I, Tonya, Gabor Szabo, Coffin Liquor

What we’re watching

I, Tonya is a blast.

It follows the life of  US figure-skater Tonya Harding, in particular her connection to the attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, in 1994. It’s told in a quasi mockumentary style that’s a dramatised mash-up of interviews, storytelling and amazing ice-skating sequences. It plays with ideas of who is telling the truth —what did she know? who planned what? — in ways that make for bold, unconventional filmmaking.

Thumbs up to the star and co-producer Margot Robbie, writer and co-producer Steven Rogers and director Craig Gillespie. A special mention is due to Allison Janney who plays Tonya’s despicable mother. Janney won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress  and has also been nominated for Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Oscars. Robbie has been nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars.

Susan Jacobs is the film’s music supervisor and I imagine she loved working on it. The first song we hear is Cliff Richard’s Devil Woman from 1976 and it just gets better from there — En Vogue’s Free Your Mind, Violent Femmes Gone Daddy Gone, Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, Supertramp’s Goodbye Stranger and many more classic rock gems. Some of these songs Harding actually used in her routines. Love it!

I, Tonya is currently in cinemas. It’s only February, but it’ll be hard to beat for film of the year. Listen to the soundtrack while practising your tripe-axels.

What we’re listening to

Perched at the counter in my second office the other day, sipping a soy picc and reading the SMH, music began to play that stopped me mid-sip. I had heard this curious track a couple of times before and wondered what it was, but I then forgot about it. This time, not a chance. Turns out it was a cover of Donovan’s Three King Fishers by a guy called Gabor Szabo.

Well, what a find. The track is from an album of covers called Bacchanal released in 1968. Szabo was a Hungarian gypsy-jazz guitarist, active from the 1950s to the early 1980s. Together with a bunch of predominantly jazz players, he created unusual, exotic, hypnotic music.

Szabo’s output was prolific, yet he died in 1982 at the age of 46 from complications bought on by his heroin addiction. Listen to Bacchanal here.

What we’re reading/listening to

‘The liquefaction of improperly preserved corpses leads to the creation of the substance known as “coffin liquor” … John Lanchester is an English writer who writes  about money and soccer. He also occasionally writes intricate, pacey ghost stories, like this little beauty on the podcast of The London Review of Books. A bad-tempered academic gets his come-uppance at a conference in central Europe. It may not sound funny, but it is, especially as read by vocal gymnast Toby Jones.

Read the text or listen here.

Or find it on iTunes.

Strange Loops is a blog that celebrates the mysterious power of words, music, dance and the moving image. Each month or so we present a roundup of the best of what we're reading, what we're viewing and what we're listening to right now.