Film: Paddleton (2019)
With 2019 offering such an embarrassment of riches on the cinema front, a film like Paddleton was most likely destined to kind of slip through the cracks. This is essentially a 2-character story, featuring no crazy plot and twists, no complex sets, no head-spinning camera work, and although I do not have the official information, I would imagine no big budget. It is a slice-of-life movie, a story of friendship between two middle-aged loners. Yet sometimes a story like this is exactly what one needs. Subdued, but filled to the brim with beautiful and touching moments. A film about real people and real situations where you get to connect with the characters and care deeply about what happens to them. Of course none of it would be possible if not for the performances – both Mark Duplass (also the co-writer of the film) and Ray Romano are excellent, the latter in particular as the off-beat, anxious, neurotic Andy. If you are like me, the ending of Paddleton will leave you in tears and you’ll think about it for days to come. You’ll wonder how such a little movie can have such a big impact. The answer? I don’t know, but I would imagine it has to do with its creators making something personal.
Where to watch? Netflix.
Album: Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka (2019)
By the end of December I attempted to make a top of my favorite 2019 albums. I was pretty satisfied with the list, although I still had some that I wanted to listen to. Then in January I played Kiwanuka and it rendered the whole list irrelevant. From the very first listen I felt this was easily better than all the albums I’d heard throughout the year. Who is this guy and why wasn’t I aware of him before? Michael Kiwanuka blends soul with acid rock guitars and gospel harmonies in a way that ticks all the boxes for me. It’s an album that has grooves to dance to, hooks to be stuck in your head for days, and enough substance to make sense when put on late at night with headphones on. It is also incredibly consistent, a truly all-killer no-filler record. I can’t wait to hear more from him.
Where to listen? Spotify.
Special: Jerry Seinfeld – I’m Telling You for the Last Time (1998)
This is an oldie, of course. Jerry Seinfeld is one of the world’s most famous comedians and a personal idol. I grew up watching Seinfeld (the show) over and over and could not escape its influence even if I wanted to. I’m Telling You for the Last Time is a special that he did in the same year that the show ended, with its title (and opening sketch) referring to the fact that he would retire the material performed here. I have fond memories of laughing to tears to this stand-up hour as a teenager, and by re-watching it now I wanted to see if it stood the test of time. The verdict? I’m Telling You… continues to be stunning. Even though I already knew a lot of the punch-lines, I was fascinated throughout by Jerry’s impeccable delivery and attention to detail. This is an hour of material where no word is out of place, every gesture perfected, all of the bits killer. Seinfeld is as close as there is to a stand-up virtuoso and I cannot imagine the work that has been put to hone the material to this level. There is a satisfactory feeling in finding out that the things that you have nostalgia for can still work, and perhaps even reveal new layers to you. Many have imitated Jerry Seinfeld but few can truly rise to this level.
Where to watch? Netflix.