What I've been watching
Concert for Bangladesh - for whatever reason, I had never seen this and what a remarkable documentary/concert it is. With extras and interviews about the concert, I was mesmerised. Featuring George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Leon Russell. These boys were all of 30 years old, give or take, at the time of filming and it is a thing to behold. Supported by Ravi Shankar and Bangladesh musicians, the music is sublime. The first all star concert to raise money for a cause.
Night Train to Lisbon - this is a wonderful film starring Jeremy Irons. Jeremy comes across a woman attempting to jump off a bridge and stops her, he takes her back to his University, but she disappears, leaving her coat behind. In the coat was a small rare book and he becomes obsessed with the woman and the book. He boards a train to Lisbon, where he thinks she has returned and to find out more about the writer of the book. He meets a whole range of people and hidden stories begin to unravel, from the past and the now. This was superb, with stunning cinematography in Lisbon (a city that I would very much like to visit), and a great cast including Charlotte Rampling, Lena Olin, Jack Huston, Melanie Laurent, and Bruno Ganz.
Monuments Men - what a disappointing film this was. Excellent cast and a cracking story. Yet it just didn't come across that way. It felt like Oceans 11 finding stolen art, and it shouldn't have. All the actors, most of whom are great character actors, came across as themselves, the very few serious bits - and remember, this IS a war film - came across anything but serious, it was trying too hard to be a comedy against a serious backdrop. I read a lot about stolen art, and whilst I have not read this book, I have read a lot about this story, so I had high expectations. This is not to say it's a bad film, it's just a dumbed down version of what should be an amazing film.
Salinger - this is a documentary about the great writer. Like most great artists, Salinger was flawed. I felt this was not exactly the most balanced film about his life, it tended towards the negatives and sensationalistic aspects of his life. I didn't really learn anything new, except for that Oona O'Neil left him for Charlie Chaplin while he was at war. Although, how I did not know that is strange! Of course, I love hearing about his bunker of colour coded stories, supposedly to be released in 2015...guess we won't hold our breath!
Welcome to New York - This is a very provocative film starring Gerard Depardieu about a French Politian, who is a bit of a rogue with the ladies. Married to Jacqueline Bisset and living off her money, she manages to keep his discrepancies hidden until he sexually assaults a maid in a New York Hotel. He is arrested at the airport and is held until a court hearing. This was difficult to watch, yet I couldn't turn away either. Depardieu was hypnotic, yet I suspect (sadly) this character may be very much like the man himself in real life. Bisset was outstanding. Unsure if this is a much watch though.
Sin City 2 - whilst this was not as good as the first film, it was still pretty amazing to watch. Great cast, noir feel, especially to the story of course, and highly stylised visuals. If you loved the first one, you will still love this, but just be a little disappointed it was not as good at the first.
Tracks - this is my pick of the month, and close to a perfect film. Based on a true story about Robyn Davidson (played beautifully by Mia Wasikowska) who treks the Australian outback with camels and her dog. To fund the trip, she sells her story to National Geographic and allows Rick Smolan (played by Adam Driver, who looks astonishingly like the real life person) to join her during parts of the trek. The acting is superb, she gives her all and then some. The story fascinating and very moving, and the cinematography appears like perfect photographs, which, of course, works perfectly for the story. This is a must see!!
A Long Way Down - this is the disappointing film of the disappointing Nick Hornby book. I adore Hornby, but he had a dull period which began with this title. Basically an ex television anchor decides to commit suicide on NYE by jumping off a building, and runs into 3 others trying to do the same thing. A black comedy with some poignant bits, it didn't work on paper and much the same on film.
Nymphomaniac, parts 1 and 2 - this is a stunning two parter from Lars von Trier, and possibly his masterpiece. To start with his films are not for every one and this long tale about the life of Joe (played brilliantly by Charlotte Gainsbourg) a nymphomaniac makes it even tougher watching. It is graphic, and confronting, and disturbing, and very full on. Yet it is beautifully filmed. Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) finds a beaten woman (Gainsbourg) barely breathing on the footpath near his home. He takes her in and she tells him her story, which is shown over both films from her life as a small child. The acting is remarkable and features a large cast, but it is Gainsbourg's film. I really recommend this, but realise it is not for everybody.
New Girl 3 - this is fun in small does, binging on a full season, makes me less impressed with it. I do love Zoey Deschanel but her twee-ness does need space!. This is the Prince episode season, and that it totally worth the 'price of admission', totally bizarre given he asked to be on the show. But very funny and surreal.
Once Upon a Time 3 - I do love this clever family show. It's underrated in my opinion. Fairy tale characters are living in their own town in the real world, due to a crazy spell. The story toggles back and forth between both worlds, every fairy tale character you can think of shows up, people not normally intertwined are. The cast are fab and fun, especially Robert Carlyle as Rumpilstiltskein/Mr Gold and Lana Parilla as the Evil Queen/Regina. It's not top notch acting or cinematography, but clever storytelling with a nod and wink.
Snowpiercer - this is my movie of the month, from director Bong Joon (The Host, which I also loved). Snowpiercer is a train on a continual loop around the world - a post apocalyptic world totally snow bound with no life surviving there. The train is long and full of sections, from rich to poor. The poor, led by Chris Evans with Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer and John Hurt try to make their way forward and drama ensues. Stunningly shot, I really wish I had seen this on the big screen. Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris also feature. The set design, from carriages of the train to views from the train to the snowbound world are just outstanding. Great acting too, humour, pathos, drama, Snowpiercer has it all and is is a must see.
What I've been listening to
Belle and Sebastian - their latest offering is their best in a long time. I love Belle and Sebastian so much, they write bouncy pop tunes with serious lyrics about life, books, history, art, and everything in between. All their albums are great, but this is just better than anything they have done in a while. If you've never heard them, this would be a great introduction to their style.
Bob Seger - I love all the Bobs, - Dylan, Marley, and Seger. I don't like Old Time ROck and Roll - radio played it way too many times when I was younger, but the rest are my go too when I need a little cheering up. Although We've Got Tonight kinda kills me. And young Bob is hot, reminds me of Dave Grohl.
Sleater-Kinney - new album after a long break, kick arse and punky-pop, just as you would expect, possibly better than you would expect.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Hypnotic eye, a solid turn from The Heartbreakers, I really enjoyed this
Seth McFarlane - this is an album of standards, McFarlane is the Family Guy dude and a great classic singer, you'll mistake him for Gene Kelly. This is a sweet album, and swings in parts.
Here's the thing Alec Baldwin - I have been devouring these podcasts like there is no tomorrow. I started with a stunning one with Julie Andrews, went through and listened to all the ones that interested me and now working my way through every piece starting at the beginning. Alec is a consummate interviewer, his gravely yet smooth voice, is perfect for radio, and his love of politics, theatre, classic movies, music, and, New York shine through. This knowledge makes for great conversations and the unexpected are often the best. My favourites so far are: Julie Andrews, Ira Glass, Jerry Seinfeld, Debbie Reynolds, Thom Yorke, Lena Dunham, David Letterman, Billy Joel, and Danny Bennett (son of Tony).
What I've been reading
I haven't been reading much due to needing glass, so was thrilled when I finally got some towards the end of the month, I can see and read again!!!!!
Gerard Durrell - Been continuing to listen to these fabulous stories in the car, some are a little dated, but most work just fine. Funny, and interesting. If you love animals - as I do - and a laugh - who doesn't - these are worth exploring. Start with his stories from Corfu, where he spent his childhood, and take it from there. The most recent I read, was about his traineeship at a zoo in his early 20s, what a bunch of characters - the animals and the people. Durrell has a way with words, and a twist of the tale that brings humour and wit to most situations he finds himself in.
New York by Janelle McCulloch - a sort of travel guide, but with lovely photos, quotes and hidden places to see. Luscious and homesick inducing.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay - I started this towards the end of the month and it is one of the best essay style books I have read. I love her dry wit and honest style. One essay about Scrabble tournaments had me in tears laughing, so clever and so funny. Due to Roxane's appearance on QandA loads of people wanted to read it, so I sent it back to the library and ordered my own copy - more next month!
Cupid Stunts: the life and radio times of Kenny Everett by David and Caroline Stafford - I loved The Kenny Everett Video Show as a kid, I am unsure I was 'allowed' to watch it, but watch it I did. I guess a lot of the humour went over my young head, but I did know he was a naughty boy. I loved this book, he spends most of the time with his radio legacy, which I knew of, but not quite how much. He started on the pirate radio stations off shore, and was quite a trail blazer. There are personal tales and of course his life on tele. It seems a lovely even handed biography, and sad in parts of course. Worth checking out if you are a fan.
What a croc - NT examiner headlines - this is pure silly, but funny all the same, crazy newspaper headlines and the stories behind them.