Creative Sensemaker: What to read, watch and listen to this weekend

A topless drummer playing the drums

A rundown of the books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency

By Matt d’Ancona

Welcome to the latest Creative Sensemaker from Tortoise Media.

Riz Ahmed is the most exciting British actor around at the moment, hailed for his consistently excellent performances and flair for activism. In Sound Of Metal (Prime Video, 12 April), he stakes his claim to an Oscar® with a performance as Ruben, the hardcore metal drummer who is stopped in his tracks with brutal abruptness: he is going deaf, fast, and his musical future seems to evaporate before his very eyes. 

Ahmed’s performance is a career best – which is saying something. Characteristically, he immersed himself in the role, spending months before principal photography learning American Sign Language and how to drum.

Though his extraordinary talent has never been in doubt, he has conspicuously resisted the conventional route to stardom, always putting integrity before easy advancement. Few actors of his promise and early stature would have embraced Chris Morris’s challenge to star in a satire on British jihadis: yet Ahmed’s courage – and Morris’s vision – paid off in the brilliant Four Lions (2010).

He also remains a committed activist and powerful voice for diversity of representation in the arts (watch his remarkable 2017 Channel 4 Diversity Speech, delivered at the House of Commons).

No male British actor is producing such consistently exciting work, and – given that he is only 38 – there is every reason to believe that the best is yet to come. Meanwhile, he truly deserves to lift that golden statuette on the evening of Monday 26 April.

Speaking of which: do book your place at Tortoise’s next Creative Sensemaker Live on Friday 30 April, 1pm to 2pm BST – at which we’ll be reviewing the hits and misses of the 93rd Oscars® ceremony, the fashion triumphs and disasters, the surprise winners, and the shock losers. This is your chance to thank the Academy (or lament its poor judgment – as the case may be).

Here are this week’s recommendations:

A boy being pushed on a swing in a park


Minari (VOD)
In Lee Isaac Chung’s exquisite film – another strong contender for this year’s Best Picture Oscar® – Steven Yeun excels as Jacob Yi, longing to make his fortune on the land in rural Arkansas. While Jacob pursues his Steinbeckian adventure in the fields, a chamber piece is enacted within the walls of the shabby trailer in which the family lives – as his wife Monica (Han Ye-ri) and her mother (Youn Yuh-jung) seek to resolve a host of marital and generational tensions.

Them (Prime Video, 9 April)
Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) and Us (2019) more or less established a fresh genre, embedding narratives of racial injustice in the traditions of the American horror movie. Now Little Marvin’s 10-part series takes the Great Migration – and specifically the arrival in 1953 of the Emorys, a Black family from North Carolina, in an all-White Los Angeles neighbourhood – and adds the threat of the supernatural to the toxicity of racial prejudice. Peele has set the bar high, but this is worthy of your time.



A book cover against a lilac background
A book cover against a pink background


Beautiful Things: A Memoir by Hunter Biden 
With every US new administration comes a slew of family memoirs, of which Hunter Biden’s is the first. The spirit of defiance with which the book confronts the author’s experience as an addict, his controversial business dealings (now the subject of federal investigation) and his desire to set the record straight as early as he can in his father’s term of office make it a page-turner.

A Restless, Hungry Feeling: The Double Life Of Bob Dylan Vol. 1: 1941-1966 by Clinton Heylin
Clinton Heylin has already written 13 books on Bob Dylan, and this 528-page door-stopper only takes us up to 1966. But the dividend of such obsessiveness is extraordinary detail. There is plenty to learn in this first volume about the origins of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, Dylan’s (at the time) heretical embrace of the electric guitar in 1965, and the influence of his formative years in Minnesota upon his subsequent creativity. Too much, even for fans? Don’t think twice, it’s alright.