One of the joys of travel is finding things you’re never going to encounter at home. I spotted this book at a supermarket checkout while in Alaska, and I think it’s safe to say I wouldn’t have come across it anywhere else. I’ve read quite a few stories about the famous Alaskan gold rush, but this book offers a very unique perspective on the time and place, focusing, as the title suggests, on the women of the demimonde who flocked to the Far North’s gold camps in the late 1890s and early 20th century. It aims to shed light on the “off the record” history of the pioneers, and women who in their own ways influenced the frontier life.
A mind-bending Spanish psychological thriller with Penelope Cruz, which later was remade as Vanilla Sky, an ill-received American version with Tom Cruise and, bizarrely, Penelope Cruz again. I’ve watched this in a rather groggy state of mind after a poor night’s sleep, and the movie’s twists and turns definitely perked up my brain by the end of it all.
In my mind, the original Blade Runner was a cinematic lightning-in-a-bottle that emphatically did not call for a sequel, so when Blade Runner 2049 was announced I felt rather sceptical about the idea. I can’t say I’ve been entirely converted, but I can definitely say that Denis Villeneuve’s film is worth watching on the big screen for the spellbinding visuals alone, and if Roger Deakins doesn’t win the Best Cinematography Oscar for his work here they can just disband the whole Academy Award thing.
Another book club read, this time a crime novel by an author with a perfect crime writer name (imagine if she wrote romance instead; Forbidden Love, a new luscious bodice-ripper from Karin Slaughter).
The book is about a family destroyed by the unsolved disappearance of the eldest daughter, Julia Carroll, who went missing near her University of Georgia dorm when she was 19. Her father Sam became obsessed with his own investigation, retreating from the rest of his family and ignoring his two remaining daughters, and eventually committed suicide. Sam’s anguished diary entries introduce the central mystery, and serve as one of the three points of view used to tell the story.
An excellent addition to the coming-of-age highschool movies, with a spiky star turn by Hailee Steinfeld which proves that her memorable performance in True Grit was no fluke. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s funny, bittersweet and biting enough to make it stand out. If you found highschool and teenage years in general a trying experience at times, the movie will resonate with you in some moments and probably make you cringe with self-recognition in others.
I very much enjoyed this warm, hilarious, affectionate film about the worst opera singer of all time, an eccentric 1940s New York socialite whose amazingly godawful singing emerged on the other side of terrible to become its own kind of remarkable. At one point, Jenkins’ vocal coach stares into her eyes and tells her in a honeyed voice that there’s no one else like her, and in a weird way it felt like he actually meant it, though probably not in the way the lady herself thought.
Mark Lanegan – Phantom Radio & Gargoyle
Mark Lanegan might be my favourite male singer of all time, with a gravelly cigarettes-and-alcohol baritone that sounds so richly lived-in and is deceptively controlled and flexible. And he looks like his voice too – like a person who’s lived through some dark and troubled times. His pipes have become more brittle with years and these days Lanegan sounds less like he’s about to jump out of the speakers and punch you in the face, and his lower register on Gargoyle is almost Leonard Cohen-esque. But his grizzled vocals are no less compelling for that.
These latest two albums continue the experimentation with electronica and synths that first appeared on the 2012 Blues Funeral, while retaining the trademark dark bluesy vibes and oblique lyrics full of macabre gothic imagery and ruminations on sin, death, love and redemption. Business as usual in other words, but as long as his output remains this strong and consistent I’m not complaining. Now bring on the tour!