TV to Watch: Friday Night Lights

Sky Atlantic had its first anniversary last week, and in that time the channel has shown a wide range of critically acclaimed US shows such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Six Feet Under and Game of Thrones. Starting on Sky Atlantic tomorrow (14th) is probably my favourite US show of all time (bold statement I know), and that is Friday Night Lights. The show previously aired it’s first two seasons on ITV4 but now you will be able to watch the complete series for the first time in the UK (outside of watching the Region 1 DVDs as I did). Spanning five seasons Friday Night Lights explores the world of high school football in Dillon, Texas; a small town that thrives on football and worships the teenagers that play for the Dillon Panthers. So why should you watch it?

First of all it doesn’t matter if you have zero knowledge or interest in American football. I knew very little about the sport when I started watching the show, and five seasons later I know not much more about the rules of the game. Take it like this; you don’t need to be an expert in drug distribution or police surveillance work to enjoy The Wire and the same goes for the American football backdrop in FNL. It is part of the fabric of the show but it isn’t necessarily the real focus; the community, the kids in the team and family life is what matters here.

Friday Night Lights began as a book that tells the story of a high school team in Odessa, Texas in 1988 that was then adapted for the big screen by Peter Berg in 2004. The film scored an impressive five stars from Empire Magazine but didn’t even make $1 million in the UK (it made $61 million in the US). This is likely through poor distribution thanks to the American sport centric theme and a similar pattern can be seen with the recent baseball movie Moneyball, which despite awards buzz and a big name star with Brad Pitt, only made just over $1 million in the UK (and $75 million in the US). Sports themed movies are a hard sell if the sport isn’t popular, and this is probably why it has taken so long for FNL to properly hit UK screens at primetime. The show struggled for ratings in the US even, despite being a critical darling. It was only in its fifth and final season that the award nominations finally starting coming in, with Kyle Chandler (Super 8, King Kong) winning Best Actor at the 2011 Emmys for his role as Coach Eric Taylor.

At the centre of it all is Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami Taylor (Connie Britton -Spin City, American Horror Story) who are one of the best representations of a married couple to grace the screen, big or small. They fight, they laugh, they talk like real people and they also care about their jobs and the kids that they work with. Connie Britton played the role of the coach’s wife in the film Friday Night Lights and didn’t want to initially take the TV role, as her part in the film had been cut to shreds. Creator and director Peter Berg assured her this wouldn’t happen again, and he was correct as Tami Taylor is one of the strongest female characters that TV has ever seen. Coach Taylor is often a man of very few words, but when it comes to inspirational speeches he is king, and they will possibly leave you a little misty eyed.

The show is shot in a somewhat documentarian style, with the first episode really evoking this method. It’s not all shaky cam though so don’t worry about that. It is just something that adds to the realism. Shot on location in Austin, Texas, you get the sense of what this community is like and several of the minor speaking roles are played by non-actors; including the pastor and a jewellery shop owner adding to the authentic Texan feeling.

As it is set in a high school, you would expect a roster of stereotypical characters; the lead quarterback douchebag, the head cheerleader bitch, the bad boy, the arrogant one, the arty one, the one who doesn’t care about football, the slut and the nerd. While elements of all these characters exist, they play on these stereotypical elements; turning them on their head rather than having it as a central characteristic. Certain high school experiences are featured such as first loves won and lost, as well as social issues such as racism, financial woes and abortion. Don’t worry, it’s not an after school special and doesn’t lean towards the preachy.

Will you be watching? Have you seen the show before and want to watch it all over again? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Friday Night Lights begins on Sky Atlantic Tuesday, February 14 at 8pm and you can watch the trailer here.

“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!”

Sundance 2012 Round Up

The Sundance Film Festival has the honour of being the first major festival of the New Year and also lands in the middle of awards season, when the conversation is focused on last year’s most important films. This could be considered a blessing, especially for those who are promoting new material whilst getting lauded for previous work, but it could also be quite distracting as the Oscar nominees proceeded to land in the middle of the festival diverting attention away.

So, let’s take a break from the awards season fare and look at what might feature in next year’s race or what either way will be hitting screens later this year. The nine films that I have chosen to showcase stood out for a variety of reasons and include comedy, drama and documentary. I have not seen trailers for any of these movies and was drawn to them because of the cast, the story and from festival buzz.


Final Nominees for BAFTA Orange Rising Star Award Announced

The final five nominees for the BAFTA Orange Rising Star Award were announced today; an award that is chosen by Orange customers and which has been part of the ceremony since 2006. Previous winners include James McAvoy, Tom Hardy, Kristen Stewart and Noel Clarke.

So who are the five nominees for 2012?


My Film of the Year by Emma Fraser

Love and loss are two common themes in storytelling and my favourite film of the year certainly encapsulated both. Beginners weaves through the past and present as Oliver (Ewan McGregor) is coming to terms with the death of his father Hal (Christopher Plummer); the twist on the relationship here being that Hal had only recently revealed that he was gay after Oliver’s mother (Mary Page Keller) had died. In Oliver’s present he meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent); a French actress who has a complicated family history that bonds the pair but also has the potential to drive them apart.


In Praise Of… Keira Knightley

Never Let Me Go starring Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield is released this Friday (11th) and is the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s hit novel of the same name.

After hearing some women discussing Keira Knightley whilst looking at a display for the film in a derogatory fashion it occurred to me that due to the level of success and fame that she has had at such a young age Knightley still has a level of detractors who resort to name calling as a method of derision. In response to this I found myself thinking about how much I actually like her as an actress and why she should be praised.


Boardwalk Empire

It is fitting that when Sky launched their new channel Sky Atlantic on Tuesday, the show that headlined the evening was set in Atlantic City. Boardwalk Empire, depicting the vast social changes in 1920s America hit the small screen this week and did so with all the pomp and flair of an illicit prohibition era party.


Eclipse Soundtrack

World Cup fever is upon us but there is another major event that is causing a very different demographic to salivate this month; the release of the third instalment of the Twilight saga Eclipse is upon us. The film won’t hit the cinema till the 3rd of July (the US gets it a few days earlier, 30th June) however like the merchandise juggernaut that it is the soundtrack has been released almost a month in advance. I’m a self-confessed soundtrack junkie so this is the part of the world of Twilight that I look forward to as much as the next fan girl.

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The importance of music to the series begins first not with the films but with the books, Meyer states that she can not write without music and has compiled playlists for each novel on her website which you can peruse yourself if you really want to. The common theme amongst these is Muse and this can be seen on the soundtracks for the films, with ‘Neutron Star Collision (Love is Forever) featuring on the Eclipse soundtrack. There have been mutterings online that Matt Bellamy was less than kind to the franchise, though all I found was a quote about how he doesn’t mind if it seems uncool to gain new fans due to Twilight.


In Praise Of… Grace Kelly

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is honouring Grace Kelly from April 17th to September 26th with an exhibition entitled Grace Kelly: Style Icon and here at This Film Is On we would also like to praise this screen icon.

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Why Hit Girl Kicks Ass

I saw Kick Ass last night (it was pretty damn awesome) and seeing how hard as nails a tween superhero girl is, and then looking at other women in superhero movies, I couldn’t help but think that these women are often there for reasons of attractiveness and to act as bait for the villains in these films; do we really need to see the damsel in distress still tied to the train tracks?

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Unfortunately if these movies are to be believed, and we at thisfilmison always believe in movies, then the answer is yes.


82nd Oscars Red Carpet

The biggest awards show of the evening is of course accompanied by the biggest red carpet event of the year with this part of the evening being just as important if not more some in some circles than the actual awards themselves. I settled down for the evening in all the glamour of my pjs (Calvin Klein and Gap) to watch the event on E!, the red carpet went by without a hitch which made me long for another Gary Busey incident.

Looking first at some of the award winners, Sandra Bullock looked stunning in Marchesa which in certain lights looked either gold or silver and could’ve worked with or without the statue:

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Kathryn Bigelow who broke the celluloid ceiling looked stunning as ever in a simple Edition Soir Yves Saint Laurent by Stefano Pilati, proving that she is both an incredibly talented film maker and knows how to look incredible on the red carpet and on stage with an award:

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Other nominees went home empty handed but were definite winners in the fashion stakes, these include my own personal favourite Maggie Gyllenhaal who looked sublime in Dries Van Noten , it was good to see some bold colour on the red carpet as the trend this year was all about the nude/blush/champagne tones:

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Also looking fantastic in blue was Best Actress nominee Gobourey Sidibie wearing Marchesa, Sidibie also had my favourite red carpet quote of the night saying to Seacrest that if fashion was porn then her dress would be the money shot:

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Both Anna Kendrick and Carey Mulligan after many award shows seem to have found their fashion footing with Kendrick in a blush Elie Saab:

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And Carey Mulligan in a black Prada gown that included both box pleats and some intricate beading that may or may not be made out of mini household utensils:

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On Oscar night it is not just the nominees and winners that shine but also some of this years presenters stood out with some of the evenings best gowns, with perhaps my favourite of the night being Rachel McAdams in a watercoloured Elie Saab Haute Couture gown:

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Cameron Diaz also looked spectacular in Oscar de la Renta which sparkled and really lit up the red carpet:

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It wasn’t just the women that added sparkle to the evening with Neil Patrick Harris making a surprise appearance opening the Oscar show with some flair (not technically a red carpet moment but I thought it deserved some attention):

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Have I missed anyone’s favourite gown of the night? Any of the above that you don’t like? Who were the big winners and losers for Oscar fashion this year? Let us know in comments below.

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