Top 10 of 2021: TV SHOWS

Happy New Year’s Eve!

I’m finishing 2021 by looking back at my top 10 choices for the best TV of 2021, which has been a surprisingly difficult mission given the sheer volume of television that has raced at us following the ebb and flow of Covid restrictions.

It’s been a fascinating year and, as always, TV choices subjectively differ among many a reviewer. Here were the TV shows that both affected me the most, and seemed to contain the greatest artistic measure, from 10 through to number 1.

Would love to know your thoughts as to your top 10 choices…

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Film, Writing

Film Review: I USED TO GO HERE (2020)

★ ★ ★ 1/2

One wonders if Gillian Jacobs is not exorcising some Community demons by taking the lead role in I Used to Go Here, which works as an extension of her name-making sitcom persona.
While stars of television drama often make a fairly seamless transition to the big screen, stars of iconic sitcoms can find the move difficult. Community, arguably, carved a niche in popular culture over the last decade as one of America’s biggest sitcoms, and Jacobs was a consistent part of the ensemble across all six seasons. With the persistently rumoured big screen version still mere fantasy, Jacobs hasn’t had the broader platform to portray her character Britta Perry that could have boosted her status as an actor. She has worked steadily developing her own projects as a director and appearing on both the big and small screen, but Kris Rey’s feature is the first example of Jacobs carrying a movie.
It makes a degree of sense that Jacobs chooses to parlay a proportion of the Britta character into I Used to Go Here, where she plays newly-published fiction writer Kate Conklin, a woman buoyed by her achievement but losing at life. Her book tour has been cancelled due to poor sales, the New York Times gives her a scathing review, and she’s recently split from an unseen fiancé who appears to have very swiftly moved on. Listless, Kate is invited by David Fitzpatrick, her charming writing professor at her Illinois alma mater (played by a roguish Jemaine Clement), to do a reading of her book and observe the creative writing students in his class with a view to taking a permanent position. Fuelled in part by the student crush she had on David, returns to her old yards, only to realise that the halcyon youth of college and promise have faded, and the experience reinforces her own uncertain place in the world.
This description does not match the tone of I Used to Go Here, which rather than a dour existential examination of youth’s decay, instead projects rather a hopeful message wrapped around a leisurely, relaxed sensibility, if boasting a slightly uneven tone at points.
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Film, Reviews

JOJO RABBIT is weak satire but full of heart (Film Review)

At a time when being a Nazi for many does not seem like a terrible proposition, Jojo Rabbit should have been a film to tear at the satirical jugular of recent history’s worst fanatical movement.

Taika Waititi on paper was surely the right writer-director to make this happen too. He has taken a hilarious, incisive scalpel to the traditionally serious supernatural tropes of vampirism and lycanthropy in What We Do in the Shadows and parlayed that eccentricity into his colourful sojourn into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Thor: Ragnarok, so you can imagine him looking at Nazism and understanding what he needed to take aim at for comedic purposes. The trailers suggest that to be the case; promoting Jojo Rabbit as a perky, plucky zany, ‘Allo ‘Allo-style comic adventure with Waititi hamming it up as an imaginary Adolf Hitler. Only… that’s not really what we get.

Jojo Rabbit is a surprisingly melancholy, somber affair, particularly after an opening first half an hour which establishes the life of young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a ten year old member of the Hitler Youth toward the end of World War Two who finds himself tormented by older boys who question his strength as a budding Nazi, especially given he’s doted on by his mother Rosie (an accented Scarlett Johansson). There are japes. There is dancing. There is a lightness of touch. Then he finds Jewish girl Elsa Korr (Thomasin McKenzie) being hidden at his home by his mother behind a wall and Waititi moves away from the Nazi lampooning into different, altogether more difficult tonal territory.

It’s that second act that causes Jojo Rabbit to collapse in on itself, losing its initial inertia as it attempts to use Jojo as a prism to explore difference, extremist thought, and naturally how, as Jojo’s friend Yorki (Archie Yates) puts it “definitely not a good time to be a Nazi”.

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