To help make your lockdown a little less trying we are doubling our weekly dose of Winston. His regular column will continue on Fridays and now every Monday he will expound on things currently making him happy. Let's face it – with the whole country in lockdown we need a few diversions. Winston will recommend movies, music, podcasts, streams, books and anything else currently popping his cork. This week it's movies and music...
207) Movie – The Dark Horse. Where better to start with an under-appreciated Kiwi film? Cliff Curtis – whose star power helped get the film made – gets a rare lead role and it's possibly the best of his career (so far) as “A troubled New Zealand chess champion who finds purpose by teaching underprivileged children about the rules of chess and life”.
That's it really – an aspirational story of triumph over adversity through chess. Amongst the perky cast of unknowns James (Boy) Rolleston stands out. Based on the real-life story of Genesis Potini, a brilliant New Zealand chess player who suffered from severe bipolar disorder, Curtis went all Raging Bull for the film and put on 30kg for the role. He is superb and the film is a hidden gem. (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2192016/)
208) Movie – Ex-Machina. An ambitious young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is invited to the isolated lab of a genius AI inventor (Oscar Isaac) to evaluate his new creation (Alicia Vikander). Much smart dialogue about the nature of intelligence and humanity ensues as the experiment slowly goes sideways and the film slips from drama to thriller.
Writer/director Alex Garland – king of philosophical sci-fi - is about to hit the small screen with his new hi-tech series Devs. As a warm-up, this and his follow-up film Annihilation both thrill and get you thinking. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0470752
209) Movie - Hell Or High Water. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridon has carved out a niche of his own for his intelligent contemporary thrillers such as Wind River and Sicario which mix action and moral dilemmas with a broader view of the communities and countries they inhabit.
Here two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) go all Bonnie and Clyde in an attempt to pay off the bank debt on their family home. Jeff Bridges got an Oscar nomination for his very fine turn as the sheriff in pursuit and the portrait of a rural America in decline underpins the story. It also features a great soundtrack from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, mixing their own music with well-chosen new-depression country music. (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2582782)
210)Music – Bob's Back! Retaining the element of complete unpredictability that has characterised his entire career, and having released no original music since 2012, Bob Dylan has chosen this moment to offer a new song with the message: “Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years. This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting.”
The song in question is Murder Most Foul, an absolutely extraordinary 17 minute epic about the Kennedy assassination. Of course it's not just about the Kennedy assassination, taking in pretty much the entire breadth of pop culture since then with a dizzying stream of references both popular and obscure. The whole thing moves at a funereal pace, flashing between Kennedy's perspective, Dylan's and much more. Immediately it stakes its claim to being one of Dylan's most complex and important songs. Wow. (https://open.spotify.com/album/4IynOFuPYOzTzLXBz5UgYo)
211) Music – Bonjour Swing. It's often worth having a glance in the rearview mirror at stuff you might have missed. This superb Tauranga album was released in 2012 and still sounds as good today as it did then. And since it's a Gypsy swing album it hasn't aged musically in any way.
The band – Marion Arts (vocals, guitar), Robbie Laven (guitar), Oscar Laven (trumpet, clarinet, soprano, alto and tenor sax) and Milan Wishier (bass) – perform superbly, with immaculate swinging rhythms, slick guitar soloing, and Oscar providing much variety on his array of wind instruments. There are fifteen original songs from Marion plus one instrumental of Robbie's and the recording, from Tim Julian's Colourfield Studio in Welcome Bay, is warm and naturalistic, adding up to one of the best albums to emerge from Tauranga. Ever. (https://open.spotify.com/album/1uGY90NVY8bUSZpjwpvCbQ)