Stream On Vol. 11

Hope you’re having a fab week and enjoying the beautiful weather! Welcome to volume eleven (can you believe?!?) of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 12345678, 9 and 10.

Moonstruck (1987 – BBC iPlayer – 96 mins)

One of the most perfect romantic comedies there is. Cinematic chicken soup for the soul.

One Cut Of The Dead (2017 – All4 – 91 mins)

A film of two parts. Part one – an attempt at a live stream zombie movie. Part two – just why it went so hilariously wrong. Persevere through the cringe of the half and you’ll be rewarded with comedy gold in the second. I’m grinning just thinking about it!

Feel Good (2021 – Netflix – 12 x 25 mins)

Originally a Channel 4 production, before moving to Netflix for it’s second and final season, the end result is 12 episodes of bittersweet comedic perfection. Partially autobiographical, Mae Martin is a comedy who starts dating George (Charlotte Ritchie), a woman who had only previously dated men. As they navigate George’s understanding her sense of self, Mae continue to be haunted by past traumas. Phil Burgers is wonderfully endearing as their flatmate. Lisa Kudrow and Adrian Lukis play Mae’s parents. A modern comedy classic.

Dora And The Lost City Of Gold (2019 – Sky/NOWtv – 102 mins)

A truly underappreciated adaptation of the iconic tv series, Dora (Isabela Merced) has to lead her friends on an adventure to rescue her explorer parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña). Funny and charming, perfect for all the family.

Dark Waters (2020 – Amazon Prime – 127 mins)

Now for something rather different, a true story following a corporate defence attorney (Mark Ruffalo) as he takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution. Haunting and powerful.

Strong Girl Summer

Back at the start of May, a close friend and I were laughing about all the talk over ‘Hot Girl Summer’. We concluded that, at best, we’d manage a ‘Lukewarm and Overtired Girl Summer’. Then the rest of May hit. Anecdotally, I know I’m not alone in saying May was a *lot*. In some way or another, I think we all went through it last month. I know that’s also been the case for most months since March 2020, and yet last month somehow felt so much worse. I think it’s down to the fact that we’ve all required being handled with care, to be treated gently and with kindness – yet we’re all so exhausted we’ve not got the emotional capacity for it – trapped in a vicious cycle where we’ve never needed each other’s support more yet never been as unable to provide it.

Those who know me know I put myself through the ringer last month, going on a break with dating apps as they were having a huge toll on my wellbeing (which you can read about here). You might also know that I’ve had Long Covid for 8 months (I wrote a reflection at the 100 day mark here). You possibly even know about my Post-Covid Clinic hospital appointment last week that confirmed I’ve developed asthma, am looking at two year recovery time frame from LC and have been referred to for Talking Therapy as I’m not coping well with things.

Perhaps the appointment was the last straw, or things had been brewing for a while, but I had a nasty all-encompassing cold hit immediately after and had a brutal 48 hours. Off work and alone with my thoughts, physically broken and mentally not that much better, I went to some places. Dark, nasty, lonely and cruel places. If asked to rank them, I’d say with some certainty that those two days make the list of Top Ten Days I’ve Felt The Worst.

Whether it’s the sun of this week, having had most of a half term to recuperate, the hope of a new month – or a combination of all three – I’ve emerged determined. Determined to feel better and happier. Striving to live and not just exist. I’m not going to be trying for Hot Girl Summer (though very flattered if you think otherwise [insert winky face and hair fluff here…] ) Instead I’m trying for Strong Girl Summer. My Long Covid Rehab sessions are allowing me to feel stronger on the outside. Brief aside for self-celebration here – back in April, for my interview for the programme, I managed 11 sit-to-stands in a miniute. Last Tuesday, at that appointment we shall never discuss again – 20. 20. TWENTY! Almost double the amount when I started! Now, I want to work on the inner stuff. I need to. And so, I’ve come up with these six mantras for Strong Girl Summer. They will hopefully be my guide to being braver, more powerful and stronger than yesterday. Let me know your thoughts on them and if you end up giving them a try!

  1. Thou shall pursue the path of self-kindness.

One of my biggest problems is holding myself up to impossible standards that I cannot meet, then berating myself for having not met them. Thus kickstarting a wonderful self-fulfilling, vicious cycle, inevitable prophecy of feeling undeniably shit. For double effectiveness, I may also chuck in a side order of comparison to ensure I feel like I’m failing at life. No more! As one of my favourite people told me during a much-needed pep talk recently, comparison is the thief of joy, my journey is just that – mine. There’s no such thing as a wrong choice or decision, whatever path I’m on and whatever diversions I take are the right ones. I will be working towards being more understanding of what is achievable, and most importantly what is in my control. And quieting the voice in my head that tries to undermine it all – if I wouldn’t say it to a friend, or even an enemy, how dare I say it to myself?!?

2. Thou shall be thine own cheerleader.

Which leads nicely onto this one, no more waiting around for other people to acknowledge us or our achievements. Own them and celebrate them, loudly and proudly for all to hear. If you do a cool thing let the world know, if you want. If you don’t, at the very least celebrate yourself and whatever brilliant thing has happened for yourself. Whilst it’s great you may have family and friends who will cheer you on, it’s not their job to. Turn the mic off for the nasty critical voice and dial the volume up to 11 for the encouraging and supportive one. Maybe even give them some jazzy pom-poms.

3. Thou shall be bold and no longer practice the ‘art’ of subtlety.

And when you’re doing this celebrating, don’t be afraid to do it boldly. Think of how much time and energy we waste wondering what other people think of us and how we need to play it cool. I vow to abandon any hopes of cool and enigma, if I like a thing you’re going to know it. And if I love it, then wow… it’s going to be wild. Good service in a restaurant? Make sure you let the bosses know. Liked a film, book, tv show or song? Tweet the creator, shout about it to all your friends. Liked this incredible blog post? Let the dazzling wit of a writer know (you total gem you!) Life is short and can be over in an instant, why be vanilla and neutral when you can dazzle. Brighten someone’s day by letting them know just how much they mean to you. I refuse to live a life of neutrality and sitting on the fence, when there’s so much joy to be had and shared.

4. Thou shall not chase those who do not wish to be chased.

This one applies to both friendships and relationships – although for me it’s definitely more of the latter. The amount of time I have wasted overanalysing messages, or lack therefore of, of men who genuinely gave zero shits about me – it’s genuinely nauseating (in the past and, in one instance the present too). I’ve constantly had thoughts about how I could adapt myself so they want me – be that physically or personality wise (If only I was thinner, shorter, quieter/louder, smarter, less nerdy…) Making sure I was available to reply to messages or to be there for them, because maybe then they’d finally see me. Scrutinising the replies when they *eventually* replied, bereft if no reply ever came, planning on how to get them to talk with me, how I could show I was good enough for them and their attention. NO MORE! I am exhausted from giving time, love and energy to those who I do not matter to at all. It someone loves or cares about me, none of those things matter – there will be no need to prove myself or my worth to them. They will want me for me.

5. Thou shall embrace the present.

My superpower (aside from fiercely strong facial muscles, as my combination of Bells Palsy and having my jaw broken 8 years ago inadvertently revealed) is my ability to assess in 60 seconds an infinite amount of ways things can go wrong. Useful at times, particularly with the teaching, not so much for living a happy and healthy life. Upon reflection, I think it’s rare for me to be in a moment – instead I’m preparing and doing all I can to anticipate the next one. Which leads to the question, what is the point? Why arrange exciting adventures with fabulous friends, when I’m already worrying about what time tube I’ll get home, if I’ve got food in and even rehearsing how and when we’ll say goodbye. This one will be tricky, but I’m going to try and slow my brain down. Not so much my internal clock and dazzling efficiency. More staying within my body, my mind and the moment. Centring myself and appreciating the moment I find myself in, not shutting myself off by disassociating and missing out.

6. Thou shall show openness to all that awaits.

I often find myself thinking about the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Ted wishes he was older, that he could skip all the process and be done – settled and desperately happy with the love of his life. I cannot begin to imagine how many times I’ve had the same thought as I scrolled through awful bios, awkward talking stages and navigating the dating graveyard littered with ghosts of situationships past. All of the previous mantras add up to this one, trusting the process and having faith that it will all be alright. And if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end. Maybe I’ll never met anyone, that happens for some people. Maybe I’ll never know romantic love. But, if that’s the case it’ll be that case for a reason. It won’t mean my life is lacking in purposefulness. I will not be failure when I have so so so much joy in so many other aspects of my life. There’s a reason I’m on the path I’m on, be that living out a great plan or a bunch of side quests. There’s no rush for whatever comes next, as there’s really only one inevitable destination for us all. Live in the moment, embrace the good and learn from the bad. No-one knows what will happen from one-minute to the next. As the great David Bowie said, I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.

Good luck with your Strong Girl Summer. Let me know how you get on with yours, I’ll certainty keep you updated on mine…

A Love Letter to… Cinema Curtains

Back in January, when cinemas were closed and we had no idea if/when they’d reopen, as part of a project I was working on, I was asked to write a love letter to an aspect of cinema. I instantly knew exactly what I wanted to write about, Cinema Curtains! My next thought was ‘Why on Earth?!? What are you thinking?’ Once I got writing though, it really became clear.

There are few inanimate objects that can cause a hush to descend upon a crowd. One of the few exceptions are the curtains in a cinema screen, those undervalued and underappreciated and underseen beauties that command a presence most of us could only dream of having.

Of the many, many, many things I’ve missed these past ten months – my more-than-once-a-week cinema visits are towards the top. But, within that, the aspect I’ve most missed are those bloomin’ cinema curtains. The curtains at BFI, at Picturehouse Central, Regents Street and Prince Charles Cinemas – as mad as it sounds, I miss you all as much as I miss some of my friends. That’s because I miss what you bring us. Your opening, often accompanied in this blissful choreography with the lights switching  off, brings a stillness I’ve craved. A stillness I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated until now, and certainly one I need back again.

There’s a degree of liberation to be found when those curtains open, the lights turn off and the screen ratio adjusts. It’s a release of breath, a calmness takes over as we’re about to begin a pause from reality and an escape into another world. No matter how similar or dissimilar that world on the screen is going to be from our own, the very act of it being unveiled by those curtains makes us safe in the knowledge that the show can begin. For those 90+ minutes we shall find a freedom in fiction or a respite in reality. 

And, no matter how hard you try, it’s an experience near impossible to replicate at home. Since March 2020, we’ve spent our days plugged into screens of varying sizes, but rarely the one that reaches the heights we love. The big and beautiful screen hidden behind those curtains that connote intrigue, mystery and a journey about to begin. A journey most of us cannot wait to recommence once more. 

Stream On Vol. 10

Hope you’re having a great week. Welcome to volume ten of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 12345678 and 9.

Shrill (2019 – BBC iPlayer – 30mins x 22)

Aidy Bryant plays Annie Easton, a woman in her late twenties whose trying to change her life without changing her body. She’s in a 6 month long situationship with Ryan (Luka Jones), who is so ashamed of her that he forces her to leave out the backdoor of his home so his housemates don’t see her. Fran (Lolly Adefope), her best friend is desperate for her to realise she deserves better. The same also applies for her work, where her punk-rock editor Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell) has no idea how best to utilise Aidy’s writing. This wonderful show explores love, friendship, family and self-image so brilliantly. Full of fantastic moments, season 1 episode 4 features an iconic and empowering sequence sound tracked to Ariana Grande’s One Last Time.

Attack the Block (2011 – Now/SKY/Amazon Prime/ ALL4 – 88 mins)

This year marks ten years since Attack The Block burst onto our screens, with stars John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker becoming household names in the years since. With talk about a sequel, it’s the perfect time to return to this action-comedy about a teen gang defending their block from an Alien invasion.

Happy-Go-Lucky (2008 – Amazon Prime – 118 mins)

Written and directed by Mike Leigh, we follow a few chapters in the life of North London primary school teacher Poppy (Sally Hawkins) as she learns to drive. Possessing an irrefutable optimism that tends to exasperate those arounds her, Hawkins is a true joy to watch in this wonderful gem of a movie.

Tropic Thunder (2008 – Amazon Prime – 106 mins)

Remember the Frat Pack movies of the noughties? Comedies starring a recurring revolving door of actors who seemed to have as much fun filming as we had watching? This is top tier frat pack – when a group of actors (played by Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson and Ben Stiller) are forced to become the soldiers they are playing after a series of freak occurrences. Packed full of hilarious and infinitely quotable lines, it also features two scene-stealing performances by Matthew McConaughey and Tom Cruise.

Away (2019 – SKY/Now – 75 mins)

To say too much would spoilt it. A boy and a little bird are on a journey across a strange island trying to get back home- just spectacular.

The h-APP-ening

For over a month, I could sense something was wrong. Uncomfortable with myself and in my own skin, finding myself bursting into bleak tears on a bi-nightly basis – it really couldn’t carry on. Upon performing a self-assessment of my life, an overview of proceedings in a desperate search to find out the cause of the problem, I think I found it. Dating apps. Right now, for me, they’re causing more harm than good to my sense of self and my wellbeing. In fact, they were making me profoundly unhappy. After over 14 months where dating apps have been our main, and in some months only, source of meeting new people – I have been one of the many people dependent on them. Hooked on them. Desperate for them to work. Willing something, anything , to happen. And I’m only just realising how much I’ve been using them to emotionally self-harm.

As a society, we’re force feed a narrative when it comes to relationships and the role they play within our lives. As an enteral singleton, with brief spurts of dating and situationships that have been variable (mostly not-good) I constantly feel flawed. Broken. Unwanted. Clearly there must be something not right with me, otherwise I’d be with someone won’t I? Whether anyone actually thinks that about me, I neither know nor care. That’s a relatively new train of thought for me, and it feels so empowering that I’m starting to think, believe and finally feel that way.

What scares me is how I’ve lately found myself thinking that about myself. Using the last month as my main example – although I know it is has happened countless times in the past – I have induced a spiral of self-loathing within myself about myself through my experiences of the apps. For the past month I have alternated between Bumble, Hinge and to less than minimal success. To no success, to be frank with you. I have come out of May with precisely the same amount of romantic prospects – none. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Logically I know there’s many aspects at play here that are fully out of my control. There’s the algatrium, that secret formula every one of these apps has that dictates the prospective love matches we see. It’s unquestionable this will incorporate a rating of attractiveness and eligibility (we’ll return to this shortly). There’s the fact we’re in a global pandemic and all of us are beyond shattered, fatigued and talking wounded – should we get a match, what are we going to talk about? Must we talk about all that has gone on, where we’ve had over a year of our fertility and youth stolen away from us? How about the fact some of these apps are time-sensitive, with matches expiring after a certain window of silence? Yes, Bumble, I may not have put my phone down since mid-March 2021, but it doesn’t mean I’m able to respond instantly to your notification that is intruding whatever I am currently doing – and what if life gets in the way and holds up his response to my undoubtedly witty first message. Hinge, you’re not so innocent either – your Rose system is total madness.

For those unfamiliar with it (and thank your lucky stars for that fact) every week a user on the app – with the basic version, not paying for additional extras – gets given one Rose to give to one of their matches. Using old money, it’s equivalent to a Superlike on Tinder; a way of showing your match that you’re not just keen on them. You’re very, you-must-show-them-instantly keen. But you’re only given one Rose a week, unless you wish to pay £3 for 3 more Roses. There’s two ways you can spend these Roses, whilst swiping through your suggestions list or you can visit the standouts section. Everyday you’ll be shown 8 prospects who are the Crème de la crème, the best of the best candidates who are more than likely what the app has identified (correctly or otherwise) as you’re type. These standouts never appear in your main feed, you’ll only see them there in that section. And they won’t necessarily be there tomorrow. And you can’t just ‘like’ them, the only means of contact is to give them that one Rose you have each week. And it’s this numbers game that is really horrific when you lay it out, and exposes the most toxic aspect that is fundamental to these apps. You’re given one rose a week, but at 8 candidates a day, that’s 56 candidates over the course of the week to spend that single rose on. Do you spend it on that person, with that funny bio or picture, or should you hold out just in case? What is someone better comes along? And what exactly is ‘better’ when it comes to these apps?

As someone who doesn’t tick the boxes for conventional beauty standards, it’s probably not me. At 181cm tall, I am roughly 17cm taller than the national average for a woman in the UK. But I’m not tall and willowy, with my clothing size on the high street varying from a sometimes 12 to an often 18. There’s also my mane of red hair, the colour of which I share with less than 2% of the world. These ‘differences’ about myself make me feel vulnerable, things I’ve rejected rather than embraced. In previous years of my dating life, this has resulted in my appearing in a certain type of person’s (ahem, man’s) dream venn diagram – a niche taste that has often resulted in uncomfortable festishisation and disturbing messages. I’m also 8 months into a journey of Long Covid, which has warped my connection with my body and made me feel like its tenant rather than its owner. And let’s not go down the rabbit hole of my various nerouses and self-image complexes – many of which have been worsened so, so much by this last month of dating app usage.

My tipping point this week was when this emotional self-flaggation, from how I was viewing myself combined with a lack of matches & messages, became terrifying levels of torture. I realised I was spending around 90 minutes a day swipping and hoping. And, within that accumulated time, there was no-one who liked me back. This formed the thought that I was therefore being rejected by every man I had swiped yes on – hundreds, thousands of rejections. No-one wanted me. I wasn’t good enough. I was undateable. I must be broken. No-one will ever want me.

Now, let me tell you, having my brain say that to me at 3.12am one morning was a stinging slap to the face and a cold stab to the heart. If I really felt that way about myself, what good would I be to anyone else. I would never, ever dare say that to anyone else. If someone I loved dare to say that about themselves, I would be devastated – therefore, how could I dare be saying that to myself and treating myself in this way?

That’s when I uninstalled them on my phone, there and then, and set myself a minimum of a two week enforced break with no exceptions and extreme likelihood of extension. I’m now on day four and, in all honesty, I wish I could say I don’t miss them. I feel weirdly ashamed to say I feel adrift without them, they’re addictive in a way that defies comprehension. It also feels like, as a result, I’m no longer ‘trying’ or ‘making an effort’ to meet someone. To preserve and protect myself, to try and heal from the damage I’ve inflicted on myself, I’ve essentially had to cut off the only way of meeting new people in the Covid-infested landscape that is 2021.

But right now, I just can not do it. As Mama Ru says – If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else? Right now, I scarcely even like myself, so I’ve got a long way to go – so it’s about time I work on being my own cheerleader and work towards loving again the stranger who was myself.

Stream On Vol.9

Did you get a chance to back into a cinema this week? If so, I hope it was as glorious an experience as it was for me – The Sound Of Metal was phenomenal, and Canary Wharf Everyman was as superb as remembered (how had it been over five months since I’d last been able to visit?!?) As usual, here’s five watching recommendations across various streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 123456, 7 and 8.

We Are Lady Parts (2021 – 24 mins x 6 – All4)

There is something so invigorating about watching something that you’ve fallen in love with from the opening minutes. It’s even better when it ends up being one of the finest new sitcoms you’ve seen in years. We Are Lady Parts follows five young women who make up a London-based Muslim punk band, as seen through the eyes of geeky phd student Amina (Anjana Vasan). She, Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey), Bisma (Faith Omole), Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse) and Noor (Aiysha Hart) are extraordinarily well constructed and performed characters. The show explores so many aspects of being a twenty-something woman, especially what it means to be a young Muslim woman in the 21st century – the pressures and expectations that can be faced. It’s so supremely laugh-out loud funny, which some superb cutaways. All six episodes are now on All4, if you wish to binge watch in a 3 hour chunk like I did. Alternatively (or additionally!) you watch one a week on Channel 4, Thursdays at 10pm.

Detective Pikachu (2019 – Amazon Prime – 104 mins)

Based on a Pokemon spinoff, it’s not essential to have watched or know anything about Pokemon beforehand. That’s because, fundamentally it’s a really great take on a noir-esque crime story littered with some very funny moments and dialogue. However, if you are a Pokemon fan – there’s an added degree of enjoyment to be had. Justice Smith travels into the city to organise the estate of his missing-presumed-dead detective father. In the process he stumbles across his dad’s pikachu partner, but Tim is startled to find that this Pikachu can talk (Ryan Reynolds) and is determined to find Tim’s dad at all costs.

Molly’s Game (2017 – Netflix – 140 mins)

Known in some quarters as ‘The Four Star Masterpiece, Molly’s Game), this is a based on a true story tale written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. Molly (Jessica Chastain) was destined to be an Olympic skier, whose life fell apart due to a career-ending injury. Circumstance results in her running the world’s most exclusive poker game and becoming a target for the FBI. Idris Elba is the lawyer who helps her, Kevin Costner steals the few scenes he’s in as Molly’s father and Michael Cera is Tobey Maguire.

X+Y (2014 – BBC iPlayer – 111 mins)

Nathan is a socially awkward teenage math prodigy (Asa Butterfield) finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad. Rafe Spall is his guiding-light teacher and Sally Hawkins is Nathan’s concerned mother. A really beautiful and carefully done drama.

Testament of Youth (2014 – BBC iPlayer – 129 mins)

Based on a true story, Vera (Alicia Vikander) comes of age in World War One – seeing and experiencing first hand its devastating consequences. Her relationship with Roland (Kit Harington), continuously halted by the conflict, is beautifully handled – they have a lovely chemistry and rapport that makes for moving watching. A heartbreaking and profound period drama.

Stream On Vol.8

Residents of England, we’re almost there – in two days time cinemas reopen! In about 53 hours I will be back in my happy place, sitting in the dark in front of a big screen watching a film I’ve waited ages to see, in the best setting possible. However, I know there are lots of reason why others may feel more reluctant to return to the cinemas just yet. That’s why I’ll carry Stream On for a while longer, recommending five fab films across various streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 123456 and 7.

The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020 – NOW/Sky – 108 mins)

Regular visitors to this blog will know that the Romcom is my favourite movie genre. With a real resurgence of the genre in recent years, with Netflix in particular releasing some bangers (like this and that and this), my fellow desperate romantics and I have been eating well. This is a wonderful addition to the genre, with the hilarious Geraldine Viswanathan as Lucy – a gallery assistant who, after a brutal break-up, decides to start a gallery where people can leave trinkets from past relationships. Nick (Dacre Montgomery) is the oblivious cynic who finds himself roped into helping her. A total joy, using the conventions and tropes we all love to wonderful effect.

Tamara Drewe (2010 – Netflix – 107 mins)

I recommend this one at every chance I get, witty and warm yet utterly scathing – I love it dearly! Based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, Gemma Arterton plays the eponymous Tamara – a journalist who returns to her childhood home in the countryside as she puts it on sale. She may have changed, but her intrusive neighbours really haven’t… Dominic Cooper plays her rockstar lover, Luke Evans her childhood boyfriend, Roger Allam her pretentious writer father-figure, Tamsin Greig his underappreciated wife and Bill Camp her adoring new admirer. Utterly delightful.

Ideal Home (2018 – Prime – 91 mins)

A comedy drama starring Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd as a bickering couple whose lavish life is thrown into turbulence with the arrival of their long-lost grandson. Poignant and very funny.

Tyrannosaur (2011 – ALL4 – 92 mins)

Paddy Considine‘s writer-directorial debut, Joseph (Peter Mullan), a man plagued by violence and a rage that is driving him to self-destruction, earns a chance of redemption that appears in the form of Hannah (Olivia Colman), a Christian charity shop worker. Brutal British realism, with two extraordinary lead performances. Total must-see.

Long Shot (2019 – BBC iPlayer – 113 mins)

Bookending this volume with another romcom, journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) reunites with his childhood crush, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), now one of the most influential women in the world. As she prepares to make a run for the Presidency, Charlotte hires Fred as her speechwriter and sparks fly. Hilarious and romantic in equal measure. Also starring an immensely creepy Alexander Skarsgård.

Stream On Vol. 7

Ladies, gentlemen and those of us who know better – there are 9 days till cinemas reopen in the UK. 9 DAYS till we can return to that dark palace where we can disappear into other worlds and universes. I, for one, cannot wait – so much so I just booked my ticket for a screening of Sound Of Metal on Monday 17th May. It’ll be a first watch, I’ve saved it so I can see it with the best soundscape possible. Here’s some more small screen suggestions to help you get through the final stretch… Not enough for you here? Try volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Nomadland (2020 : Disney+ : 107 mins)

Speaking of cinemas reopening, the other big, big screen release is this gem. Directed by Chloé Zhao, for which she won the 2020 Oscar for Best Director (the second woman in the awards 93-year history…) and Best Picture, a woman in her sixties (Frances McDormand) lives out her days travelling America whilst living in a van, having lost everything in the Great Recession of 2007/09. McDormand produced the film too, and won the Oscar for Best Actress – her performance really is extraordinary. Watch it now on Disney+ or wait for the big screen, either way you’re in for an epic watch.

Bill (2015 – 94 mins – BBC iPlayer)

Thanks to TikTok, I have discovered I was not alone in being a teenage girl who adored the tv series Horrible Histories for the comedy, the education and the men-folk. If you’ve not seen it, it’s all on Netflix if you wish to rectify matters. The central team have since gone on to make two fantastic other series, Yonderland (all 3 series on SkyGo) and Ghosts (all 2 series and counting on BBC iPlayer). And, in between all that fantastic telly – they even made a film! Bill explores what may have happened during William Shakespeare’s lost years upon arriving in London to hilarious effect.

The Favourite (2018 – Disney+ – 119 mins)

Directed by the incredible Yorgos Lanthimos, we’re in early 18th-century England, where the status quo at the court is upset when a new servant (Emma Stone) arrives and endears herself to a frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). But leaves long-standing favourite Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) won’t give up her status without a fight… Just sublime.

School of Rock (2003 – Netflix – 109 mins)

It feels futile to really tell you why you should watch this one. Either you’ve seen it already and this is a reminder of its brilliance and how you should go rewatch it immediately. Or you’ve never seen it and you’ve realised from my tone here that you need to fix that immediately. Now go and STEP OFF!

The Descent (2005 – ALL4 – 109 mins)

I rarely recommend horror movies as I am a scaredy cat and avoid watching them as much as possible… But, I’m making an exception here when I spotted this one, it’s available on ALL4 for 16 days and it’s very worth a watch if you’re horror-inclined. A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators. It’s terrifying and I’ll never watch it again as nerves couldn’t handle it, but it is bloody brilliant.

Stream On Vol.6

It’s a bank holiday weekend and you’re not sure what to watch? No problem! Check out 5 film suggestions below and even more in previous editions – 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Have fun and Stream On!

The Mitchells Vs The Machines (2021 – Netflix – 113 mins)

From the team behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (also available on Netflix), this wonderful animation follows a strained family on their road trip to drop the eldest daughter off at college – a journey that gets intercepted by a robot apocalypse. Hilarious, tenderly and beautifully told. I can’t wait to see it on a big screen and with ‘my people’.

Rocketman (2019 – Netflix – 121 mins)

Director Dexter Fletcher continues his streak of full-of-heart jukebox musicals with this total gem. Taron Egerton is Elton John, opening at his lowest point in group therapy we go back to the beginning to chart the loves and trauma that made the man, the myth and the legendary songs.

Promising Young Woman (2020 – Sky/Now – 113 mins)

One of the most talked about films from this year’s awards season, this one has to be seen and discussed at length. Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) is traumatised by an event in her past, so devotes her present to getting vengeance of sorts. A fantastically made, wonderfully performed and powerfully landing film – with the most perfect use of a Paris Hilton single that has ever happened.

Dangerous Liaisons (1988 – BBC – 119 mins)

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos was published in 1782 and remains an incredibly sumptuous tale of seduction, revenge and malice. The 1999 adaption Cruel Intentions may be better known than this one, but you’re missing out on a treat. Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Keanu Reeves and Uma Thurman star in this deliciously malicious treat. And without it we wouldn’t have this music video…

Widows (2018 – Amazon Prime – 129 mins)

Some day, this film will get the acclaim and attention it deserves. Until then, we must continue to spread the word of mouth. Directed by Steve McQueen, we follow Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) when the deaths of their criminal husbands leave behind a large debt and great danger. Recruiting Belle (Cynthia Erivo) as their getaway driver, they face grave danger in the form of brothers Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry) & Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) and politician Jack (Colin Farrell). Beautifully performed and shot, a proper must-see thriller.

Stream On Vol.5

You lookin’ for fantastic films and where to find them? Then look no more! Nothing for you here? Then check out the past volumes: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Rocks (2019 – Netflix – 93 mins)

This is the film and the eponymous role that won Bukky Bakray the 2021 EE Rising Star Award. Rarely, if ever, has an award been so deserved. Bakray is phenomenal as Rocks, a teen who should be thinking about her GCSEs but instead has to worry about keeping her and younger her brother (a scene-stealing D’angelou Osei Kissiedu) safe & well after their mother leaves them behind. It’s a heart wrenching story to follow – incredibly well directed by Sarah Gavron, written Theresa Ikoko & Claire Wilson and with some exceptional casting by Lucy Pardee. This is a love story to London, teen girls and friendship. Rocks is a total must-see.

Elle (2016 – Film4 – 130 mins)

Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is a powerhouse, a formidable businesswoman at the helm of a video games company. She gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her. What follows is a fantastically gripping psychological thriller, that needs to be seen to be believed. Wonderfully atmospheric and rather haunting.

Animals (2019 – Film4 – 109 mins)

I recently wrote a feature for MediaMagazine on Frances Ha about it’s depiction of female friendship, how rare it is to see it’s central platonic love stories treated with a depth usually reserved for romantic ones. The same statement is applicable to Animals, showing a friendship that burns brightly, chaotically and with underlying consequences. Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) are life partners, sharing everything with each other. But, when Laura gets engaged to Jim (Fra Fee), it’s clear the enabling dependency between both women will be placed under great strain. Funny, filthy and bitterly real.

Shazam! (2019 – Amazon Prime – 132 mins)

All of DCs output is tarnished with the same damning brush; while mostly warranted, this has to be (the only?) one of the exceptions. A newly fostered young boy in search of his mother instead finds unexpected powers – the ability to transform into a superhero (Zachary Levi) when he calls out the word ‘Shazam!’ Levi is charm personified as the Big-esque lead, fully believable as a child in a (super)man’s body. Sweet, funny and wonderfully heartfelt.

Philomena (2013 – BBC iPlayer – 98 mins)

Speaking of heartfelt, with a very different topic and tone, Judi Dench plays the eponymous Philomena. Having become pregnant as an unmarried teen, she was sent away into the charge of nuns who separated her from her child shortly after his birth. Decades having passed, with no idea where her son ended up, Steve Coogan is the world-wearly political journalist who reluctantly agrees to help with the search. A wonderful true story, gently and carefully told, lead by two extraordinary lead performances.