Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life “Summer” review

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life "Summer" review
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life “Summer” review

 

Right so without a moment to waste, let’s address the biggest revelation of the entire episode – Stars Hollow has a swimming pool!

Yes, an actual swimming pool by which Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) sun themselves like royalty – when they are not shading themselves of course with the help of a couple of indentured servants, I mean, young school boys in need of some pocket money – overweight men in speedos inappropriately promenade and next to which sits the Luke-provided (Scott Patterson) Floaty Hut which has been, gasp and gather yourself!, vandalised.

Maybe it’s the perpetual sense of winterness. Or the very New England-ness of Stars Hollow that excludes even the passing fancy that the town might possess a pool. Or perhaps, it’s the sense that, Taylor Dosey’s (Michael Winters) use of the song title “The Lazy Hazy Crazy Days” of summer, is about as close to the hottest time of the year as the town gets.

Whatever causes the mind to shut out the idea of Stars Hollow getting wet and doing some laps, or sipping soda, the presence of this pool, at which Luke volunteers as a lifeguard, with his usual paternalistic efficiency, is, along with the idea of attendant kid pee and a stated preference by both mother and daughter for staying in a cold bath and foregoing all the redundant heat-causing walking through the sun, leaves you stunned for the longest time.

Clearly it’s a well-kept secret because visitor numbers to Stars Hollow are down, necessitating the staging of the world’s first ever Stars Hollow the Musical, written by Taylor naturally, which seems to consist of the same scene over and over again and some legally questionable use of 9 ABBA songs at the end.

Still, the use of the songs by ABBA’s musical Mamma Mia worked a charm for that piece of Broadway gold – Taylor rather overlooks the fact that ABBA own full copyright to their songs and so they can use as many of them as they want to whatever effect they so desire – as did rap in historically-incongruent scenes for Hamilton, from which the chief administrator of Stars Hollow seems quite happy to artistically pilfer in the pursuit of topping up the town’s depleted coffers.

Everyone on the committee overseeing Stars Hollow great summer revenue hope such as Babette (Sally Struthers) and Sophia (Carole King in a starring turn other than the theme song)  LOVES it like they’re in a cult and it’s their new messiah; the one holdout? Yup, it’s Lorelai who rightly observes that it’s more than a tad derivative and a few miles to the right of quirky and sweet.

It’s a losing battle as it usually is when Lorelai points out that the Stars Hollow emperor has no clothes but unlike most other times when the coffee-addicted daughter of the town is content to let Taylor’s collective wacky whims be, she feels inclined to speak up to the point where it’s clear there is more at work here than just a dislike for rapping during the industrial revolution.

 

Quirky and carefree, what could possibly go wrong for Lorelai and Rory? Quite a bit as it turns out (image (c) Warner Bros)
Quirky and carefree, what could possibly go wrong for Lorelai and Rory? Quite a bit as it turns out (image (c) Warner Bros)

 

And indeed there is much wrong in the storied world of Lorelai, Rory and Emily Gilmore.

Perhaps it’s a family reaction to the grief of losing dad Richard (Edward Herrmann) which gets stirred up again and again as the company assigned to make the grave marker gets things repeatedly wrong or Emily changes her mind, or almost hilariously, a tombstone falls off the truck on route to the cemetery.

Clearly no one has quite recovered from losing the elder statesman of the Gilmore clan with Emily essentially going through the motions, staying in bed until noon, not going to the club – and when she does she gets herself a boyfriend of sorts to Lorelai and Rory’s muted horror – and sitting blankly through meetings of the Daughters of the American Revolution, once a hot button issue for her.

It’s clear her heart is no longer in life as she once knows it, and the presence of a TV … in the living room … with a tray table on which to eat dinner … yes you may Rory in being gobsmacked at this most un-Emily of developments … is final proof that the Emily Gilmore we once knew and kind of loved is off grieving the man she knew and unable to rejoin her starkly-demarcated life.

Rory’s rootlessness also continues apace, egged on by Logan (Matt Czuchry) shacking up finally with French fiance Odette, her assuming of the mantle of the editorship of the Stars Hollow Gazette, which faced closure and a brief visit by Jess (Milo Ventimiglia, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo) where a maudlin Rory wonders where her shot at being a contender went. (Oh and just so we’re clear, Rory is NOT back, all appearances to the contrary.)

The solution to all this existential angst and philosophical ennui, and an escape from joining the Thirty Something Club of people who left Stars Hollow with big dreams but returned tales between their legs, is to write a book of course but her chosen topic, the life she and her mother have carved out in Stars Hollow, is declared off-limits by Lorelai who doesn’t much like the idea of people, read: Emily Gilmore, finding many material with which to wantonly judgemental.

This throws Rory who has pegged all the hopes and dreams on this book, convinced it’s all she has left at age 32 in her arsenal but throws her mother, who treats her  daughter like she’s Emily, come to invasively pry and pillage over her life once again.

It’s a tipping point for Lorelai who realises she isn’t happy, that things are changing – Michel (Yanic Truesdale) for one is leaving her behind, following in Sookie’s footsteps – and she isn’t sure she’s OK with that.

While it all feels a little over-baked and sudden, in Lorelai’s case most particularly, and a tad too dark and depressing – again Daniel Palladino does not have his wife Amy Sherman-Palladino’s lightness of touch that marries the dark and the quirky in a merry leavened whole – it all makes a lot of sense given the way all three Gilmore Girls are being deeply affected by grief whether they realise it or not.

Grief is no respecter of quirky, small town romanticness and even though Stars Hollow dances on its own idiosyncratic way, the lives of Emily, Lorelai and Rory are no longer keeping pace and no amount of wry observations by the side of the Stars Hollow pool (yes there’s a pool) can change this dark turn of events.

For a full recap of the episode, which includes the hazards of installing air-conditioning in Miss Patty’s dance studio, go HERE, and for all the pop culture references you could ask for, or dance to in a vaudeville fashion, go HERE.

 

South Park – Language and Censorship: Kristian Williams profiles Comedy Central’s animated megahit

(image via YouTube)
(image via YouTube)

 

Like it or love it, South Park is nothing less than a TV trailblazer.

Fearless and daring, the creation of Trey Parker and Matt Stone has never met a sacred cow it isn’t happy to skewer, satirise and mercilessly parody, all in the service of getting all of us, well all of us watching anyway, to take a good hard look at what makes us tick as people and why it is we do what we do.

And even more importantly, whether we shouldn’t give some serious thought, in amongst laughing at South Park‘s hilarious ballsiness, to do doing things a whole lot different.

As Kristian Williams, whom I support on Patreon, beautifully articulates in yet another of his brilliantly-realised video essays, South Park is all about pricking humanity’s pomposity, no matter which side of the political divide you occupy.

“South Park set out to dismantle any symbol of self-importance. It’s into escapism and rubs our noses in the ugliness of our world while simplifying current events into a less complicated, more easily understood format.”

Not bad for a cartoon that came to be the making not only of Comedy Central but TV animation as a whole.

Watch the whole video essay and you’ll come to understand how pivotally-important, intelligent and clever South Park is and how glad we, and society at large, should all be that television this daring and incisive exists.

 

The Walking Dead: “Swear” (S7, E6 review)

You'll never look at sandboxes the same way again ... (image courtesy AMC)
You’ll never look at sandboxes the same way again … (image courtesy AMC)

 

*SPOILERS AHEAD … AND ALL TARA ALL THE TIME*

 

What isn’t lovely about a trip to the seaside?

All that sun, surf, fresh, salty air, building sandcastles, swimming and … bobbing zombies … wait WHAT?!

Yes folks even idyllic survivor communities by the seaside are going all Lord of the Flies on the collective ass of humanity now, all in the service of keeping themselves alive and intact of course, and there’s nothing anybody, including Tara (Alanna Masterson), can do about it.

To be fair when first she washes up on the shores of the coastal retreat known rather prosaically as Oceanside – in this instance, you can’t blame the beleaguered survivors of the apocalypse for poor naming choices based on the time pressures of survivor exigencies; this was a pre end of the world exercise in unimaginative nomenclature – Tara is in no fit state to take on anybody.

In fact so dead-soon-to-be-zombie-looking is she that she is almost speared through the head by a bloodthirsty 10 year old named Rachel (Mimi Kirkland) who, like her older but wiser companion Cyndie (Sydney Park), who still possesses a human soul thank you very much, is under strict order to kill every stranger they meet, living or dead.

Yep, not exactly a warm embrace, firm handshake, chocolate on the pillow kind of deal now is it?

Turns out they have good reason to have pulled in the welcome mat and brought out the Kalashnikovs; every man in their community over 10 was murdered in cold blood by Negan’s Saviors when they didn’t toe the party line.

So when Tara is allowed to live by Cyndie, who leaves the unconscious survivor, sans Heath (Corey Hawkins) – who was last seen running for cover from zombies on a bridge AWAY from Tara – with food, water and a spear beside her prone, driftwood-obscured form, it’s a pretty big deal.

 

We're all going on a zombie apocalypse survivors holiday (image courtesy AMC)
We’re all going on a zombie apocalypse survivors holiday (image courtesy AMC)

 

Just how big a deal though doesn’t become clear until Tara follows Cyndie back into the village and all hell breaks loose with everyone able-bodied woman in the village grabbing high-powered rifles and slipping into shoot-first, ask-questions-later mode like we might slip into comfy slippers, cup of cocoa in hand.

As shots ring out around her, it becomes palpably clear that Tara is not welcome, that Oceanside doesn’t want anyone new joining and that coastal tourism, at least in this part of the world, is no longer a going concern.

Remarkably Tara somehow survives – thankfully the Oceanside people have the aiming ability of drunk penguins on a bender – and is taken prisoner by the leader of the group Natania (Deborah May) who chains her up before feeding her fish stew and making a pitch for her to stay.

In a script by non-staff writer David Leslie Johnson, peppered with some very funny oneliners – at one point Tara says she was a fisherperson pre-apocalypse, agreeing with one of her guards that she worked on a “larder” boat; yup a great big floating pantry apparently … oops caught in a lie! – we get to see Tara at her best.

Cheeky, funny but also wary and resolutely optimistic, she is also strong enough to face down Natania in the most engaging of ways – let’s face it you don’t duke it out with people carrying LOTS of guns unless you have some wit about you – convincing her, so it seems, to let her return to Alexandria to her girlfriend Denise (Merritt Weaver) – uh-oh – her best friend Glenn (Steven Yeun) – UH-OH – and the blissfully perfect surrounds of her fortified home (yeah give up now will ya?).

For all the lack of welcome she’s endured, save for Cyndie who is a kindred soul of decency and residual humanity, Tara remains firm in her belief that civilisation of the best possible kind, rather than Negan’s coercive, rules-based , punitive nightmare, is possible.

The point of the episode, as of pretty much anything these days in The Walking Dead, is that that ship of hope has well and truly sailed.

Like a kid who builds things up only to knock ’em straight down, series creator Robert Kirkman seems unable to find any drama in people actually making a go of things, consigning everyone, including once idealistic Heath to the “Woe are we all, none of us are here for each other” school of thinking.

And so it is that Tara’s hope that Oceanside and Alexandria can be BFFs comes a-cropper when the two women walking her back to the bridge from whence she came TRY TO KILL HER.

After all in the nihilistic world of The Walking Dead, that’s all anyone is capable of anymore and while you can argue it’s realistic, it also makes for dejectedly repetitive television.

 

If you go out into the woods today, you're in for a big surprise ... (image courtesy AMC)
If you go out into the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise … (image courtesy AMC)

 

That’s not to say this was a bad hour of apocalyptic drama.

Balanced between some nail-biting action – the arrival of desiccated, mummified sand walkers was a masterstroke, injecting some never-seen-before terror into things – and meditative character development, “Swear” – the title is drawn from Tara’s honourable pledge to keep Oceanside’s existence a secret, which she duly does, even when circumstances might dictate its big reveal to the crew back home – was the standout episode of the season so far.

Granted it came off a very low creative base with The Walking Dead now backed into such a tight, depressive corner that it’s reduced to endlessly bleating about the evilness of humanity over and over, destroying, always destroying and never building up, but it still stood alone, a brilliant example of what can happen when you just let a storyline and a character breathe.

No doubt, there are those who will see it as far too slow and far too languid but then they are the same people who see Fear the Walking Dead, by far the more sophisticated of the two sister shows, as severely lacking in enough bloodthirsty humanity-killing-humanity action.

The reality is though that The Walking Dead needs more not less episodes like “Swear”, stories that take the time to tell a nuanced tale of humanity’s ability to survive some pretty grim odds and start all over again.

Yes they subscribe to Kirkman’s dark idea that no good can come of the apocalypse, but even Oceanside, and Tara and Cyndie, are all trying to rebuild in a genuine way from the horrors they have witnessed, part of a new wave in apocalyptic storytelling that believes the majority of humanity would rebound from the apocalypse and successfully, and most crucially, peacefully, start all over again.

The Walking Dead needs to tell more stories in that vein, and grab onto a little more hope, if it’s going to survive in the long term.

Giving into the idea that there is nothing worth fighting for but survival itself pretty much dooms you to ever-less-satisfying narratives that overlook the fact that while humanity is capable of the very worst, it is also able to summon up the very best.

That’s not stupid idealism, it’s a fact evidenced in every natural disaster, war and horrible life event you can name, and fine episode though “Swear” was, it’d be nice if The Walking Dead would actually remember more than once a season.

  • And we’re back to Negan in “Sing Me A Song”, who is convinced that the only way to salvation lies in blood, dictatorship and swaggering delusion. No, The Walking Dead, just NO …

 

 

 

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life “Spring” review

(image via IMP Awards (c) Netflix)
(image via IMP Awards (c) Netflix)

 

Spring is supposed to be a time of renewal, rebirth and new chances but that’s not exactly how things are working out for Rory (Alexis Bledel) and Lorelai (Lauren Graham) in the second of the new instalments of the Gilmore Girls.

In fact as “Spring” dawns in A Year in the Life, Lorelai and her mum Emily (Kelly Bishop) are still reeling from the death of Richard (Edward Herrmann) father and husband respectively, and stuck in stealth therapy.

OK it’s very obvious it is therapy what with the couch, the diffident but engaged therapist and the clinical yet tastefully-appointed office, but it’s not exactly what Lorelai had in mind when she agreed to “meet” her mum’s therapist.

Lorelai, of course, knows that anything her mother lures her into, and this was luring of the highest, Emily-manipulative order, is never going to have the fun and feel of a screening of Eraserhead at Kirk (Sean Gunn) and Lulu’s (Rini Bell) house aka short film theatre; btw don’t bring your own food, or do, after all no one is going to listen to poor Kirk and his house rules – but the eerie, near-session-long silences and the passive/aggressive recitation of past sins is more than even Lorelai bargained for.

Apparently, Lorelai co-habiting with Luke is not the same as 50 years of marriage nor is the fact that Lorelai left home at 16 without so much as a forwarding address a forgivable offense.

Emily, a past master at social and emotional ambushes, is at her peak in the sessions, dropping incendiary remark and long-simmering barb one after the other, all at a point where Lorelai can’t really respond because time is up.

It’s clear she’s grieving but then so is Lorelai and with so much baggage piled up on their relationship, the odds of getting anyone to clear it, much less a therapist who takes up smoking during the sessions so stressed does she become with the dysfunctional Gilmore dynamic, looks remote at best.

And then just like that Emily’s out, Lorelai’s still there and it emerges that not only is everything still stuck somewhere 32 years in the past but that things with Luke may not be so rosy after all.

Happy Spring to you too!

Written by Daniel Palladino, husband to series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and co-executive producer on the show, “Spring” is all about “peaks and valleys”, something with which Lorelai has a whole lot of uncomfortable familiarity but with which Rory, protected from many of the vicissitudes of life by her mother and grandparents, is only just beginning to grapple.

 

Lorelai and Emily in their very own psychiatric hell (image courtesy Warner Bros)
Lorelai and Emily in their very own psychiatric hell (image courtesy Warner Bros)

 

Yep somehow the Gilmore Girls have managed to skip a winter of discontent, ushering a spring of discontent instead which is innovative and daring but not quite what Rory had in mind.

Rootless, still in search of her lucky red outfit and in a holding pattern for both Logan (Matt Czuchry) and the near-mythic Condé Nast interview which is always getting pushed back, Rory finds herself uncertain about her next move, not the kind of situation that Chilton’s Most Likely To is used to finding herself in.

Even good old Headmaster Charleston (Dakin Matthews) is a little worried when Rory and Paris (Liza Weil), who is in fine form, melting down and terrorising in equal, midst-of-a-divorce measures, for a Chilton alumni day.

Fresh from inspiring her class – Paris meanwhile has terrified hers but then that is how the world works and surely Headmaster Charleston has twigged to that already? – she’s offered a teaching position at her alma mater, pending the acquisition of a stray Masters or PhD (yep they’re as pushy as ever).

It’s not quite what the existential doctor ordered and while Rory is flattered, she is convinced that her book deal with Naomi (Alex Kingston), a possible article with GQ on line-waiting in New York (why do people give up days for little to no return) and a gig at Huffinton Post-lite (yep, that light!) website SandeeSays will save the day.

Uh-ah not quite so fast.

Because life is never quite that easy or kind, and while Gilmore Girls never shied away from the big questions of life, it’s amped up the pressure this time around, all too aware that as life advances, all the easy solutions of youth start to look a whole lot more complicated.

So complicated in fact that when you ending up having a one night with a Wookie you meet in line at a comic collectables store – even that is not the cause for concern you might think; rather than lament sleeping with a man she just met, Rory decries the fact that it took to the age of 32 to even have a one night stand – and realise you have reached a nadir of life.

Such is the way of things and in the second instalment of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life which isn’t quite as zingy as “Winter” with a script that fails to match Amy Sherman-Palladino’s verve and wit, feeling a little weighted somehow, life is looked straight in the eye and a sharp and challenging account taken with the result that no one is exactly tiptoeing through the existential tulips.

That doesn’t preclude the appearance of quirk of course which was there in spades with an international food fair which doesn’t quite cover the 195 members of the U.N. – leading to amusing scenes of Taylor Dosey (Michael Winter) and Kirk rushing around the stands that do turn up apportioning extra random countries at whim – and a town meeting about a gay pride parade which Taylor agrees to postpone due to the lack of gays in the town (he ignores Gypsy’s – played by Rose Abdoo – pointed questions about whether he might be missing some gays in his count).

But this is by and large a serious Gilmore Girls, one in which the BIG questions are asked, very few answers come forth in response and we’re made to realise, once again, that there aren’t always happily-ever-afters to follow the happy endings.

After all, Lorelai got Luke, Rory got top marks at Yale and a journalistic career and Emily got back with Richard by the end of the seven seasons of Gilmore Girls; but now? Well now things aren’t quite as rosy – they’re not horrible, just not what the life doctor ordered and everyone is grappling with how to respond to that.

It’s a brave move for a show based on quirk and romance but it pays off in spades with A Year in the Life brave enough to admit that fairytales are for the Brothers Grimm and that not even the good people of Stars Hollow can keep the hounds of disillusionment at bay.

For a full recap of the episode, go HERE and for all the pop culture references go HERE. You’re welcome!

RUN! LEGO Jurassic World: The Indominus Escape is coming to get you

(image via YouTube (c) LEGO)
(image via YouTube (c) LEGO)

 

SNAPSHOT
The film centers on Jurassic World founder Simon Masrani, who must enlist the help of his employee Claire, after he accidentally destroys one of the main attractions. The duo also calls upon Dr. Wu, who helped them create the Indominus rex. But when the dino starts acting out, only dino trainer Owen Grady can help save the day. (synopsis (c) EW)

As a young boy, I was a massive fan of LEGO, playing with the colourful Danish bricks every chance I got, and dinosaurs, part of my fascination with history generally, an area of interest that’s never really left me in the intervening years.

Thus the existence of  a direct-to-DVD film LEGO Jurassic World: The Indominus Escape which combines some prehistoric mayhem with my favourite colourful building blocks ever sent me into a near paroxysms of delight, such that I had to stop everything, sit down and watch the whole thing. (The fact that I got to use the word “paroxysm” in a blog post simply adds icing to my childlike joy cake.)

It was released in a 2 DVD pack along with the live action Jurassic World plus a slew of extras on 16 October 2016 which means you are officially way overdue in adding this to your collection.

Go on, run don’t walk … after all Indominus Rex could be on your tail.

 

 

 

 

 

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life “Winter” review

(image via IMP Awards (c) Netflix)
(image via IMP Awards (c) Netflix)

 

OK so who said you can never go back? Really? Lots of people? Well tell them they were all wrong, that they have no idea what they’re talking about and that I smell snow.

Yes snow. It’s one of the first lines uttered in the Gilmore Girls reincarnation A Year in the Life which, paying due homage to the theme song sung by Carole King, kicks off its 4 episode, movie length running time all, arc with what looks like some winter lamenting.

But not before Rory (Alexis Bledel), now 32, rootless after disposing of her Brooklyn abode and bouncing around the globe writing stories for the likes of The New Yorker, meets her mum Lorelai (Lauren Graham) in the gazebo when some very meta (there is a passing reference to it being years since they’ve done this), fast-paced and naturally pop-culture laden conversation takes places which touches upon Zoolander 2, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop website, Batman, Ben Affleck and “I Dreamed a Dream” in Les Miserables.

All in one short, sharp, vintage wonderful Gilmore Girls chat. With coffee of course. Welcome back everyone!

From that point, we plunge headlong into a recounting of Taylor Dosey’s quest to gather enough septic tank horror stories, which shall be re-enacted, naturally (How exactly beggars the mind!) to scare the county commissioners into hooking Stars Hollow up to the sewerage system, the virtues of Tator Tots as a meal accompaniment (Luke, played by Scott Patterson, disagrees) and Lorelai’s DVR-clogging predilection for Lifetime movies with really strange titles (Murder In a College Town, Crimes of the Mind, Fatal Acquital).

So the quirk is back in full, as is creator and chief writer Amy Sherman-Palladino’s vision of a Stars Hollow that is picture postcard beautiful – the Christmas decorations all lit up are truly magical – rapid-fire dialogue and a penchant for giving Kirk (Sean Gunn) one weird, copyright-infringing job after another (it’s Ööö-Ber, not Uber).

So everything we’ve loved with some updates – WifI passwords in Lukes? Selfies in the central square? Paris (Liza Weil) as the head of Dynasty Makers, a mega-big IVF firm? All present and accounted for 2016 take on the Gilmore Girls sir yes sir! – all happily given a forward push into a world where Luke and Lorelai are an old co-habiting couple (Emily doesn’t regard it as marriage but then of course she wouldn’t), Rory is playing the romantic field (Hello Logan aka Matt Czuchry) and the town troubadour Grant-Lee Phillips is duelling with his sister for the best busking spot in town.

There’s also a new man in Rory’s life, Paul (Jack Carpenter), who is sweet, attentive to a fault, caring and her boyfriend of two years; but as is the way of Rory, because he’s not flawed in some fairly demonstrative way like Dean (Jared Padalecki), Jess (milo Ventimiglia) and Logan were/are, she’s just not that into him.

To the degree that she, along with Lorelai and Luke and even Emily (Kelly Bishop) can’t remember him at all, and neglect to include him in social outings and conversations, even leaving him behind in the house one morning when they head out for brunch.

Yup he’s the romantic patsy and you can’t help feeling a little sorry for him and wishing Rory would just cut him loose as Lorelai keeps begging her daughter to do.

But then there’s a lot of indecision going on Rory-wise so it makes sense that Paul is caught up in her current root-less phase, which fortunately doesn’t preclude catching with Lane (Keiko Agena), hubbie Zack (Todd Lowe) or Logan in merry old London.

It’s all quirk and fun conversations but not all the time.

 

You're not home until you have your copy of the Stars Hollow Gazette! (image (c) Warner Bros)
You’re not home until you have your copy of the Stars Hollow Gazette! (image (c) Warner Bros)

 

Because sadly in the intervening period between the end of Gilmore Girls seventh season in 2007 and now, Edward Herrmann who played Gilmore patriarch Richard died, leaving a massive emotional hole in the show and one which Sherman-Palladino spends the better part of the episode addressing.

This is the definitely non-quirky of the episode and it is handled with great sensitivity for the role Richard played in the lives of his beloved wife, Emily, daughter Lorelai (though she comes up short anecdote-wise at the wake causing all sorts of problems) and granddaughter Rory, all of whom miss him greatly as you’d expect.

We are witnesses to his sombre sad but beautifully appointed burial – overseen by Emily so you know it is tasteful and elegant – the wake at which Emily is the perfect hostess, a tense Friday night dinner (with added Kirk!) and the home alone aftermath in which Emily is tempted to throw everything that doesn’t give her joy, according a minimalist bible she has been given, until Lorelai steps in and stops her saying nothing, just four months after the funeral, will give her joy.

It’s touching moment, with the entire storyline beautifully touching on the horrific way grief unsettles and upends, resetting relationships and reinforcing already-existing dynamics, most notably the fractious one between Lorelai and Emily.

Sherman-Palldino handles the entire through line so profoundly well, reminding us once again that while Gilmore Girls is loved and revered for its quirkiness and goofiness that it really shines through its drama.

It’s testament to the show’s creator’s artistic vision that the quirk and the drama nestle side-by-side with ease, with neither suffering any kind of diminution through proximity to the other.

A Year in the Life: Winter confirms that this narrative dynamic has lost none of its heft as the episode re-introduces us to both the loopier moments of life in Stars Hollow but also the grim reality that death spares no one its life-levelling after effects, not even the residents of idiosyncratic storybook New England towns.

Granted you could argue that you should ever revive any TV show, that everything should be left in its viewing time and place and thus shall it always be, but Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the first episode at least, is a reminder that when it’s done right, and let’s face it Amy Sherman-Palladino always does it right, it is like going to visit an old friend where everything is different and yet nothing is all at once, and you simply pick up as if you never left.

That’s how Winter feels, quirks, grief, sadness, reflections and all, exactly how life would feel and proof that you can go back to the well and not be left wanting, even in the winter of almost everyone’s discontent (Taylor has his septic tank stories so he’s happy at least).

For the full recap, go HERE and for all the pop culture references, HERE.

Are Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead linked? One fan theory says they are

(image via YouTube (c) Netflix)
(image via YouTube (c) Netflix)

 

At first blush, and at pretty every blush thereafter and forevermore, the idea that two disparate shows such as Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead may be linked in any way, may seem more than a little farfetched.

Sure, they both take as a central idea the idea that humanity is more likely to tumble into an abyss of self-interest than elevate itself during times of existential crisis, something which can happen irregardless of the size of the backdrop, but that, on the face of it at least, looks to be about it.

Look again though as this impressively-argued, and beautifully-illustrated video from Netflix does, and the idea that the worlds of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) isn’t all that crazy after all.

It even has a bluish tinge to it, you might say.

But enough from me vagueposting about what it might all mean – let the good people of Netflix explain how it is that one man’s corrupting journey to provide for his family might quite possible be the progenitor for another man’s descent into undead hell.

 

Road to Gilmore Girls A Year in the Life #10: “Bon Voyage” (S7, E22)

Goodbyes are never easy but what a way to make it a little easier! (image via Gilmore Girls Wikia (c) Warner Bros)
Goodbyes are never easy but what a way to make it a little easier! Throw a massive farewell party and invite the whole town (image via Gilmore Girls Wikia (c) Warner Bros)

 

And so it is that we say goodbye to Gilmore Girls (well the original incarnation anyway; there are four new episodes in the form of A Year in the Life currently on Netflix to enjoy).

Now saying goodbye is never easy, no matter how exciting the new opportunities and challenges ahead might be, but it’s even worse when you have to say goodbye with little or no warning and all those catch-ups and conversations you meant to have over an extended period of time are suddenly compressed into a much tighter timeframe.

That’s the situation facing Rory (Alexis Bledel) when the long, slow summer between graduation and gainful full-time journalistic employment (one enforced on her by her rejection by The New York Times), during which she and her mum Lorelai (Lauren Graham) had planned to ride rollercoasters the length and breadth of there here United States, is cut down to just three all too short days.

72 fleeting hours which begin ticking down with frantic certainty at Friday Night Dinner – it seems only right to capitalise an institution which Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop), Lorelai’s mum, is surprised to learn will endure beyond Rory’s departure; how things have changed! – and keep racing on through Saturday filled with bumbag shopping (that’s a negative on suitability), mini book lights finding (hello Dragonfly Inn lost-and-found box) and the cancellation of a planned reenactment of Rory’s Yale graduation ceremony, complete with copious numbers of hotdogs and accompanying buns.

It’s a blurred rush and while Rory is excited – she’ll be on the road with the Obama Presidential campaign, the first time around, as the correspondent for an up-and-coming new blog she’s been freelancing for – she’s also dismayed that childhood has well and truly come to an end and she has to leave Stars Hollow, and more importantly her BFF and mum, Lorelai behind for goodness knows how long.

Lorelai, like any good mum would, is being resolutely upbeat and chipper, despite dying with sadness inside, determined that Rory be sent off with the biggest, brightest and sunniest of sendoffs.

 

The young lady of the moment, justifiably loved by one and all and perched on the cusp of greatness (image via Gilmore Girls Wikia (c) Warner Bros)
The young lady of the moment, justifiably loved by one and all and perched on the cusp of greatness (image via Gilmore Girls Wikia (c) Warner Bros)

 

Rory, of course, begins to wonder if her mum and by extension Stars Hollow, which will continue on without her in the interim, are really going to miss her, a common fear when you’re the one departing and relinquishing the certain, the beloved and the familiar.

But hey this is Gilmore Girls which, while willing to stare the grim realities of life in the eye and acknowledge their existence over their seven consistently well-made seasons, also possesses a magical warmth and quirkiness which will not countenance sending Rory with anything less than the most fairytale of farewells.

So it is that the graduation reenactment ceremony – which is given a short and hilarious Luke’s Dinner version which fails to satisfy Miss Patty (Liz Torres) or Babette (Sally Struthers) – morphs into a gigantic, all the bells and whistles farewell extravaganza (without the proper permits gasps Taylor, played by Michael Winters), set in motion by Luke who “just wants to see [Lorelai] happy”. (Of course Sookie is supposed to tell Lorelai this, who along with Rory, has no idea the party is even happening.)

With rain beckoning, Luke stays up all night creating a massive tent out of everyone’s tarps and sheets so that the party can go ahead as very hurriedly planned.

It is, as you might expect in the blissfully storied world of Gilmore Girls, every bit as wonderful, heartfelt and emotional as you could wish for with even Richard (Edward Herrmann), fresh from a heart attack, paying a moving tribute to Lorelai for the way in which she has built a life for herself in Stars Hollow, such hat the entire town would drop everything to say goodbye to Rory.

Given the fractious relationship Lorelai has often had with her parents it is momentous statement, which functions as a backdoor apology too, one which Emily seems distinctly uncomfortable but which she, interestingly, does not counteract.

It’s a beautiful wrap-up episode, where Rory gets a long goodbye chat on the porch with best friend Lane (Keiko Agena), Lorelai gives Luke a hearty kiss (thanks for organising the party) and we all get to say farewell to the delightful, quirky, sweet, odd people of Stars Hollow.

 

Having an entire turn out to send you off is a massive testament to how much you matter, something Lorelai's dad recognises in one of the many moving scenes in the finale (image via Gilmore Girls Wikia (c) Warner Bros)
Having an entire turn out to send you off is a massive testament to how much you matter, something Lorelai’s dad recognises in one of the many moving scenes in the finale (image via Gilmore Girls Wikia (c) Warner Bros)

 

Containing some brilliant pop culture moments – the appearance of Christiane Amanpour at the Dragonfly Inn makes Rory’s day – including music by Kool and the Gang, The Jackson 5 and the Mighty Lemon Drops, and a closing shot which artfully and evocatively mirrors that in the pilot with Lorelaid and Rory in Luke’s Diner, “Bon Voyage” is the perfect send off  for Rory and goodbye to Gilmore Girls.

Granted it is missing the sure hand of creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and the whippet-smart, crackling dialogue of seasons one through six, but it is heartfelt, it captures with exquisite melancholy what it is to say goodbye to those you love, and it is as quirky, sweet and magical as you could want.

It recalls too that weird mix sadness and excitement, of moving fully into the adult world, knowing all too well that things will never be the same again.

Granted it may not be the ending that Sherman-Palladino envisaged nor the one that many fans wanted, but it is fitting sendoff for Gilmore Girls which captures all the quirky grandeur and emotional resonance of a show that managed to be both dramatically muscular and idiosyncratically odd simultaneously, all the while reminding us that home is most assuredly where the heart is, and in a world where allegiances can be changed at the drop of a hat or a big enough financial inducement, that is a rare and precious thing indeed.

 

 

Movie review: I, Daniel Blake

(image via IMP awards)
(image via IMP awards)

 

Humanity does not have a good track record at effective self-governance.

From genocidal wars to brutal dictatorships through to the relatively benign, dead hand of stultifying bureaucracy, people have shown a deplorable capacity for holding an extremely sharp knife to their own vulnerable throats.

As the latest masterpiece from master director Ken Loach, I Daniel Blake, makes vividly clear, this does not stem from any kind of weird suicidal urge or penchant for making life any more difficult than it is already.

In fact, Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a self-sufficient man, a builder who nursed his wife Molly through mental illness, and who is proud of his record as a law abiding taxpayer, is simply someone who wants to be treated fairly and to be looked after when he is least able to do it for himself.

A recent heart attack survivor who almost toppled from the scaffolding at a building site when his body gave way, he is forced to accept welfare payments in the form of the Orwellianly-titled Employment and Support Allowance, government supplied income which is supposed to tide him over until he is fit to return to the workforce, something he very much wants to do.

Unfortunately, thanks to the neo-liberal love for outsourcing any and all government services, a flunky with no real medical training deems him fit to work in the face of a slew of medical evidence to the contrary and Daniel finds himself having to satisfy the draconian requirements of the Jobseekers Allowance, which seems, name aside, to be wholly dedicated to thwarting a person’s ability to find employment.

Rather than encouraging and equipping people to get to the point where they can take charge of their lives again, this allowance, administered in the main by bureaucrats more obsessed with rule observance and ticking boxes than caring for people, punitively punishes the slightest infraction, catching unsuspecting souls like Daniel, who calls out the illogicality of it all to nil effect, in a useless web of sticks and ever bigger sticks.

 

 

Caught in the same self-defeating nightmare is a devoted single mother Katie Morgan (Hayley Squires) whose two children by two different ill-judged partners (her words) Daisy (Briana Shann) and Dylan (Dylan McKiernan) are remarkably self-possessed despite the travails of their impoverished upbringing (like any good mother Katie has put their needs ahead of her own).

Sent hundreds of kilometres from home and a family support network by a bureaucracy which deems an apartment in Newcastle to be the same as one in her native London, Katie finds herself scraping desperately to make ends meet, sanctioned by a merciless bureaucracy which has no time for a woman new to a city she never wanted to live in getting lost on her way to a vitally important bureaucracy.

As Daniel and Katie come together in a touching father/daughter-like relationship at the local job centre, a Kafka-esque nightmare of diminishing hope and escalating punishment, it becomes transparent than an inflexible uncaring bureaucracy staffed by people who have, in the main, long since ceased to care will not be the source of any meaningful succour for either of them.

Indeed, it has more of a propensity to pull what little rug is left out from under them, leaving them to support each other as best they can.

In reality, it is Daniel, with mounting financial problems of his own, who is Katie’s saving grace, providing the young woman who, despite everything, wants to make a go of it and stand on her own two feet, with the kind of support the system is palpably incapable of providing.

As the slowly-unfurling but intensely gripping and deeply moving narrative of I, Daniel Blake plays out – the script by Paul Laverty is understated but demonstrably powerful – we bear witness to a system that was intended to elevate and uplift people instead becoming their captor and tormentor, the source of their grief rather than its enabling alleviator.

It is an Alice in Wonderland, Monty Python-esque world, with neither the former’s charming oddity or the latter’s satirical good humour, which eats people up alive, taking their self respect and hope for a better self-sustaining future with it.

It is not a world you escape easily nor triumph over and despite their initial hope and willingness to fight on, both Daniel and Katie find themselves being ground down by this illogical, almost insane system which is as clear a case of the tail cruelly wagging the dog as you’re ever likely to see.

 

Ken Loach has often commented on the plight of the common man through his long and insightful career, and I, Daniel Blake is another powerful entry in his social commentary canon.

Drawn from a graffiti’d message Daniel spray paints on the walls of the Job Centre when one unreasonable demand too many forces his hand,, the film demonstrates the innate need of every person to have a say in the trajectory of their own lives, making it abundantly clear that all the majority of people want is a temporary helping hand to get on their way.

But a system meant to help them instead drags them further and further down punishing them in a breathtaking display of un-self awareness – put perhaps it is aware and sadly simply doesn’t care anymore – leaving people like Katie and proud, self-capable Daniel to cope as best they can.

The result is a situation in which decent, good people are left at the mercy of the establishment, products of a neo-liberalist world which crows about the efficiency of the market as if it is a caring, living and wise thing, when in fact it is nothing of the sort.

If ever there was a case for people to be treated as people and not economic goods and chattels then I, Daniel Blake is it, an emotionally powerful film that serves as a damning indictment of humanity’s delusion that it is capable of looking after the least of these.

Rather the poorest, the weakest and the lost have to spend what little spare energy and time they have left at their disposal battling a system that was meant to be their saviour, finding themselves damned in the process and increasingly unable to forge the kinds of lives they simply want to be given a chance to create if only someone will let them.

 

The Greatest Gift: Nothing beats give your time and presence this Christmas says Sainsbury’s

(image via YouTube (c) Sainsbury's)
(image via YouTube (c) Sainsbury’s)

 

SNAPSHOT
Presenting the new Sainsbury’s Christmas Advert – a joyous Christmas musical created in stop frame animation featuring vocals by James Corden. It tells the story of Dave, a hard-working and devoted Dad, who realises that the greatest gift he can give people this Christmas is his time. (synopsis via YouTube (c) Sainsbury’s)

While it’s likely that nothing can quite compare to last year’s delightful Sainbury’s Christmas ad Mog the Cat, this year’s effort by Sainsbury’s, a British supermarket chain, comes pretty close to pulling all the festive heartstrings.

Using wonderful stop-frame animation by award-winning director Sam Fell that draws on every last visual cue for Christmas-ness from light-lined streets to office parties (in a cubicle no less; bummer of a small budget Hal!), from a factory that looks like Santa could work there quite happily to people singing carols dressed as Christmas trees (what you’ve never done that? You’ve never lived!) to tinsel-adorned dinners (of course!), The Greatest Gift does a brilliant job of reminding all of us that what really matters in what can be a hectic, time-sapping time of the year is our presence.

No, not our presents – although being a retailer I’m sire Sainsbury’s won’t mind if you give lots of them too! – but rather our time and effort and a mindfulness to be fully in the moment with those nearest and dearest to us.

It’s a joy to watch and to listen to, thanks to James Corden’s dulcet vocals and a beautiful song by Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie, and it will have you in a Christmas mood in no time flat.

Even when you’re in a big long line waiting to buy presents, trust me on this.