Sunday, 19 October 2014

Autumn: season of mist and pop cultural fruitfulness

The tights are on, the coat's back out, and my umbrella hasn't been down for about a week - looks like Autumn has officially arrived. But in spite of the inclement conditions (and perpetual bad hair days), I'm feeling plenty of seasonal good cheer, because Autumn seems to have brought with it all kinds of goodies. Here are just a few of the things currently floating my boat: 

Books: Us - David Nicholls 

A few summers ago, One Day was the book prominent on beaches and train carriages across the country, and I was just one of millions to fall for the story of star-crossed lovers Emma and Dexter. I'd been a David Nicholls devotee for a while - his first novel, Starter for Ten, though not nearly as successful as its follow up - is brilliant, and his screenplay for the BBC's adaptation of Tess of the d'Urbervilles is one of the my all-time favourites (and I do love a good period drama). 

So I picked up a copy of Nicholls' latest offering Us as soon as I could lay my hands on it. I'd read of Nicholls' understandable reservations about following up such a runaway success, but he needn't have worried too much. The book follows the ultra-organised, scientific Douglas and the artier, spirited Connie as they travel around Europe, and decide whether or not - as Connie seems to have decided - their 20 year marriage has run its course. Nicholls writes male/female relationships especially well (I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks to when the pair first met), and there's an understatement and humour to his writing that is seriously difficult to pull off. I have to say, I was a little surprised by the ending...but I'll let you find out what that was. 

Music: Tough Love - Jessie Ware 

Like me, Jessie hails from south of the river. But I'm a big fan for reasons other than a shared South London chip on the shoulder; her soulful pop sound is right up my street, and I'd been looking forward to the follow up to 2012's Devotion for months. 

Tough Love doesn't disappoint - the breathy, understated vocals that have rightly earned her comparisons to Sade combine with a mixture of soulful (though not saccharine) ballads and classy pop. Highlights for me are the romantic Tough Love, the silky smooth Kinda Sometimes Maybe - where the recognizably sexy undertones of collaborator Miguel are present - as well as the ridiculously catchy likes of You and I (Forever), Champagne Kisses, and Keep on Lying - which has a hooky melody that I defy you not to want to listen to on repeat. 

TV: Gogglebox Series 4 

Watching people watching things on TV that you've already watched on your own shouldn't work, should it? But oh it does! I unashamedly love Gogglebox, and the BAFTA it received earlier this year is evidence that I'm definitely not the only one. 

The pissed poshos Steph and Dom, curmudgeonly and occasionally pervy Leon and his tutting wife June, Jay the mute, the biting bitchiness of gay friends Stephen and Chris, not to mention the brilliant Sandra in Brixton with her pot noodle...this is entertainment at its best. Hilarious and heart-warming, Gogglebox shows the best of the Great British public - and they're just like you and me. 

Film - Pride 

The film everyone seems to be raving about at the moment is of course Gone Girl, with Rosamund Pike finally getting the kind of acclaim she deserves. Unfortunately for me though, I rocked up at my nearest Picture House this week with my Orange Wednesday-possessing pal in tow only to find that the showing we wanted was all sold out, and we retired to the pub instead. So, my verdict on Gone Girl put on hold, instead, I very much recommend seeing a film I enjoyed earlier this month, Pride

Set in the 80s at the height of the miners' strike, the film follows a group of gay friends - and members of the organisation they form, 'Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners' (LGSM) - as they lend their support to the miners of a remote Welsh village, who are on strike and struggling to survive. LGSM are forced to try and win round the members of the community who are less than pleased to receive a visit from a group that includes a couple of vegan lesbians, and a disco dancing tranny (played MAGNIFICENTLY by the lovely Dominic West), 

It would be easy to criticise Pride for being a little too cutesy in its portrayal of hugely damaging and hard-fought social upheaval, but I think that would be doing a disservice to a film that manages to be both feel-good and extraordinarily emotive and affecting. Wear your waterproof mascara - there will be tears!