‘Wonder Wheel,’ directed by Woody Allen

Movie, 2017 A film which looks and initially sounds like a Woody Allen film, with a cosy and vibrantly colourful 1950s Coney Island, and a few narrative conventions lightly trampled. For Allen, however, this is pretty dark territory, as gangsters turn up to ruin the developing family saga, and all manner of references to drama, writing and tragedy are brought very much to the fore. … Continue reading ‘Wonder Wheel,’ directed by Woody Allen

‘Mean Streets,’ directed by Martin Scorsese

Movie, 1973 Gritty story about mob goings on in New York, focussing on the relationship between Charlie and his steadily unravelling sidekick, Johnny Boy. In what feels like a very visceral, brutally shot production, there’s a good deal going on in terms of family relationships, religious symbols and loyalty, all playing off and out with various levels of betrayal. The clubs, restaurants and bars all … Continue reading ‘Mean Streets,’ directed by Martin Scorsese

“Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison

Novel, 1966 Dystopian New York novel set in 1999, in which the unchecked population has led to a starved planet struggling and largely failing to feed itself on scraps and ersatz food produced. There is a vaguely didactic feeling to the book, but also a pace and energy, helped along by noirish elements and nods including a murder, high level corruption and an idealised romance, … Continue reading “Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison

“A Dog’s Ransom” by Patricia Highsmith

Novel, 1972 Story of an Ivy League graduate who’s somewhat compromised over his life on the beat, and who makes a few choices which are both strange, and which lead him into situations he’s hopeless at trying to deal with. A book where the tension is skillfully ratcheted up with the reader taken on a journey focused on a main character who slips away from … Continue reading “A Dog’s Ransom” by Patricia Highsmith

"Bleeding Edge," by Thomas Pynchon

Novel, 2014 While tight by Pynchon’s standards, this cracked, paranoia-driven novel straddling the attack on New York’s twin towers is still a wild assault of almost too many characters, wisecracking, referencing and floating in and out of the central narrative with mysterious dynamism. If things get hard to follow, the quality of the writing, the keen descriptions of geeks, street life and catastrophes are all … Continue reading "Bleeding Edge," by Thomas Pynchon

"The Prisoner of Second Avenue", directed by Melvin Frank

Movie, 1974 Comedy about power and work relations in a married couple suddenly exposed to economic hardship. Some excellent acting and a few decent scenes, although this film rather skates over some hefty issues in a way which suggests there’s no problem with, say, metal illness. Things feel a little rushed and insubstantial as a result, although the film’s perfectly entertaining if you can look … Continue reading "The Prisoner of Second Avenue", directed by Melvin Frank

"Inferno," directed by Dario Argento

Movie, 1980 Dreamy horror, full of deserted buildings, surreal sets, a progressive rock soundtrack and blood. All these elements are wonderfully realised, giving the film an excellent tension, although the story seems a little confused and the acting, every now and again, stultifying. The violence is nasty, although this goes with the territory. An effective piece, all in all; at least it would have been … Continue reading "Inferno," directed by Dario Argento

"Arab Jazz", by Karim Miské

Novel, 2015 While the settings and particularly the characters in the book are a little off-genre, this book is, essentially, a piece of detective fiction. Nothing wrong with that, and at the beginning of the book, the combination of a fairly familiar form and some more contemporary aspects combine to hook the reader. The power diminishes, to some extent, after a high number of popular … Continue reading "Arab Jazz", by Karim Miské

"The Apartment", directed Billy Wilder

Movie, 1960 Unquestionably funny comedy – the best sort – which pulls laughs from a great script and leading players, and yet does so by lightly hopping over heavy duty 20th century loneliness, alienation, infidelity, prostitution, ethics, depression, chauvinism and bullying, to name just a few. Because the film’s so watchable, the corrupt world becomes acceptable and romanticised, really nailing home a few points which … Continue reading "The Apartment", directed Billy Wilder

"Girl in the Band", Kim Gordon

Memoir, 2015 Autobiographical work by Kim Gordon in which she plots her artistic and musical life in California and New York. This is a good, flowing read which will disappoint anyone looking for the “warts and all” – her relationship with long-term partner Thurston Moore isn’t a salacious hatchet job, while the other Sonic Youth members don’t really get much of a look in. Gordon … Continue reading "Girl in the Band", Kim Gordon