#10 – ANNA HOPKINS
“I’ve never really played a villain before, so I kind of got to channel everything I’ve ever wanted to do and haven’t been able to do. Yeah, I think when you’re playing something that’s so different from you, you have a lot more room to play. In fact, I find it’s kind of easier to do than just playing a regular gal.”
—- Anna Hopkins (to Hidden Remote — May 2018)
2018 was a big year for Anna Hopkins. She appeared in ten episodes of SHADOWHUNTERS as Lilith, Adam’s first wife. Lilith is complex and fascinating, and the best dressed demon on television. The role got Hopkins a Teen Choice Awards nomination in the category of Choice TV Villain.
In Season Two of the CITY-TV drama BAD BLOOD, Hopkins is Teresa Langana, an entirely different sort of villain whose father is head of the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria. She is sent, along with her twin brother Christian, to Hamilton. Ontario to make the drug trade there more profitable. Teresa is an utterly ruthless corporate mobster whose only loyalties are to her brother and the bottom line. Hopkins described Teresa to A.R. Wilson of TV-eh as “…one of those characters who is really powerful but doesn’t really need to exert or show that power very often…but when things don’t go her way, I think the extremes she can go to are a little further than most of us.” The first season of BAD BLOOD is on Netflix worldwide. Season Two can be streamed on the CITY-TV website.
“Frankie is very much ahead of her time. She’s this fearless adrenaline-junkie go-getter who makes up her own rules. It’s 1921, women across North America had only just been given the right to vote a year earlier. There was a new freedom – women were allowed to smoke cigarettes and dance! So Frankie is taking full advantage of that. She opens up the only female private detective agency in Toronto, along with her pal Trudy Clarke. And they take on the cases that the police don’t want to touch, or cases that people don’t want to go to the police with.”
—- Lauren Lee Smith (to Alibi — September 2018)
Lauren Lee Smith is perfect in the role of Frankie Drake, the only female private eye in 1920s Toronto. Frankie is confident and uninhibited, and Smith seems to have a lot of fun with the character. Her sidekick Trudy is played by Chantel Riley, who was Doc Holliday’s long lost wife in Season Three of WYNONNA EARP. Grace Lynn Kung appears as Wendy Quon, who advises Frankie on certain cases, and Wendy Crewson is Frankie’s con artist mom who also occasionally assists. The CBC finally found a program to follow MURDOCH MYSTERIES on Monday nights. (Everything else that was put in that slot has been cancelled after the first season.) George Crabtree (Jonny Harris) turned up in Episode 1.8, so we know that his Murdoch Mysteries character survives into the 1920s. FRANKIE DRAKE MYSTERIES can be streamed on PBS Passport in the US, and on the CBC website in Canada.
#8 – ALEXANDRA POLLARD
In September Pollard tweeted: “After two years of being freelance, and commuting from my bedroom to my living room, today’s my first proper day as an arts writer at The Independent. Here’s my first piece – an interview with the excellent Olivia Cooke“ Her Cooke interview actually got me to watch VANITY FAIR, something I had previously convinced myself not to do. I also began to make a point of reading Pollard’s articles. Here’s a list of her more impressive recent efforts (long titles seem to be the norm now):
—- Jackson C Frank: The tragic folk hero who the world forgot
—- Years & Years review, O2 Arena London: A rainbow-dappled, sexually expressive triumph
—- The music industry will never catch up with Robyn
—- Daughter’s Elena Tonra interview: “It’s unfortunate that I attach my work to feeling unhappy”
#7 – MOLLY MCGLYNN
Brief Take asked McGlynn how she manages to make films that should not be funny but somehow are. “Have you been to an Irish funeral?,” she replied. “It’s kind of like that. Everyone’s crying their eyes out, but then there’s a bit of a party after cause what else are you supposed to do? None of my protagonists are me, obviously, but there’s parts of them, their ugliest truths, that I have felt in some way at one period of my life.”
McGlynn’s only feature film, MARY GOES ROUND, was released in 2017, but what made me watch it was the episode of WORKIN’ MOMS that she directed. “Consent” (Episode 2.4) contains four brilliantly filmed scenes, which is not bad for a half-hour episode. It made me aware of McGlynn’s talent for capturing facial expressions, and facial expressions are the major point of interest in MARY GOES ROUND. (The three women Mary attempts to interact with at the baby shower are the best example of this.)
She also directed four episodes of the CBC series LITTLE DOG, and will return to direct more of it in 2019. And she directed Episode 3.10 of the ABC series SPEECHLESS, which is due to air on 11 January.
#6 – LETTERKENNY
“Growing up in Listowel, Ontario…getting your ass kicked was a legitimate concern on a day-to-day basis. And I think that was because we were all in this small town with nothing better to do so we drink and we fight. We drink we fight and we dance, actually. It is true to life in that you were in one of those three groups [hicks, skids, and hockey players]. In high school I was friends with everybody so I can draw from actual experiences there. Letterkenny doesn’t drift too far into the absurd. The dialogue is nutty but we do keep it true to real life for the most part.”
—- Jared Keeso – (to TV-Eh — March 2015)
Jared Keeso stars as Northern Ontario farmer Wayne and Michelle Mylett is his sister Katy. There are 5000 people in Letterkenny (we are advised by the show’s intro) but we only get to meet a select few of the town’s citizens. Pastor Glen (Jacob Tierney) and Squirrelly Dan (J.Trevor Wilson) are among the most interesting of the regulars. The hockey players take a bit of getting used to early on, but in Season Five, Mary-Anne (Jess Salguiero) and Betty Anne (Kelly McCormack) join them, and that can’t hurt. Wordplay is everywhere, and the regional argot is rich and sometimes hard to decipher (but always worth the work).
UPDATE – 27 December 2018 – Seasons 3 through 6 of LETTERKENNY can now be streamed on HULU.
#5 – CATFIGHT
After watching Sandra Oh in KILLING EVE, it seemed like a good idea to look up her other film appearances. One of the more interesting of those is CATFIGHT, a film about two women who hated each other on sight when they met in college. Veronica (Oh) is a superficial, entitled housewife who wishes she was more. Ashley (Anne Heche) is a self-obsessed, misanthropic (but successful) artist who wants to raise a baby. The two continually re-discover their hatred for one another. The first time they reconnect (at a party hosted by Veronica’s husband) the brawl they get into puts Veronica into a coma. Veronica wakes up two years later to find her husband and son are dead. She blames Ashley for everything, leading to another fight, and this time Ashley ends up comatose. And yes, there is a final battle. In the background (to underscore the satire) a new American president has declared war in the Middle East. Alicia Silverstone turns in a great performance as Ashley’s significant other. CATFIGHT can be streamed on Netflix, and a trailer is available on YouTube.
#4 – JANE_UI
The most interesting thing on Instagram is Jane Ui, and almost no information is available about her. She is a Chinese fashion model and photographer, probably from Beijing. She has an account on Weibo (Chinese twitter), describes herself as a “commonplace photographer”, and sometimes posts from the Chinese capital. This year she has traveled to Paris and Istanbul She takes beautiful pictures and has a unique way of excluding parts of the subject matter from them. This is something that should be irritating, but it is done artfully and with agressive purpose.
#3 – CAMERON
The self-titled debut album from Barbara and Victoria Cameron is danceable and fun. The best tracks are “Hard to Breathe”, “Alarm”, and “Say It Again” (the latter written with Natalie Lynn at the Gordie Sampson Songcamp some years ago). It is so nice to have someone produce a rock album that is a coherent whole, and not just a random bunch of songs thrown together. The bad news is it took six years for the sisters to write these twelve songs, so their next album might be a while coming. Cameron received three nominations from the Music Nova Scotia Awards in 2017. Biographical information is in short supply. They are sisters, they are from Halifax, and were once two-thirds of the all-girl band Pink Thunder. Barbara is a recognized songwriter in her own right, having attended the Gordie Sampson Songcamp since its inception nine years ago. Victoria (she goes by Tori) plays bass for the Cape Breton band The Town Heroes.
Since all this happened in 2017, why is it on this year’s list? Interesting story. I couldn’t find the album on iTunes for the longest time (a simple search for “Cameron” was always unsuccessful). Then I accidentally clicked on Cameron Alexander’s EP “Melodic Thoughts“, and then clicked on the artist’s name. Among the items listed on the next screen was Cameron’s self-titled album. Below is Cameron being interviewed by The Halifax Basement Tapes Podcast shortly before the album’s release.
#2 – KILLING EVE
“There was a meeting at one point where someone actually said, ‘We can’t have too many women,’ meaning it will look unbelievable. I was like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about? Not if it’s written well and shot well.’”
— Phoebe Waller-Bridge (to Variety — March, 2018)
The article referenced above begins by asserting “Eve Polastri may be brilliant, but 007 she is not.” That is true. It is Villanelle who is a bit like Bond, assigned to kill the enemies of powerful people (who publicly disavow any connection with her actions), and being very clever and stylish about it. But it is Polastri’s fangirl approach to pursuing Villanelle that truly makes the show interesting.
Season One is unquestionably ground-breaking and brilliant. The problem with having a great first season is how does one follow that? The problem seems to be that everyone tries to do better in season two and ends up changing what doesn’t need to be changed and screwing things up, sometimes irrevocably. Killing Eve is changing lead writers, and that could either allow the show to avoid the sophomore jinx or make it even more susceptible to it. For Season Two, which will premiere on BBC America sometime in April, the new head writer will be Emerald Fennell (who is best known for playing Nurse Patsy Mount on CALL THE MIDWIFE). The series will also add two new directors, Lisa Bruhlmann and Francesca Gregorini.
#1 – ELINE POWELL
“I didn’t want it to come across like a wild gorilla, but also not like an intelligent AI. I wanted to find this weird, creepy balance between being definitely odd, but still somehow relatable, like she’s able to touch you emotionally…I always wanted to give it just an edge of weirdness, so I used a little aspect of Icelandic accent, because they have this breath of air basically after a hard consonant. Bjork was my chill pill inspirational woman for this.”
—- Eline Powell to Talk Nerdy With Us — March 2018
There is a scene near the end of the first episode of SIREN where Ryn, who has not yet become friends with Maddie and Ben, has been on land too long and is beginning to involuntarily change back to her aquatic form, and she must crawl across the final few meters that separate her from the sea. Watching Powell perform that scene hooked me on the show. But Ryn’s best scenes happened later in the season (Ryn at the wake for Xander’s dad in “Being Human“, and her battle with Katrina in “Street Fight“). Ryn reacts to some humans with anger tinged with hunger, to others with affection infused with a slight air of superiority. Accustomed to being at the top of the food chain, she does not find humans very threatening, but she does find them interesting. Watching this character develop was the highlight of the year.