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Netflix's Special, a semi-autobiographical comedy series about a gay man (Ryan O'Connell) with cerebral palsy trying to break out of his sheltered existence, is a new show that I've found serves as a charming palate cleanser to the wintry darkness of Game of Thrones. The show is easy to graze through, with just 15-minute episodes, and while its on-the-nose humour can be cringe-inducing, the overarching themes about self-discovery, self-love and intimacy are immensely rewarding.

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UK singer-songwriter Nilufer Yanya. Photo / Getty Images
UK singer-songwriter Nilufer Yanya. Photo / Getty Images

British singer-songwriter Nilufer Yanya released her debut full-length album, Miss Universe, in March, and she's rapidly become one of my favourite new artists. Yanya blends elements of indie rock and synth pop, pushing both genres slightly out of left-field with her subtly psychedelic structures and illuminating lyrics. She doesn't hide her clipped London accent and sings with intelligence and heart, and Miss Universe is peppered with interludes that create a strange, Black Mirror-esque narrative about a futuristic health programme. It's an intriguing record that reminds me of artists such as St Vincent, King Krule and early Florence and the Machine.


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Natalie Portman in Annihilation. Photo / Netflix
Natalie Portman in Annihilation. Photo / Netflix

Annihilation was one of my favourite films of 2018, and when I caught up on the novel on which it was based, I was surprised but delighted to find the two works of art to be completely different, only alike in their eerie, unsettling tone. I've finally picked up the novel's sequel, Authority, the middle instalment of a trilogy by sci-fi author Jeff VanderMeer. Authority moves the story to the office of the Southern Reach, the government department tasked with investigating the strange phenomenon introduced in the first book. It's a more challenging read in that the action is more mundane than the first, but VanderMeer inserts minute details here and there that leave a haunting impression and hint at a terrifying greater mystery. It's compelling and unnerving writing that lingers in the mind long after.

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The Capitol Cinema on Dominion Rd, Auckland. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The Capitol Cinema on Dominion Rd, Auckland. Photo / Sarah Ivey

I was gutted to hear that the Capitol Cinema has closed its doors; our local art institutions are so precious to us, and the Capitol's absence will be felt deeply. It serves as a reminder to always support local cinema when you can – if you have the opportunity to see a film at an independent cinema over a chain, always choose the independent. I'm a huge fan of Academy Cinemas beneath the Auckland Central Library. Their programming is a cutting-edge mix of independent film and historical gems, and their $5 Wednesday deal is the perfect way to catch any releases that might have passed you by. Their legendary general manager Elizabeth Ireland has been nabbed by NZIFF for an exciting new role in Wellington, but she leaves the role in the capable hands of programmer Gorjan Markovski, who hosts the wonderful monthly Academy Quiz Night.