Whilst this time of year brings out the cold, premature darkness, and deadlines, it also seems to summon some truly fantastic television and film. It is perhaps easy to understand why this is the case: TV and film executives realise that people will be most probably spending more time on their sofas than in their gardens and so, arguably, the quantity and quality of TV and film is heightened to keep us going through our hibernation during the winter nights.
When looking at the films that are coming out at the end of 2019, I must admit I was a little disappointed. Maybe all the original and high-calibre films are waiting around the corner in 2020 – lined up for the Oscars – but they seem an underwhelming way to end the year. The highly anticipated sequel to children’s classic Frozen, which dominated the modern Disney Princess culture back in 2013, will be released in the next few weeks. While this is exciting and certain to make a huge amount of money, it is disappointing that such a wealthy and large company like Disney must rely on sequels to make their money. Unfortunately, this is a practice adopted by a lot of the films coming out now.
On Christmas Day the 8th adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is coming to our big screens. Written and directed by Ladybird’s Greta Gerwig and starring an impressive cast of Emma Watson, Saiorse Ronan and Meryl Streep, the film is set to make a fortune. Having been brought up with the books and films of Little Women, I am excited to see it, yet I think it will be hard to challenge the TV series which came out two years ago on the BBC. Over the three episodes the show was able to show the true scope of the four daughters maturing and to allow the audience to understand them, an element which I fear this film will lack.
Two other films that caught my eye were Scorsese’s The Irishman, a crime drama about the mafia starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, and The Two Popes written by Antony McCarten about a series of imagined conversations between Pope Benedict XVI and the current Pope Francis. Whilst I’m sure The Irishman will be good, it does seem to be recycling past ideas and performances onscreen in the hopes of receiving lots of money. However The Two Popes feels like it could have something different and unique about it as it explores a world which few films have dared to explore before. Overall, though, it seems the world of film is unwilling to take risks and nurture new creative ideas.
Whilst the much-awaited Christmas TV specials of Gavin & Stacey and Miranda are ones to look forward to, I think there are some even more exciting series around. An adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials has just started and is so far meeting everyone’s expectations much more than Chris Weitz’s The Golden Compass did back in 2007. The first series of His Dark Materials is set to cover the first of the trilogy, The Northern Lights, with two more series to cover the other two books. The first few episodes have been engaging and have completely submerged the audience into this wonderful but dangerous world.
The third series of The Crown has just been released on Netflix and everyone is anxious to see whether it will live up to the magnificent first and second series. The new cast includes Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II, Tobias Menzias as Prince Philip, and Helena Bonham-Carter as Princess Margaret.
Coming up on BBC1 is The Trial of Christine Keeler written by Amanda Coe, which tells the story of 19 year-old model Christine Keeler with whom John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War at the time, had an affair. The affair became particularly notorious as it was revealed she was also involved with the Soviet naval attaché Yevgeny Ivanov, compromising national security. The series seeks to tell Keeler’s story rather than that of the men she was attached to and, refreshingly, to explore the humanity rather than the politics of the scandal.
Other television programmes which have caught my eye are Mark Gatiss’ adaptation of M. R. James’ Martin’s Close coming out this Christmas which is a thirty minute stand-alone drama about an innocent victim who haunts those involved in the court-case over her murder; as well as War of the Worlds, an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ work, imagining if Martians were to invade Planet Earth – perhaps a reflection of the perceived hostility towards outsiders in the world today. Both look like captivating and exciting programmes which I can only hope will not disappoint.