Friday, June 1, 2018


What I've Been Watching

The Mindy Project S1-3 - had a bit of a binge on this, and whilst it is a fun show, but the end of S3 I was a bit done. Good fun show with the adorable Mindy Kaling as a Dr and the stories around her work, but ultimately not compelling enough to binge. This is a couple of episodes every now and then pick me up.

House of Cards S5 - where do I start, I was becoming a little done with this show the season prior and this season, until the end few episodes, much the same. And of course we have the whole Kevin Spacey debacle. Where does one place all of this...on the too hard basket to be honest. Seriously no, I have thought long and hard about this and others I loved that have fallen from grace. It really is difficult to separate the person from the art when it is so full on. I remember I had bought almost every season of The Cosby Show and was really enjoying reliving a childhood favourite that actually held up well, and was up to S3 when the shit hit the fan there, they remain in my cupboard unwatched. 

But Kevin I really adored, not just as an actor but as an actor who seemed to hark back to the golden age of Hollywood. Anyone who has seen him interviewed would agree on his incredible intellect, his charisma and charm, and those remarkable impersonations. There was something special about him and yet he could play bad so very well, Swimming with Sharks anyone!?, that it kinda didn't surprise me. He is basically no one anymore, part of me is totally fine with that, and part of me is sad. And that is about as far as I have gotten. It's a rough one, for everyone involved.

Fortitude S2 - oh vey, the first series started well, intrigue and murder in a nordic, icy small town, but it unraveled into a really grotesque thing. I should have realised S2 would be similar, and indeed it started with great promise, but by the last few episodes, there were scenes so graphic and horrific I thought I would vomit. Simply too much!

Victoria S2 - I have really grown to enjoy this series. Jenna Coleman is just delightful and feisty as Queen Victoria, but it is Tom Hughes who plays Prince Albert, that I just adore. His performance is nuanced, and clever, and sexy, and melancholy. He nails what it must be like to adore the most famous woman in the world and also be a little in her shadows.

Halt and Catch Fire S1/2 - this has been around for a while and was recommended to me and I, in turn, will recommend it to you. Set in 1983 when computers and technology commenced it's real boom, the show follows a group of youngish tech heads, set on giving IBM a run for their money. A drama with great attention to detail of the era (has a sort of Mad Men feel) this is truly fascinating and compelling to watch. 

Here and Now S1 - I loved this at the beginning, but it fell away in the middle. The story of a mixed family, headed by hippy parents, Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter. It bordered on paranormal, but in a realistic way, with one of their children hallucinating strange things...but were they real. Too much time was spent on this particular storyline and it became a bit nutty, but it picked up towards the end. So I will hang on and see what S2 brings....nothing, it has been cancelled.

Genius S2 - Picasso - if anyone was born to play the great Picasso, it was Antonio Banderas. Oh my! Look Picasso was a bit of a challenging character but those paintings are simply my favourites. I adore Picasso. The show, much like Einstein before it, moves around from young to teen to older Picasso and for the most part that works, just sometimes the jumps are too quick. Also you do not always get to see the copies, that is apparantly a whole copyright thing. So the paintings used are fakes, that were to be destroyed once filming finished. Mostly you see him painting front on, hence no painting to actually see and people around the painting praising it but no painting...ahhhhhh. But in all, this is a great series.

Handmaid's Tale S2 - this continues to take my breath away. The acting is outstanding, especially from Elisabeth Moss, that woman doesn't need to open her mouth to convey her emotions. It is certainly intense and not one to binge watch, but it is good!

Alan Davies, As Yet Untitled - I love this simple comedy show late on a Sunday night on ABC Comedy. Alan has four comic guest around a round table and they talk about stuff and hope to come up with a title for the show. It's very funny and the guests - those you know and those you don't - are always a great mix. Worth having a look at.

Next of Kin - is a new british show I am enjoying. A middle eastern family living in London appears to have terrorists within, or do they. The female lead is married to Jack Davenport and he seems to be an innocent, or is he. Hard to explain without giving stuff away, but a thriller/mystery that has me on the edge of my seat. My theory is the Davenport character is up to no good...though I could be wrong!

The Beguiled - a lovely Sofia Coppola films about a group of ladies in the South who take in a Union solider (Colin Farrell) who is injured. Set in a ladies home, run by Nicole Kidman, only a handful of ladies remain due to the war. Lush and beautifully shot. But there's a twist, things go horridly wrong, when some of the ladies vie for the solider's attention. I did enjoy this to a certain degree, but found it a little melodramatic in parts.

Hampstead - this was a sweet little film with Diane Keaton, a ditzy widower, and Brendan Gleeson, a curmudgeonly character living in a shack on the Hampstead Heath. They strike up a relationship which exposes him from the radar he'd been living under, and his 'property' comes under attack. Based on a true story, I didn't mind this.

I Am Heath Ledger - this was a good solid documentary, with loads of great early footage where you can see his charisma and his darkness. Ultimately, nothing too new and just sad.

A Room With A View  - oh my goodness, how wonderful is it to relive old faves, I have to say not many movies grab me these days. And watching these older films really consolidate that. I love a romance done well, these are few and far between, this one is just lovely, but it is far more than that. It is romantic on a whole other level, the romance of life and living well and all that, my kind of romance. That first 30 minutes or so in Florence has got to be the most romantic ever set to film. Beautiful young Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands, the rest of the cast (Denholm Elliot, Rupert Graves, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench), wandering all through the beauty and perfection that is Florence and the Tuscan hills, in those flowing garments, and all that opera as background music. The return to England is equally as stunning, throwing a young, pompous Daniel Day-Lewis into the mix. If you haven't seen this, you are in for a treat, go now!!

Do the right thing - 1989!! I love this film so very much, I remember seeing it in a cinema and my mind was freaking blown, that opening shot, the hot summer in Brooklyn, the hip hop, the dancing, the coolness of the character against the stifling summer heat. A melting pot of angst and anger, race, hate and love. I knew this was a change coming. Almost overlooked at the Oscars that year with only a nom for Danny Aiello's Sal and Spike's original screenplay. No wins. It remains a masterpiece that I watch often. Great performances all round, Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Giancarlo Esposito, and a young trio of John Turturro, Rosie Perez, and Samuel Jackson, and Spike himself as the troubled Mookie. This film is a masterpiece and that is before it gets to its explosive last quarter. And don't forget Public Enemy's Fight the Power!!

What I've Been Reading

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt - this is my first Donna Tartt. I have heard wonderful things about all 3 of her books. I need to read her first 2 soon! I've been in a reading slump and this 700+ page tome got my reading mojo working again! What an epic saga, a young boy has been suspended from school and on his way to a meeting with teachers his Mum takes him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Whilst there a bomb goes off in an act of terrorism and the boy spends days trying to locate his mother. Prior to the explosion he sees a girl his age and is quite taken by her. After the explosion the old man she was with, passes on his dying wishes to the young boy, who also takes with him a priceless painting, The Goldfinch.

And so begins his journey, to old school money on the east side of New York, to Vegas, back to New York. The characters he meets, the girls he loves, a dog, a crazy friend, antiques, money, drugs, and the piece of art. This is the most wonderfully thought out story, I could picture every part of it in my head, it is a visual book. There were a few times I thought it could have been edited, but in all that is a very minor discrepancy. I just fell in love with this book, it is a must read, and a rare 5 out of 5 for me!

Danger Music - Eddie Ayres
The background to this book is interesting. I had purchased a ticket to see him talk at the Newcastle Writer's Festival, the name familiar to me as a Classic FM announcer. The book, had come through my hands at work and sounded intriguing, but I was yet to read it. I was in the festival bookshop and picked it up and noticed beside it was a book I already owned and had read, Cadence by Emma Ayres, oh I thought, must be his sister, and then looked at both books and realised they must be twins. How astonishing, and thought no more about it. Later I was lunching and it came back to me, and I googled Eddie and yep Eddie used to me Emma! The talk about the music that defined his (and fellow Classic FM announcer, Christopher Lawrence) life was fascinating.

So I finally got around to reading the book, and it was a wonderful must read that I cannot recommend highly enough. Eddie is actually Emma for most of the book, and she was feeling lost in her life, and decided to go to Afghanistan to teach classical music, specifically the cello (sigh, probably my most favourite instrument and one I'd love to learn) to children at a special school there. 

SHe tells about setting up house, the problems of being a woman and a foreigner in such a country, but mostly it is about the children and the music, the school, the struggles and classic music. Absolutely fascinating. There are moments of intensity, how can there not be, but it is written so beautifully and with so much hope you never feel dragged down by the sadness that does occur. It is a true insight into living in a war torn country, and it is honest and real, with tremendous heart. I loved the musicality of the book, I could hear all those songs in my head. And of course there is a small underlying melancholy thread layered through the book where Emma realises she must become Eddie. This is easily one of the best books I have read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The Music Shop - Rachel Joyce - I enjoyed this simple little book about a record store owner. He refused CDs when they came in and kept his record store going, with a group of regulars, all unusual and interesting. He could recommend the right record for people without knowing much about him. There is something about his past and when a mysterious woman faints outside the shop a connection forms. We follow these people throughout the years, and see where their lives progress. Loads of music references, a little bit of romance, and some mystery, this was a sweet book.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman -  this is another sweet little book, one we read for our Bookclub. When we meet Eleanor it is very obvious there is something wrong. At first I thought possible aspergers, and that irritated me, there has been a run on those kinds of books and I hate pulpy stuff. But it was not that, she has gone through some kind of trauma and the author slowly reveals the trauma as we see Eleanor transform from a shell to a better version of herself. It wasn't a huge reveal, because to an astute reader you are always a few steps ahead of the author, or at least I was. And I found the whole make over a little irritating. But I did enjoy the book nonetheless. I guess if I were to be honest, early Eleanor reminded me of me in what I call my lost years. How lucky was her character to have the character of Raymond become her friend and help her out of her funk. This has won lots of praise and is going to be made into a movie. It is what you would call a feel good book.

A Woman looking at Men looking at Women - Siri Hustvedt  - Loads of essays about art, philosopy, psychology and life. Louise Bourgeois, Robert Mapplethorpe, Wim Wenders, Pina, and Susan Sontag referenced amongst many more. This was intense but an excellent read.

Wednesdays With Bob by Bob Hawke and Derek Reilly - Over a period of Wednesdays the author arrives at Bob Hawke’s home with a  cigar and they sit on his balcony and chat about everything from politics to death and love.
It is utterly fascinating, at times bawdy, and always intelligent with a little humour…as you would imagine. He also interviews other key people, Blanche, Gareth Evans, John Howard, Kim Beazley, John Singleton and more.

David Sedaris - I've been continuing to work my way through Sedaris in order. Finishing Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, When You Are Engulfed By Flames, and Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls. I loved re-reading these beloved and hilarious books. Not many books make me laugh out loud, but Sedaris always does, even more when I know the story. He moves around through his childhood (oh, that family!!!), his 'lost' years, the odd jobs, meeting Hugh, and becoming a writer. You feel you know this man so intimately, and yet he can surprise you in a second. He is sweet and kind, and also snippy and shocking. I have nearly finished his diaries and his latest book, only published this week, I have had for a while (due to a very good friend in publishing) and I am busting to read it, but I wanted to finish re-reading in order before I did that. I am mean to myself in that way! If you haven't read any Sedaris, you simply must. Also look out for spoken word or live readings online, even better!!! Listening to him read his stuff, I have seen him live numerous times, is absolutely the best. Also he is very generous with fans, taking time to speak to each and every one at book signings, he just loves it, and we love him for it!

What I've Been Listening To

Versatile - Van Morrison - Van is continually popping out these great little gems, this is an album of jazz and standard covers and is a sheer delight.

The Thrill of it All - Sam Smith - I know he is what I would normally classify as Kid's Music (which is my snobby title for stuff the kids are listening to, eg what's trendy and commercial - urgh, usually not my thing) but I like this a lot! So there!!

Belle and Sebastian - listening to it all, in readiness for the the concert! Not like I need to!

Muriel's Wedding: the musical soundtrack- Kate Miller-Heidke and Abba, what more can i say, it is brilliant and I must go and see the actual show.

Jeff Lynne's ELO, Wembley or Bust - this is the cd and dvd package of this concert and it is brilliant. I am such an ELO fan, I just played it over and over.

Conversations with Richard Fidler podcasts  - still listening to a chunk of these in the car and just loving it. Every single one a stand out!

Chat 10, Looks 3 Podcast - finally caught up with this delightful podcast by Annabelle Crabbe and Leigh Sales about books. Yes, as you can imagine, I am in heaven and listening to it whenever I can. Love their friendship, their humour, the talk of yummy sweet things, and musical theatre along with the books and other pop culture references.

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