not a book

Not a Book: Eurovision

Yes it’s a not a book post on a Saturday – and that’s because it’s about something that’s on tonight – the Eurovision Song Contest and there’s no point in telling you about it’s after the winner has already been chosen and you can’t have your say (if you’re in a voting country).

I’ve watched the semi finals, I know who my favourites are, I know who the bookies favourites are and I’m looking forward to see what insanity unrolls this year. We’re in Turin after Måneskin’s win last year – and they’ve had one of the best years of recent winners so could this be the start of something big for this year’s winner?

If you’ve never watched Eurovision, it’s a mega song contest where a countries compete to win a glass microphone trophy and the chance to nearly bankrupt their national broadcaster by hosting the contest the next year. It can be wildly political – but it can throw up the wildest winners. – Ukraine are this year’s favourites but I loved the Wolves and their Bananas in semi final one.

And it’s 25 years this time since the UK won with Love Shine a Light and Katrina and the Waves (complete with drummer Alex whose mum lived up the road from me) and for the first time in ages we might have a chance of doing ok – after getting zero last year. I’ve probably jinxed it now but hey. Enjoy everyone, and here are some of my favourites from through the years and if you’re in the UK and want to watch, it’s on BBC One from 8pm.

not a book

Not a Book: When Harry Met Sally

Ask I said yesterday, this weekend is very much a relax and recharge weekend for me, so today’s post is about another one of my favourite movies.

When Harry Met Sally is a romantic comedy classic. If you haven’t already watched it, I don’t know how I can sell it to you because if you’re reading this blog and haven’t watched it you probably have some sort of hatred against it going on. Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) first meet when she gives him a lift from Chicago to New York at the end of college. They do not get on. They meet again on a plane a few years later. They still do not get on. A few years later on still they meet again and become friends – which is weird because the first time that they met Harry said that men and women could never be friends because sex always gets in the way. And you’ll never guess what happens next…

Anyway, it’s one of the films that I have recorded on the TiVo so I can watch it when I need it – see also pillow talk, some like it hot, the Sound of music and Singin in the Rain – I also own it on dvd from the days before the TiVo. It’s from the late 80s so there are a few things that have dated a little but it’s full of banter and snark because it’s written by Nora Ephron and has Carrie Fisher and Bruno as the two best friends and it’s just a joy. The stakes are low – by which I mean there’s no life threatening peril – it’s not going to stress you out and it just puts a smile on my face every time I watch it.

book adjacent, not a book

Not a Book: Holding

I mean, it was a book first, but in this case it’s the TV adaptation I’m talking about!

So this is ITV’s four part adaptation of Graham Norton’s debut novel. I have to admit that I started but never finished the book, and I don’t know where it’s gone – but I really enjoyed the TV version of this murder mystery, which is just a little bit unexpected and out of the ordinary.

The plot is this: when a body is discovered Siri building work, local police officer PJ has his first murder to solve. The victim turns out to be a long lost local legend – who disappeared the day of his wedding. Introverted and seen as an outsider by the village, PJ discovers hidden secrets as he tries to solve the crime and this is what finally forms a connection with the community.

Everyone in this has a messy life. There are alcoholics, secret affairs, unhappy marriages, busybodies, secret eaters and more. And at times it’s really quite bleak. But for all that there was something totally watchable about it – and I put that down to Conleth Hill’s performance as PJ Collins. Even when he’s doing something he really shouldn’t, you’re still rooting for him and you’re desperate for him to solve the murder and be happy. As the episodes go on, you discover hidden depths to him and the scenes with Mrs Meany (Brenda Fricker) are brilliant. It doesn’t feel like a traditional murder mystery when you’re watching it – whether that’s because you know a lot more than PJ does or because of the way it’s been directed by Kathy Burke, I don’t know. But it felt different and fresh and touching.

As I said at the top, I haven’t read the book – and as I already have way too many books I’m not sure I’ll be going back for it, but if a copy happens into my hands, I’d be interested to see how much of the tone is carried over from the book and how much is from the adaptation.

Anyway, if you’re interested, it’s up on the ITV hub if you’re in the UK, and I think it’s somewhere on Virgin if you’re in Ireland. I have no idea about the rest of the world though – sorry!

life update, not a book

Covid plus 20-something days

It’s not quite a month since my (first) positive covid test, but I’m interrupting your regularly scheduled programming for an update, because hey, why not.

I think I’m mostly back to normal. I’ve got a slight residual cough and the back of my throat still feels a bit raw. I’m probably still blowing my nose a bit more than usual. I’m still getting quite tired and i got a bit puffed out going up all the stairs at work the other day – but that could just be me talking and walking up stairs too fast… I’m also sticking to that recommendation from some cardiologist somewhere that you’re less likely to get long covid if you avoid strenuous exercise for six weeks. It’s not just that I hate running and it’s a good excuse not to go do it – I’ll have you know I bought new running shoes the weekend before I caught covid and I haven’t had a chance to try them out yet!

In reading terms, I’m struggling to focus a little bit and the temptation to reread stuff is near impossible to resist sometimes. I was doing really well in early March with the NetGalley list and then it all came undone because almost everything I had due next required more brain power that I had to give – or wasn’t certain to have a resolution. But I think I’m clawing it back around slowly. Of course the difficulty with this is making sure that I’ve read something each week that I like enough to write about for Book of the Week, but I’ve managed it so far. Although this week may yet be the exception of course.

Even pre my covid I had cut back a bit on my podcasts in favourite of audiobooks and that trend has only continued. I’m working my way through the theatrical Inspector Alleyns at the moment with a side order of Gaudy Night when needed (plus ça change etc) and then Amelia Peabody as well (we’re back in 1914 again and oh my goodness Thunder in the Sky is so good). I’ve started a couple of Angela Thirkells but they just haven’t hit the spot so far in the way that the murder mysteries and Amelia do. My brain. Such a weird place.

Anyway, that’s the update from me. I’ve been very fortunate – now that I’ve had it with the tests to prove it I am fairly sure I had It but worse in January 2020, so thank goodness for the vaccines etc and may I be fortunate enough not to catch it again for another two years – if at all.

not a book

Not a Book: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

God I love a movie musical. Here we are for the latest in my series of films I love.

Marilyn Monroe! Jane Russell! Do you need to know any more? Ok well if you do, Marilyn’s Lorelei is on the hunt for a rich husband. Russell’s Dorothy is her best friend who is looking for love. They’re both show girls and over the course of the movie we follow them from New York to Paris while being trailed by a private eye hired by the father of the rich idiot that Marilyn is engaged too. There are song and dance numbers, there’s comedy and there’s true love. It’s delightful.

I know everyone always talks about Marilyn Monroe, and I get it, but god I love Jane Russell. I first saw her in the French Line on a Sunday afternoon about 20 years ago and I’m still not over it. Anyway, for me this film doesn’t work without her. Her wise cracks balance out Marilyn’s dizzy, ditsy gold digging and make everything better. The songs are great, the script is funny and the Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend number has been copied so many times since that it’s worth watching to see the original of that alone!

Happy Sunday!

not a book

Not a Book: I am Jackie O

We’re still on a bit of a documentary jag in our house – and there’s been quite a good run on Sky Documentaries recently – I just need to remember to check through their listings and set the TiVo to record. I Am Jackie O was one we stumbled across a few weeks back – and I’ve been saving this to post until after the JFK-adjacent Recommendsday post.

If you don’t want to read a biography of Jackie O or don’t know that much about her, this will do that for you. And you’ve read any/some/many of the books I mentioned in the Recommendsday post, it has archive footage of all of the key moments that you’ve read about, plus home movie footage as well as talking heads and archive soundbites of the key figures at the time. A lot of Kennedy related documentaries are either wildly sychophantic or deep into the gossip (that’s if they’re not swimming in conspiracy theories) but this manages to dodge that a strikes a nice balance between examining the facts and looking at motivations. It’s not groundbreaking or revelatory, but it is a fairly even handed look at Jackie’s life. There’s obviously a fair bit of death – and images of those deaths – but I think you expect that when you’re going into a documentary about the wife of an assassinated president – whose family have had a lot of tragedy around them.

It’s not necessarily a doc to go out and buy – but if you’re interested in the subject, stick a bookmark on it on your platforms of choice to record it when it comes around again. It’s still fairly new, so you can rent it on various platforms at the moment, but I don’t think it’s outside the realms of possibility that it will be free on one of the streaming platforms at some point in the future.

not a book, romantic comedy

Not a Book: The Philadelphia Story

This Sunday I’m treating you to the latest instalment in my occasional series about films I love is the Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn comedy The Philadelphia Story.

Hepburn plays Tracy Lord, the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family, who is about to get married for the second time. Days before the wedding, her ex-husband turns up, with a tabloid reporter and photographer in tow. C K Dexter Haven (Grant) has been working for Spy magazine in South America since his marriage to Tracy broke up (she didn’t like his drinking, he drank because he didn’t like her criticisms of him) and is inveigled into taking Maccauley “Mike” Connor (James Stewart) and Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) the the wedding with a threat that if he doesn’t then a scandal about Tracy’s father will be published instead. Thus the scene is set for a love square as Tracy finds herself drawn to Mike and to her ex husband all while she’s preparing to marry George.

There’s more to it than that of course, but that’s the best potted plot summary I can come up with. It’s very funny and is managing to skirt the production code rules of the time by being a comedy of remarriage (see also Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday among others) and it’s full of snappy, witty dialogue as well as a few nice bits of physical comedy. If you’re a fan of movie musicals, you’ll recognise the plot as it was later turned into High Society (with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly) but it started as a stage play -written for Hepburn – and marked her comeback after being dubbed Box Office Poison after a string of flops. I didn’t know any of the Hepburn-y background when I first watched it on a DVD in my hall of residence at university. I just thought it was clever and funny and something a bit out of the normal run of the black and white movie classics I was renting (from LoveFilm!) at the time.

That said, it does fit perfectly into the types of romantic comedies – films and books – that I love. It’s got a smart heroine (as well as a smart hero), it’s got plenty of banter and the comedy doesn’t come from humiliation – see also When Harry Met Sally, Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Shall We Dance (the Fred and Ginger film) and authors like Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Julia Quinn and Lucy Parker (although those last two are more witty than comic).

Anyway, this is the sort of film you’re most likely to come across on TV on a Sunday afternoon – and if you do, you should definitely stop and watch it.

not a book

Not a Book: Drive to Survive

What have I been doing this weekend? A little light shopping, ironing, cooking and watching the new series of Netflix’s Drive to Survive.

Something you may not know about me if you only know me from this blog is that I love motorsport. I mean I really, really love motorsport and even then it’s not quite as much as Him Indoors loves motorsport. The MotoGP season started last weekend and we spent a lot of time with the bikes on the TV. Next week, the Formula One season starts – but this weekend the latest series of Netflix’s show about F1 dropped.

If you don’t follow F1, last season was one of the most controversial ever and lots of fans have been talking about the Netflixification of F1. I’ve just finished watching all the NFL seasons of All or Nothing on Amazon and have started the NHL season. And if you watch a few of them, you’ll spot the difference approaches to dealing with a season – DTS is a bit of an outlier in that it doesn’t take things chronologically, but instead jumps back and forth as it focuses on one team or one story each episode. You could argue that this approach is why it’s sucked in so many non-F1 fans – it follows the characters and has more off track footage than the actual race. There is a MotoGP season documentary coming soon too – I’m looking forwards to see what they’ve decided to do.

Certainly DTS has brought a whole load of new fans to the sport – the US Grand Prix added extra grandstands because the demand for tickets was so high. For me, having watched every race of the season already, I’m watching DTS for the behind the scenes content, but also to see which stories they decided to follow through the season and how they’ve put their narrative together. It’s Formula One Jim, but not as we know it.

Bonus picture: we visited Monaco a few years ago in the weeks after the F1 Grand Prix so we saw them dismantling the race track when we walked the route of the circuit! This is the pit complex.