Winter can be a bastard
Rain getting all over your shoes and making your socks wet? Oh fuck that noise. Waking up and feeling the chill of the air as you walk to the bathroom. A nice hot shower is a temporary reprieve sure, then what happens when you turn the stream off and the mist clears, leaving you to tiptoe around the bathroom, drying yourself as quickly as you can so you can put on the underwear you’ve left draped over the heater? The small frustrations and discomforts of the cold season can be thwarted and overcome by the clever consumer. No, not a heater, although those help. A crackling fire in the grate will always do the trick but that luxury has become rare.
To warm the heart, a romance is needed. To warm the brain, an intellectually stimulating idea or discussion. To warm the torso, a comedy. I can do you two for three.
FILM: SING STREET (2016)
Directed by John Carney. Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (who?), Lucy Boynton (who?), Jack Reynor (some people might know him).
Carney, the writer and director, has written and directed two other films, both featuring romance and music at the forefront. Once (2006), made on a very small budget, and Begin Again (2013) when he had a big more clout. Enough clout to get Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo to star. Both of these films are charming and have great tunes, but Sing Street is a massive step ahead of them. There’s something irresistible about the enthusiasm and fearlessness of the lead character Cosmo, a high school kid who starts a band in order to get a pretty girl to hang out with him.
The film looks great too. Set in 1980s Ireland, there are plenty of muted tones during scenes at the uniformed school, but when the makeshift teenage band film their music videos out in the streets and by the ocean, the film is filled with blues and oranges and wind in hair and clothes, making things feel alive and exciting.
And of course, young love. Who can beat it? The chemistry is great between the actors. The dialogue made me laugh every minute. The story of Cosmo and his dysfunctional family going through hard times compliments the coming of age story as he finds out what turns himself on. Music. Pop rock music in the 80s.
I rated Sing Street 10/10 on IMDb, something that took a great deal of thought as I take my movie rating very seriously. When it comes down to it, this film made me feel love. I felt nostalgic for a time I haven’t even lived in, nostalgic for a group of friends I never had, and a girl I’d never met. And the music! I like 80s pop sure, but it’s not my favoured genre. Despite this, the Sing Street single Drive It Like You Stole It is quickly becoming my most played track of the year. I can’t recommend this film highly enough.
BOOK: BEAUTIFUL RUINS
Written by Jess Walter.
Jess Walter is an American writer who’s written six novels to date, over a dozen short stories and plenty of poetry. He runs a podcast with an author friend where they discuss literature, music and other art and have guests perform poetry and music. Beautiful Ruins is currently being adapted into a film.
Beautiful Ruins was released in 2012 and I have sentimental history with it. I was in Bali with my partner at the time and she was suffering from a fever. I had borrowed the book from a friend with her high recommendation. I started reading it in the cheap hotel we were staying, pausing every sixty seconds to run hot water over a flannel for my poor girlfriend. Facing the full night in the hotel room, I bought a pack of Guinness and settled in. I absolutely devoured it.
Four years later, I’m struggling to enjoy reading. I put down my third book in a row that I can’t finish. I’m bored. Nothing is getting to me. I can’t seem to enjoy prose or character or plot, choosing to swipe through Facebook instead of finishing the chapter. I decide, like any good reader should, to reread something that touched me in the past. I choose Beautiful Ruins. I’ve bought this book a few times for gifts in the past, intending to read it again but never getting around to it. Of course, part of me is concerned. What if I don’t like it as much as I remember? Will the memory of reading it beat out the actual experience of reading it?
I needn’t have worried. Without giving away anything important about the plot, this book is about love. Spanning over multiple continents and decades, the cast of characters as they weave through each other’s lives ensures you’re never bored. Walter has written in a variety of forms. You’ve got your usual third person narrative, then we have a chapter of first person thought, a stream of consciousness movie pitch in Hollywood, the opening chapter of a character’s autobiography, an opening chapter of another character’s unfinished novel.
The story is about Pasquale, an Italian hotel owner in his twenties on a remote island, who meets and falls for American actress Dee Moray during a short stay of hers. I really liked it when I read it the first time, but the second time I read it I loved it. Passionately. I was bawling, tears streaming down my face and blurring my vision so much I had to take a break, breathe through it, before I could continue reading. It’s a fulfilling book.
PODCAST: MY DAD WROTE A PORNO
Recorded by James cooper, Jamie Morton and Alice Levine
Whether you’re big on podcasts or not, this is a must listen. It’s a phenomenally funny piece of pop culture, quickly gaining more and more listeners world wide. It started off simply enough. Morton, upon discovering his father had written an entire erotic novel, enlisted his friends James and Alice to listen to him read it, chime in with thoughts and feelings they experienced, and recorded it.
The book itself is at once hilariously cringe-worthy, explicitly sexual, anatomically misguided, poorly written yet strangely addictive and absorbing. The story follows Belinda Blumenthal as she’s hired at ‘Steeles Pots and Pans’ and attempts to rise in the business world while having a vast amount of strange and colourful sex with an eclectic mix of partners.
The friendship of Cooper, Morton and Levine makes the podcast what it is. Levine is often disgusted but always quick to joke, Cooper enjoys the lurid details of female body from the safe vantage of homosexuality, while Morton reads on, playing Devil’s advocate when necessary to salvage what he can of his father’s reputation (pen name Rocky Flintstone). The camaraderie and quick wit of the team combined with the icky and outlandish source material make listening to the latest episode of My Dad Wrote a Porno the funnest hour of your week.
Bring on Spring
Those three things have been lifesavers during this cold blue season. All things considered, we are lucky people to be alive and able to consume media at such a time that these three exist.
I’m looking forward to the second season of My Dad Wrote a Porno, as well as Carney’s next film and Walter’s next book. In the meantime, we can busy ourselves with rereading, rewatching and relistening to the magic that is Beautiful Ruins, Sing Street and My Dad Wrote a Porno.
Cheers and enjoy your winter!