Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now

While many people are forced to stay indoors as a result of Covid-19, in a new weekly series the BBC Culture team picks a selection of the latest arts and culture to comfort, delight and inspire at home.

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
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Classic feel-good film – North by Northwest (1959) 

Alfred Hitchcock made some disturbing thrillers in his time, but this twisty spy caper, scripted by Ernest Lehman, is pure escapism. Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a Manhattan advertising executive whose taste in tailored suits and liquid lunches went on to influence Mad Men. When he is mistaken for a secret agent, he is whirled into a world of thuggish assassins, dogged policemen and unhelpful mothers, but he remains as dapper and unflappable as his seductive sidekick (Eva Marie Saint) and his urbane adversary (James Mason). Pour yourself a Martini/Gibson/Scotch/bourbon (Thornhill drinks the lot) and plot a course north by northwest. (NB)

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
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New TV – Unorthodox

Inspired by the real-life story of Deborah Feldman and her memoir by the same name, Unorthodox tells the story of Esty, a young woman from an Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn who frees herself from an unhappy arranged marriage and flees to Berlin to find her mother (who did the same thing 15 years earlier, leaving Esty behind). The show also presents a fascinating portrayal of the Satmar community, going beyond cliché without over-explaining rituals and traditions. Despite being spoken mostly in Yiddish, the essence of Esty’s story (played by the enormous talent that is Shira Haas) has a universal appeal. (LW)

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
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Theatre – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals

If like me, you were enraptured by the extraordinary cinematic experience that was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, then you may be glad to know that the legendary musical composer is now generously set to stream a selection of his other, admittedly somewhat less eccentric musicals for free online. Every Friday he will make a filmed production of one of his shows available to watch for 48 hours on the specially-created ‘The Shows Must Go On’ YouTube channel – beginning today with a 2000 production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat featuring a truly stellar cast including Donny Osmond, Richard Attenborough and Joan Collins. (HM)

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
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Music – LSO concerts

While it’s unable to perform live, the London Symphony Orchestra is releasing two concerts from its archive each week, on Thursdays and Sundays. Its ‘Always Playing’ programme also features artist interviews, playlists for those at home, and activities for young music fans (including Sibelius’ tips for social distancing). There’s even a virtual pub quiz with a classical theme. Verdi’s Requiem is lined up for Sunday 5 April, while Sir Simon Rattle conducts Stravinsky’s ballet music on Thursday 9 April – with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2 and Mahler’s Symphony No 2 the following week. (FM)

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
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Art – Tate, Musée d’Orsay and Courtauld Gallery

This week, the UK’s Tate galleries announced free online tours of their major Andy Warhol and Aubrey Beardsley exhibitions. Starting with Warhol on Monday 6 April, the public will be able to access a curator-led guide to each show, recorded before the gallery shut its doors, along with a series of articles on the Tate website, and ‘how to’ guides on its YouTube channel. Or if Impressionism is your thing, take a virtual tour around the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, which houses masterpieces by Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh, or wander around the collection of the Courtauld Gallery of London, to peek at Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère or Two Dancers on a Stage by Degas. (RL)

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
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Book – This Too Shall Pass by Julia Samuel 

How is it best to handle change, crisis and new beginnings? A cut above standard self-help fare is a newly published book This Too Shall Pass. British psychotherapist Julia Samuel has gathered some of the insights she has learned through conversations with patients. Learning to adapt to change during difficult times and transformative experiences is not always easy, says Samuel, but she is unflinching and well-versed in the latest research. From job loss and coming out to illness and returning to work, these are intimate, everyday stories, which might just help readers negotiate some of the changes life is throwing at them. Christina Patterson in the Sunday Times describes it as “full of compassionate wisdom… a rich, wise book”. (LB)

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
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Classic TV – Spaced

Two decades on and cult TV sitcom Spaced doesn’t feel nearly as dated as it should: a landline phone that’s actually used in the flat 23 Meteor Street perhaps the giveaway, as well as a soundtrack of laidback interludes: David Holmes, Nightmares on Wax and Boards of Canada. Essentially about making friends in a big scary city, it follows the misadventures of aspiring writer Daisy Steiner (Jessica Hynes) and comic-book artist Tim Bisley (Simon Pegg) who, masquerading as a ‘professional couple’, move into a north London flat let out by lush landlady Marsha (Julia Deakin). Co-written by Pegg and Hynes, the chemistry between the duo and co-star Nick Frost, even when the setting is nothing more unusual than a night out clubbing, couldn’t be fabricated. Packed with film references and signature whip-pan editing that would go on to form so much of then-unknown director Edgar Wright’s trademark style, it still holds up. Available now on Hulu/All4/Britbox (EM)

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
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New film – Knives Out

We may have to wait a while for the next Bond movie, but in the meantime we can see Daniel Craig having a ball in Knives Out, Rian Johnson’s dazzlingly clever country-house murder mystery. After a wealthy crime writer (Christopher Plummer) is found with his throat cut, Craig’s philosophical detective tries to figure out which of the author’s grasping children, grandchildren and in-laws (Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Colette et al) might have been responsible. A wonderful blend of old-fashioned Agatha Christie-style whodunnit and contemporary political commentary, Knives Out is great fun to watch when you don’t know the solution, and great fun to rewatch when you do. Available to stream on Amazon Prime and iTunes (NB)

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
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Social media

Celebrities are redefining their job titles during lockdown and reaching out to their audiences on social media. Actor Sam Neill has offered a range of entertainment, whether it’s playing ukulele covers, producing an experimental film with Steven Weber or reading poetry. Meanwhile, Patrick Stewart has been posting daily recitations of Shakespearean sonnets. At lunchtime, you could tune into Massimo Bottura’s Kitchen Quarantine on Instagram, where the Michelin-starred Italian chef is sharing his cooking tips, including making ragu from leftovers. To get it all off your hips, choreographer and dancer Debbie Allen’s making even the most lethargic move with her live dance classes. And indulge your inner child by listening to a selection of Hollywood A-listers reading bedtime stories on the Save with Stories Instagram account, captained by Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams, to raise funds for Save the Children and No Kid Hungry. (LW)

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