This run-up to Christmas is going to be busy. I mean, sure, there are all the usual reasons related to reaching work deadlines ahead of the year, preparing for Yule-time gift-giving and entertaining, and such things. But ahead of the festive purchasing season and, more importantly, the imminent awards season, there is a lot of music and movie news about. Releases abound, and with each release there's a marketing machine, feeding the engine of Hot Takes that truly drive the opinion economy. I shall do my best to navigate these choppy waters for you, to limit the waffle, and maybe offer my own tepid take.
The Grammy nominations are in and it's a potentially intimidating cornucopia of musical mysteries. I try to stay on top of things, but even I have to work my way through everything, pencil poised, brow quizzical.
So I've dedicated this week's double-length playlist to Grammy nominations, through the prism of my own tastes. There's no way I can cover every single nomination, even if I were to limit myself to only the major categories. But I'll endeavour to curate a selection of the releases deemed worthy of a Grammy.
The caveat is that in no way does this comprise a list of predicted winners. That's not something I have a good track record at. But for me, awards shows are all about the long list and the nominees, a selection of noteworthy items for consideration. The list of "winners" is so subjective as to be next to useless.
I’ve mentioned TikTok trends quite a bit herein, partly because it’s an important taste barometer. It’s for that reason that I’ve included Doja Cat’s Kiss Me More, which managed to have three different parts of it used for major Reels and TikToks.
If we consider these things act memetically, there can be no denying the zeitgeist impact that the track has. And that makes it worth paying attention to.
Adele has been in the news too, and not just for the release of her new album, or being very human on-stage when talking about who inspired her.
But no, in important news, it was her influence that made Spotify make an album's default play-mode be in album order, rather than shuffled. It only affects albums and only for Premium subscribers, and the shuffle function hasn't been removed, but that hasn't dampened some people's anger. Anger that this arrogant wailer decree how people listen to music, how very dare they?!
How strange it is to have watched not one new-ish movie, but three! What a delight!
I'm glad I got to see Dune - Part One on a big screen, but even that screen might not have been big enough. There are movies where people say "see it on the biggest screen you can, please don't judge this after watching it on your phone". But never have I seen this be so very very true, the most powerful part of Dune is the very scale of everything in it, that vastness of it. I can't wait for the next part, and then to watch both parts back to back in an Imax. But what I truly enjoyed most was discussing the film afterwards with a friend, in person! It was a great half a movie, I'm so glad it exists, I love it warts and all. But I've not talked so intensely about the ins and outs of a movie and its meanings and implications since Promising Young Woman.
By contrast, that's not really something I can say about Jungle Cruise. This divertingly hollow romp is akin to The African Queen meets PotC by way of The Mummy, with allusions to Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God. But, like the theme park ride it's based on, this film is fixed to its rails.
Blunt and Johnson are fun to watch, but as whacky as Jesse Plemons' German prince is, I think it'd have been a great to callback to have him played by Herzog instead.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the film with the longest title I've seen this year.
I can't begin to tell you how tempting it is to leave this segment there, but I fear it would come across as a poor impression rather mere silliness. The truth is SCatLotTR is very watchable. I enjoyed it more than quite a lot of latter-day MCU fare, though I wonder if that's partly due to the fact it didn't feel entirely like an MCU movie. You could have stripped every single reference to a wider universe from it and it not only would still have worked, but might even be a leaner, lighter movie.
The Will Smith VO'ed trailer for Bel-Air took me by surprise. Not just because I wasn't expecting a Fresh Prince reboot, but because it felt like a high-quality fan-made project, like the one made by Morgan Cooper a couple of years ago. It turns out there's a good reason for that, as NBCUniversal hired Cooper to helm this new project.
I enjoyed eating at Soho's Blacklock, but it was a very contrasting experience. It veered wildly from 'check out how unfussy we are, we're just an old-fashioned London chophouse' to 'check out how fancy we are, we use sardine juice on our little gems'. It made for an inconsistent but interesting dining experience, and the drinks were top-notch.
Chinese fashion photographer Chen Man has apologised for her "ignorance" after a picture she shot for French luxury brand Dior sparked outrage.
The outrage in question is that some Chinese people felt that the photo represented a Western version of a Chinese beauty ideal, not a Chinese one that apparently leans towards fair skin and large eyes. Dior said the photo, which was recently displayed at a Shanghai exhibition, has since been removed.
By the time the next edition of this periodical find you, this curséd month will be done and we'll be into proper winter. The season of the solstice, of the best foods, the feast-filled precursor to my birthday month will finally be upon us.
At time of writing it's exactly one month until Christmas Eve, and a time of that happy combination of hygge and geselligkeit that marks the season. And all I want to do is go home, lock the door, put the fire on, and not leave that place of safety and warmth.
See you next month!