You might already have surmised this from the pool of sweat currently forming at your feet, but we’re on the cusp of an almighty heatwave in the UK. Meteorologists are prepping their “new record high temperature” press releases, tabloid editors are readying their ‘“phwoar, what a scorcher” headlines (while happily ignoring the climate emergency doing the scorching) and everyone else is preparing to hunker down somewhere cool until it’s all over.
That’s the strange thing about heatwaves: they’re not that different to extreme temperatures in the opposite direction, in that you’re likely to be indoors waiting the worst of them to blow over … which of course means that you are going to require some home entertainment to pass the time. Here are my cultural recommendations for getting through a brutal hot spell. Let’s divide them between the hot (films, TV series and music that convey what it’s like to be in the middle of a heatwave) and the cool (frosty counter-programming to provide a bit of escapism):
HOT An obvious one to start off, but impossible to avoid: no film nails the experience of a heatwave quite like Spike Lee’s (quite literally) searing, state-of-the-nation drama Do the Right Thing, set on a brutally hot day in a Harlem neighbourhood, where tensions are rising with the temperature. As well as being a thoughtful, bracing exploration of racial division in America, it perfectly captures the sensation of inescapable heat, the beads of sweat forming, clothing sticking to midriffs. Oh and the fire hydrant scene is likely to have you bashing away at the water pipe outside your front door (not advised!).
COOL Perhaps the primary feeling you’ll have when you’re sat sweltering in the sitting room, will be a desire to escape. Into the Wild should scratch that itch. Directed (unusually well!) by Sean Penn, it tells the real-life story of “American Supertramp” Christopher McCandless (played here by Emile Hirsch), who, unimpressed by stultifying modern society, decides to head off on a long journey up into remote Alaska. It’s stirring, motivational stuff until things start to go awry, but you’ll at least have plenty of shots of deep, crunchy snow to mentally submerge yourself into.
HOT Those of you attempting the commute to work on Monday morning might find The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer in the City a little too on the nose with its talk of “wheezing at the bus stop”, and “walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head”. Even that insistent Wurlitzer backing seems to replicate the feeling of the pounding, relentless sun. But there’s pleasure as well as pain, as day turns to dusk and John Sebastian commands you to “come on, come on and dance all night”. A stone-cold classic and the perfect encapsulation of the promise and pitfalls of an absolute scorcher.
COOL A while back I went on the inaugural Weezer cruise (don’t laugh, it was fun!) from Miami to Mexico. The heat was stifling, so instead of seeing one of the bands playing on deck, we headed down to the cruise ship’s very dated but crucially air-conditioned cocktail lounge, where moody Brooklyn band The Antlers were playing tracks from their ace album Burst Apart. Even without the assistance of air-con, the spindly, sinister indie rock of tracks like Parentheses would have refrigerated the room all on its own.
HOT It has to be the heatwave episode of Black Books (Fever, season two, episode two – available on Netflix, All 4 and BritBox in the UK), the perfect encapsulation of the antic energy that comes packaged with a brutally sunny day. Misanthropic, boozy bookshop owner Bernard Black is pursuing a ‘summer girl’, his lackey Manny is busy maintaining his body temperature (because something really bad happens if he hits 88 degrees) and their friend/hanger-on Fran is desperately trying to have a restful night’s sleep. Contains a top life hack too: pop a stick in the top of a wine bottle, stick it in the freezer, smash the glass and you’ve got yourself a deluxe wine ice lolly!
COOL Baking hot? How about a spot of French froideur to cool you down. The Returned, or Les Revenants (available to buy on Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video or Google Play), remains one of my favourite dramas of recent years. A mystery box show with an almighty sense of mood powering it, the series is set in a small mountain town where dead former inhabitants have – you guessed it – returned, looking seemingly unscathed. What do they want? And how will the living receive them? Distinctly chilly both in tone and visuals.
LISTEN I don’t know where it will end up on my albums of the year list come December, but The Real Work, the new album by Sydney duo Party Dozen, is definitely a strong contender for my ‘most fun album of 2022’ list. A careering joyride through basically every hard rock sub-genre – garage rock! motorik! noise rock! sludge! – it manages to be heavy, experimental and really entertaining at the same time. There’s one track, a Can-by-way-of-Lightning Bolt-by-way-of-Electric Six ripper called Fruits of Labour that starts off with a truly daft riff and evolves into something its impossible not to dance to. Oh and Nick Cave rocks up for a track too, if you needed any more of a nudge.
WATCH Still no word of when the UK might get Nathan Fielder’s latest meta-docu-comedy The Rehearsal, which launches in the US today after receiving great advance reviews. So, in its absence, we’ll have to make do with Fielder’s previous show Nathan For You (available to buy on Prime Video and Apple TV+), where he attempts to revive the fortunes of various companies through unusual marketing measures and fails completely. One of the best comedies of the last decade.
READ We lost a couple of real ones just after the last newsletter was sent out: James Caan and Tony “Paulie Walnuts” Sirico. Here’s Peter Bradshaw’s stirring tribute to the former, praising his “actor’s savvy, his robust screen presence and his smart sense of humour”, and here’s a fascinating Ringer tribute to the latter, who went from real-life low-level crime to effortlessly portraying one of the most memorable small-time TV crooks of them all.
You be the Guide
Last week we asked for your favourite summer reads. Here are your page-turners:
It has to be the Wolf Hall trilogy doesn’t it? Tense, exciting, dramatic, beautifully written but totally accessible. What more could you want? Just don’t do what my husband did & take the hardback version to Cornwall … – Suzanne Stockton
I read John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces in my summer holidays as a teen and always return to it decades on. So funny, silly and strangely sad. – Jon Walker
It’s got to be the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. Her rich prose totally transports you to that rustic Italian setting, even if – like me – you read them in south London rather than south Italy. – Harriet Smith
This week, following on from my cooling cultural picks, I want your out-of-season cultural recommendations. Which chilly films, tv shows or songs would fit the bill around now? I think Walk Out to Winter by Aztec Camera could definitely lower the temperature a few degrees when the thermostat hits the high 30s next week.
Send me your selections by replying to this email or contacting me on email@example.com.
July 15, 2022 at 04:21PM Gwilym Mumford