Last weekend I made two visits to The Lighthouse to see two just-released films, both of which starred Amy Adams: Arrival and Nocturnal Animals.

Nocturnal Animals is definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year (it helps that it stars two of my favourite actors, Michael Shannon and Jake Gyllenhaal). It’s the second film written, produced and directed by designer Tom Ford. Adams plays Susan, an art gallery owner living an aspirational life in LA: chic wardrobe, stunning house, successful career, handsome husband. She is contacted by her ex-husband who sends her a book he has written and dedicated to her, called Nocturnal Animals. The novel is set in Texas and is a revenge thriller, brutally violent and unsettling, and the viewer sees it enacted as a film within a film. The book throws Susan’s life into disarray and she begins to reflect on her past relationship and on her current life with her husband.

Nocturnal Animals is a huge shift in tone from A Single Man, much more visceral and plot driven, yet perfect in its observation of details which is a hallmark of Ford’s aesthetic. The entire cast are wonderful and the cinematography by Irishman Seamus McGarvey is breathtaking, whether he’s capturing the dust and searing heat of West Texas or the polished perfection of upmarket LA. I honestly can’t recommend Nocturnal Animals enough.

 

 

Next up was Arrival, a sci-fi thriller starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner and directed by Denis Villeneuve. The title refers to the appearance of twelve spacecraft at different locations around the world. Louise Banks (Adams) is a linguist and Ian Donnelly (Renner) is a theoretical physicist who have been drafted into a team lead by US Army Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker) to visit the alien site in Montana and make first contact. Louise and Ian end up in conflict with military forces in America and around the globe; the scientists advocate trust and diplomacy, whereas the army guys want to bomb the aliens to smithereens, just to be on the safe side. The analogy is a little heavy-handed but not so much that it ruins the film.

A friend of mine described The Martian as a ‘love letter to science’ and I feel like Arrival is similar. It’s a love letter to the power of language, the effectiveness of communication versus action.

 

 

Afterwards I checked out Amy Adams’ filmography and realised that I’ve seen almost all of her movies. She has such multi-faceted range, from a naive princess in the hilarious Enchanted to a genius conwoman in American Hustle, a young and innocent nun in Doubt to a feisty no-bullshit barmaid in The Fighter. Her characters are so fully realised that it’s hard to imagine any other actress in the role. Adams has been nominated for an Academy Award five times, 2017 must surely be her year to win.

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Sinead Gleeson. Photo by Paul McVeigh

A few weeks ago I attended the launch of The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland, a new anthology edited by Sinéad Gleeson. This anthology is a follow-up to Sinéad’s last collection, The Long Gaze Back, an anthology of short stories from women writers in the Republic of Ireland, published last year. It featured well known names such as Maeve Brennan and Elizabeth Bowen and more recently published writers including Anne Enright, Eimear McBride and Lisa McInerney.

I’ve been dipping into The Glass Shore, reading a few stories a week and becoming familiar with writers I had never heard of. Sinéad has unearthed some gems from contemporary writers and resurrected some older ones, one of my favourites being the first story in the book, ‘The Mystery of Ora’ by Rosa Mulholland, a classic gothic tale with supernatural overtones. I also loved the Lucy Caldwell story, ‘Mayday’, a sparely written and affecting story about unwanted pregnancy that seems particularly relevant in the light of the Repeal the 8th campaign.

Sinéad is an incredibly accomplished woman: a broadcaster and journalist, a writer and editor. The Glass Shore is another feather in her cap and if you’re looking for present inspiration for the book lover in your life this is definitely a great purchase.

Although Mourir Auprès De Toi (To Die By Your Side) was made in 2012 I only discovered it in a recent article on Open Culture. It’s a stop motion film directed by Spike Jonze in collaboration with Olympia Le-Tan (she of the much coveted and beautiful handbags), a fairytale about characters in books that come alive when the lights go out.

The setting is Shakespeare & Company, the iconic Parisian bookshop, and the characters are Mina Harker and the skeletal Macbeth. They fall madly in lust from afar but tragically Macbeth loses his head and then falls into the sea only to be chased by Moby Dick. Mina heroically saves Macbeth, the film ends and the credits show the couple hilariously in flagrante.

It’s a perfect marriage of Le-Tan’s craft, Jonze’ imagination, and Shakespeare & Co.’s inspiration, and just on the right side of literary macabre to be suitable for All Hallow’s Eve.

Regular readers may remember that back in June I posted about Vincent van Gogh, specifically The Starry Night and the movie Vincent and Theo, a biopic starring Tim Roth. Now van Gogh is the subject of the world’s first fully painted feature length animated film, Loving Vincent, which is due to be released in 2017.

According to the directors of the film: ‘Loving Vincent is an investigation delving into the life and controversial death of Vincent Van Gogh, one of the world’s most beloved painters, as told through his paintings and by the characters that inhabit them. The intrigue unfolds through interviews with the characters closest to Vincent and through dramatic reconstructions of the events leading up to his death.’

Over sixty different painters retrained as animators to create 62,450 frames painted in oil, and 200 of the original paintings will be made available for sale according to the official website. Polish actor Robert Gularczyk voices the character of Vincent, and Irish actors Aidan Turner, Saoirse Ronan and Chris O’ Dowd lend their voices to other characters.

Van Gogh was a groundbreaking artist, a visionary, and it seems fitting that a groundbreaking history-making film takes him as its subject. The trailer looks mesmerising and I can’t wait to see Loving Vincent next year.

 

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I first came into contact with Niamh Barry many years ago when we both had jobs in the Crafts Council of Ireland. Working part-time in the shop was my job right the way through school and college (and the longest position I ever held, totalling twelve years!), and Niamh also worked there part-time while simultaneously making her art.

Last year I saw an incredibly beautiful lighting piece on Instagram and when I clicked on the picture, I found out that the artist responsible was Niamh. Niamh now creates custom light sculptures, both for private clients and for businesses (you can see one of her pieces in Optica, on Dawson Street). In addition she has exhibited extensively internationally.

I have a very very high ceiling in my kitchen which I had thought I would fill with an interesting chandelier, but no more! Now I dream of a piece by Niamh and when my budget allows I’ll be contacting her to commission something unique, timeless and beautiful.

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I’ve spent the last week painting my bedroom, which makes it sound huge when in actual fact it’s just slightly bigger than a postage stamp but I make a lot of clumsy mistakes necessitating many do-overs and clean-ups. In the process I’ve been listening to way more music than usual, caning much beloved old albums and buying newer stuff.

One of the new tunes on rotation is Kim Gordon’s very first solo single ‘Murdered Out’. It’s droney, discordant, distorted, and I love it! It harkens back to Gordon’s post-punk roots but the crisp production lends it a more modern feel.

Can you believe that it’s Gordon’s first solo release? I couldn’t. She’s a founding member of Sonic Youth, a songwriter, musician and singer, a fashion designer and visual artist. Now sixty-three years old she’s a rock icon and a revered trailblazer, with artists like Roisin Murphy, Karen O, and Kathleen Hanna claiming her as an influence. A solo release seems WAY overdue. Here’s to a lot more.

 

 

The world of manufactured pop has been begging for a mockumentary for a long time and in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping it finally gets the parody it deserves. Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) forms a band called Style Boyz with his childhood friends and they become popular due to their good looks and dance gimmick, the ‘Donkey Roll’. When they inevitably break up under the pressures of fame, Conner goes solo, with bandmate Kid Contact (Jorma Taccone) relegated to hitting play on an iPod under the guise of beat-maker and DJ.

Conner is propelled to superstardom with his catchphrase verse on ‘Turn Up The Beef’ by Claudia Cantrell (Emma Stone), and it seems he can do no wrong until he makes a deal to automatically upload his newest album to household appliances via WIFI (shades of Ireland’s original boyband?) leading to a backlash and Conner’s fall from grace.

Never Stop Never Stopping has its roots in the carefully controlled promotional films of pop stars since the genre began, from The Beatles to Madonna to Katy PerryJustin Beiber‘s ‘Believe’ seems to be a direct inspiration – just check out this trailer which might seem like a parody if you didn’t know any better. Writers Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer have hit every recognisable plot point: a mother who gave up her own dreams of stardom and now parties with the kids (Joan Cusack), a faux relationship with a fame hungry singer (Imogen Poots), and a support act in the tradition of ‘All About Eve’. Sarah Silverman as Conner’s publicist delivers some gems in her trademark deadpan: ‘I’d like to get Conner to the point where he’s everywhere, like oxygen or gravity or clinical depression.’

The cameos are a who’s who of the Billboard charts: Ringo Starr, Questlove, Pink, 50 Cent, Carrie Underwood and RZA are among many recognisable faces. Mariah Carey in particular is worth watching out for, brilliantly sending herself up in just a couple of lines of dialogue. And Andy Samberg is perfect as Conner: handsome enough to be believable, a better than decent dancer and singer, and so committed to the role that you can’t help but be on his side even though he’s eye-rollingly stupid.

Never Stop Never Stopping is cleverly written and its Spinal Tap style satire delivers proper laughs. If you haven’t seen it, it’s one to put on your list for an afternoon watch this weekend.

I saw these amazing space-travel posters on a friend of mine’s Facebook feed and knew that I had to spread the word a bit further. They can be found on the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory website and there are fourteen of them. ‘As you look through these images of imaginative travel destinations, remember that you can be an architect of the future.’

There’s a bit more on the design of each poster available here. The NASA design team took inspiration from the iconic WPA posters from the late 30s and 40s. Despite the retro feel, these posters were created and released earlier this year.

And the best part? They are available to download and print FOR FREE! How generous is that? I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely getting a couple of these printed and framed for my walls. View and download them here.

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Last week I DJed for the Louise Kennedy AW16 fashion show in her stunning atelier on Merrion Square. When compiling the playlist I rediscovered some overlooked gems in my music collection and found some new ones on iTunes. ‘Feel Like I Do’ by Disclosure fell into the former category – it was first released in June and I bought it when it came out. It didn’t make the cut for the show but I’ve been playing it at home for the last few days. It’s perfect for the end of our Indian summer; laid back, with a feel-good groove and gorgeous vocals.

The vocal is sampled from an Al Green song, ‘I’m Still In Love With You’. Disclosure asked permission to use it and when Al Green heard the track he gave them the original vocal recordings to use, a stamp of approval if ever there was one!

 

 

As an Irish girl with no interest in sport of any kind I had never heard of OJ Simpson until 1995, but on holiday on the west coast that summer it was a conversation that was impossible to avoid. I watched American Crime Story earlier this year, the dramatisation of the trial starring Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance and Cuba Gooding Junior. While the performances were excellent I found the pace very slow. When I read early reports of the documentary miniseries OJ Simpson: Made In America I knew it was much more up my street.

OJ Simpson: Made In America was broadcast by ESPN in June in five parts totalling eight hours, starting with OJ’s glory years: football in USC in late 60s including what became known as ‘The Run’, a 1967 match against UCLA, his acting career and subsequent fame. Adored by the public and by his friends, he was charismatic, handsome, charming and funny: ‘everybody’s best friend.’

It was in his relationship with Nicole that his dark side surfaced. He met her in a nightclub when she was just eighteen. He was married but they started an affair, then OJ divorced his wife and married Nicole. True to form he continued having affairs yet he was incredibly jealous of Nicole, often becoming violent and verbally abusive. A couple of Nicole’s phone calls to 911 are played and she is clearly in fear of her life as OJ rages in the background.

In tandem with OJ’s story the documentary shows the history of black people in Los Angeles: Watt’s Riots, Rodney King, 1992 Los Angeles Riots, police brutality and racial profiling. It’s impossible to talk about OJ without seeing the murder trial in this wider context.

OJ’s trial became about race and he became a symbol of civil rights injustice, when in fact he had turned his back on the African-American community throughout his life. When he was asked to become an activist he refused, he married a white woman, he socialised with white people and lived in Brentwood, a predominantly white and very affluent suburb of LA. OJ often said, ‘I’m not black, I’m OJ’, believing that his celebrity transcended race.

The interesting thing is that when discussing the verdict both jury members and onlookers viewed his exoneration as payback for how black people were treated in America, ‘for Rodney King’. Almost nobody discusses his guilt or innocence, as if that was such a secondary issue it wasn’t worth mentioning. To this day no-one else has been tried for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, and OJ has on numerous occasions outright confessed or alluded to his guilt.

The final part of the documentary focusses on OJ’s life after his criminal acquittal and it’s a sleazy and sordid mess, involving drugs, alcohol, sex and bad rap music, culminating in his 2007 arrest for robbery in Las Vegas. Thirteen years to the day after he was acquitted for the double murder he was found guilty of robbery, then sentenced to thirty-three years in jail.

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a huge fan of documentary filmmaking. OJ: Made in America is one of the best I have ever seen, a meticulously researched and riveting piece of investigative journalism which deserves a huge audience.

The Multiverse

is a blog from an Irish writer and DJ which takes in a wide range of subject matter as follows: Monday’s blogs are related to literature and writing; Tuesday is fashion, style and beauty; Wednesday is music; Thursday is TV and cinema; and Friday is a miscellany.

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