Sunday, 18 March 2012

A Beard's-Eye View

Wishing that the weather would stop shilly-shallying and really get to Spring, but it can't be far off now as my eyes have started itching, meaning  hay-fever's on its way...............Been shamefully neglectful of my doctor's advice to take regular exercise in the form of (at least) of a longish brisk walk daily to help boost body's insulin production. - No excuses.................In this Dickens anniversary year re-reading all the 14 major novels (+ the uncompleted 'Drood') and currently half-way through 'Barnaby Rudge', his fifth..................Hoping that George Osborne, our Chancellor of the Exchequer, pulls something out of the hat in Wednesday's budget for us recipients of low(est)-incomes...........Although always loved quizzes, don't like TV Quiz shows which give contestants a choice of possible answers, often just three. There's no 'skill' when chance has such a large part. You either know it or you don't!...............Why do people say "I am a Christian!" without also giving an indication of where they stand on the spectrum from 'progressive liberal' right through to 'ultra-conservative'?  It's as meaningless as saying "I'm a politician!" without further elaboration, though my own observation is that those who shout loudest about their religion also tend to be more reactionary.............I've had this computer for 6.5 years now - and it takes a maddening 30-45 minutes (sometimes longer) after switching on, for it to start up and connect. Surely there must be faster ways by now - but lack of finance prohibits..............Feeling guilty about not reading so many other blogs in last few days, and commenting on even fewer of them. But take consolation in it being a phase that most bloggers seem to go through, only to return in force after a short(?) interval.............

   (Well that's cleared some of the 'clutter' - until it builds up again)    

Friday, 9 March 2012

Will this be FOURTH time lucky?

For financial reasons I necessarily have to be selective regarding which films I go to see. I decided not to spend on this one first time round, being put off by two reviews which thought it condescending to non-white people. (I can never keep up with what is the latest p.c.-acceptable term.) Having given it a miss, I began to think I'd made a mistake when other reviews I encountered were not only more positive but even laudatory. Then came the Oscar for Viola Davis (thanks to Paul, in comment below, for correcting the name to Octavia Spencer) as' Best Supporting Actress' and by then I was really regretting my decision.
Hoping to catch it on any fortuitous special repeat showings, I first found that it was to be a single matinee playing a fortnight ago at a cinema about 20 miles away, which would have cost me (combining train fare and admission price) about £14 (Over $20 American). However, I decided to go. But, checking on the Internet the day before, I found that this showing had been completely booked out. (It was showing at a small 'art-house' cinema, seating about 80.)
    Then I found there was going to be a one-off showing yesterday morning at a cinema in Brighton at one of their special weekly shows for 'Senior Citizens' (with free coffee and bickies!) at a price of just £3 (under $5) - and I could use my free bus pass to get there. Trouble was, it was also the morning of my pre-booked appointment at the podiatry clinic for my first post-diabetes assessment examining the state of my feet, which was rather too important for me to request a postponement - I'd only discovered the clash the previous day. So more frustration.
     Then today I've only just found out that it's to be shown, for just one afternoon, actually at the cinema closest to me here in Worthing at the end of this month. Will anything prevent me seeing it this time? I hope not - but if this really is to be the fourth time lucky, all I can say is that it had better be good!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

RECENTLY RELEASED FILMS seen by me in a cinema during Feb 2012 - with my personal ratings (+ some opinions)

There were only three contenders for my much-coveted 'Raybeard Award for Film of the Month'. It took a little heart-searching (though only a little), finally to present it to:-

This type of 'lotta talk/little action' film is right up my street. It's the kind of entertainment I revel in. The sort of film in which Woody Allen, when at his best, was supreme. Mine is a very personal reaction which others may not share, but I go to the cinema for my own enjoyment, and this delivered it. More on this superlative piece later.
My complete list of February viewings, in order of seeing, and with my own scores (out of 10) were:-

  Man on a Ledge(4)
W./E. (3)
The Deep Blue Sea (8)
Carnage (8)
The Descendants (7.5)
The Woman in Black (5)
Anonymous (5)
The Woman in the Fifth (5.5)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (6)
Young Adult (5.5)

 Further comments (on some):-

W./E.  I used to be a great fan of Madonna's music, and will still listen to her, though have grown increasingly non-responsive to her records over recent years. But it would be unfair to class me as one of those who is now averse to everything she does. I did go and see this with, I think, an open mind. But I wish I'd saved my money.
    Just exactly what was the point of having two stories running in parallel, with, as far as I could make out, hardly anything in common? Or was that precisely the point? I've said elsewhere that it was rather like flicking between two films running simultaneously on two different channels - save for the fact that Wallis Simpson makes the occasional spectral appearance in the 'other' one . Exactly why, I couldn't begin to fathom. I just found the whole thing irritating.
  I appreciate that the royal romance saga has been dramatised many times, especially on T.V., as well as in documentaries, and so to depict it yet again it needs a fresh perspective. (I could even accept Mrs Simpson dancing energetically to the Sex Pistols!) But this idea of going in tandem with a modern romance for no obvious reason totally lost me.
   Having given it a score of just three, I'm tempted to ask myself exactly what are the these three points for?  Well, I suppose the acting was pretty faultless, so let's just leave it at that.

The Deep Blue Sea    I was really looking forward to this, especially since the recent renaissance of the works of gay playwright, Terence Rattigan - and directed by that master of nostalgic atmosphere, Terence ("I do so loathe being gay.....absolutely loathe it!") Davies.
  I did already know the play quite well, and it is an undoubted masterpiece in my books. But theatre plays transferred to the screen are always cut - and Davies really pares this one down. However, what he's lost in dialogue he mostly makes up very well indeed in atmosphere. His slow-moving visual style is masterful and does the work proud. However, my only quibble is that in reducing the dialogue he's also taken a lot of the verbal histrionics out of it, a feature which works well in the theatre, but is more difficult to sustain on screen. So I can see the justification of it, though I did miss what was not there. Maybe those who don't know the play will not have the same problem I had.
     I was slightly less convinced by Rachel Weisz in the lead, even though Davies himself thought she couldn't have been bettered. I think it needed, possibly, an older person, and hence with a more significant age difference between this character and her lover, she knowing that this was probably her final chance for a physical romance, albeit adulterous, and was ever so desperate not to lose the opportunity. Her resignation at accepting her lot seemed to need a bit more conviction. However, it is on the whole, a most engrossing film.

Carnage Not a film for those who do not like to see theatre pieces transferred to screen (Not for you, then, Stephen.) - and its origins are very evident here. But I loved this.
    Based on 'The Gods of Carnage', a play by Yasmina Reza (who also wrote the play 'Art', which I know and love, and have seen on stage), this four-person chamber-piece, taking place, essentially, in one room, I found so very funny and entertaining. It amuses me to see, in the course of an hour and a half, to see the personal masks of courtesy,  manners and decorum, which we all wear in front of strangers, slowly dissolve away as people get to know each other more - the innocent odd word is taken the wrong way, barbs are noticed and reacted to, criticisms rise to the surface, point-scoring occurs, open bickering ensues until it predictably ends up with everyone verbally tearing everyone else apart. In this film there is a very gradual and carefully realised trajectory. Out of the four actors here, Jodie Foster is amazing. She seems a totally different creature at the end of the film, collapsed in on herself, from the cool, reasonable wife at the start. ( I'd be interested to know if the film was shot in the same running order as the play. I can't see how it could have been done otherwise). The other three players were almost as good, showing us four completely different personalities.
     Only one regret. Right at the end (I think they are, in fact, Kate Winslet's final words in the film) she describes someone as a "faggoty wimp." Whenever I hear this 'f' word - or the 'c-sucker' word' - it feels like a little stab. As the original play was written in French I don't know if the word, as written, was 'pede' (sorry, I don't know how to type accents). It would be an obnoxious term which someone like the Winslet character could have used. But it still hurts me a little.
   But that was the sole thing which I didn't like. Otherwise it's a wonderful film - and I'd not only watch it again, I even more want to see it on stage.

The Descendants  I liked this more than I was expecting to. I reckon this is Mr Clooney at his best. It's a good, simple story. Playing a father of two potty-mouthed daughters, I thought the latter would have been a real turn-off for me - and so they were, at first, but their alienation towards him, especially that of the elder daughter, pointed up the defects in his own former laissez-faire attitude, now regretted. The dialogue is as spiky as the plot. My single regret was that it all got a bit emotionally mushy towards at the end - 'family coming together', sort of thing. I think that mass audiences need this to feel a sense of 'closure', as they say these days. I think it would have been braver and better if, instead of going off arm in arm, they'd ended the film by all going bickering off into the sunset. But all in all, a good film.

The Woman in Black I saw the play in the West End shortly after it opened (now been running in London for over 20 years) and after seeing it I dismissed it to my companion as 'juvenile claptrap'. My friend agreed.  How on earth it's still running is unfathomable to me. The theatre play (with just two actors) was based on the Susan Hill book of the same name. Now the film opens it out considerably - but is still not entirely successful for me. 
Daniel Radcliffe, despite his facial stubble, still looks far too young for the lead. All the standard cliches of a haunted-house film are there in the first 30 minutes. But some of the purported 'shocks' only make the audience jump because of a loud thump or crash on the soundtrack, That's not skilful film-making - that's cheating!. However I have to confess that there was one point where I did indeed jump and which elicited screams from the audience, though that was just the once.
      So, not actually bad - but ought to have been better.

Anonymous A film based on the notion that Shakespeare wasn't written by Shakespeare - a hardly startling or original idea, but which I put in the same category as 'Diana was Murdered' i.e. an interesting story, and certainly a better story, but until someone comes up with hard evidence I remain sceptical. As some of the actors putting their household names to the theory by taking part in this handsomely-mounted film - Vanessa Redgrave, Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance - one must take notice of their worthwhile opinions. But I'm not lying awake at night wondering who actually did write Shakespeare - Was it really his contemporary, the Earl of Essex, just one of the several alternative possibilities, which is played out here? (Yawn!)..

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel I usually like ensemble-piece films (Steven Soderbergh, Robert Altman, Woody Allen, of course) and this is one of them. Includes Judi Dench (yet again!), Maggie Smith (yet again!) and Tom Wilkinson (yet again!), the latter playing gay - and quite unconvincingly.  But the film did have a few 'moments'. Unfortunately nearly all of them are in the film's trailer, before it all disappears, in the last half hour or so, in a wash of sentiment.


(for the moment)

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.