The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

For all the innocuousness dolloped on top, Mike Newell’s latest offering stands up as a fundamentally wholesome film — not quite realistic enough, but enjoyable if you like tea, gin and a good dose of British patriotism. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society may have been slated by critics, but it reveals important attitudes about our conception of the English past on screen. Heritage films have been described as ‘a fantasy of conspicuous consumption, a fantasy of Englishness, a fantasy of the national past’ – all of which Four Weddings director Newell has embraced and arranged neatly in this quaint period picture.

Guernsey has everything you might expect from a tourist reel set in the Channel Islands — apart from the fact that it was filmed in Devon and Cornwall. Taking place in 1946, it tells the story of Juliet Ashton (leading lady Lily James), a successful but disaffected London writer with an ill-suited American boyfriend (Glen Powell) and a longing for something else in life. One night, she comes home to a letter from a stranger, Guernsey resident and pig farmer Dawsey Adams (Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman), who has come across a copy of one of her earlier books. Soon Juliet feels impelled to visit Guernsey and the eccentric book club. After evading her longsuffering publisher (Matthew Goode) and hastily accepting a proposal from the American (destined to fail after the introduction of romantic subplot B), she embarks on a journey into the history of Guernsey and its residents.

An ensemble cast, including the avuncular Tom Courtenay and steely Penelope Wilton, add colour to the film, but the plot surrounding their lives is somewhat less straightforward. Much of the narrative follows Juliet’s fruitless attempts at understanding their reservations in talking to her about the German occupation of Guernsey and about the formation of their society — which, as we learn from the opening shots, was contrived as an alibi for the isolated islanders to meet outside of curfew hours.

Critics have commented that the dialogue has a tendency to seem anachronistic, and this is certainly the case in conversations with young Eli Ramsay (Kit Connor), a baby-faced 14-year-old who acts well but is working with a subpar script. One character that really stood out, however, was Katherine Parkinson’s Isola, a true-to-life manifestation of Parkinson’s comedic streak. Her airy nature is excellently placed to ward off the seriousness of the film. “I believe you’ve met before,” she remarks offhandedly to Juliet and Dawsey. “Yes, this morning,” they affirm. Isola looks quizzical for a moment, before clarifying: “Oh, I meant in a past life.” Also a die-hard fan of the Brontë sisters, her idealism is charming, and although out of step with her usual performances, Parkinson makes the role her own.

Also worth noting is the tradition in heritage films of attempting to recreate the past through self-conscious cinematography, a ‘public gaze’ of scenery used in order to distinguish from the private lives of the protagonists. This is evident when an extreme long shot is used to frame a meeting between Juliet and Mark: the scenery is impressive but unfortunately it seems incongruous, as Mark is about to reveal some important information and their conversation is cut off. Here, as in much of the film, we get the sense of a grander scale of events, but the important details are bypassed in favour of the film’s look.

Guernsey becomes tangibly naive and reductionist about the occupation once the characters begin to reveal their past issues: when Amelia finally shares her reasons behind her reclusiveness, her dialogue is marred by uncomfortable stereotypes of race. Criticism of the film’s shying away from the reality of the German occupation is well-founded: any flashbacks to the war are sugar-coated, bathed in artificial lighting; and the mention of a concentration camp are hurriedly passed over, used as a plot point, but never rupturing the fabric of the idyllic English countryside. As several have pointed out, it resembles a Hardy novel set in 1846 rather than post-war Britain.

However, documenting the war was never the film’s primary concern. Guernsey has been adapted from Mary Ann Shaffer’s epistolary novel told from the point of view of only two characters, and much of the film has taken artistic liberties with the material. The occupation of Guernsey had been thoroughly researched, which, apart from the presence of some archived papers, is an element perhaps missing from the film. Shaffer passed away in 2008 before the novel’s publication, so the mantle was passed on to her niece, Annie Barrows. Given that the title is so distinctive, the novel was soon recognisable and it means that today there is at least a market from fans of the book.

James herself puts up a valiant effort as the hero. Showing capability of a huge variation of styles, especially in contrast to her performance in Baby Driver last year, we see a woman who genuinely enjoys the period setting, flaunting her 40s garb and investing herself as much as she did in Darkest Hour. She bears a strong comparison to Gemma Arterton’s Catrin Cole in Their Finest, another period piece released in April last year. Both films feature a female heroine, caught up in professional writing in London, who make an excursion to a provincial area for a feature. Their Finest had the advantage of being based on true events, whereas Guernsey can be taken with a pinch of salt — it is self-consciously whimsical, but all in the name of entertainment, championing bookworms everywhere.

In an interview, James described her character as a ‘modern woman’, showing that the film is ‘striving to recapture an image of national identity as pure, untainted, complete, and in place’. Because the uglier parts of the war are glossed over – the occupation, imprisonment, and emasculation of an entire nation – we are able to see a clarified, idealized version of the past that is safe for its 12A certificate. Yet whatever the problems with the film, James’ performance was still outstanding: her latest projects include Mamma Mia! 2 and a recently announced production with Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis, so while Guernsey is to her credit, she will certainly be making a comeback. Watch this space.

 

The Weekly Set Podcast Episode 152

This week, on The Weekly Set, TVEnthusiast’s Will and Tyson talk about Legion season 2, and Lost in Space season 1.  Lost in Space debuted strong, with the exception of an almost literal deus ex machina that seemed a bit much.  Legion, on the other hand, continues to be delightful, weird, and delightfully weird, as we finally meet the monk, and learn the secret of the chattering teeth disease.

Next week, we continue our discussions of season 2 of Legion and season 1 of Lost in Space.  That isn’t all, however, as we finally begin our discussion of season 2 of Westworld.

The Weekly Set is TVEnthusiast’s weekly podcast. Every week, barring few exceptions, Will and Tyson gather to talk about what they have been watching, TV relevant news, and whatever else strikes their fancy.

You can follow Tyson and Will on Twitter, check our Facebook page here, and check our backlog of episodes here.

TVEnthusiast Newsletter 009 – April 16th, 2018

Soon, TVEnthusiast will be launching a weekly newsletter filled with easily digestible content ranging from episode impressions to news to a schedule of upcoming shows.  Though it is not yet an actual newsletter, nor does it have a true name yet, we are experimenting with it as a weekly article that will eventually  turn into a newsletter.

Without further ado, here is the ninth issue of our yet to be titled newsletter.

News

  • Apple‘s push into original content continues as they will now develop Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy as a TV series.  The series is being written by David S. Goyer (Krypton) and Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), who will co-run the series if it is picked up.
  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) is spreading her influence on the medium of television with yet another new series in development at HBO.  The series, titled Run, follows 2 ex-lovers who have an escape pact with each other if life ever got to hard for one or the other.
  • USA Network has ordered 4 pilots to be made from the various projects they have in development.  Treadstone, a series set in the universe of The Bourne Identity films, from Heroes creator Tim Kring. Briarpatch, which follows a female lead as she investigates the murder of her sister in her corrupt hometown.  Dare Me, a series about competitive high school cheerleading.  Lastly is Erase, which features Denis Leary (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) as a corrupt ex-cop with a vendetta, a photographic memory, and early onset Alzheimer’s.
  • Showtime has made a pilot commitment for an American remake of the British action/comedy series The Wrong Mans.  Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) will take on 1 of the 2 lead roles which were originally portrayed by James Corden and Matthew Baynton.
  • In a brilliant stunt, Westworld Creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy trolled Reddit with the promise of a video spoiling the entire upcoming 2nd season.  Instead they released this hilarious teaser.
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) will provide the voice of Gizmoduck in the recent Duck Tales remake, which moves from Disney XD to the Disney Channel with new episodes this may.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) has landed the lead role in Netflix’s new series The Spy, which recounts the real stories of Israeli Spy Eli Cohen.
  • George Clooney (ER) has traded his role in Catch 22 for a smaller one with Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) taking the original role.
  • Netflix has made a full season order for V-Wars, based on the graphic novel of the same name.  Ian Somerhalder (LOST) will take on the lead role.
  • Comedian Tig Notaro (One Mississippi) will portray the guest role of Chief Engineer Denise Reno of the USS Hiawatha in season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery.
  • HBO has renewed Barry and Silicon Valley, meanwhile Netflix has renewed On My Block and Jessica Jones, while Lost in Space Creators Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama are working on season 2 of the series ahead of a renewal.

Trailers

All Night – Official Teaser – Hulu

Picnic at Hanging Rock – Official Trailer – Amazon

Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger – Powers Arise – Freeform

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTq1GpK92Kw

Claws – Season 2 Promo – TNT

The Fourth Estate – Official Trailer – Showtime

Patrick Melrose – “Listen to the Silence” Teaser – Showtime

Bobby Kennedy for President – Official Trailer – Netflix

Busted! – “I Know Who You Are” Teaser – Netflix

You – Official Trailer – Lifetime

Dear White People – Vol. 2 “On the Issues” Teaser – Netflix

Duck Tales – Every Day in May Trailer – The Disney Channel

Podcast

For this week’s podcast, Will and Tyson begin their discussion of Legion‘s second season by covering the first 2 episodes.  Tyson also addresses the controversy over the recent reboot of Roseanne, and recommends the comedy series AP Bio.

Schedule

Monday, April 16th, 2018
Supergirl – The CW

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018
The Chalet – Netflix

Thursday, April 19th, 2018
Charité – Netflix

Friday, April 20th, 2018
The Originals – The CW
Aggretsuko – Netflix
Spy Kids: Mission Critical – Netflix

Saturday, April 21st, 2018
The Letdown – Netflix

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018
Into the Badlands – AMC
Westworld – HBO

The Weekly Set Podcast Episode 151

This week, on The Weekly Set, TVEnthusiast’s Will and Tyson kick off season 7 of the podcast by discussing the first 2 episodes of season 2 of Legion.  In addition, Tyson catches us up on 2 comedies worth paying attention to, 1 new, AP Bio, and 1 returning to air, RoseanneLegion continues to be obfuscated in the surreal, but with a clearer objective moving forward.  Will and Tyson enjoyed the absurdity of it all, as they desperately tried to find a way to discuss it.

Next week, we continue our discussion of season 2 of Legion, and begin our discussion of Netflix’s remake of Lost in Space.

The Weekly Set is TVEnthusiast’s weekly podcast. Every week, barring few exceptions, Will and Tyson gather to talk about what they have been watching, TV relevant news, and whatever else strikes their fancy.

You can follow Tyson and Will on Twitter, check our Facebook page here, and check our backlog of episodes here.

Top Ten Studio Ghibli Films

In the wake of the passing of Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, and ahead of Studio Ponoc’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower, out for a limited release this week, here at Film Enthusiast we wanted to celebrate the work of Japan’s master anime directors throughout the years. Although it must be stated that no anime is a bad anime, many carry different themes and are valuable to spectators for various reasons, whether sentimental or aesthetic. These, in our view, are ten of the best Studio Ghibli feature films you can find.

  1. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata, 2013)

Takahata’s swansong is a carefully crafted story based on 10th-century Japanese folklore. It tells the story of a tiny girl who is found in a bamboo shoot in the mountains – nicknamed ‘Little Bamboo’, she grows into a beautiful princess and moves to the capital, but soon discovers that the constraints of her regal lifestyle are more than she can bear. The film was widely acclaimed as a masterpiece on its release, owing to its charcoal-like drawings, fine colours and sympathetic characters. At nearly 140 minutes, Princess Kaguya requires patience, but it pays off: after all, it received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature in 2015, and bears all of Takahata’s sensitivity to mankind, nature and spiritual life that hallmarks his work.

  1. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984)

Nausicaä is the story of a princess with a social conscience, who is forced to take arms against an invading threat in order to save humanity. Accompanied by a feisty creature companion and guided by her own courage and resourcefulness, Nausicaä braves the post-apocalyptic conditions of Earth in an effort to bring peace between warring kingdoms and between man & nature. An early Studio Ghibli film with a strong ecological message, Nausicaä  shows that Ghibli was already full of unique ideas and arresting visuals even at their genesis. While computer-aided design has greatly assisted animation in the years since its release, the hand-drawn element still lives on in Ghibli films today, and is reminiscent of the manga series that the film was originally based on.

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004)

Widely regarded as one of the most imaginative works of Hayao Miyazaki, this film teaches us to look beyond appearances and appreciate people for who they truly are. Plain, hardworking Sophie, who toils in her parents’ hat shop, is one day cursed by a witch and forced to seek out help from Howl and his companions in the mysterious moving castle. The narrative at times seems a little convoluted, incongruous with the easy, comical characters that inhabit the magical kingdom. However, it is an entertaining and visually spectacular film which is satisfying as a children’s fantasy.

  1. My Neighbour Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)

Everyone loves Totoro. It’s a seminal work of the Ghibli catalogue and instantly recognisable for its loveable Totoro figure, adored throughout Japan and the face of the Studio Ghibli museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. It is the story of two young girls, Satsuki and Mei, who live in the country with their father. who is taking care of them while their ailing mother has an extended stay in a faraway hospital. Mei one day discovers Totoro, king of the enchanted creatures of the wood, and their friendship develops. Widely regarded as the film that has propelled Ghibli to the status of an international brand, Totoro is essential viewing.

  1. From Up On Poppy Hill (Goro Miyazaki, 2011).

Taking on his father’s mantle, Miyazaki Jr. produced this film with all the sensibility of the company’s previous work. It tells the story of two high-schoolers in 1963, who hatch a plan to save their clubhouse from demolition ahead of the 1964 Olympics. It has been described as a coming of age romance but has as much to do with family, war, pacifism and diplomacy as it does the giddy first-love storyline. Don’t be put off by the melodramatic elements: at its heart, this is a look back at simple high-school days with some fantastic scenery both on land and at sea.

  1. The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki, 2014)

To describe this film as “touching” doesn’t quite do justice to the layers of pathos it’s built on. Set in the 1920s, its pre-war era setting lies as a backdrop to a romance that runs its course over many years, as it loosely follows the life of Jiro Horikoshi, an aerospace engineer. More than once it makes reference to the interplay of the worlds of art and science, and amid the attentively researched, hand-drawn machine blueprints there are visual homages to Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse in the easel-painting scenes. The wind signifies not only the physical force but the rush onwards of historical events, and it is one of the most delicately handled films produced under the Ghibli name. There is also the added bonus of the John Krasinski and Emily Blunt team working on the English dub — known for their collaborative work on A Quiet Place, released this month.

4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

The first anime to receive an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, it is no exaggeration to say that Spirited Away was groundbreaking. It is almost impossible to have imagined the twists and turns that this film takes, as it follows the adventures of ten-year-old Chihiro, attempting to save her parents who have been turned to pigs in a magical land. It induces all the panic of a young girl left to her own devices in a strange country, but Chihiro is incredibly resourceful and learns to be confident as her own person throughout her mishaps – with the help of a few friends. The vision of the film is highly ambitious and it pays off: as well as leading us through comic episodes, there are poignant moments where Chihiro is forced to examine her own identity and fight for those she loves. All lovingly hand-drawn, as per the Ghibli tradition, Spirited Away is a tour de force and it’s no wonder it has been remembered as one of the best Studio Ghibli films to date.

3. Only Yesterday (Isao Takahata, 1991)

The passing of the late Isao Takahata has been documented and lamented worldwide: one of the best films in his legacy is Only Yesterday. It recalls the childhood of Taeko, a 27-year-old Tokyo office worker who takes a summer holiday to the countryside and is met with waves of deep longing for her past. Bathed in a warm, nostalgic light, this film is a glorious work of art that is self-conscious but never overbearing: it invites spectators to consider their own pasts and that of the country around them. Throughout Taeko’s stay, she develops a strong bond to the countryside around her, and the film is a refreshing look at agriculture, farming and the harmony between man and nature that can be achieved when one takes the time to reflect. Later Takahata films like The Tale of Princess Kaguya similarly refer back to the past, but Only Yesterday is a unique look at humanity’s relationship with its surroundings.

  1. Kiki’s Delivery Service (Hayao Miyazaki, 1989)

One of the best films, not just within the Studio Ghibli collection, but perhaps of all time. At surface level, it’s a coming-of-age story about a young witch who leaves home to pursue her calling and grow as a person, but it is an endearing, hopeful and comical instalment. Overlooking the fact that Kiki’s eager to go at 13, there are few characters who so excellently and realistically portray the conflicting emotions present in leaving home, making one’s own way in life and developing one’s character along the way. The visual design is flawless, with bright blue skies punctuated by soft white clouds, a town modelled on Venice or a similar pre-war, pre-Fascist European idyll, and colourful outfits, buildings and props. Kiki takes up residency in a bakery and learns to use her skill of flying to the advantage of the jovial shopkeeper, who hires her as a delivery girl. As with many Ghibli films, the workplace is where young women find their purpose and can grow as people, an industrious ideological view that encourages autonomy. Coupled with the free-spirited artist Ursula and a sarcastic and infinitely comical black cat Jiji, this film is classic Ghibli at its best.

  1. The Red Turtle (Michael Dudok de Wit, 2017).

Released last year, this Ghibli feature used no words, yet had the power to leave spectators speechless. It is rare to find a film so truly captivating that it causes you to ponder the very processes of life itself, but that it what Ghibli have achieved, and it is magical. A man is shipwrecked on an island and his escape attempts are thwarted by the eponymous red turtle – what transpires is a tender, complicated look into humanity and what it means to experience life. The visuals are gorgeous, with great breaking waves crashing above an intricately-drawn island, but they are also very simple: characters’ features are left almost as if unfinished in post-production, giving them a universal quality. The simplicity of the score also plays a fundamental part, as it doesn’t detract from the main events but tugs on our heartstrings at just the right moments. If you see one Ghibli film, make it The Red Turtle: it’s unlike anything else, a perfectly executed and beautifully crafted feature with a quiet, gentle force running through it.

        Bonus film: Your Name (Makoto Shinkai, 2016)

This isn’t a Ghibli film, but for the most part, it follows the tropes of one and is just as fantastical, arresting and spectacular that it deserves to be ranked among the best. Like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Shinkai’s earlier work, it follows the dual-narrative of Taki and Mitsuha, two teenagers from starkly different Japanese backgrounds, who find themselves mysteriously linked through time. It is the story of their search for each other, a body-swap comedy with rich, underlying pathos and a respect for Japanese ancestral traditions. It is difficult to do justice to the way that this film portrays a deep longing for the past, especially in the wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake, and one almost wishes it could be seen for the first time again. Shinkai was widely heralded as the new Miyazaki on its release, and while the two directors have diverged somewhat in their craft, they both retain an unparalleled aptitude for storytelling and entrancing audiences.

What are your favourite Studio Ghibli films? Do you have any comments on the films mentioned here? Let us know below.

 

TVEnthusiast Newsletter 008 – April 9th, 2018

Soon, TVEnthusiast will be launching a weekly newsletter filled with easily digestible content ranging from episode impressions to news to a schedule of upcoming shows.  Though it is not yet an actual newsletter, nor does it have a true name yet, we are experimenting with it as a weekly article that will eventually  turn into a newsletter.

Without further ado, here is the eighth issue of our yet to be titled newsletter.

News

  • Kerry Ehrin (Bates Motel) is replacing Jay Carson (House of Cards) as the Showrunner of Amazon’s new morning show drama from Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies) and Jennifer Aniston (The Yellow Birds).
  • Hugh Laurie (House) has taken one of the lead roles in George Clooney (Syriana) and Hulu’s new adaptation of Catch 22.
  • Gillian Anderson’s role as Media in American Gods will be recast, this comes after the Actress announced her intent to leave the series following the departures of its then Showrunners Bryan Fuller and Micheal Green.
  • David Simon (The Wire) is working on Spanish Civil War drama series A Dry Run.
  • Karl Urban (Thor Ragnarok) has been cast in the role of Billy Butcher in Amazon’s upcoming adaptation of Garth Ennis’ (Preacher) The Boys.
  • Netflix has picked up Paradise PD, a new adult oriented animated comedy.
  • Netflix has ordered Dead to Me, a new dark comedy series from Liz Feldman (9JKL) and Will Ferrell (Eastbound & Down)
  • Despite her recent connection to a suspected cult, Kristin Kreuk’s (Smallville) Canadian legal drama Burden of Truth has been picked up by The CW.
  • A gender swapped TV adaptation of Nick Hornby’s (About a Boy) High Fidelity, which was previously adapted as a movie starring John Cusack (Hot Tub Time Machine), in development for Disney’s upcoming streaming service.
  • Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) is in talks with Amazon to produce their ridiculously pricey Lord of the Rings TV series.
  • Michael Green (American Gods) and Aida Mashaka Croal’s (Jessica Jones) adaptation of Y: The Last Man has been picked up for a pilot order by FX.
  • Black-ish Creator Kenya Barris has apparently been clashing with ABC and is in talks with Netflix for an overall deal that would see him leave his previous network.
  • Season 3 of The Last Kingdom has been picked up exclusively by Netflix.
  • Netflix has cancelled their 90s nostalgia teen drama series Everything Sucks.

Trailers

Killing Eve – Extended Trailer – BBCAmerica

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUJoneEOu0E

3% – Season 2 – Netflix

The Affair – Change the Narrative (Season 4 Teaser) – Showtime

Nightflyers – First Look – Netflix

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PU80RrXPa4E

Lost in Space – Meet Dr. Smith – Netflix

Cobra Kai – The Ultimate Tournament – YouTube Red

Bill Nye Saves the World – New Season – Netflix

Succession – Teaser Trailer – HBO

C.B. Strike – Official Trailer – Cinemax

Podcast

For this week’s podcast, Will and Tyson conclude their ongoing coverage of SyFy’s The Magicians 3rd season, and celebrate 150 episodes of the podcast by playing a round of Advocates of Great Television that explores the Groundhog Day episode trope with episode discussions of Xena: Warrior Princess, Supernatural, and Person of Interest.

Schedule

Monday, April 9th, 2018
AMO – Netflix

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018
New Girl – Fox
In Contempt – BET

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018
The Expanse – SyFy

Thursday, April 12th, 2018
SuperMansion – Crackle

Friday, April 13th, 2018
Rellik – Cinemax
Bosch – Amazon
Chef’s Table: Pastry – Netflix
Lost in Space – Netflix

Sunday, April 15th, 2018
Fear the Walking Dead – AMC

Monday, April 16th, 2018
Supergirl – The CW

 

 

Iconography and Orientalism in Isle of Dogs

I liked Isle of Dogs. Which is just as well, because years of time and patience have gone into its making and it’s clear from the start that this isn’t going to be your usual canine caper. Wes Anderson has stamped his seal on the film, sure enough, but it is a marked digression from his earlier works — while it invites comparison to Fantastic Mr Fox, his latest endeavour drifts away from the safety of source material and allows its filmmaker to pursue his imagination as far as it will go. It has generated a lot of debate about the use of Japanese culture and iconography in a distinctly American production, making it singularly peculiar and noteworthy.

Set 20 years in the future, Isle of Dogs centres on Japanese Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), a feline-loving villain who has exiled all dogs from Japan in an effort to save humans from a series of deadly, animal-transmitted diseases. Accordingly, these dogs have been sent to live on Trash Island (a site of a former theme park, among other things) in order to quarantine the threat. Human revolutions have been suppressed, but when the mayor’s ward, Atari (Koyu Rankin), goes looking for his missing dog Spots, the counter-Kobayashi movement starts to gain momentum and the public outcry against their missing dogs grows. The plot seems somewhat convoluted, but it is well signposted, with Anderson’s obsessively scrupulous chapter headings guiding us through the story, like a textbook — or a tourists’ guide.

The dogs in the frontline are Bryan Cranston’s Chief, an emotionally unavailable outcast; Edward Norton’s Rex, a polite, pragmatic and democratically-minded thinker; as well as King (Bobby Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray) and Duke (Jeff Goldblum). A host of other characters make their appearances, including Scarlett Johansson’s Nutmeg and Yoko Ono herself, as an eminent scientist. It may have been rewarding to have seen the cat vs dogs dynamic in some more of the marketing and promotional material, but the focus on dogs and their adventures was perhaps enough without delving into the age-old debate of which pet is superior. Also worth noting is the use of Jupiter (F. Murray Abraham) and his narration: after the prologue to the ‘Age of Obedience’ it doesn’t seem to be used to a great extent throughout the film, but it does echo the opening of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, an early Anderson satire which uses similar deadpan dialogue and signalled flashbacks.

British and American culture has a long and complicated history with Japanese art: novels, films, the list goes on. We have imported the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro; we have the paintings of Hokusai; we have the films of Studio Ghibli, and the late Isao Takahata has been mourned globally, showing his international reach. On the surface, it looks as if the West has had no problem adopting Japanese art and tradition. It is not that Japan is so dissimilar in terms of the way it’s gone about carving popular culture: it’s just that the West has had a long tradition of projecting its views about the ‘Orient’ into cultural discourse. 20th-century critic Edward Said illuminated this pervasive ideology in his 1978 text ‘Orientalism’. In it he states that the West has misused the idea of the ‘Orient’, the East – it is in fact just a collection of Western views of what the non-western world is.

There has been some debate surrounding Anderson’s appropriation or fetishisation of Japanese culture in his latest film. It’s not the first time he has been accused of such: The Darjeeling Limited received open scrutiny for its use of Indian culture as a backdrop and catharsis for the inescapably privileged white middle-class male protagonists. It wasn’t fully expected in his more mature work: unfortunately, though Anderson handles the cultural material well at the start, leading us into an exciting journey through (fictional) Japanese history and into the present, there are unavoidable cultural overtones of fascist dictators and the repressed public voice. There is even an uncomfortable white Messiah complex lurking in the undertones of Greta Gerwig’s character Tracy Walker, an American exchange student who manages to decode a conspiracy theory and lead her classmates & peers to an uprising against Kobayashi.

However, Anderson is self-conscious about the way that language is treated, and this itself shows that he is aware of the cultural debate he has landed in. Japanese language is used throughout, and while the majority of it is unsubtitled, this is flagged up at the start in order to give us a more ‘authentic’ experience. Interpreter Nelson (Frances McDormand), who is expected to be completely neutral and objective, breaks her veneer when reacting emotionally to political proceedings with the Kobayashi clan. This is not only comical, but touches on the philosophy of linguistics and language translation: we only get her interpretation, so who is to say whether we really understand what’s going on? It’s a fascinating topic, treated with appropriate attention here.

Anderson has always been intrigued by the failure of communication even within people of the same language: consider the family miscommunications in The Royal Tenenbaums, or the lack of clarity between generations in Moonrise Kingdom. Here, it takes on an even more poignant role, bridging national identities and even species. The dogs speak English, and it’s an artistic decision that we get this film from their perspective: rather than engage in cultural debate, they only want to get back to their masters, and the universal ideology boils down to a comment made about halfway through the film: “Whatever happened to man’s best friend?’

 

There are some ingenious parts to Isle of Dogs: history and speeches are given in haiku form, and Hokusai’s The Wave is brought up as part of the national historical iconography, in a subtle yet brilliant homage to Japanese popular art. (If you haven’t seen the real painting, you’ll certainly have seen it as an emoji.) The setting, characters and props are exquisitely fashioned, and the tiniest details – like a single cherry blossom flower that lands on a dog’s nose – shows evidence of careful thought into every part of this work. The stop-frame animation means that we see and hear everything that Anderson has put into the frame, and the cotton-wool skies and visible fight clouds round off his aim for an imaginary world made visible. One can’t help but appreciate how much planning, storyboarding and pre-visualisation has had to go into this film in order to make it a reality, and for that reason alone it is worth spending time watching.

While the music is singularly simple, it’s just what is needed to underscore the film without detracting from the visuals. Alexandre Desplat’s score has drums rhythmically coursing us through scenes and building tension when needed; the eerie tune whistled by dogs and humans brings a chilling solidarity. And characters are not always what they seem. In a delightful turn, we discover the reasons behind some of the pack’s unreadable members, and the various rumours we hear (always greeted with a chorus of ‘Who? What Rumour? Remind me again?’) are once in a while proven untrue.

Culturally, Isle of Dogs might be seen to be problematic. However, Anderson is above all an artist and, just like the Japanese artists that came before him, he has sought to show his love for Japan with wide brushstrokes. Here, he is able to reconcile a sense of the bigger picture while paying particular attention to detail. This film is a unique take on Japanese life, unexpected but unlike anything else in cinema, and must be celebrated first and foremost as a work of imagination and creativity.

The Weekly Set Podcast Episode 150: Advocates of Great Television VII

This week, on The Weekly Set podcast, TVEnthusiast’s Will and Tyson conclude their talk about The Magicians season 3.  But first, it is time to celebrate the end of our 6th season, and our 150th episode of the podcast, by playing a round of Advocates of Great Television.  This time we have chosen to pick Groundhog Day episodes of television, which means the episode has to exhibit some form of a repetitive time loop.  We are joined in this discussion by a good friend from our irregular Nintendo related podcasts.  In the segment we discuss episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess, Supernatural, and Person of Interest.

Next week, we kick off our 7th season by talking about the first 2 episodes of season 2 of Legion.

The Weekly Set is TVEnthusiast’s weekly podcast. Every week, barring few exceptions, Will and Tyson gather to talk about what they have been watching, TV relevant news, and whatever else strikes their fancy.

You can follow Tyson and Will on Twitter, check our Facebook page here, and check our backlog of episodes here.

TVEnthusiast Newsletter 007 – April 3rd, 2018

Soon, TVEnthusiast will be launching a weekly newsletter filled with easily digestible content ranging from episode impressions to news to a schedule of upcoming shows.  Though it is not yet an actual newsletter, nor does it have a true name yet, we are experimenting with it as a weekly article that will eventually  turn into a newsletter.

Without further ado, here is the second issue of our yet to be titled newsletter.

News

  • Blacklisted Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo’s (Roman Holiday) 50 year old script Cortesabout the Conqueror Hernan Cortes is finally being made, though adapted as an Amazon miniseries by Steven Spielberg and Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List), with Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) in the titular role.
  • Gregg Araki (Mysterious Skin) to write, direct, and run a new Starz comedy series, Now Apocalypse, which will be produced by Director Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies, and Videotape).
  • Strike Back has been renewed by Cinemax, IFC is renewing Brockmire and Documentary Now, and Arrow, Black Lightning, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Legends of Tomorrow, Dynasty, The Flash, Jane the Virgin, Riverdale, Supergirl, and Supernatural have all been renewed by The CW.
  • Hulu has passed on a new pilot adaptation of popular graphic novel series Locke and Key.  The pilot is now being shopped to other distributors.
  • The long in development The Stand adaptation is now being developed for CBS All Access.
  • Frank Miller (The 300) and Tom Wheeler’s (The Cape) upcoming Arthurian legend YA novel, Cursed, is already being adapted as a Netflix series.
  • After completing the first 2 episodes, Director Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room) has departed work on True Detective season 3 with Daniel Sackheim (The Americans) and series Creator Nic Pizzolatto taking over for the remaining episodes.  This will mark Nic Pizzolatto’s directorial debut.
  • Emily Ratajkowski (Gone Girl), Shameik Moore (The Get Down), Lilly Singh (Fahrenheit 451), and American Vandal stars Jimmy Tatro and Calum Worthy to star in new NBC comedy series Bright Futures, about young adults transitioning from their loose 20s to their more responsible years.

Trailers

The Expanse – (Season 3) What’s New – SyFy

Legion – Season 2: First Look – FX

Archer – Season 9: Official Trailer – FXX

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 2: Official Trailer – Hulu

Fear the Walking Dead – Extended Season 4 Trailer – AMC

The Last OG – The Man – TBS

Westworld – Season 2 Official Trailer – HBO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjVqDg32_8s

Raptue – Logic Trailer – Netflix

Money Heist – Part 2 Official Trailer – Netflix

Animal Kingdom – Kingdom Come – TNT

Podcast

For this week’s podcast Will and Tyson continue their ongoing coverage of SyFy’s The Magicians, with discussion of episodes 11 and 12 of the 3rd season.

Next week, the duo will be joined by a special guest to celebrate their 150th podcast.  Together, Tyson, Will, and their guest Nick will be exploring the popular Groundhog Day episode trope. Each has picked an episode to represent in a new addition of Advocates of Great Television.

The picks are as follows…

Nick – Person of Interest – Season 4 Episode 11 – If-Then-Else (Netflix)
Will – Supernatural – Season 3 Episode 11 – Mystery Spot (Netflix)
Tyson – Xena: Warrior Princess – Season 3 Episode 2 – Been There Done That (Hulu)

Watch along with us and send your comments or questions for the show by posting a comment in this article, or by reaching out to us on Twitter, Facebook, or by emailing contact@tventhusiast.com.

In addition, we will also be covering the season 3 finale of The Magicians.

Schedule

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018
The Last OG – TBS
Legion – FX
The Middle – ABC

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018
Famous in Love – Freeform
National Treasure: Kiri – Hulu

Thursday, April 5th, 2018
Imposters – Bravo

Friday, April 6th, 2018
Money Heist – Netflix
Troy: Fall of a City – Netflix

Saturday, April 7th, 2018
Ransom – CBS

Sunday, April 8th, 2018
Howards End – Starz
Killing Eve – BBCAmerica
Unforgotten – PBS

Monday, April 9th, 2018
AMO – Netflix

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018
New Girl – Fox
In Contempt – BET

The Weekly Set Podcast Episode 149

This week, on The Weekly Set podcast, TVEnthusiast’s Will and Tyson continue to talk about The Magicians, with a discussion of episodes 11 and 12 of the 3rd season As we gear up for the season finale next week, we see an old face, a new twist on an old place, and Fillory’s first electoral race.

Next week, besides concluding our discussion of season 3 of The Magicians, we will celebrate our 150th episode with a round of Advocate of Great Television.  This time the theme is Groundhog Day / Time Loop episodes.  Nick from the TNE Forums will be joining us as a guest.  If you want to join the conversation, leave a comment on this article.  Our picks are as follows…

Nick – Person of Interest – Season 4 Episode 11 – If-Then-Else (Netflix)
Will – Supernatural – Season 3 Episode 11 – Mystery Spot (Netflix)
Tyson – Xena: Warrior Princess – Season 3 Episode 2 – Been There Done That (Hulu)

The Weekly Set is TVEnthusiast’s weekly podcast. Every week, barring few exceptions, Will and Tyson gather to talk about what they have been watching, TV relevant news, and whatever else strikes their fancy.

You can follow Tyson and Will on Twitter, check our Facebook page here, and check our backlog of episodes here.