I didn't realise how much I had been reading, watching and listening to until I wrote up this month's reviews, and these were only the picks of what I've been up to. Still need to listen to more music and read more, but getting there.
DVDs I've watched
Sons of Anarchy S4 - started off slow and the same old, same old. I almost gave up, but so glad I didn't. Things got very heated this season with all manner of deceit amongst the players happening. It was also the most grotesque season I have seen, in terms of murder and body count and what you saw. Yikes! The acting as always was great.
Nurse Jackie S5 - how I love this show, a perfect mix of drama and comedy. Merrit Weaver as Zoey continues to shine and be the stand out character after Jackie herself. I loved the thread of a new love interest for Jackie also. As always the season was way too short.
Spies of Warsaw - war mini series starring David Tennant, I enjoyed it but wanted more.
Fargo - This is my favourite new show! Taken from the superb Coen Brothers film, it fleshes the story out a little more and a little meatier. Similar characters but not quite, and a brilliant cast headed by Billy Bob Thornton (surely his best character to date?) and Martin Freeman. It's the same dark, wry humour as in the film and shot so beautifully. If you are not watching this, you are missing out on something!!!
Movies watched this month were Thanks for Sharing, a film starring the gorgeous Mark Ruffalo, about sex addiction. The trailer looked good, the film not so much. Cafe de Flore was an intriguing French film with the ever jaw dropping Vanessa Paradis about reincarnation. Two separate stories set in two eras with similar themes, were the characters reincarnated? To be honest, no so sure about this tenuous link, but the stories and acting were great. Best taken at face value I think. Alan Partridge Alpha Papa starring the incomparable Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge was really funny, It was a silly premise with silly characters, but silly in the usual British way which means loads of laughs.
My movie of the month was The Best Offer starring Geoffrey Rush. Rush's character, Virgil, is a auctioneer who manages to collect an array of art himself due to collaborating with his friend Billy, Donald Sutherland, who bids on items Virgil is actually auctioning. Virgil is eccentric and obsessive and when approached by a young woman, who he never meets, to auction her large collection of art, the story turns into a psychological thriller. A seemingly side plot of Virgil taking mechanical pieces to a young restorer weaves it's way into the intrigue also. Sidebar: the mechanical pieces turn into a magnificent...ooh, that would be telling. I really liked this and didn't see the twists coming, which is always a sign of a good thriller. I love any story to do with art, and there is so much beauty in this film, you will be left gasping. Rush is superb, as are the supporting cast. This is a must see film.
I also saw a lot of great documentaries this month, Scatter my Ashes at Bergdorf's was a documentary about the classic New York department store. It was interesting, and filled with great New Yorkers and style icons. Ultimately vacuous as such things often are, I was still intrigued by this beautiful piece of architecture and those that inhabit it. The Rise and Fall of The Clash was disappointing to me, it was a bit of an expose of their downfall. I found it soap opera-y and irritating, sure things did not go smoothly for the band and there was infighting, but there was also greatness, and it was the negatives that were focused on here. To me it was not an even account, but then I am a fan.
Weekend of a champion was an enthralling documentary by Roman Polanski of Formula 1 great, Jackie Stewart. The documentary was originally filmed over a Monaco weekend back in 1971 and it is a heady time for F1, a shocking time for the players, death had been recent for other drivers, you can feel it so much you are on the edge of your seat. Originally released in 1972 and directed by Frank Simon and Polanksi, this version has an added section of Polanski and Stewart reminiscing back on that time. Stewart was at the height of his profession then and a lean sports machine, it was fascinating to see him look back over that time. Stunning shots of the race and Monaco, you don't have to be a fan to enjoy this but if you are you will revel in it. I know I did.
The worst documentary I saw this month was The Act of Killing. I say worst as the subject matter was just too horrific. It was well shot and in fact stunning in parts, so technically a grand documentary and one that was predicted to be THE documentary of the year, but I think the nature of the topic was just too much for people to bear. It is about Indonesian warlords re-enacting murders from their 'reign' in what ever film style they wish. This allows the most overblown and downright chilling scenes. I am in two minds about this film, it's intent is to obviously showcase the horrors done by these killers and let them 'hang' themselves and in a way that is what happens, yet the sheer reveling of these madmen was overwhelmingly grotesque. The film-makers were brave, and pretty much let the players do the talking. I guess what upset me the most was the lack of remorse shown by most of the men. I dunno, it left me cold and bothered and upset. I get the need to make such a documentary, but it haunted me too much.
My pick is the documentary that has been taking the awards away from The Act of Killing, and deservedly so. 20 Feet From Stardom. Wow, what a stunning piece of film making. Not only is this beautifully shot, but it's simply a great story. It was a story that had me shocked and sobbing but it was ultimately uplifting. 20 Feet from Stardom is about the back-ups singers, mostly African American women with the most outstanding voices. Women who should have been stars in their own rights but it just never happened. These women backed some of the most famous songs and for some in the 60s actually sang the songs but were not credited.
The documentary focuses on a small bunch of women, whose careers spread the 60s and 70s. Each story is different, some were happy to remain that 20 feet back, other wanted the limelight and the stories are fraught with difficulty. Without a doubt Darlene Love's story is the most compelling. Phil Spector is now known as a nasty piece of work, but back then he was genius supreme...until you hear Love's story, and you realise he was always a monster. As a Letterman fan, I have always known and adored Love, but I never knew her story. This film gives these remarkable women the chance to showcase their talent. The stories are large, the personalities larger, the musicians they worked with also interviewed and of course the music played...this film is up there with Standing in the Shadows of Motown and Muscle Shoals, two of my all time favourite music documentaries. It's a must see for any music fan.
Books I've been reading
Buying a Piece of Paris: finding a key to the city of love - Ellie Nielsen I listened to this on talking book and to be honest it irritated me. It's about an Australian couple who decide to buy an apartment in Paris. Ellie is an actress - never heard of her - and comes across quite dippy, unsure whether she really is or it was just the reader. I stuck with it as I wanted to know what happened. I loved the descriptions of some of the areas of Paris, and the hunt for the right apartment, so it wasn't all a bust.
Provence and the Cote D'azur- Janelle McCulloch - beautiful travel guide/small coffee table type book. Janelle has put together a few books like this and the design of the books are always stunning. This covers an area I have travelled through so was lovely to reminisce. It also made me want to visit some of the other places I didn't get to.
Major Pettigrew's last stand by Helen Simonson. This was May's Bibliotweeps Book Club book and what a treat it was. Major Pettigrew is a widower living in a small English village and he strikes up a lovely friendship with the lady who runs the local store. The village is shocked as she is from Pakistan. This is a lovely story, comedic in parts, about race, class, and love. Essentially a love story, but there are many other layers to it and Simonson really takes you to the end in a non-typical way, which I thought was outstanding for a debut novel. It is not normally the type of book I would pick up to read, but so glad I did.
The hundred year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This was a delightful book about a man on the eve of his hundred birthday who decides to go on one last adventure. Feisty for his age he gets into all manner of trouble along the way, all the while police and nursing home staff looking for him. The story also goes back and tells about his life, which has been one long adventure. Likened to Forrest Gump, where our hero is placed in all manner of history, I was unsure about the flashback chapters, but they were cheesy like Gump and worked. This book made me laugh out loud numerous times, a sheer delight.
Chanel: an intimate life - by Lisa Chaney. This was way too long, the author needed an editor. Half the book was not about Coco at all, but about the life stories of people she knew. I find this frustrating when I am reading a biography. A little background on key people is always important, but not the the degree of this one. However I did enjoy the Coco bits, especially about some of her lovers and her escapades during wartime. What a fascinating woman and what a life and legacy. This was a spoken word book and the reader was superb with great British and French accents.
Music I've been listening to
Coldplay - more laid back and chilled than previous efforts, which is saying something! I like it, but like most of their stuff it needs more than one listen to appreciate.
Wagons – great new album, very rock’n’roll with a bit of blues and country in it. Loved from the first beat.
Beck – love this new album, very mellow but addictive listening
Kavisha Mazzello - after seeing Kavisha play earlier in the month, I've been listening to her music more, what a stunning voice.