Times are strange. We’re all at home, we can’t leave for more than one hour at a time, and shops and cafes are closed. For a lot of us, that means we have much more time to kill within our own homes than we ever have before. Here at BrightMinded, we have certainly been feeling this, so we decided to share what we’ve been doing to keep ourselves occupied to inspire some of you, and help give an insight into who we are as a team! Hopefully there’s something for you to enjoy here, too.
BrightMinded’s top films and TV shows
One member of the team recommended Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which they saw in the cinema just before lockdown was announced. A French woman in the 18th century gets her portrait painted so that it can be sent to her betrothed, and the film follows her relationship with the painter. They not only enjoyed the themes of love and loss, but also mentioned the cinematography, saying: ‘it had a lot of really nice shots and framing’. They also highlighted how the use of music interested them, and how the majority of it in the film is actually played by the characters!
David Y has, as many others have, started watching Tiger King on Netflix. We’re sure you’ve heard about it already, but in case you haven’t: it centres around big cat breeding in America and is brought to life by its larger-than-life characters. Definitely a good one to binge on a rainy weekend. He has also been enjoying Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals recently, recordings of which are uploaded to YouTube every Friday and remain up for 48 hours. One of the recent ones David watched was Phantom of the Opera – keep an eye on the YouTube channel for more releases! Another recommendation from David is The Imitation Game, a film that tells the story of how Alan Turing and his fellow mathematicians cracked the enigma code and stars none other than Benedict Cumberbatch.
When asked for a feel-good film recommendation, Bradley had an interesting choice: Elf. He said it might be one for if we’re still in lockdown at the end of the year, but if it tickles your fancy now, we’re not here to judge! He’s also been into La Casa de Papel, otherwise known by its English title, Money Heist, in which a group of criminals gang up together to heist the Royal Mint of Spain in Madrid. This tense series is in Spanish, so for those of you who wanted to learn another language while at home, this could be an easy way to start. Kaia and John are also hooked on this one!
Charlotte said her go-to genre for films at the moment is comedy. Her special mentions went to: Coming To America for its ultimate one-liners; The Naked Gun which she calls ‘hilariously random’; The Full Monty – ‘sweet, relatable and hysterical’; and BASEketball, which stars the creators of South Park for some bizarre but very funny viewing.
Dan M recently finished both seasons of Succession, an HBO drama about a powerful but dysfunctional New York media family. It’s written by Jesse Armstrong, who wrote Peep Show, but it’s darker and most of the characters are actually quite dislikeable! Even though it covers some very difficult topics – death, drug addiction, deception, to name a few – Dan says it’s totally gripping!
Dan C was very happy to, in his own words, ‘for once in my life be able to recommend a film’! His choice is In This Corner of the World, a Japanese animated film set in the 1930s-40s in Hiroshima and Kure. It highlights the stark differences between nature and culture, and war. Maybe if you’re new to animated films, this could be the one to get you hooked.
Nick started rewatching Scrubs, the classic medical sitcom. He does admit, it might not be the best idea for taking your mind off the pandemic, but says it does often contain relevant details that he enjoys.
Cris recommended Murder by Death, the comedy mystery from 1976 that parodies your traditional whodunnit. He describes it as ‘a legendary comedy with legendary actors’ – with a cast that boasts Maggie Smith and Truman Capote, I can’t disagree!
BrightMinded’s favourite books and podcasts
John’s favourite podcast is Daniel and Jorge Explain the Universe, in which a cartoonist and a professor of experimental particle physics answer listeners’ questions on the Universe. They keep it simple (although it does still go over John’s head sometimes), bringing banana pies into the mix as much as possible. It never fails to make him smile. His book choice is a little different: Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. He thinks it should be mandatory reading for everyone, which is why he bought copies for each of his children. It puts life into perspective, makes you focus on what matters, and reminds you to work together – you have more in common with others than you think.
My book recommendation is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I read this book in about three days and loved it because it really highlights the importance of simple acts of kindness. As for a podcast, I am an avid listener of Off Menu with James Acaster and Ed Gamble. If you’re a foodie, then this is one for you. James and Ed invite a guest on every week who talks through their dream meal, from the type of water they’d like to whether they would like a cheese board or, in James’s opinion, a real dessert. It was introduced to me by a good friend last October and since then I have listened to every single episode.
Another member of the BrightMinded team has recently been reading the Discworld series. Written by Sir Terry Pratchett, it’s set on a flat planet balanced on four elephants, who are also standing on an enormous turtle – what’s not to like?! They also mentioned the podcast Critical Role, where the audio of a Dungeons and Dragons game set in Exandria livestreamed the week before is played. One for the gamers out there!
Cris’s book selection was The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It discusses the phenomenon of black swans: events that are unpredictable, have a huge impact, and are explained only afterwards to make them appear less out of the blue. Certainly food for thought in the current global situation.
Bradley recommended The Singer’s Gun and Station Eleven, both novels by Emily St. John Mandel. He does warn that the latter is set in the aftermath of a global pandemic, so if you want something more removed from real life it might be better to start with the other one – it’s about a man trying to leave his past of corruption behind, but struggling to do so.
Charlotte recommends the book Ribbons of Scarlet, a fictional account of the women of the French Revolution by Kate Quinn. If you’re into historical fiction, Charlotte also mentioned some of Quinn’s other works, like the Empress of Rome saga or The Borgia Chronicles.
Dan M has taken this opportunity to read Wolf Hall, which he started ages ago but never got round to finish. It’s another historical book, this time about Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VII and even with a long break in the middle, Dan is very much enjoying it.
Some of the team’s hobbies
John has always wanted to learn the piano and has managed to find a good teacher during lockdown – his son! He’s been taking lessons once a week but is practising once a day to make sure he doesn’t fall behind and get given extra homework…
He isn’t the only one trying to get musical during quarantine, though. Nick is ‘perpetually beginning to learn to play the guitar’ and another member of the team wants to learn to play the violin. Maybe when we’re back in the office, we should form a BrightMinded band. Anyone know any pieces/songs specifically for the violin, guitar and piano?
Cooking has always been something our team has enjoyed, with Charlotte, John, Bradley and myself being keen cooks, and David Y wanting to learn. You may already have seen Charlotte’s kunefe (a Syrian dessert she made with her Syrian lodger) on our Instagram. She didn’t stop there, though and has made loads of other stuff, too, including cheese scones and honeycomb.
I’ve really enjoyed cooking recently as well, although going from cooking for just myself to cooking for a family of five has required some getting used to. I’ve also been baking lots, something I’ve done for years, but I’ve been trying to go a little further out of my comfort zone recently and tried a custard tart.
Dan M has been trying to be more self-sufficient with regard to food since getting delivery slots hasn’t been so easy. He’s started doing some container vegetable gardening from his home and I can’t wait to see how they continue to grow.
We hope you’re staying safe and healthy in this uncertain period. Hopefully this list has given you some more ideas of how to fill your time, maybe even something that you might not have considered before. A Christmas film when it isn’t December? There’s a first time for everything!