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Your Guide To A Summer Of Culture

Everything you need to get on your radar while PRIMER is on Christmas break

By Hannah-Rose Yee

PRIMER is going on a holiday for the next few weeks, but don’t worry – there are more than enough things to watch, read, see and do to keep you occupied until we return. Here’s our roundup of the best movies, television and books that we will be consuming over the summer months.

Love movies? There’s almost too much choice. On Boxing Day comes the long-awaited Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to the box office-breaking female-led superhero film, as well as Nomadland, the phenomenally moving American roadtrip drama directed by Chloe Zhao and starring Frances McDormand (and set to win all the Oscars).

It’s only a very limited season for two weeks, with the film properly debuting in cinemas in March, but if you’re a film buff who wants to stay ahead of the conversation, make sure you book a ticket now. McDormand has never been better and Zhao is going to be the next important filmmaker – she’s that good. Also streaming on Boxing Day is Sylvie’s Love, a gorgeous Amazon Prime Video romance starring Tessa Thompson and set in the ’50s. Thompson plays Sylvie, a woman who dreams of becoming a hotshot television executive, when love gets in the way.


A scene from Nomadland CREDIT: Fox Entertainment Group

Happy New Year everyone, because on January 1 comes The Dry, an adaptation of Jane Harper’s bestselling crime novel starring Eric Bana and Miranda Tapsell. Atmospheric and sun-baked, it’s Australian noir at its most chilling best. Then on January 7 there’s Promising Young Woman – written and directed by triple threat Emerald Fennell (she also plays Camilla in The Crown) and starring Carey Mulligan, it’s a revenge thriller that has to be seen to be believed.

Mid-January, the Serious Movies vying for awards will all tumble into cinemas. There’s Ammonite, the Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan lesbian romantic drama, featuring Winslet as the trailblazing female paleontologist Mary Anning. Also, My Salinger Year is a lovely adaptation of one of our favourite books, the memoir of the same name by Joanna Rakoff about her time working in a literary agency, where her clients included Judy Blume and JD Salinger. On January 21 comes Penguin Bloom, the heartwarming true Australian story of a woman – played by Naomi Watts – who finds herself thanks to a growing connection with a bird.

Movie-wise on Netflix there’s Midnight Sky (a George Clooney directorial special about a post-apocalyptic space mission), Pieces Of A Woman, starring The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby featuring what is being billed as an incredibly realistic and harrowing portrayal of a woman’s home birth, and to counteract that intensity, a lovely archeological period drama called The Dig, starring Carey Mulligan and Lily James. Phew!

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman CREDIT: Roadshow

If you want to get out and about, you’ll have your pick of exhibitions and festivals. There’s the Sydney Festival throughout January – including must-see live music performances from Jaguar Jonze and Urthboy – and the Adelaide Fringe, which starts on 19 February. You can get tickets to their famed Writer’s Week now. Melburnians can see the best of Australian and global contemporary art at the NGV Triennial right now, and in Sydney in January there’ll be a world first retrospective of Australian sculptor Margel Kinder from 30 January. Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia has reopened its polkadotted Yayoi Kusama infinity room, just in time for the summer break. It’s free, which we love, and it’s going to be socially distanced in there, which we really love. While most theatres are gearing up for their new season over summer, Sydney’s Belvoir is putting on two encores of their recent sell-out successes: My Brilliant Career, based on the Miles Franklin classic, and the hilarious Fangirls. Both are more than worth forgoing the beach for.

On television, we’ll be binging Bridgerton on Netflix from Christmas Day – a scandalous new period drama that would make Jane Austen’s hair curl. It follows the Bridgerton family, a well-to-do Regency brood whose eldest daughter Daphne is trying to make a good match during her debutante season.

Naturally, the one man who catches her eye – the naughty Duke of Hastings – is No Good. Produced by Shonda Rhimes – she of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal fame – as the first lavish series from her new deal with the streaming platform, it is everything you will want to be watching this summer. We’re obsessed. And if you’re like us and binge the whole thing as soon as it’s released, get onto World Of Books and buy secondhand copies of the original novels – Regency romances from the ‘00s – that the show was based on. There are eight of them and they’re each as fun and filthy as the last. Enjoy.

On New Year’s Day, Stan will release Bump, their hilarious comedy from the team behind Love My Way, starring Claudia Karvan. If you haven’t watched Dickinson yet, what are you waiting for? Very sharp, and very funny, this biopic of Emily Dickinson – played by Hailee Steinfeld – is unlike anything else right now, and a second series comes to AppleTV+ on 8 January. It’s the smartest thing on television, bar none. There’s also WandaVision, a clever twist on the superhero narrative, streaming on Disney+ from 14 January. It stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, and it’s designed as something of a gateway drug for anyone who says they’re not a comic book fan – this show, with its ‘50s-era motifs and it’s canny script, could be the thing to convince you.

But why stay inside watching TV in the dark when you could go to the beach? Pack your bag with a gripping, immersive read. Our pick of the new releases include There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job – incredible title! – by Japanese author Kikuko Tsumura; Anna North’s abortion drama Outlawed, billed as a “feminist western”; the fabulous Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu, one for the Crazy Rich Asians fans; and The Windsor Knot, a lovely little murder mystery by SJ Bennett in which headscratching cases are solved by… The Queen. Absolute heaven. Happy summer, everyone!


BY Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in Sydney

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