in which I wrap up October
1) Things which I have read
There are reasons why I've not read a huge amount this much, which are recounted in the watching section of this round up. But here is what I have read:
From the corner of the Oval Office - Beck Dorey-Stein. A bit like reading political gossip candy, this was huge amounts of fun but also actually an account of a whirlwind world of work that has the potential to make you think either 'Ohmigosh it's not just me and my world' or 'Ok, now I have a better idea of what to avoid.'
The Eternal Current - Aaron Niequist. If you're just starting to dip your toes into the waters of liturgy and contemplative practice, this is a really great introduction and it is also something that gives you some ideas to work with, which books on this kind of topic would all be well advised to do.
Killing Commendatore - Haruki Murakami. I always enjoy a new Murakami because it is a event of great joy (even if, whisper it, we may be past the very best). This one I enjoyed the most of any since Kafka on the Shore, I think, because the strange and surreal elements worked for me better than any since then - even though I think it could have been made significantly shorter. I'm not sure the Gatsby thing that Murakami was apparently going for really comes off, but then again, I really don't need it to.
(2) Things which I have watched
There was a lot on at the cinema this month, and then there was the London Film Festival...
Blindspotting. I still haven't seen A Star is Born because I chose this first, and it. was. so. worth. it. Funny, painful, profound, and at at times, kinda sweet. It has so much heart and I really recommend it.
The Hate u Give. I was delighted when Cineworld's secret screening turned out to be this - though the impact of this the night after seeing Blindspotting was emotions dialled up to eleven. It's a fairly simple story, but that allows it to dig into the complexity of everything that goes on between the characters around the plot, and Amandla Stenberg is great.
22 July. I took to Netflix to watch Paul Greengrass' latest, which packs a punch. I appreciated the approach that it chose to take to this story, which was to ask, essentially, how do we have a conversation with those who perpetrate great violence, without endorsing their point of view?
The Old Man and the Gun. I've enjoyed all the David Lowery films I've seen, even though my cinema-going life would be less problematic if he stopped casting Casey Affleck in things. I went to this for Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek though, and the were delightful, and the film was generally charming and a little bit old fashioned.
Venom. Oh glory, this was so nuts but it was exactly the type of nuts film I was looking for, because yes I am here for Tom Hardy in a bromance with alien goo. Sadly, I have never liked Michelle Williams less in a role, and I really like Michelle Williams.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. I've been waiting to watch this since before Lost in La Mancha came out, and of course nothing can survive that kind of build up - but this did such a good job of nearly surviving it, and it brought me a huge amount of joy. Adam Driver works really really well in a Terry Gilliam movie, also.
Long Day’s Journey into Night. Thanks to Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar Wai, I have a small fascination with Asian cinema - so I did a double bill at the LFF, starting with this beautifully woozy film about memory and nostalgia. It includes a 50 minute long take in 3D, which is the *only* time I have truly felt that 3D works in the immersive way it says it does.
Shadow. Speaking of Zhang Yimou, this new film of his was part two of the double bill. Dude, make more of these and fewer films with Matt Damon and Dragons, please. This has a fairly(ish) unconvoluted plot which helps to keep things relatively straightforward and puts your attention on the slight love-story and the aesthetics. Because oh glory, this thing is gorgeous, all desaturated shades and dark splashy reds.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Obviously my film festival plan involved the new Coen, a collected volume of short westerns. I'm not convinced they work as a whole, but there isn't one that isn't a treat. My personal highlights were the Tom Waits and Zoe Kazan segments.
First Man. I determinedly overcame my utter loathing of La La Land and took myself off to Damien Chazelle's latest. I enjoyed it well enough, but wasn't blown away by it - with the exception of the moon landing itself, where the music really does something wonderful to the music. But I'm keeping The Dish as my moon-landing film of choice.
In non-cinema going watching I went to watch Marilynne Robinson in conversation at the Southbank centre, which was totally great except for the conversation was with an interviewer who talked as much as she did and spent an awful lot of time explaining her own books to her. It's an interview and you should not be speaking as much as the person you are interviewing because people are not there for you, SHUSH. In other news, I aspire to have long grey hair as awesome as hers one day (since I will clearly never write like that).
At the ballet, it was Mayerling season. I was hoping to see Ed Watson in the lead, who I have not yet seen in one of his signature roles; but sadly he is currently broken, so it was Rio Hirano dancing with Frankie Hayward, Sarah Lamb, Marianela Nunez and Natalia Osipova. Mayerling is such a wild, dark ride, and I always enjoy it - but Lamb and Osipova are particularly wonderful in those roles.
And finally, I took myself off to see Company because, hey, Sondheim in the West End, and gender-switched Company at that. Flipping the character of Bobby to the 35 year old woman, Bobbie, works incredibly well in terms of looking at some of the mental gymnastics smart, funny women think about when they look at couples in relationships and think about the possibility of their own. They have just extended its run, and YOU SHOULD GO. I might just go again.
(3) Things which I wrote
Nothing over here (though I have musings about the way hat The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina presents religion and faith. Over at Tearfund Learn I've been writing about theology and peacebuilding some more.
(4) Two pieces from a Year of Wonder
First up this month is some Philip Glass that was new to me: his Mishima string quartet which sent me off on a couple of days of All Glass Strings All The Time. And second comes one of my very favourite pieces: Smetana's Vltava, from Ma Vlast. Just listen to it and hear the river rising up and rolling down and through Prague.
(5) A photo from the month gone by
Home Café's First Birthday Party
The Floral Hall from the balcony you can now get out onto at the Opera House
(6) In the pile for November...
I have a very large pile of books by my bed to read and approximately no idea what I will read next. So. We'll see.