Monday, 31 October 2011

Let's All Meet Up In The Year 2000

A lyric from Pulp's 'Disco 2000' it continues "Won't it be strange when we're all fully grown?"

The last year of the twentieth century & George Bush is elected President of the USA, unless you count Florida. And they didn't.

I was supposed to be working hard on my A-Levels, but if I'm honest I spent more time on Oklahoma, Habeas Corpus and A Doll's House.

These are a few of my favourite things from 2000:

Small Time Crooks
Woody Allen's crime caper is great fun with wonderful performances from Tracey Ullman, Elaine May and Brian Markinson. Here's the trailer.

Best In Show
Christopher Guest's wonderful mockumentary takes on dog shows. The cast are uniformly fantastic with Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean, Michael Hitchcock, Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard and Ed Begley, Jr. all giving excellent performances. Here's the trailer.

O Brother, Where Are Thou?
Based on Homer’s Odyssey, the Coen brothers inspired depression road movie sends a fantastic trio in the form of George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson on a riotous ride as it mixes comedy, adventure and some great music. Here's the trailer.

Dancer In The Dark
This film is often described as having an implausible plot. It is a musical folks, and since when have expected plausibility from our musicals? This particular musical wears its implausibility like a hard won badge of honour. Apparently loved and loathed in equal measure, which is an achievement in itself. I couldn't care less about the Dogme manifesto, but Björk gives an astonishing performance in the lead role and that alone is worth your attention. Here's the trailer.

High Fidelity
Breaking up is hard to do in this adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel. John Cusack, Jack Black, Todd Luiso and Joan Cusack are all wonderful. Rob’s Top 5's speak to the geek within, but they also set the tone: can you enjoy life whilst always reviewing it? A question close to my own heart and to which the answer eludes me. The variations on the "So shall we leave at that, then?" scene are fantastic and the music is great throughout. Here's the trailer.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Doomed; A New Man; The I In Team & Goodbye Iowa; This Year's Girl & Who Are You?; Superstar; Where The Wild Things Are; New Moon Rising; The Yoko Factor & Primeval; Restless; Buffy Versus Dracula; Real Me; The Replacement; Out Of My Mind; No Place Like Home; Family; Fool For Love; Shadow; Listening To Fear; Into The Woods
The rules have changed in Sunnydale with the arrival of The Initiative, the chip in Spike's head and the discovery by Buffy and Riley of each other's secret identities. Despite averting another apocalypse, Doomed is not a big episode full of revelations, but instead one about clarification. The nitty gritty of these new elements is explored. Giles has been marginalised for much of this season and instead of just sulking A New Man gives us some comedy hi-jinx. A brace of two-parters changes everything, again. Buffy joins up with The Initiative in The I In Team which confirms Maggie Walsh as absolutely and definitely this season's Big Bad until the last scene. With Maggie gone, Riley's loyalties uncertain and Adam on the loose, Goodbye Iowa gives us a view of how the rest of the season is going to pan out. All of which is put on hold by the welcome return of Faith in This Year's Girl and her bodyswapping with Buffy in Who Are You? Both Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku are wonderful as each other's characters. Superstar is fantastic and really shows the versatility of the show. Where The Wild Things Are shows the strength of the ensemble, Buffy and Riley may be the stimulus but it is the rest of the Scooby Gang that carry and resolve the story. Oz returns in New Moon Rising to discover how much the show has change d in his absence and that he no longer fits. He will be missed. The big showdown occurs in The Yoko Factor & Primeval as Adam gets his comeuppance in spectacular style whilst capitalising on the themes of separation that have run through this season. Having dealt with the Big Bad an episode earlier than usual, season four ends with the more introspective Restless concerning the fall out from the spell that invoked the first of the Slayers and shows that no one does dreams better than Joss Whedon.
In principal, season five opener Buffy Versus Dracula sounds like a terrible idea and yet once again this show make s it work spectacularly. The episode also introduces Buffy's little sister Dawn as if she's always been around, and Real Me is another mission statement episode establishing her relationships with each of the rest of the Scooby Gang. Xander is duplicated in The Replacement and Nicholas Brendon proves that double the Xander is double the funny. After three largely standalone episodes Out Of My Mind is the soapiest yet and sets Joyce, Riley and Spike off on their paths for the rest of the season. No Place Like Home introduces Glory and reveal s Dawn's origins as The Key. Tara is thrust into centre stage in Family and Amber Benson is wonderful. Told largely in flashback, Fool For Love details Spike's earlier run-ins with previous Slayers features a great performance from James Marsters and is beautifully shot. Things get serious in Shadow with Joyce discovering that she has a brain tumour, Riley going in for some recreational Vampire activity and Glory sending a big snake after The Key whatever it may be. Listening To Fear sees Riley reaching out to the remnants of The Initiative, but Kristine Sutherland and Tiny Jewish Santa are the real highlights. Into The Woods sees the remnants of The Initiative reaching out to Riley, but it's Brendon's performance that stands out again.

Angel: Somnambulist; Expecting; She; I've Got You Under My Skin; The Prodigal; The Ring; Eternity; Five By Five & Sanctuary; War Zone; Blind Date; To Shanshu In LA; Judgment; Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?; First Impressions; Untouched; Dear Boy; Guise Will Be Guise; Darla; The Shroud Of Rahmon; The Trial; Reunion
Angel Investigations return to help the hopeless with Somnambulist, the most 'cop show' episode of the series which is chock full of 'detecting' montage and ends Kate Lockley's ignorance of the supernatural. The overnight pregnancy episode is usually a bad idea, but when Cordy is Expecting the result is far more touching. Allegories of female genital mutilation are not common on television and She redresses the balance whilst also giving Alexis Denisof some spectacular pratfalling opportunities. I've Got You Under My Skin is a great example of episode that puts its own spin on a classic horror trope of demonic possession and makes it the lesser of two evils. The parallel narrative of The Prodigal draws comparisons between Angel and Kate's relationship with their respective fathers. Angel's 'birth' and John Mahon's conflicted performance are particularly well done. The Ring is a gladiatorial fight to the death episode, but as usual one that is far better than the competition. Briefly bringing back curseless Angel, Eternity has its cake and eats it. After wreaking havoc in Sunnydale, Faith arrives in Five By Five & Sanctuary on the run and moves quickly from hired assassin to torturer to victim in a two-parter that features wonderful performances from Denisof, David Boreanaz and Eliza Dushku, marks the first time Wolfram & Hart goes on the offensive and more importantly is when Angel really steps out of Buffy's shadow. J. August Richards makes an impressive debut as Gunn in War Zone. Christian Kane's Lindsay has a crisis of confidence in Blind Date and ultimately decides redemption isn't for him, which sets the tone for the Wolfram & Hart episodes to come. The first season finale, To Shanshu In LA, is epic and yet touching, with a surprising cliffhanger ending.
The second season opens with Judgment in which Angel accidentally kills one of the good guys and can't seem to do anything right, but more importantly the late Andy Hallett is wonderful in his first episode as the Host, a character whose juxtaposition of attributes encapsulates Angel as a TV show better than any other. Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been? is a fantastic fifties piece which taps into some good ol’ McCarthyist paranoia. First Impressions brings Gunn further into the fold and gives the new selfless Cordelia a mission. Untouched sees one of Wolfram & Hart’s plans go awry, but only after showing that they are the lesser of the two evils in Bethany's life. The law firm's plot concerning Angel and Darla becomes both clearer and more confusing in Dear Boy. Denisof and Art LaFleur are excellent in the equally excellently named Guise Will Be Guise. What Buffy's Fool For Love (above) was for Spike, so Darla is for…well for Darla. Her history is beautifully told with prodigious amounts of flashback often showing the same scenes as Spike's episode, but from her perspective. The Shroud Of Rahmon is a heist, but it's Denisof and Charisma Carpenter that provide the highlights. Angel undergoes The Trial to save Darla and it's tempting to wonder why he bothers. The last scene is great. Darla and Drusilla's Reunion leads to a massacre worth cheering and then the most-shocking episode ending in the entire series.

Star Trek: Voyager: Blink Of An Eye; Tsunkatse; Live Fast And Prosper; Muse; Fury; Life Line; Unimatrix Zero; Critical Care; Inside Man; Body And Soul; Flesh And Blood
The crew of the USS Voyager watch generations pass on a planet in the Blink Of An Eye in lovely slice of hard SF. Jeri Ryan, J.G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Combs all put in great performances that make Tsunkatse better than yet another-gladiatorial-fight-to-the-death episode has any right to be. Live Fast And Prosper is very enjoyable, punctures Star Trek's pomposity beautifully and the enjoyment of Gregg Daniels character at playing a Vulcan is very funny. B'Elanna find herself as a playwright's Muse and the Greek-chorus plays she inspires are a great device. Kes returns in Fury and Jennifer Lien is wonderful as her bitter older self. Robert Picardo pulls double duty in Life Line and the results are fantastic. In the sixth season finale, Seven visits Unimatrix Zero, the shared virtual world in the subconscious mind of the Borg is a fascinating notion.
The cliffhanger is a massive cheat and robs the Borg of most of their menace, but Part II is saved by wonderful performances from Tim Russ and Susanna Thompson. The Doctor is kidnapped and put to work in Critical Care is another allegorical episode which is a damning indictment of the US health system. Inside Man sees another great appearance by Dwight Schultz as Barclay and also as his ultraconfident holographic alter ego Reg. Ryan's performance as the Doctor inhabiting Seven's Body And Soul is uncanny and very, very funny. The return of the Hirogen and their holographic prey in the TV Movie Flesh And Blood makes comparisons with slavery. The ever reliable Picardo and Roxann Dawson help prevent this episode being too simplistic and reassuringly the self-appointed holographic messiah Iden is a more complex character than he first appears.

Futurama: Why Must I Be A Crustacean In Love?; The Lesser Of Two Evils; Put Your Head On My Shoulder; Raging Bender; A Bicyclops Built For Two; A Clone Of My Own; How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back; The Deep South; Bender Gets Made; Mother's Day; The Problem With Popplers; Anthology Of Interest I; War Is The H-Word; The Honking; The Cryonic Woman
The first episode to centre on Dr. Zoidberg is Why Must I Be A Crustacean In Love? as the Planet Express crew visit his homeworld for what is essentially a great remake of Star Trek's Amok Time with lobsters. Put Your Head On My Shoulder is a great Valentines episode. The Lesser Of Two Evils introduces Bender's 'twin' Flexo which breeds mistrust aboard the Planet Express ship and leads to excessive searching of Leela's underwear drawer, Bender's "little thing called style" and features the great line "No one in New York drove, there was too much traffic." Raging Bender sees Bender become a professional wrestler, but the scenes of Hermes with a brainslug and the foreigner with his "crazy passport" are the highlights. The scenes in A Bicyclops Built For Two set inside the internet and video game are fantastic. How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back is fantastic. The scenes of Hermes 'holiday' and the Bureaucrat song are wonderful. A Clone Of My Own is a wonderful Farnsworth episode which introduces Cubert and features young people using curse words to great effect. The Deep South is a nice diversion as a visit to lost city of Atlanta with a wonderful exposition-covering Chamber of Commerce video narrated by folk-rock troubadour Donovan. Bender Gets Made introduces the Robot Mafia and features the line: "Those are the finest cigars in the universe. I can stink up a whole maternity ward with one of those things". The hilarious The Problem With Popplers owes more than a little to Star Trek's The Trouble With Tribbles and features another brilliant song. Mother's Day concerns mankind's over reliance on technology, the re-invention of the wheel and features possibly the only geriatric supercentarian seduction in animation. The four 'what if' scenarios of Anthology Of Interest I are all great. The Honking is a wonderful mix of werewolf and horror car movie jokes with a great plot twist. On first glance War Is The H-Word is a hybrid of references to M*A*S*H and just about every other war movie, but it also contains a plethora of ball-based gags, a government sponsored suicide bomber and an interesting commentary on homosexuals serving in the armed forces. The Cryonic Woman is a measure of just how well Fry has fitted into 31st century life and how grateful we should be that the series isn't about his on-again-off-again girlfriend of the past thousand years, Michelle.

Marion And Geoff
Each of Rob Brydon's ten minute monologues as recently-separated minicab driver Keith Barrett is a tour de bloody force.

The League Of Gentlemen: Destination: Royston Vasey; Lust For Royston Vasey; A Plague On Royston Vasey; Death In Royston Vasey; Anarchy In Royston Vasey; Royston Vasey And The Monster From Hell; the Christmas Special
More special stuff from The League Of Gentlemen. The nosebleeds storyline of the second series is a far more integral element than the new road was of the first. Papa Lazarou and his circus arrive at Destination: Royston Vasey and find it even stranger than he is. Herr Lipp shares his Lust For Royston Vasey. Pauline lays siege to the Jobcentre and nosebleeds reach epidemic proportions in A Plague On Royston Vasey. Tubbs and Edward begin searching for a no-tail for their son David and find more than they bargained for in Death In Royston Vasey. The town is quarantined causing Anarchy In Royston Vasey, Pauline's siege peters out and the episode has an incredibly bleak ending even for The League Of Gentlemen. It all comes to a head in Royston Vasey And The Monster From Hell with a shotgun wedding and an angry mob, ironically despite their many crimes Tubbs and Edward are innocent of these particular accusations. The unnamed Christmas Special is a great portmanteau tale with a framing story featuring Bernice hearing confessions of sorts on Christmas Eve, with very funny stories for Charlie and Stella, Herr Lipp and Chinnery's grandfather, and setting the tone for the third series.

Farscape: Nerve; The Hidden Memory; The Way We Weren't; Look At The Princess; Won't Get Fooled Again; The Locket; The Ugly Truth, A Clockwork Nebari
This is where Farscape really takes off. Outer space vies for attention with inner. Gigi Edgley is a welcome addition to the cast and Wayne Pygram is fantastic as Scorpius (and Harvey). The Look At The Princess trilogy which begins to show the scope of what Farscape could achieve. Won't Get Fooled Again is a human reaction to A Human Reaction, an epic love story in The Locket, a courtroom drama with subjective testimony in The Ugly Truth and A Clockwork Nebari probably contains the single-most shocking image shown on television ever.

Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends: Hypnosis; South Africa; Gangsta Rap
Louis Theroux turns his focus on some more subcultures. He investigates the world of Hypnosis and with the likes of Marshall Sylver and Ross Jeffries employing it in such cynical ways the results are scary mix of comic and heartbreaking. Louis visits post-Apartheid South Africa and interviews Eugène Terra'Blanche and various other members of white Afrikaner separatist communities and finds a surprising variety between them. Louis investigates the porn, the pimping and the pessimistic promotion of Gangsta Rap, each of which seems worse than its predecessor. The individuals that he meets are fascinating: Mello-T spends more time on his extra-curricular activities, Wild Wayne is a great rap ambassador, Master P's definition of "keeping it real" does him credit, Reece and Bigalow are very endearing lyricists and Theroux's rapping is more impressive than you would expect.

Human Remains: An English Squeak; Slither In; All Over My Glasses; Straight As A Flute; Hairless; More Than Happy
Rob Brydon and Julia Davies are fantastic in each of these six bleakly comic episodes of a mockumentary sitcom that each focus on a different relationship. An English Squeak presents the audience with the aristocratic Flick and Peter living in the shadow of Flick's dead fiancé and a medical condition that prevents their intimacy, but only when her husband is in the room. Slither In provides the least dysfunctional couple in the series with swingers Gordon and Sheila, both keen to talk about their proclivities despite exes, naysayers and a sister in a coma. Steven and Michelle take the next step from their bullying relationship with a "Lady Diane" inspired wedding, the wedding dress shop scene, the ABC of bands game and Spiel, Spindalero and Sausages: All Over My Glasses might just be the funniest half hour of television comedy ever made. Christians and curly sausage casseroles abound in Straight As A Flute, but it's Beverly and Tony's assessment of their neighbours and aubergine hair dye that makes this episode. In Hairless, Fonte and Barne are musicians whose creative output is odd, Fonte has no problem describing the songs of Alanis Morrisette as her own work: "All I’m taking is the lyrics and the tune, that's all I'm taking from Alanis", while Barne reads too much into the psychology of his own compositions. Les and Ray run an increasingly eclectic Brighton boutique in More Than Happy and their tragic history is revealed slowly and the timing as they talk over and contradict one another is perfect, plus the episode features the best wig ever seen on TV.

Black Books: Cooking The Books; Manny's First Day; Grapes Of Wrath; The Blackout; The Big Lock-Out
The first series of the bookshop-based sitcom sets up its three main characters with skill and Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Grieg are wonderful throughout. Cooking The Books isn't just a fantastic first episode, it's a fantastic episode full stop: the customer with the leather fetish, "and the plug went in some Tizer", Nick the fugitive accountant, Chunky soup, Martin Freeman's interrupted diagnosis, The Little Book Of Calm, the Christians who've never been indoors and Fran's gadget. It's Manny's First Day and he's already struggling to keep his job wrangling with the rules of the shop, the closed sign, Bernard's urinary multi-tasking and David Cann's customer. Grapes Of Wrath is a classic, with its descriptions of shop filth that are almost literary in and of themselves, Kevin Eldon's cleaner is excellent, the onscreen drinking tally and Frankenstein's vineyard are hilarious. The Blackout gives each of the characters their own storyline with great success and Bernard's dinner party faux pas are very, very funny. This divide-and-conquer strategy continues very successfully with The Big Lock-Out which features the funniest use of a Subutteo player in British television…

Chris Morris creates the bleakest sketch comedy show ever made. Jam is a bold post-modern masterpiece with its particularly innovative uses of editing, grading and sound. Amelia Bullimore, David Cann, Julia Davis, Kevin Eldon and Mark Heap are all fantastic in their many and varied roles. Highlights across the six episodes include: the 4ft Noddycar, the poppadom fight, thick people winning arguments, all Cann's Doctor sketches, Martina's present, the plumber mending the baby, Mr Lizard, abortion coffins, Billy's parents at the Police press conference, the little hoover, Maria, acupuncture, the Lulch's estate agents, "And you should lock up", Ted's laissez faire parents, musical chairs and "Babies don’t cry!?"

The phrase All-Star Cast is usually not as rewarding as it sounds, but Celia Imrie, John Sessions, Warren Mitchell, Ian Richardson, Neve McIntosh, June Brown, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Eric Sykes, Windsor Davies, Stephen Fry, Steve Pemberton, Spike Milligan, Gregor Fisher, Cameron Powrie and Andrew N. Robertson are all fantastic in this luxuriant adaptation of the first two of Mervyn Peakes Gormenghast novels.

Now And Again
Twelve episodes of this brilliant series were broadcast in 2000, but I can't remember how this show ended and as it is shamefully unavailable on DVD I may never find out... It probably shouldn't be on this list, but I loved it so it is.

Clinton: Disco And The Halfway To Discontent
The album by Cornershop's side project is a jaunty mix of the usual musical styles with an increased amount of dance flavour included.
Stand out tracks: 'People Power In The Disco Hour', 'Buttoned Down Disco', 'Electric Ice Cream (Miami Jammies)', 'Mr. President', 'Welcome To Tokyo, Otis Clay'

Eels: Daisies Of The Galaxy
The third album is a distinctly lighter affair than its immediate predecessor without bring overly sentimental. Full of simple, yet, beautiful symphonies and self-deprecatingly humorous lyrics.
Stand out tracks: 'Grace Kelly Blues', 'Packing Blankets', 'The Sound Of Fear', 'I Like Birds', 'Flyswatter', 'It's A Motherfucker', 'A Tiger In My Tank', 'A Daisy Through Concrete', 'Wooden Nickels', ' Mr E's Beautiful Blues'

Gomez: Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline
This collection of B-Sides, session tracks and live performances holds together better than most albums. The track selection shows Gomez in a more experimental light and shows the direction they would take with In Our Gun, while songs like 'Bring Your Lovin' Back Here' and 'Flavors' still have that distinctive Gomez sound. It may be controversial to admit it, but I prefer the cover of 'Getting Better' to the original...
Stand out tracks: 'Bring Your Lovin' Back Here', 'Hit On The Head', 'Flavors', '78 Stone Shuffle', 'Shitbag', 'Getting Better'

Lemonjelly: .KY
A compilation of three EPs released by the Electronica duo. Each track features eccentric samples beautifully surrounded by a musical landscape that ebbs and flows wonderfully. 'The Staunton Lick' is fantastic, one of the most accomplished composition ever to arrive in my shell-like.
Stand out tracks: 'In The Bath', 'A Tune For Jack', 'The Staunton Lick', 'Homage To Patagonia', 'Page One', 'Come'

Placebo: Black Market Music
Rockier and more consistent than either of the band's first two albums, Black Market Music is filled with lyrics that eschew the hedonism associated with Placebo and instead seek to question it.
Stand out tracks: 'Taste In Men', 'Days Before You Came', ' Special K', 'Spite & Malice', ' Black-Eyed', 'Blue American', 'Commercial For Levi', 'Narcoleptic', 'Peeping Tom'

The Truth by Terry Pratchett
The advent of movable type leads to the publication of the Discworld's first newspaper and with it investigative journalism. This novel is crammed full of references to the Watergate scandal and becomes a treatise on print media and the presentation of the news. As with many of Pratchett's works this book is oddly prescient and has remained topical in light of the News International phone hacking scandal.

A Local Book For Local People by Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith
Taking the form of a scrapbook compiled by Tubbs, The League Of Gentlemen's book is horrific and beautiful all at the same time. The tone is set by the dustcover made of human skin and Tubb's naïve observations on the things she has found. Highlights include a tourist's guide to Royston Vasey, editions of the local newspaper, Attatchments dating profiles, a Stump Hole Caverns leaflet, a Look-In article about Crème Brulee, Henry & Ally's Video finder, Herr Lipp's tours, Legz Akimbo (especially Linda's bio), The Curse Of Karrit Poor (ahead of its appearance in the Christmas special, above), a page from "the book" from the charity shop sketches. Comedy tie-in books are rarely this good.

Never Trust A Rabbit by Jeremy Dyson
A thought-provoking collection of twisted and comic short stories.

Slow Down Arthur, Stick To Thirty by Harland Miller
With a title is inspired by a line of dialogue from The Man Who Fell To Earth, this coming of age story is very funny and deals with the horror of wasted potential wonderfully.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion by Terry Erdman with Paula M. Block
To say this book is an episode guide doesn't do it justice, this book is the most thorough reference work on this on any other television programme interviewing actors, writers, directors, producers and all manner of crew members, but to a level of depth that is probably unprecedented.

Doctor Who: The Glorious Dead
The ten-part story The Glorious Dead is epic is all right places, the representations of the Glory are intriguing, the reveal of the Doctor's bedfellow is impressive, the Doctorless chapter is fantastic, the trip through the Doctor's subconscious, the identity of Morningstar and the final twist all make for the best Master story ever.

Escape From Monkey Island
Guybrush Threepwood and his wife Elaine return in the fourth game of the Monkey Island series and they are rendered in 3D graphics for the first time. Reunited with Herman Toothrot, the Voodoo Lady, Murray, Stan and LeChuck. This time around he searches islands old and new for the Ultimate Insult and his quest takes him into the murky world of politics and the bizarre arena of Monkey Kombat. Most importantly the sense of humour is the same as ever.

Recommendations welcome.

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