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The Worst Thing About Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is not a great movie. It’s overblown, bloated, and fails to deliver a coherent and satisfying narrative, despite its considerable entertainment value. But I’m not here today to talk about the quality of the movie. I’m here today to talk about a particular aspect of it, one that overshadows almost the entire movie.

I’m talking about FOX News.

It’s everywhere in The Golden Circle. It reports on everything. Everyone in the world seems to watch it. It’s in the White House. It’s in a Kentucky bar. Bafflingly, it’s in an English flat on a council estate. In the world of Kingsman, there is only one news source, and it’s FOX. It’s like Donald Trump’s dream world.

On one level, this is entirely rational and normal. 20th Century FOX are paying for the movie, so it stands to reason that the company news station would be included in its products, regardless of whether it’s plausible or not. On another level, it’s deeply troubling. For one, FOX News doesn’t make a single mention of Hillary Clinton’s emails throughout its numerous reports in the movie, not even in a chyron at the bottom. This is very strange and worrying to see. I was supposed to be compelled as the news anchors gravely commentated on the growing drug problem in the movie world, but the way in which they did not make a single reference to Benghazi, or how the movie’s events could be linked back to black-on-black violence in the suburbs of Chicago, or even how this proved the strengths of the GOP’s new healthcare bill, entirely broke my suspension of disbelief.

The president even watches FOX in this universe. This is more realistic, because, of course, our real life president watches FOX. But the problem comes when the President continues to do things other than reaching for his phone and mashing out a tweet praising the news coverage he is seeing. We’re supposed to believe that the drug problem portrayed in this movie conforms to some version of reality, and that it confronts issues that are prevalent in our modern world. But if the President doesn’t live tweet FOX News in the Oval Office, how can we really trust that the writers know how to portray current events and social issues?

The weirdest thing is that even British people watch FOX News, according to this movie. Never mind that FOX News is about the 500th channel on anybody’s listings, or that you need a cable package that most council houses wouldn’t have in order to access it, what would compel a British person to bypass BBC, or ITV, or even, for some unknown reason, Sky News, and think “yes, I need the right-wing American perspective, and I need it now”? The movie doesn’t stop to explain this. It just assumes we’d accept that a working class British twentysomething’s first port of call for current events is FOX News. The fact that this movie can claim to be set in our reality, and yet portray such egregiously unreal behaviour, is morally repugnant, and, um…

I’ve run out of words.

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The Alternative Emmy Predictions

It’s the 108th Primetime Emmys tonight, where the stars of television will all gather together to celebrate another year of brilliant artistic achievement on the silver screen. It’s a night of competition – between network dramas like This is Us, global hits like Stranger Things and niche cult favourites like Better Call Saul, and there’s no telling who will win. I can tell you this, though: it’s all a sham.

The Emmys don’t reward real artistic achievement. They don’t really care about the very best shows on television. They just care about congratulating themselves, and parading around another display of tedious ‘critically acclaimed’ dramas, watched by a maximum of twelve people, most of whom live in the same house. With that in mind, then, I’ve devised my own Emmy winners – for those who would be standing up on stage tonight in Hollywood if it weren’t for the Academy’s disgusting bias. Here, I’m not rewarding more of the same. These alternative Emmys will go to the real winners of 2017.

Outstanding Drama – Marvel’s Iron Fist

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Reviled by critics, Iron Fist has been consigned to the dustbin of television. But that’s not fair. Those who have panned the show based on the negative reviews have missed a genuine televisual gem – a post-modern delight with a stunning deconstructive structure that eviscerated viewers’ expectations of a typical season. Slow and meditative TV is all the rage, but when Iron Fist makes the daring choice of creating entire episodes without any remarkable incident, reminding the viewer of the empty spaces that consume our life and suggesting an escape from the modern worker’s struggle through the practice of mindfulness, it’s seen as ‘boring’ and ‘sluggish’. In a year where the internet fell over itself to praise David Lynch’s surrealist work on Twin Peaks, they ignorantly passed over scenes of arguably superior power such as the moment where Danny Rand has just fought a dragon, but it’s not actually a dragon we see, as it’s just represented by two glowing eyes. Where the moody explorations of the human condition in Westworld captivated the internet, there was no room for Iron Fist‘s dark and terrifying journey into the heart of human torment, as represented by the scene where the main villain beats his personal assistant to death with an ice cream scoop. The show is full of dense metaphors like this, cloaked in disturbing allusions to the source of human evil and the decay of the modern American dream. Those who claim to have an enlightened outlook on television made the critical error of overlooking Iron Fist this year. It’s their loss. Their brains are smaller now than the rest of us.

Outstanding Dramatic Actor – Finn Jones (Marvel’s Iron Fist)

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Repetitive, you say? That may be the case. But when a show contains an auteurist performance this singularly brilliant, it has to be highlighted. Most actors play superheroes. Ben Affleck plays Batman. Tom Holland plays Spider-Man. Finn Jones, though, is Danny Rand. He simply sinks into this beautifully complicated character, to the point where I occasionally forget that there is a man named Finn Jones with his own autonomy and personality behind the mask. He brings all of Danny’s multitudes to life: his anger, his rage, his petulance, his frustration, and his indignation. The way in which Jones pouts, and makes his face go red, is as compelling an embodiment of pure anger as we’ve ever seen on either film or television. Some may have claimed that the Iron Fist mythos was too strange for audiences, but the way in which Jones reminds us that he is the Immortal Iron Fist, repeating the phrase dozens of times to signify the cycles of time that probably have something to do with Buddhism, makes this magical world as real as the one we live in. It’s hard to know how he did it. Maybe it was method acting, where Jones went around set whining at interns while listening to ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 99’ for the eleventh time in a row. Maybe he was born with it. Either way: Finn Jones is Danny Rand.

Outstanding Comedy Series – Marvel’s Iron Fist

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Do not interpret this as a criticism of the show, to say that it’s unintentionally funny. It’s not. Iron Fist is a deadly serious prestige drama most of the time, but it can be sharply, brutally funny when it needs to be. The show’s satirical edge is unrivalled on television, despite what others may tell you. The long, endless succession of boardroom scenes brilliantly skewers the monotony of the modern-day corporate world, poking fun at its inability to break from the capitalistic patterns that plunged the economy into a death spiral ten years ago and may threaten to do so again. At times, the show even takes its aim at the proliferation of superhero shows and movies, creating a bland and homogenous genre that Iron Fist aims to subvert. Danny’s choice to barely ever use his power is a clever rebuke to the impatient masses who desire action and explosions from their superheroes, tempting them with the promise of excitement only to snatch it away in a reminder of the creative command exercised by showrunner Scott Buck. Equally, the dialogue is as sly and cutting as anything you’ve ever seen. Lines such as “The Hand are murderers and killers!” and “What’s the Hand doing in Rand?” make a mockery of Hollywood’s slapdash scripting process and the unseemly dialogue it produces, indulging both in hilarious parody and highly enjoyable wordplay (‘Hand’ rhymes with ‘Rand’), demonstrating the show’s writerly touches. I haven’t laughed at any show more than Iron Fist this year. That, in my view, means something.

Outstanding Comedy Actor – Finn Jones (Marvel’s Iron Fist)

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Danny Rand is an idiot. This is a well-known fact, and it’s the crux of Iron Fist. The show adopts a traditional superhero structure, and places a complete fool at its centre. Danny Rand is a cunning deconstruction of the impulsive hero, a pointed commentary on the prevalence of white male heroes who believe might makes right, and an absurdist parody of the imperialist post-war culture and disdain for cultures of the Eastern Hemisphere that helped birth these antiquated hero archetypes. This, truly, is a recipe for comedy, and it’s one that Finn Jones is perfectly positioned to craft into a delicious performative omelette. Jones always seems deeply conscious of Danny’s ridiculousness, turning his moments of supposed intensity into bathetic displays of incompetence, revealing the true inadequacy of the modern American hero, in a time of complex geopolitical instability that has revealed the flawed nature of American exceptionalism and military might in theatres such as the Middle East  in a manner that just makes you want to laugh out loud. He brings dramatic power to his scenes, but there’s also an underlying comic subtext to his ravings about immortal dragons and secret disappearing cities, with Jones exposing the ludicrous nature of fantastical comic-book stories and the toxicity of escapist literature in a dark political climate where engagement with the reality in front of our eyes is paramount to ensure the survival of the democratic liberal order that has existed since 1945 in a way that had me, literally, crying from laughter, on the floor. Finn Jones is doing masterful comic work here. It’s simple, really. Any viewer could grasp this.

All Other Categories: Irrelevant

Iron Fist would be ineligible for these other categories, so, in my view, they should not count.

What do you think of my nominations? Leave a comment below and share yours!

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I Want to Write Something

I want to write something.

I’m not sure what, though. That’s a difficult combination of factors. Creative drive accompanied by no direction is like starting a car that has no tyres or engine – you can’t do it, and why would you try and start the car if it was that clear nothing would happen? The result is frustration, and it’s not a frustration that’s easy to solve with ideas and action, the way a typical creative impulse can be.

I think it’s been pretty clear that I haven’t been sure what to write lately. The last post I put up was on August 2, about six weeks ago now. That’s… a while. In six weeks’ time, I’ll have been at university for three weeks, and the prospect of that happening so soon is utterly terrifying But, dear two readers, I’ve been trying. Trying to think, mostly, of what to write.

Sometimes, you envision a blog as a perfect creative outlet. Rationally, it should be. If you remove the impetus for clicks and followers that paid content provides, all that’s left is unchecked creativity, you’d think. But clearly no-one gave me the memo, because dozens of my posts have been lost to the world because I didn’t think they were good enough. Good enough for who, exactly? The two friends I know who definitely read my posts, but wouldn’t openly criticise my content anyway? Internet strangers who I’ll never identify? Why impose standards on a consequence-free platform, where I could post a transcript of the backwards talking from Twin Peaks, or a highly positive review of Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, and nobody would change their opinion of me? It’s absurd, right? There’s no editor peeking over my shoulder, no ad rates to chase.I I’ve set the stall out for strangeness pretty far, one time typing up a long conversation with myself, and another time, writing about the experience of watching bad action sequel London Has Fallen in unsubtitled Spanish. Realistically, there shouldn’t be a lot left to surprise whatever readers haven’t run away yet.

Okay, you might have the answer to those questions, because they are not rhetorical. It’s not hard to guess. But continuing on with this thread, anyway – I had a few ideas for blog posts today. I thought I might write about Amazon’s drive for the new Game of Thrones, and how TV studios are now driven by an irresistible craving for hit shows before they even come up with the premises. Then I junked that one, and thought I might write about how Rick & Morty is the best show on television right now. Then I considered writing about shows I like in general that are good because they don’t attempt to be high-brow or artful. None of those really panned out. It’s a weird art to creating a blog post – too thinkpiece-y, and it could end up being just like everyone else, but too weird and offbeat, and you’ll just look like a rambling lunatic. Why, you ask, did I impose those rigorous standards by which all three of those ideas didn’t fail on a blog post with a likely 3-5 pageviews? Um. I’ll get back to you on that one?

Despite that, though, I’d still like to write something for this blog. It doesn’t matter that virtually every idea I put down doesn’t hold up after 30 seconds of scrutiny. At this point, I’m just going to forget the self-consciousness. I’d rather have some new content on the blog than five unpublished drafts languishing me about, reminding me of the five minutes apiece of creative inspiration that drove them. I mean, at this point, I’ll write about anything. I’d even write about the process of wanting to write about something, if I could somehow squeeze 600 words, or something, out of it. At least, then, I could say I’ve written about something.

I mean, not specifically that idea. Writing about wanting to write would be silly. I wouldn’t do that. There’s better ideas out there, I’m sure.

Just give me a minute to think of them.