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Top ten films;-(in no particular order)
Laurel&Hardy's Big Business
Ride the High Country
A kind of loving
Follow the fleet
Red Rock West
A night at the opera
Much ado about nothing
Top 10 albums:-
Thr Atomic Mr Basie
Such Sweet Thunder
The Magic Flute
The Goldberg Variations
Yoyoma plays the Bach cello suites
Sacre du printemps
Virtuoso :- Joe Pass
Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins
Louis Armstrong 1947 NY Town Hall concert.
The Bank Job (2008)
O.D.C.s get dumped on by "Them"?You're avin'a tin barff.....
By 1971 nobody gave two hoots about who Princess Margaret had sex with. If she'd spent as much time underneath various ne'er - do - wells as had been alleged,the poor old dear could hardly have come up for breath. She slept with the well - endowed John Bindon?Roddy Lewellyn,Peter Sellers..Mustique should have been ankle - deep in condoms...... The preposterous idea that "The Establishment"(what a splendid catch - all term that is) should encourage a team of frankly not overly - bright London crims to do a safety deposit vault in order to get photos of Royal/Commoner action is the wellspring behind this creaky "thriller"that is thirty years beyond it's sell - by date. The simple fact is that if the Security Services wanted to suppress the photos they simply had to serve a "D" notice on the Bank's Governors and walk out with them. All sorts of rumours were prevalent at the time about the real "Baker St. Moles",many set about by themselves. The self styled Michael "X" was a pimp and a violent criminal hiding behind the skirts of his community whilst presenting himself as it's saviour. He was later hanged in Jamaica where his ethnicity was not considered consequential. Without the silly Royal connection,"The Bank Job" must stand on its merits as a "Caper"movie but singularly fails to do so. The usual Brits turn up and do their posh or mockney turns,trouser the cash and go onto better things(or not,as the case may be). Mr Suchet gives a Michael Caine impersonation that entertains for about two minutes but unfortunately lasts rather longer. The Met scarcely covered itself in glory during the Baker St investigation and certain officers were quietly "resigned" in the aftermath of the affair - that much is true,but no real - life villains were "disappeared" or found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge or wherever a favourite subject for conspiracy theorists. The fact of the matter is that it was a crime that read better than it actually turned out. And,in "The Bank Job",it didn't even read that well.
"Selma" :- an outsider's view.
As an Englishman my view of the events portrayed in "Selma" is conditioned by contemporary reports shown on the BBC and cinema newsreels. We saw the de - segregation of schools in The South,George Wallace,Little Rock,Rosa Parks and the Freedom Marchers at one remove. There was a relatively small number of black people living here in the 1950s and they had the vote were educated and neither hated nor feared.They had come to this country voluntarily,not brought in chains. We felt rather smug about that. When Kennedy became President I rather naively thought one of his first priorities would be to address such inequalities but it was not to be so and he was soon engaged in a p*ss*ng contest with Kruschev that took our eyes of the ball.It took his much - maligned successor LBJ to confront the problems,however reluctantly.He may have been a potty - mouthed,bigoted corrupt oilman but he wasn't a fool. And he did more for race equality in the U.S.than any of his predecessors and most of his successors. As I say,that's an outsider's view. And largely one promulgated by "Selma",a well - made,well - acted story of Dr.Martin Luther King's battles against ignorance and hatred,organised opposition and state - controlled violence. It may be difficult for younger viewers to credit the implacable hatred shown by the Authorities towards what they saw as a challenge to the status quo(and they were right,for that is exactly what the protests were all about). Emotions were raw on both sides. The film pulls few punches and is obviously a deeply - felt work that will inform generations to come of the hard - won rights that can too easily be taken for granted in times of relative tranquility but have recently been brought into sharper focus. It is of course a creative piece and the child of the director but has more than enough hard truths that she has refused to smooth out. Not an easy view then,but an essential one.
Like Father Like Son (2005)
Secrets and Lies.
Everybody lies.That's a fact.Lies are the oil that keeps society running smoothly."How are you? "I'm fine"Even when your life is going down the pan....that's part of the human condition. But big lies are something else.Miss J.Redgrave and Mr R.Green,a teacher, are lovers with pasts they'd rather others didn't know about.Nothing particularly unusual in that perhaps,but these are Big Lies,life - threatening lies and when their secrets are revealed they are overtaken by events they have indirectly and unwittingly caused. Miss Redgrave has told her son that his father was an RAF hero killed in the Gulf War.He wasn't,he was a serial killer.And is still alive. Mr Robson has neglected to mention that his late wife hanged herself when he was discovered to have been having an affair with a former pupil. When these deceptions are uncovered it is not surprising that their relationship is put under somewhat of a strain. A teenage girl obsessed with Mr Green is found murdered. Both he and Miss Redgrave's son become suspects. Miss T.Fitzgerald is the detective with the task of untangling the web of deceit surrounding the killing. What separates "Like father,like son" from the run - of - the - mill TV psych - thriller is the performances. Miss J.Redgrave in particular is outstanding as the mother whose one nightmare is that her son should find out who his father is. "Am I like him?" he asks innocently."yes",she says;and then he finds out the truth.Her ordered life spirals out of control. Mr Green is more restrained than usual and all the better for it. You can see him struggling with the fact that his past is about to become common knowledge and that it will hardly help him in his predicament. Shown now in two episodes on "True Entertainment","Like father like son" is proof that there is TV gold to be found in the most unlikely places.
The Palace (2008)
Britain's favourite dysfunctional family gets a re - boot....
I don't think anyone could take "The Palace" seriously either as an endorsement or repudiation of Britain's monarchical heritage,but it's certainly jolly good fun and gave everybody a nice break in Lithuania. These aren't the Windsors of course,there's not enough implacable undying animosity and power - crazed egomania on display to even approach our own dear Royal Family,but it's spiffing behind - the -doors stuff that might make one think that there was some inside knowledge obliquely revealed. There's something almost Shakespearian about the plot concerning the sudden death of a king and the manoeuvering of his successors and their various factions in the power vacuum that it causes. But nobody ends up mincemeat - as Cole Porter neatly put it,merely thwarted and retired snarling. None more so that the imperious Miss S.Winkelman,every inch the unregenerate aristo as the oldest child who has the misfortune to be of the wrong gender( a law since removed from the statute books in order to bring the monarchy more in line with the 19th century.) She has the intelligence and beauty to dominate every scene where she appears,and has quite rightly subsequently found her place in Society with a capital "S" by marrying an amiable and unambitious Royal of her own. The other outstanding performance is that of Miss Z.Telfer as the new King's P.A. over whom he exercises the droit de seigneur rather hastily and lives to regret it. "The Palace" isn't great drama but it is great entertainment particularly to those of us who have watched the lives of our Royals lived on the front pages for sixty - odd years with wry amusement and resignation. Life may not always imitate art - but it should perhaps in the case of "The Palace".
Born and Bred (2002)
Catch it before it's banned for being "unhelpful".
Surprisingly,"Born and Bred" dates from the 21st century even though it is set firmly in the middle of the previous one. Perhaps somewhere in the heart of the determinedly "progressive"BBC there lurks a mole who is minded to portray a lost England as not entirely metrosexual,multicultural and "liberal" as so many programme makers do who are now re - writing history to suit their own agenda. Yes there were places that time forgot where families lived happily together,and were content with their lot.You'd be hard pushed to believe so from what passes as "historical" drama on TV nowadays though. And as my generation gradually dies out who is to speak out for what was real and what is re - imagined? Thankfully,all the time "Freeview" has slots to fill up,programmes like "Born and Bred"will continue to be shown,gold amongst the dross of daytime TV but well worth seeking out. We have father and son doctors in practice in a small Lancashire village and various folk -,vicar,publican,copper,stationmaster,shopkeeper and eccentric old ladies without whom no village can flourish - together making a community. Even without rose - coloured glasses life was simpler then. Doctors had no quotas,the railway ran in blissful ignorance of Dr Beeching,the vicar was a tippling card - playing old boy and the shopkeeper had no sign limiting the number of schoolchildren allowed in his premises. The cast manages to do without such useful props as mobile phones and computers and gives every appearance of enjoying the sensation. Mr J. Bolam freed from playing the miserable ex - detective in "New Tricks" is delightful as Dr Gilder senior, a respected,much loved and wily GP.Mr M.French,freed from playing the miserable surgeon in "Holby City" is equally deft as his son. Miss M.Stride,freed from playing the rather oblique wife of an unlikely restaurateur/detective in "Pie in the sky"is equally oblique but a bit more believable as the publican.When she smiled I felt likeapplauding. "Born and Bred" is not cutting - edge TV,but it is hugely enjoyable family fare with likable characters none of whom are hiding some ghastly secret to be revealed in the next episode. Just decent folk doing what they have to do to get along. Just like it was in the 1950s in fact. Catch it before they ban it for being unreal and unhelpful. Because it is neither.
The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963)
a curious alchemy sometimes affects films with humble ambitions
Mr A.Newley was an actor,singer,writer,lyricist supreme.Not a Jack, of All Trades,rather a Master of All Trades - a true Renaisssance Man of the English Theatre. The term "National Treasure" is bandied about and bestowed upon almost anybody who appears a lot on TV,but Mr Newley was truly a National Treasure before the concept was invented. He stole films from stars as diverse as Robert Mitchum and Rex Harrison and was so good in the 1986 remake of "Stagecoach" that he was hustled out of the story at the halfway mark for fear of appropriating Messrs Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash's thunder. "The small world of Sammy Lee" dates from a time when he was peaking with"Stop the world,I want to get off",which he co - wrote and starred in. Set in a Soho surrounded by members of the first and second oldest professions,a world long bulldozed and speculated out of existence,he plays Sammy Leeman, a third - rate gambler and chancer who is being chased over a debt by some old - school villains. As always Mr Newley dominates the screen by sheer force of personality,a slick,silver - tongued womaniser,the sort of man considered today perhaps as pond - life for his attitudes(see Laurence Harvey in "Expresso Bongo" made in much the same milieu). Today it can be seen as a beautifully photographed,tightly directed minor masterpiece about a hustler on the run and talked of in the same breath as Jules Dassin's 1948 "Night and the city",itself an acknowledged classic of the genre. Nobody in it thought for a minute they were doing anything but a routine low - budget Soho movie,but by that curious alchemy that occasionally affects films with humble ambitions(see Mr Newley's "Idol on Parade")"The Small World of Sammy Lee" emerged as at least the equal of many British New Wave films of the era that have received extravagant praise for the last half - century sometimes out of proportion to their merits. If Tony Richardson or Lindsay Anderson had made it,it would be up there on the pantheon.
The Red Beret (1953)
Marching along to Wagner?Shurely shome mishtake?
What happened to Sullivan or Sousa,not hard enough for the paras perhaps. "The Red Beret" tries but fails to evoke that somewhat blinkered sense of pride that causes members of the Parachute Regiment to refer to all other branches of the British Army as "Crap - Hats". We see the training that disposes of the one actor who might have enlivened the picture - the great Mr S.Baker -very early on just after what might have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Pte Mckendrick(Mr A.Ladd) forged in the heat of an unarmed combat session where Mr Baker (in RAF uniform and presumably a "Crap - Hat" himself) is given a lesson in bitch - slapping by Mr Ladd who clearly is not the raw untrained rookie he appears to be. Mr Baker's parachute fails to open,although when Ladd walks up to his body on the ground it looks as if he had merely tripped off the kerb. Mr Leo Genn as the C.O. looks somewhat bemused throughout as though wondering how Mr Ladd managed to get top billing whilst sleeping through his performance.And well he might. "The Red Beret" gives Mr H.Andrews an early chance to hone his senior NCO schtick,although he doesn't quite convince in the accent department it does allow him to speak his deathbed paean to the bagpipes with some authority,bettered only by Sir A.Guinness a few years later in "Tunes of Glory". As for Mr Ladd himself,well,he was about to make the wonderful "Shane" so perhaps we can forgive him for not even attempting to do the Canadian accent and looking as though he was on Quaaludes for breakfast. The love "interest" - if that's not too strong a word - is Miss S.Stephen.How she was chosen over the excellent Miss L.Morris(looking suitably peeved at this omission) is between her agent and the casting director. Her love scene is notable only for the amazing support given throughout by her brassiere in an uncanny echo of Miss J.Russell in "The Outlaw" The back - projection is lamentable,the battle scenes barely competent but the sight of Mr L Genn pulling the pin out of a hand grenade with his teeth is worth the price of admission alone.
The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)
"The arty - farty posing as art"
When I saw this back in the eighties one member of the sparse audience (not comprising of clever - clever critics,rather mystified filmgoers who had actually paid good money)shouted "What b*ll*cks!"at the screen and stumped out with his equally outraged companion who obliged with a loud raspberry. They had lasted a bum - numbing 40 minutes,enduring the arty - farty posing as art that Mr Greenaway had forced upon them,no doubt hoping to "improve" their narrow,blinkered,provincial middle - class lives by showing the narrow,blinkered,provincial lives of the 18th century English aristocracy as he conceived them. I know we Brits are to supposed to love this sort of arrant nonsense because,after all,we virtually invented intellectual snobbery,and nothing pleases the chattering classes more than that feeling of superiority that ensues from their declared enjoyment of something so clearly b*ll*cks that the lumpen proletariat reject it out of hand.
I've now endured this tiresome film three times hoping to "unlock its mystery"as one of my more intellectually - gifted chums puts it. But it still goes way above my head. It's tedious and phoney and,frankly,up its own bottom. In my opinion,that disgruntled moviegoer thirty - odd years ago hit the nail on the head.
The Wooden Horse (1950)
"It wouldn't have happened if Rommel had been in charge"
Said my father sagely as we strode out of the Plaza Arcade and across the High Street into the teatime darkness,I hoping to get a glimpse of the day - old chicks in "Sainsbury's" window,he hoping to get a cup of tea and a hot apple pie in "Lyon's" before they closed. To be fair to staff at Stalag Luft 111,that was his default position for any perceived failure by those in authority. The Polio epidemic wouldn't have occurred if Rommel had been in charge of the Health Service and those contemporary fear - figures the Cosh Boys(later to be followed by Teddy Boys,Mods and Rockers and,ultimately Punks)could never have flourished in a justice system with Rommel at the helm. Having fought the German Field Marshal in North Africa(not hand to hand you understand,although he often distilled the "Last bit of unpleasantness with the hun" as he termed it,down to Desert Rat (him) Vs Desert Fox (Rommel)for whom he felt a most un - British reverence. Certainly the Germans guarding Messrs Genn,Steele,Tomlinson et al seemed to be sleeping on the job as our heroes casually dumped the soil excavated from their escape tunnel from their trouser pockets and literally kicked over the traces. "The Wooden Horse" was the first of a seemingly endless series of films showing British officers kicking scruffy footballs about like demented 9 year - olds,dressing up as women to entertain their chums and digging holes in the ground. In retrospect the POW genre veered from the sublime - "Bridge on the River Kwai" to the bizarre - "Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence" via the frankly camp(sorry) "The password is courage" to the overblown and noisy "The Great Escape". But it's gestation came with the true story of an ingenious escape engineered by some necessarily athletic officers that required them to engage in hearty gymnastics whilst tunnelling a jolly long way under the perimeter fence. 65 years have added a piquancy to this cheaply - made workmanlike effort by a journeyman director. The actors are fondly - remembered - except for Mr A.Steele who appears to have been unfairly forgotten after an Icarus - like career. There followed a deluge of books telling of more and more unlikely escapes from the clutches of the Master Race that made one wonder how they contrived to make the war in Europe last six years (well,four if you're a Yank). This film should be shown to Angela Merkel to remind her that her Vaterland didn't always have things all its own way. as we walked down a poorly - lit Swan Lane father kept an eye open for lurking Cosh Boys and I envisioned day - old chicks tunnelling their way out of our chicken run at home. No,nobody could make a film out of that - could they?
"Flingers on bonce....flingers off bonce"Mr L.Harvey.
I saw the original stage play from which only Mr Kenji Takaki emerged
to reprise his role as the captured Japanese soldier whose presence presents a moral dilemma to a retreating British Army patrol in the Burmese jungle. The play was a cause celebre at the time because of its use of "barrack room" language,most of which except for the racial slurs you can now here on CBBC. Also,after a decade of uncritical portrayals of the British military,it presented an uncomfortable view of O.R. soldiers under pressure that retired colonels from Cheltenham were extremely unhappy with. Thus its success was ensured by a theatre audience whose make up was for more egalitarian than that of today. When it came to making the film the producers chose "Box Office" actors like Mr R.Todd and Mr L.Harvey for the showy roles where "acting" equated to shouting at the tops of their voices.A close second in terms of sheer volume came Mr R.Harris,with the tragically largely forgotten Mr R.Fraser in third place,several lengths behind. Mr Harvey,possibly the worst "Romeo" in cinema history was unaccountably popular for a brief while,possibly for his profligate use of Brycleem which was obviously hidden somewhere in his kitbag along with eyebrow tweezers and a nailfile. His one golden moment came in "Expresso Bongo" where he was a fast - talking jerk who was not so clever as he thought,a role he was born to play. And not so far removed from Pte Barmforth,whose cockney accent is as transient as his rationality. When the patrol capture the unfortunate Mr K.Takaki, Barmforth takes it upon himself to "civilise" the prisoner by shouting very loudly at him in English - jamais plus change. Mr R.Todd is the "tough" sergeant in charge of the patrol,another whose accent is of the temporary variety,a bit like Mr J.Mills when demoted to the Lower Deck. In real life Mr Todd had led men in battle so he knew at least something about military action which put him in a position of advantage over his fellow thesps,but he was too nice a man to point out their inadequacies,evidently.It's what being British was all about. Viewed from 50 - odd years distance,"The Long and the Short and the Tall"(a quote from the old Soldiers' song "F*** 'em all") may seem quaint and stagey,and,frankly,laughable in the days of sexed - up dossiers,suicide bombers and waterboarding,but it was a pretty big deal in 1961. To be honest I'd forgotten about it until I watched it on television yesterday afternoon. And I was straightaway transported back to the Theatre Royal,smoking My "Gitanes"(pretentious-moi?) with every chance of holding my girlfriend's hand for an hour if I contrived to miss the last bus home . That's worth a "7" in anybody's book.