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Showing posts from March, 2019

Death, Religion and the Quest for Goodness: on After Life and Fleabag

Television comedies didn't use to have much truck with altruism. Generally speaking we would watch awful people doing terrible things, and there was a certain catharsis to be found in either cheering them on or witnessing their failure - and this went for Basil Fawlty as much as for Larry David, Homer Simpson, the Bluths from Arrested Development or Nighty Night's Jill Tyrrell. In Britain this tendency appeared blunter, but there was a considerable vein of misanthropy in US television as well. But in recent times we've had a number of programmes chewing on the idea of human kindness, where the comedy of misbehaviour or or social anxiety is counterbalanced by ideas of caring for others and making our lives on earth worthwhile. Why? Why now?

Michael Schur's The Good Place was the first off the mark, making ideas of human goodness central to its very conceit. In the show, we follow four supposedly bad people (note that Schur can't actually bring himself to write terri…

US and them

The end of US, Jordan Peele's gnarly new masterwork, sees him pull off a coup, by panning away from the family at the film's heart, towards a shiver-inducing formation of bodies clothed in orange-red clothes reminiscent of prisoner uniforms, holding hands in a line that stretches to the horizon. A supremely ambiguous shot given the social, racial and identity politics that have preceded it, this finale marks a leap forward for a filmmaker whose previous masterpiece, GET OUT, seemed to close down on itself in the final moments, finding a resolution of sorts and giving its audience a much-needed catharsis. In opening his film out like this, and accepting the inevitable messiness that this implies - Peele allows his movie to swell and sprawl, throwing ideas at the screen almost constantly - Peele gives the full measure of his thinking, giving us a film that asks much more than it answers.

Both GET OUT and US locate horror in the heart of the family. In the former, Chris finds him…