B•F•R•W•W – The New Digest

The things I am currently digging in five easy categories – Bingeing (TV), Feeling, Reading, Watching (Films), Writing.

Bingeing

There’s a lot going on TV wise this Autumn/Winter but the most exciting is Pose Season 2 which has already succeeded in making me sob like a baby five minutes into the first episode. I’m trying not to smash the whole series in a day but it’s very moreish.

This season is centered around Madonna’s Vogue record, inspired by the NY ballrooms – House ma Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) is convinced this will bring the community mainstream acceptance while Pray Tell (Billy Porter) has seen it all before. Both are dealing with the HIV epidemic and fighting for their human rights – while Elektra (Dominique Jackson) is enjoying the spoils of her new (so far secret) career and Angel (Indya Moore ) is taking the fashion industry by storm. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend this amazing show – it is everything.

Obviously I’m all over Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK as well. Team Divina all the way.

Also watching: WatchmenSwamp ThingThe Young OffendersCreepshow

Feeling

I’ve decided not to fight Christmas this year – so I’m feeling festive. I didn’t get it at all last year so honestly fuck it, why not ride the wave with everyone else? My manager has already put up her tree and I’ve so far watched more Christmassy flicks than I care to admit – I’m saving Love Actually (2003) and The Holiday (2006), don’t worry. I’m thinking of making my own Christmas cards too – which is frankly obscene.

It’s also my birthday in just over a week and I wasn’t going to do anything but got talked into at least having an intimate dinner so there’s that to look forward to. There are six of us and I’m going to put on a new dress and false lashes – and enjoy the excellent company. I know I’m loved and completely blessed – and I am forever grateful for my loved ones.

Reading

Yes I’m reading more Stephen King – it’s the perfect time of the year for spooky and Christine is a wonderful story. My horror soulmate Matt is reading it at the same time and the regular check-ins with each other are the best bit. I will admit to finding this slow going though. It’s not Christine’s fault – I love it when I dip in – I think it’s honestly because the book’s so physically heavy, and it’s harder to read in the tub (my prime reading place).

I promise to review it when I’m done.

Also reading: My Favorite Thing is MonstersBuffy (Comics)

Watching

I’ve just re-watched Nerve (2016) on Amazon Prime, which was a lot better than I remembered – and I bloody love Emma Roberts. I’ve filled you in on Doctor Sleep which was v. good and of course, my shameful Christmas consumption.

My next cinema visit is to see Last Christmas with Helen on Tuesday – which I feel will be the final ingredient needed to get me feeling appropriately festive. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ruining my make-up for Emilia Clarke and I’m cool with it. Crying is cathartic, yo.

Also watching: Before I Wake (2016) • Gerald’s Game (2017) – I’m very much having a Mike Flanagan revival.

Writing

I wrote this, didn’t I? That’s about it on the writing front, unless you count the assessments I’ve done for my advanced Wicca course which is so fun. I’m loving it. I’ve submitted my first four assessments and come out with a 97% pass rate so far. I’m considering doing Astrology and Tarot next.

What are you up to?

Autumn TV Recommendation: Haunted, Season 2 (2019)

The producers (or distributors) of Haunted really know what’s up with the timing of their releases. Last year Season 1 made my Autumn TV recommendation list just in time for Halloween and this year is no different.

Now there’s some discussion on the web about how real the cases are and honestly, I’ve decided I don’t really care. This show is very much my jam and also one of the few things that can freak me the hell out, especially when I’m making tea in the kitchen, home alone. Seriously.

Sure some of the stories are stronger than others but they’re all interesting in their own right. My standouts this season are the tale of the possessed woman dumped in a nursing home by her family (I’d never do this to you, Ma!) and the college students sharing their home with a demon called The Mimic.

There’s also a genuinely heartbreaking story about a young boy forced into ‘gay recovery’ by his church. That one’s particularly difficult to hear and unbelievable (maybe not) that this practice was still going on in the late 80s (maybe even later than that). I’m just happy he grew up and found happiness in New Orleans as an adult.

I definitely recommend this show if you fancy a quick spook injection. It’s genuinely eery and at times quite upsetting for the families retelling their stories. Which is sad but also… intriguing.

What are you watching?

Black Mirror – Season 5: Striking Vipers

Season 5 of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has been getting mixed reviews. I agree that the three episodes in the new set aren’t as strong as some of their previous counterparts but it’s still innovative and interesting television, and shouldn’t be written off completely.

They’ve actually inspired me to go back to the beginning and review a few of the best episodes over the years so I’ll start examining those soon. For now though, to Season 5, Episode 1 – Striking Vipers.

Two estranged college friends reunite in later life, triggering a series of events that could alter their lives forever

Anthony MackieYahya Abdul-Mateen IINicole Beharie

*Minor spoilers*

Karl and Danny are old buddies from college. They’re also gamers who enjoy playing the fighting game Striking Vipers in their down time. The pair always play as Lance and Roxette. Danny (Mackie) lives with his girlfriend Theo (Beharies) – and one night the pair pretends to be strangers in a bar to spice up their lives. After they’ve done the business back home, Danny gets up and goes to play Vipers with Karl, who is crashing on their sofa.

Fast forward 11 years and the landscape looks very different. Danny and Theo are still together, married with a five-year-old. At a birthday barbecue for Danny, hosted at their house, Karl arrives after a long period of the friends having lost touch. He brings a present: Striking Vipers and a virtual reality kit which is needed to experience the game as it is now intended.

Ooooh!

That night the pals have a game wearing the kit, which transports them into the Striking Vipers world while their earthly bodies lay motionless in their respective homes. Danny’s surprised and exhilarated to find that not only is he fully immersed in his character’s environment, he can also experience pain from the fighting blows.

When they’re done fighting, Roxy (Karl) and Lance (Danny) share a passionate kiss – Danny and Karl then promptly leave the game, shocked and appalled at what they’ve done. But one thing leads to another and the characters start having a sexual relationship within the confines of the game. All the while the men can’t get enough of their virtual affair. At one point Danny remarks that he guesses they’re gay now and Karl responds that he thinks what they have goes much deeper.

“That’s us gay now.”

Danny starts to grow distant from his family, and when Theo calls him up on his strange behavior, he tells Karl they have to stop the affair. This is not before his wife tells him that she gets plenty of offers thanks very much and likes the attention she gets from sexy strangers – so he’d better shape up. (To paraphrase).

Well for a while the boys don’t see each other but things change when Theo throws a surprise dinner for Danny and invites Karl. The pair are frosty at first but then Karl admits that he’s tried everything to recreate the affair Lance has been having with Roxy. To no avail. I don’t want to spoil the conclusion but it stands to reason that the friends decide to meet and work out whether there is a true attraction between them in the flesh.

I’ll let you find out which way it goes. Striking Vipers was an interesting premise to start with – delivering quite the emotional dilemma. It examines masculinity, friendship, sexuality, monogamy – and it does so with the same bittersweet sheen of my favourite episode of all time, San Junipero.

One of the biggest issues with Black Mirror is that I find myself double guessing everything and expected this to take a much darker turn. I’m glad it didn’t in the end and I enjoyed the way it turns outs.

It was also cool to see Mackie in a different role to Falcon, who I’m just not that crazy about.

Episode details:

Striking Vipers
Year: 2019
Director: Owen Harris
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10
My Rating: 3/5

What are you watching?

I’m Not Crying…

I love to cry. I find it the most cathartic exercise. I don’t think a day goes that I don’t have a little blub – for any number of reasons. Nostalgia, joy, a stubbed toe – all that and more can threaten my mascara on the daily and I’ve become notorious for wearing my emotion on my sleeve.

Over the last few months it feels like I’ve done nothing but cry while being entertained. It started with Avengers: Endgame, which I saw three times and cried through three times and then, most recently, I’ve been haunted by a BBC drama.

Here are the last things to really tug at my heart strings.

*Minor spoilers if you aren’t up to date*

Avengers: Endgame

Historically, I don’t really like going into films that are clearly out to hit me straight in the feels. Obviously Endgame was always going to be a mixed bag of action, adventure, triumph and human sacrifice – and boy did it manipulate the tear ducts. But even though there were surprises, so much of it wasn’t that surprising – and it was glorious.

On first viewing I sobbed as soon as the film started as I thought about The Fallen, in particular Spiderman. “I don’t feel so good, Mr Stark” has followed me ever since Infinity War, a brutal reminder of the futility of life – and how shit Star Lord is because I blame him for everything (and Chris Pratt even more so).

Watching the remaining Avengers deal with the fallout from Thanos’ original finger click was heart-breaking, reminding us that it’s always the ones left behind who suffer the most. There was a plan though, obviously and I don’t think there was ever any doubt that we’d meet our favourites again – and Natasha, Steve, Tony and pals made sure of it.

I’m not going to dwell on the irreversible sacrifices made – if you know, you know – but my God, they were hard to come to terms with.

Game of Thrones – The End

I found Season 8 bittersweet. There were elements I really enjoyed of the final series but ultimately, the conclusion was messy and a lot of the foreshadowing we’d invested ourselves in for the best part of a decade came to nothing.

Regardless, I still got a lump in my throat when we lost key characters (looking at you, Giant Slayer) and the survivors, key characters we joined at the beginning and said goodbye to at the end. I cried for their collective loss and all the time they’ve been apart. I cried for Hodor, who didn’t even get a thank you for holding the door. I cried for Sansa, who outlived all her abusers.

I cried for all the dire wolves we’ve loved and lost. Ditto the dragons. Most of all I cried for the end of one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, notwithstanding Seasons 7 & 8 .

Years & Years

So I still have the last episode of this amazing show to go but the fourth was the real kicker. I don’t think I’ve ever ugly cried as much as I did watching that. Afterwards, I seriously contemplated calling in sick to work and I still can’t get it out of my head.

The show looks at so many relevant issues and one of those is refugees seeking asylum. It says a lot that we see real life images of the trauma caused to children and families on the news all the time, but it takes a well-loved fictional character in the same position to really drive the reality home.

This show is the nuts and I’ve been recommending it to everybody.

Pass the tissues, would you?

Two Brilliant TV Shows

I’ve been so good at regularly posting here so I thought I’d keep up momentum and talk about a couple of things I’ve been watching lately. One sexy thriller with two feisty leads, one horribly unsettling interpretation of what could happen to the country if we’re not careful – and both currently available on the BBC iPlayer.

*Minor spoilers*

Killing Eve (2018-2019)

After a series of events, the lives of a security operative and an assassin become inextricably linked.

KE is everywhere at the moment because Season 2 has just been released – and I’ve just rinsed all of it in about three days. It’s just highly watchable – and its leads are life itself.

In fact, both women have always been high on the list. Sandra Oh has been a dream always – while Jodie Comer has been impressive in both My Mad Fat Diary and Doctor Foster. As Villanelle the Assassin, she’s just so much FUN. I don’t want to give anything away but I just enjoyed myself so much.

As Villanelle and Eve’s lives become more and more entwined, the attraction between them grows. The easily bored V likes attention, high-drama and even higher-end fashion, while Eve has an unhealthy obsession with female assassins. While hot on the heels of Villanelle, who has done a lot to gain Eve’s full attention – and killed a lot of people – our operative risks everything; her marriage, her sanity – her job – just to see this through to the end.

It all comes to a head in Season 1 – and then kicks off again right away in Season 2. Is Eve all that different from Villanelle really? And what is this toxic infatuation that keeps them not quite together? The fact they’re now sort of working together doesn’t help abate the obsession TBH. Supporting characters Carolyn, Kenny and sexy Konstantin are all great too.

While Season 1 was written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the second is not – and I think if you really examine it, you can tell the difference. It’s still excellent television though and V still has the gumption to shock us (and Eve) when she feels like it. I have no idea where we go from here but the BBC has just announced a third series – so BRING. IT. THE. FUCK. ON!

Years and Years (2019)

The show follows a busy family from Manchester with their lives converging on one crucial night in 2019.

Russell Tovey, Emma Thompson and Jessica Hynes lead this compelling BBC drama which follows the lives of a family as they navigate the world following a dramatic – and truly terrifying night in 2019.

While I’m only three episodes in, I am fully invested in the Lyons’ and their everyday existence. Edith (Hynes) is a political activist living with the fallout of that aforementioned night while Daniel is fighting for asylum for his boyfriend Viktor, a Ukrainian refugee. Meanwhile, Celeste and husband Steven are being forced to downsize to save money. Their daughter Bethany has just come out as trans-human and is searching for a way to download her consciousness to ‘the cloud’, and ditch her body. Things are about to get a whole lot more challenging for Stephen and co too, as the banks start to topple like dominos and they lose almost everything.

In contrast, controversial politician Vivienne Rook (Thompson) is doing pretty well. Vowing to actually DO SOMETHING about the country, she’s attracting followers in their droves – including, surprisingly, sisters Rosie and Edith Lyons.

And that’s just about where I had to pause it this morning. All I know from here is that my friend Helen messaged me about episode 4 saying she hasn’t been able to get over it- and I’ll be on that one soon. I’ll be smashing the rest of it over the end of this week – and trying not to freak out as it shows us things that surely can’t be that fair outside the realms of horrifying possibility.

EEK.

What are you watching?

Truly Oddly Deeply

*Drag Race spoilers*

While Drag Race doesn’t always pack the punch it used to (IMHO), I am always fully on board. I mean, it’s still extremely addictive television and more fun than most things, even at its least inspiring (and sometimes problematic).

Season 11 hasn’t been too bad so far and has a couple of standouts for me, including larger-than-life Silky and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (Vaaaaaaanjie!).

I’m quite relieved Ra’Jah O’Hara has gone now (even though she was interesting to watch) but I’m disappointed we didn’t get more from Scarlet Envy (booted out in Episode 6). But honestly, this season is allllll about one queen for me and that is the wonderfully strange, gorgeous and controversial gob-shite… Yvie Oddly.

I always love the arty oddballs and Yvie is no exception. Here are just a few reasons she’s set to become one of my all time faves:

Drama Llama

Yvie so far has been involved in the most drama due to her inability to sugarcoat the tee. Most likely to call it like it is, she maintains she was brought up by parents who were brutally honest with her and has grown up with the same quality.

“You think being safe every week is going to get you somewhere?” ~ to Silky

While she is what she is, she has more than once claimed to be working on her delivery and it’s when she shows these flashes of vulnerability that I fall for her more and more.

Doing s*it you could not dream of

My queen lives with a condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type 3 which affects the tissue in her skin and bones. She has hyper flexibility as a result (which she uses to its full potential on the stage) but joints can pop out-of-place and cause a lot of serious pain. This has come up in the competition when Yvie has hurt herself during some of the tasks.

“I’ll dance circles around your ass.” ~ to Silky

But do you think this has kept her down? Yvie uses her body in an incredibly effective way and her long limbs throw shapes nobody else can. She’s a trouper who takes umbrage to being told she should leave because she’s hurt or that she can’t do what the others can. And that my friends, is badass as Hell.

A for Authentic

Yvie is also authentic AF (a word thrown around the work room A LOT) and true to who she is – working her uniqueness into even the most broad of categories – e.g. Sequins on the Runway. She’s shown time and again that she can turn it up AND keep her freak flag flapping – and I love her for it.

“I am Denver’s commodity of drag oddity.”

Genuinely, I just want to see what she’s going to wear every week and when she’s on the stage, I don’t care about anyone else. She has been mostly consistent in the quality she brings to the tasks and the runway, with the exception of The Snatch Game (eek!) – and I am backing her all the way.

So there it is – Yvie Oddly is my favourite from this season and puts me in mind in some ways of a young Acid Betty.

She might not have the polish of my ultimate queen Kim Chi but she does have the sense of humour to join her in Christa’s DR Hall of Fame (along with AB and Detox) – so even if she doesn’t win, Yvie will always have that.

Who’s your favourite?

The Category is… Live. Werk. Pose.

Pose is set in the world of 1987 and “looks at the juxtaposition of several segments of life and society in New York: the rise of the luxury universe, the downtown social and literary scene and the ball culture world.”

*Minor spoilers*

I’m fashionably late to the Pose party but I’m so glad I made it. Based around the 1980’s NYC ballroom scene, it focuses on new house-mother Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) and the freshly formed House of Evangelista.

Having just received bad health news, Blanca has decided to start really living before it’s too late. This means leaving the bosom of her own house-mother, the ferocious Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson) and going out on her own. Well, not on her own.

Since her house vows to be there for the kids in need, she soon gains her own children in the form of Angel, Damon and Lil Papi – and the rivalry between Evangelista and the House of Abundance rages on.

Yassss Queen

Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) has been kicked out by his parents and is living on a park bench when Blanca finds him. She takes him in with the insistence that he get an education while under her roof. Things start to look up when he’s accepted into an exclusive dance school but will his new friend Ricky bring trouble with him?

(I’m only three episodes in, so I don’t know these answers either).

And the category is… Stone Cold FACE.

ICE cold

Angel (Indya Moore) meanwhile, has fallen for businessman Stan (Evan Peters), a rising star who just can’t get enough of her exotic beauty. While he balances the pressures of work and family life, he puts her up in her own condo to keep her off the streets and his life.

TBH I don’t really care so much about Stan’s story arc. I care about our central characters – including mean Queen Elektra who is about to embark on gender reassignment surgery – and ballroom MC, Pray Tell (Billy Porter).

Pray Tell is going to break me, I just know it.

The scene is stunning, the costumes insanely beautiful and the series opener is absolutely breathtaking. I care about these characters and I want to spend time with them all. I’ve already cried through the first episode (Damon’s audition is so lovely).

Yassss Queen Part II

Plus not one Jeffrey Tambor playing a trans character in sight – and that is amazing. The only thing that pisses me off is that Peters, Kate Mara (as Stan’s wife) and James Van Der Beek get top billing in the credits and that is frankly appalling.

Get on it stat – especially if you’re a fan of the stunning Paris is Burning (1990) and its unofficial sequel Kiki (2016).

What are you watching?

Fleabag

*Minor spoilers*

Woooooo, Fleabag is back for a second series and I’m absolutely delighted! Written and starring the amazing Phoebe Waller-Bridge – the complex titular character Fleabag returns with new issues including a mammoth crush on a priest (Andrew Scott). Which is super hot, I won’t lie.

Fleabag is brilliant because it’s touching, relate-able (remember when I had my own crush on a priest? LOL) and devastating. Examining grief, guilt – the feeling of being completely inadequate – lust – it covers all angles. Even the constant breaking of the fourth wall doesn’t put me off (but only just because in series two it gets really SMUG).

Fleabag’s sister Claire (Sian Clifford) is struggling with her own feelings of resentment towards Flea, following the events of series one (I won’t spoiler, you just need to watch it).

Hot Priests R Us

Claire’s also commuting to and from Finland and dealing with pregnancy/relationship issues of her own. The best bits in many ways are the scenes between the sisters because they’re so bitchy and delicious. And there’s a hair emergency which had me screaming.

Flea also laments the current status of her friendship with Boo (Jenny Rainsford) which is very sad – and there’s a scene in which Flea ‘confesses’ to The Priest about how scared she feels all the time which realllly resonates with me. Olivia Colman is Godmother and soon-to-be Stepmother to the girls and she’s such a glorious bitch that all her scenes are the absolute best.

We’ve all been there…

My Sunday plans are to absolutely rinse the six-part series with copious amounts of tea and no regrets.

What are you watching?

Maniac

Maniac (2018)

Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, a depressed computer, a series of mind-bending simulations and a seemingly predestined shared destiny – what’s not to love?

Honestly, not much. While everyone seemed to be tooting on about this when it first dropped on Netflix, I had a hard time getting past the first few episodes. But I wanted to give it a fair go, given its cast and I’m so glad I did.

I found it to be thoughtful, beautiful, funny and heartbreaking all at once. Like, honestly so profound in places that I thought my own heart might burst out of my chest and jump across the floor.

I don’t know how well I can describe it but Maniac focuses on Owen (Hill) and Annie (Stone), two quite damaged individuals who find themselves part of a new and potentially life-changing drug trial, run by Dr. Muramoto (Rome Kanda) and his colleague, Dr. Azumi Fujito (Sonoya Mizuno).

Both our protagonists have their own battle ahead. Owen Milgrim lives with severe mental health issues. He is also due to testify on behalf of his brother (Jesse Magnussen) in court, after he commits a felony. Increasingly, Owen disconnects from the world and from his family, struggling with suicidal notions.

Annie Landsberg grieves the death of her younger sister in a car accident and is driven to take extreme action to face what’s become of her life since. And so the two find themselves loosely acquainted, both test subjects in Muramoto’s lab. The tests are surreal and immersive, not to be discussed with the other patients but to be dissected at length after the fact.

When Muramoto drops dead suddenly, seemingly an addict of his own experimental drug (and the very pill the subjects have been taking prior to their simulations), Azumi calls in Dr. James Mantleray (Justin Theroux) to take his place. James it seems was one of the founders of the experiment, which is set to address and then fix all the misery of the world.

You didn’t think it would be that simple though, did you? Well of course it isn’t, as the project is plagued with issues. In fact, the only thing that seems sure in this whole trippy scenario (and all the wonderfully vivid simulations) is that Owen and Annie will find themselves together, their lives somehow entwined. Which isn’t supposed to happen.

The rest is up to you but it’s a Technicolor study of loss and life and love and mental anguish. Of accepting your limitations, of taking a leap of faith – of not being ‘normal’ and doing it all anyway. I adored it and by the last episode I actually felt deflated. Maniac has lit up this dreary week and engaged me fully. I want it back.

Have you seen Maniac? What did you think?

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

I really want to talk about Nanette without actually talking about Nanette, which is going to be a bit hard. But going into this stand-up special with little to no knowledge about what it’s about means you’ll be hit with the power of it.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this blew me away and has remained in my thoughts ever since I saw it. I’ve also recommended it to a heap of people and I’m recommending it to you too, dear reader because I believe everybody should see it, no matter who they are or what they stand for.

Hannah Gadsby is an Australian comedian and TV writer. I hadn’t heard of her before but I hope Nanette helps the right people find her because she is brilliant. She’s astute, eloquent and her observations are both hilarious and sharp as hell. Hannah also shares deeply personal moments of trauma and it’s difficult to hear but imperative that we do. She talks about (but not limited to) mental health, being medicated, unsolicited advice (mostly from men), art history and every moment is a joy.

HannahGadsby_10.0
Not to spoiler this
but there were a couple of segments that spoke profoundly to me and one of them was about being described as sensitive. This is definitely a word that has been used to label me, particularly by my family and Hannah does a whole bit about why this has to be perceived as a bad thing – and why being insensitive would be something to strive for. Reader, I felt seen and heard in a way I can’t describe.

Hannah also talks about letting anger go and although I’ve always subscribed to the anger can be a good motivator strategy, she really made me consider this from another point of view. Honestly, drop everything and get Netflix on now, please.

What are you watching?