I know I'm almost four years late to the party on this, but I finally watched Phoebe Waller-Bridge's first show, Crashing, and now I hate myself for neglecting it for so long. After watching (and rewatching and rewatching) the absolutely extraordinary second season of Fleabag, I was craving more of Waller-Bridge's uncanny ability to switch between lightning-fast comedy and heartbreaking emotional truths with ease. Crashing, available on Netflix, isn't perfect – you can tell she learnt a lot from it for Fleabag – but it's a joy seeing Waller-Bridge's take on a wider cast of characters, each of whom are able to communicate various observations about relationships and modern life. One storyline, which unpacks toxic masculinity and the way many men feel trapped in the closet, is masterful in its development and eventual resolution.
During a Spotify browse recently, I stumbled across Ali Barter's music and fell in love instantly. The Australian singer-songwriter makes the kind of punchy, emotional pop-rock music that could soundtrack an early-2000s rom-com; listening, I feel like I've just moved to college, put posters up in my new room, been handed a red solo cup and invited to my first frat party. Barter's 2017 album A Suitable Girl is packed with perfect pop morsels that showcase her powerful voice and punchy lyrics, all fired up with rich distorted guitar. She's been releasing new tracks ahead of her second album, Hello, I'm Doing My Best, arriving October 18.
We're heading into the second weekend of the New Zealand International Film Festival, which brings a whole new slate of brilliant films as well as second chances to see some early hits. If you haven't yet, go to see The Farewell; it's a moving and hilarious family drama with expert direction from Lulu Wang and an incredible breakout performance from Awkwafina – I have a feeling she'll be in the Oscar conversation next year. (There's one more screening for Aucklanders today at ASB Waterfront Theatre, 11am). Next Monday, I'll be walking into Claire Denis' hypnotic vision of space in High Life, starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche and Mia Goth, at the beautiful Civic Theatre.
I just ripped through The Idiot by Elif Batuman, easily one of the best books I've read in years, which I'll now be recommending to people for the rest of my life. The semi-autobiographical novel follows Selin, a young Turkish-American college freshman who is academically intelligent but socially inept. As she stumbles through the intensely awkard process of making new friends and relationships, Batuman packs in so many hilariously observant lines that you'll find yourself re-reading whole pages over and over. When Selin sighed and said, "the hits never stopped coming in adult life", I felt it in my core.