My essentials: Benjamin Abela’s cultural picks

96 | Benjamin Abela, 23, Writer, director, actor

1. Book

It has to be Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential – for a multitude of reasons. Not only did this book teach me some priceless lessons about dining out (like steering clear of the specials, especially if they involve mussels), but it also offered me a window into the gritty, morally questionable, and incredibly stressful life of a hedonistic cook working his way up the ranks. Bourdain’s book is also a masterclass in character writing, something no writer can ever be too good at.

2. Film

I could go on for ages about Sound of Metal’s beautiful simplicity, or the incredibly layered nature of First Reformed, but if I had to choose a single film I could watch over and over again, it would have to be Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me. Based on a Stephen King novella, this coming-of-age film is equal parts heartwarming and heart wrenching in its depiction of a young friend group’s unforgettable bond and the characters’ loss of innocence.

3. TV/Internet

I hate to admit it, but I spend way more time on the internet than I should. Having said that, my doom-scrolling sessions do occasionally reward me with an interesting find, and it’s mostly thanks to YouTube. The one video I’m happiest I discovered is the music video to James Blake’s I Can’t Believe the Way We Flow. This video collage takes a perfect song and elevates it even further through its unconventional depictions of unconditional love. Honestly, this is what all music videos should aspire to be.

4. Music

Twin Fantasy by Car Seat Headrest was quick to become one of my all-time favourite albums; I just never really expected to find so much of myself in an American indie rock band’s record. Though the album starts off on a somewhat positive note with the hopeful My Boy (Twin Fantasy), it doesn’t take long before it delves deep into the complexities of romantic relationships, unrequited love, mental health, and sexuality. Twin Fantasy will make you dance like a maniac and cry your eyes out at the same time.

5. Place

It’s got to be San Blas Bay in Gozo; it might be a chore to get to, but it’s oh so worth it. Visiting the bay during the off-season has got to be a part of everyone’s Gozo bucket list. Unfortunately, very few places around the Maltese Islands remain so unspoilt, serene, and picturesque – then again, it has been a couple of years since I last visited.