October saw a few good films out, with cinema trips for Venom and Bohemian Rhapsody. I wanted to see The Hate U Give, but it hadn’t quite hit release.  It’s been a good month for rep too, I had to think about who to pick for the featured banner! I had a choice between Tan France & Hasan Minhaj, Mindy Kaling in Ocean’s 8, Riz Ahmed in Venom, Sanjeev Bhaskar in Unforgotten, Mandip Gill in Doctor Who and Jameela Jamil in The Good Place.

Hasan Minhaj promoted his new Netflix series Patriot Act in a smart 10-minute clip with Queer Eye’s Tan France. It was so heartwarming to see two Desi men just being brown together.

I was so happy when Hasan talked about how South Asia is taking over America. That’s the premise of my ‘Not So Stories’ tale. Britain might have colonised us, but we colonised right back.

America is becoming South Asia – yoga, meditation, chai tea at Starbucks, us…

Writing

I’m still working on my new project I mentioned last month nicknamed Codename True Blue. To give you a hint as to the setting, I made myself a simple map so that I could visualise the setting. I used this fantasy map generator which is a really neat free* tool. It didn’t take long and I was thinking about the scenes in each place as I made it.

* don’t pick Pro

Map to help visualise my project

Netflix announced their casting for The Witcher. I am not convinced… That look needs a lot of work yet. I do like that it’s the story of Geralt, Yenn and Ciri.

Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia

The Witcher is an epic tale of fate and family. Geralt of Rivia, a solitary monster hunter, struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than beasts. But when destiny hurtles him toward a powerful sorceress, and a young princess with a dangerous secret, the three must learn to navigate the increasingly volatile Continent together.

Books

I read quite a lot this month, Silent Hall, Sea of Rust, The Ark, and The Silver Metal Lover but my standout favourite was Priest of Bones.

Peaker Blinders with Swords. That’s what I’d heard this book described as and it really does have that industrial gangster feel. A morally dark grey anti-hero Tomas Piety back from a devastating war to get back to running his part of the city.

Ellinburg is nicely sketched out as a poor industrial city run into the ground by an expensive war and a greedy governor. Tomas’ old turf has been taken by an unknown player and the book is about them realising they’ve stepped into a new, more political, war.

This is a very dark and brutal story with physical and sexual violence tied into the plot. It’s also low fantasy, enough that I was genuinely surprised when magic showed up, but it fits into the world nicely and adds a touch of depth to a few characters and their backstories.

Still, there’s enough left unsaid about them that I’m intrigued to find out more in the sequel.

Tomas isn’t a nice chap, he’s not supposed to be, but he puts the survival of his city over his personal interests. Okay, maybe a little blackmail is involved, but he still sees that it’s wise. Plus as he is drawn deeper into the political web enshrouding his country, he loses more and more agency, in a very interesting way, which sets up a man like Tomas in a great place for the sequel to start.

Films

To feed my constant love of heists, we watched Ocean’s 8. I’m not sure what the critics disliked, it was such a fun film with an ingenious heist within heist. It was incredible to see these women pulling together and executing such a great crime. It’s light breezy fun that moves at a cracking pace exactly the way a fun heist movie should be made better by some great performances.

After watching Ant Man and The Wasp I do wonder how much power Disney have that this got such good reviews. Coming after Black Panther and Thor Ragnarok, this feels so shoddy and second-rate. Comedy ‘ethnic’ sidekicks? Check. Forgettable villain monologing their evil plan for the audience? Check. Hideously annoying bad science that makes you wince? Check. Even adding Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne didn’t help. The only part I was interested in was the mid-credits scene linking the film to the extended universe.

I saw Operation Finale on Netflix and it caught my eye because it had Oscar Isaac as a lead. I’m glad we checked it out, as it was a deep, emotional film about the complexity of finding and capturing Nazi’s post World War II, specifically Adolf Eichmann. I enjoyed it a lot and it inspired me to read more about his eventual trial. 

Speaking of critically hated films that I enjoyed, I adored Venom. I realise the party line is to say ‘gosh this is like stepping back to 2005’ but good grief, I found it refreshing to watch a film that isn’t toeing the Marvel line. Sure, it’s not a great superhero film, probably because Venom isn’t a hero. It’s more of an action comedy rom-com between a man and his alien symbiote and that’s fine.

This is a film about Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), an emotionally open man that is so rare to see in any film. It’s his vulnerability that turns this into something more. He is so bursting with feelings that instead of being infected by Venom, he infects him back. The side plot with his ex-Anne and her new boyfriend Dan was refreshing too. No love triangle, no jealousy from Dan who appreciates Eddie’s work, no macho posturing from Eddie about this new man in Anne’s life despite a pretty pathetic ‘casual walk by’ her house. Even at the end, it’s made clear that Anne was not a prize to be won by Eddie and Venom.

Plus the Eddie/Venom relationship is pure gold. In the comics they have a child, call each other love, talk about being together forever, but I was surprised to see some of that leaking onto the big screen. He talks about Venom being up his ass, Venom declares Eddie his, they KISS with that big venom tongue to the sound of slithery organic noises. The final Venom-Eddie and Riot-Carlton fight is like an oily orgy that’s beautiful and terrifying. (Is this when Riot impregnates Venom with Carnage?) There is never a moment where Eddie gives the clear no homo wink to clarify for the audience that this is just two bros being bros. 

There are some weak points, but I just don’t care enough to pick at them. Tom Hardy carried the film. Riz Ahmed was great as the non-moustache twirling Silicon Valley villain. It’s fun, it has heart and it makes me happy.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Speaking of hated by critics, not perfect films that I loved anyway, let’s talk about Bohemian Rhapsody. This film had a troubled production, including Bryan Singer being fired (yes!) but Hollywood rules stated that he still be listed as main director (boo) but it doesn’t feel like it. There’s nothing weird, no odd editing, no reshoots that stand out. It’s a good solid film and I’m very glad Sasha Baron Cohen wasn’t playing Freddie.

Freddie never talked about his life, his family, his upbringing. Looking back, it’s easy for people to say he was ashamed of being Indian, of coming from a Parsi background, but I think they forget how hard it was for him to even exist back then, as a queer brown man. I can think of three other, roughly contemporary-ish time period, artists who were also Indian that many people might not realise either. Not with Freddie’s legendary fame, but still. It was just easier to not bring it up. (Cliff Richard, Englebert Humperdink and Peter Sarstedt.)

And Freddie was famously private. So much so that I actually appreciated the level of detail in the film. Sure it would’ve been nice to see more on his upbringing, his life with his family, struggling with the racial inequalities, but he probably wouldn’t have wanted that. I notice the film dodged around his definitive sexuality too, Freddie said he was bisexual, but his long-time partner Anne said he was gay.

The biggest changes had to do with the dramatisation of a real rock group. I’m not an expert Queen fan, despite Freddie being very important to me growing up, but a big deal was made of Freddie making a solo album and I’m sure the others also made them too. Plus the timeline was shifted around to make the final Live Aid performance more dramatic. It was vital that they included his illness, but it’s worth keeping in mind Freddie Mercury was a legend before and after his AIDS diagnosis. Still, all in all it was a joyous triumphant look at a classic band and an incredible man. 

Burning through the sky.

TV

I re-watched Unforgotten with my partner as we were hunting for good police drama. The premise is that DI Sunny Khan and DCI Cassie Stuart work on historic murder cases. Each season of the three focus on one murder. Because of the cold case element, there are some great forensic techniques used and police work that is quite unusual.

The new Doctor Who started – set in Sheffield! I’ve only seen the first episode so far, so I’ll talk about it next month, but I enjoyed the beginning. I’ll say the same for The Good Place, back for its third season. I’m partway through and loving the addition of Simone.

Games

I thought I was safe. I thought it was over. Red Dead Redemption 2 wouldn’t grab me the way one did because John Marston was dead. Then my ‘friends’ who had bought the game sent me screenshots from RDR2. Screenshots from this prequel of a younger John as a secondary character.

The most beautiful horse.

So, anyway, that happened and here we are. The upside is there are a lot of people dressed in white burning crosses that I can shoot.

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