Tony’s Top Five

The second instalment in a series of posts about things I liked from the week just passed.

Song Exploder – Nicholas Britell, Moonlight

It is the 89th Academy Awards tonight. I’m a sucker for punishment and enjoy sleep deprivation incredibly so I will probably stay up to watch it. For once, it is not totally boring and predictable, even if La La Land is expected to clear up most of the notable categories. I will be keeping a close eye on the Best Original Score section. I wrote last week about how overwhelming I found Mica Levi’s work for Jackie, but I really want to see Moonlight pick up as many gongs as possible (how wonderful would it be if, against the odds, it also won Best Picture?). The Song Exploder podcast is a series which picks apart, with the help of the recording artist, a song, working through from its conception to the finished product before finishing off with the tune, in the immortal words of host Hrishikesh Hirway, “in its entirety”. There is so much to like in Moonlight, it is easy to overlook its score. But the eloquent way in which Britell describes how the subtle changes in his theme develop alongside main character Chiron in each of its three chapters reminded me not to forget it.

Life, Animated

This Oscar nominated documentary really took me by surprise. I had already heard what it was about, and that it was receiving plaudits, but I basically wept all the way through, from happiness and sadness in equal measure. It follows Owen Suskind, a young man with autism who managed to make sense of his condition, understand the world, and even speak and read, through the help of animated Disney movies. Owen is such great company, full of joy, whip smart and knowingly funny. His family are inspiring in their strength and kindness. And the film uses animated sequences, from Disney classics like The Lion King, Bambi and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as well as original scenes from Owen’s own imagination to portray how he and his family made sense of something that they originally perceived would turn their ideal life upside down. Also, it’s on BBC iPlayer for a limited time. So, yeah, stop reading this and go watch that.

Pinegrove (Stereo, Glasgow)

Pinegrove’s 2016 record Cardinal has been in my life since a quiet night in Tokyo. After a long day of extreme touristing and returning to the hotel early, I heard it for the first time and haven’t stopped listening. Unlike the narrator of ‘Then Again’ I wasn’t totally nervous to go to Japan, but that lyric anchored this band in a location for me personally. Since returning home, I’ve seen Pinegrove play twice in Glasgow, first at The Hug and Pint in September, and now at Stereo on Friday, and each time they have been flawless. Frontman Evan Hall’s lyrics are so earnest on record that you would be forgiven for expecting them to lose their power in a room full of expectant hipsters three pints deep. But when you look around, and everyone, band included, are belting out each word emphatically, you along with them, it’s pretty transcendent. For me, Pinegrove are one of the most exciting bands of current times.

Drunk – Thundercat

The third record from Stephen Bruner, aka the bass wielding Thundercat, is effortlessly warm and sexy, like curling up in a silk robe, with a crystal glass of warm whiskey on a chaise longue upholstered in red velvet. It’s not sexy in a forced self-serious way. Thundercat realises that this also means being funny and silly at times too. I’ve only listened to it once, but I haven’t enjoyed any 2017 record as immediately as I did Drunk.

Westworld

I’m not sure exactly why I put off watching Westworld for so long. Could it be because the genuinely intriguing premise could so easily have been approached wrongly and executed woefully? Is it because the cast – Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins, James Marsden – either don’t inspire that much confidence in me or their best work seemed to have been behind them? In any case I was wrong. Westworld is edge of your seat television. You, much like the rich people (usually men) who go there for a very different kind of vacation, are thrown into this world without much set up or explanation. You learn what’s going on as and when stuff happens and exposition is kept to a minimum. Thandie Newton pulls out a wonderfully intelligent and fiendish performance. It incorporates modern music without crowbarring. It explores themes of identity and consciousness and perfectly straddles its futuristic and, ostensibly, historical settings. For the first time in a TV show for a while, there were genuinely unpredictable plot twists. Binged it in a weekend, need I say more.

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