Hello and welcome to the Guide helmed, in Gwilym’s absence, by me this week. As well as being the 62nd Guide to ever grace your inboxes, it is also one of six more editions before 2022 finally comes to an end (maybe it’s the constant flow of British prime ministers, but it does feel like it’s been going for a while now, right?).
But just because the John Lewis ad is out, America is celebrating Thanksgiving and we’re about to be deluged by tinsel and Christmas films, don’t assume that culture is done and dusted. Below you’ll find some final music, TV and film releases to put in your diaries before the end of the year, before the business of end-of-year lists and – of course – looks ahead to 2023 begin. We’ve also got our book of the month, and all of our regular cultural goodness below.
White Lung – Premonition
2 Dec, Domino
Arriving a whole three years after it was originally slated, the fifth (and final) LP from Canadian punk rockers White Lung has been inspired by experiences as varied as motherhood, sobriety and the assorted political crises of the past few years. Expect snarlingly anthemic choruses, off-kilter melodies, and much raging against the machine from this swan song for the acclaimed three-piece.
Nakhane – Leading Lines
16 Dec, BMG
The new EP from the South African pop experimentalist, LGBTQ activist and all-round creative force (they’ve also moonlighted as a novelist and actor) is all about sensual and sumptuous delights, as singles including My Ma Was Good – high on 90s house theatrics – and the Perfume Genius-featuring, disco-inspired Do You Well have shown. If White Lung are liable to have you spoiling for a fight, Nakhane will surely have you making peace with the universe – and yourself.
SZA – SOS
Date TBC, RCA
Almost a year after the release of the TikTok-fuelled breakup banger I Hate U – and with a clutch of recent features under her belt – it seems that SZA’s (above) extremely long-awaited follow-up to CTRL is almost here. “I’ll believe it when I see it”, you may well say, considering how the long rumours have been swirling, but it seems SOS will be arriving this side of 2023, with an SNL appearance set for 3 December. You officially have our permission to get excited.
9 Dec, ITVX
David Tennant (above) is near-unrecognisable as he transforms into the bald, gaunt double of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, whose infamous death in London in 2006 put the subject of Russian poisonings into the public consciousness in Britain. The four-part drama comes at a time where Putin’s military operations are rarely out of the headlines, and is likely to prove a prescient study of geopolitical tensions. While you’re checking out ITV’s new streaming platform, do keep an eye out for Riches (22 Dec), which has been billed as the black, British answer to Succession.
I Hate Suzie Too
20 Dec, Sky Atlantic/Now in the UK; 22 Dec, HBO Max in the US
The first series of Billie Piper and Lucy Prebble’s dramedy – inspired in part by the former’s own experiences of adolescent stardom – was an anxiety-packed cocktail of tabloid-fuelled scandal, family breakdown, and dangerously spiralling emotions. This three-part follow-up sees Suzie seemingly on the up with a new reality TV gig – but will she get the public acclaim she so desires?
Emily In Paris
21 Dec, Netflix
No, wait, where are you going?! Stay with us for a minute … Emily In Paris used to be hatewatch TV. You probably remember when it first aired and people started saying things like “oh my god, what has happened to TV” and “but why don’t any of these French people speak any French?” That is all, luckily, in the past, with the second series of the Lily Collins-fronted series defiantly cocking a snook at its protagonist and – quelle surprise – letting the français flow. Roll on season three.
30 Dec (Netflix) and selected cinemas
Noah Baumbach, Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig. Are these three names not reason enough to think this might be the best sort-of-indie-but-totally-indie film you watch this year? If not, then perhaps the plot will help. This blackly comic adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel sees Driver and Gerwig play a couple who flee their home after a freak accident with their band of children (because what doesn’t say “fun family roadtrip” like staring down the possibility of your impending death?) Sold!
Avatar: The Way of Water
This sequel to James Cameron’s epic sci-fi creature feature has been in development so long that it makes some of the aforementioned delays look positively minor (it was, for instance, supposed to be released three years before SZA’s first album came out). It’s finally here, however, and will be hoping to dazzle you with its spectacular CGI visuals (and so it ought to, as one of the most expensive films ever made).
I Wanna Dance with Somebody
30 Dec in the UK; 21 Dec in the US
Naomi Ackie (above) has come a long way from her TV debut in a 2015 episode of Doctor Who, and is now the star of this Whitney Houston biopic, which also sees Stanley Tucci take a break from eating delicious food on TV to play music biz supremo Clive Davis. As she transforms into the pop legend (complete with Houston’s original vocals), can it rival the (surprisingly emotional) Elvis in the music biopic stakes, or will it be a glossy karaoke session?
Each week we run down the five essential pieces of pop-culture we’re watching, reading and listening to
ALBUM – Stormzy: This Is What I Mean
The star who brought grime firmly into the mainstream after years on the fringes (all while being unafraid to lean into Ed Sheeran-aided pop), Stormzy is the British rapper both your elderly relatives and TikTok teens are most likely to have heard of. That doesn’t mean he’s a big old sellout though – far from it. In fact, his new album – featuring Nao and Sampha among others – is a total masterpiece, bringing together soul, gospel and rap in striking, heartstring-tugging fashion.
Want more? If you haven’t already, do check out Stormzy’s Louis Theroux interview, part of the doc maker’s latest TV series.
FILM – Bones and All
He was a boy cannibal, she was a girl cannibal – can Luca Guadagnino make it any more obvious? Starring the director’s muse Timothée Chalamet (who gets his first producer credit here) and Taylor Russell as a pair of young lovers with a taste for their fellow humans, Bones and All manages to feel both like a forgotten roadtrip movie you once rented from Blockbuster and the most beautifully emo thing you have ever laid eyes on. Worth it – even if the memory of Mark Rylance’s Sully will surely keep you up at night.
Want more? Alex Hess has written about why cannibals are all over the big screen.
TV – Ghislaine Maxwell: Filthy Rich
Jeffrey Epstein was the subject of a Netflix series last year subtitled Filthy Rich, offering a grim account of his years of sex abuse and trafficking. Now the streamer reprises the title and subject matter for a one-off look at his accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell. Much has been made of Maxwell’s moneyed background and the seemingly unlikely nature of her crimes, however – with victims of her abuse taking part in this film – the troubling reality is likely to take centre stage.
Want more? She Said – on the equally appalling case of Harvey Weinstein, and the journalists who brought his crimes to light – is in cinemas now.
PODCAST – My Dad Wrote a Porno
The hit podcast based on one father’s smutty pastime finally comes to an end next Monday (episodes available where you usually get your pods), with Jamie Morton’s dad, Rocky Flintstone, joining the show for a special interview. Until then, you can catch up on all six seasons of the wildly successful series, which has spawned books, sold-out tours, and an HBO special.
Want more? Kathy Burke’s new podcast, Where There’s a Will There’s a Wake, starts on Tuesday – I’m not sure I’ve ever clicked subscribe to a show so quickly. You can also find the rest of the week’s pod picks over here.
BOOK – Jimi
Released on what would have been his 80th birthday, this new 320-page coffee table tome is dedicated to the life and music of Jimi Hendrix, and is co-authored by his stepsister Janie Hendrix and catalog manager for his estate, John McDermott. Yes, it’s got an RRP of £40. Yes, it would also make a wonderful Christmas gift for the Hendrix fan in your life, with previously unpublished photos, and quotes from the likes of Drake and Paul McCartney. No, I am not receiving any commission for this.
Want more? You can also get your mitts on a new live album, with the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1969 Los Angeles Forum show now available in snazzy gatefold vinyl format.
Rian Johnson’s wonderfully silly, Agatha Christie-inspired Knives Out has got a sequel in the form of Glass Onion, which is now streaming on Netflix. It gets a glowing review from Peter Bradshaw – but will it rival the gems in Andrew Pulver’s list of Daniel Craig’s best performances?
The Ice Cream Wars: sounds like a new baking competition, is in fact a quietly terrifying new two-part doc, as you’ll find out in this review.
All hail Judee Sill.
“What if This Track Is an Intergalactic Hit?”: how TV’s top composer Nicholas Britell soundtracked the surprisingly good Star Wars spin-off Andor (via Vulture – £).
Book of the month
Highlights from the literary world, courtesy of the Guardian books team
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan – review by Lamorna Ash
It is Christmas 1985 in an Irish town where, attached to a convent, is a laundry where young women live and work. The terrible conditions they live under are confirmed when protagonist Bill Furlong discovers a girl locked away in a coal house. This Booker-shortlisted novel is plunge pool-like, its narrative implying significant depth below its close, bounded surface.
You be the Guide
Last week we asked for your pick of one-season TV shows – here is a smattering of the best.
“No question about it: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Brilliant in every respect.” – Mark Havers
“My So-Called Life, detailing the troubles, loves and angst of a teenage girl. It introduced me to Claire Danes and Jared Leto and dealt sensitively with many situations including a main character who was gay but not a caricature.” – Pat Winstanley
“Just one season for The Serpent, BBC’s luscious yet terrifying telling of a serial killer operating mostly in Bangkok in the 70s. The milieu of pre-mobile/internet backpacking never looked so glamorous, and Tahar Rahim was horribly convincing.” – Suzanne Stockton
“There has to be a space in the list for Firefly. It’s perfectly cast, and the way the stories all help build a whole universe in just 15 episodes is brilliant. An added bonus is that you can learn to swear in Mandarin!” – Charlie Tuff
Pegged to Avatar: The Way of Water, this week we’re after the bits of pop culture you’ve been waiting ages for. Which film sequel has been so delayed that you’ve almost given up hope? Which album do you wish would land in your Christmas stocking next month, but – realistically – likely won’t be there for another 12 months? Email Gwilym on [email protected] and let him know.