What I've been watching
Muscle Shoals - rewatch was as good as my first experience
Senna - I have had this for a long while, and have just not been able to watch it. As a F1 fan and my Dad, a Senna admirer, I knew the story...it doesn't end well! But this is a superb documentary, with great footage, especially from his showdowns with Alain Proust. I sobbed most of the way through it, because it is a terrible loss, but it is really worth a look.
Bill Cunningham New York - this is my highlight of the month, what an outstanding documentary about an extraordinary man. Bill is a fashion photographer, but with a difference, he shoots all the fashion shows but also the people on the street. Then he looks at a weeks/months photos and decides what the trends are relying only on what footage he has. He lets the photos decide and then it becomes a column in The New York Times. This documentary follows him on his trusty bicycle on the streets of Manhattan, and interviews those that know him and tries to find the essence of the man. Bill has to be in his 80s, a loner, never married, very shy, and his work is his life. It is truly a remarkable thing to watch. I think everyone that watches it, regardless of their take on fashion, will love this and fall a little in love with Bill.
Blue is the warmest colour - is a coming of age story. Adele meets the older Emma, she falls in love and her whole life changes. This was a very sensual and entrancing story. An honest look into a young girls coming of age. However at almost 3 hours long, it got rather ponderous in parts.
Ides of March - a political thriller with a twist, excellent viewing and outstanding cast of George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman (how I miss him so!), Paul Giamatti, Marissa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Ward.
Love and other drugs - Jake Gyllenhaal is a drugs distributor, and he meets Anne Hathaway, who may or may not have a severe illness in which she needs a cocktail of drugs. This is a love story, but also a fascinating insight into the life of a drugs distributor.
Water for elephants - I loved this book when it came out, and have only just caught up with the movie. The book is undoubtedly better, but the movie is pretty good, excellent casting and worth a look.
Crazy Heart - Jeff Bridges is excellent as a down and out country singer trying to keep his head above water. He meets Maggie Gyllenhaal, and for the first time realises he needs to make some changes in his pathetic existence. Bridges, who I have always adored (I mean, he's The Dude!!) won an Oscar for this role ad deservedly so, he is utterly irresistible in this!
Scott Pilgrim vs the world - this is a great teen comedy, about Scott (Michael Cera), the world he lives in (a lot of it fantasy), and his friends and girlfriends. It is fast paced, meta, and fun!
Private Lives of Pippa Lee - I loved the book by Rebecca Miller (daughter of Arthur) which would appear loosely based on her father's life. It was layered, and witty, and clever, and shocking. The film came off a little lackluster, possibly the casting, unsure. It was good, but a huge letdown if you have read the book.
Temple Grandin - a biopic about a remarkable girl with autism, who broke through the barriers and became quite famous for her studies on humans and animals. Claire Danes is outstanding in this. I think I laugh/cried my way through this, which means it is really really good!
Love Child - I missed this great Australian series when it aired on tele. Set in 1969 in a teaching hospital/refuge where single girls come to give birth and adopt out their children. A heady mix of romance, sixties, and drama. I really enjoyed this excellent series.
Soul Mates - the only thing I watched on tele, a skit comedy show from NZ about two bros who are best friends through time. The skits are Cavemen, 80s detectives in NZ, Bondi Hipsters (now) and the future where they are time travel agents. Ridiculously funny, especially the plot where they are 80s detectives to try and stop a young Russell Crowe become...Russell Crowe! If it gets a re-run, you must watch it!
Boardwalk Empire S4 - things are gruesome and the killings keep coming as usual on this fabulous Gangster show. Steve Buscemi continues to impress as the complex Nucky, and when matched with the sassy Patricia Arquette this season, it really amps up the heat and sex. She is fabulous. The usual characters continue to impress, especially Jack Huston and Gretchen Moll.
Duran Duran: Unstaged - was a concert movie directed by David Lynch from 2011. It was excellent and they were in fine form, and I really wish I had seen them when they last toured based on the performance here. I didn't mind the new stuff, the old stuff sounded great, in particular Planet Earth (my fave) and a very funky duet with Beth Ditto on Notorious. Highly recommend but caution for those who have epilepsy, the strobe effects throughout are really intense.
Mad Men: the final season, part 1 - Oh my, there is some outstanding television out there, and I rave about Game of Thrones, Walking Dead and all the biggies, but Mad Men remains my favourite. It's so utterly different from pretty much everything else out there, and so utterly perfect. Never have I watched something (with possible exception of Wes Anderson films) that comes so close to visual perfection, but backs it up with great script, dialogue, acting and music.
This season Don is down and out, people are all over the country, and the sixties are nearing an end. I love the subtly of this show, it is quiet and unassuming, yet packs the most powerful punches when necessary. It's time capsule depiction of the sixties is never over powering, this season the big news story is man landing on the moon and is portrayed beautifully. I also love the music selection, so many sixties based movie and shows pack in every single hit you already know. Mad Men, is very selective about music, occasionally you'll hear a song during the show and there is always a song over the credits, but more often than not it is something unexpected or obscure and always absolutely spot on.
Jon Hamm continues to blaze every trail as our hero Don Draper, and there are times he doesn't have to say anything, his face does all his acting for him, he is a cut above the rest and then some. But add in the marvelous Elisabeth Moss as our heroine Peggy and have the two play off against each other and it is sheer magic. My favourite episode of Mad Men ever is a superb two hander between Don and Peggy from Season 4 called The Suitcase. There is a scene during this season that possibly comes close to topping that, and it left me breathless and in tears. I guess I'm a romantic but there is something so very right about pairing Peggy with Don, if only as a work duo, that this is how I wish the series to end, but we'll have to wait and see!
I have a soft spot for the ridiculous Pete Campbell (played perfectly by Vincent Kartheiser) and beautiful Joan (oh my Christina Hendricks gets THE best costumes!). And Roger Sterling (John Slattery, who I do have a thing for...he's much younger than you would think!) is back in fine form this season too. Also coming into their own is Kiernan Shipka as young Sally, she get some great scenes with Don and almost steals them.
And the writing this season seems better, if that is possible, than ever. Some great lines and pieces and incorporating the time; feminism, space travel, gay rights, racial divide. Yet nothing ever feels in your face. It's the moments in the series when almost nothing happens, or no one speaks, when it is spare and quiet that sing to me, you can really see what's happening behind the facade.
What I've been reading
Questions of travel by Michelle De Krester. This is a really difficult book to describe, I have heard people either love it or hate, I definitely loved it. It follows two totally different characters in two different continents and their journeys. It is slow paced, and feels leisurely, even when fast paced things happen. It is almost meditative to read, and the words are so very beautifully written. It follows over a decade of time for these characters and the huge changes they go through and indeed the world around them. And as you read, you stop and think about the philosophy presented or the ideas and thoughts and how they effect you. And towards the end there is a shift in the stories and it took me by surprise, and then I was certain I knew the ending. But boy I had no idea! I love that, the ending of course, in hindsight, was completely predictable (yet apt) but it was so beautifully constructed I doubt anyone would have seen it coming. That is a great book!
Spy in the house of love - Anais Nin This is a spicy little novella by the lovely Anais. It is about a bored, young woman, married to a much older man, who pretends she is off working on traveling plays. But she is often checked in to hotels around the corner from her own house having affairs with people she meets in clubs. It is written so beautifully but is so incredibly seductive. She is very descriptive in the surrounds but less so in the action itself, which gives her writing this intangible charisma. If you've never read any Anais, you are simply missing out on life!
Gardens of the gods - Gerald Durrell, read by Nigel Davenport. Fabulous stories of Gerald's childhood spent on the island of Corfu. He spent a huge chunk of time wandering the island capturing animals, insects, reptiles and birds and bringing them home to his long suffering but kind mother. The stories are gentle and funny, and so very enjoyable. Hearing them read adds extra delight.
Still Foolin' 'Em - Billy Crystal - this was a fun and easy read. Stories from Billy Crystal's life and varied career. It's easy to forget how much he has done and how much amazing he has injected into the entertainment business. When Harry Met Sally still remains in my top 5 films of all time, he writes with joy about the making of it. Also some great behind the scenes on The Princess Bride. I was disappointed in the lack of behind the scenes Oscar information, there was some, but not nearly enough. I would have thought he could have filled an entire book with those experiences...oh, maybe he's saving it for that. But it's a ripper read, especially worth it if you are a fan
Cultural Amnesia written and read by Clive James - a whole range of cultural icons, as described and explained in Clive's dry wit. Perfection!
We need new names - NoViolet Bulawayo - this was a difficult but important debut novel to read. About a group of young kids in an unnamed shanty town somewhere in Zimbabwe. Their lives are full of horror, and the main protagonist, a gutsy young girl called Darling, dreams of escaping to America where her aunt lives. Early on you realise these kids are 9-11 and it is quite shocking and you are full of despair. They witness rape, aids, violence, mutilation and then some. The second half of the novel depicts Darling's move to America and she realises the grass is not so greener on the other side. Whilst she is living in a far better situation than she came from, things are not rosy and perfect as she imagined. Bulawayo initially wrote this as a short story and then made it into a novel and at times you can feel the padding, however it remains with you and the writing is stunning. It is not perfect but important. I always try to read books from other countries to gain perspective on life around the world and this certainly does that.
So, anyway - John Cleese - My love for Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and A fish called Wanda is extreme and knows no bounds. However, I find Cleese a challenging character and as he gets older moreso. However, I was keen to read this autobiography. It is detailed and rich with family and early schooling information, but also ponderous, wordy, and pompous. I struggled with it, and it seemed to be a bit of a vanity project, especially when he starts writing, in his opinion, his funniest pre-python sketches. It ends in 1969 as Python is starting, so I am guessing there will be more volumes to come. Mostly it deals with his issues with his mother and ex-wives, I am guessing this man is no fan of females. I just found it an uneven, sad, cranky book but I really wasn't that surprised.
What I've been listening to
There, there by Megan Washington - a sublime album of stunning ballads, I love it when Megan Washington really showcases her perfect voice, this album is just that!
Mue - the new Emilie Simon, French pop as it's best.
CW Stoneking - I love CK's fabulous muddy, 20s style blues. And his new album, Gon' Boogaloo, is all of that and more. Great at first listen, and gets better with each one after. I really really want to see him live.
Supertramp - a very best of Supertramp came through the library and I have been overdosing on them ever since. I know they are a little bit daggy, but I just love them. Roger Hodgson's supreme lyric and melody writing (and that amazing voice) is superb. Some of the lyrics have particularly been singing to me personally at the moment too, so I've been cranking up that fat 70s sound and driving around singing at the top of my voice.