My essentials: Michael Azzopardi’s cultural picks

No 72 | Michael Azzopardi, 35, visual designer

1. Book

The Offing (Ben Myers). It’s an exquisitely written story about a teenage miner who befriends an eccentric, sophisticated and fearlessly independent older woman as he travels across Durham in the summer and in the wake of WWII. The encounter changes his life. Robert, the main character, gets the chance of a lifetime – to be awakened to his truest potential and purpose, to be guided away from his predestined life of a miner and into the frightening, exciting path that is truly his.

2. Film

I recently rewatched Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino) – the final scene gets me every time. Rick Dalton, a washed-up actor struggling for relevance, still shaken by a bloody home invasion only moments prior, is invited up to his neighbour’s Hollywood home – a neighbour he idolised and who, in his mind, represented something he desperately needed to belong to. The camera follows Dalton as he ascends into the heavenly, tree-nestled exterior of Sharon Tate’s home. She’s alive and well, very pregnant, and excited to meet Dalton.

3. Internet/TV

I don’t enjoy social media and do my utmost to avoid it, but I recently learned that Michael Stipe (REM) is back on Instagram. I’ve had to reactivate my account recently to promote my album. It was nice to see Stipe, a man I am always open to and have time for, bobbing along curiously in an ocean of memes and time-thieving content. He’s a learner, and a thinker, never imposing. He reminded me that there are ways to be on social media productively.

4. Music

In the summer of 2022, as I was completing my latest album, the all-knowing fifth dimensional being that is the Spotify algorithm introduced a true gem into my life, an album my Brian Protheroe called Pinball. It was released in 1974 and has everything I love in an album of music. It’s beautifully written and performed, but is lighthearted, varied, goofy at times. It’s an artist being themselves but wearing multiple hats, looking great in each of them. Always entertaining, but thoughtful and life-affirming. A gift to us all. Thank you, Mr Protheroe.

5. Place

I recently released a song called Stromboli. I wrote it after seeing the film È Stata La Dano Di Dio, Paolo Sorrentino’s latest. One of the most beautiful moments in the film, during which the main character Fabietto, who’s deep in the trenches of grief having just lost both his parents, is coming to terms with his truest nature- a seeker, forever peering into the bottomless well of life’s big questions, and who’s simple yet agonizing mission in life might be that of telling stories – guided and protected by their beauty. The defining moment happens on the volcanic island of Stromboli. A place I barely ever thought about prior to that scene. I visited Stromboli last November. The volcano is alive and well. I will go again, and again.