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Media for June 2019

A busy month on the seeing, watching and reading front…

I went to see Fightmilk play at the Old Blue Last, which I’ve walked past so many times over the years but never been in. Somehow the gig was free thanks to [waves hands vaguely] a phone app. I don’t know how things work any more. Here’s their album Not With That Attitude:

They were great. The two support acts were a bit too male and shouty for my taste and it was a relief when Fightmilk appeared, whose lead singer had stage presence, charisma and could sing a tune. So good.

Also, you know how all-male panels at conferences are Very Bad and should obviously be avoided? I’m starting to think a similar rule about bands would help the world. Not All Bands! But.

On TV… we watched the Deadwood “movie” which was good. Slightly odd but good. I mean, it felt like almost everything about it could have happened at the end of the third and final season, rather than around a decade later. Despite the town of Deadwood growing in that time there were barely any new characters and not really any new storylines. So it felt like a way to give the series a less rushed ending than it previously had. Which is fine and it was lovely to see them all again with a few more grey hairs.

The second season of Killing Eve was, again, fun, if as shallow as a pool of blood. It felt a little more meandering than the first season, with a less single-minded plot than I remember that having (“catch Villanelle”) but Jodie Comer is great to watch — quite unpredictable, not to mention amazing at accents.

I didn’t have high hopes for Russell T. Davies’ Years and Years as it — a “drama series following a tumultuous 15 years in Britain through the eyes of one family” — could have been pretty bad. But it was mostly really good! There were some clunky bits of exposition, and the usual feeling of comfortable, well-spoken, well-meaning middle-classness that smoothes the sharp corners off most BBC drama but, despite that, well worth watching! One long bit of expository dialogue was so “let me tell you how this huge mess happened” that it went past clunkiness into being a direct accusation of everyone sitting at home watching and doing nothing to prevent this future from happening. An entertaining and gently devastating bit of future-y drama.

We also saw that two-part yacht rock documentary which was fun — especially the two guys from Toto who were like characters from a comedy sketch show — and, yes, like Kim and middle-aged men, I mainly wonder why Katie Puckrick isn’t on telly more often.

I read Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi this month which several people recommended but unfortunately wasn’t up my street. It was set in an alternate 1930s in which the dead don’t quite die but exist in an alternate plane that can interact with that of the living. The mechanisms of how this works require a lot of explanation and I think I’m a bit bored of science-fiction that needs its world to be explained.

Over in non-fiction I read Investing Demystified by Lars Kroijer which was good, although the title’s perhaps a little misleading. It’s not going to “demystify” investing for anyone whose eyes glaze over at the mention of equities and bonds and funds and zzzzzzz…. It assumes basic knowledge and makes the case for investing almost as simply as is possible: a global equity index tracker fund and a government bond tracker. His website has some (free) videos that cover the same ground if you like videos.

And I read The Actor’s Guide to Creating a Character by William Esper and Damon DiMarco, my notes on which I posted earlier. Like Esper’s earlier book, it’s very good, full of words of wisdom, and makes me think I’ll never be committed enough to do this stuff well.

I went to the cinema five times this month, nearly as many as the previous five months combined. And they were all good!

I started the month with A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) which I’d never seen before and was pleased to finally find it on the big screen. I don’t think I’d ever seen a young Marlon Brando before and he was quite something, acting a completely different way to everyone else. It was like he was living and the others were all wearing masks. Something like that.

Then I saw Beau Travail (1999) which I’d also never seen. It sometimes feels like Sight and Sound are obliged to mention the film at least once per issue so I’m glad I’ve crossed it off the list at last. Very good. Less happens than I’d expected and in a beautiful and brutal way.

Back up to date with Booksmart which I probably wouldn’t have bothered with except Fraser liked it and he was right, it’s great fun and funny. It struck me as odd how the world of US high school films is so familiar to British viewers, while at the same time it’s a completely bizarre world that bears little resemblance to anything we’ve experienced.

And then Sunset which was perhaps less gripping than any of the others but still good and fascinating to watch… almost every frame was a head-and-shoulders shot of Írisz Leiter, the main character, either on her face, following her tightly from behind, or sharing the screen with the head-and-shoulders of someone she was talking to. It was an odd experience, both an almost-first-person film and a close study of a third-person. So rigorous. It’s by-the-by, but if you were to watch this at home, a good drinking game would be to take a swig every time someone asks Leiter something like “Where have you been?” or “What are you doing here?” She was constantly dashing off, always in the wrong place for someone.

Finally, I saw Gloria Bell, liking Julianne Moore and John Turturro, and having really enjoyed Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman. I haven’t seen his earlier Gloria, of which Gloria Bell is his American remake, so I can’t compare the two, but I enjoyed it. As ever, I wish I hadn’t seen the trailer, not because it contained specific spoilers, but because it meant that at least half the general direction of the film was, to me, entirely expected.

That’s all. Lots! Half-way through 2019. I hope it’s going well for you despite the gradual collapse of everything. Have an ice cream!

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