However, when I’m on my own, (and recent Covid times have seen a lot of that) I find myself reaching for the drink and my mouse almost simultaneously. To be precise, I unhand the mouse as a tool of labour, momentarily giving it rest – long enough to pour that drink – and then promptly grab it again as my hardware ally, as my entertainment scout, as my digital procurer for audio-visual narrative distraction.
As we know, the major OTT platforms all have different levels of stuff on offer. One of my first challenges is to avoid clicking on whatever the platform is pushing that evening. I force myself to scroll down, across, away from the main window and look for something ‘different’. In this, I usually delude myself, like the punter in the booze shop who goes through every brand of whisky and tequila before coming back to grab his pauwa of trusted rum.
Most evenings I want to give my brain a rest. So I’ll avoid anything too dark, too grim, too convoluted in terms of plot, anything too close to home. Desi ‘spy thrillers’ are absolutely the worst. Do not look to them for guidance as to how to conduct yourself in a firefight with jihadis.
I also avoid anything that involves looking at countries on another planet (such as South Korea), anything that involves American sports like baseball, American football or under-ages getting drunk and badly laid on Spring Break, etc. American cop thrillers are one easy go-to. But I’ll always choose a French take on the policier if there’s a good one – their car chases are always better, involving European cars getting smashed up in nice European locations on complicated curving streets, and the dialogue helps improve my cursing in terse French street argot.
Merde alors, to confess fully, recently I’ve also found myself suckered into watching some terrible romcoms just because they involved food and drink I was missing. There was one piece of shit – do watch it – about a truculent Danish Michelin-starred chef who flies down to Tuscany, intending to sell his recently deceased father’s restaurant only to become ensnared by a dark-haired local woman, red-red local tomatoes and amazing local olive oil. Imagine a kind of culinary Sound of Music without children, Nazis, the Alps or songs, but with lots of nice drums of (local) cheese and puttering rural Italian motor vehicles from the 1950s section of central casting’s garage (‘High on a hill, was a gorgonzola,’ and so on).
After I finished hating on this, I decided to flagellate myself further with a romcom set in an Australian winery. Pushy American newly adult female goes to wine paradise to make a marketing deal, ends up sweat-shopping with the labour under a ripped, shredded stud-muffin of a foreman – who also happens to be the secret co-owner of the estate.
The Scots apparently have a short way with Mars chocolate bars, where they deep fry them in butter and animal fat – then they reportedly eat them. This digital offering was a film version of this dish, with a rejected Mills and Boon manuscript in place of the Mars bar and the Australian landscape and Aussie cliches standing in for the butter and lard.
The reason I bring up so much about food is by way of warning. I actually love serious cinema. And after watching all this malbouffe (French for bad fast food) when I occasionally click on MUBI, the great art cinema website, my eyes, ears and mouse cannot digest any of the wonderful fare on offer. One solution I’ve been flirting with is that on weekends I’ll watch something on MUBI and on weekdays shut down my screen after work and reach for those weird archaic objects called books. The mouse will be unhappy but, like, je m’en fous.