The party season is over and January is definitely the time to hunker down and enjoy some…. I bet you thought I was going to say hit the gym and have some good healthy New Year resolutions. To be honest I think January is the worst month to start a diet or a new exercise regime. I find it hard enough just to keep the flu at bay and my muffin top under control. As I type this I have no voice due to a chest infection. So I tend to slide into the new year by being kind to myself and enjoying some me indulgence or us indulgence ie with my OH (other half).
January is the month to catch up with all those box sets everyone else has told you about. It is also the month when some of the soon-to-be-Oscar-nominated films hit our local cinema screens.
Here are some of the shows, films, TV programmes that I have enjoyed or am planning to see because they have been recommended to me. Perfect Me Indulgence fodder.
MARY POPPINS: West End theatre
I went with our family to see this in London’s West End. It is one of our traditions to go and see a show before Christmas to celebrate two family birthdays. This show lived up to all of the hype and 5* reviews. It was a brilliant production with a cast led by the super-talented Charlie Stemp and Zizi Strallen.
The set design was so imaginative. Huge sides open up for the hall and staircase, while a stucco-fronted attic drops down for the children’s bedroom, before we are whisked across the smoking skyscape of fantasy Edwardian London. When Mary Poppins flies across the auditorium it had me welling-up.
The whole thing is full of spectacle and stand-out numbers – an old-fashioned musical theatre show that does not fail to live up to expectations.
THE TWO POPES – Netflix
If you told me to watch a film that was basically two men wrestling with theology I would have said, no thanks. However if you then revealed that the two actors cast to play Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis were Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, I would have been much more intrigued.
These two men engage in a clash of personalities and ideologies. A mutual antipathy gives way to grudging respect, eventually warming into friendship. Both men came from controversial backgrounds – one wanted the ‘top job’ the other was a reluctant Pope.
This film is bound to be included in the Oscar nominations as the two leads are outstanding and they even look like the two Popes. What on paper may sound like a boring film, is in actual fact totally mesmerising. At the end of the film all of us said we could watch it again as there was so much inspiring conversation to take in.
THE IRISHMAN: Netflix
Not my sort of film at all but one day I gave in to my OH and agreed we should watch it. More OH indulgence rather than Me Indulgence.
A film about a hit man and the head of the Teamsters that is three and a half hours long is enough to send me to sleep. However Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci do not allow one to shut one’s eyes for a moment.
De Niro, the eponymous Mob and Teamsters labour union hitman and courier Frank Sheeran (a real-life figure, who died in 2003 aged 83), is awesome in this role.
It morphs from an ebullient, sprawling comedy-drama about the outsider Sheeran’s three-decade involvement with La Cosa Nostra into a mournful reflection on friendship, betrayal and the unassuaged guilt men take to their graves.
It was clearly a perfect film for Martin Scorcese to direct and in some ways it is a total indulgence for him. But I have to admit that, as it is based on a true story, it is very interesting. Maybe they could have edited 30 minutes out of it!
BLOOD PACT: More4
If OH and I are at a loose end TV-wise we always go onto More4 to see if there are any Walter Presents series as they never fail to engage and enthrall us.
The Blood Pact (known as Klem in the Netherlands) centres around two families from the same town who are drawn together by the friendship of two young girls. On the right side of the law are the Warmonds. Hugo Warmond is a widower – a hard-working and ambitious tax-advisor with two daughters, Lautja and Suus. The character of Hugo is played by Barry Atsma, who many will recognise from the Bad Banks series and The Hitman’s Bodyguard movie. Hugo is a highly conservative, conscientious man who always strives to do the right thing.
On the wrong side of the law is Marius Milner. Just released from an eight-year prison sentence, Marius (Jacob Derwig – who won Best Actor at the Netherlands Film Festival for the role) lives with his partner, Kitty (Georgina Verbaan), and their daughter Chrissie. Hugo is alarmed when he realises that his youngest daughter’s best friend is Chrissie – daughter of a convicted murderer – and decides that this is not the sort of company his daughter should be keeping.
It is the equivalent of in book terms, a real page-turner. Thank goodness all episodes were available on Catch Up.
THE TRIAL OF CHRISTINE KEELER: BBC
The Trial of Christine Keeler is a British television six-part series based on the chain of events surrounding the Profumo affair in the 1960s.
We are only a third of the way through the series so it is hard to give it a proper review. But if you like political scandals and the era of the 60’s this series is a winner. I can remember how shocked my parents and grandparents were at the time but I had no idea why.
I understand Christine’s son says it is a good portrayal of her. I am sure there is some artistic license but as with so many BBC dramas it is well-produced and brilliantly cast. Ben Miles as John Profumo gives the role just enough macho seediness to dislike him. I turned to my OH after the second episode and said wasn’t the ’60’s Man’ unlikeable by today’s standards.
AMERICAN FACTORY: Netflix
American Factory is the first documentary feature in Barack Obama’s post-presidential career as a film producer (with Michelle Obama) for Netflix, under the banner of their company Higher Ground Productions. It’s a workplace study from directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert that is absorbing, discomfiting and desperately sad. The factory in question is far from American.
In 2014, the Chinese auto glass manufacturer Fuyao bought a former General Motors car plant in Dayton, Ohio, that had been closed since 2008 – promising investment and hundreds of new jobs. Fuyao and its chairman Cao Dewang (referred to as “Chairman Cao”) were rewarded with euphoric praise – in a state that had been crushed by unemployment – and more than $6m in subsidies from Ohio state taxpayers.
The film shows how this good mood curdled as the workforce realised that to show their gratitude they were expected to conform to the Chinese culture of regimentation and submission, uncomplainingly working six or seven-day weeks, pushing up productivity at all costs and declining to make a fuss about decadent and lazy American indulgences such as lunch breaks and safety precautions.
LITTLE WOMEN: Cinema
So many of us love this book so we are always wary of yet another production. However Greta Gerwig’s latest version does not disappoint Alcott fans.
Set in 19th-century Massachusetts with a cast led by Saoirse Ronan as Jo who delivers the role to perfection, it is a classic story that once again entertains. I think I may have seen all the previous 5 versions. Timothée Chalamet as the rich neighbour, Laurie, is, in my opinion, one of the best castings. However Emma Watson as Meg and Florence Pugh as Amy are equally captivating.
I am sure purists will find things to criticise but I found this film such a joyous, tumultuous collision of pleasures. Perfect holiday viewing and me indulgence.
This 10-part Netflix drama Messiah, a political thriller built around the advent in Syria of a young preacher man (played with grace, charm and passion by Mehdi Dehbi).
He catches people’s attention by fearlessly urging them to set aside old divisions and listen to his message of peace, love and unity, which seems to incorporate the best of most of the main religions. His following soon grows.
However, the CIA (particularly the agent Eva Geller – played by Michelle Monaghan – who is recently widowed and nursing a secret, possibly fatal, illness,) is sceptical.
Recommended to me and I have only watched one episode but I am have been sucked in. Very different is all I can say.
This is like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. In our group, 3 loved it and 3 hated it.
All I can say is if you liked the musical theatre then go to the film as there are some outstanding performances not least by Francesca Hayward who, as the lead, is phenomenal.
So much to watch from your sofa or beyond. Enjoy your month of Me Indulgence!
Here is my review of some other TV shows that you might enjoy. Click HERE