Ready to join us in splendid self-isolation?
Let us suggest some guilty pleasures to help pass the time and remind you all that #andràtuttobene 🌈...
With plenty of time on your thoroughly and frequently washed hands we have a couple of late night double-feature picture shows, suitable for any time of day.
#1 - Dangerous Liaisons and Edward Scissorhands
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Deliciously wicked, Glenn Close is pitch perfect and John Malkovich clinical in this take of passion, manipulation and betrayal. The final scenes with Close are devastating. Followed by:
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Visionary and pure. Tim Burton’s film vividly illustrates just how people are afraid of different and that everyone deserves love. Try not to weep at the beautiful ice dance scene, wonderfully scored by Danny Elfman - as is the entire film; a true collaboration between director and composer.
#2 - The Sound of Music and Dancer in the Dark
The Sound of Music (1965)
When the dog bites When the bee stings When I'm feeling sad I simply remember my favorite things And then I don't feel so bad ... (well, not until you watch the next film):
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Worth watching on their own
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
How could you not have known that long before her Downton Abbey prime Dame Maggie Smith was sizzling hot ... and deserved her best actress Academy Award?
Staying in Scotland, how about ...
The Wicker Man (1973)
In this, the golden age of TV, we are often told that we’ve never had it so good. But sometimes its necessary to go back to our roots to understand how we got there ...
#1 - Doctor Who (1963 - 1986*)
We forget how innovative and ahead of its time the classic series was: dimensionally transcendental, the Delia Derbyshire theme, those iconic opening and closing credits and Kit Pedler and Gerry Davies’ Cybermen - long before we had the Borg.
Choose your favourite Doctor and companion. We love Jo Grant and nothing beats Tom Baker (with Sarah Jane, Leela and Romana 2)**, even creeping into season 18 and his own Meglos-mania, especially the Hinchcliffe gothic horror stories.
* We know that the original series ran until 1989 but for us, despite some interesting concepts (Time’s Champion) and stories like Ghostlight and the Curse of Fenric, it ended with the casting of Sylvester McCoy - despite Bonnie Langford’s best efforts, we were sorry to see her go - and the introduction of stunt companion “Ace, professor” Ace. Their characterisations are best left to the imagination of readers of Virgin’s New Adventure novels ...
**Actually David Tennant and Catherine Tate come wonderfully close.
#2 - The Avengers (1961 - 1969)
The weird and the wonderful, with the ever impressive Diana Rigg, full of manappeal. Steed discovers a witty tag line and Emma delivers a stylish outro.
#3 - TwentyTwelve
“We are where we are with this, and that’s never a good place to be...”
Even if you had no direct experience of London’s 2012 Olympics, this mockumentary on deliverance of the “Jubilympics” totally hits the spot. Especially if you have experience of any bullshitting profession or industry.
Never again will you take your lawyer/government/professional advisor seriously. But best of all it has the backstory of the build up to the People’s Olympics. Not themselves the source of fun - Lord Coe even appears from time to time - it’s the generic bureaucracy and shocking casualness of decision making and process that is parodied.
#4 - Game of Thrones
It’s what binge watching was invented for. Otherwise we’d have no idea who was why or what and when.
#5 - Dynasty 2017
This is our guilty pleasure. Rebooted for the iPod generation where plot lines swiftly resolve themselves, brought up to date with notable changes. The Colby family are African-American. Steven's homosexuality is a non-issue to Blake and Sammy Jo is a gay Hispanic man.
Elizabeth Gillies stands-out as the fierce Fallon Carrington and together with Nicollette Sheridan as Alexis, the two are a joy to behold. Of course, you still have to wait for Alexis to appear, sometime into the first season. Who would have thought that Joan Collins could be trumped?
And just how new Dynasty embraces and reinvents the changing face of characters as lead actors come and go... season 1 and 2 Cristal and Alexis 1 and post-op Falexis are wonderfully sublime.
Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, The Mirror & the Light - Hilary Mantel
Well somebody has to. “Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride”.
The Bonfire of the Vanities - Tom Wolfe (1987)
Forget the wish-washy film. Tom Wolfe’s 1987 satire about a self-proclaimed Master of the Universe who makes a wrong turn is still one of the best that we have read.
1984 - George Orwell (1949)
Ever wondered what it might be like to live in a dystopian society, where freedom is curtailed and the information fed to us carefully selected? Welcome to 2020, we mean 1984.
At times like this we recommend anything by The Smiths. The perfect pick-me-up when something special is needed to dispel those moments of melancholy.
Choose from How Soon is Now, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want or the Moors Murderers inspired Reel Around the Fountain.
For those abandoned in Little Britain, this song of choice is brought to you by HM Government and their scientific and specialist medical advisors.
We all know what happens to the herd, led to their slaughter:
“It's death for no reason And death for no reason is murder”.
The Whisperer in Darkness is a sequel to the Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Be sure to listen to that first.
Oh, and not forgetting us, of course ...
Now is the perfect time to use those tinned goods that have been resident in your cupboard for so long that they will soon qualify for residency. Especially if lockdown means you can’t get out to shop for fresh food.
Pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans)
Good Italian food doesn’t come more comforting than this. Debates may rage south and north about the perfect pasta and the perfect beans to use. But the beauty of self-isolation is this. We are stuck with whatever is in the store cupboard. So worry not...
*Adapt the recipe depending on what you have, or have not.
Prep 10 min
Soak overnight (if using dried beans)
Cook 1 hr 15 min
300g dried borlotti* beans, soaked overnight, or 700g drained tinned beans (tip in 2x400g tins if using)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 parsley stalks (no leaves), finely chopped
A good glug (6 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
1 pinch dried red chilli flakes
1 small potato, peeled and diced
200g pasta*, penne, broken tagliatelle, tubetti, or other shapes
Soak the dried beans overnight, pour off the liquid. Put the beans a pan, cover with two litres of cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for an hour, or until the beans are soft. Leave to rest.
Fry the onion, celery, parsley stalks in the olive oil over a medium-low heat until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft. Add a pinch of salt as the vegetables come to.
Finely chop the leaves of one sprig of rosemary leaving the other stalk whole, and add to the pan, with a pinch of chilli flakes, and cook for few minutes more.
Add the diced potato and beans, stir, and add 1.5 litres of water: we use the bean cooking liquor with water added. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.
If you prefer your soup more stew like take out a third of the soup, puree it and return it to the pan.
Add the pasta and raise the heat so the soup boils the pasta until al dente. Keep stirring and add a little more water if necessary, To your preferred consistency. Season to taste.
For greater depth when frying the onions and vegetables add an anchovy fillet or two to taste. These will melt into the mix as you fry the vegetables until they are soft and fragrant.
Instead of rosemary, or in addition, add a dried bay leaf.
Alternatively: nothing beats a great Italian lasagne. Here we add torn-up chunks of mozzarella, thin layers of prosciutto cotto (cooked ham) and slices of galbanino cheese between the layers of lasagne, meat sauce and béchamel.