January Random Round Up

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Oh Louise, you’re so so right!

January is almost over, thanks be to Jaysus, and because it’s been a dry one for me, I’ve been staying in and devouring books, films, articles, and everything else to keep my busy little brain occupied. Lots of book reviews to come in the following weeks, in addition to some film reviews (like everyone else with a beating heart I loved La La Land, but Jackie not so much).

My favourite actor has been nominated for an Academy Award for his work in Nocturnal Animals. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it.

I have also watched Episodes which is on Netflix. Starring Matt LeBlanc (‘how you doin’?) as an arrogant, lecherous and materialistic version of himself, Episodes tells the story of two English TV writers who go to LA to bring their hit show to American screens. It’s a winning performance from LeBlanc and I particularly love Kathleen Rose Perkins as the people pleasing Network executive.

We don’t get to see the Lincoln car commercials starring Matthew McConaughey on Irish television but this hilarious article will make you want to watch them and work out if the author’s theory is right.

Heywood Hill is a gorgeous and well renowned bookshop in London’s Mayfair. Vanity Fair explored how such a small bookshop is surviving in the digital age.

An interesting article by Emily Gould on Buzzfeed on the expectation that women should be nice in order to succeed in publishing: ‘In order to be successfully un-nice, an author would have to be so confident in her talent and skill that she was willing to risk alienating influential peers, editors, and agents — not to mention actual readers.’

Shit Rough Drafts reimagines the first drafts of famous books. They branched out with this post featuring a correspondence on nymphomaniac garden gnomes. Just read it and thank me later.

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I very much relate to this Sarah Andersen comic

Christmas Random Round Up

After the nightmare that was 2016 I sincerely hope that Multiverse readers are looking forward to a relaxing and joyful festive season. In case you’re looking for something to while away your time over your holidays, here are some suggestions. I look forward to seeing you again in 2017. Squillions of love to you all.

The above video is a cute interpretation of a classic and one that is a tradition amongst me and my best friend’s family. It always makes me think of her.

A recent and hilarious Vanity Fair article on Trump Grill(e): ‘And like all exclusive bastions of haute cuisine, there is a sandwich board in front advertising two great prix fixe deals.’

I’ve become a huge fan of Taffy Brodesser-Akner‘s writing and this article on sugar dating (published last year in GQ) is just brilliant: ‘A thing you should know is that there are very few people to root for in this story.’

A great Harper’s article on the 80s literary Brat Pack: Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis, Donna Tartt, et al. ‘One member would go on to win a Pulitzer; one would become better known for controversy than fiction; another would exemplify the excessive highs and very public lows of the decade; and another would slowly fade from view.’

I’ve read so many books this year and as always I try to read a mix of recent and classic fiction. Some were terrible, some were superlative and a lot of them aren’t even worth talking about. Here are a few of the books I’ve really liked but not gotten around to reviewing in depth, (if you click on the links they’ll bring you to reviews of the work in question): Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig, Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sarah Baume, Devoted Ladies by Molly Keane, The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut, The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks, The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with this Thundercat song for months, even though it was released in 2015. The Prince influences and the 70s disco vibe combined with the funk bass-line all coalesce into an infectious groove.

Anyone browsing Netflix should put White Girl (Kids for Millenials), Black Mirror (dystopian tech nightmare), The Crown (sumptuous period drama), Love (Freaks and Geeks all grown up), and Daft Punk Unchained (documentary about the electro legends) on their list.

Go Fug Yourself is one of the websites I have visited daily for many years now. This year I particularly loved their AbFabtrospective and their SWINTON retrospective (Tilda being one of my sartorial heroines).

Lose yourself browsing the archives of Hooked on Houses, a website devoted to gorgeous homes, from celebrity abodes to houses featured in movies and random real-estate inspiration.

And now it’s time for my sister’s family’s favourite Christmas song, Nobel prize winner Bob Dylan singing a Pogues-esque polka version of a 60s classic. It’s barking and brilliant! Enjoy!

Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig

Last time I was in New York I was struck by the huge difference in the city from my first visit in 1990. Back then it had an edge: crime and violence, buildings that were rundown or abandoned, rats and garbage on the streets, and hundreds of homeless people. But it was also a creative city with a palpable sense of energy and a thriving arts and music scene on the Lower East Side. Today it feels like a Disney version of New York, sanitised and gleaming, and filled with hedge fund managers and wannabe Carrie Bradshaws. The soul has been sucked out of it and all the artists are gone.

Glory Daze looks at this change in the city through the lens of the Club Kids, in particular Michael Alig. Alig is familiar to some people as being the subject of a documentary, feature film and book, all called Party Monster. He was the king of downtown clubbing, a promoter who turned everything he touched to gold and who seemed invincible until he was accused of murder.

Alig was involved in an altercation with his drug dealer Angel Melendez, and he and a friend, Robert ‘Freeze’ Riggs, smashed Angel’s skull with a hammer, injected him with Drano and left him sitting in the bathroom of their apartment for ten days, while they continued partying. Eventually the body started to smell so they cut it in two and disposed of it by throwing it in the Hudson River. Alig spent seventeen years in jail for the crime and was released in May 2014.

The documentary looks at Alig’s journey from misfit outcast in small town America to King of the Club Kids, a phenomenon he largely created and managed. The Club Kids were the successor to Andy Warhol’s superstars, famous for their outrageous outfits, hedonistic lifestyle and prodigious drug consumption. They were featured on talk shows and magazines and some of them became well-known, like RuPaul, Chloe Sevigny, Amanda Lepore, and Kabuki.

Many of these people are interviewed and Alig himself is interviewed extensively. He comes across as a superficially charming man, not genius-like as some people think, but someone who found himself in the right place at the right time to best utilise his talent. Glory Daze is an interesting film, a snapshot of a time that will probably never be repeated. As one of the interviewees said, ‘there is no chaos in Manhattan anymore’. It’s true and New York is all the poorer for it.

 

Nocturnal Animals, Arrival, and Amy Adams

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.

Mourir Auprès De Toi – Spike Jonze

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.

Loving Vincent

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.

 

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

 

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.