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The OA: review

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Netflix has surpassed itself with the OA.  It’s a feast of creativity, originality and puzzlement.

Frankly it’s not the sort of show I’d expect to like, loaded to the hilt as it is with mysticism, other dimensions, expressive movement, spells, spiritualism and a central character (the Original Angel) that is as near to a full on hippy as we’ve seen on our screens in forty years.  It’s a fantasy show that’s grounded in reality and borrows in style from Cronenberg and Jonathon Demme.

Part mystery, part meaning of existence it centres on the story of OA who starts out life as a blind Russian girl, daughter of an oligarch who has a near death experience at the age of six when her bus full of junior oligarchs is attacked on a bridge by a terrorist group.  All but her die and for safety she is shipped to America where she is adopted by an ageing couple who, on doctors orders, heavily sedate her for the next 15 years to treat the possible impact of schizophrenia.

On her 21st birthday she goes to meet her father (one of many premonitions) at the foot of the Statue of Liberty but instead meets Hap.  The man who is to become the central feature of her life for the next seven years.

I will stop with the storyline here as the rest will just become spoilers.

What emerges is a hugely complex plot that is impressively gripping and impossible to second guess.  Ten more characters perform as a brilliant ensemble as the story plays out.

It’s odd how Netfilx works, isn’t it?

There are no ads.  Indeed for this there were not even any trailers.

And because there is no ‘schedule’ the episodes can be as long or as short as they need to be which is very refreshing and makes them essentially unairable on traditional television.  One episode is around 65 minutes long, and one only 31, with a variety in between.

The OA is spectacular viewing.  Right up there with Stranger Things as the revelation of 2016 on ‘TV’.  It’s not for everyone but I’d imagine it is for most.

The ending has divided opinion but I for one thought it was good and after a bit of post showing research it’s entirely relevant and actually closes off a huge number of loose ends.

Enjoy.  Wish I could see it again without knowing its meaning.

One last thing.  the Title.  The OA.  It probably means Original Angel but I wonder if it could also derive from Oral Administration (of drugs) or could it be an inverse of Alpha and Omega? As in Jesus Christ proclaiming, as God, that he is the Alpha and the Omega (meaning the beginning and the end of existence).  Just a thought.



Desert Island Discs is 75: An appreciation.

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I’d like to say I’ve grown up with Desert Island Discs, but the truth is I was a terrible snob about ‘middle class radio’ in my disapproval of it as a youth.  I was brought up in the punk era. DID did not fit with the zeitgeist.  (I didn’t even give Led Zeppelin the time of day then, for God sake.)

I remain a terrible snob in different ways today.

For example, when it comes to class and political affiliations I’m a mess.

I feel like a Liberal but don’t vote Liberal.  I voted Yes for Independence in Scotland but am beginning to mistrust the SNP as they have unfettered power.  I deplore the Tories, but love Kenneth Clark.  I would not vote Labour but hugely admire Jeremy Corbyn.  I love the Greens but they are too hippy dippy for me.

When it comes to music I can’t abide the current state of the charts but am fully doting on BBC Radio 6 and its general output, yet when I open The Skinny to look at their best of the year I barely recognise a band and worry that I am losing touch.

My best of 2016 included David Bowie, Radiohead, De La Soul, King Creosote, Nick Cave, A Tribe called Quest, Massive Attack, Mogwai, Pixies.

Dad Rock (and Dad Hip hop) if ever you saw it.  Not one a day under 50 years old and Seaford Mods are not far off it either.

So where does DID fit in to all this?

Right at the top of the tree.  That’s where.

My aforementioned ‘political disdain’ for Radio 4 has long been eroded and DID sits as the King of the BBC’s castle, patrolling the battlements the real life Queen, Kirsty Young.  Surely the greatest voice and most empathetic interviewer to ever grace the world of radio.

I listen to the archives and cannot bear the sound of the Wicked Witch of the West that preceded her; Sue Lawley.  Where Kirsty embraces, Lawley shunned.  Where Kirsty giggles, Lawley sneered or simply tossed off a harumphlike snort.

Parky was good though and so was Roy Plomley in that so very BBC era.

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The beauty of DID is that it gets under the skin of its interviewees like no other programme.  Sure, the music can be special but the formula (and it’s ingenious mixologist) works at pulling the truth from people.  Not the scandalous truth but the personal truth.

How they really felt about their mum and dad.

Why they were turned from the straight and narrow for a while (no REALLY why).

What embarrassing (but not headline) secrets they have.

How childhood bullying made them.

These sorts of things.

If you want to hear that in an absolute nutshell listen to the enthralling interview with Kathy Burke.  And try not to cry.

Listen to how Atul Gawande saved thousands of lives by creating a checklist for surgeons.  Genuinely inspiring.

I’ve not yet heard the Tom Hanks interview but I understand he was reduced to tears by Kirsty, but in a very nice way.

Lemm Sissey, a poet, was another who brought me to tears as he told his adoption story.

This programme does not tolerate big heads.  How could you show off with Kirsty anyway? Although, there was probably more opportunity in Lawley’s days, because I think she was more in the thrall of her big shot interviewees.  Kirtsty often is too, but in a completely different way.  Like a little girl mouth agape at her first Spice Girls gig sort of way rather than a Lawley “look at me interviewing Henry Kissinger ” way.

The list of the most chosen pieces reflects an aspect of the show that I think represents its strictly middle class past, because over the last ten years this picture must have changed.

Beethoven – Symphony No 9 in D minor ‘Choral’
Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor
Schubert – String Quintet in C major
Beethoven Symphony No 6 in F Major ‘Pastoral’
Elgar – Pomp & Circumstance March no 1 in D Major ‘Land of Hope and Glory’
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No 5 in E Flat Major ‘Emperor’
Elgar – Enigma Variations Nimrod
Beethoven – Symphony No 7 in A major

That’s not exactly Radio 1 (or 2 for that matter) is it?

Interviewees divide, for me, into two groups.  Those that truly love classical music and their list is wall to wall  classical with a token Frank Sinatra thrown in, and those that think a token classical piece or two will make them look more profound.  I’d likely have no classical in my choices but if I were to play that game it would be either Faure’s Requiem or Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

Look. There.  I’ve done it.

Faux Classicist.

But that minor criticism (and it’s of some of its interviewees not the show itself) Desert Island Discs really does deserve the tag “National Institution”.

Here’s to my grandchildren enjoying it at the turn of the 22nd century.



The Queensferry Crossing 2016 progress.
December 27, 2016, 11:08 pm
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This is a quite extraordinary feat of engineering.  Fascinating.

Enjoy



Chernobyl Diaries: Movie Review.
December 27, 2016, 5:27 pm
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Interesting premise that starts really well with a sort of fly on the wall docudrama feel but steadily declines into sub prime territory.

Six American/Australian tourists on the ‘Grand Tour” find themselves in Kiev and go on an extreme tourism trip to Chernobyl and of course it all ges wrong.

The initial set up is creepy and highly credible but when the horror starts the credibility goes out the window.

Each and every horror trope gets an outing and every bad decision (i.e. don’t go into the basement) plays out, one by one.

The end result is a bit of a shambles.  Disappointing.

 



Hell. Yeah! Alien Covenant trailer. By Ridley Scott.
December 26, 2016, 1:44 pm
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Nativity: Movie Review.
December 24, 2016, 11:56 pm
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Martin Freeman plays an out of love primary school teacher who ‘adopts’ an intern in the shape of Mr Poppy ( Marc Wooton – the star of the show).

What follows is a School of Rock-esque extravaganza as Mr Poppy mounts the school nativity play with epic ambitions.

But like the movie he has no budget

What he, and it, have is passion.

This is a miraculous achievement with literally a shoestring to play with.

The kids can barely sing, dance or act.

The concept is overblown and ludicrous.

It has no chance of competing with School of Rock.

But.

It is a masterpiece.

And it does.

The ultimate Christmas movie.

#Netflix .

 



Merry Christmas to my Daughter Ria, and her boyfriend Keir, who have begun their Christmas celebrations already.
December 24, 2016, 1:50 pm
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