Pick of the Week #6

Check out the back catalogue: #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5.

Book: I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson (99p on Kindle)

This novel is an excellent crime novel, suited for all ages 9+ – both adults and young people will get something from reading it. It’s the story of Jemma, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy. She can’t walk or talk or even move without assistance, which means most people seem to forget she can think and understand too. Which is why she feels utterly powerless when her carer’s boyfriend taunts her with the information that he committed a recent murder – an original and gripping thriller. The kind you’ll find yourself desperate to read in one go as you just *need* to know what happens next.

Film: The Personal History of David Copperfield (Amazon Prime)

 Director Armando Lannuci is best known for darkly funny political comedies like The Thick Of It, Veep and The Death Of Stalin. For him to make a PG adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel felt something of a choice… Yet it really paid off, with this hilariously charming movie. Dev Patel is wonderful in the central role of David Copperfield, a man whose entire life has seen him constantly bouncing between rags and riches. A wholesome and riotously funny period drama – with a cast including Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie and Benedict Wong – to name but a few), this really is one for all the family.

TV: Soulmates (Amazon Prime)

Brett Goldstein is one of the current British stars-on-the-rise. Last year was especially good for him, with the Apple TV+ hit Ted Lasso (which he co wrote and starred in) receiving critical and commercial acclaim. Now we have this, which he co-wrote and created, an anthology series made up of six episodes. It’s 2023 and there is now technology which can read your DNA and reveal the identity of your soulmate. Each episode follows the impact the test has on a person or coupling. The most obvious point of comparison would be Black Mirror, but this one is slightly more of a character study – focusing on the micro in relationships and the consequences a test like this could or would have. 

Song: World Shut Your Mouth by Julian Cope

I love listening to this show on a Monday morning when making my coffee. I also love sing-shouting along to music. So I’ve picked this tune, which my dad used to play in the car and my brother and I would yell along with.

Pick of the Week #5

Looking for some more pics? Check out the back catalogue: #1, #2, #3 and #4.

Film: Arrival (currently £1.99 to rent on Amazon)

Great science fiction manages to reflect on the now and say so much about the human experience. Arrival isn’t just a great science fiction movie, it’s one of the finest science fiction movies in the 21st Century. When gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations across the world, Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called in to lead an elite team of investigators. A slow-burn thriller that is profound and beautiful. To say any more would spoil it, so go watch it!

TV: Inside No.9

An anthology of dark and twisted tales – all 31 episodes are currently free to watch on BBC iPlayer.  Each episode is stand-alone, you can pick and choose the premise that takes your fancy. Each features creators Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, but there’s a revolving door of incredible guests stars who need to be seen to be believed. This is a show so well written, you’ll start watching and can’t believe it took you so long…

Book: Andi Osho – Asking For A Friend (currently 99p on Amazon Kindle)

Andi Osho is a fantastic comedian I’ve loved for years, her humour is self-deprecating yet warm which works really well in his book – which is her writing debut.  It’s the story of three friends (on is in her 40s, the other in her 30s and the third in her 20s). They met at a comedy improv class ten years ago and became the very best of friends – the ride or die kind) They decide to tackle their love life disasters head on by ditching the dating apps and actually ask people out in real life…but only for each other. What could possibly go wrong? A laugh-out-loud romcom that shows that friendship is just as important as romantic love.

Music: Lady Percy by King Charles

One of the things I love most about Spotify is how I used to create a playlist that summed up my favourite tracks of each month, more often than not those songs become entwined with what was going on and how I felt at the time. This track is from my May 2012 playlist, a summer I look back on with a lot of sepia-toned warmess and nostalgia – summed up by this track.

Pick of the Week #4

Looking for some more pics? Check out the back catalogue: #1, #2 and #3.

Book: When The World Was Ours by Liz Kessler

This was one of the most powerful novels I’ve read in a long time. Very much inspired by a real story, we follow three young friends in 1936 Vienna. They’re 9 years old and their friendship is the most important thing in their lives, they have no idea of the darkness spreading across Europe that will cause their lives to go in drastically different directions. A masterpiece.

TV: Dead Pixels (All4)

Channel 4 just dropped all of series 2 on All4, which means you’ve now got 12 episodes of this really charming show to watch. It’s a sitcom about three gamers that’s as addictive as the game they’re playing. Although there’s a lot of poking fun at their obsessive gaming, it really does come from a place of affection as opposed to laughing at fandoms. It’s so well performed and with a script that’s as sharp & quotable as The It Crowd.

Film: Three Identical Strangers (All4)

Aged 19, Bobby Sharfran arrived for his very first day at college. Every single person he came across greeted him like an old friend, calling him by the wrong name and showing immense surprise that ‘he’d changed his mind and decided to come back for the new academic year.’ And that’s how Bobby found out he had a twin brother – the first of many incredible, shocking, and dark discoveries. An incredible documentary that has to be seen to be believed.

Song: Don’t Leave Me This Way by The Communards

The past week, I’ve really gone down a rabbit hole of 80s’ music. There’s something about that time period where the music really captured the same mood of now  – a desperation to find light within the darkness, how music can spark joy when it is most needed. That’s why I’ve gone for this banger, which I dream of once again booging away to on a dance floor – the aisles of my local Tesco really don’t count…

Pick of the Week #3

TV: Married at First Sight Australia Season Six (All4)

In all honesty, I think this show is the only thing getting me through Lockdown 3.0. My daily routine is watching an episode at 7.30pm on E4 and I’m not sure how I’d cope without it. The show follows 12 couples who literally met for the first time at the alter – after being paired up by ‘experts using ‘science’. There’s no way I can do what follows any justice by describing it to you, the dramas that occur are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This is total must-see television.

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

When Graham runs into Elspeth, his first wife, after leaving her over a decade ago for Audra, his now-second wife, he finds his already overloaded life of day-to-day difficulties and delights of marriage and raising a child with Asperger’s is given another layer to worry about – How can anyone love two such different women? Did he make the right choice? Is there a right choice? Funny, feelgood and addictive reading.

End of Watch (BBC)

There are countless buddy-cop action movies, but this one really is a bit different. Longtime LAPD partners and friends, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) patrol one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Los Angeles. When they run afoul of a vicious Mexican cartel, their lives and those of their loved ones are under threat like never before. The really impressive thing about this one is how it’s shot, placing you firmly in the action.

Mitski – Your Best American Girl

In July 2019 I was in a pretty grim place mentally. On one walk home I had Spotify on shuffle and this track, from the soundtrack of I film I love – Hearts Beat Loud – came on. I’d not really listened to it before, but it was everything I needed to listen to in that precise moment – a song about identity, self-expectation and self-acceptance.  It builds and soars, as jagged as it is graceful, starting off indie and going into punk with synths. Musical catharsis at it’s most pure.

Pick of the Week #2

Recap: Every Monday, as part of my school’s radio show, I make picks of the week in the four categories of book, film, tv show and book. For your delectation here’s the picks from Monday 18th January…

Book (tie between The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman and After the Silence by Louise O’Neill)

I’m cheating this week and I’ve gone for two – both crime but very, very different with one light and one dark. For the light pick, Osman’s book follows four unlikely friends in a peaceful retirement village who meet up once a week to solve unsolved murders. It’s wickedly funny and so warm, playing on societal expectations, cosy yet gripping. O’Neill’s book counters this, by being brutal and scathing. I’d recommend for fans of real-life murder crime podcasts – on the ten year anniversary of a young woman on a small Irish island, a documentary team travel there to find out what really happened that day. Devastating, dark and so powerful – it’ll haunt you long after reading. 

TV (Race Across The World on BBC iPlayer)

A group of travellers are dropped off in a city, in pairs they have to race across the world to their destination using any route they like – but they’re not allowed to use their smartphones, they’re not allowed to catch a flight and their budget is only whatever the cost of a flight would be. At a time when travelling applies moving from the bedroom to living room to kitchen, this show is a wonderful escape seeing such beauty of the world. It’s also wonderful to follow the travellers as they grow in confidence and make so many discoveries about the world, and themselves.

Film (Hotel Artemis on Amazon Prime)

In a dystopian Los Angeles, a nurse (Jodie Foster) runs a secret hotel/hospital for criminals. However, the arrival of a new group of patients is about to wreck all kinds of havoc…. A blend of science fiction, action and thriller, it’s fast paced (only 93 mins) with some fantastic world building.

Song (Under Pressure by David Bowie and Queen)

This week the artist was the easy bit, as last week saw what would have been his birthday and the anniversary of his death – but the big question was the song. My favourite is The Prettiest Star, Modern Love is the one that gets me on the dancefloor. But I’ve gone for the one that should result in some cathartic sing-yelling along.

Pick of the Week #1

I’ve decided I’m going to rebrand some of my regular features here. This one will replace TV Tuesdays. I’ve started a stint on our school radio station doing weekly recommendations, so I thought I’d share them here too. Here’s the back catalogue of TV Tuesdays: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 , #6 and #7.

Tv: Pandemonium 

Shown over the Festive period, and currently a one-off sitcom at only 29 minutes long, this is a bit of gem. It’s one of the few shows so far to have been filed, set in pandemic and is about the effect it has on families – told in a darkly comic way. We see the family on their October holiday – determined to have a family break even if won’t be as good as that trip-of-a-lifetime to the states they had planned. The editing, cutting between October and earlier in the year, is just so superb. Bitterly funny and with some winning lines from Alison Steadman.

Film: Wild Rose

There’s this tradition in British cinema for underdog stories – of those with unlikely talents in unlikely positions dreaming of more. This is up there with the best of them, with Glaswegian Rose (played by Jessie Buckley) dreaming of being a country singing sensation and a life beyond on the estate she lives on. Sad yet hopeful, and so feelgood.

Book: This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

As a unabashed and unashamed fan of the romcom, I end up reading a lot of them. This top tier, needs to be adapted into a tv series asap. Minnie ends up spending New Year’s Eve locked in a toilet cubicle, rescued hours into the New Year by Quinn. It turns out it’s not their first meeting, and it certainly won’t be their last. Hoping between povs and different time periods – this book beautifully balances very romantic romance with hysterical comedy.

Song: “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” by Sylvester

Released in 1978, in a time where there was so much turmoil in lots of communities across the world, this disco anthem incredible for how it’s a joyous celebration of love and life, finding hope and happiness within the dark times -which feels apt for these times we currently find ourselves in.

What David Bowie Meant To Me

I first wrote this piece on the day David Bowie died, the January 10th 2016. I planned to share it again on what would have been his birthday, January 8th, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Now I’ve relocated it, I’m sharing again as it’s one of the pieces I’m most proud of – mainly as it’s so heartfelt and personal. Enjoy!

What David Bowie meant to me. I know there’s going to be hundreds of these, thousands even, that was the power of the man. But I equally feel the need to remember and thank the man I never knew who made such an impact on my life.

My first memory of hearing his music was in the car (the origin of most of my musical findings) aged 9 on the journey from Eastbourne to Legoland. My dad put on what we’ve since identified to be a cassette of ‘Best of Bowie 1969/1974. That moment of hearing ‘Rebel Rebel’ for the first time. My confusion at who he was singing about, his alternating of pronouns. The fact that even though I didn’t know the words (and wouldn’t for years to come) I could still sing along with the chorus, ‘Doo doo doo-doo doo doo.” I demanded that we listen to it on the way home too.

That was it for a few years. My musical allegiances (for better or worse) were with the often-barren wasteland of Top 40. A brief stint of loyalty to dance music concluding ‘coincidently’ with my growing fear of school. I hated it. Even the thought of school filled me with total and utter dread (the irony that I’m now a school teacher is not lost on me!) I feigned sickness, pretending all manner of illnesses so that I didn’t have to go into school. My attendance during year 11 dropped to 60%. Only now do I realise I wasn’t faking illness, but the fact illness could be mental and not just physical was an unknown entity. That’s when Bowie, in the form of Ziggy Stardust, reappeared.

He looked just as a strange as I felt I did, and he had the same hair colour as me! I could plug into his music and be transported, healed by his words and drift away to a world that scared me a little less than the one I lived in.A musical obsession started to form as I delved deeper into his back catalogue and idolised every song, quote and image I discovered. I even renamed (and have kept) my phone’s bluetooth as Major Tom and my laptop as Ground Control. At University when my taste started to remould, and my a petulance for the 1950s emerged, there was The Thin White Duke. A late-in-life discovery of Labyrinth soon after.

Then came the first six months of 2014. They were the darkest days I had ever felt and they had come out of nowhere. It felt like an inescapable black cloud was above me, carrying around an incomprehensible weight on my shoulders, leaving me as an empty void. A shell of my former self. I was desperate. Scared. Hopeless. That’s when Bowie proved he still had more to give me- calling out “You’re not alone” during ‘Rock and Roll Suicide’. Recovering from that time in my life wasn’t made easier by that song, nothing can make that internal battle ‘easier’, but it was a bright speck, a light in a world that seemed so dark and so lonely.

So yes, I feel bitter and sad. Angry even, that I’ll never get to see him perform. The ‘what would I do if I met David Bowie’ fantasy no longer has the same relevancy or potency. But his music is still here. His art is still here. And I’m beyond thankful that I’m lucky enough to have found an artist who I connected with so strongly, who emboldened me when I felt that I couldn’t go on. Whose music possess the power to send me to the dancefloor no matter how sober I am or how empty the dancefloor is. We may have lost a legend but I, we, haven’t lost that legacy.

STWS #15

Welcome back. Lovely to see you again, even if the circumstances (what with Lockdown 3.0 and the world on fire) are decidedly less than desirable. As always, what follows are 7 film recommendations to help you with your picking what to watch.

Here’s the back catalogue: – #1#2#3, #4#5#6#7#8#9 , #10#11#12 #13 and #14.

Dredd (2012 – 85 mins – Netflix)

It’s taken over 8 years and counting, but it feels like Dredd is finally getting some of the recognition it deserves. One of the most underseen comic book movies as well as being one of the finest of the genre. It’s a fantastic take on the 2000 AD comic strip Judge Dredd with Karl Urban (currently most recognisable for his leading role in Amazon’s The Boys) playing the eponymous law enforcer. It’s brutal (strong 18) with incredible special effects, a tau thriller of a narrative and packed full of dark humour.

Pepe the Frog: Feels Good Man (2020 – 92 mins – BBC iPlayer)

I’ve slowly but surely been working my way through the Storyville series on BBC iPlayer. It’s a documentary strand that currently comprises 35 contemporary and challenging documentaries from different filmmakers gathered from across the globe. Some are familiar titles, otten with titles slightly edited, and some are unknown gems – like this one was for me. Loosely aware of the Pepe the Frog meme but knowing nothing about the context in which it was created or how it has since been horrifically warbed and used in terrifying ways, I went in totally blind with this one. Wow. Seeing this just days before the events in Washington this week added a horrific timeliness and an answer of sorts to the question ‘How did we get to this point?’

Casablanca (1942 – 102 mins – BBC iPlayer)

I started to really get into film when I was twelve. For the next few years I’d have these phases we’re I’d discover a genre/theme/actor and obsessively get into it. My discovery of Casablanca, somewhat oddly, happened in my Summer of Film Noir (yep, I was one cool kid…) If you’re yet to see it and have dismissed it as everyone always talks about it, hear me out. Give it a try this week. Why? It’s funnier than you might think, exquisitely filmed and has some sublime performances just across the board. There’s just how brave and ahead of its time it was, whilst being truly of it’s time too. This was filmed and released in 1942 – WW2 had been raging for years with no end in sight. Watch this and dare tell me it’s not audacious and revolutionary. And, I hate to carry on referring to current events but – I think we all need some hope this week.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001 – 97 mins – Netflix)

This film celebrates its 20th anniversary this year – isn’t that MAD?!?! (Answer, yes. v.mad) After watching this fantastic documentary over the festive period, I was compelled to rewatch the film with fresh and informed eyes. It really does hold up (workplace sexual harassment aspects aside…). As I grow closer to Bridget’s age, having had far too many entanglements and experience that could be described as Bridget Jones moments, I appreciate all the more just how bold her character is – with Renée Zellweger capturing her and the single woman experience so beautifully. And I won’t get started on Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in this film. The former has ruined my romantic expectations for life and the latter would just ruin me.

Gone Girl (2014 – 159 mins – Amazon)

And this week’s underappreciated romcom slot goes to… Ha! There’s really not much I can say about this film because you’ve either seen it already (and seeing it here now you know you want to rewatch it) or you haven’t seen it yet (and therefore I don’t want to spoil things by telling you too much about it as you should now go and watch it). A top-tier thriller by David Fincher, dark and wonderfully twisted.

Hustlers (2019 – 110 mins – Amazon Prime)

I once saw this described as ‘Goodfellas but strippers’ – whilst I appreciate the sentiments, that buzzphrase sort of misses the point. Director and co-writer Lorene Scafaria has made a modern classic here, expertly and seemingly effortlessly utilizing the female gaze. The based-on-a-true-story about a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients is just magnificent.

Instant Family (2018 – 118 mins – Sky/NowTv and, from sunday, Netflix )

I reckon it’s a safe bet to say that you looked at the below still and formed a judgement about this film based on Mark Wahlberg and, to a much smaller extent because of her varied back catalogue, Rose Byrne. At least, that’s what I did. However, skip this one at your peril as you’ll be missing out. This is one of the finest and funniest family dramas in recent year, following a couple who find themselves in over their heads when they foster three children. Inspired by the personal experience of the film’s director, Sean Anders, this really is a feelgood delight.

Dating Bio

A burst of inspiration made me decide to write a dating profile that most accurately represents me. Enjoy! Applications will be considered and very much appreciated.

Vacancy available for wintertime crush turned romantic interest. Option is available for the role to be undertaken virtually, until an in-person option is possible.

The potential love interest (who, from hereon in, will be referred to as PLI) you are applying to date is 6ft, has red hair, wears primarily vintage clothing, works in a secondary school and is obsessed with all things pop culture – primarily, but not exclusively, books, tv, music and films.

Things you should know about PLI:

  • Has a nifty ability to guess the song from just a few seconds of hearing, but also has an annoying habit of then announcing the name and artist to whomever they are with – even if that person has no interest in this information.
  • Is a massive fan of puns. Particularly bad puns. Has decided to keep track of their top five for reasons unknown.
  • Loves to Cross Stitch, has an impressive collection of crafting materials and constantly has all manner of them strewn about.
  • Is rarely spotted without at least one book on their person.
  • Is at their happiest in their natural habitat – cinemas and bookshops. However, PLI is also known to enjoy spending long nights at the pub with their nearest and dearest. The same applies for going to the theatre and comedy shows.
  • Is drawn to finding and trying the weirdest snacks possible. Has an usual compulsion to try blue food where possible – again, there is little apparent reasoning for this.

Should your application be successful, please bear in mind the following things that PLI must avoid at all costs (in order of causing most peril to PLI):

  • Wax Models
  • Bananas
  • Penicillin
  • Spiders

Thank you for reading this job description and for considering applying for the role. PLI looks forward to hearing from you and commencing a love affair for the ages.