Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Audiovisual Favourites of 2015!

I somehow didn't write any 'Best of 2015' posts this year but that was not for want of ideas. I had loads of products and books I loved last year but my brain was all fluey when everyone else was posting great articles on their favourites so now I'm doing the same but for a slight difference, here's my audiovisual favourites, of which there are many.
I've learned a couple of things from concocting this; I'm a podcast convert and I apparently watch far too much Netflix, mainly. 
Hopefully my favourites for 2016 will be a bit more 'fresh air, jogging etc' and less of this lot:

A sneak peek inside my bedroom..except that my hair is never that swishy, nor am I that doe-eyed.

(In no particular order)

1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
How could you not love Kimmy? Look at how bright and cheerful she is, in spite of having been kept underground in a doomsday cult for the last 15 years with three other women by a fake prophet (an actor who features elsewhere on this list in another TV show..)
And that's the thing about Kimmy; determined to be seen as herself and not a victim, she travels to New York with just her positivity and a plan to start a new life. There she meets and moves in with Titus Andromedan, a struggling actor with about a gazzilon hilarious lines. She gets a job as a nanny for an insanely out-of-touch socialite and slowly starts to get used to the world as it is now, with lots of brilliant pop culture references. One of my favourites:
Kimmy: You ARE gong to sing at the Grammy's with Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson!
Titus: Bad examples, but YES!
Love it. It's penned by the glorious Tina Fey and if that's not enough there's that extremely catchy theme tune (females are strong as hell…) and of course, Peeno Noir (or Pinot Noir, where the reference comes from), an ode to Black Penis. Amazing. 

2. Mad Max: Fury Road.
I have vague recollections of seeing 80's Mad Max and those recollections aren't super great but this updated version with Tom Hardy as the eponymous character blew away all that came before it. Set in a blistering dystopian desert landscape, Max finds himself captured by cult leader Immortan Joe and whilst trying to escape, ends up joining forces with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), also escaping but with auld Joe's prized possessions; his harem of beautiful young women he keeps to impregnate. Delightful.
Luckily for Max, Furiosa is amazing at everything and is possibly the greatest female action hero that ever there lived. At the time of its release, lots of MRA's (that's Men's Rights Activists, in case you've been lucky enough to avoid them up to now) went on sad little rants about how Max was emasculated by Furiosa and what a disgrace it was that this film was ostensibly a feminist masterpiece, an opinion Tom Hardy memorably ridiculed during a press conference. I have yet to re-watch it to see if it holds up as well on a smaller screen, I doubt it will be as much of an assault on the senses as it was in the cinema but I'm sure it's still as thrilling as it was on first viewing.

3. Serial, series 1.
I got to this particular party very late but last Summer I listened to podcast series, Serial and quickly got hooked on the true story of murdered teenager Hae Min Lee and her ex boyfriend, Adnan Syed who was convicted for her murder, with only the testimony of his best friend used as evidence against him.
As the story wore on, I, like everyone else went through all of the same thoughts "he's innocent!", "err, that sounds really dodgy. Maybe he is guilty?" etc. There's no real conclusion to the end of the first series so I was really hoping for a second instalment of Adnan's case, unfortunately the second series is about an entirely different crime. Boo. 

4. Daredevil
Netflix have produced some really great series over the last couple of years, including Daredevil, based on the Marvel graphic novels. Matt Murdock is Daredevil, a blind lawyer-by-day and a crime stopping super hero by night, on the streets of New York. In particular he finds himself fighting against the exploits of baddie Wilson Fisk with the help of his work buddies Foggy and Karen and super nurse Claire who pops around to stitch him back up after his particularly bad spats. The fight scenes are pretty incredible; there's a whole scene conducted in a hallway that's a continuous shot lasting five and a half minutes..unreal! Series two, coming soon!

5. Master of None
Another great Netflix original series, Master of None is the product of the genius that is Aziz Ansari. I love this man's style, his book Modern Romance was brilliant as was his role in Parks and Rec and his stand up comedy so I was very excited about this series which he co-wrote and stars in. He plays Dev, an actor living in New York and tackling all the big life issues; having kids, love, living with someone, racism in show business, racism in everything, family (in particular, the sacrifices our parents made for us that we have zero understanding or comprehension of), feminism and how women's everyday experiences of life differ to men because of the actions of men. Overall it was a thought-provoking series but intertwined with a perfect balance of honesty and humour. I just found it really enjoyable, so much so that we decided after only one episode that we had to ration the series so we would savour it, rather than tear through it like we normally do!

6. Catastrophe
Now just finished its second series, Catastrophe follows Sharon and Rob (Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney) on their journey through impending parenthood following a one night (more like a week) stand. Nothing is off bounds and sometimes the humour veers towards the very rude and the very cringe but both of the main actors and all of the supporting cast are brilliant; it's a clever and warm show in spite of the intended crassness it sometimes produces. 

7. No Offence
This was towards the start of the year and so I almost forgot about it. In fact, I couldn't remember the name except to say "what was that brilliant cop drama/comedy on Channel4 that we loved called?"
Set in Manchester and featuring the city's police force as they track down a serial murderer of girls with Down Syndrome, it sounds like horrendous viewing but somehow the use of dark humour made it one of the best made shows we watched all year. It's very clever and absolutely addictive viewing plus the three main characters are all strong but flawed women, each with very different personalities who all add something separate to the unfolding drama. Prepare for a big twist in the tale as the killer is revealed towards the end of its run! It's already been commissioned for a second series and I cannot wait. 

8. It Follows
This is a super creepy horror with a difference. The premise here is that there is a sexually transmitted curse that takes the form of a very disturbing looking person following you. It could be anyone but you'll know they're following you because they're coming straight for you and will destroy you in the most violent way possible. No one else can see this person, just you and they are always after you. They can get in anywhere and find you anywhere; you can try and put distance between you but they will catch up. You can try passing the curse on by having sex with other people but that's only delaying the inevitable. Once the person you had sex with is killed, they're coming for you again.
The main character here, Jay, finds out she has this curse after she sleeps with her boyfriend for the first time. He was trying to pass it on so now she has to find a way to get rid of it with the help of her friends and her sister, without having to give the curse to some other poor unsuspecting person.
There are so many jumpy moments in this film, I was beyond freaked out. Its beauty lies in the fact that you never know when the next scare is coming and visually it's quite mesmerising too. Every scene has a somewhat hazy quality to it and overall it feels quite dreamlike- the film features things like a clamshell e-reader, 50's style cars, and an 80's synth soundtrack, all designed to confuse you so you can't tell what era it's taking place in. The cinematography is also quite startling and overall, you're left a bit discombobulated by the entire film. It's a horror but not as we know it. If you're sick and tired of torture porn, this new breed of clever horror is definitely for you. 

9. The Irish Times Women's Podcast
I don't know how I didn't know about these podcasts until this past year but I've made up for it since. Featuring interviewees like Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love), DJ Alison Curtis, Tara Flynn and Roisin Ingle discussing the impact of telling their abortion stories, authors Anne Enright, Pauline McLynn, Marian Keyes and Louise O'Neill and journalists and activists like Una Mullally and Ailbhe Smyth, there really was a wide variety of female perspectives explored. Personally I drew inspiration form a conversation with Marian Keyes, Aisling McDermott and Laura Kennedy about the power of make-up, HERE

10. Macbeth.
Possibly the most visually arresting imagery from the whole year (on a par with Mad Max), Macbeth maintained the Shakespearean language and the rough and raw energy of the original play but added in vast swathes of colour; yellows and reds that subsumed the entire cinema screen and gritty performances from Michael Fassbender and Marian Cotillard that at times felt intolerably grim (that bonfire scene, for instance). I previously had read the play but as I hadn't studied it in school, I had never had as deep a connection to it as I had King Lear or Romeo & Juliet so it almost felt like a new discovery seeing this on the big screen. It is a stunning film and easy to follow in spite of the aforementioned Shakespearean dialect. 

11. Jessica Jones.
Another Marvel superhero adaptation on Netflix. Similar to Daredevil, this was a slightly darker take on the graphic novel with Kristen Ritter playing the Jessica Jones to David Tennant's really very bad baddie, Kilgrave. Jones has super-strength and uses her powers mostly for good…she does drink a lot and treats herself terribly though. She's a private investigator and is generally pretty successful as she can more than hold her own but she gets a bit derailed when her arch nemesis Kilgrave starts showing up. After being a victim of his mind control, she's determined to put a stop to him for good. How do you stop someone who can control your every movement though? That's basically what she spends the series trying to figure out, with the help of her friend and kind of sister, Trish (who is also very capable) and her sometimes lover, Luke Cage (also a superhero and also getting his own series. He's pretty cool too so that should be interesting!)
 It was great to see a female-led superhero show that was as cool as anything the menz could do cause let's face it, Supergirl was pretty awful. 

12. Mad Men, final series.
I loved Mad Men. I remember when we first started watching it; himself and I had only recently started going out and it was the first series we binge-watched together (the romance). We very quickly grew addicted to the clever and sometimes very poignant story lines, the complicated characters (there's no point in me listing them, ALL of them were multi-layered and could be hated one minute and yet loved the next) and of course the perfect vintage styling, set pieces, real-life ad campaigns (Kodak carousel, anyone? Sniff..), real historical moments like the assassination of JFK and the first man on the moon, which somehow gave you a strong sense of nostalgia for a time you weren't even alive for! Phew!
It was just such a well made and brilliant show.
We finally caught up a few months after the finale first aired and although the final series was about a million miles away from where the show first started, I was touched by how it ended- it felt like it was all going down a very depressing road when it was pulled back at the last minute and they gave us the most gloriously triumphant Don Draper-esque ending that we could ever have hoped for. I had an actual beaming smile on my face for that last scene.
It still makes me a little bit emotional when I think about it..I know that's silly but that's eight years of my TV life right there, people!*

*need to get out more*

13. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Amy and Woman In Gold i.e films I watched and cried loudly to on the plane to and from America.
Yeah, I cry at everything anyway, but put me on a long flight, possibly with a mini gin & tonic and then give  me ALL the films with which I could possibly cry over and you my friend, have a sodden Chloe-mess on your hands.

I hadn't read the book that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was based on but I would no doubt have cried at the ending of that too. The main character, Greg is forced by his mother to befriend her friends daughter who has just been diagnosed with cancer. They quickly become firm buddies and he becomes a constant in her life- he's there every day, regardless of chemo, depression, happy or sad times and soon he and his other friend Earl are tasked with making her one of their unique home-made indie films. Obviously I made a complete show of myself on the plane when this was on because it was sweet and funny and sad all at the same time.
Amy is the docu-film made about the life of tragic singer, Amy Winehouse and although I knew the story it was almost shocking to see the timeline of her downfall reduced to film-length. I had forgotten all about her absolute waster of a husband and her father, both of whom seemed to add to her issues rather than help her. Overall it's just a very sad look at an extremely talented woman, let down by those closest to her. Worth a watch for fans of hers and just fans of music and pop culture alike.
Woman In Gold was one we both watched on the plane on the way over. Helen Mirren plays a Jewish survivor of WW2, now living in America and running a fashion boutique. She finds out that the government of Austria, where she is from, have a painting of her aunt on display as belonging to Austria. This was a famous painting by Klimt which was stolen from her family by the Nazis in Vienna in WW2. Because this is the last link she has to her aunt, she sets out with her small-town lawyer (played by Ryan Reynolds) to get her painting back. A seemingly impossible task, you might think!
At one stage himself turned to me and was all: "are you crying again?!"
Me: "blub...the nazis..her family..blub" etc.

14. Star Wars; The Force Awakens
So, I have of course seen all of the original Star Wars films and the (terrible) prequels. God, not even Ewan McGregor could save them but The Force Awakens was most excellent. Some have argued that the reason why it's so loved is because it has a fair old whack of nostalgia and references to the original films from the 70's and to be fair it does feature the return of Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Chewie, R2D2, C3PO and Mark Hamill but it also has Rey and Finn, two brilliant new characters (pictured above) who were badly needed to shake up the usual Star Wars style.
Rey is a scavenger who becomes part of the Resistance; she's tough and can fight better than most of the men, she clearly has "the force" and more than holds her own against baddie Kilo Ren. If she's that good now, wait 'til she's been properly trained by a Jedi! For the first time in my life I understand Star Wars fever and I am so on board for the next instalment!!

15. Making A Murderer.
You'll surely have heard of this hit Netflix documentary by now but just in case; Stephen Avery, a man from small town Wisconsin with little intelligence and possibly a learning disability, was originally convicted of a crime he didn't commit and went to prison for 18 years. He eventually won his freedom but fell on the wrong side of the law again whilst fighting for compensation he rightfully deserved. The documentary follows his case from the beginning and looks at his family (all of whom are suspicious, if you ask me) and those involved with the case; the extremely dodgy local police force, the prosecutors, investigators and of course, the defence lawyers who are all kinds of amazing. If you haven't seen it yet, go now! You'll be immediately hooked!

And lastly, I've added in a 16th, just cause..

16. Grace and Frankie.
I know, more Netflix. Netflix is great thought guys, seriously*.
Anyway, Grace and Frankie are middle-aged women with grown up kids who find themselves thrown together when their husbands reveal they are in love and have been having a secret affair for most of their lives. The first series follows their new lives now the two women have moved in together and are trying to date again for the first time in years and get used to no longer being married. This series was very funny and you honestly won't do any better than Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda together; two amazing actors!!

What were your audiovisual favourites of 2015?

*I promise I was not paid by Netflix for this post!


  1. Loving the list. Knowing your taste in books, movies and tv shows as well as I do I feel that you've seriously missed out on 3 shows that brought infinite joy into my life in 2015. The first is Outlander, it's the most opulent costume drama complete with the best female character ever written. Bold statement I know but Claire Beechem is just a strong as hell, take no crap, to hell with them all character in a time where females were meant to be anything but. I bought 6 box sets of season one to pass out at Christmas (books are also the most incredible I've ever read) the second is Orphan Black, it just pulls you in from the get go, cannot wait for season 4! Last is Mr. Robot. I ended up watching 6 episodes in one night before I realised the time and it's incredibly relevant right now. Part of me wished that the end result of the first season would somehow become a reality for the world we live in now. Also in love with Jessica Jones. What a badass! 😆

    1. I tried Orphan Black already and enjoyed it but didn't get past the first series. I've heard both Outlander and Mr.Robot and great, need to get onto that! Thanks for the suggestions lovely! x

  2. I loved Grace and Frankie aswell! Am waiting seriously impatiently for the 2nd series, think it's meant to be on Netflix in the Summer! Tried to watch Kimmy but couldn't get into it, loving Suits and Once Upon a Time on Netflix, they seem to be the only things keeping my attention! Still have to jump on the Making a Murderer bandwagon though!

    1. Yay! Really looking forward to the second series too! I tried Once Upon A Time but I thought the second series wasn't as good as the first so I left it there. I've heard Suits is great alright!

  3. Kimmy wasn't my thing at all but I loved Jessica Jones, think I binged it over 3 days carrying the phone around with me at times! Really liked (is 'liked' the wrong word?!) Making a Murderer, it's just fascinating. Have actually never seen Mad Men...

    1. Making A Murder was fascinating alright, I agree with you there. Addictive viewing but I really struggled towards the end with what happened with Brendan Dassey, poor kid :(

  4. I loved Kimmy Schmidt, can't wait for the next series. Will be watching Making a Murderer at some stage, I'm so bad at getting around to things! Never heard of that Irish Times Women's Podcasts but sounds right up my alley!

    1. Yay! Do give it a listen, it's so interesting and funny and at times upsetting but it always provokes a reaction!

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