Category Archives: film reviews

Hamlet is not Quite as Funny…

Image result for withnail and I open source images

I take as my text today the script of Withnail and I: yes, all of it – for as I have so consistently pointed out the entire film is basically a collection of quotes linked by a somewhat haphazard plot.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094336/?ref_=nv_sr_1

But my subject this morning is not the film per se, but the Facebook group.  It is my contention that The Withnail and I Appreciation Society is one of the healthiest groups on social media.  Why?  Because it allows people to hurl the most terrible insults at each other with impunity.  When someone calls me a terrible c**t, I chuckle; when a man declares that he means to have me even if it must be burglary, I laugh uproariously and when people ‘feel unusual’ I’m not a bit spooked.   Because the film licences this rudeness, which is not about the person you’re talking to but about your shared enjoyment of the film.  And this is very healthy I think.

This is what happens: people post pictures, memes and links to news stories on which to hang their references to the film.  And because the film has a thousand and one quotable bits, it just keeps on going.  As a youth I used to weep in butcher’s shops.  I’ve only just begun to grow last year.  The joint I am about to roll can utilise up to twelve skins.  It is called the Camberwell Carrot.  This will tend to make you very high.  Bollocks, I’ll swallow it and run a mile.  That wouldn’t wash with Geoff.  Imagine getting into a fight with the f***er.

It’s not all insults: you can offer sherry, fulminate about cats or eulogise root vegetables.  You can talk about garlic, rosemary and salt or good quality rubber boots; you can tell Miss Blennerhasset to call the police or demand the finest wines known to humanity.  You can even go on holiday by mistake.

The film ends with a soliloquy from hamlet, another play that’s full of quotable bits.  Though Hamlet isn’t quite as funny…

Marwood out.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under drama, Facebook, film reviews, friends and family

Murder Most Florid

Ken Branagh is rapidly turning in my mind into a combination of Busby Berkeley and Ken Russell, what with the extravaganza of his ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (which I watched last week) and now this week the latest incarnation of Agatha Christie which was the Ken vehicle of 2017.

I wouldn’t have bothered, not being a fan of either Christie or Branagh – but I had heard good reports of this film.  Besides, I wanted something to do on a Friday night.  So off we went.

As is usual with these things, the cast featured the brightest and best – it was, however, often cast against type with Johnny Depp as a scarred villain, Judi Dench as a spoilt aristocrat and Olivia Coleman as her dour, repressed lady’s companion.  Brannagh was pretty good as Poirot; better than David Suchet and throwing all his florid tendencies into portraying a controlled, thoughtful man with OCD.  But what really lifted this above the run-of-the-mill was the cinematography; and here I am aware of lacking a vocabulary with which to describe it.

To start with there were crowd scenes; panoramic establishing shots and hurried sweeps through crowded kitchens and railway stations – these scenes basically propel Poirot from hotel room to train carriage – and off they go.  The problem with filming these things is that although the train is moving, the location is static; the characters are in a train carriage and there’s nowhere to go.  Brannagh solves this problem by going Big: the camera sweeps up and down, going up to the sky to film from above and sweeping under the carriages and bridges like a refugee trying to find a home.  In the climactic scene where the train breaks down and the murderer is revealed, the humans are dwarfed surreally not only by the mountains around but by the vast mechanical bulk of the still-steaming engine: there was something in all this that reminded me of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  So all in all, I would say it’s worth seeing and worth going to see, as not much of this would come across on a DVD.

Kirk out

Leave a comment

Filed under film reviews, friends and family

That Guy Gandhi

It’s funny how a weekend comes together.  You do things seemingly at random and together they make perfect sense.  First, I’ve been watching Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi.  It takes a whole weekend as it weighs in at around 3 1/2 hours, and I could spend a week’s blog posts just talking about the scope of it: a film as vast as India itself (I only gained an inkling when I went, travelling for hours on a train and then seeing the scintilla of map that I’d covered).  But instead of reviewing the film I want to think about the man and how much he achieved.  As a boy Gandhi was shy, but he overcame his shyness to achieve in one lifetime more than most of us could achieve in a dozen.  Though the ideas of satyagraha – ‘truth power’ – were embedded in Hindu tradition, Gandhi brought them into the modern age and taught an entire nation to practise non-violent struggle.

No sooner had I finished Gandhi than I was plunged into a nuclear-free session, ‘Can Nuclear Weapons Make us Safer?’  On the whole it was a rhetorical question with the answer ‘no’ – but to be fair, politicians on the other side of the debate had been invited and had declined (or been unable) to come.  But the ideas of Gandhi were key to our discussion.  It is hard to imagine a more violent weapon than nuclear missiles and in my view it is our duty to oppose them in any way we can: the idea that because our ‘opponents’ (whoever they may be) have them then we must have them is no different from the American saying that because the bad guys have guns, so must the good guys.  We all know where that ends up.  This is a discussion for another blog topic, but the reason North Korea has nuclear weapons (in my view) is because they fear the Americans.  We need to deconstruct fear, not escalate armaments.

Onwards.

So, to complete the day, enter the latest BBC costume drama.  Lately this type of drama has come in for a lot of criticism for being dewy-eyed and romanticising royalty and aristocracy.  Not a scintilla of that here.  This was a very clear-eyed view of the times, beginning with a rough and tyrannical search by the King’s men of a Catholic house which has just been celebrating Mass.  Like many such houses it features a priest hole: however the Kings’ men know this trick and compare measurements outside and inside.  At this point a young acolyte, about to set off for Europe, is discovered hiding in a chest.  Though still very young, he is subjected to little more than a show-trial before being hanged, drawn and quartered, this being shown in enough detail to register its barbarity.  Before this we see the lady of the house put to death by the peine forte et dure, her ribs gradually broken by heavy weights while all the while her tormentor tries to get information from her.

The courage of people to undergo torture and death has never failed to impress me, particularly as I doubt very much whether I’d have similar courage.

Mark Gatiss (that man has an impressive talent) is excellent as William Cecil, the spider at the heart of the anti-Catholic web, sending out spies and poisoning King James’s mind with reports of Catholic conspiracies.  He’s the McCarthy of his age: played with the superior detachment of a Mycroft with the monstrousness of a Richard III (Shakespeare’s, not history’s).  The episode largely sets up the involvement of Catesby in the gunpowder plot, and Guy Fawkes is introduced to us right at the end.  This is costume drama so good that you just think of it as drama.

And how are the two guys celebrated?  One is burnt in effigy every year while the other continues to be venerated and his ideas practised the world over.

Great guy, that Gandhi.

Anyway, here’s the BBC drama – you can watch Gandhi on Netflix or DVD:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p05j1cg8/gunpowder-series-1-episode-1

Kirk out

Leave a comment

Filed under drama, film reviews, God-bothering, politics, TV reviews

I Have A Dead Ringer

Yes, it’s all too horribly true: my phone ringer is dead.  Or maybe it’s sleeping; either way on any of the various occasions when it is supposed to make a noise – alarm, text, call, facebook message, facebook update, reminder and god knows what else – it is content to make a sudden purr like an intermittent cat.  In other words it does everything it should do when it’s on silent, but it isn’t.  I have checked and double-checked the settings; I have (in the time-honoured way) turned things off and on and on and off again and still it persists in purring.  So I must perforce consider the meaning of the term ‘dead ringer’.  Jeremy Irons (once my favourite actor) plays twins in a film of that name, Meat Loaf sang about it and the Radio 4 programme features it.  So what is it?

The origin of the phrase is apparently from horse-racing: ‘dead’ meaning ‘exact’ (as in ‘dead heat’) and ‘ringer’ meaning a horse falsely substituted for another which it resembles.  Hence a dead ringer, meaning an exact lookalike.  At least I’ve always understood it to mean a lookalike, which makes the radio 4 concept somewhat paradoxical don’t it?

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/dead-ringer.html

Still it’s a fun programme: Tom Baker is a staple and they do Boris Johnson brilliantly:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007gd85/episodes/player

Here’s the Meat Loaf song:

 

and here’s the film:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094964/

A short one today but what do you expect?  My ringer is dead…

Kirk out

Leave a comment

Filed under film reviews, language and grammar, music, radio

What Do We Do? We Swim, Swim, Swim!

DoryYep, we all know this small blue fish, don’t we?  Dory is one of my favourite animated characters ever; and on occasions when my other half gets moody I am fond of getting in his face, making a pout and saying:

‘Hey Mr Grumpy-Gills.  Whenever life gets ya down, you know what you gotta do?  Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…’  I can tell you it really pisses him off.

Well I took my own advice today, having gotten out of bed the wrong side after a disturbed night.  And what better than to do the thing I’d been intending ever since we moved here – and go swimming?  How could I in all conscience excuse myself when on our very doorstep stands a fully-equipped leisure centre complete with swimming pool and all the accoutrements?  I couldn’t.  I didn’t.  I got out of bed, threw on a few clothes and dived in.  It. Was. Great.  I have been buzzing all day simply from the sheer joy of breasting the billows for twenty lengths: I even got to swim in the medium lane, which I never do, being normally consigned to the slowest of the slow.  I had expected the pool to be full of business-men and -women thrashing up and down before their power breakfasts.  Not a bit of it: my fellow-swimmers were mostly elderly plodders.  It was very relaxing.

So there’s my thought for today: whenever your gills feel grumpy, just keep swimming, just keep swimming….

Kirk out

1 Comment

Filed under film reviews, friends and family

…Call Me Daniel Blake

When Ken Loach’s films work, they really work: I’ve met the man in real life and he is impressively self-effacing, putting ordinary people and their stories at the centre of his films.  And having been on the dole myself in the ’80’s I totally got ‘I, Daniel Blake’.

In the 1980’s things were both better and worse.  They were worse in the sense that unemployment was much higher (zero-hours contracts notwithstanding) and that was especially true where I’d ended up.  In the North West there literally were no jobs, especially not for a shellshocked teacher who absolutely refused to go back to the chalk face.  I guess I could have gone on sickness benefit, but I resisted the medicalisation of my mental illness and decided to face it out without the dubious help of anti-depressants: I still maintain this was the right approach for me.  But I know in my soul the grinding despair of unemployment: the feeling that you are judged by others; the impossibility of finding work no matter how you try, and the never-ending financial hardship.  Matthew Parris, then a Minister in the Thatcher government, did a TV programme where he ‘tried’ living on unemployment benefit for a week: he planned to save £3 and ended up sitting in the dark with no heating.

But I was lucky: I had a family who could help, and in the end (though very reluctantly) I returned home for a while and eventually found work.

Daniel Blake is not so lucky: he has to stop work as a carpenter when he suffers a heart attack.  His doctor signs him off but when he tries to claim ESA (sickness benefit) his claim is refused.

‘I, Daniel Blake’ is the story of one man’s attempt to navigate a labyrinth of bureaucracy and human indifference and retain his self-respect.  After he is defeated at every turn and ejected from the Job Centre (or whatever they’re called this week) he gets a spray-can and writes his testimony to the world on the wall:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5168192/mediaviewer/rm3244179200

This is his attempt at finding a voice in the midst of defeat and degradation.

I won’t spoil the ending for you but go and watch the film.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5168192/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And in case you think it’s mere left-wing propaganda, here are a selection of ESA stories from the media:

http://www.independent.co.uk/topic/esa

https://welfaretales.wordpress.com/category/employment-support-allowance/

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/the-30-cut-to-esa-explained/#.WN4y5zFtnDc

In the interests of fairness, I tried to find some positive stories.  Here’s what I found:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?client=opera&q=esa+success+stories&sourceid=opera&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

There’s to be a lot of anecdotal evidence that what happened to Daniel happens to many people and that claims are routinely refused.  Whistle-blowers in the ‘service’ talk of a culture of trying to put claimants off so as to save money.  Of course, these services are now privately managed, meaning that there is a need to generate profit.

Words fail me: I just feel desperately sorry for people caught in this situation because I could so easily be there too.

If you’re in this situation and need help, don’t despair.  Help is available here:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/sick-or-disabled-people-and-carers/employment-and-support-allowance/while-youre-getting-esa/challenging-an-esa-decision/

Kirk out

Leave a comment

Filed under film reviews, friends and family, politics

Wish I Was Here

Am I here?  Are you here?  Are any of us actually here?

No, that’s not a philosophical question about the reality of this life; it’s a comment on the fact that many of us are, for much of the time, not fully present.  We are distracted.  We are talking to someone and a text arrives.  ‘I’d better get this,’ we say.  Why?  Or we are looking at a terrific view and our first thought is to take a photo and upload it to Facebook.  Why?  What could be better than just appreciating the view?  Or we are walking to work past a magnificent magnolia tree (it’s that time of year right now!) and we don’t notice it because we’re in a hurry or thinking about that meeting or phone call or email.  It’s spring, people!  But do we notice?

I first started to change my bad habits when I lived in Madrid.  It became clear to me that I wouldn’t be there forever; so I made a conscious effort to notice things: the architecture, the sky, the light, the art; everything I came across.  There is beauty everywhere, even if you live in a dump, as the film ‘American Beauty’ shows in that scene with the carrier bag.  Carrier bags are not considered to be beautiful, but they can be: look at the picture above and try to get past your feelings of disgust at the way plastic pollutes the world.  Is it not beautiful?  It flies in the wind with its own grace.  There’s beauty in everything if you want to see it.  But in order to see it you have to stop and look.

Much has been written about the desirability of doing one thing at a time.  If I was having dinner with someone who was continually on their mobile, I’d walk out: similarly to arrive at a beautiful location and just take photos is an insult to the location.

When I began to study yoga I was introduced to the idea that happiness comes from concentration.  By concentration I don’t mean a ‘Rodin’s Thinker’ style screwing up of the attention but an unbroken flow, like when you’re completely absorbed in a book or film (or person).  This, I learned, is the reason why new things make us happy – because we focus on them completely.  They absorb us.  But that soon fades and if we’re not careful we seek the next new thing, instead of learning that it’s the focus that matters, not the thing.

So in order to be happy we merely have to be present.

Are you here?

Kirk out

2 Comments

Filed under film reviews, friends and family, yoga