Review: Get Back (2021)

Beatles doc is worth the hype

This documentary from Peter Jackson for streaming service Disney+ is really something. It’s the closest thing to being a fly-on-the-wall witnessing the creation of Beatles music I can imagine, far exceeding my expectations. It was fascinating, illuminating and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I would best describe it as a truly unique film experience well worth the hefty runtime.

The raw footage Peter Jackson drew from was some 57 hours shot for a then-planned but subsequently abandoned film by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. It was supposed to follow the creation of a new album and tv special, all in the span of four weeks in January, 1969, but the tv special never happened and the album, Let It Be, would take 6 months to complete. Many years later, Peter Jackson has taken that footage and restored it to make the three part docuseries for Disney+ with each episode weighing in at around 3 hours.

First of all, the restoration was eye-popping in and of itself. The film looks like it was shot yesterday (pun intended), not sixty years ago. It is so unbelievably crisp and clear and rich in colour – perhaps a little too much so in the case of just about everybody’s fashion choices!

I think the thing I appreciated most was the window the film provided into the world of the band. I have so many preconceived ideas of their interrelationships that it was a surprise in some ways to see how they operated together and how much the looked like they genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, though there are moments of tension. It did make me rethink my opinions of John Lennon and Paul McCartney particularly. I also liked they way Yoko Ono was presented as someone John Lennon genuinely loved, not the cause of the band’s break-up, as the tired old cliche goes.

And the series is genuinely funny at times. My favourite moment was the bit when six year-old Heather McCartney comes to visit the studio with her mother, Linda Eastman, and sees Yoko Ono doing her primal scream thing. Next thing you know, Heather is giving it a go and it’s just hilarious to see a six year-old doing it with the band playing along!

The climax of the film is the famous “roof-top concert” the Beatles played on January 30, 1969, their last ever live performance. It’s the perfect scene to end on, of course, and it is played out brilliantly with picture-in-picture footage from the many cameras stationed around the building and the street playing simultaneously, giving multiple perspectives in real-time (a personal favourite gimmick). The moment when Paul McCartney catches sight of the police coming to shut it down and he whoops with excitement is the absolute gem of the whole scene, the look on his face just priceless.

I loved this docuseries for a lot of reasons, almost all of which are due to the format which made it possible. The convenience of streaming that much film at your own leisure is something you couldn’t get in a single feature or a traditional series format. You feel like you’re spending time with these amazing people and it’s almost hypnotic just watching things unfold in an unrushed way that, again, wouldn’t really be possible in any other format but streaming. It is a unique film experience for that reason as well as the content itself.

Peter Jackson’s Get Back is like nothing else and definitely worth watching.

The Beatles: Get Back | Official Trailer | Disney+ – YouTube

Review: Black Mirror – Season 5

I love Black Mirror and have been a fan ever since discovering it around season 3. The show is dark and twisted but also has its lighter moments and the three new episodes that constitute season 5 are exemplary of the show’s varied imagination.

Striking Vipers is a story about two friends (Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who reunite after years apart and bond over a sophisticated VR fighting game which soon becomes a conduit for unrequited feelings the two friends have. I was genuinely surprised by the early twist in the storyline and I really appreciated its maturity and sensitivity in dealing with the subject matter. I also loved the ending.

In Smithereens, Andrew Scott plays a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown who takes hostage an employee of the tech giant behind Persona, a Facebook-like social media platform, demanding to have a phone call with its Zuckerberg-esque creator. I found it struck an astounding balance between tragedy and comedy, making me laugh out loud several times as well as shed a tear at one point.

Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too features Miley Cyrus as a pop sensation whose new AI doll becomes the prized possession of Angourie Rice’s Rachel, but her sister Jack (Madison Davenport) has concerns about its influence. This episode is much more light-hearted in its execution, even if it has some dark material, striking and almost Scooby-Doo vibe at times, but I found it quite fun and well-earned after the seriousness of the previous two episodes. Plus, it gave me a new respect for Miley Cyrus.

Black Mirror is probably my favourite TV show. I love how intelligent and mature it is and how the series is more about quality than quantity, as each season is pretty short. The best thing about the show, in my opinion, is its anthology nature. Every episode is its own self-contained story and you can start anywhere; the quality is such that you will know in one or two episodes if this show is for you or not. Personally, I love it.

Review: Russian Doll

Twisty, funny, very smart and unexpectedly touching

I’m a little late to the party, but I just discovered this miniseries on Netflix and I really loved it. Eight episodes of 24-30 minutes each makes the complex story manageable and I found it very funny, a little on the dark side, with a lot of intelligence and heart. It obviously takes a lot from Groundhog Day but adds a neat twist which gives it an identity of its own. The writing, the acting, the whole production are all excellent and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys weird stories with interesting and unusual characters.

Natasha Lyonne plays Nadia Vulvokov, a name which is so loaded with metaphors I could spend a whole paragraph on it. The show begins with her in the bathroom at a birthday party thrown for her by her friend Maxine (Greta Lee) where she is not having a good time. Nadia is a deeply unhappy person prone to self-destructive behaviour and is struck by a car and killed while trying to find her cat in the local neighbourhood, only to find herself back in the bathroom at her birthday party where it all began. She goes on with her evening and the next day but when she dies again and finds herself in the bathroom once more, she realizes she is stuck in some kind of time loop. The twist comes when she then she discovers there is another person trapped in the same loop, Alan (Charlie Barnett). Together, they have to find a way out.

This is some really inventive stuff rom the creative minds of Amy Poehler, Leslye Headland and Natasha Lyonne. I don’t want to give away too much because the real joy in the series is discovery; this is the kind of show that rewards you for paying close attention to every detail. Every episode turns in subtle and different ways that balance both the fantasy aspect of the plot and the deep characterization of the leads. I found it very refreshing in terms of casting and how the characters were written and acted, with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. It’s very impressive, the kind of stuff you don’t see very often.

Review: Glow (Netflix)

I just finished watching season two of the Netflix seriesĀ Glow starring Alison Brie and Marc Maron based loosely on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling TV show of the 1980s – and I love it. I think it is my favourite series. I think the characters are great and the writing and staging very emotional and uplifting. I think it’s a really exceptional show.

I was reluctant to watch the first season when it came out last year because I thought the show looked cheesy. I was surprised at how well-written it was and found myself caring deeply for the characters and their fates, but then I started to notice the number of female names in the credits around halfway through and was delighted to find out most of the creative talent behind the scenes are women.

I’m always aware of where my entertainment is coming from. I think you should treat food for your mind the same way you treat food for your body, and a steady diet of junk is bad for you. Most of the stuff that gets made is, in my opinion, junk, just re-hashed ideas that almost always come from the brains of white men. I want different voices and different perspectives. But it’s vital that it be entertaining – I have little patience for messages or agendas. ThatĀ Glow manages to be both is what makes it stand out for me.

I love the comedy gold that the series gets from contrasting earnestness with cynicism. The show is fairly wise and very well-balanced, in my opinion, often poking fun at the clumsiness and vulgarity of the sport depicted but never demeaning the characters themselves. There’s nothing mean about it. Everyone is appealing and there are some unexpected depths to many of them and for all it’s sarcasm it’s also very uplifting. The show has brains and heart.

Glow is a Netflix original series which I adore for its compassion and its comedy. The characters are all great fun and it’s refreshing to watch a show run mainly by women, mostly because you wouldn’t know it was if you weren’t watching the credits. It’s beautiful to me because it shows that, in all the ways that really matter, men and women are more alike than they are alien. I really believe divisions between the sexes are almost entirely bullshit and shows like this make me feel less alone in that outlook.