A Backlog of Books, Podcasts, TV, Movies, and Food

Well, the year is half over and I’ve set myself a new financial year resolution (though not related to finance) to keep on top of Very Good Things. Here are a few highlights since my last, long ago post in March:

BOOKS
Conversations with Friends
by Sally Rooney – her second book, Normal People, swept me away so I had to read her first book. I didn’t want it to end.
Becoming by Michelle Obama – this was a book club pick and wasn’t on my personal list to read but I loved it and became quite teary by the end to think who has taken their place in the White House.
Can’t wait to read Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, available in July in Australia.

PODCASTS
Clementine Ford on Wilosophy – she’s warm, open and intelligent and he really struggles with this interview but credit to him, he openly admits it.
Fresh Air with Terry Gross – the queen of interviews talks with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (13 May) and Christina Applegate (5 June).

TV
Chernobyl
– HBO’s five-part series is chilling.
The Letdown season 2 – the Barossa episode is hilarious.
Fleabag season 2 – just when I thought nothing could top the first season, along comes a second and it’s perfect. Waller-Bridge is also a writer on the brilliant Killing Eve.
Easy season 3 – I particularly loved the episodes about the couple who are navigating an open marriage.
I’m currently watching the second season of Big Little Lies and could possibly be enjoying it more than the first.

MOVIES
Free Solo – a documentary that will have you picking your jaw up off the floor.
Always Be My Maybe – after Chernobyl, light comedy was in order and this was funny, sweet and easy viewing. Worth watching just for Keanu.

FOOD
Everything on Fad Free Kitchen – a shameless plug for a site I do with my dietitian friend that’s all about quick and healthy food using versatile, everyday ingredients, but honestly, I rarely cook from anywhere else.
Kindred restaurant in Darlington – order the cabbage with pine nuts, currant, pecorino and buttermilk dressing to go with your pick of their excellent pastas.

Ricky Gervais Will Divide Viewers in Bittersweet ‘After Life’

In desperate need of a palate cleanser after watching Leaving Neverland, Ricky Gervais’ new Netflix comedy series, After Life, delivered on the laughs and also, unexpectedly, on the tears.

Tony (Ricky Gervais) had a happy life and adored his wife, Lisa. But after she dies, Tony doesn’t want to go on living. He decides to say and do whatever he likes because being nice is simply a waste of time and energy, particularly when you don’t plan on living for much longer.

Suicide is a central theme in After Life and Gervais doesn’t hold back when it comes to cracking jokes about it, which will no doubt lead to criticism. But that’s his style so if you haven’t warmed to him through his other shows, you may not find this one amusing.

After Life is a six-part series created, written and directed by Ricky Gervais and you’ll recognise much of the cast from other shows he’s starred in. Each episode runs for around 25 minutes.

Watch the trailer for After Life.

It’s on Netflix now.

Dirty John on Netflix – A Harrowing Real-Life Thriller

Online daters, beware. Netflix’s Dirty John will give you nightmares and could quite possibly contribute to an online dating activity plunge once the show gains traction.

Eric Bana plays “Dirty John” Meehan in this eight-part true crime anthology series. It’s based on the Los Angeles Times podcast of the same name. John is a seemingly charming man who turns out to be dirty in every sense of the word. He preys on vulnerable women through dating sites and wreaks havoc in their lives, stopping at nothing to extort money from them.

He meets cashed up interior designer, Debra Newell (Connie Britton), and within weeks has intertwined himself in her life and driven a wedge between her and her family. What unfolds is horrific.

Eric Bana and Connie Britton are superbly cast and the terror is unrelenting.

Watch the trailer.

Watch Dirty John on Netflix.

Post-Holiday Wrap-Up of Books, TV, Movies, Podcasts and Other Very Good Things

It’s February so there’s no denying the holidays are well and truly over. If you need a little distraction in your day, here are the best books, TV, movies, podcasts and other stuff I got stuck into over summer:

BOOKS
Normal People by Sally Rooney has been dubbed ‘a future classic’
Tin Man by Sarah Winman is about love, loss and loneliness
The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love
Putney by Sofka Zinovieff is confronting, timely and beautifully written
Yuval Noah Harari has a knack for making sense of complex issues in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is not new but swept me away. Now an HBO show

TV
The Cry on ABC iView has tension to the max
Sex Education on Netflix will have you in stitches
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime is sweet and easy watching
Abducted in Plain Sight on Netflix is wild an almost unbelievable

MOVIES
The Wife on iTunes really should get Glenn Close her first Oscar
Private Life on Netflix is a raw and honest look at infertility struggles
First Man is the best kind of blockbuster
What We Did on Our Holiday on Netflix is seriously funny and the kids steal the show

PODCASTS
Believed covers how Larry Nassar got away with so much for so long. Beyond shocking.
The Daily is a news podcast powered by New York Times journalism. Stand out episodes are 16, 19 November and 4, 5, 10, 11 December

OTHER STUFF
I can’t shut up about how spectacular Lord Howe Island is
Peanut Butter Oat bars are simple, healthy and make the best snack
I loved reading this recent travel article on my hometown of Newcastle – get there now

Netflix’s Fyre Documentary Has Delusion, Ego and Fraud on a Grand Scale

As I watched Netflix’s new documentary, Fyre, I couldn’t stop putting my hands over my eyes. For anyone that’s ever run an event and felt it going a little off the rails, Fyre will be anxiety-inducing. However, watching a complete disaster of this nature unfold is also hilarious and highly entertaining.

The documentary is a behind the scenes look at the infamous unravelling of the Fyre music festival that was created by Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule. The event was promoted as a luxury festival on a private island in the Bahamas. Millennials who paid outrageous sums of money for tickets were expecting bikini-clad supermodels, an A-List lineup and rockstar amenities. When they arrived the reality was very different.

Look, although it was very sad that many people got financially burnt, my heart really doesn’t bleed for those who willingly forked out up to $250,000 for tickets based on the promos they saw. Comedian, Ron Funches, nailed it when he said: “If you had thousands of dollars to go on a trip to see Blink 182, that’s on you… that is Darwinism at its finest.”

Watch the trailer.

Read a Fyre review.

Watch Fyre on Netflix.

Add Amazon Prime’s ‘Forever’ to Your Holiday Binge-Watching List

I can’t tell you too much about Amazon Prime‘s eight-part TV dramedy, Forever. To reveal what it’s all about would be to spoil the big twist a few episodes in so you’ll need to settle for the official blurb:

“Married couple June (Maya Rudolph) and Oscar (Fred Armisen) live a comfortable but predictable life in suburban California. For years they’ve had the same conversations, had the same meals and taken pleasant vacations at the same rented lake house. But after June talks Oscar into shaking things up with a ski trip, the pair suddenly find themselves in completely unfamiliar territory.”

Forever is created by Alan Yang (Parks and Recreation and Master of None) and Matt Hubbard (30 Rock and Parks and Recreation) so even before you start it, you know there’s a good chance it’s going to be quality.

I blame this TV show – which would have to be one of 2018’s best – for my tiredness today. Those little ‘play next’ prompts at the end of an episode should be banned.

Read The New York Times review.

Watch the trailer for Forever.

Watch Forever now on Amazon Prime.

Samin Nosrat’s SALT FAT ACID HEAT Cooking Documentary on Netflix is Pure Joy

Salt Fat Acid Heat is a captivating four-part series on Netflix and is based on Samin Nosrat’s best-selling book of the same name.

Samin believes that if you can master these four elements, you can master the kitchen. In this new series, she travels to home kitchens of Italy, the southern islands of Japan, the heat of the Yucatán and back to Berkeley’s Chez Panisse – where she started her culinary career – to demystify and explore the central principles of what makes food delicious and how each of us can easily incorporate those elements into every dish.

If your heart is still racing from the tension of Bodyguard and you’re after something more uplifting to remind you of the good things the world has to offer, let Salt Fat Acid Heat soothe you. It’s pure joy, beautifully shot (reminiscent of the excellent Chef’s Table), with the only downside being you’ll want to leave your life and start a new one like hers.

Watch the trailer.

Watch Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix.

HBO’s Succession – The Most Unlikeable Family on TV Makes for the Year’s Best Viewing

HBO’s brilliant family comedic drama, Succession, tracks the lives of the Roy family, who control one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. When their ageing father’s health plummets, chaos ensues as the family grapple with what the future holds.

It’s brilliantly cast, with Australia’s Sarah Snook playing the only daughter, Shiv. She and her three brothers are insanely rich and ruthless, with a serious sense of entitlement. Roman Roy, the youngest brother (played by Kieran Culkin), is possibly the most cringe-worthy character on TV.

Watch the trailer for season 1.

Read The Guardian‘s review of Succession.

Season 1 has 10 episodes available to watch now on HBO.com

I’m already excited for season 2, which is set to return to screens in June, 2019.

 

Hannah Gadsby’s Stand-Up ‘Nanette’ on Netflix

In Nanette, now on Netflix, “Australian comic Hannah Gadbsy reshapes standard stand-up by pairing punchlines with personal revelations on gender, sexuality and childhood turmoil.”

I saw the award-winning Nanette live at the Sydney Opera House earlier this year where the show was being recorded for Netflix. Steering clear of detailed reviews, I went in knowing only that it was powerful, confronting and those who saw it said it had changed them.

Funny and furious, it is life-changing and thanks to it being on Netflix, it turns out the whole world is loving it.

Watch the trailer for Nanette.

Watch Nanette on Netflix.

If you want to see more of Hannah Gadsby on screen, check out Please Like Me.

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