Tag Archives: the wire

Kick ass woman: Anna Chancellor

Fans of the BBC drama, The Hour, are spoilt for choice in terms of top-notch acting. It marks the moment Dominic West has finally broken free of The Wire (it was the same with Idris Elba in The Big C – I think they both needed an interim ‘rebound’ part to help get me past the brain-searingly strong characterisations of McNulty and Stringer Bell).

I’m loving the general aesthetic of The Hour, as well as watching the beautiful Romola Garai in action. But my favourite character is the excellently named Lix Storm, played by Anna Chancellor. You may know her from that Boddington’s advert, or as Donna Lathaby in Tipping the Velvet (described as ‘amoral, capricious and predatory’, someone who introduces another, Nan, into a world of ‘luxury and debauchery’ – which is pretty much a description of my favourite kind of woman). She was a superb as the snooty bitch, Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice and is preposterously famous (because she’s so attractive) for being Duckface in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

But she’s a legend in her own trousers in The Hour. The character of Lix Storm is that of a rare (especially for its time) female war correspondent. Apparently tough as boots, she has a sharp sardonic wit, one suspects, a cupboard full of messed-upness masked by a heavy whisky and Gauloises habit. But spot-on in her judgement in terms of news. And very cool, smart and beautiful.

Other kick ass women posts here.

Posted by Inkface

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Luther: Baltimore’s finest drug dealer crosses the pond

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed this, but not without reservation. A few things were disconcerting. I know that the beautiful Idris Elba, who plays DCI John Luther, is British born, but I haven’t heard him speak in anything but The Wire, so however unfairly, an Estuary accent seemed to fit awkwardly, like someone in the wrong shoes. But this is the accent equivalent of jet lag – you get over it. I remember being similarly unnerved when I first heard David Tennant’s real Scottish accent.

I loved the cool opening credits, and the way, like Spooks [also written by Neil Cross], it uses the backdrop of London really well. Although, like Spooks, the settings are perhaps a little too elegant and beautiful. What made The Wire so compelling was the reverse approach- police officers trying to manage in grotty surroundings with barely a functioning manual type-writer between them.

Luther has a skilled and impressive cast, including Saskia Reeves as Luther’s boss, Steven Mackintosh as his friend and colleague, and Paul McGann as Luther’s wife’s new squeeze. I think that’s my other reservation actually. Possibly too many big-hitters that you know from other productions, which is distracting, but may settle down when everyone has bedded in a bit.

I know Elba, for example, has been in other things since The Wire, but his embodiment of the role of the complex, oh-so-bad but effortlessly cool and charismatic, Stringer Bell is so seared on my brain, it is tough to see past it.

So how about the show? It was pretty darn good. I particularly enjoyed Ruth Wilson’s portrayal of Alice, the child prodigy turned psycho murderer, who goes head-to-head in a tense and enjoyable sexual/psychological tussle with Luther.

The idea of a smart but troubled, maverick, morally ambiguous, psychologically-minded detective is not new of course. After Luther had solved the case by realising that the missing murder weapon had been stuffed inside the dead (cremated) family dog, Mr Inkface, watching with me, said “It’s Cracker”, and he’s right, but I’m not sure I mind that too much.

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Damages: Season 3 (3): “Do you feel blessed?”

It’s a fun game to think of all the old films whose plots wouldn’t work in the era of mobile phones: Dial M for Murder, The Sting, Finding Nemo (allowing for fish mobiles).  By contrast nowadays they get routinely deployed as key plot device, notably The Wire which undermined its very name as Stringer Bell’s crew used and summarily tossed untraceable pay-as-you-go cells.

But I can’t recall a piece of TV where mobiles became a trope (critical theory term, mate) – meaning they signified something more than just being a means of saying “hi” while walking.  Damages episode three however pulled off this – so subtly though I’m not sure if I just imagined it. 

Each scene had – naturalistically and not artificially imposed – a mobile conversation, from bars, from offices, from airports, from streets.  And it mattered not which side you were on – DA and private lawyer, victim and villain, Hewes and Winstone – all played out the action on their cells.  Everyone except the estranged-from-Patty-Hewes-never-to-return Ellen Parsons, as she spent time away from NY with her hick family in the sticks.

The mobiles came to represent the sticky, tangled web of connections linking everyone together and which you can’t escape – with Patty as the spider pulling them all together.  And there, in the very last scene, what happens? As Ellen contemplates her broken family life with innocent old-technology VHS family movies playing in the background, she picks up her cell for the first time and calls Patty.  Cue music.  Ellen is back in the web.

Of course, I could be hopelessly deluded.  What makes me think they were trying something is that they had not one single Tommy’s-in-the-dumpster “flash forward to the end” scene, which is as much a signature of the programme as The Wire’s McNulty getting drunk in a bar or Vic getting eye-poppingly angry in The Shield.

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Damages – Season 3 (1): Who’s in the dumpster?

arialbold has been an excited quivering wreck since discovering the third season of Damages was upcoming on BBC. With Glenn Close as ice-queen who-will-she-get-next NY lawyer Patty Hewes, nothing is ever what it seems.

With Damages, practically the only things you seem to be able to rely on are the opening titles which have passed unscathed through into their third series.  I figured everyone would want to copy The Wire and have their opening music covered by a different cool artist each series – but maybe with Damages they need to leave you something that tells you which way is up.

The other now perennial feature – which gets a tad annoying at times – is that whenever they cut to what will be the denouement which gets slowly revealed episode by episode, everything goes slightly off kilter, with washed out colour and “eek eek” music.  It’s a useful signalling device in case you wonder why the person you have just seen bouncing happily round the office is now dead in the dumpster and oh he’s alive again.

And as a piece of TV rhetoric it’s great – constantly changing your perspective on what you’re seeing as the backstory unfolds.  In other hands it could be poor – and it verged on the hammer whack when you saw loyal and much put upon Hewes associate Tommy Shayes (who sadly only has two acting styles – happily stunned or unhappily annoyed – and wears that David Steel sartorial suicide note, the white collar and coloured shirt) watching his name going up on the door of the firm alongside Patty Hewes’, all the while you knew, you just knew, it was going to be him in the dumpster.

And this is clearly the show to be on if you want to make a strong left-field career move.  Dunno who their acting coach is but boy are they worth it.  Glenn Close had already made great TV with The Shield, but season one showed Ted Danson was not Sam Malone.  Season two had William Hurt doing his best stuff since way back.  And now season three – Martin Short! Continue reading

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I’ll be setting my Sky+ box for this…

aidan-gillenApparently he’s in The Wire (I’m one of the 6 people who’s never seen it), but I’ll always love Aidan Gillen for his star turn in Queer as Folk. And now he’s about to star in a new BBC2 drama called Freefall.  It’s about high-flying city executives (men in suits! Excellent) who are chopped off at the knees by the global economic downturn.  And Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud is in it! How fabulous is that? “It’s a gritty role and a gritty film,” she says.

The film is semi-improvised to give it a proper air of authenticity. “For an actor, improvising is liberating,” Aidan Gillen says. ” It’s not easy, it doesn’t always work, but if you’re prepared to risk looking stupid it can be rewarding. It can result in great, spontaneous performances, but it depends what you bring to it. It is a very powerful way of making a film.”

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