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

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A rundown of the latest 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.

Who would have thought that the sidekick in Snatch (2000) would eventually become an actor with an authentic claim to be the UK’s finest screen performer? Such is the greatness of Stephen Graham.

On Sunday, he returns in Jimmy McGovern’s excellent new three-part prison drama, Time (BBC One, 9pm), playing Eric McNally, an officer with an impeccable record, who suddenly finds himself on the horns of an appalling moral dilemma.

It’s a step up from the normal prison drama, in which confinement is generally little more than a framing device to set the stage for claustrophobic storylines, emotional arcs, and sentimental journeys of redemption. 

What makes Graham so good is that, despite being perfectly capable of cutting loose as a screen presence, he does so only sparingly. With the exception of a few devastating moments of release, his face is impassive in Time, only the slightest curl of the lip or twitch of the cheek hinting at the turmoil within. When he breaks, it is all the more powerful. In this respect, he is true to Alec Guinness’s dictum that, on screen, ‘less is always more’. 

The extraordinary power of his acting resides less in the occasional explosions than in the viewer’s knowledge that he is always tracing his way through a minefield – trying to get through each day, each hour, each minute. When Graham is on screen, the man within is always a prisoner.

Enjoy your own freedom and book your place at Tortoise’s next Creative Sensemaker Live, Friday 25 June at 13:00 BST, which will ask: Is classical music boring and elitist? Among the speakers will be the chief executive of the English National Opera, Stuart Murphy. 

Here are this week’s recommendations.

Woman wearing black headscarf


The Beast Must Die (BritBox)
In this superior drama series Cush Jumbo plays Frances, a grieving mother seeking vengeance for the death of her son in a hit-and-run on the Isle of Wight. Jared Harris is splendidly sinister as prime suspect and all-round nasty tycoon, George Rattery, while Billy Howle plays the psychologically tormented Detective Strangeways (yes, really) with all the melodrama required by the genre. But it is Jumbo who keeps you watching, her character locked in a convergence of pain, vulnerability and unexpected ruthlessness.

After Love (selected cinemas, 4 June)
Aleem Khan’s terrific feature debut follows Mary Hussain (Joanna Scanlan) as she is plunged by the death of her ferry captain husband, Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia), into the pursuit of a secret in Calais. Who is the woman whose texts Mary finds on Ahmed’s phone? Notionally a movie about emotional betrayal, this is really a cinematic exploration of borders, identity and belonging, and the alarming ease with which a person can find herself arbitrarily unmoored.

Book cover on purple background
Book cover on purple background


Anthro-Vision: How Anthropology Can Explain Business and Life by Gillian Tett 
In this superb book, the Financial Times; Editor-at-Large applies the lessons of her doctorate in anthropology to the world of business and, more generally, to social behaviour and trends. ‘Big data can explain what’s happening,’ she writes, but is only the starting point: without the anthropologist’s dispassionate eye for cultural meaning, we cannot hope to understand what is going on, let alone what might be coming down the track. There are many reasons to read Anthro-Vision, but the most compelling is its liberation of such analysis from the often phoney and banal punch-ups of today’s culture wars.

The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid by Lawrence Wright 
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s latest book is unsparing in its criticism of the Trump administration and its unforgivable failures. But this is not simply another attack upon the last US president: it is a terrible warning, expressed in the form of a profoundly human saga, of what could happen next time if the lessons of 2020 are not heeded.

Band pictured on colourful background
Black and white close up photograph of mans hand with tattoos holding toddler girls hands


Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice (4 June)
The London band’s third album is its best to date – better even than the Mercury Prize-winning Visions Of A Life. It also strengthens Ellie Rowsell’s reputation as a songwriter capable of true poetry. The stand-out track is ‘Delicious Things’, already one of my songs of the summer.

The Course Of The Inevitable by Lloyd Bank;(4 June)
The former G-Unit star’s first album in a decade has naturally generated much hype. Including collaborations with Ransom, Roc Marci, Freddie Gibbs and Styles P, it even has an official countdown post on YouTube. Stunts aside, the slices that have been teased suggest that the rapper’s two decades in the spotlight have not dimmed his appetite to create energetic, provocative and lyrically satisfying music. 

That’s all for now. Have a great week.

Best wishes.

Matt d’Ancona
Editor and Partner
Tortoise Media

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