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 )