Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Another b/day come, one more notch.

 

Thurs 15th 4.30 a.m. - the numbers just keep on coming. When will it end? (Not before I'm ready, please). 

Best wishes due to RTG - arteegee.blogspot.com/ - with whom I share this auspicious date - anniversary only, rather than actual d.o.b.. In tally of years accomplished he's a comparative mere stripling.

So, on with the show - 

      "Mumble, mumble, mumble"

And here, on a cat-heavy blog, are new pics of my current co-residents, all snapped this last week-end. (Don't know why I seem to attract only tom-cats. Maybe they want a male homophilic carer who'll always do their bidding?)

In pride of place and, I think, the eldest at going on 15, is Patchie -
He's now past the time when he had the stamina to chase off any 'intruders'. He now suffers other feline presences grumpily, though he does have a particular animosity to one - growling at and even sometimes, attacking, the youngest, Snowball ........


He's a mischievous one, and the least popular among the other three, though he's become very affectionate towards me after an initial wariness, which makes me guess that his previous owners, whoever they were, were not especially nice towards him, maybe with kids who treated him as their toy. He's very conspicuously not been neutered which is rather concerning. arriving here on the very same day as another one, two years ago, suggesting they might have come from the same household, his 'companion' in arrival being Bobby ..........

who bullies Snowball mercilessly, even though it means he tries to run after him, lolloping his excessively fat tummy along as it swings side to side like a bag of washing. Showing who's 'boss', I suppose. One nasty practice he has is to do stinkies in the bath, though not every day. At least from there they can be cleared out and cleaned up with relative ease, much more than if he was doing them on a carpet. The other three do all their business outside, none of them having taken to using the litter trays.

And the final member of the quartet is Blackso (the Second) who's been here just over a year and I reckon has arrived in search of a refuge from an unfriendly home where he's not wanted, his advanced years making him less attractive than a younger cat would be. But he's a sweetie and (usually) appreciative of my hospitality, though moving slowly and sometimes seemingly painfully, perhaps arthritic. He might even be older than Patchie for all I know.........


With these four my constant worry is what can I do with them when I get the notice to move out. Patchie is my only 'official' pet and is the only one I've got registered with a vet, so he's the least problem. But goodness knows what I can do with the other three when I've got to leave this place -  or if one of them gets ill or suffers an injury, the expenses are likely to be well beyond my reach. Every day it's a bigger concern on my mind, and it gets ever moreso by the day.  

Anyway, just look at what I sometimes have to put up with on my bed. And I only wanted to have a daytime cat-nap for myself, not having four more to contend with in such limited space! 


Bobby often sleeps in this position, his tummy being so fat this must be how he's most comfy. 

So there you have my latest update. I hardly dare think what my situation could be like this time next year - if I'm still around, that is. Must say that my health, though not ideal, could be considerably worse, and in several respects is better than that of several blog-pals, nearly all of whom are younger than I am, so shouldn't complain - which I am not. 

Btw: Still haven't been to the cinema since Sept 4th. There has been a small handful of films come and gone which in 'normal' times I might have made the effort to see (most notably, perhaps, being 'The Trial of the Chicago Seven') but being stuck in a tiny auditorium for two to three hours with strangers, albeit masked and seated with 'social distancing', well, the risk is just too high to contemplate. If I should go down with you-know-what, especially if it might entail in extremis an hospital admission, the worry alone about the pussy-cats would be enough to push me over and put paid to any fragile condition I might have for good. But let it never come to that. 

However, cheerio for now - and thanks for reading.





 





 
 



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?


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. 

Sunday, 29 March 2020

A tiny diversion to help lighten these dark times.

With perfect timing, here on the first day of our 'official' Summer (hah! - clocks jumped forward one hour last night) it's actually snowing! So at least I can still say with total accuracy, that the Winter of 2019/20 was the first I've experienced without my seeing one flake of snow, either on the ground or just falling. Now, with four cats a-dozing, two here in living room, two on my bed, 'scuse me while I go and turn the heating up just as they'd expect me to. Brrrrrrrrrr!!!

Btw: This must be the first time I've ever posted twice in one day. Prob'ly won't be the last.  

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Appalling ignorance in Russia - and elsewhere, I've no doubt.

On the BBC News last night there was a segment on the Russian government's dilatory response to the virus, the impact on that country only just starting to be felt. Although there is now an official recommendation for social distancing and an injunction for all over-65s to remain indoors there's as yet no enforcement. Public response has been patchy. And up to now there's been no special restrictions on church services. 
Outside one of the tightly-packed Churches a female member of the congregation was questioned on the wisdom of allowing such large gatherings. Her response:-

"It's not possible to get the virus in a church. It's a holy place."
And her profession? She's a doctor.

I'd like go say they deserve what they get, and I would if it weren't for their taking down so many innocents with them. 
So Gawd help us! (but please not them!).


Friday, 27 March 2020

Slightly better than one hand clapping - my own two!


Oh dear! Do people around here just not care?
Yesterday evening at 8, despite the chilly outside, I flung open my front window and clap, clap, clapped in support of our National Health heroes - and, as far as I could hear, I was the only one doing so, at least among the houses within earshot. I even turned the T.V. sound off as well as checking out back to listen if anyone may have been in their back garden joining me - Nothing! Not a dickie bird! Particularly disappointing as our area's large general hospital is a mere 3-400 yards away, an imposing structure I see every time I look out of my front window.
Heartening to hear this morning what a success it had turned out to be in other parts - check out JayGee's blog if you haven't already done so -  https://disasterfilm.blogspot.com/2020/03/thank-you.html  Thank you John!💟

Yesterday, third day of our 'lockdown' went to my local supermarket and, unsurprisingly, found their new policy had been adopted - they're letting in only 40 customers at a time and there was a queue around the perimeter of the car park, each keeping at least 6 feet apart or, at least, that's the idea, Took me 40 mins of waiting to get in but I'm not complaining about that, and when I did managed to get very nearly everything on my list - only rice wasn't in evidence. But now that's done I'll see if I can make shopping a once-weekly effort instead of my usual two, sometimes three, times a week, though I'd hate to put my back out again. then really will be in trouble. If only cat food bought in bulk wasn't so darned heavy - but they don't care a darned fig about my own well-being, so useless to moan. 

Fervently hope all you precious blogpals of mine will manage to continue dodging the virus bullet - and we can come through this with a healthy bounce without having to mourn many more of our lost ones, most especially any who may be known or even close to us. 
Take special care, my friends. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

The inevitable happens.......

Of course we could all see it coming - all cinemas within my reach are now closed until further notice. I was contemplating making my last visit today for what's clearly going to be some time - to see in a large and surely mostly deserted auditorium, the new British ('Women's Lib') film, 'Misbehaviour' (featuring, in a shortish role, Greg Kinnear as host Bob Hope at the disrupted 1970 Miss World event in London) - but there's just too much at stake to risk it. 
Major concern for me now, after attending my long-standing appointment to get toenails cut this Sat (getting urgent) is buying food when stringent restrictions come into play on outdoor movements for certain categories, including me as a 70+ oldie. Tried to see how quickly my local supermarket (Waitrose) could do me a home delivery come the time I need it, and as at today there are no slots available for at least a fortnight, and it's sure to get worse. Oh well. Playing it day-to-day seems to be the only way. 

My reviews will resume at the other side of this most troubling time. See ya! (And earnestly hoping you'll all - every single one of you - dodge it!)

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Film: 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire'

Call me a Philistine if you must but. despite the praise being heaped on this film (French, subtitled) from all quarters, I found it as one so conscious of its own 'artiness' (slow-moving, long periods of silence, lingering shots of faces, spare dialogue, many candle-lit scenes) that I was alternately either losing patience with it or falling asleep. With an 18th century story of, to me, little more than moderate interest, (admittedly unusual), and set on a wild and windy Britanny island, it's effectively an entirely female cast of four characters revolving around an unexpectedly developing and furtively expressed Lesbian relationship between a portrait painter (Noemie Merlant) commissioned by a mother to do a painting of her daughter (Adele Haenel) to present to a prospective Milanese husband, a previous daughter having committed suicide rather than accept a similarly arranged marriage. The present daughter is no less reluctant - leading to a 'twist' being that the artist is not to let the young woman know she is being painted and for that same purpose, she being introduced as a companion for the young lady on her regular walks out to the cliffside.  

Even now I'm already feeling exasperated at having to write more about the film. I know I ought to have found it more involving, but the fact is I didn't. There are no explicit sex scenes and what nudity there is brief and somewhat coy, though that made not one jot of difference either way to me.

Direction (by Celine Sciamma who also wrote the screenplay) and camera-work is assured and efficient enough, and scenery is as impressive as one might expect, but I'd turn down any request to sit through this again, unless I was handsomely recompensed for doing so - but note below what other sites are scoring, so there must be an awful lot who've gone all gaga over it. My own rating in terms of the 'enjoyment' I derived is a temperate............5.

(IMDb................8.6 - yes, really! - Rott.Toms...........4.3 / 5 - yes, really! ) 

Monday, 2 March 2020

Film: 'The Invisible Man'

This could have been a belter of a thriller. As it is it's still superior to most I've seen of this genre. If only.......well, we'll come to that.

Firstly, dispel any notions of H.G.Wells' classic tale with which this shares its title. 
Elizabeth Moss (not a 'beauty' in the conventional western sense, but what an expressive face!) plays a woman locked - no, imprisoned - into an abusive relationship in a large, isolated.  mansion-sized modern house (filmed in Sydney, N.S.W.) by a man, an 'optics scientist' (?), who wants her to have his baby - and from whom she's ever so desperate to escape. She achieves this in pre-planned fashion and, convinced that he'll do everything he can to search her out, she takes up residence with a sympathetic single man (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter. Shortly afterwards she's shown a newspaper report that not only has this former abusive partner died by suicide, but he's left to her an enormous fortune to be paid out in instalments over many years, but with stringent conditions attached, one of the most important being that she engages in no criminal activity. She suspects it's a hoax, despite being assured that his body's been cremated. Then when she's alone she gets a feeling of a presence in the same room, objects being moved when her back is turned - plus, inevitably,  blankets being pulled off the bed while she's sleeping.  Convinced that somehow the 'deceased' is the culprit it's the familiar tale of no one believing her, ascribing these events to her over-vivid imagination - until the happenings culminate in an horrific murder in public which, to the witnesses present, she herself committed - and thus putting her forthcoming monies in suspension, and her likely to be losing it all. Arrest, hospital incarceration, interviews - it's all presented in formulaic though non-plodding fashion.

The suspense of the first three-quarters of this two-hours film is real nail-biting stuff, most effectively done. Although the final half hour turned into expected and guessable cat-and-mouse game it still had its moments - there having been a heavy hint in the film's first half when she makes a certain discovery of how the denouement will finally play out - but even so, it's a satisfying finish - astonishing twists and all. 

Elizabeth Moss is simply stunningly credible in the part, rarely off the screen she steals most of the scenes with ease.
 Directing, story and screenplay are all by Australian Leigh Whannell who's probably best know for the grisly 'Saw' franchise (I've only seen the original 'Saw' - that was quite enough, thank you!) but I think in this film he does himself proud.

Now for that downside. This is one of those films where a large part of the dialogue is delivered in indecipherable mumbles - and, not only that, also in whispers where, indeed the parties conversing have no particular need to speak in such subdued pitch. Why, oh why do they do this? I think I must have missed at least half of the film's entire script, and sorely wish I'd gone to a subtitled screening, which would have been quite possible. If the film had been trashy it wouldn't have mattered so much but it's a special loss when it otherwise looks to be a good one. I concede that at my age there is bound to be at least some loss in my hearing capacity, though it's still a mystery why I don't experience that lack in other aspects of my life. I always want, at certain points, to ask random members of the audience if they could tell me what had just been said - and the reaction I'd expect in nearly every case would be a shrug of the shoulders and a shake of the head - though it doesn't seem to bother them too much. Maybe it's just me who's too fussy? Or could it conceivably be that the sound reproduction for all my home town's (pop. 110,000) five screens is particularly poor? 

This is a damn good film, enough jumps and starts to keep you watching, never monotonous for a moment. Pity, then, that were it not for the aforementioned defect I would have rated it a bit more exalted than a...........7.

(IMDb,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,7.6 - Rott.Toms.............4.3/5 )



Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Film: 'Greed'

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this.  Despite reviews giving ample clues that it was not to be so, I'd gone in the vain hope that it was going to be an out-and-out comedy, starring as it does, one of my very favourite of current and recent names in that field. Steve Coogan, particularly in his Alan Partridge persona, or something close to it. (We saw Steve Coogan's uncanny impersonation of Stan Laurel recently in 'Stan and Ollie' as well as, a bit further back, his very effective straight role alongside Judi Dench in the high standard 'Philomena'). In this film there certainly are comedic moments, including some very amusing lines, practically all of which are delivered by the Coogan character, Sir Richard McCreadie  (nicknamed 'Greedy McCreadie', an approximation of real-life controversial and disgraced business tycoon and billionaire Sir Philip Green). However, throughout the film there's a serious undercurrent - culminating in an especially hideous event near the conclusion. McCreadie is the archetype super-rich villain, who in his case has made his money by using exploited 'slave labour' (mostly women) in Asian countries (here Sri Lanka) who work extra-long days in sweatshop conditions manufacturing garments for prestigious fashion houses for a pittance - which returns an enormous profit margin for him., 
Another clue as to the film's seriousness which I ought to have picked up on is that the film is directed (and principally written) by the ever-busy Michael Winterbottom, whose films always have a distinct social dimension - and whose '24 hour Party People'  of 2002 - also starring Coogan, was particularly well received. 

The film's main thrust is the organising of a lavish, historic Roman-style celebration (in Greece!) by McCreadie himself for his upcoming 60th birthday - including the presence of an actual lion for a mock gladiatorial scene! There's a succession of arguments and squabbles with native workers regarding the arrangements, little of which is going according to plan. Also present, in the agreeable person of David Mitchell, is his hovering presence as a journalist assigned to write McCreadie's biography. Mitchell is constantly foiled, fobbed off and frustrated in his attempts to garner info on his subject and his past life (there are a number of flashbacks to the young McCreadie at Uni in his early days of cheating others for monetary gain). Unfortunately this is a thankless role for Mitchell and, although I do like him a lot on TV, his rare film presence here in a superfluous part seems to be latched on to give him something to do, a character which could just as well have been dispensed with altogether.  

A number of celebrity cameos appear, mainly in the film's second half, though apart from Stephen Fry (very briefly) I wasn't sure if they were the actual individuals or were lookalikes - possibly all the latter, I suspect. 

Just before the film's closing credits a number of captions appear which spell out the continued exploitation of (mainly) women in Asian countries, an aspect which is, seemingly in connivance even now with big fashion chains. It all made me feel a bit guilty at having watched the film waiting for the 'funny' lines, which was the principal reason of my going in the first place. Had I watched the film with less rose-tinted expectations my view of the entire film could well have been more considered and reflective. Nevertheless I feel I should rate 'Greed' in terms of the moderate entertainment value I derived from it, though which might otherwise have been higher............5.5.

(IMDb.......5.8 - Rott.Toms (critics only).....58% ).




Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Film: 'Emma.'


On first becoming aware that this was being released, my reaction was one of "What! Do we really need yet another version so soon after the last successful one?" Then I was dismayed to find that the previous which I'd really liked was more than a generation ago - 1994! (You may recall it, starring Gwyneth the Goop herself in the title role, in those bygone days when she was yet a respected young actress with potential, before she started telling us all how to improve our lives). That aside, how does this newie compare? Rather unfavourably, I'd venture to suggest.

Based, of course, on the renowned Jane Austen novel (why the film's title has a full stop/period after the title name is unclear) which I've read two or three times and admire.
Set in the early 19th century, I found this version somewhat long-winded and occasionally even stagnant, though I must say that it really is sumptuous to look at throughout, costumes, scenery and landscapes (filmed in Gloucestershire) all beautifully delivered to screen.
The cast had only three names with which I was familiar, one of which is the ever-reliable Bill Nighy (yet again) as Emma Woodhouse's father. She herself is played by Anya Taylor-Joy  who actually does look the part of the snooty, interfering, superiority-complexed young lady whose own romantic intentions remain off-limits for everyone but her. Btw: Why is Nighy, in just about all the many films he's appeared in, only ever given 'bit' parts, of which this is another one? He's never given a chance to demonstrate his full potential, and he's always so watchable.
The male lead of George Knightley is played by one Johnny Flynn, another name new to me - hovering around, not making commitments, scorned by Emma herself (at least publicly) though anyone not familiar with the story can guess how it's going to end.
Flynn is an actor who mystifies me as to why he should make young ladies' hearts turn all a-flutter - despite us getting a full couple of seconds shot of his undraped entire rear side (Ooh! How daring!" - Pah!) On the other hand I can see why Anya Taylor-Joy would be alluring to a hetero-male gaze - a bit of a beauteous, emotionless 'challenge' wrapped up as she is in all that impervious 'ice' which needs chipping away!
Miranda Hart is a pleasure to watch as the talkative, middle-aged spinster acquaintance of Emma, while we all wait for the infamously cruel put-down of her by Emma herself in front of the picnic party, and whose execution is here handled very well, Hart herself heart-breaking in her crushed reaction to the callous public humiliation. 
The only other name I recognised in the cast was Rupert Graves, though on screen I have to admit that I barely recognised him.

Now I must reveal that for me one of the very worst aspects of this film is the mood-directing background score, telling you how to react - in just about every frigging scene! Right from the the very start we get these jaunty tunes under the dialogue, presumably meant to put - or to keep - a smile on your face. Hell's bells! I just wanted to yell STFU!!!   Let the words do the talking! To be fair there is, later, a little variety with a group singing a capella 'Steeleye Span' style. But, dearie me, all so extraneous!

Director Autumn de Wilde (now there's a name for you! And btw, it's a 'he') whose first full-length feature this happens to be (Gawd help us!) pulls out all the stops (too many!) to give this the treatment he feels it deserves. However gorgeous it is too look at - and it really is - it's all a bit laboured, the concluding half hour or so especially I thought really dragged, almost fatally. Oh, and there is, naturally, the 'regulation' period-piece dance scene!

Apart from two or three of the more mature cast members I think the film would be improved without any sound at all, maybe with just subtitles. Crucially however, I think this film is a mis-step - though it hardly needs stating that my opinion is that of just one individual. I feel we don't really need yet another cinema version of this tale - at least not yet..............5.

(IMDb...............6.9 - Rott Toms (critics only)...........89% [What?!!] )