Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Question.

This is the second instalment of Stephen Chapman's monthly 'Q' feature.

This month's question:-

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

and my answer:-

Buggered if I can think of anything!

- or, to slightly enlarge on that curt response, I can't think of anything that doesn't merit the rejoinder "So why don't you take/haven't you taken the advice?" - to which I have no satisfactory answer.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Uninvited Guest

A few months ago I wrote about my concern that 'Ginger' was trying to move in here with my own two. Although he still visits daily I'm pretty sure now that he does have his own home elsewhere and there's less chance that he'll try to live here permanently.. His home may even be the house next door.
He really is a little devil, getting too big for his pussy-boots. He's far younger (a couple of years?) than Blackso and Noodles, though he's growing rapidly, not least with the help of the extra feeds he's getting from me.
He thinks he's the boss. When the other two are sleeping he'll creep up to them and suddenly give them a wallop, as though testing that they're still alive. Also, he'll jump onto them when they're walking away or if he is the one who's sleeping, as he does quite often in my flat, when one of the others want to pass by him he'll wake up and, without hesitation, give them a smack - just to assert his rule, I suppose. Naturally, I'm not exempted either from his little 'reminders'. I think my two are a bit frightened of him.
Only pity is that he's conspicuously still 'intact' (unlike my two) - and I don't suppose his owners are going to get him doctored now, which could well mean that he'll get more aggressive. But, as at present, all their antics just crease me up with their impromptu non-stop entertainment.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Trying to ignore the 'jumbo' in the those BAFTAs

It's now nearly three weeks since being diagnosed with diabetes (Type 2 - as at now). It's been dominating all my waking hours, colouring every single thing I do - yet I don't want to go on bleating about my 'unfortunate' lot when there are millions on millions of people all over the globe who are not only in a very much worse situation than I am but who'd give almost anything to change places with me. So I spend a significant part of each day counting my blessings and hope that 'Jumbo' will at least go to sleep for a long while, enough for me to start forgetting his presence. I know he can't disappear. Anyway, the thrice-daily tablets to be taken will, unfortunately, remain as a constant reminder.


I've been tempted to bring forward my second-ever film review blog (due early in March) to pre-empt being influenced by the Oscar awards - not that it will, as I've already got short notes of what I'm going to say on the seven films I've seen so far this month. So I'll leave it for a couple of weeks more.

But just a couple of comments on the BAFTAs - I was really disappointed that 'Hugo' didn't win any major awards, being so remarkable a film - as also, but to a lesser extent,  'The Descendants'. But I was reasonably happy about the awards to Messrs Dujardin and Streep, though I didn't think the award to Christopher Plummer was anything more than "Better give him an award before he croaks!" - and yet again here we have a straight man playing a gay guy. (How very brave of him!) Not that he was bad - he certainly wasn't. I just didn't think his performance, or indeed the role, was anything exceptional.
And I do now regret not seeing 'The Help' when I'd had the chance. I was put off by more than one review who found its attitude towards what used to be called 'black people' insufferably condescending. If I do get the opportunity again, which I hope I do, I'll certainly make the effort to see it.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Question - "Is Madge infallible?"

On the IMDb site (where anyone can rate and write a review of any film) as at today, 38% of 1106 people have given Madonna's first film as director, 'W.E.', a perfect 10/10 as a score, while 28% have given it the minimum rating of 1/10.
One would think that the in-between possible scores would be gradually graded, with increasing percentages approaching each end. But no - only one of the intermediate percentages is over 5% of total votes, and that only very slightly. So, opinions seem to be largely polarised.
I may be doing some an injustice but I'm assuming that a significant proportion of those who gave this film a max score (presumably because for them it's absolutely perfect in every possible way) opine that the lady just cannot do anything wrong and is beyond criticism. Dare I even ask if some were already prepared to give the film the maximum rating of "films-just cannot-get-any-better-than-this!" even before they'd seen it?
Having now viewed 'W.E.' myself, I find it hardly credible that anyone can think this film completely faultless - but, to be honest, I have never given any film a '10' - and those I've seen to which I've given even a just less-than-perfect score of '9' can be numbered on the fingers of one hand.
However, I cannot make a corresponding assumption that those who have scored it a measly 1/10 have such an aversion to La Ciccone that they think of her as simply unable to put a foot right, otherwise they would not have forked out good money to see this film in the first place. I therefore posit that those who scored it at minimum would tend to be more open-minded and had been prepared to give the film the benefit of the doubt. Is my logic at fault?

If you want to know what my own score was (you already know it wasn't a '10') you'll have to wait for the second instalment of my new monthly film review blog which will next appear shortly after the end of the month .
Oh, and btw, I used to be a totally keen Madonna fan, from the beginning ('Holiday' and 'Like A Virgin') up to and including the 1998 'Ray of Light' album. Since then, must admit that my enthusiasm, though still there to some degree, is not as fevered as it once was - and anyway, I'm gradually losing touch and sympathy with pop music anyway as I advance in years.

But am I eagerly awaiting the next Madonna-directed film? Ah, that would be telling!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Here it comes at last - 'Ray's Report on Recently Released Films' - seen Jan 2012

The 'Raybeard' award for 'Film of the Month' goes to.................. 'HUGO' - with a score of 8/10.
Congratulations to all concerned - but especially to Mr S.
Well done, Sir!

Other contenders, in datal order of viewing were:-

Mission Impossible: Ghost protocol  (7)  
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows  (5)
The Artist  (7)
The Iron Lady  (7.5)
Shame  (6.5) 
Coriolanus (7)
J.Edgar (5)
Haywire (6)

Now an additional word or two on some of them:-

'THE ARTIST' - very original (at least for the 21st century!), brilliantly executed though the storyline rather thin and predictable. But overall, it's definitely a remarkable and memorable film.

'THE IRON LADY' - nothing at all to complain about in Ms Streep (voice, especially, uncannily accurate). If anyone wants to see it as some sort of true account of the times they'll be misled. Very broad brush-strokes, but so what? - it's a film for entertainment, not a documentary!  Apart from a brief period of the Falklands victory celebrations it looked as if the entire country was in the grip of non-stop anti-Thatcher riots.This was actually far from the case. She did, after all, win three successive General Elections  (despite my own efforts in voting against her and her party in not only these three but every single local and European election during her terms!) Slightly disappointed that so much time was devoted to Mrs T in her present state of dotage - and could have done with a tad more political cut-and-thrust in her life as a politician, but what we got was more than admirable. A fine achievement of a film.

'CORIOLANUS' - I'm probably one of not many who know the play reasonably well, having read it at least a dozen times, though never seen it on stage.  The updated setting worked effectively and the savage but necessary cutting of the Bard's text (by well more than half) was judiciously done, clarifying and making more sense of the story.  Both Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler (the latter looking as hot as he ever has) play very well. Although it's true that Vanessa Redgrave is a blisteringly dominating presence whenever on screen (you just can't take your eyes of her!) I do wish that she, of all people, could have been more audibly articulate. There were times when she seemed to be mouthing the words with no sound coming out at all. We had to be lip-readers! Overall, though, a good, high recommendation.

'J. EDGAR' - It saddens me to say that a Clint Eastwood film could have been better, but I didn't think there was anything really special about this one. On specifics, although Leo d/C can be a good actor, I think he was miscast in this film. He doesn't have enough gravitas to carry off the role of what was, essentially, a megalomaniac monster. (More 'oomph' needed! Broderick Crawford in the 1977 film 'The Private Files of J.Edgar Hoover' did have the required heft and physical bulk.) Also, the prosthetics covering his natural baby-looking face in order to present us with the aged Hoover, were not that successful - actually distracting, in fact. But they were as nothing compared to those given to the Clyde Tolson character, who looked positively embalmed! Most disturbing. Also, I find it difficult to see Judi Dench popping up nowadays all over the place in widely differing roles. She always gives a very good performance, but I can't now see her acting without seeing her more as an actress playing a role. (I'm also afraid of seeing the marvellous Helen Mirren going the same way.)

'HAYWIRE' - reasonable but also forgettable. By the time it got round to the 'this explains all what's gone before' final few minutes I didn't really care and couldn't be bothered with following it. Having said that, it did have its share of quite entertaining 'moments'. 

And a final word on this month's winner, 'HUGO'. Even though I only saw it in the 2-D version I could see that it was something special within the first minute or so. I even forgave the cliched accordion on the soundtrack (and which we actually glimpse) - Hint: This is Paris, FRANCE! Ooh La la!
The visual style did make me think of another exceptional film of recent years, the 'genuinely' French film 'Amelie' , which, I loved, though I'm aware that it has its detractors. But 'Hugo' was a thrill from start to finish, with very fine acting throughout, including Sacha Baron-Cohen who, after his memorable turn in 'Sweeney Todd', continues to surprise me with his versatility. I don't expect to see many more films this year as good as 'Hugo' - and will be lucky to see one significantly better. A jolly good film - and from me (who has never given a perfect 10 to any film) a score of 8/10 is an accolade indeed.

Till my report on February's films, then - THAT'S ALL FOLKS!


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Devastated by news 16 hours ago - but been given a reprieve

It wasn't so much being designated as diabetic yesterday morning. A nuisance, yes, but I can live with it as being one of those things about getting older. It was the telephone call at 6 p.m. from my doctor:-

"I'm afraid that on testing the (urine) specimen you brought in today, it's showing something I'd rather not have found. We've detected 'ketones', and if it's confirmed it'll mean you having to go into hospital. But it could be a one-off."

I was knocked backwards. I've never ever been in hospital once in my entire life, and it's been a lifelong dread. My worst nightmare. Speechless.
He wanted me to come in next day (today) as early as possible (it needed to be dealt with urgently) taking another specimen for examination.

I rang my sister with the news, the first and closest person in the world I can turn to immediately. Unfortunately, like my two surviving brothers, she lives 300 miles away. When I told her, it didn't help for me to have broken down straight away. She was as shocked as I was, offering comfort and consolation - as well as prayers (she's very Catholic-religious), even saying that she'd come down here if I really wanted. There's no way I can have that. She is now 74, her husband, 79, and they've got not only their own health issues but a very large extended family, each parent, child and grandchild having its own problems. (My brother-in-law is very supportive too, and far more level-headed in moments of family crisis than any of the rest of us).

What upset me at least as much as going into hospital was what was to happen to my dear pussy-cats. I don't know a single soul in the area who could take care of them, so the only thing would be the cattery - with those outside kennels (albeit 'heated', as they say) under the sharp frosts we are now getting every night. And for how long? Days? Weeks? Perhaps months? Would I ever even see them again?
My younger brother rang me after my sister had given him the news, generously offering all the money I needed for the cattery or anything else. I was quite overwhelmed by his offer, though I wasn't too surprised as generosity has always been his style.

Anyway, after a night which was largely given over to lying awake, I did get some comfort in a dream which saw me in Paris (of all places) having this second test done by a doctor (not my own) and who came out with a negative result, after which I found myself air-gulping deeply before I could get any words of relief out.

My appointment this morning was at 7.50. I'd got out of bed at 4.45, sitting silently, most of the time, just waiting for the hour to arrive.
I don't recall walking the 20 minutes to the surgery. Must have looked like a zombie - mind in another world.
When my name was called, I went in like an automoton, sat down - and burst into tears. Not a pretty sight.
He asked if I was upset at my being diagnosed as diabetic. I told him that it wasn't so much that, it was the thought of going into hospital for my first time ever - and that I have so much to sort out first. (I didn't mention the cats.) He tried to reassure me on the lines of "Let's not talk about that until we've checked this specimen." He took the bottle, went to the basin, put something into it and then a suspenseful minute (which seemed more like an hour) as we waited in silence, me still trying to stifle my sobs. Then he announced "Ah, you're okay. You don't have 'ketones'". I think he expected me to jump for joy as he repeated it. "That's what you wanted to hear, wasn't it? YOU DO NOT HAVE KETONES!". I suppose I ought to have expressed some gratitude but my emotions had been so much through the wringer, I couldn't turn them around just like that. At first I  couldn't absorb what he was saying, but the message gradually seeped in.
     He told me that, given that I'm negative on the test, the situation was now the same as it had been yesterday morning - start taking the new diabetes medication, see the diabetes nurse in 2 weeks and see him again in 4 weeks. I muttered a thanks, trying to smile through the drying tears, and walked back slowly - not with a spring in my step, but the relief at the news was getting through to my addled mind at last.

It's now 2 hours since I returned. I rang my sister and my brother, who were both appropriately relieved  - and my two pussy cats are sleeping just a few feet away from me now, entirely oblivious of the emotional shake-up I've just been through.

    So that's the position, my friends.

I'm feeling a bit too raw to do the promised film-review blog right now. I may come back to post it later today, but I think it's more likely to be tomorrow.

Btw: I found out from the internet that 'ketones' are produced when the body can't use energy from food-intake but has to use the body's own fats for its energy supply. It seems I'm not at that stage - yet.


Tuesday, 31 January 2012

'bye, Sugar!

Well, hardly a surprise, but after tests I was this morning officially diagnosed as a diabetic, joining the ranks of many millions all over the globe.
Obviously it's something one doesn't like to see happen but put in the context of people living with the Big 'C' or the Big 'A', my health problems are really quite puny. Indeed, with this latest addition to my little 'list' of high blood pressure and a few varicose veins in one calf, I know that there are very many people with much more serious conditions who would gladly swap what they have with what I've got, so moaning about it would be totally selfish - indeed, it's further reason to count my own blessings. I'm also pretty sure that there must be, among those with whom I have regular blog-contact, several having the same condition. Anyway, I'm now a fully-qualified member of the 'club'.
C'est la vie!

Right, enough of that. Tomorrow, I hope, will be my first film blog, and I'm looking forward to posting it.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Future Attraction - My New Monthly Film Report

    Shame that only now I've thought about sharing my film-watching experiences. Been listing every film I've seen since 1966 (only those viewed in a cinema count), and, rather wastefully, have been keeping it all to myself. (4,353 films to date) For the most recent twenty of those years they've each been given a score, but not so much in terms of being an intrinsically bad/good film (I don't feel qualified to do that), rather more for  its appeal to me alone - in terms of enjoyment, profundity, my being moved or its being clever etc.

     My monthly blog may be particularly useful to avid cinema-goers as they'll be for films which have only recently been given release (at least here in the U.K.) and may well still be in cinema circulation - so if anyone thinks my opinion carries any weight, and s/he was vacillating about seeing it at all, it may not be too late to see it in the format for which it was intended.
    I can't say how long I'll continue going to the cinema regularly. I've long since reduced the frequency of visits, generally because of the expense - and now with question marks appearing over my health, I don't know if there'll be the desire or even the ability to carry on and on. I certainly can't see myself going frequently after hitting the age of 70 in 5 years time - but then when I started at around 19/20 I didn't think I'd be doing much cinema-going after reaching 40! So whether it's for just a few years more, or perhaps even just a few months, I'll post a cinema blog shortly after the end of each month. (2012 has got off to a good start. I've already seen eight films, with possibly two more in the next couple of days).

    I must also acknowledge Stephen Chapman's most interesting and admirably concise monthly movie blog @
http://the state of the  

   My 'reports' will differ from Stephen's in that the choice will be more narrowly focused. Whereas his blog covers a wide range of films, as well as covering a considerable time-range of original release date, mine are biased towards so-called 'art-house' films, and will all be recent releases. I do see certain kinds of block-busters too (e.g.all the 'Harry Potters', 'Missions Impossible' etc) but, essentially for financial reasons, I tend now to avoid films which I'm unlikely to like, because of critics' views or what I already know about them (such as the recent 'War Horse').. Consequently, most of my film scores turn out to get either the average score of 5/10 as a minimum, or higher- though sometimes an occasional low score will get through where it would have been better to have saved the money. Long gone are the days when I used to see everything within reason, whether wanting to or not.

So, in a few days time the first one will appear. We all hope for favourable reactions to what we post, though I'm aware that feelings towards film can be so subjective and I'm prepared for words of disbelief at some of the scores I'll be giving.

Anyway, let's give it a spin and see what happens.