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.

Classic feel-good film – Way Out West (1937)

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
View image of Way Out West (Credit: Alamy)

In this delightful comedy classic, Laurel and Hardy are on an urgent mission to deliver the deed of a gold mine to its rightful owner (Rosina Lawrence). How urgent? Well, not so urgent that they can’t stop outside a saloon for an impromptu dance routine, a charming sequence which was recreated by Steve Coogan and John C Reilly at the start of Stan & Ollie. And not so urgent that they can’t harmonise sweetly, and then absurdly, on The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. The film is a riot of expert slapstick and crosstalk, but it’s the bumbling duo’s unhurried, guileless air which makes it sublime. Available on Chili, Sky Store and YouTube (NB)

New book – The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
View image of Cromwell (Credit: Getty)

At a whopping 879 pages long, The Mirror and the Light, out this month, is the perfect book to hunker down with while in isolation. The much-anticipated finale of Mantel’s trilogy about King Henry VIII’s right-hand-man Thomas Cromwell has been widely acclaimed. Mantel’s Cromwell is a complex, consummate player, more powerful in many ways than the king himself. The Guardian hails the book as a “masterpiece” and as “a novel of epic proportions [that is] every bit as thrilling, propulsive, darkly comic and stupendously intelligent as its predecessors… The trilogy is complete and it is magnificent”.  (LB)

New film – Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
View image of Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Credit: Neon)

A treat for romantics everywhere, this heartstoppingly beautiful 2019 period drama and critics’ favourite comes to Hulu this weekend, months before it was originally slated for release. Written and directed by Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies, Girlhood), the quietly radical queer love story stars Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel as a pair of star-crossed lovers taking tentative steps towards each other, set against the rigid, patriarchal society of 18th-Century France. Its witty and poignant observations about desire, autonomy and the female gaze, stunning cinematography by Claire Mathon, and spare but devastating use of music are unforgettable. Available to stream on Hulu (RL)

New TV – Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
View image of Tiger King (Credit: Netflix)

Can you even call a show a true crime series if the crime they are plotting is never committed? While nobody dies in Tiger King’s murder-for-hire plot, the show has much, much more to offer to the viewer. It follows the life of private zoo owner Joe Exotic – a flamboyant polygamous gay man from Oklahoma who owns several hundred tigers – and his online feud with his nemesis, animal activist Carole Baskin. This show has literally everything you could ask for: from a former lover allegedly killing her wealthy new husband and feeding him to tigers, to arson; from a cult-leader-come-zoo-owner to exotic animals; from a political campaign to explosions. Featuring guns, drug lords, and bitten-off limbs, this absolutely bonkers seven-part series is the entertainment we need right now. (LW)

New music – Dua Lipa and Bob Dylan

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
View image of Dua Lipa (Credit: Getty)

Instead of running scared and pulling the release of her second album Future Nostalgia, diva-du-jour Dua Lipa has heroically brought it out a week early to soothe pop fans who may be needing some musical distraction – and, truly, its disco bangers provide retro-futurist escapism of the highest order. Available now on Spotify.

At the other end of the music spectrum is a meditative new tune from Bob Dylan, whose 17-minute song was inspired by the assassination of JFK. Entitled Murder Most Foul, the mournful, string-and-piano-laden ballad is the first new music in eight years from the 78-year-old, who said to his fans on Twitter: “This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting. Stay safe, stay observant, and may God be with you.” Available now on YouTube. (HM, RL)

Art – RA and MoMA

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
View image of Frank Lloyd Wright (Credit: MoMa)

London’s Royal Academy of Arts is offering family sessions on art-and-craft projects that you can enjoy at home, and there is also much to enjoy on the site’s blog, which is full of interesting nuggets and wonderful images. MoMA, meanwhile, is offering a great variety of free courses online, including ‘fashion as design’, ‘modern art and ideas’, ‘seeing through photographs’ and ‘postwar abstract painting’. And elsewhere on the MoMA website, if you’re looking for a soothing, meditative activity, adults and children can download 12 drawings by artist Louise Lawler to colour in. The museum is encouraging users to tag their coloured drawings #DrawingwithMoMA on social media, and says it will share some on their platforms. (LB)

Classic TV – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
View image of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Credit: Netflix)

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a sitcom about bad people doing bad things – it’s angry, offensive and very, very funny. Most episodes work as self-contained stories, so you don’t need to commit hours to get to know The Gang: Charlie (Charlie Day), Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson) and Frank (Danny DeVito). Fan favourite episodes include: The Gang Hits The Road, which sees the five try to organise the perfect road trip; The Gang Buys A Boat, in which they purchase a “P-Diddy style shrimping vessel”; The Gang Beats Boggs, in which an attempt to beat an airline drinking record goes off course; and the bizarre musical episode The Nightman Cometh is a real showstopper. Available now on Netlix and Hulu (EM)

Theatre – National Theatre

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
View image of One Man, Two Guvnors (Credit: Alamy)

A real gift for theatre-lovers comes from the UK’s National Theatre, which has announced it will stream a play from its NT Live archive of filmed performances every week. The series kicks off next Thursday with the theatre’s hit farce One Man, Two Guvnors, starring James Corden, and other productions to come include adaptations of Jane Eyre and Treasure Island, and Twelfth Night, starring the great comic actress Tamsin Greig as a gender-swapped Malvolia. Visit the National Theatre’s YouTube channel from 2 April to watch. (HM)

Style – The V&A

Isolation inspiration: What to watch, read and listen to now
View image of Strawberry Thief (Credit: Getty)

The V&A in London specialises in art, design and photography, and has a remarkable permanent collection – from ancient Chinese ceramics to contemporary haute couture, there are beautiful images and in-depth analyses available on their website. And fashionistas will be pleased that forward-thinking fashion magazine Vogue Italia has opened up its archive for three months. Every page of the archive is scanned in high-resolution colour, and there is an indexing system to allow users to search by designer, photographer and more. Details are here (scroll down for English translation). (LB)

As chosen by Lindsay Baker, Nicholas Barber, Rebecca Laurence, Hugh Montgomery, Eddie Mullan and Lisa Wehrstedt.

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