Eurovision 2020 : Rotterdam, the Netherlands a.k.a. the year there wasn’t a competition

This year there was no competition so instead we got two shows instead!

The first programme was a retrospective clip show of previous winners throughout the years and a phone vote to decide what the best ever song is. That turned out to be ABBA’s Waterloo apparently. The version of this programme available online is different to the one shown on the BBC though most of the songs shown are the same but with different people interviewed.

A retrospective of previous years

The second, longer, programme was hosted from Rotterdam which was meant to be this year’s venue. It was hosted in a small studio by three hosts, probably thankful they got to wear the outfits they bought especially for the occasion, showing 30 second clips of the music videos for each performer who would have competed this year. The video clips were preceded with a brief message from them wishing everyone well during these trying times.

They did some additional interviews during breaks every nine songs or so. As we only got 30 seconds per artist many, no doubt, didn’t get fair representation as that brief a time is, at best, a preview of the songs and undermines any aspects such as escalation. It came across like the Eurovision committee wanted to do a show but also to keep costs down leading to a somewhat unsatisfying experience which will have frustrated many of the artists involved though many will return to compete next year. Later, we are told, all the singers will perform ‘love shine a light’ together.

This years songs and the interludes between them. This is not the version the BBC broadcast.

The above video is also different to the version shown on the BBC. So below I will present the entries in the BBC’s broadcast running order rather than the supposed official running order as the video above describes itself. It seems to play the videos in full but I’ll put them individually below for ease of reference.

We got to see an interview with Johnny Logan of Ireland who was on talking about winning three times live from Dublin. He is still wearing a white suit all these years later… then he sings ‘what’s another year’ with a choir of people at home.

Johnny Logan – What’s Another Year (including choir of Eurovision fans) – Europe Shine A Light version

This year we will see the videos for the songs instead of a live performance.

I’ll put my initial opinion formed by the 30 second clips shown on the BBC but then, in a second paragraph, also my opinion of the full music video or performance versions (whichever the BBC showed). There is no doubt many songs were underrepresented by the abbreviated format presented by the BBC.

Israel – Eden Alene – Feker Libi

Good energy, 90s nylon tracksuits.

I can imagine a soulful acoustic version of this. It is definitely very 90s with the garish neon yellow costumes of the dancers. The song is enjoyable but it’s definitely not one that would score high.

Norway – Ulrikke – Attention

power ballad. Sparkly dress from a cheap high street shop.

The opening strings remind me of the theme music to role playing computer games or fantasy films. The song is really good with a slow build up. The flickering lights in the background provide a minimalist, yet effective, staging. The shift between soft and projected vocals is far more effective in the full version so the BBC clip really misrepresented it. It’s reminiscent of many from the past so, while a good song in it’s own right, it’s an ‘also ran’ in this contest.

Russia – Little Big – Uno

Going for the camp vote with a weird pastel 70s look. Knee shaking 1920s sort of dance moves. Comical figures. Eurovision classic in the making!

After the controversies of the past few years Russia has done what the UK did around a decade ago – just send fun entries and enjoy the experience because there will inevitably still be countries who will refuse to give them points out of sheer political spite. The song is really fun and the dancing well co-ordinated. The pseudo prison tattoos on the lead vocalist is an amusing contrast to the see through shirt. Also the guy with the liberally applied black lipstick. Fun novelty track which will get effectively remixed into some club anthem potentially. They used that pastel retro aesthetic popular in British pop music about a decade ago with acts like OK Go or Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction music video.

Georgia – Tornike Kipiani – Take Me As I Am

Wants to be an anthem. In the back of a car. In the studio – black and white filming. Bit overly self reverential.

Usually they have interesting acts. This one is a bit more toned down and gritty. It’s a good pop song but… Eurovision wouldn’t reward it. The video is pretentious but I suppose every musician has at least one ‘in the studio’ music video under their belt. The lyrics are a bit ‘victim syndrome’ but probably talking of the Georgian nation’s experiences (or the singer’s experience with lovers) where people expect them to behave like others. Very good but not a Eurovision song.

France – Tom Leeb – Mon Alliée (The Best In Me)

5 o’ clock shadow and a guitar. One for the ladies…

Slow acoustic ballad. Very generic sounding. The video is very generic. ‘Please award him for he is handsome and plays an acoustic guitar so is clearly very soulful’ entry. Doesn’t really strike any real impact. It’s the sort of song that plays second or third during the credits of a film. The filming locations are nice in the video in a shopping arcade and theatre. It reminds me of venues in Cardiff.

Azerbaijan – Efendi – Cleopatra

Katie Perry music video… turns dark for a split second then generic female singer music video. In the desert.

In hindsight it reminds me more of Cheryl Cole (Fernandaz-Versini). The song reminds me of Holly Valance. It’s a good pop song and the costuming for her is very good. Not sure about the cut to the audio pitched lower section near the start really as it should have been repeated or omitted. Aside from the costume most of the video is a few vehicles in a desert… oh and some mummy dancers. Well made and above average points scorer probably if quite repetitive towards the end.

Portugal – Elisa – Medo De Sentir

Big puffy sleeves top. Sparkly pants. Makes me think of a song played over the credits of an anime series.

Nice gentle song with a piano accompaniment. Portugal won with such a song so they’re playing it safe. The sleeves look awkward but I’m not sure if it might be alluding to a form of national dress. Motivating uplifting song but also reflectively sad. Would give it another listen in future. Also woof. It probably wouldn’t do that great but it’s a nice relaxing song to chill out to.

Lithuania – The Roop – On Fire

Quirky dance. With standard basic beat dance music. An ‘I will…’ self empowerment type of song.

A magnifying glass… it’s been a while since I’ve seen one. The music video is very artistic. Fun song. The dancing reminds me of the eccentric moves actors perform when films or television programmes want to mocking the dance styles of certain ‘butt of the joke’ characters. Very enjoyable and would probably get some decent points during a contest. It’s the sort of song you end up looking for years down the line because you’ve forgotten the name of it as so develop a small self-imposed quest to relocate it.

Sweden – The Mamas – Move

Large backing singer ladies given their moment in the spot light. They’ve a Beverly Knight, soul diva, sparkly dresses style with a Little Mix style song.

Very ‘Muses from Disney’s Hercules’ style staging. Really good upbeat song. Definitely can imagine this being used in a television series or advert. Only downside is these sort of contests still have a bit of a stigma. It’s okay to be a funny ‘cartoonish’ woman doing a ‘chicken song’, like Netta, but doing a serious performance and not fitting the standard physique no doubt counts against them even if no one is willing to admit it. Body positive and talented ladies but they’re being judged by the old school when competing and they’re not being ‘comically fat’ so despite pulling off a flawless performance of a really good song they’ll not get more than middle points in a contest.

BREAK TIME

Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

An acoustic version of his song performed in his London garden. Good! Actually I prefer it to his competition entry for a previous year. Like every performance of the evening he offers good wishes to the viewers.

Then last years winner of the junior Eurovision song contest, Viki Gabor who represented Poland, was interviewed.

Then there was a performance by a past contender with children who participated in the Junior version.

Gali Atari & Junior Eurovision kids – Hallelujah – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

She was the female group member of the Israel entry which won 1979’s Eurovision contest singing a song titled Hallelujah. They say people still sing it but part of me feels they’re confusing it with Leonard Cohen’s version as much as I half recall hearing their song with the same title. They send Chinese lanterns off into the sky. Someone’s crops no doubt burnt to ash overnight when those eventually came down.

Then we get interviews with contestants by make-up tutorial vlogger(?) NikkeTutorials chatting to them over face time about what they’re doing over this period. Painting. Animals. Tik Tok videos. The Netherlands royal house hopes everyone well. It all seemed a bit ‘forced friendly interaction for the sake of good PR‘ in tone despite their best efforts but it might be that her make up makes her face look very artificial to the point of distraction – and not in a good way. The uncanny valley but with an actual person.

There were other interviews too but I’ll only post this one

Then from Italy a guy named Antonio with dodgy facial hair and a guitar performs a famous song titled Buona Sera. I suppose it’s meant to make us all feel more united. It was nice. I couldn’t find a clip of it surprisingly.

END OF BREAK

Latvia – Samanta Tina – Still Breathing

A very Lady Gaga style music video. Generic dance music song though…

This definitely had some inspiration from Benny Benassi’s ‘Satisfaction’ music video but also Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind’ music video too with some costuming like Sia. The song is a Euro-dance track. It’s okay but it would have been interesting to see what they would have done live at the finale with it. It’s a style of music that is very hit and miss with me. It’s okay. It’s advert music – especially with the ‘Dove soap’ moments of body positive lingerie inter-cut with the rest of the video with thin dancers which sends a mixed message. The video is just a compilation of ‘that would look cool’ ideas with no focus.

I mean you could pretend there is one and that when she was little she was bookish, then got into rigid exercise and lost her identity, then became comfortable with her body and then ultimately became herself at the end able to eat cake but still be confident in herself… but that’s me applying an ‘artist’s BS explanation via interpretation of vague imagery association’ filter to it. Ultimately they wanted sexy women but added ‘smart’ looking school girls (in the most blatant ‘bookish nerd’ stereotype possible) and body positive women in lingerie enjoying themselves so they avoided any criticism for the dancers in leotards from vocal Feminists. I wouldn’t have noticed except for the contrasts so at least that apparently made it mildly more memorable in a year of extravagantly kitsch music videos.

Belgium – Hooverphonic – Release Me

She is the 6th vocalist to join the group apparently. Subdued band video. Very Portishead in tone. The guys are much older than her… bit of a weird vibe unintentionally.

Yeah the Portishead overtones are really strong. Specifically the music video for ‘Glory Box’ during certain parts – you’ll know when you see both. It’s the sort of music I really enjoy, what most people probably associate with trip-hop of the 90s or those ‘lo-fi hip hop for studying’ type YouTube videos. You just know this isn’t the sort of song that does well in Eurovision unfortunately. The singer reminds me of someone… the actor who played Neelix of Star Trek: Voyager? One of my favourites of the contest this year nonetheless.

United Kingdom – James Newman – My Last Breath

Chunky guy could be 20s or could be in his late 40s. Video filmed in Poland. Trudging through snow like a bear. Upbeat modern song.

The music video is well made although it’s a strange juxtaposition to have a hardened, sinewy, rural living old man contrasted with a metro-sexual, well fed and groomed, young guy. The song is very ‘British boy band pop song’ tonally. I mean a lot of the song’s impact is from the backing singers rather than James. It’s… okay? It’s the entry from my country so I should be more supportive but… it’s decent but it wouldn’t stand out and is instantly forgettable. Put that in a compilation of boy band songs and you would be hard pressed to differentiate it as ‘the one we entered into the Eurovision song contest’. The most interesting parts of it were from the voice over monologue which frame the rest of the music video… and the music video itself is ‘guy goes for a dip in his freezing cold pool before his daily routine with his dog; meanwhile, elsewhere, a young guy goes wandering through the forest. I just imagine the old guy hunted James later and made a rug out of him.

Belarus – VAL – Da Vidna

very late 80s video. Enjoyable. Three women and a guy on a guitar. Reminds me of The Corrs… but Slavic instead of Irish.

Oh she is wearing a bejeweled headpiece like the one from The Cranberries’ music video for ‘Zombie’ or Metallica’s music video for ‘Until It Sleeps’ which had a similar aesthetic to it. Aside from that they wear black suits. Again a bit of a 90s vibe going on. As for the song – it’s enjoyable but I imagine forgettable. [editing note: I actually had to relisten to this while proofreading the post as I honestly couldn’t recall what it sounded like at all unlike other songs!]

I know what you’re saying – that ‘first impression’ and the ‘music video’ one don’t sound like I was watching the same thing. Indeed… I’m not sure myself either. Did I miss a song or something? At the time of uploading this there was no evidence of the version broadcast on the BBC unless I skipped it. [editing note: I went to double check and indeed I’ve no idea what it was I saw on the BBC broadcast…]

Finland – Aksel – Looking Back

Dressed like Kim Jong Il in a navy uniform/traditional east Asian styled suit. Nice staging. Good song. Overweight with a moustache so probably wouldn’t get the votes. Fat women are acceptable in society these days but not men unless you can grow a good beard and have a big cockerel’s comb of hair too.

That suit does him no favours and I don’t think anyone really pulls off those ‘grandfather’ collar’ styles really. The staging with the projected images is really nice. The song too is something that you can easily imagine scoring really well and probably being a contender for the top 3. Unlike other entries that feel like they begin to get a bit repetitive towards the end this one doesn’t outstay it’s welcome which is a bonus few tend to consider when you’ve heard the same lyric repeatedly for minutes on end.

North Macedonia – Vasil – YOU

The song is decent. The video is blatantly ‘we are dancing as a prelude to sex’ but done in a bar makes it feel a bit seedy.

An Enrique Iglesias style song and music video featuring what appears to be a man who likes to think he has the same level of raw sex appeal but is in fact just a deluded narcissist. He looks like a bloke down the pub on a Saturday night and the lady dancing with him looks like she is on a girls night out cosplaying as a Spice Girl. The video represents what drunks think they look when they dance – when in fact they’re just flailing their limbs about while groping at each other. The song is quite good but nothing really stands out. Another ‘song from the 90s’ or early 2000s’ sounding entry. It’s okay but an ‘also ran’.

Switzerland – Gjon’s Tears – Répondez-moi

Man with a puffy sleeved shirt… novel. Song is generic sounding.

The music video and singer remind me of Robert Smith and The Cure around the time when he was going through that ‘it’s not all about the make up’ phase except if that was happening now. The framing makes this guy seem so self involved it’s hard to assess the rest of it. Some nice visuals at times but very much in the mold of ‘French new wave cinema with a dash of surrealism’. The song is mostly him singing one line then holding an ear-piercing high note [editing note: relistening to it the note is even worse – it’s probably fine in person but through a speaker it’s like a stiletto dagger to the ear]. Okay… but it’s not that appealing. What let’s it down is the awkward high notes otherwise it’s a solid sounding piece. He reminds me of a singer here called ‘Passenger’ who has a high voice and both have good songs ruined by their voices which don’t really fit the style and tone they want.

Serbia – Hurricane – Hasta La Vista

Apparently their answer to the Pussy Cat Dolls. Indeed. Very like them but in shiny material. Enjoyable enough if your wanting to dance.

Yes… very ‘Pussy Cat Dolls’ era girl group with ‘sex sells’ attitude though the song is fun and well performed so could do well on it’s own. Costuming wise there are definitely Little Mix inspired choices there. Bare chested male dancers and all the things you would expect of pop music videos of this style. The ‘pastel boxes’ bits are nice though it reminds me of the British group the ‘Sugar Babes’ when they had Heidi in it. Another ‘also ran’ ultimately. They should have gone full blown into doing references to The Terminator having worn the leather jackets because that’s what a lot of people immediately thought of upon hearing the song title no doubt.

BREAK TIME

Serbia – Marija Šerifović – Molitva – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

Graham Norton referred to her as ‘Marta 2.0’ (pronounced as ‘Marta two point oh’). A Serbian singer performing in the empty streets of Serbia. She was Serbia’s 2007 entry nwon it that year. It’s a very good song… if it was competing this would have likely been my favourite. I think it was my favourite that year too. Admittedly the fact we can hear more than 30 seconds, during the BBC broadcast, elevates it but you can just hear the quality difference. In the video we also see medical staff and others doing their work. People in future will know exactly when certain songs came out as they are featured in so many right now.

Then the Rotterdam Philharmonic (though Graham Norton, for some reason, introduced them as the London philharmonic) performed ‘love shine a light’ as venues around Europe (and elsewhere) lit up. All very ‘spiritually uplifting and that…

END OF BREAK

Spain – Blas Cantó – Universo

Lot of modern filming techniques in modern aesthetic locations. Songs very good. Probably would have won overall. Has that energy.

It reminds me of the music videos for the group called ‘Hurts’ here in Britain about half a decade ago. People covered in glitter dancing in the sterile interior and then him climbing through a desert terrain to find people with chicken wire over their faces in white robes. Interesting imagery but what does it mean if anything? The song is enjoyable. Maybe it is the sort to grow on you but then he does that ear piercing high note which puts me off. It probably would have done okay. It’s a nice touch at the end of the video there are credits for the people involved as music video production tend to go uncredited.

Albania – Arilena Ara – Fall From The Sky

everything white in a white room. Most of the clip was her susptaining anote. Probably quite good.

The music video reminds me of that YouTube art piece/musician Poppy. ‘Hi, I’m Poppy.’ ‘Hi, I’m Poppy.’ ‘Hi, I’m Poppy.’ The ‘ultra modern/ultra art house art design makes it both interesting and yet essentially barren. The birdcage bit could honestly be from the 80s. The song is very nice. I would, in future, half recall it and that it was featured in the Eurovision contest probably. It’s just distinct enough. It would probably get a decent score. There is also a lyric video version but it’s essentially a static image with the lyrics along the bottom of the screen.

Ireland – Lesley Roy – Story of My Life

Very pop song of the moment. 90s baggy suit with mesh top style costuming. It reminds me of Billie Piper’s debut single’s music video. Retro-chic style music video. Song good video …. eh… okay.

Avril Lavigne. That’s whose music it reminds me of. Or someone like that. The video again has a lot of pastels with retro designs so fits the current British trend of design and style. It’s a really fun, infectious, song. I imagine it would do very well as it’s the sort that usually does well in Eurovision with a strong easy to sing chorus. Lesley has that sort of look where she could be in her twenties or well into her forties.

Slovenia – Ana Soklič – Voda

Filmed on a beach. Another power ballad sort with loud instrumentation then quiet vocals moment. Enjoyable.

Another case where the video shown and the one available on YouTube as the official video are different. Deep voiced lady singing a song from the 90s again. There are a lot which remind me of songs from the 1990s during this contest. Maybe the 90s are trendy now but I can’t imagine that being the case for people in former Soviet block countries considering the issues that caused unless everyone has rose tinted memories of the time now? Anyway… a plain white dress with attached cape makes her look like a character from a high fantasy film like Lord of the Rings. (Galadriel specifically). The song is slow and makes no impact to be honest. When it’s in direct comparison to others featured it’s a definite low scorer unfortunately. She has a good voice though.

Austria – Vincent Bueno – Alive

Crowd pleaser, Justin Timberlake like, song. Leather jacket in an abandoned building video… very good. Would have done well.

It’s a nice video and light song. Very enjoyable. An infectious club song making you want to get up and dance. It would do well. This is another video of people with masks… was that a trend this year or is it a political statement by a number of countries? Because it’s full face masks not ‘cover your mouth’ surgical style masks which obviously would be in reference to COVID-19.

Bulgaria – Victoria – Tears Getting Sober

Sort of gothy/Billy Eilish vibe to the video. Song a melody sort. Very good.

A nice gentle song. You can imagine this being on the radio, adverts, television series. It’s one of those songs that just feels universal. The video might not be the best fit but then it gives the vibe of ‘reflecting in the evening sat in the park’ so that’s the obvious allusion. Then you get the flashes of lightning and the fire flies. I would be surprised if it didn’t do well… but then other years I have really liked some songs and they’ve not done as well as expected. Woof! This is my favourite of the competition overall! Both modern and yet timeless!

San Marino – Senhit – Freaky!

Retro chic disco/dance pop number. Fun. Lots of different styles thrown at you in quick succession.

A dance music track from about 20 years ago. Epilepsy warnings were not given before it was shown or the BBC chose the 30 seconds when it didn’t need the warning. There are a lot of interesting visuals in the video but it’s so much you’ve no time to appreciate any one thing. To induce the sense of it being ‘freaky’ I guess but there is nothing bizarre… just distinctly variable. The song is fun and will get a lot of play on the radio and in clubs (you know… when the quarantines are lifted…) so while it wouldn’t get massive points in this contest it’s definitely one that will serve Senhit well career wise.

Iceland – Daði og Gagnamagnið – Think About Things

Video is very ‘Okay Go!’ from about a decade ago. Fun song. Would have done very well if not won. Lots of fun. The guy is 6 foot 9!!!

This honestly screams ‘this years winner’ when compared to everything else which is either stuff we’ve seen before or doesn’t have ‘the spirit of Eurovision’ which seems some mysterious level of ‘cheesy yet technically competent’ which marks certain performances out. The only reason it wouldn’t win is their staging would be less extravagant than some others on the night. An infectious beat. Easy lyrics to sing along to. Quirky presentation. Admittedly I’ve not posted Eurovision’s official video as that’s just a stage performance and the music video on the groups page is much more fun and is the one shown by the BBC. The only costume difference is they have boiler suits for the stage version with just the musicians though still retaining the pixel art portraits of their faces on their chests.

BREAK TIME

Michael Schulte & Ilse DeLange – Ein Bisschen Frieden – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

He was Germany’s entry in 2018 and is doing this year’s commentary apparently. Ilse is from ‘The Common Linnets’ who were the Netherlands 2014 entry. They perform a song from 1983 (actually it was the winner from 1982… so Graham Norton was wrong again?) by the German Entry Nicole. The song is called Ein Bißchen Frieden (A Little Bit of Peace).

It’s very Country and Western and yet ‘British pop’ of the era too. Good. I like the venue especially.

END OF BREAK

Greece – Stefania – SUPERG!RL

Girl imagines she can levitate. Very dance focused song but good energy would do well.

It reminds me of a song from last year due to the use of horns (albeit they’re electronic here). Her voice sounds like it is modulated electronically in the music video. The video is very good but… the song feels generic despite it’s good energy. I can’t help but feel this really wants to put itself forward to be the song used for YA novels adapted into Television series or films. It’s okay but I think the music video adds a lot to it while the song itself is good but it’s the sort soon forgotten. Like Holly Valance’s songs from years ago. It reminds me of that sort of energy.

Czech Republic – Benny Cristo – Kemama

90s style R&B music video – people in low lit areas… very 90s R&B video. The song is a light dance song. Okay, but nothing special.

The camera spins around. It reminds me of the Japanese action film ‘Azumi’ where they did that for the final showdown and I felt a bit ill… nothing to do with the camera work but I do recall it because of that. It’s a club song. Not my kind of song but it’s okay. It’s not a style I listen to much so can only say it’s a nice change to the usual stuff we have in the competition. The spinning was trying to do something with what was a relatively bland video when you could tell what was on screen.

Also wasn’t the Czech government trying to get people to call the country ‘Czechia’ nowadays instead of Czech Republic?

Poland – Alicja – Empires

Very fire filled video. Another power ballad sort. Seen it before. Poland used to have unique stuff but they’ve gone tame again…

The song would make a good theme song for a drama series or such. The video is okay. The is a lot of fire imagery. You would half think this is a political song and Poland was actively involved in a conflict. Either that or this is the theme song to a James Bond film. It’s quite good but this is the sort of song you expect to be in the Eurovision song contest. Another Galadriel dress. Alicja apparently has only one facial expression too.

Moldova – Natalia Gordienko – Prison

Lots of heavy bass. Music video in the desert again. Very good but wouldn’t win. Appearance in the video is model. In video to audience is girl next door… interesting

‘Look I’m a bad girl’ sort of imagery and ‘I’m an attractive woman who knows it and uses her sexuality to empower myself’ type music video with lots of close ups of herself and male models obsessed with her. It’s a good song (initially) but the video doesn’t serve it well. More walking through a desert like landscapes like other competitors. Then some blurry close ups. It would get some decent marks but end up somewhere in the middle. It gets repetitive quickly though thus becomes bland after a minute or so. The music video even more so. I half expect it to turn out to be an advert for a perfume.

Cyprus – Sandro – Running

Dance club anthem song. Basic video with some lights under a sheet suspended overhead.

Another music video where they have them dancing under a suspended sheet of fabric. Is that the visual theme this year? ‘If there’s a fabric ceiling then it’s a dance track’. Good rhythm and beat for dancing to but the lyrics are incredibly basic. A very meh song to be honest overall. You’ll enjoy dancing to the rhythm but it’s remix fodder at best. Costume wise its ‘t shirt and jeans’ so… yeah nothing to comment on there. Also that’s some weak moustache game you got going on there bro – have some self respect and shave that bum fluff off or grow it out properly because you won’t be able to grow a John Waters no matter how much you might want to.

Romania – Roxen – Alcohol You

Floating letters music video in neon blue night time. Very reflective soulful song.

Drifting letters in the air. An interesting music video. Good lyrics though the ‘alcohol/I’ll call’ pun is a bit of a stretch to be polite though it’s a nice try and better than the all too on the nose lyrics others have. On the whole yeah this is really good. Not sure about the face jewels. Kind of ends too suddenly. It would probably be in the top three or five at least.

Croatia – Damir Kedžo – Divlji Vjetre

Standard modern entry. Backing singers etc. Not much to add.

Clothing wise he just came from his waiter job in a nearby restaurant. The song is generic. Honestly sounds like if you averaged out all of this style of song this would be at the exact centre of the curve. There are a lot of backing singers, off to one side, to the point you wonder why they didn’t put them directly behind him for more symmetrical staging. It’s a nice effort but was never going to stand out. And it’s in his native language rather than English which, as with previous years, nets them extra points in my book. It’s just that it’s so pedestrian an entry unfortunately even in these tamer, culturally homogenised, times.

Germany – Ben Dolic – Violent Thing

Puffed up jacket. Slav gopnik ‘#1 with the hair clippers except for a fringe at the front’ hairstyle. High pitched singer trying to be cool. Ehhh…. it’s okay but bland really.

The video is a nicely cinematic effort. Clearly money was thrown at it. He facially reminds me of the little boy from ‘This Is England’ grown up. He’s got a high voice. It reminds me of the singer ‘Passenger’. I don’t like this modern castrato singing style he and others have used this year. It hurts my ears needlessly for to show off their range but not actually achieve anything with it in the song. The video is generic ‘in the club’ stuff. It’s the sort of song that would do well but not one I can appreciate. Aside from that the lyrics and instrumental are very good. If someone else had done this I would probably like it better.

BREAK TIME

From Israel we get an interview with Netta who has Bayonetta hair… Joking about what she has done in quarantine. Showing her opening last year’s ceremony. She wishes everyone well then presents a video of a song she has done.

Netta – Cuckoo – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

Much more toned down compared to her winning one. An excellent song. The sort you enjoy hearing repeatedly by a singer but it never really gets the notoriety of their louder bombastic songs. Ironically she wouldn’t have won Eurovision with this but it’s a much better song in my opinion as it doesn’t rely on gimmicks and has a much more impassioned emotional resonance. Very fitting for these times where people are distanced and having to face who they are when their socialising options are much more limited even with social media. As per usual it’s the songs not mean to be competing which seem to have the more impactful performances.

Then online stuff featuring someone watching the show with her dog. Then a montage of people singing song fragments. Who would the singers give their 12 points to? Performers admit they would give it to their neighbouring countries and such though some give to performers from elsewhere too. That’s sad to hear that even after the measures taken to deter block voting there is still that sentiment. Favoritism over meritocracy. Such is the way of the world sadly.

Duncan Laurence – Someone Else – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

Last year’s winner performing his song. Good stuff. Without question you can tell this is a well written and performed song. (cue someone looking at my comments from last year and noting what I said… no, actually no one will… no one will because no one reads these Eurovision posts but it’s nice to remind me of which I liked and which had no impact so Eurovision doesn’t, years later, say one song was good but actually wasn’t). Saying that he does look like he just came from his fast food restaurant job due to the shirt he is wearing. I guess that’s the fashion right now – to look like your wearing a retail/service industry uniform… then again military jackets and such are still a popular clothing choice so maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising but it says something about European culture that that’s where fashion has drifted. Maybe it’s meant to be like a male nurses shirt – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen ones that look like that.

Then finally a look in performers’ homes while they make reassuring comments about sticking together and such. Some seem more in context of the competition, some more regarding the virus… some just seem generic or self referential…

END OF BREAK

Malta – Destiny – All Of My Love

Energetic anthem – kids dancing in the rain. Would have done very well! Corto Maltese would be proud.

Another music video with some random inspirational narration at the start of it. I can see that be next year’s trend then. Really good song which would get a good reception outside of the contest. More ‘people looking off into the distance as if aspirational’ stuff in the video but the free running along an abandoned building and the lake/river/seaside is a nice change to the ‘in the desert’ ones.

Estonia – Uku Suviste – What Love Is

Boy band member striking out on his own. Open shirt in an empty theatre filled with candles. It’s okay but… it would have got girl votes rather than song votes.

In an abandoned building – which in hindsight is a trend this year for some. Slow start. Then BOOM it’s Hogwarts with all the candles! His style is very 90s boy band. You half expect the other members to turn up. Yes I stand by my first impression ‘wow being by myself is great… but so is love’… very ‘boy band member releasing his debut single independently’.

Australia – Montaigne – Don’t Break Me

Modern Art house music video – song is good ‘dance music remix’ fodder. It would get lauded there but here… ehhhh….

Sings very fast initially. Her costume is very out of keeping with the song. I like the dance routine parts involving her with the dancers acting as puppeteers (like Kuroko from Japanese Noh theatre) but… it’s also a bit try hard. That’s weird to say for a Eurovision entry but it really seems overworked and thus a bit mechanical and soulless. I want to like it but… I’m not clear what her costuming is meant to express save that the person she is singing to considers her a clown… but she isn’t. She reminds me of Taika Waititi in a way… who, of course, is from New Zealand so, unintentionally, I’m insulting her a bit…

Ukraine – Go_A – Solovey

Yes! That’s Ukrainian energy! They always deliver! And fantastic costume and stage design for the performance. Reminds me of HARD KISS in a good way. Would have been my personal winner.

Okay well either this or Belgium were the best song of the evening as far as I’m concerned personally. Belgium for the mainstream this for the ‘representing our nation’ option. It reminds me of ONUKA to be honest but less experimental in their use of techno/synthesizers compared to them while retaining some of the more traditional instrumental aspects.

Ukraine likes to put up very modern entries recently but it’s possible, after the issues when they had a very politically charged entry which courted some controversy, they’ve chosen the more noble path of showing how cutting edge modern and European they are as a nation in contrast to Russia who still wish to retain a certain level of distance and traditionalism to remain distinct from Europe. So there is still the friction there but it’s not overwhelming each countries entries as it did in previous years with the boycotting issues and such.

The costumes are very interesting. Woof! The firework from the guitar seemed a bit pointless. Their singing reminds me of ‘Tulia’ who represented Poland last year in terms of their harmony. So this is your answer to the question you never asked: ‘what would an ONUKA and Tulia collaboration sound like?’ Maybe I just have weird tastes in music. I would prefer something experimental over something bland though. Better to make an impression, good or bad, than none at all when it comes to the arts.

Denmark – Ben & Tan – Yes

Guy with a guitar. Lady accompanies him…. feels a bit wielded together. No chemistry.

A ‘couple’ where the woman sings while the man plays a guitar and sings in support. It’s a romantic cliche but it’s worked in the past. Both dressed fashionable though I don’t get the ‘half jacket’ dress trend for women in the past year or so. High fashion I guess. It’s not for someone like me to understand. It’s a nice song with good ‘sing-a-long’ potential. It’s a Eurovision classic style wise but probably wouldn’t win unless there was some lucky scores. Probably it’ll be the one cited from this year in future when looking back if it’s for entries that had ‘the Eurovision spirit’ if they want to overlook the global events of this year.

Italy – Diodato – Fai Rumore

Arena di Verona

Empty amphitheatre venue. Leather jacket. Good song. Apparently gone platinum in Italy already.

So there are both the above ‘Arena di Verona’ video and the ‘Official Music Video’ versions. I like the arena one. It really draws into focus his performance. It’s an impactful soulful song and will be looked back as showing the spirit of this year where we are separated and yet looking forward to reunion. It will no doubt be used in future to represent this year more so that the Denmark entry despite it having ‘the Eurovision spirit’ of other years. Probably with some sentiment that ‘we’ve never been further apart yet closer together’.

The music video version

Here’s the official music video with the English subtitles in the video itself. Italy always makes a really hard effort to win but rarely seems too. It is no doubt incredibly frustrating. It’s a subdued yet artistic video. I can see people enjoying this long after the contest is over. The lyrics really hit home due to current events so no wonder they wanted to perform it in the Arena di Verona’. Another contender for song of the year though not my personal choice because of my odd tastes.

Armenia – Athena Monoukian – Chains On You

Modern flashing artistic video. Very audio stabilised voice music video with Rihanna’s style from a few years ago. Good but wouldn’t win.

Yeah, this needed an epilepsy warning! A lot of ‘sexy yet stylish’ imagery. Woof. The song is good until it gets to the chorus part then it gets a bit flimsy. The ‘red’ parts of the music video and the backing dancers in the ‘white’ parts are the best aesthetics of the video. The song ultimately is an ‘also ran’ but might get some votes from people into Rihanna and her style of music as this really reminds me of Rihanna’s work from about a decade or so ago.

Netherlands – Jeangu Macrooy – Grow

Gospel R&B – people sat in a circle to make it confessional. Very good! Stands out amongst the others.

Excellent song. Really nice video. It would deserve high scores and could have potentially won depending on the running order and if other acts didn’t perform well on the night. A nice gentle song. It’s the sort of song you hear now and years down the line completely get taken by surprise realising this is where you first heard him because you’ve been into him for such a long time. It builds to such a great positive high by the end but hopefully had he performed it live he wouldn’t end it as suddenly as the video does.

FINALE OF THE EVENING

A message from Björn of ABBA. A retrospective because they were so successful. Talks of his grandson telling him people in school told him his grandfather was a pop star and him being incredulous about it. Then Björn praises the contest as being ‘so very European and letting people forget about Coronavirus for a moment‘. He ends by joking that he is glad they chose ‘shine a light’ and not ‘Waterloo’ for this years slogan.

Then Graham Norton. He joked earlier about the delay in the interviews and indeed it was something the host mentioned so they obviously heard him earlier but its only a split second. It actually came across as if the hosts were being a bit bitter about it – so even this year the hosts are a bit self-important… Maybe he rubbed Eurovision up the wrong way with the comment like Terry Wogan used to do (if so then that’s great as his acerbic commentary was always a massive part of the experience other nations sadly didn’t get to appreciate). Then some chat. Where was he when ‘love shine a light’ won Eurovision for Britain. ‘Face down on the floor drunk probably’ he jokes.

Then he returns to commenting and says it was awkward yet ‘strangely emotional’. Ha ha.

Love Shine A Light performed by the artists of Eurovision 2020 – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light

Then we get all the competitors for this year singing parts of ‘Love Shine A Light’ as there will be no winner this year. Obviously all sang it at the same time they did their recorded song introduction parts regarding their songs as they’re in the exact same place as those clips. A nice way to round out the show with Katrina (and her poodle) doing the final part of the song.

Finally…

The odd thing is they could have had the competition anyway but with the caveat it’s based on the music videos or done via broadcast… but I guess they insisted it must be only judged based on a live performance on the night to ensure no foulplay. Still that feels a bit needless as it means everyone either returns next year or loses their chance to have participated. Some had tried multiple times to participate only to get through this year and for the pandemic to occur. Graham Norton joked maybe it was the universe trying to tell them something… Nonetheless everyone will return next year to Rotterdam if they can.

Apologies to those who expected this to be published within 24 hours of the event but it took longer than expected. Hopefully you enjoyed it. If you feel like leaving a comment, a like or following the site you’re more than welcome to.

Until next year.

Escapes (1986) : Horror Anthology Film Review

An anthology of five tales of terror, each originally produced for video. The titles are “A Little Fishy” (a.k.a. ”Something’s Fishy”), “Coffee Break”, “Who’s There”, “Jonah’s Dream” and “Think Twice”. There is also a framing story called “Hall of Faces” featuring Vincent Price.

Framing story – part 1: ‘Hall of Faces’

A young man, named Matt Wilson, gets a VHS in the mail delivered to him . He didn’t order it but decides to watch once home for the evening. It has Vincent Price in a hallway of mannequins embedded in the wall who introduces the selection of stories. Imagine if the candelabras from Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast were placed in a 1980s music video based on German Expressionist cinema with neon lighting. After a slow pan through the curved corridor is Vincent Price waiting for his cue to begin his monologue. That’s the first part of the framing device called ‘Hall of Faces’. We go on to watch the various stories and return to the young man’s motel like home at the end to conclude the film.

Story 1 – ‘A Little Fishy’

A fisherman goes fishing on a riverbank but ironically gets fished himself via a red apple he finds and decides to bite into on the river bank. The line pulls on the hook in his mouth and he is dragged into the water. That’s it. It’s the first story and thus a ‘mood setter’ I suppose… or a one note bad joke made into a short film.

Story 2 – ‘Coffee Break’

An obnoxious young delivery driver asks and old man for directions and promises him he will drive slow, enjoy the scenery and stop for a coffee at a diner. However he drives past it deliberately and yet finds himself in a loop until he finally stops at the diner to ask for directions.

The server is the same old man who gave him directions previously and who goes on to offer him a cup of coffee. The old man tells him he didn’t keep his promise so now he has all the time in the world to enjoy his coffee along with the other occupants of the diner.

The young driver tries to escape in his vehicle but ends up back at the diner again where the patrons laugh at him as the man comes outside to offer him coffee again. The young man ends up stuck there forever drinking coffee.

Story 3 – ‘Who’s There?’

Experimental ‘apes’ escape a lab, watch some kids play football and stalk an overweight jogger through a forest. One of them runs around wearing the guy’s tracksuit jacket which he abandons at one point. A chase ensues through the forest as the jogger is pursued by the largest of the creatures. As soon as it catches up to him it says in clear English ‘tag, you’re it’ and they all run away from the man laughing like excited children. To them it wasn’t a terrifying pursuit but part of playing a fun game of tag.

Story 4 – ‘Jonah’s Dream’

An old female gold prospector finds a piece of gold and goes into town to sell it. In town people greet her as Mrs Tucker and comment on her continuing efforts to find gold up in the mountain long after her husband passed away (just because it was his dream it is later revealed). The shop owner tells her people were worried about her but he can’t give her much for what she has brought on that day as she hasn’t paid her last bill yet. He reiterates he can’t give her anything and advises her to sell the mountain and move into town. She says it was her husband Jonah’s dream and refuses to take his advise. The shop owner says they’re there if she needs them.

She is well liked by the community and even gives one of the kids outside an Indian arrow head she found when she was prospecting before heading back to the mountain. The men outside ask the shop owner how much in value she brought in and are told $92. (Bear in mind that’s $92 in the 1980s so he probably could have given her something and kept the excess value for himself as interest). They agree she has gold fever like Jonah did.

She goes and puts flowers on Jonah’s grave. Later, in front of the fire, she reflects on what people have been saying and looks at an old cameo/portrait of Jonah remembering him panning for gold and how happy he was to find gold. The kettle whistles.

There is an explosion outside and the roof of her barn has been caved in. With her shotgun ready she inspects inside. There’s a glowing spaceship emitting noises. Eventually she removes the debris from it at which point it does a ‘Simon says’ toy sequencing of light and opens. There is lots of smoke then another bang which presumably knocks her out.

Mrs Tucker wakes up in the morning lying on the ground. The barn is flattened and there is no sign on the space ship now. On the ground are a number of dull rocks which are apparently gold. She calls out to Jonah that they had been sitting on the gold all that time because they had built their barn and house on top of it.

Story 5 – ‘Think Twice’

A man runs through some city streets. The sort which only existed in 1980s cinema. He mugs someone and looks through the bag he took for anything of value. A tramp with a shopping cart rolls by. He unfurls a cloth to reveal a gem stone he is carrying. He holds it close to his face and it begins to glow red.

The criminal mugs the tramp who begs him not to take his gem as it will be of no use to him. The mugger runs away past another homeless guy but then gets run over by a man in a suit who is drink driving through another alleyway. The driver gets out and inspects the blood on his car’s hood then picks up the gem which begins to glow in his hand. He drops it and gets back in his car.

The gem now glows blue as the tramp picks it up and smiles before breathing on it to make it glow red again. It brings the mugger back to life and, as the tramp watches, a police car appears with armed officers telling the mugger to drop the knife and purse he is holding. The mugger is arrested and looks on as he is taken away by the police. The tramp returns to walking the streets with his shopping cart happy with his glowing gem.

Framing story – part 2: ‘Hall of Faces’

The young man who has been watching the VHS listens to Vincent Price’s host giving a wrap up about the six stories. Except there have only been five. In a twist the last one involves the young man and addresses him by his name thus breaking the fourth wall. He tries to stop the tape and attempts to remove it to the denouncement of the host. As he runs through his house the characters of the stories on the VHS appear and crowd around him as the host laughs maniacally. Then the young man wakes up. On the back of the VHS case he sees it says starring Vincent Price and introducing Matt Wilson i.e. himself… then, in one final twist, Vincent Price dressed as a mail man laughs maniacally at him once more implying it was he who brought the VHS here in the first place.

The end…

The ‘A Little Fishy’ segment of the film.

Overall Anthology Review

When you compare this anthology’s host with figures like Tales from the Crypts’ Crypt Keeper, Brazil’s Zé do Caixão (a.k.a. Coffin Joe), John Carpenter’s Undead Mortician in the 1993 anthology film Body Bags and many other such anthology hosting figures… well the host of this anthology can be sincerely summed up as ‘ooh look we hired Vincent Price which is worth the price of admission alone’. No it isn’t. He is in about 2 minutes of it at most and only to rattle off an opening monologue, a few seconds of dialogue and laugh at the conclusion. He is the only thing that would draw people’s attention to this anthology. Oh but, in fairness, maybe you were looking up anthology horror films like me – that’s the other reason. Heads up anything other horror anthology will seem better after you see this including “H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion” the seventh vignette of 2012’s anthology film The ABCs of Death where a Nazi fox furry tortures a British bulldog furry. No really. At least that’s memorable… and mildly traumatic for the wrong reasons.

There is no set tone for the Escapes anthology. Some stories are meant to be funny, others are karmic retribution but there always seems a tone where you are meant to be taking them more seriously that the writing itself suggests. This is ‘fun’ horror and better aimed at children really but, at the time it was made, would have probably been classified as too scary for them by censors. I seriously doubt children nowadays would react to this with anything other than boredom.

‘A Little Fishy’ really seems like a student film or what some friends with a film camera would make as a fun project over the space of a day or two once summer. It’s like a Yakov Smirnoff joke: ‘In Russia you don’t fish fish – the fish fish you!’ There’s not much to say. It’s a one note short story to set the tone but it gives you the impression what you will be seeing are karmic stories where people get their comeuppance. Arguably they do albeit some end on a positive note.

‘Coffee Break’ really stands out as the best section in concept and execution. It is tonally quite close to ‘Creepshow’ or ‘Body Bags’. I might also say an episode of ‘Tales from the Darkside’ even might be the best comparison but with a heavy metal soundtrack. Lots of long shots of the van driving along roads are used to pad the run time though. Lots of heavy metal which reminded me of Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive. The coffee guy and the delivery driver both play off each other well but it’s a little too drawn out sadly. In fact most of these stories feel bloated by about 20% each in order to reach the run time when they would have a stronger impact being more concise.

‘Who’s There?’ definitely could have been the basis for a script on something like ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ or ‘Goosebumps’. It’s an amusing little piece and in a more light hearted, child marketed, anthology it would have fared far better and possibly become a fondly remembered piece. As it is it just feels like another mismatched piece in a collection of stories that are tonally uncoordinated. If the low budget creature costumes, with their weird little ear stalks, were not enough then the fact one wears the discarded jogging jacket correctly should have tipped you off this is a lighter story. Honestly the application of the make-up on the main creature is well done for the era. It’s a nice simple concept with an amusing little pay off. Like most of these it needed tightening up choosing whether to play up either the humour or the threat through a greater sense of tension. Initially it seems to want to play to the latter but the resolution completely deflates that aspect.

‘Jonah’s Dream’ is the most drawn out and weak overall. It doesn’t really go anywhere for at least ten minutes then pushes a spaceship/meteor scene in at the end before the main character wakes up after encountering the spaceship. Maybe the encounter itself was a dream but there is no way you could interpret it that way from what I recall. In better hands it would have been a good one person monologue piece but instead seemed to be where money was wasted instead of tightening up aspects of the other stories. It is easy to see it being revised as a short drama where she discovers the gold under the house without the alien ship aspect of the story which feels stuck on to force it as part of this anthology. There is a lot of build up in this story with a relatively dull conclusion. The community gets fully fleshed out and it seems sort of redundant unless it was to get friends of the production and their children cameos for whatever reason. Really the important parts could all have been done by the one actress as Mrs Tucker with a flashback sequence featuring her husband (and even then it could be her recounting her words to herself so even that would be unnecessary). The whole exchange in the shop merely served as meaningless exposition. As part of the anthology series Amazing Stories it would be deemed a weaker episode probably.

‘Think Twice’ is well made but the core aspect of what exactly the ability is of the crystal makes it hard to follow. It grants wishes? It is an extension of the homeless man? It’s never clear except it leads to the defeat of the mugger and the homeless man is very attached to it. As long as you can get past that this is relatively good but unsatisfying due to the ‘rules’ or context of it not being explained or at least contextualised for the audience to reach a satisfying understanding. What the crystal is exactly isn’t explained so there is a distinct frustration regarding this story. What are the limits of the item? Really something else should have been used despite, presumably, a glowing, colour changing, crystal serving as a unique aesthetic for the film’s promotional material. What is the homeless man’s connection to the gem? If they revealed he was an alien (or something as convoluted) it would have made more sense to explain the crystal rather than leave it a mystery why the homeless man claims it will be of no use to the mugger and the things it apparently does. This seems like a concept meant for Creep Show.

The framing device ‘Hall of Faces’ is weak. Honestly it feels tacked on with little thought. Most framing stories are relatively weaker than the main stories inevitably but at least they contribute a fitting setting for, and reinforce the themes of, the other stories being told. V/H/S, despite also having it’s framing device criticised, at least has a little more impact than ‘old man laughing at you’. Tales from the Crypt (1972) reveals all the story protagonists who gathered had died in their individual recounted stories and were destined for hell together, Trick ’r Treat (2007) has Sam wander though each of the stories, Southbound (2015) has the separate stories occur along the same stretch of road and there are many other examples of how to construct a cohesive anthology.

His inclusion in the framing story is just an excuse to plaster Vincent Price’s face on the cover of the VHS in order to sell it. Okay, it’s a pretty standard way to wrap up an anthology and connect the stories (though if you paid attention some share actors between each other). It reminded me a bit of the final story in season 4 of Yamishibai where the storyteller is revealed to have brought all the stories to life (oddly enough that isn’t as big a spoiler as you might think as the introduction of each episode in the series features a masked storyteller). Framing stories tend to be hard to make effective though there are some from the 70s (and those noted above) which achieved it but they had a stronger thematic through-line between stories so it already felt connected even without the framing story to create a cohesion between them.

There’s nothing to draw you to this unless you feel like riffing on it with friends or having an example of how cheesy some 1980s and early 90s horror anthologies could be. It’s B movie horror stories in the bad sense. As is always said of anthologies they’re only as strong as their weakest link and the overly drawn out panning shots used throughout instead of establishing scenes just seem there to pad out the running the time. Having read the above you’ll imagine something better than what was depicted on screen. I looked up the IMDB entry and it sees this was a vanity piece for David Steensland who directed, wrote and produced it. Who was he? Where did he go after this project? Was it a pseudonym used by an established person in the industry? We might never know…

The entire film is on YouTube should you want to watch it. It’s not worth it to be honest. ‘Coffee Break’ is classic cheesy 80s horror. The ‘Who’s there?’ one is a funny story to tell a child to amuse them (no need to watch it – any embellishment you make will be an improvement). ‘Think Twice’ is flawed but could have been good if what the gem was was at least alluded to and honestly the rest are rubbish.

There is a version of Escapes which runs 16 minutes longer but I don’t know what that adds to it as this is already a bloated film. I don’t think there is an omitted story just more overly long panning shots I presume. If you’ve seen the longer version what extra is in that version?

Tl;dr

For anyone interested I would rank the stories, best to worse, as: Coffee Break, Who’s There?, Think Twice, A Little Fishy, Jonah’s Dream, Hall of Faces.

Skip it or go check it out on double speed on YouTube if you must check it out. It’s forgettable and poorly made. More a fantasy than horror anthology. I bet you only came here because there’s so little information about it. Admit it – you did. If you liked it, besides due to rose tinted nostalgia from seeing it many years ago, tell me and explain why.

Locke & Key: Netflix Series: Season 1 Review

Locke & Key is a Netflix adaption of the American comic book series written by Joe Hill.

Premise:

Rendell Locke is murdered at the hands of former student Sam Lesser, so his wife Nina is forced to move with her three children Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode from Seattle to Matheson, Massachusetts and take residence in Rendell’s family home, the Keyhouse. The children soon discover a number of mysterious keys throughout the house that can be used to unlock various doors in magical ways. However, they become aware of a demonic entity that is also searching for the keys for its own malevolent purposes.

The music in the series is not as effective sadly.

It’s an enjoyable, mild, adventure and seems to focus more on the fantastical aspects of the story than the horrific making it the inverse of the comic’s version of events. Certainly aspects of the original get toned down such as how scarred Sam Lesser’s face is.

The first season covers, more or less, the first 3 collected volumes of the comic series. It’s not scary but for a younger audience may be unnerving.

Is it faithful to the comics?:

For fans of the comic I would say it’s best to see this as a reinterpretation of the core concept, i.e. ‘a family moves into their ancestral home and discover a mystery involving magical keys’, than hope for a faithful adaption. There is more of a sense of wonder and charm here than impending threat. Some characters are amalgamated, others lost and a few incidents and keys work in a different way to the comics.

Is this like a Stephen King mini series?:

If you come to this with the mindset that because Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son you’re going to be getting a King like story… well I can’t say it’s a million miles away from his father’s work but there is a very distinct difference. Joe focuses on individuals and their interactions thus builds his characters up far more than his father. That is to say we spend more time seeing the effect of events on them personally, both in their past and present, than the development of a plot where people become pieces in the greater narrative with their past merely serving as a shorthand to indicate their archetype (e.g. King’s infamous favourite of a ‘divorced, drunkard, writer’ where we see no aspect of those affect the current narrative when faced with some supernatural threat). Joe is more focused on the inter-social impact of things than his father although you could argue Stephen King initially had a similar style, in his earlier works such as Carrie, before moving towards a more plot driven style of writing.

Is Joe Hill’s Locke & Key like Stephen King’s IT?:

To make a direct comparison, which is no doubt obvious, we have elements in Locke and Key which echo King’s novel IT and it’s adaptions. The ‘Keepers of the Keys’ (a.k.a. The ‘Tamers of the Tempest’ in the comics) come across like a ‘what if’ scenario of the youth parts of IT featuring the ‘Loser’s Club’. Dodge plays a similar role to IT albeit the intentions are somewhat different as one seeks to unleash demons into the world while the other is a predatory entity using the town as a feeding ground. At one point Dodge speaks to Sam via a mounted illustration print as IT did to the Loser’s Club children at one point via ones in a book. There is also the Downing cave which is easily comparable to IT’s inner sanctum in the sewers of Derry, as a pivotal location of confrontation, albeit with a few differences… and yet some similarities too really. Sam Lesser is clearly a parallel to Henry Bowers albeit slightly more tragic ultimately.

Locke and Key does address one aspect people often cite as an issue with IT and its adaptions – audiences enjoy the childhood losers club side of the story but less enamoured when we see how embittered they’ve become in adulthood so we have a much harder time identifying with that part of the story. In Locke and Key it is a multi-generational story instead.

The younger characters, discovering this world for the first time alongside the audience, allow us to enjoy the escapist aspects as they enjoy their adventure with discovery of the keys and their abilities, suffer some turmoil (both socially and plot driven) and eventually overcoming the villain. Meanwhile the adults, who have gone down this route previously but with a bad result barely surviving, are allowed to have more naturally drifted apart (without King’s ‘magic amnesia’ as often criticised in IT between the two parts and it’s ending) and in some cases become such damaged individuals it ultimately leads to setting in place all the circumstances required to lure the next generation of the Locke family back to their ancestral home.

The adults in Locke and Key hide some dark stories and repressed memories from their history and we see the consequences of it on the Locke children. However there is a greater sense of hope for the future in Hill’s story than his father’s which, despite his best efforts, ends on a somewhat more muted tone intentionally or not.

On a side note both King and Hill have an odd attitude towards depictions of mentally ill or neuroatypical/neurodivergent characters such as Rufus where there is no way for them to be ‘normal’ in what the media portrays as ‘normal’. It is never defined what his condition is, no doubt for fear of causing offence to real world individuals with such conditions, thus ironically making them ‘magical’ in tone as Rufus (at least in the comics though not yet shown on the show if they ever do address it) being immune to the effects of the ‘head key’ as if his undefined mental condition is something even magic cannot surpass. As for King there are multiple characters across his works, both depicted positively and negatively, who have undefined yet clearly presented mental conditions. You see this with characters in other series of course so it’s not just King and Hill who are guilty of it. For example Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory where he is ‘off’ due to his manner of social interaction and clearly there is an issue but it’s never honestly addressed by the people making the show even when directly asked about it as that makes writing it as a source of comedy more difficult (though you might compare Sheldon to the lead character in Netflix’s series Atypical which is a ‘coming-of-age comedy-drama’). The fact they chose, in the adaption, for the only person Rufus to be able to speak on equal terms with is the six year old Bode (via soldier terminology) creates a certain stereotype about his mental age. In the adaption he is clearly well into his later teens but was much younger in the comics making his interactions with Bode seem more natural. Why they chose to increase his age I’m not sure unless they had trouble finding a suitable actor of a younger age. Again it unintentionally delivers a certain message of normalising prejudice, about his ability to function effectively in society intentionally or not, to audiences regarding people who are not neurotypical. In truth it’s an essay all on it’s own. It doesn’t have much impact on the first season of Locke & Key but may come up next time…

What is the series like besides the similarities?:

Episode 5 certainly comes across as a ‘breather episode’ where the powers of one key is used to play pranks at school before the season arcing story line finally begins to come into the forefront with the end of episode six leading into episode seven which is primarily a flashback dominated where we learn why the Locke’s returned to their ancestral home is revealed. I am going to say that there are some scenes in episode one which you will have to accept at face value regarding the father being killed than only now will be given any real context so I partially feel maybe they should have omitted those scenes and left it until now to fully explain the reason for the move to the house so it was more coherent.

Steven Williams as Joe Ridgeway steals every scene he is in. Most, if not all, the young actors do very well with special note towards Jackson Robert Scott as Bode Locke for not coming across as overly precocious nor just rattling his lines off with no authenticity (and extra bonus Hill/King connection points as he played Georgie in the recent duology film adaption of IT). Patrice Jones, though he performs his role well, feels particularly misplaced due to his British accent unless I am missing something.

Dodge I feel is not well acted by Laysla de Oliveira but I don’t know if that’s the actor’s choices or how she was directed. She comes off more as a teen drama ‘queen bitch’ antagonist. For most of the series she only appears occasionally to bully six year old Bode (at least until the end of the sixth episode) rather than a demonic entity with malicious intentions. In a way it’s bizarrely comical. Even at the end of episode eight she comes across like she should be in a teen drama due to how she behaves now she finally comes to confront the Locke children face to face with what she is finally fully revealed. That stereotypical ‘teen drama antagonist’ interpretation is established early on with events of her going on an international shopping spree and generally only interacting with little boys for the majority of the first six episodes (though there is a twist I’m not addressing yet as it’s quite a big one if you’re unfamiliar with the comics which comes into play towards the end) which really undermines what a threat Dodge is supposed to be for nearly the entire first season.

Sam is introduced very early on but only really becomes relevant by the end of episode six and playing an active role in the narrative during episode seven in which his entire backstory is also told at the same time with everything regarding him wrapped up neatly by the end of that episode (including Tyler absolving himself of his guilt regarding Sam killing his father – at which point he also aggressively rejects Sam’s friendship too which felt spiteful but realistic for a teenager probably). The role is performed well but the writing doesn’t do the character justice although there is a potential way for him to return in season two’s events as a ghost so maybe there will be some interaction with Tyler there.

Overall tl;dr opinion?:

I would recommend checking it out if the premise sounds appealing. There is some teen drama in there but it’s relatively well done and doesn’t distract from the greater ‘find the keys, find out what happened with the adults and stop Dodge’ season long arc. The assumption that adults can’t see magic being subverted was good and seems a more developed version of a similar attitude in IT which in the connected universe of King’s works didn’t make much sense beyond some vague insistence that ‘what happens in Derry stays in Derry’.

My only real gripes with the series are relatively minor otherwise. The generic soundtrack is relatively forgettable with little impact on the scenes where it is used and they use licensed music at certain points which seems common right now for Netflix series aimed at a younger audience – if you’ve seen Suicide Squad it’s as jarring and as on the nose here as it was there. There’s a distinct chord played when Lucas appears which is a bit on the nose once you know the Dodge twist. Comic readers will already know it so it’s not that much of a give away but once you notice it it seems a bit of a poor choice to scream out to the unfamiliar that there’s something dodgy about Lucas. The role is very well performed when you consider the context of the role and how it had to gel distinctly with Dodge’s actress and interact with Ellie. It’ll sort of odd he carries the callous yet manipulative tone of the Dodge role off very well after the reveal but the main actress for the role couldn’t…

I would hope for a bit more intensity in the presentation of the antagonistic elements in the story. There is a lot of what people would deem teen drama padding which really slows the plot development between episodes 3 through to the end of 6. All you really learn in those episodes is some of the key abilities so in theory you could skip those episodes and as long as you had an idea of what each of the keys does and the consequences you wouldn’t lose anything in regards to the core ‘stopping Dodge’ storyline. I still enjoyed them though as individual mini adventures towards the great goal and they were good for character development but it does make the series as a whole feel poorly balanced overall.

The ‘echo’ key’s ability doesn’t really make sense in terms of what it does. Why it brings back who it does instead of the intended person? You assume it brings back the dead person completely not who was in the body of said person. That’s probably the one flaw that is inherent in the story which can’t be explained as it’s bringing the spirit back not the flesh presumably. Namely how ‘demon Dodge’ returns with the body and not Lucas Dodge as himself implying possession equates destruction of the soul but it’s never clarified. Also why did Dodge change back to their female form? Probably to be recognised by the children to intimidate them… but then they also got a dress when other times the key only seemed to change the face? I mean there are a lot of questions the end of episode 9 and start of episode 10 throw up to an audience really implying some keys have more extensive powers than are ever portrayed. The ‘ghost’ CGI is… cartoonish but I’m not sure if that’s intentionally stylised or not as it’s so obvious.

In hindsight maybe the season could have been a few episodes shorter to be honest. The pace doesn’t really pick up until episode six but the prior episodes help develop the characters and ease you into understanding the use of the keys.

Check it out as it’s stronger than many adaptions of Stephen King’s works and has some nice twists in episode 8. It’s not as tightly paced as Stranger Things but you’re getting a lot of similar aspects present in this production. If you are unfamiliar with the comics it is easy to get into and an enjoyable story. If you are familiar with them it’s an interesting take on the story with a few of the keys changed to produce different resulting powers.

Conclusion (a.k.a the real tl;dr):

It’s worth checking out but the middle few episodes might seem to go nowhere though they help develop the main and side characters a bit. If you want an IT like story it’ll scratch your itch. If you want an adventure series with a mystery you’ll be given snippets in each episode to deduce it yourself before it’s laid out plainly at the end of the season. There’s also a good twist at the end which will leave you waiting in anticipation for season 2 – and if you don’t want more it can be read as a downer ending befitting a horror series.

Amy Speace concert at Acapela, Pentyrch, Cardiff

Anyone wanting an update about how Acapela is doing these days can consider this an update from the previous post years ago.

Awkward text placement…

Amy Speace is a folk/Americana American singer-songwriter from Baltimore, Maryland. National Public Radio described her voice as “velvety and achy” and compared her to Lucinda Williams. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee. A former Shakespearean actress, her music has received critical acclaim from The New York Times, NPR, The Sunday London Times, Mojo Magazine, etc. Speace’s song, Weight Of The World, was recorded by singer Judy Collins on her 2010 album Paradise.

Seen on 5 February 2020 at Acapela Studio.

As soon as you walked in there was a guy in a t-shirt acting as the doorman with a clipboard checking if you had bought tickets. There seems a lot more space in this bar area now. If every person who had a seat in the performance room came in here there would still be plenty of room to move about. You can see the kitchen area behind the bar where there’s a stone oven to cook the pizzas which they seem to specialise in.

Every time some pizza came past it looked nice enough with some fresh salad. To me though there was a particularly acute rancid smell to them. It was probably a certain sauce or something I just found an unappealing smell. I’m not sure how to describe it but as we were sat near the door it assaulted me a few times unintentionally.

There were about 20 people initially and by the time it started 50 or so had assembled in the audience. It really wasn’t that many and no one was sat upstairs (well Amy’s mother along with the guy controlling the lights and sound on his iPad but not any paying customers). Amy isn’t that well known here ‘but is on the rise’ as far as people are concerned like some other American folk singers who didn’t get larger crowds until they had come here a few times to build up word of mouth. It’s an intimate venue but indeed it wasn’t filled to capacity sadly. Presumably it is the pizzas helping to keep things ticking over.

Since the last time I was here they’ve removed more of the hard wood church pews and replaced them with stackable chairs and small tables. I suppose it’s to create a sort of ‘cafe bistro’ performance venue atmosphere. The table I was sat at was wobbly so you dare not lean on it but I’m sure the other tables were more sturdy. There are rows of chairs on the side (under the stairs), a few rows of chairs at the back and tables to the front. So if you’re unlucky and arrive later when there is unallocated seating you not only are sat with far less space for yourself but will also be watching the performers from behind people eating too. Oh and there are pillars too but that only restricts a few very specific seats and they’ve clearly tried to counter that by giving more space for the performers more floor space, to stand further forward, than previously.

No one was eating during the performance, unlike the last time I was here, but I don’t know if that was enforced by the venue or just a coincidence. When Amy came out she commented on the pizza to the effect of something like ‘surprising to find nice pizza in Cardiff’. I think most performers find it odd but all really like the acoustics of the former chapel so it’s a bit of a trade off.

We were sat downstairs by a pillar but with a good ¾ view (i.e. not at the front nor side of the performance area). There isn’t a raised platform stage area and the floor looks very scratched up now as the varnish has gradually been worn away by equipment being moved about. Someone walked by before the start smelling of toilet fragrance aerosols… or maybe it was a very cheap perfume? And it lingered… nasty. Not the venues fault but it was such a strange smell I couldn’t help but note it. The venue is perfectly fine smell wise but this perfume and the pizza were very pungent.


8.05pm the performance began.

Amy was wearing a long navy dress with small diamond patterning and white pixie boots. It reminded me of the sort of dress country singers wore in the 1970s.

She told stories between the songs about her parents’ religiousness (the father is a lapsed baptist who gave her a big, leather bound, white bible while her mother is a Catholic and there was an unspoken agreement the children would be raised Catholic) and political e.g. How she is a folk singer so her being a liberal should be a given to some degree yet some complain saying they thought she was going to do songs like a Country singer (i.e. the stereotypical Texan republican who loves their country blindly). She had her son in her fifties and named him Huckleberry as her husband teaches Southern literature and she thought it would be unique… only to discover someone else had also used that name.

Amongst the songs she performed were the following:

She forgot the lyrics to this one when she was about to perform it
She felt the need to explain a Lorna Doone is a shortbread biscuit before singing this. I mean I immediately thought of the novel when hearing the name. Americans have awkward names for their snacks don’t they?
She told a story about when she had written this after a break up and later was performing it when her new boyfriend’s family were sat in the front row. She panicked worrying they thought it would be about him. In her mind she was running a script of ‘but I won’t write a song about your son…’ in tune with the instrumental. But fortunately her loud Texan friend, from the back row of that performance, shouted ‘AND YOU DID!’ at the end of it. Anyway she married her boyfriend and had her son, named Huckleberry, when about 50 years old. Her husband teaches Southern literature and people find it odd a Yankee (northern states) person would want to name their child something like that.
She finished with this song doing it without the amp.

She performed most songs with an acoustic guitar connected to an amp but one or two she did sat at the grand piano too.

At 9.03pm there was an interval. A staff member rushed in zealously seeking empty glasses to take off tables. It got to the point he seemed to be eyeing up half filled glasses as if ready to claim them as having been abandoned if people were not sat next to them to ward him off. Out by the bar Amy’s mother was selling CDs of three of her albums, t-shirts and apparently one album on vinyl. Amy would sign them too. About 10 or so minutes later the second half began suddenly signaled by the lights suddenly being turned off again.

While performing she forgot the lyrics to a few of her songs so a friend had to look them up for her. It was fortunately made more charming rather than awkward. Earlier she had joked at other performances she had had to do that too.

After she remembered and performed the first forgotten song a guy shouted “got there in the end” which the classic sardonic Welsh sense of humour. It’s not meant in a bad spirit but I imagine it so easily could be misread as such if people are not familiar with it… and let’s face it when you have visiting foreign artists I do often wonder if it gives a bad impression and if it’s affected the chance of people coming back again. However Amy mentioned how polite British audiences are as American ones have to be made to shut up and often will throw things at the performers. British audiences chuckle while American audience guffaw it seems. Probably it makes it easier to read the tone of the room compared to more reserved audiences.

She had gone up Snowden and it was the first time her parents were touring the UK. She seemed hung up, like all visiting American artists, on the whole ‘divided nation’ aspect of America at the moment regarding Trump and said Britain probably is too now due to Brexit. She joked politicians need to get better hair and some exercise in reference to Trump and Boris Johnson.

At 22:25 the concert ended after she said she would do a false ‘walk off and encore’ by turning away a few seconds rather than walk out the room. She did one of the last songs acoustically without her guitar plugged in. Oddly it might have been better to do that more in this venue but I guess everyone is used to instruments being amplified these days that just having the instrument sounds less ‘authentic’ somehow…

It was very enjoyable. The stories actually felt personal rather than just a script she rattles off to every audience. It’s a bit concerning she forgot the lyrics to her own songs though. But overall it was very enjoyable. I recommend seeing her if you’ve the chance though it is one of the few occasions where I’ve seen a performer forget their own lyrics which in a less seasoned act would be criticised as being unprofessional.

Parking is still the biggest issue the venue faces really even with it’s relatively small capacity. Park on the road side and if you can’t then you’ll have to park further down or in a residential space. There are no real alternatives to be honest but that’s the cost of it being in a community’s former chapel.

P.S. Here are some names of other acts coming here soon if you want to look them up… The Magpies / Daisy Chapman / Maz o’connor / Emily Mae Winters / Mr Tea and the Minions / Morganway.

Eurovison 2018 Grand Final

So as per tradition here is the list of the Eurovision grand final entrants with videos of their songs and the contest’s results along with my usual irreverent comments… not that anyone takes Eurovision that seriously anyway hopefully.

Each act drew in which half of the Grand Final they would perform. As host country, Portugal drew its exact starting position (8) during the Heads of Delegation meeting in March. The running order is being decided to ensure each act has the opportunity to stand out. The producers look at the genre of music, whether a song is performed by a solo singer or group, the use of props, music tempo and various other aspects of each act. In other words the run order is ‘quiet, LOUD, quiet, LOUD, slow, FAST, slow, FAST, etc’

The running order in the finale was:

  1. Ukraine – MELOVIN: Under The Ladder

He is a vampire… or one of the goths off South Park. During one of the green room interviews the presenter, via a translator, asked him about it… That aside the backing singers paw the air and he sets fire to a set of stairs leading up to a grand piano. Common practise for Eurovision then… The song is generic so I can’t really comment on it. It was okay but forgettable thus they sacrificed him as the first act in order to warm the crowd up.

  1. Spain – Amaia y Alfred: Tu Canción

She looks like a young Rachel Weisz. He looks like the Jonas brother Disney locked away but has escaped. This is the ‘we really are in love, no honestly! – we’ve been in love the past 3 weeks/months… around the time we were put forward for the contest’ entry. It was a good ballad. I wish it had done better. I wonder if they’ll be together now the contest is over.

  1. Slovenia – Lea Sirk: Hvala, ne!

Electro beat, lots of synchonised dancing and a costume that makes me think she is going to run off into a plane and go do a bit of wingsuit glding like a flying squirrel… It’s meant to a motivational song but… it comes across like an exercise class down the local recreation centre by a motivational speaker.

  1. Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaitė: When We’re Old

This is the first of the ‘wait is that being projected as a hologram so the audience there see what we at home are seeing?’ moments. A 1970’s dress, twee millennial song and baiting ‘isn’t being in love for a long time great?’ for votes. Then to cap it off her husband comes on and awkwardly gets her attention before giving her a hug. Rewatch the clip for the moment he taps her to get her attention. It was a hilarious micro-transaction. Also do Eurovision have a ban on kissing? Becuase that would have been more appropriate as it seems this was a planned moment and would have been more fitting. It’s a nice song… but like all twee minor key ‘girl in love’ music I would likely be out for blood if having endure it repeatedly over the space of a a short amount of time. This sort of music seemed to be everywhere a few years ago.

  1. Austria – Cesár Sampson: Nobody But You

A good, soulful, song. His shirt is of a fabric last seen worn in the early 90s. Actually seeing it again I notice a ruffle on it’s left sleeve. It looks jut like a basic tshirt with a rubberish surface but apparently not. The song starts off well by by the end gets a bit too repetitive for my liking but what are you going to do really? It was a good effort.

  1. Estonia – Elina Nechayeva: La Forza

Sing opera. Wear an elaborate dress they project imagery on. I like it but it feels ridiculously melodramatic even for the Eurovision let alone an operatic performance. I really liked it but it was inevitable something more ‘accessable’ would win… [rant incoming…]

  1. Norway – Alexander Rybak: That’s How You Write A Song

The second, and most motable of the ‘does the audience there see all these effects or do they just see him miming?’ moments. The song title is arrogant thus his manner and everything becomes ‘I’ve done it once and I’ll easily do it again compared to these Eurovision amateurs. The backing dancers look like they escaped from a 90s housing estate. The man’s face at 1:32 of the video sums up everyone’s reaction to this song… Then the guy pulls a violin out his backside and does a shuffling dance. No one in the audience is singing along though at one point in the song he calls on them to. Yeah…

  1. Portugal – Cláudia Pascoal: O Jardim

Pink hair = SJW agenda? It sounds like Dido or the XX but it’s an original song but the influence is there… It came in last place at the end of the night which really was undeserved as it had more merit than some other songs. Ultimately it was a victim of ‘on the night’ having a weak vocal performance. I don’t know if it was the best choice to have the second person come on stage for that one refrain really… who also hasa very retro 80/90s hairstyle. It was a good song so it’s a shame it did so poorly.

  • break position

    The hosts go about goggle eyed interviewing people, making jokes and coming across incredibly awkward even for Eurovision hosts… especially the one with the constant look of shock doing all the work in the green room unfortunately.

  1. United Kingdom – SuRie: Storm

There was a stage invasion during this performance and apparently they’ve chosen to not give the ‘grand finale’ version but the Jury Show version done the night before the final. But fear not for here is the moment!

It was a decent song but admittedly nothing spectacular. I think we should have done better to be honest but then as the memes of Twitter commented Brexit no doubt played its part and everyone joked we should win and then deny anyone coming for the contest visas. But then there’s hold over from the Iraq war resentment and such too no doubt. Some countries, a few which were surprises, gave us points and there were jokes they’ll be seeing a boost to their tourist as an act of their good faith. I think what got to people was the lack of sympathy votes of a point or two from all but a few countries. The audience at the venue however gave her a rousing cheer so t least she has that. She recovered incredibly well after the stage invasion and was given the opportunity to perform again at the end of the running order if she wanted but she declined. As for the stage invader he was rapper, political activist and serial stage invader ‘Dr ACactivism’, who was plugging his book with a slogan on his t-shirt.

  1. Serbia – Sanja Ilić & Balkanika: Nova Deca

Obviously the pipe player got ‘MVP of the night’ no question. The male vocalist reminded me of Rasputin from Hellboy. You know it’s around now I began noticing how few of the perofmrers seemed to be wearing any colours besides black and white tonight which is a massive shift from previous years… it’s ll getting a bit too earnest nowadays. Nonetheless I enjoyed it. Later on, in the green room, apparently the singer kissed the presenter there unexpectedly and people on twitter were commenting on informed consent and such…

  1. Germany – Michael Schulte: You Let Me Walk Alone

The song reminds me of James Blunt, David Gray and singers from the early 2000s. People compared him to Mick Hucknell. He, like the Lithuania entry, has old photos showing in the background to get the emotional response. He was decent in fairness but it’s not the sort of music I’ve ever found appealing.

  1. Albania – Eugent Bushpepa: Mall

I really enjoyed this. His jacket’s design was interesting. People thought he looked like Elijah Wood. I’ve not much to add really. It reminds me of any number of songs I hear as the title song for computer games or at the end of films during credits – but in a good way.

  1. France – Madame Monsiuer: Mercy

How did this not steamrolled over other acts when getting points? They performed 13th and came 13th… It had it all… a message, the performance, while a bit weaker than previous ones, was still strong, they won over the audience… Maybe it’s just it’s very up my street and it charmed me. Admittedly the ‘half skirt’ they both are wearing and her shoulderpads are a bit ‘odd but not in an eccentric way’. The red shoes seem a bit unco-ordinated with the rest of their outfits barring her lipstick and nail polish.

  1. Czech Republic – Mikolas Josef: Lie To Me

Geek chic… or I should say ‘unflattering depiction of intellectual characters in a comedy from the early 90s’… Everyone was wondering what was in the backpack and kept comparing him to the lead character in the film ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’. The dancing was good. The song was decent pop. Um, yeah nothing to be critical off except the costume to be honest. Probably a nice guy but the whole thing gave an attitude he probably is a bit of a wanker ‘lad’ going out on a drinking session on a Friday night in costume for some reason like a stag do…

  1. Denmark – Rasmussen: Higher Ground

Everyone compared the red haired singer to a character from Game Of Thrones. This was a great anthemic song… yet also only got middling vote numbers by the end. This year was baffling. Admittedly the ‘stomping in formation’ choreography is a bit funny but overall it was a good performance. I get it was too ‘one note’ or something compared to others who seemed to completely shift their musical style mid-song this year.

  1. Australia – Jessica Mauboy: We Got Love

Indigenous Australian lady performing for her coutnry and apparently had quite the heartwarming tory behind rising from an amateur ordition on a reality show all the way to performing here. As people noted her dress was far too short for some of the dance moves she was busting out towards the end. Or to be more exact the cameraman’s angle was clearly aiming to get a gratuitous shot or two. Nonethless it was a strong entry from Australia as per usual… but also came near the bottom. On Twitter were a lot of photoshopped maps reminding everyone that Australia isn’t in the southern hemisphere but actually just the other side of Ireland.

  • break position

I can’t remember what happened. More ‘comedy’ and interviews. I think this is when the presenter got an unexpected kiss and everyone suddenly began to decry informed consent and such. Who knows? I didn’t see the exact moment myself just the stillframe shots of her reaction… which looked just like her normal face as she had a PTSD stare the entire evening.

  1. Finland – Saara Aalto: Monsters

If this had been the second act of the evening you would think there was a horror theme to tonight’s finale. People said the backing dancers looked like Fascists or Star Wars rejects. People thought this, rather than the Irish entry, would be the gay anthem of the night. The spinning wheel and going upside down was good. The song is a bit too repetitive for me but there we go. This was second to last in the final votes of the evening which… well it was as good as many others but it wasn’t bad and at least had the backing dancers in interesting costumes.

18. Bulgaria – EQUINOX: Bones

As people said the female singer has a very Lady Gaga/1980s cyberpunk look though she reminds me of Gwen Steffani more so. The song is decent pop though its lyrics are a bit repetitive but whatever… Fun fact: I almost left this off the list by accident somehow.

  1. Moldova – DoReDoS: My Lucky Day

The staging and perfromance is classic Eurovision. The song is classic generic Euovision in sound reminding me of Abba… but that’s it. They’ll be on lots of ‘hilight clips’ no doubt. It’s just all very ‘Scooby Doo chase’ and cheesy 70s sex romp comedy really…

  1. Sweden – Benjamin Ingrosso: Dance You Off

Is this a remix of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Rock Your Body’ song and it’s music video staging? The intro part definitely makes you think of it. So that’s 80 seconds before he actually does his own song… then goes back to the copyright infringing part. Then he begins doing drunk dad at a wedding ‘I used have some moves in my youth’ dancing… The staging is nice for a pop song in fairness but it is quite bland to me.

  1. Hungary – AWS: Viszlát Nyár

It reminds me of a lot of recent rock music with the screamed lyrics. It’s in Hungarian so that’s novel but I swear I’ve heard parts of this in other rock music recently. Someoen joked it was nice to see the band ‘Bullet For My Valentine’ getting work. I can imagine this being on the soundtrack for an action film aimed at teenagers. I enjoyed it and it’s a change of pace for this competition.

  1. Israel – Netta: Toy

Chicken noises. What I’m assuming will get claims of ‘cultural approriation’ from certain quarters. It’s the sort of act that always gets included in the highlights for being flamboyant and eccentric. The sad thing is you can hear she has some ability as a singer but the nonsense noises and such just make it unpalatable. It’s not so much the act itself that bothered people as much as this is what won in the end… personally I’m fine with such entries but there were some that were seriously worth doing better and to have this as the victor feels like it rubs salt in the wound for those entrants.

  1. The Netherlands – Waylon: Outlaw In ‘Em

A Netherlands country singer, who worked with Waylon Jennings before his death so is definitely trained by the best, and his backing dancers who honestly must have been at a loss at what choreography to do to the song short of line dancing… so chose gurning and flailing. The costumes for this all seemed to be wrong. The song was good country music in fairness but I think no one was sure how to stage it at all… also… leopard print? Really?

  1. Ireland – Ryan O’Shaughnessy: Together

A milquetoast song. Due to this one having the dancers depict a homosexual relationship and the tattoos of other acts the showing of the Eurovision song contest was banned in China as it was against their broadcasting regulations. The dance choreography was good. The song is a bit too scchrine for my tates what with the sustained ‘whine’ sounding note. People want Dustin the Turkey to have another go at Eurovision and to go represent Ireland in Israel next year.

  1. Cyprus – Eleni Foureira: Fuego

People said she was a Poundshop (i.e. budget/cut price/cheap knockoff) version of Beyonce. In fairness the dancers are all incredibly well synchonised but this is definitely more about the dance than the song which I swear I heard last year or recently at least. Maybe the dance reminds me of those ‘man in high heels’ ancers that were on British adverts in Britiain a few years ago (if you don’t know what I’m on about by all means go look for the ‘Money Supermarket’ adverts on YouTube). To be honest if this had been performed earlier in the running order I don’t think it would have had the votes it got in the end but it did at least stand out amongst this year’s entries.

  1. Italy – Ermal Meta e Fabrizio Moro: Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente

This seemed like the definite winner to me. However on the night the staging and such was a bit bare bones. I still think, despite getting 5th, this should have done better. This was Italy sending out it’s big hitters with an anthemic song with a message…

THEN THERE WAS AN INTERLUDE WHICH SEEMED LIKE IT WOULD NEVER END. It was slow songs (ONUKA last year were brilliant and other years they’ve had people like Justin Timberlake but it fell on it’s face this year save informing anyone who wasn’t aware that last year’s winner had a heart transplant and is in good health now), terrible comedy sketches by the presenters, interviews, cut aways… it just seemed like an eternity to many people on Twitter with some professing they had lost consciousness or grown a beard in the meantime.

But then finally the votes came along. The world rejoiced… for a moment.

The highlight being the greeting ‘hello humans’… as if the woman speaking was a humanoid lizard or something. The low light being the needless booing when the Russian judge appeared. It’s hard to say things are not political when you have such pantomime behaviour like that…

The Voting results in full

  1. Israel 529

  2. Cyprus 436

  3. Austria 342

  4. Germany 340

  5. Italy 308

  6. Czech Republic 281

  7. Sweden 274

  8. Estonia 245

  9. Denmark 226

  10. Moldovia 209

  11. Albania 184

  12. Lithuania 181

  13. France 173

  14. Bulgaria 166

  15. Norway 144

  16. Ireland 136

  17. Ukraine 130

  18. The Netherlands 121

  19. Serbia 113

  20. Australia 99

  21. Hungary 93

  22. Slovenia 64

  23. Spain 61

  24. UK 48

  25. Finland 46

  26. Portugal 39

Thus Israel won. The gag entry won.

I guess, in a year of such diverse acts, it proves that in such situations where there is so much choice to suit different people’s tastes it’s ultimately the lowest common denominator which ends up rising to the top… and for Eurovision that is novelty acts.

I can’t wait to see how Israel deals with this. Everyone complained about going to Russia due to any number of reasons. Meanwhile everyone will act like it’s perfectly fine entering a country which [insert whatever is the current news coverage when you’re reading this regarding any middle east conflicts and such] happening on it’s borders if not inside them. It’s going to be fun finding out which acts will be barred from entering due to political reasons just as the Russian competitor was barred from entering Ukrainian territory last year and told to perform via satellite feed if at all… [Fun fact: it was the same person meant to perform this year but she didn’t make it through to the grand final].

Usually I enjoy the contest but the near silence regarding the stage invasion by the (even more wooden than usual) presenters acknowledging it and the underwhelming tone of the event, as a whole, really made this worse than many recent years. There were a few outstanding songs but the subdued tone of it all means this year will be quickly forgotten. I think we have all got used to the spectacle of elaborate staging in recent years and that was something that felt like it was missing this year. Perhaps there’s a much tighter budget or something and if so it has had a detrimental effect sadly.

Eurovision 2018 Entrants

These are in alphabetical order and I’ll do a follow up of the live finale in due course.

For coverage of the Grand Final go to Eurovison 2018 Grand Final.

Albania – Eugent Bushpepa: Mall

Uplifting song. It’s the sort of thing that’ll get used in advertising or a feel good TV drama. Not sung in English which hopefully will be the norm this year as I would prefer performers to do their entries in their native language since this is meant to represent each country and not compete for homogeneity. (fun fact: if you look that word up on Google the example sentence it gives is “”the cultural homogeneity of Europe”. But I would comment on that being British and therefore leaving the EU via BREXIT…)

Armenia – Sevak Khanagyan: Qami

Another ‘not sung in English entry’. Very soulful. It’s ‘end credits’ music for a story with a bittersweet ending. It really builds in intensity towards the end. I really like it.

Australia – Jessica Mauboy: We Got Love

I didn’t mind Australia being involved that one year but it’s a little odd to have them in the EUROvision song contest… Inevitably, as seems common nowadays with English language singers, she sounds slightly American. An energetic song and definitely a ‘get up out of your seats and dance’ one. Enjoyable but it doesn’t really stand out. A good entry nonetheless. I can see this becoming someone’s favourite song if it was released unconnected to the Eurovision. Good driving or motivational music for working out due to it’s driving beat.

Austria – Cesár Sampson: Nobody But You

He reminds me of Aloe Blacc’s song ‘I Need A Dollar’ from a few years ago. Kind of a generic pop song as it progresses. I mean I could say that of others but this actually made me think that particular thing… I like the official video for actually doing something a bit more experimental. It’s alright but it seems to rely on the refrain a bit too much for it’s impact. I like it but I can’t see it winning. It gets a bit too repetitous towards the end lyrically.

Azerbaijan – Aisel: X My Heart

This one feels a bit sped up as if you’re playing the video at 1.25 speed on YouTube and yet her voice is soft and restrained… then it kicks it up a gear. It’s a bit ‘Eurivosion anthem’ paint by numbers. There are elements in it that remind me of a number of songs of recent times. Especially with the alternating soft, LOUD, soft, LOUD, juxtapositioning. I feel like this will be an also ran unless the performance at the finale pulls something out the bag. This is the sort of song that is popular on the radio in the summer so maybe it’ll get votes.

Belarus – ALEKSEEV: FOREVER

Looks like the actor Stuart Townsend or musician Pete Doherty in his promo photo. Opens his video by ‘cutting’ his hand for ink and therefore lyrics to bleed out. Pretentious… The song sort of shifts tones a bit too suddenly. It starts off as one thing and shifts to a totally different style. Nevermind he says ‘its something me must call dream’ when you would probably say dreams in that context so the English used is questionable if it was double checked at all. It’s very late 80s/early 90s feeling. I can’t get a grip on it. There’s elements I like but others I just feel are too jarring to allow me to say I like it as a whole. Also it has that repitition of one line issue.

Belgium – Sennek: A Matter Of Time

Instantly I like this song! It reminds me of Moloko or Portishead – that sort of era of music. It, unsurprisingly, considering what she has worked on, has a ‘James Bond film theme tune’ feel to it. I wish the initial ‘echo, echo’ burst of energy was better incorporated; it would have been better to keep the more minor tone until where the second chorus occurs in order to make it have more of an impact towards the end. Another one I’m rating highly.

Bulgaria – EQUINOX: Bones

The intro is very ‘now’. The members haven’t worked together before but it really feels like a well oiled machine. The lyrics are a bit odd regarding ‘I love beyond the bones’. It’s trying to sound deep but it’s like they took a phrase from a randomised English phrase generator and worked it into the song. It’s well made but I can’t say it’ll get far though I hope the members work together again as there’s a seed of potential there. It’s an intro song for a murder drama on TV.

Croatia – Franka: Crazy

The official music video is a high quality production. Another slow, seductive, song. The ‘love, love,love’ bit is a bit too severe a break and then the ‘voice over’ like bit will be interesting to see incorporated. I can’t say it’ll get far to be honest. It’s kind of bland once you step back from it. Another where they add bits that break the tone as if there’s some obligation to do so for the contest and it ruins the song effectively.

Cyprus – Eleni Foureira: Fuego

There’s a nice setting for the official video. It sounds like there’s autotuning to a lot of the vocals which personally I don’t like. It’s very upbeat and another ‘get up and dance’ one. However it also sounds quite generic. I wouldn’t notice this standing out if it was playing on KISS FM or another ‘current music’ radio station. In the official video she has a few ‘nude colour’ clothing scenes but that won’t sway the judges in the end if that’s her costume for the finale. It will however for home votes by horny dads and teenage boys no doubt… except men tend to not vote for these things anyway according to statistics. Honestly this song could have come out ten years ago and you wouldn’t realise it. It’s ‘early era Rhianna’ if you wanted a simple description.

Czech Republic – Mikolas Josef: Lie To Me

Geek chic look. Upbeat but maybe a bit too harsh an intro tonally. The trumpet segway makes it stand out but… it’s clean cut pop but personally it’s a bit ‘rushed’ feeling in it’s tempo. The official video has some visuals reminiscent of Pharell Williams from a few years ago so maybe they got the same video director for this. It’s an okay song but not one I would want to hear repeated too often. Its’s a ‘wake up’ song they’ll probably put about half way through the running order.

Denmark – Rasmussen: Higher Ground

Visually distinct from the more clean cut, clean shaven, entrants. Much more sombre intro and becomes anthemic. Straight away I really like this immensely and it has that distinctly Nordic aspect to it. Their official video isn’t a ‘music video’ like the others but them performing to an audience. That’s refreshing. It’s the sort of song I would like outside the contest but it’s not got that ‘victory grabbing’ je ne sais quoi depending on the crowd on the night…

Estonia – Elina Nechayeva: La Forza

The song reminds me of the music from the Drakengard/NeiR game series. She also performs to an audience. This is a very traditional Eurovision entry. It’ll no doubt do well for that but is it enough? It’s interesting to have classical singing at the contest so who know this might just do it. Singing in Italian might get them some Italian votes potentially though, as I’ve said before, I would prefer nations perform in their native tongue.

FYR Macedonia – Eye Cue: Lost And Found

Eye Que… it’s meant to be a homophone of I.Q. But makes me think of some surrealist painting of eyes queuing in a post office… She sounds very American. It’s a very professional song and official video. It’s a good song but… will it stand out enough to make an impact? The ‘interludes’ seem to cover a variety of styles as if trying to have something for everyone which might put people off. It was enjoyable and eclectic while not being silly. Hopefully it gets them some international coverage and the band will see increased sales after since they’re definitely good albeit not my thing personally. Also cudos on having a guy whose got a receded hairline for once in the competition’s history. Either you’ve a full head of perfectly quaffed hair or our a shiny baldy man… there’s no in between usually.

Finland – Saara Aalto: Monsters

She was the voice of Anna in the Finnish dub of Disney’s Frozen apparently. The music video is good. The song feels generic. You’d dance to it in the club but honestly would forget it moments later. It’s very ‘Eurovision dance music entry’… even for a Eurovision entry…

France: Madame Monsiuer: Mercy

They look like a parody of the stereotype of the French Newwave or how people stereotype Beatniks and, in general, the French at a nation or people at a poetry reading… ‘Look how art house cinema we are’ The song is very good and I’ll listen to again though it definitely has ‘1980s’ tones to it. I have mixed feelings about this. It definitely stands out but it won’t win like other stand out performances have done in the past depending on how it does on the night. Also the pun of ‘mercy’ and the French word ‘merci’ is a bit laboured but then I could say that of a lot of lyrics outside the contest too. Very good. I would listen to more by them. It’s going to do very well, I’m certain, if not possibly win.

Georgia – Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao: For You

That name is a bit on the nose… it almosts sounds like a library classification of what they are. Jokes aside this is really up my street so I’m biased. I want this to win. Even if the intro sounds like it’s leading into a nursery rhyme… It’s just very emotive and has this wonderful soothing impact on you. The sort of song played over a scene of victory as people rejoice. I WANT MORE! In fact when going through the entrants in alphabetic order before the contest I replayed this a second time and it was the only one so far – so that should tell you how much I like it.

Germany – Michael Schulte: You Let Me Walk Alone

It’s bland. It’s a bit like James Blunt, David Gray or one of those singers from around that time.. He’s not a bad singer but it’s not going to get much of a reaction. I wouldnt be surprised if he’s put early on or very late in the proceedings as an also ran entry in the running order. The information on the site more or less described him as a YouTube sensation who sings covers… take that for what it means to you. Once the song’s tempo increased it was much more enjoyable but it was right at the end once most will have tuned him out.

Greece – Yianna Terzi: Oniro Mou

Celtic pipes like intro. It’s a good song and video (if a little pretentious)… but I can’t see it winning. It’ll do well based purely on the capability of the performer on the night. I can imagine this song playing over a montage of someone going over a landscape… which is what the official video depicts with her in a pit. It’s humorous in an all too earnest way.

Hungary – AWS: Viszlát Nyár

‘Modern metal band’ according to themselves. It will definitely standout and could win for being so different. It reminds me of a lot of the ‘soft rock’ sound in recent years. More about screaming than audible lyrics. Actually if you’ve heard the professional lead vocalist ‘screamers’ in such bands and wondered what they would sound like if the lyrics were audible then this is the case study for that. It’s enjoyable as a change of pace from the other entries but it depends who’ll be voting on the night how well it will do. As for me I’ve heard this sort of song a number of times by other bands and nothing stands out in and of itself save they’re of course singing in Hungarian.

Iceland – Ari Ólafsson: Our Choice

A 19 year old who has been in musical theatre. The ‘have a break’ song entry they’ll put after a more energetic one in the running order. It’s incredibly bland and inoffensive. This could have been performed in any year of the Eurovision and not been out of place. It’s the most generic song entry I’ve witnessed… I’m sure he’s a very good performer but the song is incredibly bland.

Ireland – Ryan O’Shaughnessy: Together

He was an actor in an Irish soap opera Fair City. A nice relaxed song. It’s enjoyable. Hopefully it’ll do quite well. There’s not much to add really. The official video depicts a, presumably, gay couple… the dancing is well choreographed as they dance through the streets.

Israel – Netta: Toy

Is she a ‘gag’ entry? The kimono and hair makes her seem so. The video all but confirms the ‘big character’ image… If you took out the bizarre vocal ‘clucking’ bits at the start and during it then this is a good, infectious, song with a very ‘of the moment’ looking music video. Will it win? Probably not but it’ll be a highlight of this year. [edit: Apparently she’s one of the favourites this year so what do I know?]

Italy – Ermal Meta e Fabrizio Moro: Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente

Italy bring out the big guns with an aim of winning at all costs. This will win or come within the top three without question. The official video has lots of political imagery to all but demand points being awarded by the judges viewing it as a protest song. I didn’t like when Ukraine did that a few years ago, let alone the outright ostracisation of the UK entries after the Iraq war, so I prefer politics or any allusion to it be a faux pas in the contest but then with the block voting, despite their best efforts to stop it, and what happened to Russia last year it seems unavoidable. The song is in and of itself excellent. It’s blown everything away so far while going through the entries in alphabetic order. Very anthemic. It’ll definitely be a highlight.

Latvia – Laura Rizzotto: Funny Girl

Woof. This is the sort of bittersweet song I enjoy so without question is one of the highlights for me. The music video is also good though the flashes of harlequinn makeup look needlessly silly like a teenager trying to be spiritually deep because they listened to some sad music. It stands out from many of the others but I think it wont win though it’ll get good scores. I would listen to more by her after the contest nonetheless.

Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaitė: When We’re Old

One of those chocolate box ‘spiritually uplifting’ singers like Nora Jones. It’s a nice slow piece and should do well but the winners of Eurovision usually have stand out presentation, a punchy tone or, as last year, some sort of story behind them if they’re a slower piece. It was good but might be too jarring a minor key shift when compared to other entries with the major key, bombastic, songs. She’s good though and I would be interested to hear what else she has done.

Malta – Christabelle: Taboo

The official video seems needlessly cinematic at the start with a Mad Max: Fury Road tone. It actually distracted me from the song. Once it gets going to reminds me of ‘Warriors’ from last year at times but can’t maintain the same impact. It starts building up then suddenly cuts into this song. Also the singer reminds me of the actress Shona McGarty who plays Whitney Dean on BBC’s Eastenders…

Moldova – DoReDoS: My Lucky Day

Folk-pop… sorry they won me over instantly within a few notes but it’s not anything special. Infectiously energetic and fun in the moment. In 2017, DoReDoS won the contest New Wave in Sochi, Russia and there they caught the attention of Russian singer, songwriter and 1995 russian participant Philipp Kirkorov, who composed the song My Lucky Day for DoReDoS’ entry for the Moldovan national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, O melodie pentru Europa 2018. The songs good as an entry but I won’t recall it after this year’s contest despite what I said… it’s somewhat forgettable and I can see that happening during the votes depending where it is in the running order.

Montenegro – Vanja Radovanović: Inje

I like the music video’s cinematography. I really like the song initially and its orchestral instrumentation. However he looks like the bastard half-brother of Peter Serafinowicz… um it’s okay. I think I’m just distracted too much to really say much about the song itself…

Norway – Alexander Rybak: That’s How You Write A Song

The video is well done. That song name though is a bit cheeky any entry let alone by someone who won the Eurovision contest in 2009 thus it comes across as quite arrogant on his part. It sounds like the sort of upbeat happy song with a ‘sing along’ bit that would win the contest… however I’m bitter and thus hope someone else wins because it kinds of screams he’s got an ego with this entry. It’s the British way: we like underdogs but once you’re on top we want to knock you down…

Poland – Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer: Light Me Up

Festival dance music. After the previous entries Poland has played it relatively safe this year with a strong entry. It could win but it’s not the sort of music I listen to personally. It just kind of washes over me and sounds like all ‘anthemic summer dance festival’ music. The guy with the hat looks like the white bastard lovechild of Pharrell Williams and Will.i.am…

Portugal – Cláudia Pascoal: O Jardim

YES! THIS SONG! A striped back focus on lyrics, vocals and accompaniment… however the lead vocalist in the video does sound like she’s risking having ‘off key’ moments when performing in the final… but at it’s core this is the sort of thing I would want to see more of. Then again it’s this sort of striped back, no hiding behind vocalisers and other tricks, performance which won last year so… maybe this year they’ll opt for omething completely different.

Romania – The Humans: Goodbye

The group name combined with the song title… that’s an interesting choice. Maybe they’re robots. As for the song… it’s a bit dreary at the start. On the whole it’s very Bonnie Tyler (or another 80s female rock singer) with a middle aged garage rockband doing a gig down the pub… Enjoyable but I can’t see it going anywhere.

Russia – Julia Samylova: I Won’t Break

A modern style music video. Auto tuning. Repetitous quasi-dance music… but it’s Eurovision so it fits in. The lyrics are good but I don’t think it’s enough. If it’s to stand a chance they’ll have to pull off something exceptional with the staging. She’s in a wheelchair which reminds me of Poland’s entry a few years ago. She did the opening on the Sochi Paralympics in 2014. In case you forgot Russia got ‘banned’ last year so she was meant to perform then but they let he do it this year instead. It’ll end up an ‘also ran’ and likely due to current attitudes receive few votes if the attitude from last year carries over to this year. It happened with Britian due to Iraq and it’ll happen to them too possibly…

San Marino – Jessika featuring Jenifer Brening: Who We Are

Dancing toy robots and an unflattering costume reminding me of the 1970s… then a rapper in a yoga outfit. It’s an also ran. I can’t add much really. It’s a talent contest entry and looking at the information about them that’s more or less confirmed…. a nice effort but… no where near the quality of others.

Serbia – Sanja Ilić & Balkanika: Nova Deca

Balkan traditional music styles fused with rock equates to music I like. I will defintely be checking out more of their music but I can imagine it’s not everyone’s thing. The costumes for the women aare a bit silly but then it’s Eurovsion so it’s all in keeping I guess. If anything I would have preferred it to stay closer to the traditional aspects or was something like ONUKA’s Vidlik…

Slovenia – Lea Sirk: Hvala, ne!

I read the information on her and it’s basically ‘she finished each stage of education early with flying colours’. The offical video is of her performance on stage. It’s good but the song starts with the lyrics ‘my name is Lea’ and then her offering the audience advice on not accepting negativity from others. In others words if she wasn’t a single person’s creation I would swear it was written by a commity of Disney writers the message so trite and the performance so by the numbers. Also epilepsy warning if you want to watch the video… though you probably watched it first before reading this and are on the floor convulsing… She is an excellent ‘technical’ performer and composer but like such people she has all the technique down but none of the raw je ne sais quoi of ‘creative’ genius… She’ll go far in her career but will be outshone by others inevitably which is a shame.

Spain – Amaia y Alfred: Tu Canción

A lover’s duet. I will be shocked if this doesn’t do well. It’s very honest and really should. Sometimes these things come off as cheesy but vocally this really works. Who knows maybe it’ll (hopefully) win! It just has winning entry written all over it without feeling overly manufactured.

Sweden – Benjamin Ingrosso: Dance You Off

1980s synth music. I like it but it’s a taste. Of course the 80s are on trend right now with the younger generations so it was inevitable someone would appeal to that era’s style as openly as this while mixing some moden aspects. It’s okay. I can’t honestly see it going too far though it might do okay during the votes depending how it goes on the night. It’s a bit ‘Justin Timberlake’ sounding.

Switzerland – ZiBBZ: Stones

Siblings who describe themselves as each others soulmates… incesty just like last year’s winners. The song was meant for a Canadian singer but they used it for themselves instead. She’s got a widebrimmed hat and he’s got a topknot. She’s toured with theatre productions and he won a drumming contest. They had five seasons of their own reality TV series. Anyway the song is pop rock and okay but doesn’t stand out really.

The Netherlands – Waylon: Outlaw In ‘Em

Wannabe American Country music singer… but he did go work with Waylon Jennings before he died in 2001 so… he is one. The song was written with Ilya Toshinskiy who was born in Obninsk, Russia but works in Nashville. It’s a very different song to what’s heard at the Eurovision but is this the slow creep of American influence into Eurovision when it’s been one of the few bastions where American influence had been minimal until recently? I don’t mind it but it’s at risk of losing distinctly European sounds despite the efforts of some acts to preserve, and bring into the modern era, their cultural influences. Unintended American imperialism. It’s a good song nonethless.

Ukraine – MELOVIN: Under The Ladder

His promotional photo makes him look like a male model. On stage he looks like a drama student who takes himself too serious to the point you cringe. I think it’s the shirt more than anything. He’s like one of the Goths from South Park… The song is okay and the staging with the on fire stair case is a nice touch but… eh he’s an also ran to be honest.

United Kingdom – SuRie: Storm

It’s a nice song. It will be used on TV promotions and adverts. I swear I’ve heard it used for those at some point but I can’t have. Tonally it’s different from many other entries and in the minor key. Really the UK is still clawing it’s status back after the whole Iraq thing years ago and now there are more competitors than ever doing their best and proving there are musical artists throughout Europe deserving of more recognition internationally than ever. It’s a good song. We won’t win but hopefully get a decent score and anything in the top half would be good. Pessimistic I know as actually this is better than quite a few I’ve been listening to while writing this but there we go don’t want to blow your own trumpet and seem elitist.

My likely high scorers and potential winners:

Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, FRANCE, Georgia, Ireland, ITALY!!!, Moldova (my dark horse bet), NORWAY (though I hope not), PORTUGAL (if they can pull it off on the night though they’re the hosts and you would assume not want to host it two years on the trot), Serbia, SPAIN (!!!), Netherlands (following the trend of ‘the, stylistically or presentationally, stand out performance usually wins’ logic seen in past years).

The running order in the finale will be:

Each act drew in which half of the Grand Final they would perform. As host country, Portugal drew its exact starting position (8) during the Heads of Delegation meeting in March.

01. Ukraine

02. Spain

03. Slovenia

04. Lithuania

05. Austria

06. Estonia

07. Norway

08. Portugal

break position

09. United Kingdom

10. Serbia

11. Germany

12. Albania

13. France

14. Czech Republic

15. Denmark

16. Australia

break position

17. Finland

18. Bulgaria

19. Moldova

20. Sweden

21. Hungary

22. Israel

23. The Netherlands

24. Ireland

25. Cyprus

26. Italy

The running order is being decided to ensure each act has the opportunity to stand out. The producers look at the genre of music, whether a song is performed by a solo singer or group, the use of props, music tempo and various other aspects of each act.

… well Georgia, of my favourites, got knocked out before the finale. Italy are the final act so that might work against them potentially or cause them to have a landslide victory. Spain is so early it might be forgotten by the voting time. Norway is also on early and France is exactly half way through.

I’ll try to cover the finale by the end of Sunday but as I do a post about the competition each year this will be put up just in case I don’t for some reason.

Disney PIXAR’s Coco: Sticker Collection

£0.60 per pack

5 stickers per pack.

DSC_0536

Stickers in the packet I got:

  • 78: Miguel screaming (meeting someone in the Land of the Dead?)
  • 104: Sepia photo portrait of a man wearing glasses and a bowler hat. The central oval is the ‘main sticker’ to be put in the sticker album and the rest just framing.
  • 111: Land of the Dead: Reception clerk (skeleton)
  • 116: Land of the Dead: Imelda (skeleton) weilding her heeled boot threateningly.
  • 150: Land of the Dead: Ernsesto de la Cruz (skeleton) holding a glowing frament up to his chest. Again it’s a portrait with the outer part acting as a frame which would complete the image if not used with the sticker album which is a nice consideration.

DSC_0530

Review:

The stickers are a non-standard size (86x49mm while the stard size is 76x55mm) which is interesting as Panini tend to keep to the stadard size for quick turn over of printing whatever is the popular series that year. The series is a mix of artwork, film stills and some promotional images.

Personally I prefer the artwork pieces as they are a bit more appealing to me as someone who grew up with 2D animation as if they’re an insight into what this film would have looked like if done in a more traditional style. The quality of the images is very high with details still being legible on close inspection. However at £0.12 per sticker I feel you are best off maybe investing in other products.

I seem to have been lucky and got a lot of ones which had good, stand alone, images of various characters. They’re good quality but price wise maybe it’s asking a bit too much for so few stickers. The backing of the stickers offers some added value for children to colour them in in whatever colours they like too I suppose. They’re good stickers but there are too few per pack so it’s not worth it unless you absolutely have to have some stickers of the film.

Made and published in Italy by PANINI S.p.A.

Viale Emilio, Po 380, 41126 Modena

www.paninigroup.com

FSC C115044 MIX Paper

 

Strike: The Silkworm

An irreverent look at this case which today is about the murder of a novelist and the intrigues of the book publishing world. In other words Rowling, by the second book, was out of ideas and wrote what she knew – just like Stephen King does by having all his protagonists be writers of one flavour or another. Written by J. K. Rwoling under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith i.e. the pseudonym everyone tends to forget to use when referring to the author of the C.B. Strike series of crime fiction novels.

So is this a veiled jab at people Rowling herself, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith though everyone knows it’s her, encountered in her career? We can only wonder.

Long story short this case is ‘wanker writer got killed for being a complete wanker and everyone around him in the publishing world was somewhere on the sliding scale of wankerdom themselves’. There are no likeable characters – pitiable ones yes – but no likeable ones. Except Strike and even then that’s more because he’s the leading man and isn’t an arsehole to anyone intentionally unless they ‘deserve it’ in Rowling’s mind.

[Editorial note: Did you see this broadcast on the BBC on the 10th and 17th August 2017? Did you see this elsewhere when it was first aired? Guess what – I typed notes the hour after the broadcast and only now got around to tidying them up so if this is in any way mildly inaccurate… roll with it please for humour’s sake.]


Part 1 (Episode 3 of the short series).

Today Robin happily risks her future marriage as she still has dreams of being a private dick… although as we will see the dickishness of last time wasn’t an isolated event and she only escalates further down the rabbit hole of being a Mary Sue.

We open with a mystery woman reading an article in a magazine, cutting it out and pinning it to her chest then putting her head in the oven to commit suicide. What’s that? ‘It sounds exactly like how Sylvia Plath killed herself’ I hear you mention? Yes, yes it does doesn’t it? Rowling is going meta-intertextual on us. Be in awe of her post-modernist genius! And I’ll ruin the little mystery of this stinger by telling you now that the mystery woman wrote a book which was parodied by a more successful author, Owen Quine, and this drove her to suicide. Or did it? Yes, yes it did – there was a corpse found in the kitchen. But did Quine author the parody? That’s the subplot of this murder investigation and the key to solving it. Thus Quine becomes the ‘main case’ murder victim and the woman’s husband a, if not the main, murder suspect. The adaption clearly wanted to get your attention but you don’t get context for this scene until far, far, later.

At the core of this investigation is the anonymous distribution of Quine’s Bombyx Mori a controversial manuscript in which its protagonist, ‘Bombyx’, is a writer who is repeatedly abused, tormented and ultimately eaten alive by the people in his life whilst going to extraordinary lengths to capture and preserve his talent for their own selfish gains. Bombyx is Owen Quine and all the caricatures in the book are the people around him in the literary world he hated and felt were feeding off his success. Yeah, no, this couldn’t possibly be Rowling venting a little whatsoever…

Did you think there would be different introduction music for each case? Well apparently not. I mean they paid for one song. What do you think they’re made of money? That in adapting a sure-fire ratings winner being shown on the BBC they could afford to take that extra step so it’s the start of a separate case and not ‘episode 3’ of an ongoing series? (Who do you think they are? Netflix?) But surely you realise that’s how TV adaptions of ongoing crime novel series are! Can you name the different cases of Morse? No. Anything by Agatha Christie doesn’t count as you tend to learn those by social osmosis so ‘case theme tunes’ are pointless.

[instrumental] Me and you… you and me… we’re in this together… we definitely don’t have sexual tension and will end up together, by the end, though it all, you clearly don’t love your fiancé, and I’m clearly single… you and me… me and you… solving cases, knowing one day you’ll steal my clients, if our relationship breaks down, once you’re qualified as a private detective… [fade out]

Next Strike is with his ex and she asks how he can still love her. But it was a dream. It’s always a dream. He’s a disgruntled protagonist. His lot in life is not to be happy. Ever. Just like real people but only more so.

He’s in a cramped loft/attic conversion bedroom. Robin pops in to wake him up… so he’s living in her attic? I mean the rooms never given context so… um,yes? And yet her fiancé has never met him… Or it’s a side room of the office… but that’s not as amusing to imagine and if it was he didn’t use it during the Cuckoo case.

This is followed by a mystery man walking through an office to meet another mystery man. Who are they? You won’t have a clue when we get to the next scene so it’s all smoke and mirrors which is meaningless as you’ll have forgotten what they said in a few minutes. It was Daniel Chard, the president of Roper Chard (played by Tim McInnerny a.k.a. Percy off Blackadder who everyone forgets because Hugh Laurie replaced his ‘role’ on the series as being the nice but dim upper class figures) and the publisher but good luck remembering their names. Daniel Chard says he, the other man in the office, Quine’s alcoholic editor, Jerry Waldegrave wrote the letter. Ooh intrigue. And yes I’ve had to go look up the names as all at once the ‘literary world’ characters are interchangeable looking and yet each has a very different position within it though really they could all have their dialogue said by the wrong person and you wouldn’t notice except Elizabeth whose clearly bitterness and miasma of cigarette smoke makes her distinct.

Back with Strike he has a pushy client called Mr Baker complaining. Once he’s gone Strike calls him a tosser and tells him to settle the bill of services he’s accrued. Yes that character’s name I remembered and yet any names from now on have had the help of Wikipedia to confirm. Next the dead author’s wife, Leonora Quine, comes and needs his services.

Unlike a film noir detective she ain’t a leggy dame whose legs go on and on for miles and won’t quit running through the gritty detective’s mind ‘cuz them’s ain’t just legs them’s gams!’ Nope she’s a housewife, maybe even a just barely allowable ‘TV ugly’ looking woman as they’ve made the actress look as plain as possible in bagging clothing, unflattering glasses and such to the point you wonder if Rowling spent a page or two languishing over a detailed description of how normal she looked in contrast to all the glamorous people from the Cuckoo case. ‘Look I can write normal, working class, people too!’ she declares to the one person on an obscure internet forum (or Twitter) she chanced upon in the early hours of the morning. Even if she does write them as if they have severe emotional problems or one track minds she can write them… sort of… but they need some single characteristic to make them vile to the reader’s refined middle-class sensibilities. COUGHtheblowjobwomanwhohelpedStrikeoutlasttimeCOUGH.

Leonora, which is a fancy name for such a ‘look how boringly normal she is’ character to be honest, said her husband went to a retreat called Bigly Hall and has been away ten days.

Strike phones the retreat pretending he is doing so on grounds he is giving Owen a medical report. Owen isn’t there. Strike, who seems fed up of having work, says he won’t charge and see her out though she protests. Who needs an income? Robin tells him who she was, who Owen Quine is… blah blah blah you know the usual ‘Rowling thinks female heroines are walking databases’ stereotype though in Robyn’s case she is using an online search engine (not at all Google of course otherwise they might have to pay some form of royalties) and looking at an encyclopedia entry (not at all Wikipedia for the same reason… in fact she might be reading the wiki page for the Strike TV series… and reading spoilers on some pages so she’s one step ahead of the game).

Then they go for drinks. Because that’s what people do after work as far as TV land is concerned. No one is ever tired, hungry or has responsibilities in day-to-day life… I’ve seen it done on Casualty and Holby City too to name one other ‘drama series’ that has this sort of mentality. Work is life. Work will set you free. Welcome the freedom of death. In the meantime get drunk in the evening to numb the existential angst of the middle class malaise.

But they take the case as Leonora insists upon it. Robin is pushed back twice to no avail. The police won’t help so Strike HAS to help. Because he has the protagonist disease which affects him like a very specific form of OCD where he is compelled to help people in need…

Thus literary agent Elizabeth Tassel appears on the scene at the pub, but not the same pub as during the Cuckoo case, and we get her life story all in one go though no one asked for it. We get her life story every time she is on-screen. Why do we learn so much about her and her hatred of the industry she works in? Have you guessed yet? No… well okay we can wait a little longer as this is only the first strike over the head we’ve got so far.

She is a failed writer who became a literary agent. She lives and works on the fringe of the London literary community, which she deeply resents, and expresses by bullying her staff. She smokes a lot and has a dog that’s very ill. She’s a bit of a bitch so is immediately unlikable anyway. Also she is smoking in a public space which you would think would have a member of staff telling her to stop, her giving a ‘witty’ putdown and then the staff member saying ‘No… really… you need to put that out according to the British law because you can go do one if you think we’re going to get fined because of you’.

She can help. But she won’t help. Does she have a reason? Hmm do you think there’s a reason she won’t help? Is she perhaps contrasting someone from the first case who was too helpful?

DO YOU KNOW WHAT ROLE SHE PLAYS IN THE STORY YET?

She claims she fired Owen as he wrote a thinly disguised attack on the people around him which made the manuscript unpublishable. Strike notices an old black and white photo of her and other authors. Why it’s not in colour as most if not all cameras by that point were colour ones would have been I don’t know… just that convention dictates ‘old photos must be sepia or monochrome’ in TV land. Which means anyone who possesses a monochrome photo is doomed to suffering by default as if it instantly becomes a cursed object.

Owen taught a creative writing course. He considered Liz a hinderance. Then she mentions her dog’s poo is like rocks. DOGGIE DUN A POO POO! DATZ FUNNY!

She asks a waiter for green tea. He asks if it’s for the dog. No, she replies sharply, it’s for her – for her throat. Well yeah if you’re going to wave your dog about in a restaurant and ask for a drink while doing so the staff are going to leap to conclusions inevitably. You see a lot of odd people in the service industry just by sheer force of numbers you come into contact with so this kind of request is expected. Also green tea isn’t going to solve that throat cancer you’ll be getting one day since you smoke like an industrial era chimney Liz…

Back in the office Robin is ‘working’ by watching an interview of Owen’s on ‘Not-YouTube’ and remarks to Strike that Quine wasn’t a fan of short sentences. [Unlike Rowling who is criticising some unknown writer it can be assumed… part of me secretly wishes it was David Foster Wallace – someone who is dead and whose legacy is secured as one of the truly great writers while for all her money she will never be held in anywhere near the same esteem as him… and at least it would explain the treatment of the dog by the end if you know how fond Wallace was of dogs…].

Strike takes this moment to do a job evaluation and have a slight heart to heart with her. He tells Robin she is worth more than he is paying her and that they’re in debt again. How?

Okay… more importantly:

  1. How many employers have ever said such a thing to an employee? Only one’s who want something. And by something I mean unpaid work or beginning a tryst via flattery.

  2. How the hell is he in debt again when he has to turn away business he is so overwhelmed with people seeking his help?! It’s never explained.

So the editor (or someone else) is at Quine’s house unseen by the audience. He leaves and Leonora says he smelt of wine. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing. It’s a red herring. The guy likes a drink and spilt some on himself… not that the story ever clears that up.

Meanwhile Robin is in a bookshop. Why? Because the theme of this investigation is literature… um… that’s it. Rowling’s the only author who could write about a book shop and make it seem as interesting as IKEA’s ‘zone of boxed flatpacks’ next to the checkouts. Robin doesn’t discover anything.

Liz visits Robert…

Um… okay… at this point I should note a lot of the book characters got cut out and I think some must have been amalgamated. The adaption has a guy called Robert but that’s not on the Wikipedia page. Anyway the woman in the stinger who committed suicide was his wife.

So word is he has read Quine’s manuscript of Bombyx Mori. Then its noted her dog is shitting on the lavender in his garden. IT’S FUNNY CUZ DA DOGGIE DUNNA ANOTHER POO POO AND SHE DON’T CARE LOLZ! ROFLCOPTER! … and in other words the mentality of the following level of humour regarding repition of a simple joke:

but in fact it’s not just humour but a clue as to… if you haven’t figured out yet I won’t tell you. Someone’s a bad egg and we all know animal cruelty is ‘Bad Person behaviour 101’.

Strike is with Leonora and Liz visits him. Leonora thinks Owen was, as usual, sleeping around, shagging around (wombling free, the Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we)… whatever you want to call it he wasn’t faithful because apparently writers get fangirls willing to sleep with them all the time. (So… meta-narrative time: Did Rowling get a lot of offers from her fans?) Which is a good time to mention Stephen King’s novel Misery…

for no reason except, you know, I just want you to remember there’s a dark side to fandom… it’s not all fans wanting to crawl up inside you like eels.

some want to cause harm due to obsession. Moving on.

So walking down the road Strike sees a newspaper kiosk. Shocking! Who knew those still existed in this day and age?

But that wasn’t the focus. He sees his ex, Charlotte, has done a photo shoot with her new husband for the May cover of a gossip magazine. ‘Hello’, ‘Now’… you know the sort. The ones you see ancient editions of in the waiting rooms of doctor and dentist surgeries… So old that you have ‘these two celebs got together, then under a mouldy children’s book the ‘they’ve had kids’ edition and in someone else’s hands across the room the ‘they’ve had a divorce’ edition sometimes all three published during the same year. Well it seems his ex met and got engaged in what seemed a matter of days or a fortnight during the last case so to be honest he should be happy he got rid of her.

On a side note: if she isn’t the victim of one of the later novels I will be surprised. Either that or she turns out to be the murderer – thus further enforcing the ‘it’s Strike and Robin’s destinies to be together forever [in accordance with authorial mandate]’ storyline Rowling keeps dropping hints about. Saying that Robin’s fiance is also high on the list of likely ‘series long’ characters up for a ‘dull shock’ murder of a long time cast member. Put money on it. It’s certain to be one of them if not both.

Next we see a woman burning pages in an outdoor fire. This is Katherine or Pippa… or an amalgamation of the two. She isn’t that important really.

At the pub Strike finally meets Robin’s fiancé Matthew Cunliffe. Get it? Cunliffe because, as heavy-handed as her caricaturisation is of him Rowling couldn’t get away with calling him the four letter word outright.

So Matt asks if Strike plays rugby and then talks about rugby a lot. Because he is a man and men play rugby. Rugger bugger. Strike jokes he used to be his highschool champ. (Wait… did England have high schools before recently? It’s a very American term for secondary school a.k.a. Comprehensive for the approximate age of the character). I guess Robin never mentioned the leg issue as the joke falls flat. Unless Strike was being serious in which case add it to the pile of ‘I can’t write characters who are not the very best in every single thing they do’ which, for Strike alone includes him being in the military police, the son of a rock star, Robin being… Robin and so on.

Robin and Matt have been together 9 years. I take it that’s meant to suggest that they never married because they didn’t feel like making that step rather than because they couldn’t afford to. They’re to wed in eight weeks. BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT DESTINIED TO BE! BECAUSE OMG, WTF, STRIKExROBIN IS THE OP! LIKE STRIN / ROKE SHIPPING! SO ROKE! CORMORANxROBIN = CORBIN… (um, wait… like the current Labour political party leader’s surname but ‘I’ instead of ‘y’… that’s a little cunning a political leanings suggestion hidden in there). STRIKE IS SO HER TYPE! STRIKE NEEDS A WOMAN LIKE HER TO FIX HIM! Etc, etc…

Matt jokes she was the only half fit girl with brains at school/university. Because yeah that’s how you write guys in relationships… I mean I hear that sort of joke made but under no context is it funny. Rowling has serious issues and is venting about someone she knew. Rowling just wants to make sure that at no point will we consider him even a flawed human being – he’s an obstacle to be overcome for Strike and Robin to be together. It’s not even subtle. I can only imagine he might get the old ‘redemption in death’ treatment somewhere down the line if he’s lucky. Matt also speaks derisively about detective work… because [rinse and repeat earlier ‘non-case related antagonism’ comments].

Strike goes to the bar to get a drink and offers to buy them a round. While he’s away, in what seems to be a distance of about 6 metres, Matt criticises him. Robin is sad as she could move up the ladder… really? How about ‘Matt shut up he’s stood right there’ or ‘shut up he’s a decent bloke’ or… not being a single-minded, career focused, selfish cow? She and Matt deserve each other. Matt doesn’t want Strike at the wedding. So either the adaption really failed to get across the animosity here or it’s poor heavy handed writing. Any way you look at it Matt is a pantomime villain in the level of complexity given to his character. A few months earlier in the Tom Hardy series Taboo they had a character who every time he came on-screen used racial slurs on the main character for being mixed race and it’s about the same level of writing albeit against a disabled man rather than a mixed race man.

Strike looks at the wedding invite he’s been given. He recalls Charlotte and her claim she was pregnant once when he broke up with her. Was she? Wasn’t she? We never know as she is an almost never seen satellite character.

The next day Strike mockingly calls Robin by her middle name. She tells him it was because she was conceived in Venice. Why do people get told such things? ‘Oh such fond memories of your dad and I rutting like wild rabbits while in Tuscany’. No, no one wants to know that sort of thing – especially not Tim Upagainstthebikeshedbehindthechippy’ Bristols, Gordon ‘slagheap’ Wells or Julie ‘Cockett’ Mouth…

Someone keeps a blog. Strike, when asked by Robin, is polite and says Matt seemed like a nice bloke.

Robin finds Katherine, a.k.a miss page burner.

They go visit her and she says she though she and Owen were friends until she read the book. Yeah she’s just a narrative device so not even worth flippant commentary…

Back at the office they find out Owen co-owned a house with Joe North, an American writer (with an All-American name) friend of Quine and Fancourt. He died of AIDS while writing about his experiences living with the disease. After lying abandoned for twenty years, the house where North died became the scene of Quine’s murder. I had to look that up as the information is thrown at you so fast and matter of factly you’ll miss it. It doesn’t have any great bearing on events but it is odd finding what bits they feel the need to tell you about and which bits they omit or skim over quickly.

Leonora gives them keys to the house. It’s never brought up who else has keys to the house and it’s one of the things they never bring up again despite that being something you would want to know about considering the circumstances while eliminating lines of enquiry. Leonora mentions she also has a copy of Bombyx Mori as it was left anonymously on the doorstep. It’s noted that this is odd considering a copy would be in the house already, as this is Owen’s home, and Owen kept numerous filing boxes filled with ideas for various books so Leonora would definitely have a copy of the manuscript somewhere in the house already. Owen and Leonora have a daughter named Orlando. To me Orlando is a male name, e.g. Orlando Bloom, but maybe it’s genderless and so fine – albeit it’s no doubt another ‘commemorating where we had sex’ name by the parents… She has down’s syndrome. She is the only person who doesn’t have a character based on them in Bombyx Mori implying she was the only person he truly cared for. So.. you know… even a nasty bastard can have redeeming qualities. That or he didn’t even consider her to have agency and thus was more a pet than child. But they dodgy that implication. [Although, arguably the ‘real’ writer of those controversial bits of Bombyx just didn’t know of the girl or chose not to write of her.]

Orlando likes to draw and steal things. She misses her dad and it’s not clear if she understands he is dead.

Strike introduces himself and notes he is named after an Irish giant. I can’t help but remember the whole Viktor Crumb thing in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where Rowling felt the need to correct people’s’ pronunciation of the name Hermione. It was fine then since it was a book series aimed primarily at children, with a far more limited range of dictional variants to call upon, but here she is definitely speaking down to the audience ‘look at the references I’m making – I’m so smart and have such a wide breadth of knowledge you can’t keep up so I need to put it in simple terms for you’. No… it’s just Cormoran is a rare name outside of Irish circles. I mean just because you choose rare names for characters that doesn’t make your writing better. If I called a character Islwyn ap Morgannwg that doesn’t mean my audience are stupid because they don’t know ap Morgannwg means ‘of Glamorgan’ but just because they’re unfamiliar with the cultural reference. The fact she has explained Robin’s middle name and Strike’s first name screams that she is trying too hard and just feels the overwhelming need to speak down to her audience.

Also Matt doesn’t care for Cormoran’s name. Because Matt is a bad man. Have you realised that yet or does he need to go into the town square and kill some puppies Caligula style before you’ll accept it? Rowling doesn’t think you do yet.

Strike reads the manuscript. On the screen grim imagery flashes depicting the Marquis de Sade style scenes of the book. Well it’s more de Sade crossed with Clive Barker and a side of Bret Easton Ellis I guess. So instead he watches the football. Because he’s a bloke and football is the default for relaxing television what with the inevitable screaming at the TV when your team isn’t doing well. Football for the common man, rugby for the elite – unless your Welsh in which cae rugby is treated like a religion. Hence it’s another Strike/Matt contrast. The next day he asks Robin to read the book.

Meanwhile he goes to the co-owned house which he finds is in ruins internally.

Here he finds the mutilated corpse of Owen Quine disembowelled and arranged like the cocoon a butterfly or moth has emerged from.

He photos it… because that’s another habit of his besides going to the pub for a pint and watching football. Because that’s what men do – just like women drink wine, are eternally fascinated by shoes, enjoy afternoon teas and watch soap operas in Rowlingland. This is Rowling’s standard of writing nuanced caricaturisation. Broad enough people can identify with it as it’s so blandly unimaginative you would forget the characters five minutes later if her name wasn’t plastered all over it.

He then phones Robin to tell her Owen is dead. It’s grim. Imagine one of the crime scenes from the film Se7en. Robin comes over and looks too. She, unused to crime scene viscera, has no reaction to it which is a bit psychotic really. In fact it’s incredibly suspicious. I secretly hope she turns out to be a villain later in the series. She shows Strike the book and he reads the ending of it. It’s exactly like the crime scene before them as it involves people tearing out Owen’s innards.

Matt calls Robin. His mother is dead. She had a stroke. Robin leaves to be at his side. Strike asks her to relay that he’s sorry for Matt’s loss.

Later Strike is chatting to Detective Steve at Richard’s house and the forensics is too difficult to process due to the use of acid which has all but stopped them using that for evidence. All they know is that there was a woman with a duffel bag seen coming to the property and leaving there.

POP QUIZ: How many female characters, assuming it wasn’t a transsexuals or transvestite, have we seen so far? Who can we eliminate from the inquiry? So is the murderer:

  • The bitter and twisted Elizabeth (with her dog whose got bowel issues mentioned whenever she appears CUZ DAT FUNNY… though it isn’t really).

  • The worried wife (who, if she did it, will have done exactly the same as the previous case’s murderer having needlessly brought Strike’s attention to the case and would have got away with it otherwise… just like a Scooby Doo villain).

  • The downs syndrome daughter (who loves her dad thus would be setting depictions of disabled people back about 50 years as ‘dangers to society’ who can’t be trusted to not act violently if left unsupervised and should be locked away in asylums so society may forget about them as was the case back then alongside single mothers, politically disagreeable elements, artistic sorts and anyone else who just ‘wasn’t our sort’ to ‘normal’ middle class people).

  • The disenfranchised student/friend/lover (who got the book after the fact to give her motive for the murder).

  • The rejected male to female transsexual lover (who is actually missing from the TV adaption hence why you thought I was being pedantic when mentioning transsexuals earlier).

  • Or it could be a man mistaken for a woman. It could be. It isn’t… But it could be.

It’s brought up that Leonora was a fan of Owen’s writing and was a butcher’s daughter in Hay-on-Wye before their marriage. So:

  1. Hay-on-Wye is a town of bookshops in Wales. She couldn’t come from somewhere more likely – No, it had to be from the town of books because this story’s theme is literature. Funny that really as she isn’t Welsh sounding but then there are so many wannabe Bohemian English people in that town it is technically an English town in Wales.

  2. There’s a hint of elitism here as this is revealed as if it’s something that should cause shock in the reader not seen since the Victorian sensationalist novels. How could a common butcher’s daughter be married to a successful author? It’s presented like there is some other aspect to it we are not told of. I assume in the book there’s some mention Owen knocked her up while at the annual literature festival in town and felt pressured into making an honest woman of her and the result of their union was their daughter. But the TV adaption skips that completely unless it was said so quickly in passing I missed it.

Strike says he knows the killer read the book. So we can remove a few of the remaining suspects can’t we? Apparently Owen and Leonora had an argument out on the street but Strike thinks Leonora wouldn’t have the ingenuity to commit the killing. Why is not explained. Working class people are cattle who can’t do something as elaborate as this sort of revenge murder. That’s the underlying message again from Rowling. Leonora throughout the case is presented as someone who is barely capable of coherent thought let alone being proactive in matters. She is presented almost as in need of care as much as her daughter if I’m honest as the show does everything in its power to demean her.

If you ever saw Harry Enfield’s depiction of the working class throughout his various sketch shows I feel this is very much in that ilk except it’s at the expense of the subject and not at the prejudice elitist arrogance of the ones observing.

Meanwhile Matt and Robin are in tears in their bedroom. He’s crying for his loss. Robin is crying she isn’t out and about playing detective as Strike’s sidekick.

Strike interviews Leonora but he can’t help her with the case. Police found photos. They take Lenora away into custody as the prime suspect. She screams out, Orlando becomes distressed, and Leonora is dragged away in tears. Leonora fears for her daughter as it’s only ever been her and Owen caring for their daughter. Except there is someone. Who they are isn’t known as they’re played by an extra whose presumably from social services. In fact that raises far more questions than it should but we never spend even a second on it.

In the next scene its morning and Robin makes Matt breakfast. He asks her to get the day off work. She tells him she will ask. Strike emails her at 5AM about the case. He then calls her and asks how Matt is doing. Because Strike’s a decent human being who wants to get on with both of them. He even tells Robin, unprompted, to take as much time as she likes. However, offended, she counters that they’ve already had clients complain because they’re behind schedule with their ongoing investigations. Um… no. Stay with your man in his hour of need Robin. Honestly Strike can’t win. He is considerate of a guy whose constantly belligerent to him, Robin is openly aiming to become a detective and likely take his client base from him after he’s paid for her training (which is what she wants to happen). He would be better off going back to doing it all by himself really. (and he kind of does later on in a later case but that’s a story for another time…).

So this is part one of this case’s ‘moments we are not meant to dislike Robin though we clearly will’. I mean seriously. I know there are people who justify themselves saying ‘oh I needed to get out of there! They were being so miserable.’ Well yes that’s what grieving is unsurprisingly. If he was like that six months down the line fine but Matt just lost his mother so I think he’s allowed a free pass for the moment to grieve. Rowling really just has some odd perspectives on things like this. Yes Matt is a thoroughly unlikable guy but to have Robin make excuses to leave him grieve alone is cruel. We get it. She really wants to be a detective and is single-minded in that pursuit but you can’t brush off this sort of behaviour time after time throughout the stories.

Strike has a meeting arranged with a man in Devon and Robin insists she will drive them there (in a hire car). And she does. As if you can just walk up and get a hire car instantly. Strike says why Devon. Robin remarks at least it’s not Cornwall. What, did Rowling have a bad experience in Cornwall too? That’s a bit out of left field save that it’s a further drive. She really is venting through this book it feels and the adaptions not being able to cover everything though no doubt some stuffs been left out.

They arrive at Daniel Chard’s country house with modern internal décor and are asked to take their shoes off before entering. Then Daniel, who has injuries to his hands from broken glass, says actually Strike doesn’t need to due to his leg. Daniel gets his… Thai?… servant to make coffee.

Daniel only wishes to speak to Strike so Robin goes to the kitchen. Sidekicks in the kitchen then. Send the woman to the kitchen… Rowling the feminist adhering to traditional gender role room allocation in a house.

Daniel reveals that Owen had an accomplice. He knows because there are things in the book which Owen couldn’t have known about. There is a reward of £10,000. This reward is never brought up again nor if Strike gets it when he dicovers the other author at the end. Daniel asks Strike if he’s read the book and confides it has things about him and Andrew in it.

Andrew’s wife was the suicide at the beginning. Liz says they were close. She considered Owen a genius and she had a crush on Andrew. Info dump…

Robin goes to the toilet. Manny, the Thai servant/boyfriend, blurts out he didn’t push Daniel down the stairs but in fact he fell down them by himself. This is never expanded on. In the book it was implied Daniel was gay. Well the TV series turned that up to eleven then… it’s implied there was a lover’s quarrel prior to Strike and Robin arriving. Not much to add… they just kind of leave it there as something they added but never developed. It therefore reminded me of a scene from Sasha Baron Cohen’s film Bruno unintentionally due to how petite the guy was. The one with the fire extinguisher. Go look it up. No in fact here’s a clip. It might even be the same actor for all I know…

Daniel adds Strike, and after a moment at Strike’s insistence, Robin on the guest party list so they can meet people involved in the events. That’s convenient of course but at least somewhat believable in contrast to the last case where they just seemed to walk in everywhere with little resistance.

Later Robin and Strike meet in a cafe and recount, in public, the key points of the case. Just to make sure the audience have kept up. I expect in a later book, if they do these in public cafes, for a suspect to sit in there and overhear what they’ve found out and used it to their advantage since this is so foolish. Ignoring too their poor manners in public but speaking so loud in a small cafe too.

Robin suddenly comes out and wants to know what Strike wants – as if he owes her something apparently. He says he wanted to train her he can’t consciously do so if she’s marrying someone who hates the work. He needs a person who can do the hours and tells Robin it’s the reason he and Charlotte broke up. He would pay for a partner to go on a training course but not an assistant. Then jokes, to try to lighten the mood now he’s said this, by asking for a bite of Robin’s sandwich. Robin says it’s not a good sandwich. GET IT? SHE’S SAYING SHE’S DAMAGED GOODS SUBTEXTUALLY… also no employer has offered training without some sort of price to be paid and Robin has done nothing but badger him about becoming a detective as if he owes it to her from the moment she first entered his office as an agency paid office temp helping put his paperwork in order.

Later they’re on a country lane, in the hire car, where there is a build up of traffic as a vehicle has broken down and it’s created a bottleneck. That it didn’t completely stop the traffic was a miracle from my experience where many country lanes are barely wide enough for one vehicle let alone have enough you can create a bottle neck where there is still movement. But then I know what I’m talking about here in Wales unlike a writer who is secluded in her mansion who had a somewhat comfortable, urban focused, life beforehand.

So what does Robin do? Wait and go past the traffic issue in a few minutes like a normal person being safe on the road? No. Of course not. She reverses, drives into a field and pulls off some off-road motor rally driving stunts drifting around gates and such. Strike is of course nervous as she is doing this with the mad, glassy-eyed, smile of a sociopath mowing down pedestrians.

They get past the block in the road… all 20 metres of it down the road though Robin seemed to drive about four times that distance through the fields and probably could have made their trip that much shorter by not doubling back.

So.. yeah. Those fields are private property of the farms and she just caused what could legally be deemed property damage. They were not on a tight schedule or anything either to thinly justify this little action sequence. She just felt like it and thus did it because she got frustrated for a few minutes having to deal with the reality of traversing rural roads. Prime detective material there… no wonder Strike wanted to train her.

Strike asks what she was doing. She tells him she did an advanced driving course. She says this smugly implying ‘see I can do anything’ as if driving in a field is the same as deducing the facts of a criminal case , potentially, having an innocent person prosecuted if you’ve got your facts wrong. But let’s face it Robin is becoming a textbook case study example of sociopathic tendencies. She didn’t get what she wanted so she intimidated Strike through reckless behaviour. You can argue it was ‘girl power’ showing him she was capable but he had good reason not to arbitrarily turn to his office administrator and ask ‘why don’t you become a detective?’

Strike has a voice message on his phone. He should also have his last will and testament after Robin’s actions today if he’s sensible. Andrew says he won’t read the book and he didn’t like Owen.

Leonora is taken into prison from the house and for no real reason they have her daughter on the doorstep there to further distress the girl. Classy. I half wonder if this was some criticism of the social services depicting them negatively in the book because Rowling once, and just once, had some trouble with them before Harry Potter took off.

Robin drives to the train station, jumps out and runs to the train to go back to Matt.

Oh great. Yes, let’s pretend like you care now. She even sits in the first class carriage to make sure she doesn’t associate with the common people. In fact she comes across like the subject of Pulp’s song now I think of it. She wants the detective life but doesn’t seem to appreciate what it entails.

And in the meantime she leaves Strike stranded in the ‘loading/unloading bay’ in the car… that’s not even a joke. I’m not sure he even knows what is going on for a moment as she ditches him so suddenly.

He offers a passing Irish girl £20 if she will drive him home. That doesn’t look dodgy at all… but what else can he do? There’s a whole mini-adventure here we never see occur on-screen.

Then he gets a call about Leonora telling him she’s been taken to prison.

DUN DUN DURR.

But no really how did he get home? What was the Irish girl’s reaction? What happened after? Questions that will never be answered.


Part 2 (Episode 4 of the series).

Fun fact: I lost most of my original notes on this episode – hence the long delay after it’s broadcast to the point the next case ‘Career of Evil’ has already aired the first half – so this is mostly working off an edited compilation of scenes uploaded by Katerina Varela. Give her page and videos some support on YouTube please as they’re a great help thouh they omit anything not featuring Strike and Robin.

Robin watches an interview of Owen again. His first wife committed suicide. Nothing comes of this oddly. Maybe it was discussed more in the book.

Strike is in a mystery location. Robin calls him and asks ‘are you awake?’ when he answers. Well I don’t know if ‘sleep phone-answering’ is the 21st century version of sleepwalking but I would hesitate it’s a yes – unless his phone was stolen… They discuss the wife and she offhandedly thanks him for letting her stay a little longer with her grieving fiance… but quickly goes back to discussing the case so clearing it was just an empty courtesy and she wasn’t grateful really…

Next thing you know Strike is walking down the stairs to his office and Robin is there. He says it’s Sunday. She knows. She says ‘I think we should start taking a closer look at Andrew Fancourt, don’t you?’ which of course is a loaded question. She is dictating that they should. Honestly could she be any more thirsty to become a detective… she says she’s got his address and ‘let’s go’.

ORPHANED SCENES FROM MY ORIGINAL NOTES WHICH OCCUR AT SOME POINT DURING EPISODE TWO

  • Robin reads a section. Strike says Leonora is innocent. He even goes as far as to bet his good leg on it. If he lost the bet this would become a British remake of Ironside…

  • At the prison Strike has his female lawyer friend (who we’ve never heard of before) represent Leonora. The dilapidated house couldn’t be sold and the items used in the murder had been bought with the Quine family credit card. Her husband spoke to her of the novel. Strike warns her that could be used against her. Yes apparently it’s Strike who needs to say that and not the legally trained person he brought along. Is she just arm candy for him or as a blunt diagesis narrative excuse to explain how he got access to Leonora in the prison?
  • Leonora is angry Strike didn’t keep her out of prison. She just wants to see her daughter again.
  • He later has lunch with his half-brother in a bar. The actor, if he isn’t Tom Burke’s real life brother, looks a lot like him. They have the ‘we are related but not close though we like each other’ sort of dialogue you can expect of characters who will become more relevant later in the series once Rowling has a use for them (as murder suspects/victims most likely). The brother flirts with the waitress at this exclusive place and gets the information Strike needs as they catch up with each other.
  • We cut to Robin running in the countryside as if there’s nothing else happening in life at the moment. No doubt it’s excused as a bit of trendy mindfulness – which right now is a bit selfish really for her to be doing. Matt, still holed up at home, answers her phone when it rings. So Robin, who so desperately wants to get back on the case left her phone behind? I’ve seen plenty of runners have their phones on an armband so this seems coincidental. This convenience allows him to discover she hired a car for ‘being Strike’s taxi’. She could afford to do that but not stay and help him arrange his mother’s funeral he decides. In fairness he has a very good point as she put career (or more exactly her desire for a career she is unqualified for as of yet despite throwing it in her employers face constantly) ahead of emotional support for someone she is engaged to and you would assume loves though we are shown no signs of it. Are there any negative consequences for Robin’s decisions ever? No. No, there are not. Because Robin is perfect and untarnished in the mind of the writer.
  • Back at the prison Strike and his friend are leaving and she warns him to have no relapses regarding Charlotte. He laughs it off but indeed both wordlessly know it isn’t that easy for him. Even tertiary characters are more emotionally developed than some of the main cast… Now her use to get Strike access to Leonora is over she disappears from the story never to be seen again.
  • Strike goes to see Richard. a.k.a. Mr police detective. Strike can’t believe Leonora is stupid enough to buy a disguise. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or further needless debasement of the Leonora character. Which writer’s partner wound Rowling up the wrong way at a few dinner parties for this level of venomous writing exactly?
  • Back with Robin she and Matt are lying in bed and there is clear tension between the two. He was there for her when she needed it but clearly she can’t be there for him. (spoilers: eventually in the series it’s revealed she was raped. Hence her over compensating and need to be proactive). He tells her he doesn’t want Strike at the wedding because he wouldn’t give her a day off for personal reasons like bereavement. You can understand his view with the limited information he has but of course we’ve seen Strike be nothing but kind and actually offer all the time off she needed. Robin is manipulating both of them and there are no real consequences to her. However she admits it was her choice as she wanted to be an investigator. She justifies it saying she was doing a Psychology degree and… blah blah justifying her selfish actions. She says she ‘doesn’t want to do this’ and they make up instantly. No consequences and she gets to dictate terms and the conditions of their relationship. No wonder he’s such a passive-aggressive ass everytime we see him as it’s the probably only way he can do anything albeit out of frustration.
  • Strike goes and has dinner with friends. Who are they? We don’t know but apparently it needed to be made clear he wasn’t a loner because ‘eww loners are icky and up to no good’ societal clichés. Disposable characterless friends are better than being alone. Even if they are cardboardcutouts from a stock photograph. (Look at how things ended for one of the characters from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series to get an expansion on the concept). The lawyer friend says she hasn’t met Orlando, Owen’s down’s syndrome suffering daughter, yet.
  • At some point Robin goes to the Quine house to meet Orlando and… well long story short Orlando likes to ‘steal’ things and hide them in her bag. Robin offers an exchange but ultimately steals the contents of the bag. In the bag was Owen’s copy of Bombyx Mori. Robin leaves quickly as she has made Orlando incredibly distressed in a flood of tears. Nothing ever comes of this and in fact in the conclusion Orlando even gives Robin a friendly wave. Because Robin can never do wrong…

Strike finds Robin in the office on a Sunday. He says she doesn’t have to be there but she insists. So she shut her grieving fiancé down when he calls her out on her behaviour and she gets to go play detective too? Protagonist centred morality…

Robin says they should go see the house. Thus they go to snoop around someone’s house. And, lo, did Robin say until Cormoran ‘let us venture forth unto the garden’s of burial’ and lo it was so… for her’s was the way and the just as according to the creator…

They approach a garden gate and Robin asks Strike to give her a leg up. Strike doesn’t make a pun about his leg but instead looks over the garden gate himself by doing a pull up. Hench blud, mah boy is hench yeah? Look at him raising himself up like it ain’t no ting. Well no he huffs and puffs a bit but the TV version is in far better condition than his book counterpart. He sees it’s a cemented over patio so burial would have been impossible. When he drops down, instead of slowly lowing himself, he hurts his stump inevitably. [Also there was a sickening crunch which definitely didn’t sound healthy so… maybe got to the hospital’s A&E while your out and about?] He mutters shit and doubles over in agony. Robin calmly asks ‘are you alright?’ Why yes because that’s what people do when they’re in good health doubling over mutting shit and rubbing parts of their body… But then she tells him to lean on her which after initially refusing he accepts and he apologises about it. Commandery… and by that I mean it plays into Robin’s YOU NEED ME! View that she is more than capable of doing his job for him…

Thus they go to the pub. For the pub’s alcohol shall numb all pains of both the flesh and spirit… plus they’ve nothing better to be doing...

Robin notes it’s Strike’s birthday. For lo Robin is not only perfect in action but also knowledge. She even knows Strike’s passport number. Thus she gives him a gift which consists of a number of Cornish food and drink items. She asks how it is and he replies it tastes of Cornwall. (it’s his hometown or something to that effect so… nostalgia). They discuss the case – again in a public space. Strike keeps talking of the guts, how the police investigators were not brought in on it and that Fancourt writes the sort of stuff suggesting this so they should find him tomorrow. Robin asks if his leg will be fine for that and he says ‘yeah, it’ll be fine’… which she doesn’t believe it seems.

The next day he hobbles into the office using a crutch and Robin offers to tail Farcourt but Strike tells her she hasn’t been trained but she insists she wants to do it. Also she informs him Liz has agreed to talk to him about Fancourt too over lunch ‘which will be okay, you’ll be sitting down’. Yeah go on Robin kick him while he’s down. That’ll motivate him to get you trained!

Then she shows Strike the parody of the ‘Sylvia Plath style suicide’ woman’s novel written by Quine. The woman being Fancourt’s wife. The parody was taped to her grave… with what? Duct tape? Seriously in British weather that thing would have blown half way across town in reality. They think either he’s being taunted or blackmailed. Strike compliments her work. She downplays it regarding how she messed up and he walked right past her. Then Strike says maybe some training will help.

Next think they’re at a swanky penthouse suite, him in classic black shirt and tie while she has a figure hugging black dress on. Daniel Chard invited them Strike tells the doormen… who are stood in the middle of the apartment making you wonder how secure it really is. Robin scoffs ‘plus one, he’s not keen on me is he?’ Well you’re there so… it’s not like he refused your presence…

They go out on the balcony. Strike mocks that ‘nevermind declining booksales everyone I’ve met so far in publishing either has a drink in their hand or arranging to meet for lunch’. Rowling can’t help be salty towards the industry that fed her and put her kids through school apparently. Then Robin quips ‘It’s not a bad life is it?’ so Rowling can have her cake and eat it…

They wander around for a while then Strike lights a cigarette and asks when Matthew is back to which Robin replies he’s back already. Strike gives Robin his coat as it’s cold.

Chard taps a wine glass to call everyone’s attention as he is about to give a speech. Do people still do that? It feels pretentious but it works. He speech is basically ‘publishing has rapidly changed but on things remained true: work with great writers and your readers will come. After 20 years elsewhere Fancourt is returning to this publishing house’. So yes Rowling blowing smoke up her own trumpet there ever so subtly saying ‘I’m one of the greats after one book series and a few spin offs’. Yes you can no doubt quote Baum, C.S. Lewis and other ‘one series’ children’s writers but it still stands they did other stuff too. In Rowling’s case this is it… and it was under a pseudonym until the publishers wanted a boost in sales.

Fancourt thanks them all and that it feels like a homecoming (which if you know the Greek mythos origins of that phrase is actually always a bad thing). He waxes lyrical about writing for Chard then Roper and how they were good days alongside saying how he was an angry young man now he’s an angry old man. Everyone does that ‘middle-class polite’ chortles laugh. Then he finishes saying he looks ‘forward to raging for you’. And they applaud as he leaves. Strike leaves thus leaving an opening for Fancourt to approach Robin… because hey he’s a villain and not a single man of mild success who thinks maybe he can use the boost to his confidence to chat up a woman… nope this is villanous despicable behaviour… He noticed she is taking a while to pick a drink and offers suggestions. Sex on the beach? A long, slow, screw up against the wall? No not really… He says the champagne won’t kill her as he picked it out. She flirtingly smiles and says that’s what she’ll have then and he orders two. Then he asks if she’s read anything good lately in what is, in the context, a very cheesy chat up line. She says Bombyx Mori. He calls it a poison pen letter and asks what she thinks of his depiction. She asks if he has read it but he says people have told him of it. He considered Owen a very minor writer with a very large ego and that their conversation would have pleased him enormously. She asks if she can introduce him to someone and brings him over to Strike. Fancourt immediately addresses him as the one-legged detective… which let’s face it is exactly what people called Strike before these BBC adaptions as it’s his U.S.P. compared to Hercule ‘the moustache’ Poirot, Sherlock ‘you know my name’ Holmes, C. Auguste ‘murder at the Rue Morgue’ Dupin, Robert T. ‘in a wheelchair’ Ironside, Endevour ‘shot of whiskey til I die’ Morse, Theofilides ‘I got a lollipop with your name on it’ Kojak, ‘Frank’ [no official first name]‘ah one more thing’ Columbo , the various Swedish detective of recent, Miss Jane ‘little old nosey women busy body’ Marple, John ‘I’ma LUNDUNAAAA’ Luther, Erast ‘different style every case’ Fandorin and so on.

He tells Strike he’s read about him. Strike wants to talk about Owen Quine’s death. Fancourt compliments him on his choice of bait. They talk of how he was co-owner of the house the corpse was found in. He says he’s not been there in ten years at which point Robin chips in saying he inherited it from a friend who died the same year as his wife. She says she’s sorry for his loss at which he spits he didn’t lose her as he tripped over her corpse in the kitchen. Strike asks if he ever confronted Quine about the parody which he says he didn’t but was certain he wrote it. (Yes because a writing style is like a finger print you couldn’t possibly copy someone’s style could you? Seriously… the logic here even if it’s for egotistical writers is incredibly flawed to the point the resolution wouldn’t hold in court save the culprit began running away like an idiot giving away their guilt). Fancourt changes the subject to Strike being a footnote who pops up whenever the topic of his ex’s marriage comes up in magazines. Strike considers it high praise. Fancourt asks him if he’s attracted to trouble women or they become troubled because of him… but then thinks maybe he should ask Robin instead. Robin says they just work together. GET IT? GET IT? ROWLING WANTS YOU TO WANT THE MAIN DUO TOGETHER! GO WRITE A FANFIC OR DRAW SOME FAN ART! NO IMAGINATION? IT’S OKAY AS YOU CAN JUST DRAW THE ACTORS INSTEAD! Strike wonders why Quine would use Bombyx Mori to deny writing the parody if he did. Fancourt says his wife thought if she married a writer it would change how people saw her but when it failed she tried being a writer herself. He thinks Quine saw himself reflected in her. ‘Most writers are not very imaginative Mr Strike, they end up writing about themselves.’ At this point I laughed for a while thinking of the irony of the line…

He felt Quine was a failed writer struggling to gain some status through writing but was in his shadow. He tells Strike to take care, shakes his hand says ‘respect’ and leaves. Middle aged man talking like he’s from the streets yeah? Strike and Robin look at each other. The patented ‘what a wanker’ look.

The next day the pair are walking down a road to a house with a tree growing up it’s front. A man, the editor Waldegrave, answers the door and shakes their hands as he invites them in, offers them coffee. The whole nine yards. Strike thanks him for seeing them. The man says ‘anything for Owen, ha, bastard’. The guy had been at the party the previous night but disappeared after Fancourt’s speech… well yeah not much point hanging around really. Though part of me thinks Strike probably was too busy staring into the distance in his little ‘BOOM GOTCHA’ trap corner of the penthouse roof area rather than watching where the guy went.

Strike asks what he thinks of Fancourt. ‘Terrific writer, absolute shit of a human being’. He asks if they’ve read Bombyx. Strike confirms they both have though the guy wonders if they know what it’s all about. Robin interjects she didn’t recognise him in it. The guy says he was the cutter because… put your junior detective hats on for this revelation… he was the editor! Quine had used a rumour that Fancourt had fathered his daughter as part of the storyline of the cutter in Bombyx.

Strike says it must have hurt to which the editor replies ‘if you want life long camaraderie join the army; if you want peers to glory in your failure, work with novelists. No loyalty. Of course it hurt me.’ At which point he decides to have a drink as he’s got little to be sober for this afternoon and invites them to join him. Strike accepts a perolo and Robin wonders why. ‘It’ll help him feel we are on his side… and I like perolo’ he mutters to her metres away from the editor. People in the Strike universe are deaf to any noise more than three metres away from then it seems. Chatting of Liz the editor says even on a good day she can be an utter bitch and toasts to new-found cadre. After this he recounts some interesting information.

Liz made a pass at Andrew Fancourt after Ellie, the oven wife, died and Andrew saw it as a badge of honour that he couldn’t get it up for her. He mutters ‘prick’ under his breath and Strike admits he hadn’t been told that story by her. He continues that injured pride is exactly why she went with Quine over Andrew. Strike asks if Fancourt had a motive to kill Quine. The editor cites the claim in Bomyx that Fancourt wrote the parody of his wife’s work himself thus leading to her death. Strike asks if it could be true. The editor wonders as he’s very good at writing it. ‘It’s the kind of viciousness from somewhere even if it’s disguised. A writer can give himself away like that. In variably puts himself in the text more than he knows.’ Strike remarks Chard had a theory about that in regards of Bombyx. The editor confides that Chard didn’t like what Quine said about him. Strike says Chard though the manuscript could have had more than one contributor. The editor finds that an interesting thought and gives Strike a draft of the novel. He says there are many parts which feel like classic Quine with shock horror stuff but there are other parts where… DUN DUN DURR is some use of semicolons which in 20 years the editor never saw him use them once. WELL THAT’S CONCRETE EVIDENCE! (Oh, wait… no it is apprently. Really? Yes…). In the Bombyx manuscript there are several. ‘That is not something a writer embraces late in his career’. Strike thanks him assuring him he’s been very helpful. Robin sits with her mouth open aghast like a blow up doll. That was a weird moment… also it implies she hasn’t a clue as to how it proves the manuscript wasn’t Quine’s effort alone. Good detective skills…

Thus Strike announces he is off to Fulham.

But it’s time for the ‘detective explains their deduction’ scene at the denouement. Strike is in his office’s reception moving a chair to the desk to sit by Robin. Many pieces don’t fit together but this might be the thing that explains it.

  • Silkworms are boiled but in Bombyx it’s cut open. The book features the hero burned by a liquid and the murder site had acid. Katherine kent was expecting a very different book.
  • Waldergrave (aka the editor) and Chard detected foreign influence in the text (RUSSIAN HACKERS!) thus Strike deduces they repeatedly hear the same thing: Something is not quite right with Bombyx Mori.

THEY NEED A LITERARY ANALYST… wherever you go to hire one of those on the fly to compare the writing styles. Robin says she’ll get on that like it’s nothing.

  • The only person they know who spoke to Quine about the book was Liz so Strike is going to go to lunch with her again. ‘Needs must’… which I’m sure is a ‘you fat bastard’ type joke in the book no doubt as he is said to be so unfit but in the TV adaption they’ve only got Tom Burke who, at worst, you would say has a rounded face…

Next thing Strike is at the window reading a sliver of paper noting it has no baroque archetypes before he and Robin dramatically walk out the office into reception. It’s quite silly when you notice the Dutch angle and rising musical chord used as if something incredibly dramatic is about to occur only for it to be the literary analyst. Young and handsome of course as we can’t have any normal people on-screen unless they’re baddies or figures of ridicule. He congratulates them on getting it and Robin says Oxford often ask for it as it has Fancourt’s earliest published story in it. Long story short favouring certain irregular punctuation and such marks out who wrote it due to Quine never using the Oxford comma. Strike asks if it’s proof?

One word: No…

But it does suggest whoever wrote the parody piece also wrote Bombyx Mori. Which… let’s be honest is exactly where the pair were before hiring this expert. Though he does add it probably was the same person who wrote the short story as well.

Strike remarks it’s a sophisticated revenge ‘the story of your grudge in the form of a secret parody of Quine himself’. Robin adds that it leaves all the people around Quine hating him. But Strike feels it’s too complicated. Well they’re all conceited and ‘better than thou’ faux intellectuals so it probably isn’t to be honest. I mean… Finnegan’s Wake if nothing else proves how conceited writer’s can be about their genius and how easily people go along with it…

Strike makes a call to his detective buddy asking he trust him he needs to get a search warrant.

Strike and Robin walk down a road dramatically. She asks if he’s sure about this and he says absolutely. At the private dining club Robin comments it’s like a Bobyx reunion. The music is tense so you know this will be the ‘ah, it was old groundskeeper Willy all along… I would have got away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids’ scene.

Strike asks Chard and Fancourt if they have a moment to discuss something concerning Bombyx Mori. The three men head away from the table. Strike tells Fancourt he read the parody of his wife’s novel. He notes how spiteful it was. At this moment Liz begins to wander over. Strike says both Bombyx and the parody were written by the same person BUT Owen Quine was not the author. DUN DUN DURR (for those who didn’t figure it out much earlier when we had only been hit over the head 3 times instead of 12 with that possibility). Liz excuses herself saying she couldn’t help herself when hearing the name of that ‘wretched book’ raised and not ‘apologise’ to them both. Strike says good evening to her. Quine had written ‘a’ Bombyx Mori and intended to publish it but not ‘the’ version everyone else had read. The original ‘buries a few old sparring partners’ but his anecdote about Mr Fancourt’s limp dick isn’t in the original text they were given.

But then who would have known of it? Was it the editor or….

Everyone turns silently to Liz… who immediately tries to do a runner because that’s what everyone stupidly does when found out in these things so there’s a bit of action and tension to end on an adrenaline high.

Strike can’t chase her due to his leg so he calls to Robin. Liz smashes a vase into Robin’s face like this is an action movie but she continues to give chase a second after Strike checks on her. Outside Liz does a spot on impression of the T-1000 from Terminator 2 as she runs down the road. She nearly gets knocked over as she crosses the street. Apparently for a heavy smoker in her late 50s or so Liz is easily out running healthy, keen exerciser, Robin easily. Let’s say it’s because Robin has heels on otherwise it feels a little ridiculous…

Strike slowly follows and Robin tackles Liz to the ground but not without a tussle and some cat fighting. At this exact moment the police sirens wail and they arrive to take Liz away. Because they can’t announce their arrival until someone else has pinned the culprit down. Have to consider those health and safety and the possibilities of insurance payouts…

The next day and life moves on at the office. Strike calls Robin into his office. He says it might be good news so she should call them a cab… why he doesn’t just do it himself after finishing the call he’s on I don’t know but she has to earn her pay somehow.

Then outside in the sunlight the camera pans and we see Mrs Quine released from prison who trundles up to them like a child gleeful at seeing them… for you see the working class are not like Robin and Strike They are a lower order of intelligence equitable to a grapefruit and thus are like primary school children even after long having children and such. It is for the higher order to have dominion over these Luddites and ensure they are put to good use. That’s the tone of the Leonora character and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that in the book she actually is developmentally challenged considering how she is depicted here…

Liz is in prison on suicide watch. Strike tells Leonora they found the real copy of the book in her house. Chard wants to read it with a view to publishing it and ‘it might even sell a few copies’ he adds. Robin gives him a look and he mouths ‘what?’ as he doesn’t realise how rude it sounded. Ho. ho, ho silly emotionally dense man – don’t you know it’s a woman’s world…

Leonora runs up the steps and joyously reunites with her Down’s Syndrome daughter. A carer… social worker… old woman who is never introduced… looks on happily. The daughter, Orlando, waves at Robin (as if she’s forgotten how she was tricked into giving away her treasure from her bag, and all ends happily. Strike and Robin get back in the black cab and next thing they’re discussing the detective just being glad the right person got locked up. Here we are told they checked Liz’s freezer and that she had been feeding Quine’s guts to her dog… hence all it’s digestion and defecation issues it had. DID YOU GET THE CLUE OR THINK ANIMAL SUFFERING WASN’T A MASSIVE GLOWING RED NEON SIGN OF EVIL? Robin remarks it’s disgusting. Not hoping the dog is okay or if it’s alive but just ‘disgusting’. Strike asks about Matthew and she scoffs about seeing him worse after a rugby match and says she is going to get the tube. She remembers to mention his ex sent in some photos and he laughs she isn’t his problem anymore. He tells Robin he has something for her and pulls and envelope out of his coat. He is paying for her to go on a surveillance training course. Or more exactly ‘you find it, I’ll pay for it’… which on the grand scheme of gift giving is a bit crap. She might find the most expensive course going. ‘So partners yeah?’ he smiles. She shakes his hand and he kisses it. I half expected a ‘M’lady’ and a fedora to fall out his pocket… and he goes upstairs while she walks smiling down the road. Again Robin gets everything she wants.

The End.

Review:

So this time around it’s the second person Strike meets regarding the case that turns out to be the killer. Taking Cuckoo into account that leads me to deduce that in the third case it will be the third person Strike meets who will be the killer in that story.

This book, in a meta-narrative sense, will no doubt be revealed one say as Rowling’s thinly veiled attack on people she doesn’t like in her own literary career and feels are leaching off her. Whether done knowingly or unconsciously will have to be seen.

Robin again is a thoroughly unlikable individual. It’s one thing to bluntly tell your boss you expected to ‘climb the ladder’ though being an administrative assistant and being an investigator are incredibly different skill sets even if you seem to think being an Oxford psychology degree drop out somehow qualifies you by default. Yet throughout the story she keeps on trying to persuade Strike to allow it.

Then she repeatedly leaves her grieving fiancé to go off on what comes across like adventure to her and not work. He might be an arse but that’s vile behaviour.

Hires a car and goes off-road with it. Not to mention she just so happened to take an advanced driving course as if that’s just something you do off the cuff.

The ‘ha ha I’ve got what I want’ trade with Orlando seems… cruel isn’t even the word. Did she take the necklace back as well?

There is just nothing redeeming about her as a character so far in these stories. What challenges does she actually face during these events? That Strike won’t make her a detective when she isn’t qualified? That her fiancé, who admittedly is unremittedly unpleasant to the point not once have we seen why she likes him save it was convenient, is going through the natural process of grieving and needs her to be there for him like… oh you know… a life partner he’s going to marry?! But she wants to go play detective. That a person with severe learning difficulties has incriminating evidence that can solve the case? No matter what scenario she is in she is in control and it’s incredibly difficult to identify with her. Yes I know that it’s eventually revealed she was the victim of rape so her need to be ‘always prepared’ so she never feels vulnerable again could be justified but not to this extent. It’s gone past self empowerment and falling into the abyss of Mary Sue. She has no flaws and thus suffers the Superman syndrome where there is nothing for her to overcome with any difficulty. Solving the problems in this case is as difficult as… well as you reading this right now.

As an example of how her character’s development so far in the series has come across: You needed to learn to read English but once that hurdle has been crossed here you are relaxing reading this like it’s nothing. Meanwhile there’s someone who can’t read English but can translate it and get the gist to find out what is being said and then there are people with dyslexia. This is how I feel any challenges are represented in the Strike novel series. Robin does things like it’s nothing, Strike has to interpret the clues he finds to work things out and the rest of the characters seem to be completely incapable of even comprehending the events of the murder (which is more an issue with the negative portrayal of the police, who’ve blamed the wrong person in both cases so far based on little to no conclusive evidence, than other figures in the story).

So let’s look at another aspect. Robin manipulates a mentally disabled young woman intentionally causing her distress. It’s hard not to read into that since Robin seems like such a glorified self insert. Does Rowling have issues with disabled or ‘deviating from the norm’ people? I mean let’s look at the end of harry potter.

  • Peter Pettigrew – (hand missing) – dead
  • Lupin – (werewolf i.e. infectious disease) – dead
  • Mad Eye Moody – (missing an eye and limbs) – dead
  • Voldermort – (orphan of a broken home and mental illness re: psychopath/sociopath) – dead
  • Severus Snape – ( bad upbringing and a Mudblood i.e. mixed race) – dead
  • Dumbledore – (undisclosed at the time homosexual) – dead

You could extend it to a number of the dead characters really…

Okay the last few are not disabilities but those communities do face persecution to varying degrees even nowadays. ‘Oh but lot’s of people are dead by the end’ you cry… yes but a few of these are ‘list of the dead’ deaths and not given details or any dignity considering how invested people became with the characters over the course of the series while the ‘villainous’ ones above are made to suffer for the most part or a great amount of time is spent noting how deviant they are compared to the social norm. Rowling has an issue with working class people and generally anyone who doesn’t agree with her sensibilities it seems and thus they get reduced to caricatures who are somewhat lesser than the figures she wants you to identify with.

It was an amusing case but the whole ‘you could never replicate another person’s writing style’ seemed a weak keystone piece of evidence to hinge the case on. It suggests the culprit was negligent and that’s disappointing. Most of all it’s hard to ignore the sense that this is Rowling’s own ‘Bombyx Mori’ criticising people she knows in the industry.


Please give Katerina Varela’s YouTube channel a look as it is thanks to her the videos of all the key scenes of the case are all here for your viewing pleasure.

Disney’s Frozen: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Collectable Stickers

Printed by Panini.

Price: £0.50 for a packet of 5 stickers.

Stickers in the packet:

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47 – A screen grab of Olaf and three white-haired children looking up an unlit fireplace chimney.

74 – Left half of a two-part image featuring a complete screen grab image of Elsa.

124 – a pair of vector art generic white on matt kharki-gold snowflake images (a two for one ‘sticker’).

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142 – A drawn illustration of Anna featuring glitter covered silhouettes of goats and a glittery border.

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173 – Bottom Left corner of a larger illustration image featuring the lower part of Elsa using her powers.

Review

I usually look for the good in these packets of stickers but this was a rip off. Only 5 stickers per pack is ridiculous for basic stickers no matter how good the quality of the print is (I would expect at least a shiny/hologram sticker included per pack to justify the price). The full body sticker of Anna was nice (maybe this one with a small amount of glitter is the ‘special sticker’ per pack often seen in other ranges?) and I like the illustration style but otherwise the stickers feature screen grabs and the generic snowflakes vector art ‘two for one’ sticker which you could easily get in bulk from other seasonal decorative sticker ranges.

I was either unfortunate with the single packet I got or there is an over reliance on multiple part images in the sticker album thus ensuring you constantly buy more to chase for the missing pieces. Just go get a pack of stickers you can see the contents of if you want something from Frozen. There’s not much to add… the packet was rubbish hence why it took me so long to get around to reviewing it months after I actually bought the pack when everyone has probably already forgotten it existed.

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Star Wars: ‘Journey To Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Trading Cards

Cost: £1.00 per pack (from Tesco)

Over 210 Cards to Collect – 8 cards per pack including one Star Wars: The Last Jedi Foil Card.

Look out for special cards in packets:

Jedi Foil Cards 1:3

Gold Cards 1:4

Limited edition card to replace regular card 1:36 packets

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Cards Acquired:

11: Supreme Leader Snoke – a photo still from The Force Awakens during his hologram meeting with Kylo Ren and General Hux. It’s dark and blurry and at this scale just doesn’t work.

31: Rey – Promotional materials stock image portrait. Generic. You like Rey? You’ll love this. But it’s as generic a trading card as you can get.

95: A still from the teaser trailer of one of the new ships (I tried to look up the name but gave up – you probably know what it is if you’re reading this) just before it starts dragging through the surface revealing clouds of red dust. If you hadn’t seen the trailer this is a bad card with no meaning. Even having seen the trailer I find it amongst the weakest.

100: Millennium Falcon: A generic stock photo but on the back of the card it gives some of the ship’s statistics which makes this quite a nice card.

108: Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Darth Maul: A still from Episode 1 during their duel. In hindsight were there any ‘original trilogy’ cards in this series? Card 100 doesn’t count since it’s in the, as of writing this, new trilogy. This is a bit blurry too due to being a still from an action scene.

127: Luke Skywalker – painted portrait (I wish the artist had been named out of respect though of course Disney/Lucasfilm own the image). This, by far, is my favourite as it seems something not just copy-pasted from stock promotional materials or motion blurred film stills.

187: Stormtrooper Executioner – portrait from a stock photo. (It’s has that effect usually referred to as ‘holographic’ so I’m guessing it’s one of the limited edition cards). On a side note there sure have been a lot of variants of Stormtroopers since Disney took over. Got to push that merchandise guys! You could probably replicate it using a black permanent marker on a standard stormtrooper figure…

209: Agen Kolar – Jedi foil card – portrait from a stock photo. Who is he? I had to go look him up too as he is really minor and only found in the background of scenes with little to no development…

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Published by Topps Europe Limited,

18 Vincent Avenue, Crownhill, Milton Keynes,

MK8 0AW, UK

http://www.toppsdirect. com

http://www.starwars.com

Lucasfilm Ltd. / Topps / Disney

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Review

I might have been lucky with the ones I got but I’m quite pleased with these in contrast to other collections. The portrait cards are all very nice and high quality with the painting of ‘The Last Jedi’ Luke being probably my favourite. However on the downside, as has been the case before, the still taken from the film all have motion blur to them and thus look low quality in comparison to the other cards. The card stock used is of very good quality and I couldn’t see much risk of disappointment unless you have a distinct aversion to the prequel trilogy and let’s be honest how many people actually know Agen Kolar let alone what scenes he was in? Short answer: Palpatine killed Agen just before his duel with Mace Windu.

There you go. Now you know who he was… unlike some of the other secondary Jedi I don’t think he ever appeared in The Clone Wars TV series to be a more developed character like Kit Fisto or Plo Koon amongst others.

On the whole I wish they were a bit cheaper, but then doesn’t everyone, but I see no real issues with the overall quality nor number of cards you get (in comparison to other series recently) and they serve as a nice little treat for Star Wars fans young and old. I can’t say how easy this would be a collection to complete but since much of it is stock imagery I don’t think you will miss out on anything should you never pick a packet up. It’s purely a ‘teaser’ promotional item and even at the time of posting this a few weeks after purchasing them Tesco have already stopped stocking them. The low points are the photo stills with motion blur (that very dark and blurry Snoke one especially!) but all the character specific ones really do harken back to the golden era of trading cards and more than make up for them. If you’re a fan of the series, and can find them, take a chance and buy a pack. If you’re looking for value for money it’s probably better to invest in something else.

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