Culture Vulture: Our Guide to the week’s entertainment (7th to 13th of January 2023)

Highlights of Culture Vulture this week include: The Medici: Bankers, Gangsters, Popes, Clubland, a radio series exploring the history of working men’s clubs in Britain and “James Arthur: Out of Our Minds,” a documentary following the singer-songwriter as he discusses his struggles with mental health. You can listen to this as a YouTube podcast here.

Saturday 7th of January 2023

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) 9pm Channel 4

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a biographical film released in 2018 that tells the story of the iconic rock band Queen and their lead singer Freddie Mercury (played by Rami Malek). The film follows the band’s rise to fame and Mercury’s personal struggles with his identity and sexuality, culminating in their legendary performance at Live Aid in 1985.

One of the standout elements of the film is Malek’s performance as Mercury. He perfectly captures the energy and charisma of the rock star, delivering an impressive vocal performance as well. The film also does a good job of recreating some of Queen’s most memorable concerts and music videos, which will likely be a treat for fans of the band.

The film’s direction, by Bryan Singer, is solid and the cinematography is impressive, with some beautiful shots of the concerts and landscapes. The supporting cast, which includes Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon, also deliver strong performances.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a well-made and entertaining film that will likely appeal to fans of Queen and biographical films. While it may not be a perfect depiction of the band and its members, it is a tribute to their music and legacy that is worth checking out.

Can Psychedelics Cure? 10.50pm PBS America

Hallucinogenic drugs, commonly referred to as psychedelics, have a long history of use in human societies. These substances, which can be either natural or synthetic, have the ability to alter a person’s perception and consciousness. In recent years, scientists have been conducting research on the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics for a variety of mental health conditions. This includes the use of psychedelics to treat addiction, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

One of the most well-known psychedelics is LSD, which was first synthesized in 1938. In the 1950s and 60s, LSD was studied for its potential use in psychotherapy and as a treatment for alcoholism. However, the drug became heavily associated with the counterculture movement of the time and was eventually banned in the United States in 1968. More recently, LSD has been the subject of renewed interest for its potential use in the treatment of depression and anxiety.

Another psychedelic substance that has garnered attention for its potential therapeutic benefits is psilocybin, a naturally occurring compound found in certain types of mushrooms. Psilocybin has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression and anxiety, as well as addiction and PTSD. Research is ongoing to better understand the mechanisms behind psilocybin’s therapeutic effects and to determine the optimal dosing and administration of the drug.

It is important to note that while these substances may have the potential to offer significant clinical benefits, they should be used with caution and under the supervision of trained medical professionals. Further research is needed to fully understand the risks and benefits of psychedelics and to determine the appropriate use of these substances in a clinical setting.

Sunday 8th of January 2023

The Medici: Bankers, Gangsters, Popes 3pm BBC RADIO 4

In the first episode of “The Medici: Bankers, Gangsters, Popes,” we follow the story of Cosimo de’ Medici as he inherits his father’s bank and rises to become the wealthiest man in Europe. Through his intelligence and business acumen, he becomes a patron of the arts, but he must also contend with the resistance of the Albizzi family and other ruling families of Florence who do not see him as their equal. Starring Patrick Baladi and Sirine Saba, and directed by Mike Walker, this episode sets the stage for the complex and tumultuous tale of the Medici dynasty.

Spector (episode one of four) 9pm Sky Documentaries

The series traces Spector’s rise to fame as the mastermind behind the “Wall of Sound” production style, which revolutionized the music industry in the 1960s.

One of the standout aspects of the documentary is its use of archival footage and interviews with Spector’s friends, colleagues, and family members. These provide a comprehensive look at Spector’s early life and his experiences working in the music industry. The film also delves into Spector’s later years, including his tumultuous personal life and his eventual arrest and conviction for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson.

Throughout the film, director Vikram Jayanti presents a nuanced and complex portrayal of Spector, exploring both his artistic genius and his deeply flawed personality. The film does not shy away from the dark aspects of Spector’s life. Bleak but compelling viewing.

Monday 9th of January 2023

Clubland (episode one of five) 9:45am BBC RADIO 4 FM

Pete Brown explores the history of working men’s clubs in Britain in this book. From the founding of the movement by teetotal social reformer Reverend Henry Solly, to the mid-century heyday when over 7 million Brits were members, the book delves into the role these clubs played in the social lives of Brits, offering entertainment and a sense of community. These clubs were often the venues for performances by famous musicians and comedians, and served as a vehicle for social mobility and self-improvement for working people. The book also examines the clubs’ impact on class and community identity, and their place as informal, community-owned precursors to the welfare state.

Other episodes follow daily.

KGB: The Sword and The Shield: Dserschinski & Co. 8.30pm PBS America Part 1 of 3.

Set up as a ‘temporary’ measure by Lenin, millions of Soviet citizens would die at the hands of the secret services as internal dissent, real or imaginary, was crushed. Outside the Soviet Union, however, they were busy infiltrating German High Command, British Intelligence and America’s Manhattan Project, constructing the world’s first atomic bomb. Soon, Moscow had the means to build one of their own. The Cold War and the philosophy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) had begun in earnest.

James Arthur: Out Of Our Minds 10.40pm BBC1

In this documentary, singer-songwriter James Arthur delves into the underlying causes of his mental health struggles, including anxiety, depression, and severe panic attacks. Throughout his career, which began with his win on the X Factor in 2012, James has faced both great success and difficult challenges, including considering suicide at his lowest points. At 34 years old, he is considering whether to return to the use of antidepressants in order to find some sense of peace. Follow James on his journey as he seeks ways to manage his mental health and move forward in his life and career.

Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power 1.35 (late) Sky Arts

The renowned author discusses the power of language and how it has shaped her own work and the world at large. Through a series of conversations with fellow writers, Atwood delves into the ways in which language can be used to manipulate and control, as well as the importance of truth and accuracy in communication.

Atwood’s insights and observations are thought-provoking and engaging, making for a captivating watch for fans of her writing and anyone interested in the role of language in society. The documentary also offers a unique look into Atwood’s personal life and creative process, making it a must-see for fans of the author. A fascinating and educational exploration of the power of language and its impact on the world.

Tuesday 10th of January 2023

KGB – The Sword and the Shield: Berija & Co. Part 2 of 3. 8.30pm PBS America Part 1 of 3.

By August 1949, at least five years earlier than expected, the USSR became the world’s second superpower, thanks to its spies who had stolen America’s atomic secrets. But by March 1953, Stalin is dead and the KGB chief, Beria, is executed later the same year. Nikita Kruschev tries to reduce the power of the security service, splitting it into several sections… but it doesn’t last, and soon the KGB is back. Abroad, it has pulled off its greatest-ever recruitment coup – a mole at the very top of the CIA.

Wednesday 11th January 2023

KGB – The Sword and the Shield: Putin & Co. Part 3 of 3. 8.30pm PBS America Part 1 of 3.

Coup d’etats, assassinations, sex scandals, radioactive poisoning… it’s the stuff of a Bond movie. But in today’s Russia, it’s all very real. Under Vladimir Putin, the KGB (or FSB, as it’s now called) rules Russia with an iron rod directly from the Kremlin. To challenge its authority, even from apparent safety abroad, means risking your life. The KGB has even managed to outlive communism itself. Today, Russia is no longer a State with a Security Service: instead, the Security Service has a State. Part 3 of 3.

The Old Devils 10.30pm (1 of 3 with other episodes following) BBC4

Dramatisation of Kingsley Amis’s novel follows Alun Weaver, a successful but flawed writer who returns to his hometown in Wales and reconnects with a group of old friends. As he spends more time with the group, including his former friend Peter Thomas, Alun begins to engage in infidelity with the wives and girlfriends of his friends. The drama stars John Stride and James Grout and explores themes of jealousy, betrayal, and the consequences of one’s actions.

Thursday 12th January 2023

Witness (1985) 9pm BBC4

“Witness” is a crime thriller film released in 1985 that tells the story of John Book, a detective played by Harrison Ford, who is assigned to protect a young Amish boy named Samuel (Lukas Haas) after he witnesses a murder in Philadelphia. Book takes Samuel and his mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis) back to their Amish community in rural Pennsylvania to keep them safe.

As Book gets to know the peaceful Amish way of life, he begins to question his own values and priorities. The film explores the contrast between the violence and corruption of city life and the simplicity and forgiveness of Amish culture. The performances by Ford and McGillis are strong, and the film features beautiful cinematography and a poignant score. “Witness” is a thought-provoking and compelling film that addresses themes of faith, family, and redemption. It’s a personal favourite of mine.

Colosseum 9pm Sky History

“Colosseum” is a documentary series that aired on Sky History in 2021. The series explores the history and cultural significance of the Colosseum, one of the most iconic landmarks in Rome and a symbol of the Roman Empire. The series takes a deep dive into the construction, design, and purpose of the Colosseum, as well as its enduring legacy and influence on modern culture.

One of the standout features of “Colosseum” is its use of stunning visual effects and immersive 3D animation, which brings the ancient structure to life in a way that is both informative and visually stunning. The series also features interviews with experts in the field of Roman history, who provide insight and context into the significance of the Colosseum and its place in the broader narrative of Roman civilization.

This episode deals with Emperor Titus and his plan for 100 days of games to celebrate the Colosseum’s completion in 80 AD.

Friday 13th January 2023

Alexander the Great 9pm Sky History

Alexander the Great is portrayed as a complex and ambitious leader. This follows Alexander’s rise to power, as he expands his father’s kingdom from Macedonia to Egypt and India, becoming one of the greatest warfare strategists in history. Along the way, he encounters power struggles and excess, and is open to the foreign cultures of the lands he conquers. The film presents a nuanced portrayal of Alexander, highlighting both his strengths and flaws as a leader. Overall, “Alexander the Great” is a captivating and lavish depiction of one of history’s most dazzling personalities.

Episode Notes

Thanks for listening to our CultureVulture weekly podcast. Selections and previews were written by the Editor of Counter Culture, Patrick Harrington. Don’t miss next week’s episode. Our music is by Tim Bragg. Tim is a multi-instrumentalist & singer-songwriter. You can hear his songs here or any streaming service or on YouTube.

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