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Charming series about a famous garden
Charming 8 episode series about a famous garden. At its simplest, that is what it is. But the garden in question is Sissinghurst in south east England, one of the most famous gardens in the country. Its fame does not so much come from its beauty as its connection to twentieth century literary history. It was owned by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, who built the gardens in the 1930s, but also has connections to Virginia Woolf. Wolf was Sackville-West's lesbian lover, one of many one of many. The show is focused on Adam Nicolson and his wife. Adam is the grandson of Vita and Harold, who is trying to change Sissinghurst. Adam is trying to reconnect Sissinghurst to Vita's time and to reconnect the estate to the surrounding land. Much of the series up until episode 6 focuses on the problems that Adam and his wife have in trying to get their ideas accepted by the public body that now runs Sissinghurst. Things start to change in episode 6.
If nothing else you get to see a wonderful garden which is well worth visiting, particularly in May-June when it and most English gardens are at their peak. Not too far from Scotney Castle or Exbury, also worth a visit. Castles and famous houses abound in south east England.
Love Actually (2003)
This works best as a comedy: don't go looking for more, just go for a good laugh. If you liked 4 Weddings and a Funeral or About A Boy, then this is way funnier. If you didn't see any humour in those, then this might not work for you. The vignette approach puts it almost in the style of the Monty Python films. Defintely of a similar standard: this is the crew that did 4 Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, About A Boy and they've clearly progressed on from that and made a film with world class production values, a tight script and above all screamingly funny.
Edge of Darkness (1985)
A slice of 80s England
The Edge of Darkness plays an issue of the times i.e. the 80's nuclear issue. But it also imbeds itself in a much deeper way in those times. The newscaster who interviews him was a TV newscaster of this period . The politician who is talking at his daughter's university/college, in the early part of the show, was a politician of that time (Michael Meecher - still a Labour politician in England). Having lived in the England till around the time this came out, and being a policeman at that time, when you strip away the sensationalist aspects this is a slice of the place and people of England at that time. An historical curiosity in a way.
Sharpe: The Legend (1997)
Watch the main Sharpe series instead
The Legend is a kind of summary of the entire Sharpe series. Essentially, it is clips from the series strung together to summarize the life of Sharpe, with a narrator who fought with Sharpe acting as the link. Sharpe's rise from the ranks to become an officer is chronicled. He is a competent soldier and officer in a time when many commissions in the British Army were simply bought i.e. the 1700-1800s.
The series itself is far superior. This will give you a sense of what the series is about, but the series itself is much more enjoyable. If you enjoyed the Hornblower series, then you'll enjoy this.
Screen Two: Blunt (1987)
A So, So Movie
A so, so movie. Somewhat two dimensional. This movie would have benefited from being made 10 years later from two perspectives: better production values and also by that time there was more information/biographies out about this era e.g. Blunt's Russian handler's biography which came out after this was made. Those with an interest in British dramas and an interest in the Cambridge spies (Blunt, Burgess, Maclean, Philby and Cairncross) might find this interesting, but this movie doesn't excel in either of these respects.
A History of Britain (2000)
Nicely done documentary
The series exists on video as "A History of Britain I (3500BC - 1603AD)" and "A History of Britain II (1603 - 1776)". The following is based upon viewing the latter.
"A History of Britain II (1603 - 1776)". This series is probably more interesting for a non British viewer because of the time period: the emergence of Great Britain out of conflict between England and Scotland, the waning of the power of the monarch, the related growth of the power of the elected assembly, catholicism vs protestantism, civil war (parliament vs the monarchy), democracy as a means of mitigating the power of the monarch, exploration and growing relationships with the world beyond Europe.
It is a recent production (2000), it meets modern production values and it is not dry - typical handicaps of this genre. The presenter has a breezy style which you'll either enjoy or it will grate! He certainly knows his stuff and sticks to the broad themes. Fascinating stuff.
Saving Grace (2000)
A Lovely, Charming Movie
A lovely, charming movie in the vein of Local Hero (http://us.imdb.com/Details?0085859): it populates a small coastal town in Cornwall, England with gentle ordinary folk who all get dragged into or affected by a plan to save a lady in the town who has fallen on hard times.
Lots of little fun bits easily lost in first viewing e.g. note who is serving drinks in the bar at the end of the movie :-) And the scene close to the end of the movie where all the inhabitants are dancing on the lawn, including a naked policeman (you can tell he is a policeman because he still has his helmet on!), is absolutely priceless.
In the Name of the Father (1993)
The Genius of In the Name of the Father
In the Name of the Father's genius lies in how it makes the events and people surrounding a major act of terrorisms in the UK in the 70s come alive. It is the story of kid who his none too bright in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people when a national act of monumental violence/terrorism occurs. As in any nation when such things occur the pressure to find the perpetrator/s is overwhelming. Someone must be found to take responsibility. Daniel Day Lewis's acting makes these events and people come alive and led me to say "oh god, I see how this happened." A well made film with incredible acting by Daniel Day Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite. Truly a gem. In the same vein Last of the Mohicans, also starring Day Lewis, is a wonderful in how it makes the 18C frontier in America come alive.
Nuns on the Run (1990)
As Good As A Fish Called Wanda
This one didn't have the marketing push that A Fish Called Wanda had. Still it's as good a comedy and worth watching
The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)
Conceit, Deception and Power
Being of English origin the film has a particular fascination. Certain things become apparent if you know England well, but also I suspect on repeated viewing.
A tale of conceit, deception and power. The conceit of the Draughtsman, all too apparent, is matched by the conceit of the upper classes as the film unfolds. The pictoral conceit referred to in the film repeatedly is matched by a pictoral conceit played on the viewer: the wigs were never that big, the house, garden and grounds stunning and the weather too perfect.
Deception exists at many levels. The viewer is deceived as to where the houses and events take place. The allusions are to Southampton and surrounding areas. Being from the Southampton area I realized this wasn't Southampton. Though it could possibly have been. The deception was convincing. The location is Kent. I believe this deception, which fits so nicely in the film anyway, was pulled so that the owner of the house where the film is centred around would not be invaded by tourists. A nice touch which I suspect follows the line in the film, something like this), "Do you think Mrs Talbot is a lady who likes her gravel being kicked around by a pack of dogs."
The arrogance and exploitation of the ladies of the house by the Draughtsman, readily apparent, is more sinisterly exceeded by the arrogance and exploitation of the Draughtsman by the ladies. The Draughtsman provides a cover for murder, solves the problem of transfer of the property by siring a child and finally ends up as the scapegoat for murder. While the Draughtsman may appear to be playing with the household for his own amusement, the Draughtsman himself is the focus of a much more brutal and more deadly game.
Like all the best films there is much going on in the film. The lines and language are wonderfully rich. The camera merely shows you the events. And it is not above deceiving you as a viewer. Trying to make sense of it all is great fun. Many things I didn't even see until the second or third viewing, let alone make sense of them!
A beautiful allegory which slowly unfolds and challenges the senses. Much like The Prisoner (1967) tv series, and hopefully The Prisoner (2000) movie.