Skip and Loafer, season one

I am a sucker for this sort of gentle, warm slice-of-life/light-romance type anime. I found this one, though, especially charming and loveable. It allows its characters to be imperfect, it shows growth, and it has trans-representation. The art work is just wonderful, too: warm soft pastels. It hits familiar beats (trip to the beach! culture festival! choosing a school club!) but has enough new to say to make it a real delight.

The Power of Fun, Catherine Price

A book that rightfully reminds us that having fun is, in many respects, the point of life. As the pressures of late-stage capitalism conspire to make us think the only thing that matters is productivity, Price (and others) are leading the vanguard of arguing for a better, more fun life. 

Pluto, season one

A real triumph of story telling, art, and philosophy. It also feels incredibly timely given the modern explosive growth of AI tools: no matter how advanced we may become technically, we remain, in many regards, angry, confused, scared primates. Pour one out for North No. 2, a real one.

Society of the Snow, JA Bayona

A lot of tears in this one. Hard to watch, but infused with hope, love, courage and humour. Inspiring, truly, as all stories of survival against the odds—that is, human resiliency—always are. Many fascinating details in this interview about how it was made: the challenges of getting funding for a film in Spanish; working with new actors (who are uniformly amazing); that some of the actors lost over 20kgs; and that the surviving survivors (and their family) endorsed the film.

Babette’s Feast, Gabriel Axel

An incredible gentle movie about grace, care, community and the life-affirming powers of a jolly good meal. And perhaps a call against ascetism, no matter how tempting it might be.

Infinite Craft, Neal Agarwal

This took me by surprise; a simple game where one combines basic elements (fire, earth, wind, water) to get to increasingly absurd places, like Super Drow Jesus. I love the energy and fun of this game, from such simple set up so many surprising things happen. The little dopamine hit of making the first discovery. Play it!

The Book, Alan Watts

Watts is a special mind indeed; writing about philosophy in such a clear, accessible way is a genuine triumph. So much of this book resonated deeply with me, I feel repeated readings will be required to full absorb Watts’ ideas. I think, at its core, this book is an attempt at a cure of our modern pathology of seeing ourselves as lonely, disconnected and minor. 

The End of Reality, Jonathan Taplin

A frightening and clear look at the power and malign influence of Musk, Zuckerberg, Thiel et al, as well as a consideration of the failure of neoliberal economics and the rise of the angry far-right, MAGA types. All in all, this only fuelled my fear as to the grossly irresponsible actions of big tech and the urgent need for strict regulation.  

Mr and Mrs Smith, season one

This started off really fun—an intriguing blend of spy hijinks with slice of life goodness—but the back half was uneven, a little rushed, and unconvincing. Glover and Erskine are perfectly cast, and their house will feature in my dreams. I’m torn between wanting more and feeling reasonably content with how things ended.

The Madness of King George, Nicholas Hytner

Want to watch an excellent British film? One that speaks to everything that is powerful about UK cinema? This is an excellent candidate. It has a little something for everyone, and I think is quite interesting in the context of modern politics where we are often choosing between the lesser of two evils: the mad King or the useless prince?

Pokémon Concierge

Pokémon Concierge, season one

The single best thing to come from the world’s most valuable franchise since the first iconic games. Incredibly charming, thoughtful, warm and just delightful. When was the last time a piece of corporate IP branded media left you wanting more? Perfect.

How to Cook a Wolf, M.F.K. Fisher

one of the most impressive pieces of food writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy. Fisher writes with such incredible width, humanity and grace. The revised edition is sprinkled with parenthetical comments that make the experience of reading the book almost like a witty conversation with the author. Delightful from tail to top.

Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman

Burkeman is one of those writers who is capable of distilling such weighty and significant philosophical concepts into actionable and practical advice. As brilliant as his earlier book, The Antidote, and required reading for everyone seeking to navigate a finite life.

Midsomer Murders, season eight

A confident season, let down only really by one episode I did not particularly enjoy (an episode which seemed really quite dark in a way that Midsomer, despite its premise, often is not). As they take away, they also give: this season had one of my all time favourite protagonists: a retired Russian spy. I’ll say no more.

The Curse, season one

more from the very special mind of Nathan Fielder who is one of the most interesting voices in TV. I found this show really unusual; it was certainly confident in its decisions, only I was not always sure those decisions landed for me. The ending blew my mind. It’s a slow, lingering affair that sticks with one and I find it hard to rate as a result. But as I’m still thinking about it days after finishing it I have to then recommend it.

Demon Slayer, Mugen Train arc

On paper, Demon Slayer is not the sort of anime I’d naturally gravitate towards, but this kinetic show just works for me. The character art and animation are both strong, although the show uses this sort of early CGI (think Alex Mack-tier) type effect for the demon sometimes and it just throws me off. I’ve already moved on to the Entertainment District arc and am enjoying it. 

Baldur’s Gate 3, Larian Studios

It’s a big game, a very big game to misquote the ad from the early 2000s. A steep learning curve if you’re not familiar with how to play D&D, like me, but a joyful, sprawling, engaging adventure for those who persist. A real maximalist delight and a success at that.

Authoritarian Century, Azeem Ibrahim

Exceptionally cogent and concise analysis from a rare mind; profoundly frightening in its implications, especially given the increasing possibility of a second Trump Whitehouse. A powerful call to bolster and support liberal democracies by moving away from the death-grip of neoliberal free market thinking; it has failed people, and these people are now turning to radical populist authoritarians. Some useful thinking on China, Russia, social media and conspiracies and the Far Right and Radical Islam, too.

Mrs Davis, season one

This is definitely a “give it a few episodes” to get going type of show. Once it does get going, it delivers a mesmerising and thoroughly modern exploration of faith. I will always try to support art that takes risks and big swings, and this show does and they mostly pay off.

Demon Slayer, Entertainment District Arc

A lot of fun. It is testament to the animation and art direction that I’ll happily watch a four episode fight when usually my eyes instantly glaze over in quick fight scenes. It’s violence for adults but story telling for kids.

Solo Lemon Mango

I never thought I’d add a soda to this list, especially something as commercial as Solo, but I spied this new flavour in the supermarket and it’s kinda exactly my thing. I know in my heart in hearts it’ll be short lived, but right now it’s the taste of summer for me.

The Holdovers, Alexander Payne

I have this thing, an abiding passion really, for movies that deal with or explore grace. This movie is rich in grace and understanding. The characters interact with each other the way real people do. I thought this was beautiful and I cried often.

They Cloned Tyrone, Juel Taylor

A hilarious and well acted modern subversive blaxploitation film. Smart writing, suitably ludicrous plot, and excellent acting from all. Watch with friends for the best time. And I hope Netflix invests in more films that look like this than films that look like The Killer.

Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet

Incredible cinema. Sandra Hüller gives the performance of a life time: a multilayered, nuanced, sensitive and credible performance that compels you to focus utterly on her when she’s on the screen. The rest of the movie is smart and makes good use of its nearly two and a half hour run time. A new favourite.

Mr Bates vs The Post Office, season one

Watch this and be prepared to develop very strong feelings about how evil the Post Office is. The series tackles a real crisis that is so symptomatic of the weaknesses of modern society: a reliance on the private sector to deliver essential public services; a reliance on the infallibility of computers over humans; and the failure of justice.

Cocoon, Geometric Interactive

A triumph of a puzzle game, wherein you jump between interconnected worlds to solve problems. Minimal storytelling in a game that features essentially no text. It ended just as it was getting good which is better, I suppose, than hanging around too long.

Talk to Me, the Philippous

creating an Australian movie that doesn’t make me cringe to a degree is a real achievement; I didn’t think this was an amazing movie, but I thought it was a good teen horror romp. I was a little dismayed to discover both a prequel and a sequel are in development, however.

The Quiet Girl, Colm Bairéad

A beautiful, quiet film about how we all need the right environment to be nurtured. Plus it plays very much into my interest in the idea of a found family as being more important than one’s biological family. It is also lovely to see a film set almost entirely in Irish, although I found the few English lines to be almost incomprehensible without the use of subtitles, which frustratingly weren’t available on the first platform I used to watch the film. Another sad case for piracy.

Hunger, Sittisiri Mongkolsiri

the first Thai film I’ve seen, and what a great starting point. The film is like a darker version of the Bear that is more focussed on the class divide and the corruption of the elite. 

Spy x Family, season two

This series continues to be so incredibly charming you almost forget the show has seemingly abandoned its overarching narrative. Sometimes more of a good thing can be okay but not forever. I’m giving it a recommendation but they better not try to get away with this again.