Cold comfort: film, music, art and more to combat the winter blues

·3-min read

From charmingly meta sci-fi comedy to tales of soaring through the skies, our critics select cultural works to warm your cockles


Film

Galaxy Quest

Movies can make lifting our spirits feel like mighty hard work. Like a two-hour Haribo binge, feelgood movies often involve a violent sugar rush, a recipe for migraine and hives. So we should treasure any film as purely, perfectly uplifting as Galaxy Quest. The comedy involves the ageing cast of a much-loved TV space opera, abducted by gentle extraterrestrials unwitting of the gulf between fact and fantasy. The meta Hollywood comedy is smart; the gags about fandom beautifully observed. But more than that, no beating heart could fail to be gladdened by a film that suggests our sorry species may just be redeemable. And that aliens may yet avoid Elon Musk being their first encounter with humanity. Danny Leigh

***

Music

Coloring Book

The first streaming-only album to ever win a Grammy, 2016’s Coloring Book remains Chance the Rapper’s most accomplished work, bridging the gap between hip-hop and gospel with a wide grin on its face. Across 14 tracks, the Chicago native toes a perfect line between swaggering braggadocio and gentle, stirring home town nostalgia, with a veritable feast of guests both big and small: Kanye West, Jamila Woods, Anderson .Paak, Jay Electronica. Whether you’re religious or not, the infectious jubilance of redemptive love, self-acceptance and sharp one-liners will shed some light on even the darkest of January days. Jenessa Williams

***

TV

Reservation Dogs

If Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi’s Disney+ comedy about a charmingly half-baked criminal gang of Indigenous American kids in small town Oklahoma doesn’t cheer you up, you might need to consider hibernation. Their criminality, such as it is, is at the harmless, amusingly inept end of the scale; as we meet them, they’re stealing a lorry load of crisps and selling them from a roadside stall. Really, what gang status means here is an affirmation of friendship; an expression of mutual support; a desire to have each other’s backs. Much like Waititi’s funny, lovely film The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, it’s about our need to strike out alone but also our need to belong. Full of laughs but overflowing with warmth and wisdom, too. Phil Harrison

***

Art

The Shrimp Girl

William Hogarth’s The Shrimp Girl, 1740-5.
William Hogarth’s The Shrimp Girl, 1740-5. Photograph: Peter Horree/Alamy

This is one of art history’s rare full, toothy smiles, and it belongs to a young working woman, expertly balancing a basket of shellfish on her head. Unlike the staged hauteur of 18th-century aristocratic portraits, her movement and spontaneity suggest a real-life chance encounter on the street, captured in an experimental, impressionist oil sketch of rough, ready strokes. William Hogarth makes you feel her momentary joy; a brief, dazzling wonder of everyday life that hits you like sun breaking through clouds. Skye Sherwin

***

Book

Wind, Sand and Stars

If you are starting to feel like the dark winter skies are bearing down on you, Antoine de Saint‑Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars will open them up again. In poetic, vivid prose, the French hero relates his experiences as a pioneering pilot in the 1920s, helping to develop early air postal routes across the Sahara and Andes. Again and again, Saint-Exupéry climbed into the exposed cockpit of his fragile plane, pointed its nose into the black night, spun the propeller and roared into the future. It’s a book brimming not only with the excitement of discovery, but also the more simple joy of life. Saint-Exupéry may be best known for his beautiful children’s story The Little Prince, but this is even more enchanting. Sam Jordison

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