My world of TV and films in 2023

We both love going to the cinema, although we have gone less and less over recent years. We like to watch the big action films at the cinema, like Dune, but often we’ll wait for other movies to be on TV.

I can’t remember all of the films we’ve seen this year, but among them are:

‘John wick Chapter 4’; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3’; ‘Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning part one’; ‘The Creator’; ‘The Equalizer 3’ and ‘Puss in Boots’.  Apart from Puss in Boots, we loved the rest of them. We were both disappointed with it – it fell flat for us.

Interestingly, the only one of those films that wasn’t part of a series was ‘The Creator’ which we thoroughly enjoyed. It could have fallen into so many traps of the genre, but it had real depth.

This year, sadly, we’ve lost a lot of people in the arts. Many of them I remember from my childhood too, and it reminds me of my own mortality, just as much as when I very sadly lose friends.

Among people who’ve died this year that I have either watched, listened to, or read include:

Ryan O’Neal, 82 – who starred in ‘Love Story’, ‘The Driver’ (1978).

Benjamin Zephaniah, 65 – incredible poet and activist. One of my favourite poets.

Shane MacGowan, 65 – The Pogues – I think many of us love ‘Fairytale of New York’.

Richard Roundtree, 81- who played the original John Shaft, in the film in 1971.

Haydn Gwynne, 66 – actress seen regularly on our TV screens.

David McCallum, 90  – who I watched in the ‘Man from UNCLE- as Illya Kuryakin, when I was            

at school, and later in ‘NCIS’ as Ducky.

Sinead O’Connor, 56 – a wonderful singer, and activist. One of a kind.

Harry Belafonte, 96  – actor, singer civil rights activist. I remember hearing his songs when I

was younger

Ryuichi Sakamoto, 71 Japanese composer of the score for ‘The Last Emperor’ and ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ (which he also acted in). I love his music.

Lance Reddick, 60– he played Charon in the ‘John Wick’ films, and was also in ‘The Wire.’

Burt Bacharach, 94 – who wrote so many of the songs I heard growing up. ‘Walk on by’ – sung by Dionne Warwick, and ‘Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head’ used in the film ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ and so many more.

All people we’ll still hear, and still see in films and photographs, so gone but not forgotten.

As much as I enjoy reading, I also love watching TV series – I find it relaxing, and often ideas for stories get ‘sparked’ in my head when I’m watching. I love crime thrillers, or mysteries, and as much as I watch British programmes, I also love watching foreign TV series on Channel 4 – Walter Presents.

I found it quite hard to think of the programmes I’ve watched this year – the year has just flown by!

The Sixth Commandment was based on the real- life deaths of Peter Farquhar and Ann Moore-Martin, played by Timothy Spall and Ann Reid. It was incredibly complicated, scary because of a manipulative students who targets both older people. The actor who played the student, Éanna Hardwick was both brilliantly scary and convincing.

Boat Story – a thriller, is the most recent I’ve watched. I love the writing, the dark humour and some of the absurdity of the characters. It’s written by Harry and Jack Williams whose TV production company is Two Brothers Pictures. They have been behind some of the best programmes, including ‘Missing’, ‘Baptiste’, ‘The Tourist’ and many, many more.

Daisy Haggard plays Jane and Patterson Joseph plays Samuel- the two people who find a shipwrecked boat, and make the unwise decision to keep and sell the cocaine that is on the boat. This leads to huge problems in not only the police, but the owner of the cocaine, coming after his product.  The Tailor, the French Mr Big, is played brilliantly as always by Tcheky Karyo. His quiet charm can be quite menacing.

Breeders – for a bit of light relief. Daisy Haggard is the mother in this brilliant dark comedy, and Martin Freeman, her husband. This was the fourth and last series, and just as good as the series before. It’s about a couple, who both have full-time careers, plus they are dealing with their young children Luke and Ava.  It is hilarious!

The Tourist – this was earlier in the year, and again brilliant. By the Brothers William’s with Jamie Dornan in the title role. He turns up in the outback with no memory and has to work out his identity before his past catches up with him. Some great characters, (particularly the Australian policewoman), and the setting makes it even better.

There is talk of a second season of this, so we’ll see…

I mentioned Walter Presents – one of the programmes I’ve loved is “Inspector Ricciardi”, and Italian crime drama series, set in Naples in the 1930s at the height of Fascist Italy. The police commissioner, Ricciardi sees the ghosts of people who have died, and this causes him problems in his personal life.  The sets are wonderful, and the unfulfilled feelings between Ricciardi and his neighbour, runs alongside the drama.  The lead is Lino Guanciale, who I also watched in another Walter programme – “The Red Door”, where he played a policeman who was already dead, but helped other people to solve the crimes. The Italian’s seem keen on their ghosts!

Other ‘Walter Presents’ programmes I’ve enjoyed watching have been:

‘Top Dog’ (Swedish); ‘The Wall’ (French Canadian); ‘Mobile 101’ (Finnish); ‘The Bank Hacker’ (Belgium) – I’m no polyglot – just grateful for subtitles!  Mobile 101 is incredibly quirky and funny.

Wolf – is a series that I noticed several people on FB completely trashing. They thought it was terrible. I absolutely loved it.  There were lots of twists and turns, and some real shocks in the story line. Brilliant over the top performances in place (which I felt were warranted). I particularly liked Sacha Dhawan’s performance. It kept you on your toes!

Dark Winds – is another thriller. Though this time a US psychological thriller about two Navajo police offers, Leaphorn and Chee, in the 1970s Southwest, forced to challenge their own spiritual believes when they are trying to solve a brutal double murder.

The Gilded Age – Written by Julian Fellowes, who also wrote screenplays for Gosford Park and Downton Abbey.  Shock horror – I’ve never watched either of those series, but I am completely hooked by The Gilded Age.  Set in 1882, New York City’s rigid society scene, and focuses on the Russell family and the fight between old and new money. The sets are incredible – like many US shows, easily film quality. For me what sets this apart from British period dramas, is the inclusion of the lives of the African American’s during that time including the Black aristocracy of that time. I love the breadth of the stories covered. The whole society thing of the new and old trying to out-do each other, is fascinating. Great characters too.

Two other thrillers I’ve also loved this year are Annika and Shetland.

Firstly, I love anything that Nicola Walker does, she’s a phenomenal actress and is wonderful to watch. I like the way she talks to the camera, and her whole obsession with Danish folklore – it’s a great story, which ended on an excellent cliff-hanger.

I watched the first series of Shetland with Douglas Henshall, and have just started watching the latest, with Ashley Jensen.  It’s great that some of the previous characters have carried over, ‘Tosh’, played by Alison O’Donnell and many other of the team. What brings this series more alive, is the beautifully stark Shetland landscape.

 What have you enjoyed watching this year?  Are there any stand-out programmes for you?

I wish you a very Happy New Year, and hope you have lots of things to look forward to.

Here’s to 2024!