Wednesday, 26 January 2011

My little 'guilty' TV pleasure

I'm not an avid TV watcher - can't be bothered with any soaps, 'talent' shows or cookery/ gardening/fashion programmes. 'Big Bro' is out, as are comedy series (the latter with one or two British exceptions - okay, in recent times Ricky Gervais and Steve Coogan). Animal programmes too are to be avoided as I can't bear to see them suffering, even in a natural environment, or being used as entertainment. I tend to gravitate towards arty-farty factual programmes, some science (partic. Astronomy), and political issues and discussions.
However there is one type of show which doesn't fit into any of the above categories which I do enjoy, and which seems a bit at odds with the rest of my tastes. These are real-life cop shows, where we follow them chasing speeders and drunken drivers, arresting burglars, breaking into drug-suspects' houses, breaking up drunken brawls, nabbing the occasional flasher etc. I experience quite a dose of schadenfreude on seeing miscreants caught, arrested and being told of their subsequent fines/imprisonment. Don't know why this should be as I'm not an especial fan of the police, with my deeply ingrained memories of how so many of them used to be prejudiced and corrupt, though that seems to be nowhere near as bad now as it was in the past. I really do applaud their apprehension of genuine wrong-doers. (And, as a bonus, some of them look so attractively macho in their uniforms!) My watching of these programmes is not quite an addiction but it does round off my evening with a glow of satisfaction knowing that at least some unsociable acts are being stamped on. Maybe it helps me feel safer and, consequently, think that I may sleep better.

Monday, 17 January 2011

My 1,500th book

It's been said that a keen reader will get through around 2,000 books in an average lifetime. Well, I lost a bit of time in being 24 before the reading bug really bit me. Now, as I'm about to reach a landmark number (excluding around 250 re-reads) I'm wondering if I will ever reach the 2K figure, but no matter. (By the way, I reckon that only about 100 of the total to date have been non-fiction).
So what's this particular next one going to be? Well, a book which not that many will have heard of - Elizabeth Gaskell's 'Wives and Daughters' dating from the 1860s. It's her last and unfinished novel, but still runs to 600+ pages. I hadn't read any Mrs Gaskell until a few years ago when I started with 'North and South' and followed it with 'Mary Barton', both very readable, and, like her contemporary, Dickens, very much creations concerning the social mores of their time.
The book I only finished just this morning was Garrison Keillor's quite entertaining 'Lake Wobegone Days'. (We can hear back-editions of 'Prairie Home Companion' on one of our digital radio channels, which I do occasionally listen to.)
After I've read the Gaskell, next on the list will be my (at least) 6th reading of Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina' - in a different translation from my previous encounters with this masterpiece, so maybe it ought to be counted as a 'first read'! ' Expert' opnion is that 'Karenina' is superior to 'War and Peace'. That may well be so but it's actually the latter which for me is unparalleled in Western literature for sheer awesome range of imagination. Microcosm and macrocosm as never before or since in a single novel. But 'Karenina' (and 'Resurrection', especially) would be extraordinary works anyway in the canon of anyone who hadn't also written 'W & P'.

Right, enough chatting - let's get started on 'Wives and Daughters'.


Oh, as an add-on to this blog, and on a completely different subject, must say I'm totally flummoxed by 'The Social Network' winning the Golden Globe for 'Best Picture'. Did those voting for it really hear the dialogue, because, as I've said before, for 3/4 of the film I couldn't make out a single mumbled word! The award is a total mystery to me - and I fear that my perplexity will probably return at Oscar time. (I'm certainly not complaining about Colin Firth and Annette Bening winning their categories.)

Friday, 7 January 2011

My dynamic duo (again)

How rude!


Making his mind up.



Blackso and Noodles, usually so cagey towards each other (a sort of grudging tolerance) are rarely seen in such close proximity. But when it's feeding time such niceties come second.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

My Cinema Highs & Lows 2010

Only made 77 visits this year, my 3rd-lowest count since 1974. Anyway, let's get on with it.
In the order of seeing them, with the odd 'clue' for some, and with a * indicating really good, the best for me were:-

Sherlock Holmes (Dir: Guy Ritchie)
*Nowhere Boy (Re: pre-Beatles John Lennon)
*Nine
The Road
Un Prophete
*Invictus (Clint Eastwood back on form)
*Exam (8 candidates sit exam. Question paper blank. Gradual elimination follows. Intriguing)
Micmacs
*Precious
*The Ghost (Polanski's best in years - No, decades!)
I am Love (Italian film - Tilda Swinton's love interest, Edoardo Gabriellini, such a hottie!)
Lourdes (French film located at the pilgrimage site. Well-balanced tale of seeking miracle)
The Bad Lieutenant - Port of call New Orleans (Good, despite my not being fan of N. Cage)
The Killer Inside Me (probably most controversial of year. Graphic violence against 2 women)
The Brothers Bloom
Lebanon (Israel - set almost entirely within an army tank. Remarkable)
*Inception
Gainsbourg
Partir (French film with Kristen Scott-Thomas excelling in French-speaking role)
Cyrus (John C. Reilly playing very well, as usual, in film which pleasantly surprised me)
Metropolis (The Classic! - now for first time showing virtually complete.)
Buried (along with 'Cyrus' above, tale of being buried alive I hadn't expected to like, but did.)
*Another Year (Mike Leigh, with 'Inception''s Christopher Nolan, has yet to make a dud film!)
Monsters (this year's brilliantly effective film made on shoestring budget. See, it can be done!)
Catfish (absorbing tale of Facebook deception. Claimed to be true story. Is that also a deception?)
Des Hommes at des Dieux (Factual story - monks in Algeria threatened by Islamists. Moving.)

(Note: I did see the complete 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' trilogy, and though all were pretty good, none of them quite made my final list of honourable mentions.)



And my least enjoyed/what was the fuss about? films:-

Cemetery Junction (Ricky Gervais, whom I usually like, misfiring badly)
Iron Man 2 (not as interesting as the first)
Robin Hood (Russell Crowe as our Robin? 'Ha ha' or 'Ho hum'?)
Avatar (Zzzzzz zzzzzzzz)
Get him to the Greek (Russell Brand failing to be as interesting as he could be - again!)
The Social Network ('cos I couldn't hear what the hell they were talking about! Mumble mumble.)



And the winner of My Best Film is:-

'Inception' - the only film this year I paid to see twice. Intelligent, multi-layered and it lingers in the mind. Ever since 'Memento', Nolan maintains his very high standard.

And my 'razzie' goes to, yes: -

'The Social Network'
As if it wasn't bad enough for two of my most respected British film critics to drool over this film, one of them actually nominating it as 'film of the year', hearing that it's also likely to be nominated for multiple Oscars, including BEST FILM, is the final straw. That just totally pisses me off. Anyway, aside from all the incoherent mumbling through 80% of this 'entertainment' (hah!) I've not only got no interest in computer 'nerdology', 'Facebook' itself is not a big part of my life anyway. So there!


With 2011 beckoning and my financial plight not improving, let's try to save a bit of cash next year by being a bit more discerning. Happy viewing, folks!