Jilly: Mind Candy–The Witterlist

Sadly it looks as though things are going to get worse before they get better in the world at large, and chances are many people will be spending more time at home over the coming weeks and months.

If that means you’re likely to spend quality time with Netflix, or if you’re just interested in hearing an intelligent, enthusiastic analysis of what makes a story work (or not), you might enjoy BBC Radio 5 Live’s The Witterlist.

5 Live is primarily a news and sport radio station, but every Friday afternoon movie reviewer Mark Kermode joins host Simon Mayo to discuss the week’s new releases. I rarely go to the cinema and I don’t often stream movies, but I love The Witterlist because Mark Kermode is such fun to listen to. He’s honest without being sarcastic, or jaded, or blasé. He clearly loves not just movies, but story, and the insights he offers make me smile, they make me care, and then they make me think.

Here’s an example from last month: the most recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. I don’t often enjoy movie adaptations of classic books, and Emma is probably my least favorite Austen—the heroine is so entitled she makes me grit my teeth till my jaw hurts—but Mark Kermode makes me want to watch this film. He makes me want to go back and read the book, which I haven’t done in years. Here’s a quote:

Emma the source text is like a Beatles’ song. You can play it in a number of ways. You can play it fast, you can play it slow, you can play it upbeat, you can play it swing, you can pay it skiffle, you can play it rock, but it’s still the same song. You can emphasize different melodies and countermelodies because the thing itself is so sturdily constructed.

The whole Emma review is around nine minutes long. You can find it here.

The Witterlist home page, with a list of reviews and all kinds of other fun, interesting links is here.

I hope you enjoy it.

Stay warm and safe, and here’s hoping things improve soon.

Do you have any mind candy recommendations to keep folks engaged and uplifted while we wrestle with real life? All suggestions gratefully received 🙂 .

6 thoughts on “Jilly: Mind Candy–The Witterlist

  1. Thanks for the links, Jilly. I’ll definitely have to listen to the Emma review. I don’t go to the movies often (okay, at all), but I do remember enjoying Emma when I read it years ago (despite her entitled-ness).

  2. This looks good! I’ll listen to the Emma review—I’ve seen another, which says that the current film depicts Emma as less essentially kind than the reviewer felt Austen meant her to be. Emma is also my least favorite of the Austen novels, but lately, when I’ve gone to the movies, I’ve picked films that either have women as the leads, carrying the film (not primarily the love interest or reason for men to act), or the directors are women. Emma fits into that, and the costuming looks gorgeous, so I’m inclined to see it, all things being equal.

    • I’ll be interested to hear what you make of the review. Mark Kermode talks about this. He says (something like) the film depicts Emma as less likeable than she is in many other adaptations, but he thinks softening her character would undercut the point of the story. I bought his argument, and it tallied with my recollection–I didn’t find her especially kind. He also talks about the costumes, which as you say, are gorgeous. And apparently Knightley is a hottie, which I didn’t get from the book but which kind-of makes sense, as well as being good box office.

      • I thought Mark Kermode’s review was spot on. I’m not sure how far I’d go with the theory that softening the character undercuts the story, since I’ve seen many of the versions and I didn’t feel that to be the case especially. (“Clueless” being my favorite, a version where the title is particularly appropriate.) But I do agree that if Emma is sharper, the point could be stronger. And the casting of Mr. Knightley is interesting and might undercut the story for me a bit—he’s clearly not a hottie in the book, more of a father figure, a knowing person who keeps Emma in line. It’s a rather paternalistic view, imo. But I think casting a younger and more dynamic Mr. Knightly would be, as you say, boffo box office.

  3. I found Emma to be an uncomfortable mirror for reflection. It’s not so much that she was entitled, I felt — it was that she was a know-it-all, and tried to impose her vision of How Things Should Be on everyone around her. Being rich and privileged just meant that her imposition was a fairly powerful one. So, Emma is one of those books that I recognize as great, but don’t like reading very much.

    Where do I know the name Mark Kermode? Is he also an actor or comedian? I should google!

    My mind candy has been the British game show, “Would I Lie to You?” — especially the one with David Mitchell and his wife, Victoria (a panel show host and regular in her own right). Also, I like the American version of “Whose Line Is It?” with the fabulous Wayne Brady; the regulars are all good and the guests are usually very good, as well. The episodes where Keegan-Michael Key is a guest really shine!

    There’s also a really silly but fascinating YouTube channel about a bot named Lenny. Lenny engages with scammers, and repeats the doddering sentences and paces of an elderly victim. He sounds ripe for the picking, but he never commits (because he’s a bot, with pre-recorded messages). I think there’s some sort of listening software that triggers when the other person stops speaking, and certain messages trigger when the question word “Do” happens, and certain messages trigger when “Are” happens. At least, I think that’s what’s happening. Fascinating. It’s the same dozen or so messages, but they sound like a real conversation! And the real magic happens when the scammer changes. The exact same sentences sound like a whole new conversation. I’ve wasted far too much time on that channel, lol.

    And there’s a whole universe of “let’s scam the scammer!” videos. (I think it must have started with the British comedian James Veitch — his videos on scammers are funny, but his prank on his roommate with the ducks just had me howling with laughter.) Some of them are far too long — 26 minutes, 32 minutes, etc. I’ve dipped into those and skipped to the end. Not as satisfying, but I’m not going to watch two tricky characters dance around each other for 30 minutes.

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