Tag Archives: Thomas Dearnley-Davison

The 2016 Emmy Nominations Were Mostly Wonderful

Following a disappointingly narrow batch of Oscar nominations, it was refreshing to see a list of Emmy nominees that reflects the diversity of storytelling on television. While the great and good of the film community are congratulating themselves for having Sulu hug a boy or dance to Madonna or something equally Earth-shatteringly homosexual in Star Trek, in TV land we’re busy discussing shows dealing with a wide array of female, queer and racially diverse themes. 

I teamed up with Stephanie Coffey and Ben Ladouceur to talk wigs, Helen Hunt and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Lead Actress in a Drama:

Claire Danes, Homeland

Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder

Taraji P. Henson, Empire

Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black

Keri Russell, The Americans

Robin Wright, House of Cards

T: Homeland is still a thing?

S: Claire Danes, go away. Unless you are hanging out with Aziz in Master of None. That was great.

B: I’m throwing my weight behind Tatiana, for playing 50 different lesbians or something.

S: Tatiana is also pretty incredible with her 18 different roles. Ben, I think she just plays one lesbian, though. She is an amazing actress and woo, Canada!  

B: If you watch the show for long enough, a streetcar goes by, and you feel like Toronto is a magical land.

T: Toronto *is* a magical land, Ben. It would be nice to see a Canadian win this. Following on from Viola’s landmark win last year, I feel like this would be equally historic. But this will probably go to Viola Davis for the second year in a row, right? And I’m completely fine with that because she’s a genius.

S: This is tough. I love Viola but I couldn’t do Season two of HTGAWM. (Wow. Long acronym). The mystery was too much of a let down in season one and the amount of time they flashed back to clues because they don’t trust their audience was insufferable. But the best thing about the show is its lead actress, so she is deserving.

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Lead Actor in a Drama:

Kyle Chandler, Bloodline

Rami Malek, Mr. Robot

Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul

Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan

Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

T: I find it hard to care about any of these people and their shows. I say give it to Rami Malek, because why not?

B:. I have never seen Mr. Robot. It seems like the new Breaking Bad, in that like four or five straight males told me that I HAVE to check it out. I assume it’s about a robot named Mr. Robot, and that he can’t get wet or he’ll malfunction, but where he lives it’s always raining. Enjoy your Emmy, Mr. Robot!

T: It’s like that show Billions. Straight boys are jizzing over it but gay Twitter says there are no ladies doing lady things so don’t bother. I choose gay Twitter. Mr Robot for the win!

S: Bob Odenkirk! I too ignored the straight boys on Breaking Bad but then watched Better Call Saul in an act of defiance. It was brilliant and I vote for that because I prefer my robots to be Alicia Vikander.

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Lead Actor in a Limited Series:

Bryan Cranston, All the Way

Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Idris Elba, Luther

Cuba Gooding Jr., The People vs. O.J. Simpson

Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager

Courtney B. Vance, The People vs. O.J. Simpson

T: Fuck this whole category, because Oscar Isaac was not nominated for Show Me A Hero, which was exceptional.

B: I just googled Show Me a Hero, it looks good. By “it” I mean Oscar Isaac’s moustache.

T: Anything in or around Oscar Isaac’s face is usually 10/10. I have major issues with Tom Hiddleston – he’s a pretty face but I find him completely vacuous, and I’m in the minority that thought The Night Manager was unwatchable.

S: Yes! No more Hiddleswift PR please!

T: This should absolutely go to Courtney B Vance, I thought he was amazing in the show. Also because he was wearing a wig but he was the only person that didn’t look absolutely ridiculous. Plus, he’s married to Angela Fucking Basset.

S: Angela FUCKING Basset.

B: Yes, give it to Vance, who not only acted well, but also grew a moustache.

S: Yes. I’m with you guys. Mostly because of not looking ridiculous in a wig. I’m getting strong images of how terrified I was of John Travolta in this series. Ughhhh.

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Lead Actress in a Limited Series:

Kirsten Dunst, Fargo

Felicity Huffman, American Crime

Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grille

Sarah Paulson, The People vs. O.J. Simpson

Lili Taylor, American Crime

Kerry Washington, Confirmation

T: How long have we been banging on about Sarah Paulson? Three years now? She was utterly brilliant in OJ and she’s usually the best thing in pretty much anything she does. Give her the fucking Emmy already.

B: I’ve been in love with Paulson since Studio 60, in which she was the only good thing. If I could travel time, I would visit zero dinosaurs and instead travel back a mere six years to go see the 2010 Broadway production of “Collected Stories” with her and Linda Lavin. So if she wins, I’ll be happy.

T: You have quite a thing for Lili Taylor too if I remember correctly?

B: I DO love Lili Taylor, and I am so honoured that you remember that about me. I just want to have brunch with her every once and awhile. Her and Helen Hunt and Embeth Davidtz. And at the start of brunch when we’re all sitting down, we’re like, “No mimosas!” but then one of us orders one anyway, and that gets the ball rolling, and we’re all drinking one mimosa each and talking about how silly we are, so silly, three silly girls and their silly friend Ben.

T: This sounds like a brunch I would turn up to with a really open mind and my heart would sink in like the first three minutes.

S: Why are the mimosas so forbidden, Ben? “No we can’t. We can’t. OMG Helen you are so bad! I’m ordering one too!”

T: Maybe I could convince Embeth to slope off with me? Anyway, I remember you like Lili Taylor because you loved her character on Six Feet Under, who was just the worst.

B: You watched it wrong, she was the best thing about that show.

S: Ben has been on my radar of questionable female actress choices since the inception of his bizarre love for boring Helen Hunt. However, Sarah Paulson bridges the gap finally! To quote Thomas’ drunken voicemail last week, “Pleeeeeease give Sarah Paulson an Emmyyyyyy. She’s a fuuuuuucking genius!”   

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Lead Actor in a Comedy:

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish

Aziz Ansari, Master Of None

Will Forte, Last Man on Earth

William H. Macy, Shameless

Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley

Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

T: I feel like we should really be watching Black-ish. The clips I’ve seen look funny.

B: I watched Black-ish’s Very Special Episode about BLM, which was great, but probably not that emblematic of the show’s comic sensibilities.

T: I’m torn here between Aziz Ansari and Jeffrey Tambor. I’d say Aziz is funnier and the fact that he writes and directs the show is a huge achievement. But this is probably Tambor’s to lose. Transparent season two was excellent and I think he was great in it.

B: Let’s give it to Forte, whose show is not perfect, but neither am I and neither are you.

S: Aziz! I loved season two of Transparent but I’d like to see some other players get wins this year. Can someone give Gaby Hoffman an Emmy? Or perhaps some Jill Soloway love? Tambor was brilliant but I think Aziz has created a Master-ful show that touches on a lot of important topics and is hilarious.

T: Puns are always welcome.

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Lead Actress in a Comedy:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish

Laurie Metcalf,Getting On

Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer

Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

T: Firstly, Maria Bamford got snubbed for the hilarious Lady Dynamite. It was genius. Shocked to see her left off the list. As you said before, Ben, Grace and Frankie is perfect television so Lily Tomlin deserves to be here. And Tracee Ellis Ross is hilarious so I’m not surprised to see her here. Who takes it? JLD, again? In my heart of hearts I would love this to go to Lily Tomlin.

B: I’m OK with anyone here winning. I’m most OK with Tomlin.

S: Tracee Ellis Ross or Amy Schumer. Lily Tomlin can win if there is a write in vote for Grandma.

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Comedy Series:

Black-ish

Master of None

Modern Family

Silicon Valley

Transparent

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Veep

T: In terms of the most laughs I got out of a show this year, Kimmy Schmidt takes it for me.

S: Titus Burgess really carried the show for me this season. I wouldn’t say it was the best show of the year but I definitely laughed.

T: In terms of purely artistic achievement, this is between Master of None and Transparent.

B: Transparent was REMARKABLE, but I didn’t laugh – mostly I winced and cringed and almost-cried and thought about how one day we’re all going to die. But yes: for best show, it should be Transparent, but for funniest show, Unbreakable.

S: Transparent is heartbreakingly beautiful but it’s one of those odd ‘should it be in the comedy section?’ nominees. I watched Man on the Land S2E9 three times and just bawled. Hari Nef was INCREDIBLE. She should have received a nod!

B: Master of None didn’t do it for me. I feel broken but it’s true.

S: Ben, I’m starting to doubt you again and after we just reconciled over Sarah Paulson. Master of None was amazing. I’m also like the biggest Aziz Ansari fan so I could be biased…no, it’s great.

B: Yeah, I know I’m in the minority here. I appreciate that Ansari is a man with a mandate, addressing social issues. I’m just not driven wild by his schtick.

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Drama Series:

The Americans

Better Call Saul

Downton Abbey

Game of Thrones

Homeland

House of Cards

Mr. Robot

T: I watch none of these shows. I loathe Downton Abbey. Give it to Mr. Robot. Sure.

B: You don’t watch Game of Thrones? I assume everyone in England does because it’s filmed in the big soccer field across the street from everyone’s house.

T: You know how everyone in Toronto had a walk-on in Being Erica? Everyone in the UK has played a tree on Game of Thrones.

S: I DON’T CARE. ACTUALLY put Transparent in this category and voila! A winner.

B: Also, this is where I mention that I have watched Downton Abbey start to finish, and enjoyed every minute. This season was one of the stronger ones. There were car crashes, and the finale was so incredibly CONCLUSIVE. Not a single loose thread. Basically everyone either got married or died, and there was no middle ground, because that’s how aristocracy works.

T: I hate the aristocracy, I hate the crappy writing on this shitty show, and I hate you, Ben.

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TV Movie:

All the Way

Confirmation

Luther

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

A Very Murray Christmas

T: Umm, weren’t all of these reviewed as bad or mediocre? Unless I’m forgetting something. Give it to Bill Murray for all I care.

B: Confirmation, let’s say.

S: No guys! Did you see the Christmas special? It was like Sofia Coppola does sparse atmospheric Christmas where nothing happens but I put my famous friends in it so it’s fine. Does Black Mirror White Christmas count as a T.V. movie? The one with Jon Hamm. I just watched that and it’s really good. Write in?

T: Steph, with her characteristic finger on the pulse, has singled out a show that was released in 2014.

S: D’oh! … Please disregard Stephanie. *Sneaks in answer* Sherlock because it was probably good.

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Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series:

Louie Anderson, Baskets

Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele

Ty Burrell, Modern Family

Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tony Hale, Veep

Matt Walsh, Veep

T: First off, three of these nominees are actors of color, well done academy. Tituss Burgess had the most hilarious year on UKS, give it to him. Tony Hale and Matt Walsh are solid – in particular it’s great to see Walsh recognised. What. On Earth. Is. Baskets?

B: Just googled it. On Baskets, Louie apparently plays a nagging old woman, which is probably a very large step back for the trans rights movement. Let’s give it to Braugher for the quality of his role: a gay black man who has grown into a hardass after dealing with years of bullshit in an intolerant work environment. His character is heavily informed, but ultimately not defined by, his queer experience and that, to me, is the best possible future of gays on TV.

T: Are we saying, Ben, that Brooklyn Nine Nine is one of the great queer texts of our time?

B: Yes. Andy Samberg is like ten Gore Vidals.

S: Not only actors of colour but two queer black characters. I think this is definitely proving that Hollywood films need to catch up to TV in terms of diversity. Andre Braugher as Captain Holt is one of my favourite TV characters ever! Not only is Holt a complex queer character, Braugher’s comedic timing and monotone delivery exemplify his supreme acting chops.

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Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie:

Jesse Plemons, Fargo

Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo

Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager

Sterling K. Brown, The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

David Schwimmer, The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

John Travolta, The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

T: Who is Bokeem Woodbine, he’s my new favourite person. Like a chipmunk or something got nominated for an Emmy.

B: I got lost at Woodbine subway station once. I was hungover and I took the subway the wrong way and ended up in Scarborough. So I don’t like Bokeem Woodbine.

T: This should definitely go to Sterling K Brown, he was amazing as Darden. John Travolta was hilaire and Ross Kardashian is just no. I really like Jesse Plemons. Generally. That’s all I have to say about him.

B: I agree! Sterling K. Brown.

T: Are you just agreeing for the sake of it? I’m pretty sure you only watched one episode of OJ…

B: I’m agreeing because I trust you Thomas.

S: I will jump in and admit that I am going to blindly agree with Thomas because I don’t like anyone else. I watched three episodes of OJ.

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Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series:

Niecy Nash, Getting On

Allison Janney, Mom

Kate McKinnon , Saturday Night Live

Judith Light, Transparent

Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent

Anna Chlumsky, Veep

T: Janney again? I love her, you know I do, but like come on love you’ve got a wagon of Emmys. Ease up. Would be great to see Kate McKinnon win this, and there’s a possibility as she rides the wave of her Ghostbusters success. See previously: Melissa McCarthy for Mike and Molly. Anna Chlumsky is great, and the Transparent ladies also. Tough one. WHERE THE FUCK IS JANE KRAKOWSKI? I WILL SET THE BUILDING ON FIRE.

B: Yes, she is a notable absence. So is June Diane Raphael, Brianna from Grace & Frankie, whose business scenes with Lily Tomlin were one of the best things about the season. Give it to the ghostbuster.

T: Ladybuster for the win!

S: GABBY HOFFMAN. I love her. Ever since I used to watch Now & Then as a little girl and dream about my future. She was so good in Transparent this season. I’m very proud of her.

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Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:

Maura Tierney, The Affair

Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Lena Headey, Game Of Thrones

Emilia Clarke, Game Of Thrones

Maisie Williams, Game Of Thrones

Constance Zimmer, UnREAL

T: The only person I care about here generally is Maura Tierney. I’ve only just watched The Affair and my God now I remember how great she is. Give this to her immediately.

B: Constance Zimmer! Nobody watches UnREAL except for me, I think, but it’s fantastic, and Zimmer is especially good. Great to see UnREAL get one nod.

T: I hear it’s good, I should probably watch it. Also you should watch The Affair, it has the edgy yet solidly Mom sensibility that I think you would really dig.

B: On it.

S: Actually Ben, I have also watched UnReal and know about Constance Zimmer. She is quite good. However, I think I have to go with Thomas on this one. SPOILER ALERT: Helen gets high in Season two and says she queefed at the hairdressers and her hair gets accidentally bleached and it’s ridiculous. Season two is all about Helen and she delivers a complex performance. Plus she’s the mom from Liar Liar, so…

T: Maura Tierney has been a genius since ER which I was watching way before Liar Liar because I’m a Mum/Mom.

S: Yes I’m your bratty daughter who caught on to all your ladies in the 90s and you keep trying to “show me where they got their start” and I’m like “mommmm you don’t understand me, Maura Tierney is married to Jim Carey and they have a kid with a mushroom cut. That’s it!”

T: I know, I’m just a Maura Tierney completist.

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Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie:

Melissa Leo, All The Way

Regina King, American Crime

Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Hotel

Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Hotel

Jean Smart, Fargo

Olivia Colman, The Night Manager

T: This is very strong. Paulson again?

B: Sarah Paulson could win two this way! That’s always fun.

T: Remember when Elisabeth Moss was up for two and we were like “SHE COULD WIN BOTH” and we held hands during her categories during the ceremony and we were disappointed x2?

B: I’ve done my best to forget that moment, but yes, I remember all too well.

S: I’m just going to throw my hat in for Kathy Bates. “It’s your men out there!”

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Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series:

Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory

Tracy Morgan, Saturday Night Live

Larry David, Saturday Night Live

Bradley Whitford, Transparent

Martin Mull, Veep

Peter MacNicol, Veep

T: Give it to Principal Kraft.  

B: Where is the rest of the Sabrina The Teenage Witch cast in today’s entertainment milieu? If you had told me, back then, it would be Principal Kraft still doing stuff, I’d have been, I guess, a somewhat bummed-out eleven-year-old. Where’s Libby, Aunt Zelda, Jenny, Harvey? (For her part, Melissa Joan Hart is the trainwreck nobody is talking about. You’ll all be quoting me on this one day.)

T: She recently starred in God’s Not Dead 2, so she’s doing fine. I guess. Fun fact: Beth Broderick retrained in psychology and is now Steph Coffey’s psychologist. True story.

S: Melissa Joan Hart is clinging on to the cliff of success in Melissa and Joey with Joey “Woah” Lawrence. They also did an ABC movie called Holiday in Handcuffs that’s on Netflix. I watched it when I shame spiralled at Christmas a few years back. Let’s all write in a vote for Beth Broderick!  

B: Zelda Spellman! Yes!

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Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series:

Laurie Metcalf, The Big Bang Theory

Christine Baranski, The Big Bang Theory

Tina Fey & Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live

Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live

Amy Schumer, Saturday Night Live

Melora Hardin, Transparent

T: Ladies. A joint Emmy for Tina & Amy.

B: Happy with any of these.

T: Could it be any cuter that Tina & Amy get nominated as one person?

S: Can that happen? I mean I’m happy for Tina and Amy but is that a thing? A joint nom? Also, clearly if they are nominated as a pair then I’m voting for them.

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Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series:

Margo Martindale, The Americans

Carrie Preston, The Good Wife

Laurie Metcalf, Horace And Pete

Ellen Burstyn, House Of Cards

Molly Parker, House Of Cards

Allison Janney, Masters Of Sex

B: Molly Parker is Canadian. She played a necrophiliac in a 90s movie. Who hasn’t, though.

S: Lol to playing 90s necrophiliacs.

T: We’ve all had a bash. Did you know Raynor and co’s drama teacher in High School played the dead blonde lady in Murder at 1600?

S: Thanks, Tom. Now I want to ignore the work I have to do to today and watch some 90s Welsey Snipes. Murder at 1600, Passenger 57, can’t wait.

Thanks guys! Check back in for our post-Emmys round-up after the ceremony takes place on September 18.

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Meet Chrissy Williams and Howard Hardiman, the team behind Murder She Wrote inspired ‘ANGELA’

‘Murder, She Wrote’ is one of the most successful television shows of all time; the amateur sleuthing of Jessica Fletcher spanned a whopping 12 seasons and won four Golden Globes for its star Angela Lansbury in the process, making the show a beloved classic that is still in re-runs to this day. 

Angela Lansbury already had a highly accomplished career behind her by the time Murder, She Wrote premiered in 1984, having starred in Gaslight, The Picture of Dorian Grey and The Manchurian Candidate on film (netting three Academy Award nominations in the process) as well as Broadway triumphs in Sweeney Todd and Mame – an illustrious stage career that had bagged her four Tonys.

Since Murder, She Wrote ended in 1996, Angela has kept busy, winning a fifth Tony for Blithe Spirit – which has now transferred to the West End – and receiving an honorary Oscar last year. Angela Lansbury is a national treasure. An international icon. But it begs the question: how much do we really know about Angela Lansbury?

This was the question that set Chrissy Williams‘ mind racing. Upon waking from a dream in which Angela revealed to her that there was no Jessica Fletcher and that she was secretly a mass murderer, Chrissy decided to collect those dark thoughts into the form of an epic, ominous tale. After teaming up with artist Howard Hardiman, the result was the pamphlet ANGELA, a twisty, Lynchian mystery ‘for those who have fallen under Angela’s thrall’. I caught up with Chrissy and Howard to talk Angela, the Lanz and Lynchian influences:

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How did you both meet and decide to collaborate?

Howard: Chrissy had been reading my comic, The Lengths, and she’s a very efficient stalker.

Chrissy: We met through mutual comics’ friends. I insisted that he work on ANGELA. Eventually he agreed after I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Howard: She broke my legs in a rage when I said I wouldn’t draw for her, then the idea grew on me.

Were you a fan of Angela or Murder, She Wrote before this project?

Howard: I’m not sure if I’d say I was a fan, but I do have photocopied printouts of her face all over my toilet wall, so I guess a passing interest.

Chrissy: I grew up watching Murder, She Wrote in Italian with my cousins – my mum is Italian, but I grew up in England, going to Italy for extended periods during school holidays. Murder, She Wrote was on at lunchtimes and we watched it every day. The vocabulary was never complicated and the plots were easy to follow – it was reassuring and relaxing, like images from a familiar nursery rhyme. And so, like all stories you grow up with in childhood, they crept into my subconscious and became part of different, darker stories.

What were your favourite Angela performances?

Chrissy: Jessica Fletcher is a role model – she is open-minded, generous, driven, tenacious and warm-hearted. She knows how to look after a garden. She has faith in humanity and an irrepressible impulse towards goodness. Bedknobs and Broomsticks was also OK.

Which came first, the text or artwork?

Chrissy: The text was first published (in extracts from this full piece) as an unfolding concrete poetry poster / broadsheet which was created for Antonio Claudio Carvalho’s p.o.w. series, inspired by Hansjorg Mayer’s futura series from the 1960s. It showed the text extracts with a single repeating black and white image of Jessica Fletcher’s face. Sidekick Books were interested in doing a fully illustrated pamphlet though, and when I met Howard it all fell beautifully into place.

How did you come up with the disturbing concept for the story?

Chrissy: I had a dream in which I woke up and found Angela Lansbury kneeling on my chest, throttling me. I had uncovered her secret: there is no Jessica Fletcher. All twelve series of Murder, She Wrote were a cover for the real Angela’s diabolical murderous acts. The text fell out of that nightmare, combined with bits of Jacobean drama I was reading at the time (there was a season on at the Old Vic, near where I was working then, which found its way into my writing). Her terrifying performance in the original Manchurian Candidate probably helped too.

And the nightmareish artwork?

Howard: I live on the Isle of Wight. It’s just how life is down here.

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What would you say the story is in ‘Angela’?

Chrissy: It’s a dark love letter. It’s about trying to be good.

There’s an interesting Twin Peaks comparison here – are you a fan of that show and David Lynch in general?!

Chrissy: Yes, and yes. Howard’s artwork is what brought the Lynchian element to it directly, but it made perfect sense to me when he suggested it. Twin Peaks and Murder, She Wrote both frequently appear in the same lists of popular American detective shows. They spring from the same genre.

Howard: Oh certainly. When I was at school, we all watched it. When I saw the episode where Audrey Horne auditions for the brothel by tying a knot in a cherry stalk, I spent hours teaching myself how to do that, in case I ever had to audition for a brothel.

Were there any concepts for the artwork or text that you didn’t end up using? Perhaps they were too dark, or too risque? 

Howard: There was an awful thing happening to a dachshund and we just couldn’t go there.

Chrissy: Oh, those poor dachshunds.

What are you working on at the moment and what’s next for you?

Howard: I’m nearing the end of a residency with Quay Arts on the Isle of Wight and I’ve got an exhibition, Line and Shade, which opens on the 26th of April. I’m also working on a new book about a Badger going for a walk in Wroclaw in Poland and working on a few painting commissions.

Chrissy: I’ve just had a new pamphlet published called Epigraphs (if p then q). It’s a sequence of 100 epigraphs, each of which could stand in for an individual poem, as well combining to form a single sequence in a hundred voices. I’m currently working on a longer manuscript, and have some readings coming up. In particular, I’ll be reading from ANGELA on 13th May 2014 with Richard Scott at Waterstones Hampstead.

You can follow @chrissywilliams and @howardhardiman on Twitter, and head over to Sidekick Books to find out more about ANGELA.

Originally published in Spindle Magazine

Dawn French’s Best Moments

The great Dawn French announced today that she will tour the UK in a one-woman show she describes as “somewhere between a monologue, a play, and an autobiographical slide show with a few funnies thrown in.”

Once the paramedics got our hearts started again, we began to think about exactly what Ms. French would put into her show – titled 30 Million Minutes – seeing as her accomplishments as a comedian, writer, actor, author and memoirist couldn’t possibly fit into your standard show length. Take a look below at Spindle’s highlights from Dawn French’s illustrious career and remind yourself why you definitely need to get tickets for this show:

‘Dickens Daughters’ – Shakespears Sister Parody

Dawn and her comedy partner Jennifer Saunders are probably most famous for their spot-on movie and music parodies – and probably their best remembered is their take on the iconic video for Shakespears Sister’s Stay. As the original song and video were so singular, it seemed almost parody-proof – until French and Saunders got their hands on it, dressed Dawn in a bin liner with a tinsel crown and had she and Jen play-fight on a double bed. This must be seen to be believed, though I’d say it’s less bonkers than the original video. Shakespears Sister vocalist Marcella Detroit didn’t seem to mind though, as she later made an appearance on Saunders’ show Absolutely Fabulous in 1996.

The Vicar Of Dibley – Four Christmas Dinners

In this 90s BBC sitcom Dawn played Geraldine Granger, a female vicar sent to a sleepy countryside parish. Female priests were a hot-button issue at the time, and this fish out of water story of a cheerful vicar trying to navigate the hostility and stupidity of village politics was a huge hit.

Now we know we’re meant to show the clip of Dawn falling into the big puddle, but frankly the physical comedy of this attempt to stuff down four Christmas lunches in one day is a personal highlight of the series.

French and Saunders – Silence of the Lambs

Without a doubt French and Saunders’ most fondly remembered movie parody is this one – I don’t think anyone before or since has done such an accurate impression of Jodie Foster as Jennifer Saunders does here. The biggest laughs, of course, go to Dawn as a portly, female version of Hannibal Lecter, aided by a terrific script that is at once faithfully recreated while also being utterly, utterly silly.

“I want a view, Jennifer. I want to see trees and some grass. Yes. I want a dressing room that overlooks the Blue Peter garden.”

Wild Wild West – Mary

This curio ran for two series on BBC One and starred Dawn and Catherine Tate as lesbian (lesbean) Cornish shopkeepers Mary and Angela. At the time this oddball show about the eccentricities of Cornwall village life wasn’t too well received with critics or viewers, but its retro-raves are legion – to see why, check out the video to see Dawn trying to put out a fire by telling it to shutup.

Roger & Val Have Just Got In – Val

Probably the crowning achievement of Dawn’s acting career has been this comedy-drama in which she co-stars with Alfred Molina. The show takes place in real time in the 30 minutes after middle-aged married couple Roger and Val have just returned from work – and that’s it; just the two of them, in their house, working through the mundanities of life while masking past trauma that lurks just beneath the surface. It’s a joy to watch these two masters at work, and a reminder that Dawn is much more than just the fat one from French and Saunders.

Tickets for 30 Million Minutes go on sale at 9am on Friday 28th February. Dates are:

June
5-8 – Sheffield, Lyceum
10-12 – Glasgow, Pavilion
13 – Derby, Assembly Rooms
14 – Buxton, Opera House
15-16 – Llandudno, Venue Cymru
18-20 – Birmingham, New Alexandra
25-28 – Brighton, Theatre Royal
29 – Plymouth, Theatre Royal

July
2-6 – Bradford, Alhambra
9-13 – Dublin, Olympia
16-20 – Cardiff, New Theatre
23-24 – Crawley, Hawth
25-27 – Reading, Hexagon
30-August 2 – Dartford, Orchard

Words: Thomas Dearnley-Davison

Originally published on Spindle Magazine

Have You Seen…Bridegroom?

If you haven’t heard of Bridegroom, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of wedding comedy in the vein of the dreadful Katherine Heigl film The Big Wedding. Instead, our titular Bridegroom here refers to Tom Bridegroom, partner of Shane Bitney Crone. Shane and Tom lived in Los Angeles and were deeply in love, building their careers and travelling the world. Then Tom died in a tragic accident, and the bottom fell out of Shane’s world. But that’s not the saddest part of the story; what happened next, with Shane being banned from attending his soulmate’s funeral and being threatened with violence by the Bridegroom family, makes for a harrowing watch; the final kick in the teeth is, of course, the fact that Shane had no legal ground to stand on.

The documentary unfolds in a linear style, telling both Shane and Tom’s stories of growing up in the American heartland and the pain and heartache that ensued as they both came to terms with their sexuality in environments deeply hostile to LGBTQ people. Shane fares better than Tom here; his family, after the initial shock, accept him totally. Tom, on the other hand, is more or less ostracized by everyone except his mother, who eventually admits a tacit acceptance of his true self. This all changes after Tom’s death, as his family close ranks and bury Tom with full military honours – denying who he really was and denying those closest to him the right to say goodbye.

Bridegroom is brought to us by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, one-time creator and writer of hit sitcom ‘Designing Women’ and long-time friend to the gays. It’s well documented that during the run of the show, Bloodworth-Thomason would have Julia Sugarbaker, played with haughty Southern perfection by Dixie Carter, espouse progressive, liberal values. Carter herself was a registered Republican so not all of these leftie diatribes went down too well with her. Still, they struck a deal: Dixie would say whatever the writers wanted as long as she got to sing in at least one episode each season!

Jokes aside, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason used her cuddly sitcom about Atlanta interior designers to make some groundbreaking statements on television in the late 80s. The episode in which the ladies find out a family friend is both gay and has AIDS not only showed care and compassion towards the subject instead of outright fear and anger, but also put our characters in the position of having to deal with other narrow-minded bigots.

Bloodworth-Thomason apparently ran into Tom and Shane at a wedding in Palm Springs and was later saddened to hear of Tom’s death. When she investigated further and found out the full story, she and Tom decided to collaborate on this documentary.

At times, Bridegroom isn’t an easy watch. It’s brutally honest and the subject matter will have you in tears many times throughout. But it ends on a message of hope; thousands of people contributed to Kickstarter to ensure Bridegroom got made, and as the credits roll we are shown messages from people who have seen the film and have been moved by it – most memorable are those that say they were prejudiced against gay people and have completely reversed their position after seeing Bridegroom.

Bridegroom is at its heart a love story, a relatable and human tale of love found and lost between two soulmates; but it also serves as a beacon of hope for the world and an appeal for love in the greatest sense between all human beings.

Originally published on Get OUT! Canada

Valentine’s Jukebox: Abba’s The Winner Takes It All

The Winner Takes It All is probably one of the most realistic anti-love songs of all time, as it talks about the shameful reality of what happens when you get your heart ripped out and stamped on by a gold platform boot belonging to a Eurovision song contest winner.

Written by Björn Ulvaeus, with the aid of a bottle of whiskey, in the aftermath of his divorce from fellow bandmate Agnetha Fältskog, The Winner Takes It All marked the moment when Abba ceased being a band of happy-go-lucky double daters and began to develop a more mature, personal and reflective style. The divorce the following year of fellow bandmembers Benny Andersson and Frida Lyngstad sealed Abba’s fate, and although this period of turmoil proved to be one of their most fruitful creatively – their final album The Visitors is the band’s underrated masterpiece – the writing was on the wall.

It can’t have been easy for anyone – writing a song about your divorce then having your ex-wife sing it, but Agnetha’s heartbreaking vocal is filled with both ice cold resignation and bittersweet longing, telling us that she was feeling the same things as Bjorn while behaving like a true pro.

Courts, judgements, gossip; this is how most happily-ever-afters truly end up. After talking for so long about the bliss of falling in love, with The Winner Takes It All, Abba admitted they’d been selling us a pack of lies. The bastards.

Abba, I still love you.

Words: Thomas Dearnley-Davison

Originally published on Spindle Magazine

dom & ink map my heart spindle magazine

Meet Dom & Ink, Author of Relationship Journal ‘Map My Heart’

Whether you’re attached or single, happy or miserable, gay or straight, this most romantic time of the year can be somewhat tricky. Especially as it keeps pissing it down.

Everybody needs a release, a forum in which to express their innermost thoughts – especially when it comes to matters of the heart – and there’s no better way to do so than with a relationship journal such as Map My Heart.

Map My Heart is a book about relationships. It’s also a journal you can doodle in. It’s also a confessional diary. It’s basically the most cathartic gift book you could get yourself or anyone else around V-day. Written and illustrated by Dom & Ink, the book is filled with beautiful drawings, sage advice and is seemingly voiced by the firm guiding hand of a stern yet lovable dinnerlady. I knew I had to find out more about the man behind the doodles.

When I met Dom & Ink, otherwise known as Dominic Evans, it turns out my dinnerlady analogy wasn’t far off. We sat down to talk getting laid, getting dumped and getting close to Glenn Close:

So, you produced the original version of Map My Heart – called Batter My Heart – when you were at uni. What inspired you in the first place?

When I started my Masters in Brighton, I knew I wanted to produce a book to do with relationships. Originally I intended to make a comic book collection retelling peoples’ own stories of their successful/failed love lives. I love hearing about people’s relationships and stories of how they dated and met. I’m really nosey. Originally the book wasn’t going to be about love and stuff, it was going to be about all different relationships like families, friends – stuff like that. But then I found all the good stuff I was hearing was all the love stuff, like ‘I slept with Brenda from Gregg’s behind your back. She poured coffee all over me and in a hot sensual moment smeared a pasty down the front of my body. She seduced me.’

You’re like a human Take A Break magazine.

That is the best compliment! Also I used to love Sunset Beach when I was younger. So, that’s what inspires me. But my main inspiration was stories off people. The whole book is based off stories that people have told me or I’ve overheard maybe in toilet cubicles. For some reason, I do manage to get people to open up to me. I think it’s because I’ve got a face shaped like a love heart.

What were the differences between Batter My Heart and Map My Heart?

Well ‘Batter’ was only 60 pages and also was A4. The content was pretty much similar. The main improvement we wanted to make with the book was to add more pages for the reader to get involved with and scribble all over. I wanted the reader to go away from the book feeling like they’d been on a journey and could really interact with it, so that’s where the interactive element came into play. Also ‘Batter’ had a Cheryl Cole short story called ‘The Tears of Cheryl’. Unfortunately our Chezza isn’t too well known Stateside or the rest of Europe so I had to discard her and her beautiful Geordie locks. God I bloody love Cheryl.

Spindle MAP

So there wasn’t some devastating breakup you were trying to get over that inspired you to start writing?

Everyone thinks I was in absolute pain writing this book. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been through some tough breakups – for me, leaving Henry Cavill was really hard – but I did find it quite cathartic writing it because I confronted some of my own demons. There are some pages in the book that are directly from my life. I don’t tell anyone because I like to keep people guessing.

Tell us one of them. Give us a freebie!

Alright! On the ‘What Type Of Dater Are You?’ page (pictured above), I’ve been on all those dates. I went on a date with a Pretty Arsehole once who was a wanker and said he modelled for Burberry. Turned out it was actually Burton’s, the shop where clothes go to die.

I love the characters you’ve drawn throughout the book. I’m enjoying this bunny boiler Glenn Close person quite a bit.

I enjoy Glenn Close quite a bit.

How could one not?

I wish I could get close to Glenn Close.

Have you seen Damages?

I bought the first series because it were £4 in Cash Converters Bolton and it was great. Then the second series wasn’t £4 so I didn’t watch it. It’s ended now hasn’t it?

It ended some time ago. Do you have Netflix?

I don’t, no. Everyone says I should get it.

First, you should get Netflix, because it’s all on Netflix.

I never have time to watch TV shows, Thomas, I am bogged down! I am so far behind on American Horror Story. If I had Netflix, I’d never leave the house.

But that’s the joy of it. You never need to. You’ve got all your friends right there.

Does it have Real Housewives though?

Real Housewives? No.

That’s the downside. I rely on ITV2 to give me my daily fix. This is when I realised I should get a boyfriend sometime soon, so I don’t have to stay in and watch Real Housewives.

The same thing crossed my mind, but then I realised I preferred the company of Glenn Close.

In Damages, yeah. £4 from Cash Converters.

So there’s a part in the book where you have to write a letter to yourself…

You could put a tenner in there. Because then you could go and get Damages season 2 for £8 in Cash Converters. Season 3 was £12.

You know, Netflix is like £5 a month.

That’s too much.

This book radiates class. You even have quotes from Shakespeare!

To make it all cultural, for people that read in pubs, I put in quotes of famous people. I feel like these give it depth and make me seem a lot more intelligent. I basically Googled ‘what can I use for free – Shakespeare’ and I just took what I could use for free.

shakespeare map my heart

Can’t you use the whole lot for free? There’s no copyright on it.

Is it public domain? I wasn’t sure. There was a whole email conversation – very intense – between me and the intern at the publishers. It’s like Snow White, fairytales; they’re public domain, aren’t they?

Well, I don’t think Shakespeare was ever copyrighted…plus, it’s been 500 years. I think the limit on copyright is 70 years?

Look at The Bible. Jesus was copyrighted.

I don’t think The Bible is under copyright either.

I think it was, Tom. But I do tend to make things up to make me sound like I know what I’m saying. I did put Beyonce in originally, but Beyonce gets something like 5 million per quote used. And I was going to use ‘if you liked it you should have put a ring on it’, and they were like ‘we can’t afford to pay that’ – so she became Michelle Obama. Classier.

Perfect. Michelle’s an icon. And you’ve also got some unattributed quotes illustrated as well – such as ‘some people are meant to fall in love but not be together’.

Someone I actually fancied sent me a picture of that and said ‘that’s like you and me’. Thanks. Thanks a lot. Why don’t you go take a scissor to your groin?

So what’s the worst breakup you’ve been through?

Hmm, that’s a toughie. I’d say one that involved being cheated on. It’s such a bad feeling and I would not wish that on anyone. I felt like an idiot for not seeing it too. I think I have a winning streak at picking men that are complete and utter arseholes.

And what’s the worst breakup story you’ve heard?

I’d probably say the worst was someone being dumped via Facebook. My friend was dumped like that, and it is such a cruel way to leave someone, and also humiliating. Everyone on social media sees it, then everyone comments on it and to be honest, it’s no one’s frigging business anyway.

Well, as you say in the book: ‘Rejection is God’s protection’.

My Mum taught me that phrase. “There’s a reason he slept with the whole of Manchester behind your back”. You know what Mum? There is. Saying that to any friend, though – if they don’t get a job interview or something – just say ‘rejection is God’s protection, Brenda’.

I don’t have that many 55 year old friends, though.

I have a Brenda. She works at Gregg’s. And you really know you need to get a boyfriend when she says ‘you’ve not been in for a while.’

rejection map my heart

‘Love is an adventure in being human’ – who said that?

A mate’s Mum.

Okay, so you’re just going to take the credit for that?

No! I gave her a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine. She knows she’s in it.

Were the chocolates from Poundland?

£1 from Morrison’s.

Nice. So what’s the best feedback you’ve had from someone who’s doodled in the book?

My friend’s Mum’s a psychologist and she brought several copies in for her clients and they’re loving it! Because she said that a lot of people have come in and one of the big reasons is relationships. Some of the stuff in the book has really helped them tap into it and got them talking more. Some stuff they’ve not brought up while talking or in person, they’ve put into the book. They felt a lot more comfortable drawing or writing about it. That was great feedback for me as I like the idea that while ‘Map’ is packed with humour and laughs, there are still moments when readers share themselves with it. I love that.

So it’s become art therapy?

I’ve changed lives, Tom. I’m basically Cilla meets Jesus. I’m Jesus Black.

What’s next for you?

I cannot say. All I can say is that there could be something more Map-related soon. That is all!

And finally, Valentine’s Day is coming up: what advice can you give for anyone that’s single and ready to mingle?

If you’re going out for Valentine’s, get dressed up. You don’t need to go full on tux and top hat, just y’know, something to make you feel damn good. Meet some mates and go for some drinks in a good bar. Not a club where you end up dancing to hard house on a pole at 3am. Just a decent bar with good people and think of your body language. If you look like you’re open to conversation then people will approach you. Open body language, eye contact and a killer outfit. Single who?!

Well. This has really been quite a journey.

Thank you. I feel like you’ve gone on a journey.

I really have. You’ve broken me, reading this book. I just don’t think I’ll get my happy ending.

You will, Tom. I’ll find you someone. I’m amazing at getting people laid. I’m basically a pimp.

Our Map My Heart competition is now CLOSED but you can pick up a copy at Huck and Pucker .

Words: Thomas Dearnley-Davison

Images: Dom & Ink

Originally published on Spindle Magazine

Film Review – August: Osage County

Let’s start with a line I Tweeted immediately after viewing August: Osage County:

Throwing down the gauntlet here in the midst of decidedly mixed reviews, I was challenging anybody to sit through John Wells’ film of Tracey Letts Tony-award winning play about the darkness and poison at the heart of the dysfunctional Weston family and genuinely come away feeling like they’d been cheated of two hours of their time. Sure, it leans towards the melodramatic, but this pitch-black comedy was adapted from one of the best Broadway plays of recent years and is filled with a top notch cast.

Meryl Streep plays Violet Weston, a pill-popping, snarling gargoyle of a matriarch whose marriage to Beverley (Sam Shephard) is held together only by a mutual understanding: she has her pills, he has his alcohol. Beverley then commits suicide – by drowning himself, appropriately enough – and this brings home the entire extended, damaged clan. Put-upon middle daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the only one to have remained in Oklahoma, and she’s joined by eldest daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts), who returns with her recently separated husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and surly teenage daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin), while relentlessly upbeat youngest sister Karen (Juliette Lewis) shows up with smooth new fiance Steve (Dermot Mulroney) in tow.

Rounding out this messed up bunch are Violet’s sister Mattie Fay (Margo Martindale), imbued with similar tendencies towards antagonising and criticising others, in particular her long-suffering husband Charles (Chris Cooper) and doltish son Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch). To say that putting these characters together under one roof creates a powder keg effect is an understatement: conflicts explode left, right and centre from the get-go, and the action doesn’t really let up for too long throughout.

The most harrowing scene is the 20-minute showcase sequence that places the entire family around the dinner table after Beverley’s funeral. Violet is drugged up and in fine form; she systematically proceeds to ‘truth tell’, as she puts it, indulging in a series of sustained attacks designed to provoke every single person round the table. And boy, does she succeed as Barbara finally erupts and physically attacks her mother. Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep are both particularly effective in this scene, with Streep deftly playing the notes of one of the most manipulative mothers ever committed to film while Roberts’ burning rage flies off the screen.

august osage county spindle magazine

It’s a situation that everyone in the audience can relate to. We’ve all had to suffer awkward family dinners where resentments bubble under the surface, ready to boil over at any moment – though pills, suicide and incest are less often involved. And that’s the catharsis that August: Osage County provides us – most families can never be as bad as this one, rotten to the core as they are.

Needless to say, the movie does not end on a happy note. One by one the characters flee, unable to handle the toxic atmosphere. Particularly affecting is Julia Roberts in her final scene, driving along the open road and pulling over to try and process her emotions. In the space of a few seconds, she registers several emotions: regret, sadness, anger and finally feelings of exhaustion and the need to escape. Roberts is usually thought of as a movie star first and actress second, but the raw emotion she displays in August: Osage County reminds us of just how good she can be when given the chance.

Going back to my earlier Tweet, what I was rallying against here were some of the decidedly mixed reviews the movie has received since its release and some of the criticism that missed the point. I’m also aware that what we’re getting into here is meta-criticism, that is to say criticism of the criticism, something which has exploded since Lena Dunham’s Girls came on the air and thinkpieces began to pop up everywhere dissecting the nature of the dissection of the show. Quite the rabbit hole.

But the negativity surrounding August: Osage County bears discussion, too. In the most coherent of the middling reviews, the consensus seems to be that by cutting an hour from the original material and trying to soften some of the play’s darker edges, the film-makers have lost what packed such a punch in the first place. There is a truth to that, especially at the end of the movie where it’s clear that the film-makers vacillated between cutting at the bleak moment of the play’s original ending and adding on a more – not Hollywood ending, exactly – but a more palatable conclusion for the film.

More problematic for critics apparently seems to be the sheer scale of the acting involved. Streep’s performance has been singled out as particularly overblown, with the normally level-headed TV and film writer Ken Levine saying of her Oscar nomination that she ‘gets nominated just for showing up‘. No, Mr. Levine: whatever you think of the ludicrousness of awards season, Meryl Streep is one of the most talented film actors of any generation, and though similar accusations were levelled at her of her work in Doubt and Julie & Julia, I defy anyone to deny the emotional truth of those characters and the moments – even if they are just moments – of utter beguilement during any of her performances.

To that end, the supporting cast does a great job matching Streep and Roberts, even if some have less to do than others (Juliette Lewis gets a particularly raw deal in this respect, as I suspect due to cuts from the original material her backstory is hinted at rather than focused on in any meaningful way).

Like the similarly performance-based American Hustle, August: Osage County seems destined to be remembered for the actor’s performances rather than the movie itself, but maybe that’s fine: this is an uncomfortable, brutal yet often hilarious film that dares to look at not only what keeps families together, but – in a divergence from Hollywood’s nuclear-heteronormative ideals – what ultimately tears them apart.

Originally published on Spindle Magazine