Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Has 'Gone with the Wind' now gone for good?

Has my possibly all-time second-favourite film now been declared off-limits to watch? It would seem so, at least on 'HBO Max' site from whence it has been removed, a subscription film library site I wasn't even aware of until today. But it needed just a nudge in this direction and now the move will probably snowball. 
I think it must have been in the 1970s when I first became aware of mutterings against the film's portrayal of black slaves in the American 'Deep South' just before and during the Civil War, as being contented with their lot and fiercely loyal to their white 'masters' - even so much as seeing the outlaw of slavery, let alone emancipation, as being a 'threat' to their stable livelihood. 
The quite understandable disapproval of this depiction has grown in years since then and after the start of this century it has become almost blasphemous to even mention the name of the film and Margaret Mitchell's novel in polite company, at least without holding one's nose while doing so.  

The move by HBO Max arises, of course, from the worldwide reaction to the death (and circumstances and method of killing) of George Floyd in Minnesota a fortnight ago, a formidable reaction which has grown in intensity, acquiring a momentum of its own, and which up to now shows no sign of abating. It has inspired long overdue debate all over on the unequal treatment and attitudes towards black people in particular and non-white peoples generally by governments, various authorities, but primarily by police forces. No one with half a brain even can argue that the matter should not be addressed, and urgently.  In the U.K. the current related obsession has moved to arguing for the removal of statues and monuments, and re-naming buildings and streets, which commemorate in positive terms, historical figures who sometimes actively participated in the slave trade themselves, and who in many cases acquired their wealth from the abhorrent practice - though it has now also reached to those influential persons who supported slavery as well as those who were not sufficiently condemnatory, whether or not they had power to do anything about it. Further, it now extends to those who held views holding certain races or colours in contempt  - for example, it's long been known that Winston Churchill had a very low opinion of those of Indian race. Is it now okay to deface, or even remove, the many statues of him? 

But back to GWTW. 
It would have been back in the mid-1950s when I first saw the film and when I'd have been somewhere around 10 or 11. It was in the cinema, naturally - and in fact still remains the film I have seen in the cinema more times than any other - around 20, I suppose - helped by its numerous re-releases, including in the late 1960s when it was released blown-up to big-screen 70mm (and tinted) when visual epics were all the rage. It's had further releases since then, such as in the 1990s when it was re-released in its original screen proportions and original colours. 

I've always loved the film - as well as the 1,000+ pages novel, which I still read periodically, being something like eight times to date.
Of course one's opinion is bound to be influenced to a large extent of it being evocative of one's own life experiences, my own especially strong ones being of seeing it for the first time with my mother, who was also a great fan of film and book - and, very significantly, the film including the first time I recall ever having felt a crush on someone, that someone being Leslie Howard - who, as I grew, fast faded from my list of 'desirables', and has meant nothing to me since those very early days. But I still wonder, did I pick up on my mother saying that she had liked him, and that I felt that I need to follow her taste? Maybe, but if so it will have been subconscious, and is much too long ago to recall it now.

And, of course, from the start I thought that Vivien Leigh's Scarlett was fab! but who wouldn't? - most of all when she was strong, sassy and determined - and in the end she was well rid of Rhett - after all "Tomorrow (would be) another day!" though will it ever again be so for the film and the book?


Sunday, 17 May 2020

'Waterloo' voted GREATEST Eurovision song ever!........REALLY???

As part of the substitute fayre we were offered to replace the annual camp-fest, the Eurovision Song Contest, this year cancelled for the first time in its 64-year history (due to you-know-what) U.K. viewers were offered the chance to vote on what they considered to be the best ever song from the contest - though we were given a choice of only 19 of the previous winners, thus ruling out dozens of non-winners which in many cases were, in my opinion, superior to those that came top in given years. 
The selection of these few songs - which included no less than four of the U.K.'s five winners ('Puppet on a String' strangely not making it) - were decided  by a panel of 'experts' and celebrities, many/most (all?) of them far too young to having watched the original presentations going back to 1956, unlike myself.

Anyway, the winner was predictable. Though I've been a lifelong ardent fan of ABBA, I do still recall how disappointed I felt way back in 1974 when this came out on top. And in all the years since then my view hasn't changed. There's no doubt that the song made a bigger 'splash' than any other Eurovision song in the contest's history, and did more for the performers than anything else ever did - nothing else comes even close - but as for being a 'great' song I must take issue. In ABBA's own subsequent canon it rates, at best, as only 'middling' and I've never been able to understand why it won. 
However, to be honest, it's been very rare when what I rated as the best song was the one that was the ultimate victor. The last time that happened was Norway's 'Fairy Tale' performed by Alexander
Rybak's boy-faced, hottie fiddler in 2009. But more often than not I'm left flummoxed, sore, and even a bit angry, at the choice of winner.

Out of the 19 songs offered which could be voted on I'd have given mine to the U.K.'s 'Brotherhood of Man's 'Save your Kisses For Me', also, incidentally, the most successful Eurovision song of all time in terms of record sales.

Having stated my view that 'Waterloo'was not a worthy winner for the 'greatest' Eurovision entry, it's only fair that I offer a couple of my own nominations for that title -

'L'amour est bleu' which finished a relatively lowly fourth for Luxembourg in 1967 - an instrumental version under the title of (what else!)  'Love is Blue' reached #12 in the U.K. in 1968 but actually topped the American Billboard charts for a full five weeks in that same year. 

'Hallelujah' from Israel's group 'Milk and Honey' in 1979 which, although it won, wasn't deemed by the panel of being of sufficient merit to be included in those which could be voted on.

'Tom Pillibi', France's 1960 winner.

And I nominate one which will ruffle a few feathers, but it's honest - for the U.K., Cliff Richard singing - no, not 'Congratulations' - but 'Power to All our Friends', which finished a very respectable 3rd in 1973, the top three in that year being very close in score - and a song being, I think even now, one of the 'greats', knocking spots off most other entries both before and since. Unfortunately, when it came to the actual performance in contest, Cliff distracted from the song by his unintentionally comic leg movements. But it really was a classic song.

There are perhaps another score or more of songs I could offer for consideration, most of them non-winners, but got to draw the line somewhere. 

And having got all that off my chest, I feel better now - though could still do without having to listen to that infernal 'Waterloo' ever again!

Monday, 4 May 2020

Latest news hot from The White House

I've only just heard a bulletin direct from the recently-appointed White House Press Secretary who, reporters have been assured, will never lie, and it's phenomenal news too - yes, the President has now saved TEN MILLION American lives, maybe even more, simply by NOT dropping a nuclear bomb on New York. Great success story! Is there no stopping this man??? Oh, celebrate, my friends! Give thanks and party till you drop! 
Now, who will join my petition to have this supremely gifted individual canonised? - while still alive, which might be unprecedented but this is a man with unprecedented talents, and a humble and holy man to boot. A sainthood will sit very nicely beside the 'Noble' Peace Prize he's long overdue in receiving (or should that be a 'Wurlitzer' Prize?) 
So everybody, three cheers now for this living embodiment of selfless disregard of his own interests and his studious prioritising of the often desperate needs of hard-working American citizens everywhere --------------- HIP HIP..............   

Friday, 24 April 2020

'Love Never Dies' on YouTube - and what I thought of it (at end)

Just a reminder for anyone else who's enjoying the current event of Andrew Lloyd Webber's putting on of theatrical performances of his musicals on YouTube - available to watch for just 48 hours every week-end in the U.K. during current lock-down restrictions. 
Following the utterly marvellous 'Superstar' of a fortnight ago, and a most impressive 'Phantom' last w/e - performed in the Royal Albert Hall as a 25th year celebration [so 2011?] including a cast of so many extras which no conventional theatre could have held. 
And now today, starting at 7 p.m. [British Summertime] there becomes available a chance to see the sequel to 'Phantom', 'Love Never Dies' a piece I've never heard - not even one single number from it - let alone seen. It didn't have a particularly long West End theatre run, at least not in Lloyd Webber terms, though it has had quite substantial praise from some critics, some even claiming it as being superior to the original 'Phantom'. I'm looking forward to it immensely, as it should also do so to any of the composer's fans to whom it'll also come as something new. I've no idea yet of the cast, though as the production has had A.L.W.'s blessing one can safely assume it's definitely not going to be bad.  

Btw: Also looking forward to a showing of his 'By Jeeves' - possibly next w/e? - a pleasant, light-hearted affair with which I'm now fairly familiar, having an audio-cassette of the complete musical, and then actually getting to see it on stage a few years back - and an under-valued piece of theatre I think [even though when I was there a party of about half-a dozen adults in front of me walked out after half an hour muttering "What rubbiish!"] - with lyrics by no less than Alan Ayckbourn, probably still the world's most prolific and successful living playwright.

But I do hope some of you at least will enjoy 'Love Never Dies' as much as I'm hoping to.

My Verdict.
(Next day) Well, I must say that after having watched it straight through - it's a bit shorter than 'Phantom' - I found it pretty good, and will take the opportunity to watch it again tomorrow as goodness knows when I'll have another chance.
It's filmed from a theatrical performance in Melbourne in 2011 with an Aussie cast, mostly not bad, though I did have concerns about a lack of consistency in projecting the solo voices which is often so low in comparison with the big chorus numbers, that I decided to watch the whole thing with subtitles - a big improvement, especially for Ben Lewis as the Phantom who has the opening song setting the scene, except were it not for being able to read it I wouldn't have had a clue as to what he was warbling about - and, unfortunately, it is a warble to start with, though his voice does get better as the show progresses. Anna O'Byrne is Christine and she's not at all bad throughout.
The story, now in New York and moved on a decade, is very similar to the original, with the Phantom pursuing Christine and trying to persuade her to sing his specially composed song one last time, that song being the show's title - not a very arresting phrase for attracting attention and lodging it in one's memory, but it is the climactic number.
I was impressed by how much entirely new (and attractive) music has been written, having expected that a lot of it would be a re-hash of  melodies already heard in the first part. Though there are  echoes of the original, which we'd only expect (and at least one direct quote), Lloyd Webber manages to keep to the spirit of the first while writing a load of original, richly melodic stuff.    
The audience in this capture was curiously subdued for the most part that it could well have been performed with no audience at all with little difference - only at the start and towards the end did they make their presence felt.

It's a show I'd like to see live, perhaps in a two-day double-bill with the original (which I've only seen the once - though do try to forget the film version!) but this also stands on its own - and, as I say, good enough to make me want to watch it again tomorrow. I'd recommend it - and, btw, it is available to watch globally (presumably for just the same 48 hours that it's available in this country). The shows must go on - and so do the pleasures! 

Sunday, 12 April 2020

YouTube treat - 'Jesus Christ Superstar'

Just watched on YouTube a truly impressive production of this, as part of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Stay-at-Home' campaign during theatre (and overall) lockdown, of showing musicals for free for just 48 hours. [As I write this only 8.5 hours left]. Unfortunately, stills of this production, filmed just a few days ago at our Birmingham's [I think] vast arena are not available to be posted elsewhere - though this production has toured other countries too, including U.S.A. 

My first encounter with this musical was [for me] the highly unsatisfactory 1973 film version, widely criticised on release for having such a charisma-lite Jesus, in the person of one Ted Neely whose flyweight presence was emphasised all the more by the bullet-like Carl Anderson as Judas. The leaden direction of Norman Jewison only made matters worse.
But after that, sometime in the late 70s I saw it live on stage and was immediately converted into seeing what a fine piece of theatre it really is - musically, lyrically and [but of course], story. I've seen it in the theatre in all, I think, six times, and they've all made me tear up [i.e. with tears as in 'eye']. I'd love to see it again.
So it was the same effect with this present spectacular production, updated to the present day but with a strong hark back to the 60s in the time of student demonstrations and the like.

Cast here is v.good indeed - led by that present-day Aussie multi-talent-on-legs, Tim Minchin, as Judas, perfect foil to a strong Jesus presence in Ben Forster. Mary Magdelene is [former?] Spice Girl Mel C., actually pretty good - plus the one whose outrageously entertaining song everybody looks forward to, King Herod, well played with sufficient camp without overdoing it, by former BBC [and other] radio presenter Chris Moyles. [Pity that when he's crucified, Jesus' 'crown of thorns' slipped right down over one eye - but that's live theatre for you]. 
The huge audience didn't hold back from voicing their acclaim, and at the end, the composer Lord L.W. himself came on stage to say a few words and thank the cast. He fully deserved to be well pleased. I was! What a treat! Terrific stuff!

[And I'm ever so sorry again not to be able to provide any stills] 

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Oh REJOICE! Laptop problem largely cracked!

Thanks to so many of your encouraging messages of support, positive suggestions, and (my own) persistence, I've at last got round the biggest problem I've had since last mid-week - (hooray!) - namely. an inability to access the @ sign, now solved as you can see. I'm able again to send e-mails to ask for assistance plus everything else. 
If anyone is curious as to know how we've arrived at this point I won't repeat it all here, but it's set out in my previous post under the last comment of 'Anon'. At least I can now return to some semblance of 'normality' (in these abnormal times), even if there's some measure of hiding still some measure of inconvenience of doing so, which may not be apparent, but still small beer when set against the far greater urgency of dodging that blasted virus! 

Meantime, thanks again to all who offered their help whether it worked or not. Warmest of hugs all round!
And now I'll probably spend the rest of the day whistling 'Gaudeamus igitur' !

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Can anyone help please - NOT to do with virus..

Does anyone have any idea of the cure when the 'shift' key on a laptop doesn't work. Believe me, I've tried all I can think of, including googling help, trying several free downloads which claim to fix it, trying windows suggestions etc etc...........
And to cap it all yesterday in my frustration I ill-advisedly decided to 're-set' the lap-top to what it was when bought, as one site recommended I do, with infuriating result that I was unsurprisingly shut out of my regular sites, including e-mails - and because the 'at' key doesn't work I can't now get back in most of them as they require the e-mail address which, of course, needs the 'at' sign. For the same reason I'm unable to purchase any download which claims to solve it. [I only got back onto this my blog-site by sheer fluke and now dare not sign out on it]. At any other time I'd have simply carried this laptop down to our local 'Lap-Top Shop' just a mile away, but of course it's now closed until God only knows when.

So, this is an appeal in desperation that one of you just might have some bright idea[s] without my seriously expecting too much - but if anyone can offer some constructive assistance to help me avoid being in Limbo for possibly months to come I'd be eternally grateful. Thanks for reading, even if that's all you can do.