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Sherlock Holmes (1954)
It's a series, with many different plots, none of which I'm revealing
While the much more innocent children of 1954-55 (when I was 9 and 10) might have needed a warning that there were conversations about death, and occasional scenes with actors playing their roles (freshly) dead, there are no scenes that would upset a modern child of 9 or 10. Indeed some modern kids might think the whole thing a bit boring, especially as it's in black-and-white, with no computer-generated graphics or bells and whistles, which either didn't exist back then or were just in the thinking-up stage, kids who like old films (there must be some SOME out there!) might enjoy it, as there's some understated wit and humour, not something all Sherlock Holmes films go in for. My pleasure in this series is of course mainly nostalgia, for a time when I was an innocent child living happily with my mum and dad, with living aunts (5) and uncles (4) and innumerable cousins, all living close-by and very loving to me as I was the youngest of my own generation, and was bright and lively, with a strong imagination. Of course I enjoy it all over again, and probably always will.
From Time to Time (2009)
beautiful film, wonderful cast
Since this is a film of The CHIMNEYS of Green Knowe, any reviewer mistaking it for the CHILDREN of Green Knowe will naturally be disappointed. I saw the 1980s series The Children of Green Knowe, and I loved it. It inspired me to go out to the house outside of Cambridge (where I live) where Lucy M Boston lived, and I loved that too. But this film had a much more exciting story to tell, and a much more wonderful cast to tell it through, and I thought the screenplay and direction by Julian Fellowes were perfect, as were the performances, especially those of Alex Etel and Maggie Smith. For some reason I never read the Green Knowe books as a child, so I came to the TV adaptations (both the 80s series and this masterful new one) fresh, and could enjoy them without preconceptions. Although I love Julian Fellowes' Downton Abbey very much, it has never moved me the way From Time To Time has. I wept happily throughout the last twenty minutes, and I am a large hairy tweed-clad old man with a bristling moustache and (I'm told) a somewhat forbidding manner. It introduced me to a whole new world, or several worlds, all so life-like that it was like inhabiting them myself. It is late now, I am going to bed soon, and I hope to dream myself back to it.
Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
A memory of VE Day 1985, never to be forgotten:
In 1985 I attended a VE + 40 Party in a Village Hall near Cambridge, where I live, with a friend who later became a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. We dressed as far as possible in 1940s clothes. I had a bowler hat, and he borrowed one from one of the King's porters. One of the attractions was a good band, dressed in 1940s British Army uniforms, with a brilliant tenor soloist who sang "When this Lousy War is over." There was complete silence afterwards for about 15 seconds or so, then tumultuous applause, after which the party really livened up, I decided to eat some Woolton Pie, a terrible erzatz ration dish named after Fred Marquis, First Earl of Woolton, one of my mother's cousins, I think. My father always insisted my mother serve it when cousin Fred came over as a kind of ironic payback. He'd been Minister of Food and Supply in Churchill's War Cabinet (I have one of his Red Boxes still). Since my fortieth birthday was coming up within a fortnight, to be celebrated in a big dinner At King's, I had not planned to drink anything much, but after that song and the feelings of pride and loss and heartbreak and beauty that it summoned up, I'm afraid I did drink quite a lot and in fact woke up next morning in a hedge. This film brings that evening flooding back!
I have not mentioned a single plot, no spoiler present.
This is a strange CBBC series: Leonardo da Vinci is portrayed as a handsome masculine teenager still in his master Verocchio's painting studio. His famous homosexuality is denied (one might say bearded) by his apparently male fellow-student and pal Tommaso actually being a girl, Lisa, disguised in a slightly shorter wig, though with a typical girl's light voice. Every modern politically correct shibboleth is present: their pal Niccolo Machiavelli is played by a young black actor with an unpronounceable African name; another pal, Lorenzo de Medici, because he is a rich banker's son, is portrayed as an idiot, and constantly called "Idiot." All of the actors are extremely, almost unfeasibly, good-looking, and the one painting "Leo" is shown working on is the "Mona Lisa," a painting of his maturity, not his teenage years, as if he painted nothing else. Obviously his "Last Supper" and many other religious works cannot be shown as that would refer to the Christian Religion and might be thought to provoke objections from other religions. (Remember that the new head of BBC religious broadcasting is a Muslim, though Britain has an official state religion, Anglican Christianity, with the Queen as Supreme Head of the Church of England.) Although one might think that a program on this subject might have had some "educational" value, it is such a travesty that you'd think that children or teenagers watching it could only be expected to be attracted to a great artist and his works through misrepresentation and peurile fantasy. Did I give it 5/10? Change that please to 2/10. Politically correct BBC rubbish...Any party that plans on scrapping the License Fee has got my vote! I ought to add that I'm disabled, and that since Thursdays are not amongst the days I'm able to leave the house, I sometimes find myself watching Leonardo for lack of anything better to do by late afternoon, when my energies wane. To be fair, the cast is charming and talented, and the performances excellent.