Weekly Ramble No. 30

I went to Blackburn with Siggy for a few days. It’s to be entirely avoided if at all possible. The Beatles were right when they sang about the holes there – the roads are full of them. At least this time the weather wasn’t too bad. We mooched around Preston on the Saturday which is preferable to Blackburn (even when Millwall football fans are visiting) and had another nice Indian meal at Akash in neighbouring Darwen.

Before that, I had time to watch Justice a film from 2010 starring Nicolas Cage and Guy Pearce. It’s quite a good story about a teacher (Cage) whose wife is raped and who agrees with the leader of a vigilante cell (Pearce) for violent revenge to be exacted upon the rapist. The deal is that the teacher then owes the organisation his cooperation in their work. He refuses to cooperate and the action revolves around how he extricates himself from the awful situation he’s put himself in because of his love for his wife and desire for justice against her attacker.

After the visit up North, I watched the harrowing Patriot’s Day starring Mark Wahlberg. It is based on the true events surrounding the bombing of the Boston Marathon by two Muslim brothers. It’s understandably unapologetic about it’s pro-American message, the portrayal of the injuries and fatalities (including an 8-year-old boy) resulting from the two homemade bombs, and Boston’s reaction to subsequent manhunt. There’s some corny moments but they’re completely forgiven given the circumstances and the short interview clips with the real police, FBI agents and victims are tear-inducing. Powerful stuff with a heartfelt message to all those communities who have experienced similar terrorist attacks.

I’ve been trying to get money’s worth out of the last few weeks of my LOVEFiLM subscription. Patriots Day was back in the return envelope and the post box almost before it had stopped spinning. They then sent me Planet 51 which is a kid’s animated film about an astronaut landing on an alien planet populated by 1950s style American aliens. It was a reversal of a typical B-movie where the well-meaning astronaut voiced by Dwayne Johnson is mistaken for the vanguard of an invasion. The ultimate  message for the kids is ‘not all aliens are bad’ – rather different from the message of Patriots Day.

Recorded from Film4, Blue is the Warmest Colour is a French film I watched about a girl finding her sexuality and place in life. It contains some explicit sexual scenes which work in the context of the intimate style of the film which often features close-up shots of her sleeping, but at times I thought it was rather too voyeuristic. The film as a whole is a rather touching story of love found and love lost, drawing a little from French literature and art for some of its themes and visuals.

Siggy and I also finished watching Riviera which for me fell a little flat at the end. We’ve also been watching lots of Channel 4 stuff like The Undateables, GoggleboxFirst Dates, The Great British Bake Off and Eight Out of Ten Cats does Countdown and the BBC’s excellent W1A. 

Also this week I caught up with some podcasts including Adam Buxton and the whole of S-Town. S-Town is a bit of a narrative shambles in the way the focus shifts from investigating the cover-up of a murder in Woodstock, Alabama then the fall out from a suicide, a fight over the man’s property and possessions, and an expose of the man’s hidden sexuality. But it is an enthralling and expertly presented shambles.

S-Town presented by journalist Brian Reed (who oddly sounds likes he’s always on the verge of tears) and produced by the same people who did This American Life and Serial, is essentially a portrait of the man –  John B. McLemore – eccentric depressive doom-mongering horologist – rather than much to do about the shit town in which he lives. He’s like a tragic character from a Stephen King novel. There’s a lot of loose ends (like what happened to the gold bars he’d kept in his fridge) but that’s the difference between real life documentaries and fiction.

My listening to Every Official UK Number 1 ever playlist on Spotify has gone through some layers of dross (including Boyzone, Westlife, Geri Halliwell, Kylie, Jason Donovan) reached the mid-Eighties and presently the rather painfully repetitive ‘Chain Reaction’ by Diana Ross.

When I wasn’t watching or listening, I was finishing reading Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory an excellent story about a family with psychic abilities some of whom get mixed up with the mob and others who get involved in the US Governments ‘Star gate’ project – the psychic spies The Red Hot Chili Peppers sing about in their song ‘Californication’.

Written in the third person and swapping between family members every chapter and featuring a character whose grasp of where he is in his lifetime is at times very loose Spoonbenders was sometimes a tricky book to read. However, the writing style is easy-going direct and accessible, so once you get used to the switching points of view it moves along quite nicely. The TV rights have already been auctioned off to Paramount TV with Anonymous Content (Spotlight, The Alienist) producing.

Image: Natasha Miller (Unsplash)

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