Sunday, 27 September 2020

Scary for a few mins but all okay.


Bit of an alarming experience falling out of bed, even moreso for anyone around my age. 

Having now got set into a daily routine of taking a mid-morning nap to make up for the lost hours in having to rise between 3 and 4 a.m. to attend to feline needs by serving them their 'breakfasts' followed by ushering them out and fetching back in where necessary, I returned to bed around 9.30 as is my wont on Sundays, having had my first run-through of the 'Observer', intending to rise in time to catch my weekly compulsory listening to 'Desert Island Discs' (Yusuf Cat Stevens today - unmissable).

More often than not on going to bed there are already one, two, sometimes three pussy-cats before me already snoozing there. Today Bobby and Snowball had already bagged their nicely separated 'territories' and I had to snake my body between them, only to be followed shortly later by Blackso, purring loudly and pounding a lower leg of mine, 'massaging' a calf, in effect. Any shifting around on my part would be unwise if I was to avoid being given a threatening hissy snarl on awakening any of them. Anyway I did manage to sleep for a little while but when the time came for me to leave the three deep sleepers, if I wasn't to disturb them I had to go through a series of contortions to extricate myself, only on this occasion to misjudge my physical centre of gravity and tumble right off the side of the bed with a thump - to look up and find three pairs of wide-open green eyes, censoriously fastened on me sitting there, twisted on the carpet. Now if I'd been younger, or even a sprightlier middle-ager, I would have got up and laughed it off. Unfortunately I'm long past that stage now and just getting on one's feet again in such a situation is no trifling matter. Looking this way and that for something to hold onto so that I could lever myself up, at an age when my muscles feel like they are trying to lift all dead-weight, I was sitting there on the carpet for at least a quarter of an hour, the cats having returned unconcerned to their dozings, my evident distress not being their worth to worry about, and probably with some irritation at me having interrupted their repose. Anyway, after struggling every which way, finally with the help of a door knob as a fixed fulcrum I did manage to haul myself up onto the edge of the bed again, panting and puffing like a steam train, but with considerable relief. When I'd gone down it was onto a hip and I did wonder if I might have injured myself, but it only took a few more minutes to recover from a trifling soreness, and soon I was right as rain again. But for a short while I did have some serious concerns as to my well-being. 

It's not by any means the first time such as this has happened, the last time was maybe four or five years ago when I tripped right over in the same room. Simply getting up, and beside the same bed once more, took me even longer to get over than today's mishap. I fear that today won't be the last time either.

Oh, the 'joys' of senility, which I guess most of you haven't started to experience yet! It's a laugh a minute, I tell you!


Friday, 4 September 2020

Film: 'Hope Gap'


So, after several times declaring that after the cinemas have re-opened my excursions thereto will be far less frequent than in the past, here am I, just three days since the last such visit, back again. Justification? Annette Bening. I'll see just about anything in which she features and here, in the starring role, she is utterly marvellous! With an exceptionally high-standard script by William Nicholson (who also directs) concerning a failing marriage it's essentially a human drama involving just three people, the ageing couple and their 20-something son. The husband is the ever-dependable Bill Nighy who, even if he seems invariably to play much same character, he is perfectly cast in this. Their only offspring is well represented by Josh O'Connor. 

The story is based on Wm Nicholson's own experiences as he witnessed the collapse of his parents' marriage, with his own very solid script carrying the conviction of someone who's seen it happen first-hand. (He also penned the award-winning C.S. Lewis play , 'Shadowlands', later filmed by Richard Attenborough).

This was filmed last year in a location less then 30 miles away from where I'm typing this, along the English Channel coast. 'Hope Gap', which I'd never heard of is, I learn, one of this shoreline's local features. 

Annette Bening is, unusually, playing English. I can only recall her doing it once before, in Ian McKellan's 'Richard III' of 1995. In 'Hope Gap' although her accent does falter a few times I didn't find it so much as to be  distracting. 

After 29 years of marriage she remains a non-working housewife while Nighy is a history teacher to teenage pupils, dutifully coming home at predicted times to routine cups of tea over desultory conversation with his wife where his lack of enthusiasm and inability to respond with emotion is, though she doesn't say it outright, getting on her nerves. The nub of the story is that he eventually plucks up the courage, after telling his son, to inform her that he's going to leave the marriage - and why. She's incredulous at first, not understanding why he doesn't want to work at saving the relationship. With sharp words exchanged, nearly all from her own side, he walks out on her, leaving both her and their son distraught. The body of the film concerns her fight to hold on to their marriage and his conviction that it's beyond hopeless to even attempt it. One might have thought there'd be a lot of shouty arguments, but while there are just a few points where Bening does raise her voice, - though there's no yelling, nothing headache-y - Nighy tries to retain sang-froid throughout, and largely succeeds, at least on the surface, he remaining softly spoken right through the personal upheaval.

I think the film works so well and is so convincing because the writer has written of what realistically did happen. Although in no way an 'action' film - very wordy, in fact - my attention never wandered once. One regret I did have is that a key encounter takes place close to the film's end, and the very last words of that exchange are uttered so under-the-breath that I didn't catch them at all, nor can guess what they were despite that moment being so crucial.

Bill Nighy in any film always commands one's attention even if he happens to be a background figure in a scene, though he's never so in this. But the undoubted true star here is Bening who has me going so far as to rate her performance here as possibly the best she has ever given. (Pity that the entire audience at the screening I attended was comprised of me alone).

You will note that the two average ratings stated below are nothing like I suggest. I have indeed seen more than just one being rather sniffy, one declaring the film to be 'old-fashioned', which may well be true. I can only reveal that out of all the films I've seen so far this year (yes, all fourteen of them!) this one has given me the most satisfaction of them all..........8.

(IMDb............6.6 / Rott.Toms.........3.8 out of 5 )

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Film: 'Tenet'


Not the significant event of a film I'd been counting on as a returning 'welcome back' gesture into a cinema, any cinema, after very nearly six months enforced absence. 
I've been a great fan of Christopher Nolan as director ever since 2000's 'Memento' which I'm sure would make an appearance in my '20 All-Time Favourite Films' list - as well as 'Insomnia' (2002) and 'Inception' (2010), this last being a certain entry in my fifty best. Yet this latest of his has had some remarkably good reviews, with more than one I've seen citing this as his best to date. Sorry, I can't agree.

For a film of 2 hrs 30 mins length one does expect a certain level of cohesion and cogency but I was, frankly, all at sea within minutes of the start. Just who were these characters? For whom were they working? What were they fighting over? That the entire world was at stake, I got, but the motives and plots behind the story remained a mystery to me throughout. To add to the confusion the final half hour or more is given over to a battle between two armies. Just who was fighting whom, God only knows! There was some race against time with thumping background score to keep us on the edge of our seats, but over what? Amid all the clamorous explosions, gunfire, as well as fist fights (and throwing near-at-hand objects at each other), most of the participants were for much of the time in head-to-foot camouflage gear, and helmeted and visored, so I got completely lost as to just who was who. 

An original feature of this film (we are given a number of illustrations of it in the film's earlier stages) is that in several scenes time goes both backwards and forwards simultaneously, the direction of travel depending on the character, not only in the combat scenes but also in an extended car chase with lots of crashes which, in reverse time mode, the vehicles 'de-crash' themselves. And in the culminating noisy confrontation, blown-up buildings reverse their demolition. Presumably such is reflected in the choice of a palindromic word as the film's title. But putting that aside, was the film confusing? You bet! And what was the point of having this time reversal thingy anyway?

The main character - and the principal 'goodie' - referred to simply as 'The Protagonist' is played by the likeable John David Washington (above, so good in Spike Lee's 'BlackKklansman' of 2018) though here he's as invincible and as quickly recovering from injury as 007 would himself be.

So we know that 'The Protagonist' is going to save the world as we can surmise from his otherwise blank name, but the rest of the cast - Elizabeth Debicki, and even Robert Pattinson and Aaron Taylor-Johnson - can they really be trusted as to which side they are actually on even if they are colleagues of the 'Protagonist'? But there's no such ambiguity as to Kenneth Branagh's character, a nasty, sadistic Russian oligarch and megalomaniac (Boo! Hissssss!) who'd easily give Ernst Stavro Blofeld a run for his money. In addition, Sir Michael Caine makes an early two-minute (max) cameo.

I'd been wishing that I'd taken the trouble to have seen this film on an Imax screen, which would have been possible with a little travelling, but I doubt if it would have changed my ultimate opinion of it. But what might have made a difference is that I saw it at a cinema which does not have the best sound quality, making yet more pronounced my frequent difficulty of understanding much of the dialogue. I wish I'd seen it subtitled which I could have done but would have meant going out in the dark which is not feasible nowadays. That should have cleared up quite a bit of the confusion I felt on what the hell it was all about ought. 

As you'd expect with this director, there are a number of visually impressive set-piece 'chapters', perhaps the most memorable being at the start in a crowded concert hall. However, I think that around two-thirds through a film which requires an amount of concentration, I was aware of my attention starting to flag and visual and aural fatigue gaining hold.

Despite 'Inception' also having itself many enigmatic strands, some never fully explained, I was at least glued to the screen and intrigued by what was happening throughout - and I paid to see it again on a cinema screen. Not so with 'Tenet'........6.

(IMDb................8 / Rott.Toms...........4.4 out of 5 )      


Thursday, 27 August 2020

Cinema visits returning.


Though now they'll likely be very sporadic.

Booked to see the eagerly-awaited (by me) 'Tenet' at this local seafront cinema next Tuesday, which'll be just two days shy of six months since seeing my last film.

Told you this posting was going to be concise.

Monday, 24 August 2020

The Curse of the Growling Stomach.

Don't know why this subject should have occurred to me this morning, but as I've not seen it mentioned in anyone's blog before, well why not give it a shot?

I don't suffer from the 'condition' now as far as I'm aware, but in younger days it used to cause me acute embarrassment.

The pinnacle of these blush-causing experiences was (and I've only ever mentioned it to one person - and it cracked him up!) way back in 1970 when, at the age of 24, I went to the cinema to see the newly-released film of Michelangelo Antonioni, one of my favourite directors, his 'Zabriskie Point' - a film largely forgotten now but in those more 'innocent' days was considered a shocking breakthrough in on-screen depiction of raw sex (hetero, naturally) - tame by today's standards when hard-core porn is freely available 'on tap' as it were (or so I've been led to believe!) Anyway, that's by the way.
Before the film I'd indulged myself in a 'meal' of one large, boiled cauliflower (then and still now my favourite vegetable), and nothing else with it. And so, stomach replete with contentment, made my way to the cinema and took my usual circle seat - this was in the days when nearly all cinemas were huge, single-screen auditoria, and if one sat in a certain place in the circle one could look down and see the front rows of the stalls below.
The film began and it wasn't long before I became aware of 'rumblings' within my person. They progressively grew in intensity of sound......and grew.......and grew. Now, as bad luck would have it, the film was not only given over to long periods of silence (long, soundless sequences with slow-moving camerawork being one of Antonioni's 'trademark' techniques) but most of it was set in or near California's Death Valley - hence the film's title - so the visuals were filmed in blazing sunlight from a cloudless desert sky, thus lighting up the entire cinema audience. So every time I 'rumbled', people were starting to turn around and look to see just where this annoyingly distracting sound was originating, in what ought to have otherwise been total silence. It got worse and worse, with me trying to sink lower in my seat. It soon dawned on me that I wasn't going to be able last out this worrying humiliation. The film wasn't yet even half-way through. I would just have to wait for a dark scene when I could creep out of the cinema relatively unnoticed. But would the screen get dark? Would it hell! I waited.....and waited......stomach rumbling on like approaching thunder. The final straw came when, unable in any way to hold it back, a stentorian growl came forth like a lion's roar, reverberating all around the place so that even a couple in the stalls way below me turned round and looked up to see what was happening. Oh, the cutting agony of it! I couldn't wait any longer for the dazzling desert scene to come to an end, even before the sex had properly started, but finally got up, wishing I'd had a high collar on or scarf to cover my identity - and shame-facedly, head depressed to almost between shoulders, I hurriedly made my way out, feeling that all eyes were on me, tut-tutting me to the exit - Begone, pest
I returned home - and it was a further six years before I managed to catch up with another chance to see the complete film, and so at last being able to include 'Zabriskie Point' in my 'register' of films actually seen on a cinema screen. 
But oh, how I still cringe when recalling the horror I went through to get there!

On even earlier instances of a related theme - though in this case caused by actual hunger rather than by having unwisely consumed something with 'consequences' - the school I attended (St Mary's College, Middlesbrough) every Thursday morning just before lunchtime, all the boys would be herded into Church to attend Mass - and when it came to tummy-rumbles it always sounded like my stomach was louder than anyone else's. After the first such sound (then emanating from whomsoever), the boys not just immediately around me, but in the pews in all directions, would giggle as quietly as they could, then cruelly await the inevitable next  'contribution' from some 'unfortunate' they could mock, albeit in stifled manner - making it still worse for those of us who were so 'afflicted'. Although it wasn't just me alone, it always sounded like my 'instrument' would be a contender for the forte prize. Helpless to supress it, it would come out whatever I did - clenching abdominal muscles, even praying, imploring God to make it stop - please! - though all to no avail. And when it did make its aural presence known ("Here I am!") they'd all snigger and laugh under their breaths - and then it would fall silent again apart from the celebrant priest's Latinate intonations, .....and they'd wait for who'd be next - more often than not, as it seemed, me again! Mental torture in extremis!
Happy days? Far from it. More like my Gethsemane!  

Btw; In my 'comeback' posting of a few days ago I intimated that future posts would be "concise and pithy". The two I've submitted since then have certainly not been the former. Have to bear this in mind for whatever's next.   

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Speculating on spectacles.


Everyone who wears spectacles occasionally misplaces them, do they not? And then they eventually find them a few minutes, perhaps even an hour or so, later. 

(I always wear contact lenses when going out, having ever been the 'vain' sort. Indoors alone I have to resort to glasses).

Imagine, then. I was watching the BBC 6 o'clock national news on Friday 7th August - I need specs to watch TV, especially for when any captions or printing appears. I put the specs down on the settee beside me to go to (I can only think), the kitchen as the bulletin was coming to an end, before returning to then watch (as is my daily wont) the ITV 6.30 news - and, being the news-junkie that I am, always followed by Channel 4 News at 7, before retiring most evenings. Anyway, on coming back from the kitchen the specs are not there - and now twelve days later, still not found them! I've turned the place upside down, and not just the area where I sit to watch TV, but the few other rooms as well, including bathroom. In a single person's apartment there are only so many places one can go!  
Maddening? You bet! - and more than! For the last week and half, right until yesterday, had to make do with an old, scratched (hence making all viewings fuzzy) pre-present-prescription pair.

The silver lining, if it can be so called, is that by sheer chance yesterday I had an appointment at the opticians to collect a new pair with updated prescription for which I was measured at the beginning of this month. That really was some stroke of luck. These new specs are fine. I can watch telly again. But until I can find that missing pair  (to keep as a spare, just in case.........) I won't be able to settle. Where the hell are they? Soon I'll be reduced to threatening the cats that if they don't tell me where they've hidden them there'll be no more treats!

'Notes from my Dotage - Part the First' ------- or 'I'm still here - just!'

Well, blow me down! Just seen that it's over two months since our last posting (employing the royal 'we'), and this simply will not do! So here's our ploy for times coming.

With some regret (just a little bit) it would appear that my days of frequent cinema-going are now part of the past. I haven't been at all since last March, and even when it becomes possible again I should think that for me the practice wouldn't be more than a well-spaced rarity. However, on those occasions when it does happen I will still post my thoughts on any film in question as before. 

Thus, in order to keep this blog alive so long as I am so myself, I will attempt to post now and again on a miscellany of subjects, hopefully not too weighty but in concise and pithy manner, so you may know there's still life in this old boy yet!  

Next post is coming soon(ish). See ya there?