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w/e 2021-12-26

Merry Day-Between-Christmas-Day-And-Official-Christmas-Day-Or-Maybe-Boxing-Day!

A photo of a large round pie with pastry stars on the top

Not many events or achievements to report this holiday week. After picking up my sister to stay with us, it was a leisurely week of waiting for Christmas.

For Christmas Dinner I made this Anna Jones Celeriac and Sweet Garlic Pie which was a bit of a faff, taking about two hours to prepare. But it is tasty, and big enough that we have plenty of leftovers.

Still waiting to update my site to Django 4.0 because of this (which is fine, fine!).

§ I’ve barely touched my PlayStation 4 over the past couple of years. Whatshisname is still sitting there on his horse in the completed Red Dead Redemption II, waiting for me to return so we can continue exploring and collecting things.

But last month I bought The Last of Us Part II when it was on sale and I started playing this week. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long, given I loved the first one. For some reason the act of playing on the PlayStation wasn’t appealing for a long time, despite it being perhaps an ideal lockdown activity.

Anyway, I’m five hours in now (slowly exploring the ruins of Seattle, for those who know the game) and loving it. It’s been a long time since I read a novel that I was itching to get back to reading but I have the same feeling about this game: constantly having Ellie (and occasionally Abby) at the back of my mind, knowing they’re frozen, and me itching to return and move the plot along.

And it looks so good, even on the now eight-years-old PS4. I generally have little time for stories and cut scenes in games, which usually seem like tacked-on and unnecessary justifications for the action of the game. The first Last of Us was the first time a video game story really worked for me and it’s still good here, helped by the great animation. The characters in the cut scenes seem so much more alive than I remember other games’ being. The body language and subtle facial expressions of the characters are genuinely touching. There’s still the slightly jarring contrast between those and the odd way the in-game figures move around as I ineptly jerk the controls but it’s getting better over time isn’t it.

§ This week we have watched…

  • The Outlaws, that unlikely Stephen Merchant comedy-drama with an ensemble cast featuring Christopher Walken. I’m pretty sure this shouldn’t have worked at all — the lurches between comedy and tense drama, the varied caricatures of the main cast, the famous American in danger of overshadowing everyone else — and yet it did!

    It was a little uneven but it hung together, and the characters were self-aware enough to make the caricatures fun. It could maybe have been tightened up a little in places but two thumbs up generally. Walken looked like he was having fun being part of it all. Two other highlights: the lovely views of Bristol and watching conflicting emotions flicker across Rhianne Barreto’s face.

  • The Wife (2017, Björn L. Runge, on iPlayer) which was pretty good, especially the simmering Glenn Close. Although because the only thing I knew about it was its twist, such as it is, I was mainly just waiting for the “reveal” to finally happen.

  • Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (on iPlayer) was the first Shaun the Sheep animation I’ve seen and it was excellent. Fast and funny. Well done Aardman gang.

  • Terry Pratchet’s The Abombinable Snow Baby (on All 4) was weirdly slow and did a lot of showing and telling. I’d have excused that with, “Well, it’s for kids,” but so’s Shaun the Sheep and that was a world apart.

  • The Morecambe and Wise Show, that “1970 lost tape” (on iPlayer). They were fab if, like me, you’ve grown up loving them. But I’d forgotten how much of the show is filled with musical turns that have aged much more than the comedy. Thankfully the colorizing of the black-and-white wasn’t as noticeable as I feared.

§ That’s all. I hope your holidays are going well and healthily.

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