At a first glance, the historical (though perhaps don’t take that adjective too literally) comedy-drama The Great looks suspiciously like a TV spinoff of Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2018 The Favourite – which isn’t too surprising, since both were (co-)written by the Australian playwright Tony McNamara. Both Lanthimos’ film and the series are bleak, black farces about incompetent, neurotic rulers, the people at their mercy, and central female characters that attempt to change things by manipulating the people in power. Both are irreverent, blatantly sexual to the point of crudeness, and ruthless, depicting the deadly ridiculousness of hereditary rule, and the corrupting effects of power.
Seeing how there isn’t much that’s even remotely comparable to the works of Yorgos Lanthimos on TV – or anywhere, really, other than in Lanthimos’ films -, it’s definitely unique and not a little thrilling to find something like The Great on TV. However, it doesn’t entirely do The Great a favour to watch it through that particular lens, because while it is undoubtedly entertaining as pitch-black historical comedy, it doesn’t have the same kind of sharp, icy edge that The Favourite has. It is only when looking at what the series does differently that it truly comes into its own.
And there goes another year and the ever more sci-fi sounding 2020 is just around the corner. We’ve had some good laughs, we cried, we watched the TV in terror, then disillusionment and then resignation, name-checking Kübler-Ross along the way – but that was just politics. In terms of media, 2019 hasn’t been a bad year at all, has it?
In the movies, the past has a certain specific look. Depending on which era is depicted, the film stock is different, the grain is more pronounced, colours are graded according to decade. The ’60s have the yellow-tinted look of an old photo, the ‘80s look neon, and anything before the First World War looks like a painting, its colours burnished. If the past doesn’t look like the past, well, it ain’t authentic, is it?
It’s saying something if the first thing I remember about the movie year 2018 is not a movie, but a character. Thanos looms large – how could he not? With one fell swoop, Marvel solved its most prominent problem and made very, very sure that we wouldn’t forget their biggest, baddest baddie. He has depth – I believe him when he says that he fulfills his mission partly against his own will, and that it cost him everything. And he – goddamn it – is successful. Of course, my experience of Avengers: Infinity War was deeply colored by my favorite daughter sitting beside me who couldn’t believe that half her favorite MCU characters went up in ashes. Maybe this was this generation’s Bambi. Continue reading →