 20th Century. She was. She was the biggest star on the planet, the ultimate blonde bombshell, a great actress in her own right, and was able to develop the persona of Marilyn to become the most desired woman on the planet.

In My Week With Marilyn, we get to see all sides of her, in a wonderful film set during the height of her career, when she went to England to film a movie with the legendary Sir Laurence Olivier (played brilliantly by Kenneth Branagh). Here, we get the behind-the-scenes view of how fragile Monroe was, even in the earliest days of her marriage to famed writer Arthur Miller. She was a disaster on set, frequently being late, and always needing the advice of her acting coach on every small detail of the film. This drove Olivier crazy, claiming that it was impossible to teach Marilyn how to act. He would go into frequent rages, berating her, before he would try to placate her, in order to get he film done. He knew that the movie was a light comedy, and didn’t need the depth that Monroe was trying to put in to the role, as the tried to become the “best actress that she could be.” It wasn’t everyday that you could make a movie with the world’s biggest star, so he fought through until completion of the film.

With Marilyn in England, she is taken care of a determined young man (played by Eddie Redmayne), who worked his way from nobility, into the film business, as a third assistant director on the film. Young and with stars in his eyes, Colin Clarke gets to know Marilyn, and what he believes to be the real version of the woman outside of the film set. Here he, and we, are able to see her at her more human, and more vulnerable, as they tour around the English countryside, including a stop off at Eton, where she obviously creates quite a distraction for the boys. We can see how she could turn her persona on and off, being a real person one minute, posing up against a wall and shaking her hips for the crowd the next. She knew the Marilyn that people wanted to see, and part of her life’s drama was being able to distinguish between the two people. This also caused the issues in her love life, because men simply fell in love with who she was on the screen and in the papers, instead of the actual version of her.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYNThe entire cast of the film is very strong, and star-studded. The central role, played by Michelle Williams, is truly well done. While she may have caused second thoughts once it was announced that she would be playing Marilyn, she was able to bring her breathless beauty to the screen, as well as her intricate and often subtle mood changes, about perfectly. Williams truly embodied who Marilyn was, and she was rewarded with an Oscar nomination for the role, and deservedly so. It was Williams’ second nomination in a row, after being tapped for her role in Blue Valentine the year before. Michelle Williams, made famous for her role on the teen drama Dawson’s Creek, has really emerged as a strong actress. One thing I thought while watching this, and seeing her version of Marilyn smiling and having fun onscreen, was that it was nice to see Williams being happy in a performance. She typically takes sadder, more introspective roles, and it was kind of fun to see her glammed up here and truly performing.

All of the secondary characters live up to their star billing as well, giving smaller, but very good performances to keep up with the dazzling Williams. Emma Watson is strong in her small role as the love interest for Colin, playing hard to get and essentially losing a battle of hearts to the most desired woman on the planet. Dame Judy Dench also appears, as do Julia Ormond, Dougray Scott, and Jim Carter (who is still awesome, even outside of his Downton Abbey garb).

With a very strong cast, it covers up the fact that the plot of the movie is fairly simple and straightforward. Star comes to a new place, struggles to get film done, makes innocent boy fall in love with her, she teases him, she leaves. Boy feels that he got to know the true version of her, and is a better person for it.

marilyn2
Still from the original film, recreated perfectly in “My Week With Marilyn.”

But it is not the plot that we watch this movie for, even though it is pretty entertaining throughout, despite its simplicity. It is to spend that week with Marilyn, along with the other characters. To feel like we know her in the same way that the people in her private life knew her. And it speaks volumes about the performance of Williams, that by the end of the film, we do feel this. Marilyn is intoxicating, and it is easy to see how someone could fall for her immediately after meeting her. She could take you in with her beauty, and her charm, and her ability to make people feel as though they were the most important person in the world at that very moment in time.

I loved My Week With Marilyn more than I thought I would. It is a superbly acted film, brought together by incredible costumes, and all wrapped neatly by Michelle Williams’ great performance. If you are a fan of Marilyn, and want to see beyond the glitzy side that we all know, this is a great film. For others, it is definitely entertaining to be brought into the world of Marilyn Monroe, if even only for a week.

Downton Abbey: intelligent social commentary, or soap opera?

Before even beginning this post, I will admit: I have quickly fallen in love with Downton Abbey. I knew I would get to watching a show that had so much buzz about it, as well as an impressive haul of awards, but I didn’t think I would get into it so quickly. Thanks, Netflix. In just a couple of days, I have nearly completed the first two seasons. I realize there is much more to the show out there, but I feel this is a good start.

As much as I have enjoyed the stellar acting and engaging storylines, I must wonder if this show is really, really smart, or is just pulling the wool over our eyes and having us watch a soap opera with fancy costumes?

Well played. Now I am hooked.
Well played. Now I am hooked.

Some of the stories come straight out of the afternoon soaps: the gossip, affairs, back stabbing, murder (attempted murder?), pregnancy, sisterly fights, inter marriages, war, the gay character, strange and unexplained death. Don’t get me wrong, I like these stories and plan to keep watching to find out what will happen. But isn’t this exactly what a soap does? Throws preposterous storylines at us knowing that we have already become too invested to give up on the characters we have come to love or hate?

On the flip side, Downton Abbey does offer viewers the fun and somewhat unique (if you ignore the fact that it is basically Gosford Park as a TV series) glimpse into the lives of the elites, and those who serve them. There is very much an upstairs/downstairs separation between the characters, each set living their own lives. Yet, there is a fair amount of interaction between the two halves of the world, and it is interesting to see how each side will gossip about the other, while becoming close and friendly with them. It is kind of endearing, and all of the help on the show is wonderful. They are prideful people who respect their lots in life and take their jobs seriously. This is perhaps where the series is at its best.

But are they trying to do this, or is it simply just there because of the setting? Or because it provides us with two groups of people that we can discuss and gossip about, while they do the same?

High end literary television or not, this show is addictive and fun.