Monthly Archives: November 2019

True History of the Kelly Gang Trailer

A few months ago, I wrote that the trailer for JoJo Rabbit was “The Most WTF Trailer of 2019”.  I might have been wrong.

Here’s the trailer for a new Australian movie called True History of the Kelly Gang.

Those not fortunate enough to be Australian may be unfamiliar with the history and legend of the mid-19th-century Kelly Gang. The gang was headed by Ned Kelly, an outlaw and murderer whose generosity in spreading the loot from his numerous bank robberies has led to his becoming something of a Robin Hood-like figure in the Australian popular imagination. His occasional practice of burning mortgage documents from those robbed banks helped propel the narrative.

His life has been the subject of at least two earlier films, both of which were titled Ned Kelly: Mick Jagger played Kelly in the 1970s movie, and Heath Ledger played him in 2003. This time, he’s played by George MacKay, who seems to be having a breakout year—he’s also starring in the much-anticipated WWI film, 1917. The first-rate supporting cast includes Essie Davis (Phryne Fisher from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Amelia from The Babadook), the always excellent Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam, and Russell Crowe.

The movie was made for Stan, which is an Australian alternative to NetFlix. No US release date has been set so far.

True History of the Kelly Gang is based on a book of the same name by Peter Carey. The book is a fictional account of the gang, written as if it were a memoir by Ned Kelly himself.  It won the 2001 Booker Prize for the best original novel written in English.

Another Christmas Ad from the UK: The Argos “Book of Dreams”, with an 80s Flashback

This is the 2019 Christmas ad for the Argos “The Book of Dreams” catalogue.

The little girl in the video is nine-year-old Nandi Bushell, who has been drumming since she was three. She has her own YouTube channel.

Here she is a year ago, joyously covering Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times”.


When one of my nieces was a little older than the girl in the videos, I told her father that I’d promised to buy her a drum kit for Christmas, but only if she guaranteed that she’d practice drumming at least two hours a day.

I couldn’t make good on my promise, because shortly after I made it, he and his family moved, and didn’t leave a forwarding address.


Bonus

Here’s the full video for Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”.

I had some friends who loved Simple Minds until the band made the unforgivable mistake of becoming popular with the mainstream. That meant that they’d sold out, man, and were no longer acceptable to the fashionably unfashionable crowd that I hung out with at the old 9:30 club.

Me, I could never remember which musicians I was supposed to sneer at in any given week, and went on blissfully playing my tapes of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) and Sparkle in the Rain despite the band’s fall from counter-cultural grace.

Added to My “Someday” List: A Stay at L’Hôtel in Paris

Oscar Wilde’s last words, as he lay dying in a shabby Parisian hotel, were “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”  At least that’s the official story, and who would want to question it.

Oscar Wilde has been dead since 1900, but the hotel, known simply as L’Hôtel, still exists. Wilde wouldn’t recognize it, though. It has been massively upgraded and enhanced, and now rates five stars and boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant (currently closed for renovation).

The wallpaper has been replaced, too.

The Oscar Wilde Suite

The Oscar Wilde Suite

If you’re in Paris in mid-April—which means you’re already living a charmed life—you can spend a night in the 35 sqm (377 sqft) Oscar Wilde Suite, for as little as €766 ($848). I can’t embed the hotel’s video tour of the suite, but you can watch it here.


Exploring L’Hôtel

L’Hôtel

L’Hôtel

Reception

Reception

Chic Room

Chic Room

Mignon Room

Mignon Room

Grand Room

Grand Room

Le Restaurant

Le Restaurant

Le Bar

Le Bar


All images from L’Hôtel.

John Lewis (and Waitrose) Christmas Ad for 2019

In the UK, the appearance of Christmas television ads from department stores and supermarket chains is a very big event, big enough so that the commercials themselves get extensive news coverage and analysis.

One of the most eagerly anticipated Christmas ads is the one for John Lewis, the department store chain. This year, John Lewis partnered with Waitrose Supermarkets to create an ad that features an excitable little dragon whose enthusiasm for the season sometimes, uh, misfires.

Adam Rippon + Joni Mitchell + Ben Platt = Serene Beauty in an Ugly Time

Olympian  Adam Rippon turned 30 on Monday, and flipped the usual tradition on its head by giving a present to everyone else. You don’t get to be “America’s Sweetheart”, as he once described himself, without occasionally doing something really wonderful.

“Today is my 30th birthday. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything and everyone in my life. Thank you for always sending love and positive energy my way. I hope I’m always able to do the same for you.”

He skated to a cover version of “River”, by Joni Mitchell, one of the indisputably greatest singer-songwriters of the 20th century.  The song’s lyrics made it a perfect choice.

This version of “River” was sung by Ben Platt, Evan Hansen himself, who won the Tony and pretty much every other Best Actor in a Musical award, for his 2017 performance in Dear Evan Hansen.


So there it is. No theatrics, no dazzle, just a simple little performance bringing together the works of three masters of their arts to create something beautiful.

Washington Is Losing a Panda — The Last of Bei Bei


The Giant Pandas at the National Zoo, like all the other pandas at zoos in the United States, don’t belong to the Zoo itself. They’re effectively rented from the People’s Republic of China on a 10-year lease, for about a million dollars a year, each.

If a panda cub is born in the US, the Zoo is charged a $400,000 baby tax, and the cub must be shipped to China when it turns four years old.


Bei Bei Celebrates His Fourth Birthday

Bei Bei, the Zoo’s youngest panda, was born on 22 August 2015, so it’s time to say goodbye. Next Tuesday, 19 November 2019, he’ll leave for China.

So much for birthright citizenship.


The National Zoo has scheduled a week of special events leading up to Bei Bei’s departure, including Q&A sessions with panda keepers and panda feeding times with special treats. Airbnb is providing free hot chocolate to Zoo visitors on Saturday morning. Here’s a full listing of what’s planned. As always, admission to the Zoo is free.

If you’re not in the area, or just want to avoid DC’s November weather, you can watch the action on the Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam. Camera One will be focused exclusively on Bei Bei for the full week. (Note: Pandas sleep a lot. The cameras operate 24/7, but your best chance for seeing live panda action is at feeding times and around midday, East Coast time.)


The National Zoo has posted videos of some of Bei Bei’s most memorable moments  Here are two of them:

Bei Bei’s First Steps

Playing in the Snow

ChiKo — Lunch on 6 November 2019

ChiKo

ChiKo

The original ChiKo, an upscale-casual restaurant that “pair[s] modern cooking techniques with traditional Chinese and Korean flavors”, opened in Washington in 2017. It was an immediate hit, landing on the Washingtonian’s “100 Very Best Restaurants” list and making it to the semifinalist round for James Beard’s “Best New Restaurant Award”. This year, the owners (aka The Fried Rice Collective) opened a second restaurant near Dupont Circle, about a 10-minute walk from my condo.

I finally tried it last week.

Potstickers

Potstickers

In an obscenity case in the 1960s, Associate Justice Potter Stewart wrote that pornography was hard to define, but that “I know it when I see it”. That line became famous.

I’ve eaten potstickers hundreds of times, but if you’d asked me what it is that makes a potsticker a potsticker, I couldn’t have told you, even though “I know it when I see it”. For the record, a potsticker is a crescent-shaped dumpling filled usually with pork, steamed, and then fried.

The potstickers at ChiKo were hot, but not fiery, which was fine with me.

Cumin Lamb Stir Fry

Cumin Lamb Stir Fry

The Cumin Lamb Stir Fry, with big thick wheat flour noodles and caramelized shallots, could have used a lot more lamb—what was here was barely detectable.

Overall, it was a good meal, but not particularly memorable. My opinion might have been influenced by the view from my table at the window. New Dynasty, my go-to Chinese restaurant for cheap eats, was across the street, and a satisfactory lunch there costs about a third of the price of my meal at ChiKo.

From BBC Earth — A Glorious Seven Worlds, One Planet

For the past few weeks, a brilliant new nature series called Seven Worlds, One Planet, has been playing on BBC One. Each of the seven episodes focuses on a different continent; segments of the show were filmed in 41 different countries.

The narrator is naturalist Sir David Attenborough, as if it could be anyone else.

Here’s a sample, in which a Giant Leopard Seal pursues a Tiny Penguin:

Warning. The photography in the show is stunning, but Nature is not always pretty. Some viewers in the UK have responded to parts of the series with tears or nausea.

US viewers will be able to judge for themselves when Seven WorldsOne Planet premieres on Saturday, 18 January 2020, on BBC America, AMC, IFC,  and SundanceTV.


Survivor: Galápagos

From Planet Earth II — View in Full Screen

Remember the famous “Iguana vs Snakes” sequence from the BBC series, Planet Earth II?  When that little iguana made a run for safety as the rocks around it erupted with dozens of hungry snakes, we witnessed the most exciting chase scene in any movie or TV show released in 2016. I’ve reposted it at the bottom of this item. Three years later, it’s as breathtaking as ever.

His Dark Materials Arrives Tonight on HBO

The new adaptation of Philip Pullman’s bestselling fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, a collaborative project by the BBC and HBO, premiered in the UK last night, to rapturous reviews and the highest ratings for a new drama on British TV in five years. The Independent called it “A beautiful, brooding vision of Philip Pullman’s universe that is unafraid to air the book’s anti-theocratic messages.” (★★★★★). The Telegraph said it was “…a gorgeously-realised version of Philip Pullman’s novels.” (★★★★). And The Guardian hailed it as “a riveting realisation of Philip Pullman’s magic.” (★★★★★).

American critics have been somewhat less impressed, but the Tomatometer is still 82% “certified fresh”.

His Dark Materials is set, at least at the beginning, in a world that is not quite ours. There’s an Oxford University, but the Magisterium (a thinly disguised Catholic Church) dominates society. Technology is at about the same level as it was during our Victorian Age. And then there are the dæmons….

The eight-episode series will run from 4 November 2019 through 22 December 2019, and has already been renewed for a second season. That suggests the show will take its time covering Pullman’s three-volume epic, and may well extend the scope of the story.

Fourteen-year-old Dafne Keen plays the key role of “Lyra Belacqua”, with Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in prominent roles.

Worth checking out.