Arts – Television

Lisey’s Story 

Apple TV+
by
08 June 2021

The fiction of Stephen King has always been ripe for a retelling – rich yarns recycled from iteration to iteration, enduring beyond their original prose. The occupied bathtub of Room 237, the soporific taunts of a clown in a gutter, the oily habits of undead feline – all are as cryptic and terrifying in ink as they are on film. Based on King’s 2006 novel of the same name, this eight-episode Apple TV mini-series adaptation, with King himself as scriptwriter, is the most recent such retelling. It is lush with ideas: a dream world, Boo’ya Moon, where an ochre sun hangs low at permanent dusk; a neologism, ‘bool’, which can mean all manner of things, light and dark; and a new protagonist, Lisey (Julianne Moore), widow of writer Scott Landon (Clive Owen), who journeys through long, endless hallways of memory, lost in a melancholic swirl of grief and trauma.

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Shtisel 

Netflix
by
04 May 2021

It opens with a dream. A dream that is, as dreams often are, awash in surrealism, disorientation, longing, desire. Dreams, both waking and sleeping, are integral to Shtisel’s composition, an Israeli television saga that speaks of the lives of the Shtisels, a family living in the midst of a Haredi (literally ‘those who tremble’, otherwise known as Ultra-Orthodox) community. The series is a textured chiaroscuro portrait of human experience that leaks pathos and laughter in equal skilled measure.

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Wakefield 

ABC TV
by
21 April 2021

Spoiler alert: at the end of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Randle Patrick McMurphy is lobotomised. It’s a tragic defeat for a counter-culture hero and a barbaric victory for the institution housing him. The psychiatric facility is depicted as a prison, its residents the doomed inmates, and its head nurse, the villainous Nurse Ratched, the warden. In that story, madness is analogous to freedom, and the final image of Chief making his escape for Canada is a much-needed glimmer of resistance and hope.

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Mrs. America 

Hulu/FX
by
22 June 2020

There’s a surprising moment in the 2018 documentary film Ask Dr. Ruth when Dr Ruth Westheimer rejects the idea of being labelled a feminist. Both her daughter and granddaughter are attempting to convince her that she well and truly fits the bill, but Dr Ruth – a ninety-year-old Holocaust survivor, patron saint of sex therapists, noted LGBT+ ally, and lifelong advocate for women’s reproductive rights – laughs it off, presumably because the word ‘feminism’ means something different to her than to the other generations of women in her family. It’s also a word that’s historically prone to being twisted bastardised and sensationalised by those against it, weaponised and aggrandised by those passionately for it.

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Mystery Road 

Bunya Production / ABC
by
01 June 2020

As a genre, the western springs from colonial tension: tension between the old ways and the new; between the native people and an invading population; between humans and the land itself; between lore and the law. There are no westerns set in Britain. And while the gunslinging adventures of cowboy frontiersmen may have receded into the background of American culture, the genre remains ripe with critical and narrative potential for more freshly colonised countries like Australia.

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The Plot Against America 

HBO
by
29 April 2020

With theatres, cinemas, and concert halls shuttered worldwide due to Covid-19, the so-called ‘golden age of television’ may have just entered its platinum phase. Television production, like everything else, has been forced into hibernation or hurried workarounds, but the plethora of content on the various streaming services grows apace.

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When a friend suggested over dinner that I watch Netflix’s The Crown, I responded with an earthier version of ‘Ten hours about an unelected monarch? Nope.’ It made sense, of course, for the US streaming giant to drop $100ish million on a television drama about Her Maj ...

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Over the past fifteen years, television has steadily eclipsed film as the medium for prestige drama. US cable network HBO has been central to this, producing shows (The SopranosThe WireGame of Thrones) that, in visual sophistication and narrative scope, helped transform television into art ...

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The citizens of Kettering, Tasmania might well feel ambivalent about Foxtel's new drama The Kettering Incident, budgeted at $14 million and shot on location. A small coastal town just south of Hobart, Kettering looks like an attractive spot for a weekend getaway, but the same cannot be said of ...

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Deadline Gallipoli

by
14 April 2015

If ever there were to be an exception to Winston Churchill’s military aphorism, ‘History is written by the victors’, the Anzac story would make a promising candidate. One doubts that those on the ground at Gallipoli would consider themselves victors. Yet here we are, one hundred years on, celebrating the Anzac tradition with mo ...

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