film, not a book

Not a Book: The Sparks Brothers

Back with another documentary this week – this time a film about the band Sparks – namely brothers Ron and Russel Mael. If you’re not sure who they are, the song that you’re most likely to recognise is This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us:

The brothers first formed a band in the mid 1960s but broken through nearly a decade later in the mid 1970s and have been constantly producing music and evolving ever since, whether people have been watching or not – and some times people really haven’t been watching. But they have a lot of high profile fans. Don’t believe me? Watch the trailer:

Directed by Edgar Wright (yes him from Hot Fuzz) this is a two and a bit hour love letter to one of pop’s most enigmatic bands. Who are still enigmatic at the end of the film, but you’ve really enjoyed watching them go through their career and making music. The film is structured by working it’s way through the bands albums and what was going on in the band at the time. But only in the band. I still don’t know if the brothers have partners, or kids or anything. But I do know that Ron has a very cool and very retro car.

It’s also totally notable that although many other musicians have joined them in the band at various points only to be jettisoned as the brothers moved on, lots of them appear in the film and seem to be absolutely fine about it. In fact Ron and Russel are often described as gentlemen and a joy to work with. So not your normal music documentary on that front either.

Maybe it could have been shorter, but why wouldn’t you want to include puppets and incredibly literal props and visual gags. It’s just a lovely way to pass the time, and you’ll end up listening to a Sparks playlist afterwards. I’ve even included on for you so you don’t have to go looking for it. You’re welcome. The Sparks Brothers is on Netflix in the UK. Enjoy.

not a book

Not a book: Jubilee fete picture dump!

I haven’t been in London for the Platinum Jubilee, but we have been out and about a little bit to mark the occasion – after all it could be a while before we have another one!

Here we have a traditional English fête…
Complete with rainstorm and hiding in a tent
There was a dog show – this is the most regal category
and a tug of war competition,
A motorbike and car show,
a pipe band
And jubilee themed ice cream!
not a book

Monaco baby!

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow, but today is the Monaco Grand Prix and I can’t resist writing about it. If you only recognise one Formula One circuit, it’ll probably be Monaco. The street circuit it incredibly distinctive and although the races might not be the most exciting and don’t have the most overtaking, for glamour and glitz it’s unmatched.

Here I am standing on the hairpin when went there three years ago. It was week or so after the race and they were still dismantling the track and it was genuinely one of the thrills of my life. In person it’s even smaller than you expect and some of the buildings are not as fancy as you expect but walking the circuit was amazing. And then we drove it too.

If you ever get the chance to go to visit do it, just maybe go for the day – it’s as insanely expensive as you expect! And in the meantime, once you’ve watched the race, you can watch last season’s Drive to Survive!

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!

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.