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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 Loch (2017)
Loch Ness monstered
One day someone will write a TV series about a remote community that isn't full of repressed homosexuals,strangely - behaved college students,parents with deep secrets,fragmenting families,compromised coppers and a serial killer lurking in its depths.But don't hold your breath because it ain't going to happen anytime soon."Shetland","The Lakes" are just recent manifestations.I wonder if perhaps "Surbiton" might be next? Unfortunately,"The Loch" is TV drama by numbers as cliché follows cliché and local cops call in Miss S. Finneran - the saviour of many a programme - to help them solve two murders that appear related.Alright,I know officially it takes 3 to make a serial killer but it's only Episode one - right?. At a hastily - built(it was only ten minutes ago when the guy was teaching piano) shrine one character says enigmatically,"This isn't a community - it's a group of people held together by lies". There's quite a bit of this sort of stuff,unfortunately. The splendid Miss Finneran moves in another universe,nay,another dimension to the rest of the cast and they will be hard pushed in the next few weeks to catch up with her. As ITV's rival to "Poldark" I fear "The Loch" will be a bit of a non - starter.
Ackley Bridge (2017)
Where is Harry Wharton now that we need him?
Or Bob Cherry..or Johnny Bull,come on,even Billy Bunter would do at a pinch.Think they didn't have racial diversity at Greyfriars 90 years ago? What about Fisher T.Fish from the Yewnited States,or more relevant,Hurree Jamset Ram Singh - the Nabob of Bhanipoor?O.K. so his nickname in those less enlightened times was "Inky" but he suffered far less racial harassment than his kinfolk at Ackley Bridge - which is really "Waterloo Road in disguise. The programmes share the considerable talents of Miss J.Joyner,but even she cannot rescue this disaster of almost comic proportions. This culture - clash school story ,as subtle as a Cruise missile,is full of elderly schoolchildren with bad "Northern" accents,many of whom appear to be competing for the "Worst performance by somebody from a third - rate Stage school in 2017".And the competition is fierce. Older actors who should know better and indeed have done better in almost every other programme they've been in seem to be looking around desperately for a way out,but sorry guys,you're stuck for at least the season. This sort of "Let's all live together in a Rainbow Classroom" fantasy is de rigeur in a fragmenting society,but wishing ain't going to make it so. If you pay peanuts for teachers you will get monkeys. More than ever there needs to be an incentive for good teachers to work at the sometimes more challenging chalkface. Who is going to put themselves in the firing line of State Education for a pittance when the Private Sector is far more comfortable and better paid? Ackley Bridge and its like will remain a dumping ground for children and teachers until this problem is addressed. And programmes like this do nothing to help,merely being a Recruiting aid to posh schools as nobody in their right mind would want to work in a school like this.
The Damned United (2009)
The best manager England never had...
...Brian Clough.I met him once,a few years down the line from the events depicted here.It was a Leyton Orient where Notts Forest were set to play an evening cup tie they could well have done without as the pitch was like a bog and it was lashing with rain.Clough was on the pitch wielding a fork as he attempted to disperse the pools of water seeping up from the underground river that flooded frequently back in the days before proper drained grounds were the order of the day. "Surely that's not your job,gaffer?",I said. "If I don't do it no other bugger will,and the last thing I need is for the boldly game to be postponed",he grumbled. We chatted for a minute or two and I asked him about an International defender the papers said he was trying to buy. He leaned on the fork for a moment and said,"Well,lad,he wanted me to pay his fxxxxxx mortgage off and give him 30 grand under the table,so I thought "bollocks to you,young man" and that's the end of it". This frankness was typical of him and accounted in a large measure why he was disliked by the game's governing body.And his (justified) self - confidence,nay,arrogance which is well bought out in "The Damned United". Only he will ever know why he chose to try a Don Quixote job on Don Revie's team which was reviled throughout English football except for a few square miles of God's Own County. He failed because of poisonous personalities in the team who hated him intensely and he was sacked after six weeks when the directors would have been better off sacking those players who sought to do him down. They must have felt sick when six years later he collected his second consecutive European Cup with a team on paper less talented. Mr M.Sheen is superb as this strange contradictory man,capturing his mannerisms perfectly.Mr T.Spall matches him in the rather more subdued role as his partner in bromance Peter Taylor. The actors playing footballers look exactly like that - actors playing footballers. The staged football scenes are not very convincing but the point is made that Leeds United were pariahs in the First Division and thoroughly deserve their current obscurity. Some where in that great manager's office in the sky,is turning to Jock Stein and Mat Busby and saying "I told you so".
The Light Between Oceans (2016)
"Finders keepers - Losers weepers"as seen by Ingmar Bergman
I wanted to enjoy this because the novel was good but unfortunately much of the edge has been taken off the story in adapting it for the screen.Furthermore the production company has chosen to present it as an "hommage" to Northern European 1960s cinema. Significant looks,long brooding silences,a "locked - in" male lead in a role Mr M.von Sydow would have had trouble interpreting. The limpid piano music that is sub - sub Mozartian was soporific and repetitive. The wholly serendipitous appearance of a rowing boat containing a baby of exactly the same age as the one tragically miscarried was a plot contrivance hard to swallow in the book but at least there was a detailed and acceptable back story which is only casually referred to in the film. The even more serendipitous discovery that the baby comes from the same town as the childless couple stretched credulity rather further than I would have liked. Mr "locked - in" becomes Mr conscience - struck and begins leaving clues in the real mother's letter box and as quick as you can say Jack Robinson the truth is out. The ending comes so abruptly it could almost be considered rude. If this is what joining the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service does to you I can't see surge in the number of recruits,particularly among married men.
"I used to walk in the shade...."
"On the sunny side of the street" isn't a particularly difficult song to sing but it was noticeable that the only one of the several Barbara Windsors who had a go at it actually managed to get the whole melody right and that was the real one right at the end who gave it the full Bette Midler pzazz. And as in Ms Midler's "Beaches" where"The Glory of Love" was used as a leitmotif from from tinkling piano accompaniment to the full plush orchestral score at the end to note the journey the divine Miss M had been on,so in "Babs" - a much more modest affair I must own - "Sunny side" defined the subject's life. I'm sure that was just a coincidence. There was a lot of Chas'n'Dave type dialogue that spoke of lazy writing and "Up the apples and pears" accents that weren't very convincing and many of the stories told were too well - known to stand much repetition but overall because Miss Windsor is now a Grande Dame of showbiz and loved all across the social spectrum,"Babs" is well worth checking out on the i - player. For me the best performance was the wonderful Miss Z.Wanamaker as the eccentric Joan Littlewood who cast Miss Windsor in "Fings ain't what they used to be" written by ex - villain Mr Frank Norman and given music and lyrics by Mr Lionel Bart. One more little gripe;Ronnie Scott played the tenor saxophone but was repeatedly shown playing the alto - an error that would have made an excellent subject for one of his caustic jokes. Despite my misgivings I thoroughly enjoyed "Babs",the whole being more than the sum of its parts.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Write what you know.
Well,Mrs Travers certainly did that,basing her best known book "Mary Poppins" on her own somewhat fraught childhood. Having achieved that catharsis she had no wish to see her characters "Disneyfied" by a man whose only achievement as far as she could reckon was to have drawn a cartoon mouse and gotten very rich on it. Thus the contest began between this strong determinedly unimpressed Englishwoman and one of Hollywood's richest movie moguls for the "soul" if you like,of the world's favourite nanny. Well,we know of course that Mr Disney won her over eventually and ended up making possibly his best - ever film,and probably his most - loved. The "Mr Banks" in the title refers not only to Mr D.Tomlinson's character but that of her father,a gently alcoholic businessman in Australia on whom it was based. Miss E.Thompson is blindingly good as Miss Travers,charming yet steely right up to the end. Mr T.Hanks plays his usual good - humoured and slightly exasperated character,a turn he has made his own over the last 30 years. It's a sad and funny quite uplifting film - rather like "Mary Poppins" itself. Even if you haven't been to the pictures since 1964 when you sat down to watch Julie and Dick armed with a "Kia - Ora" and some popcorn I urge you to give it a go.
Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?
Just about everybody in the film is waiting to have a pop at Father James(Mr B.Gleeson)troublesome or not. He is certainly troubled;a late - comer to the priesthood after the death of his wife he is left to carry the guilt of the Catholic Church for decades of appalling abuse and cover - ups. He has an assistant - rather like Father Dougal but less bright. Through a querulous sort of faith he manages to keep ahead of the many demons chasing him until he more or less commits suicide by confronting a crazed survivor of institutional child abuse and lets him do his worst - which is pretty damned bad. This man's philosophy is "There are no friends - just enemies you haven't met yet".It seems to be one shared by all the inhabitants of his village,each of whom seems poised to do violence to the unfortunate father. "Calvary" is offered as a comedy.You can believe that or not as it pleases you. I have laughed more at a visit to the abattoir. But it is an impressive work,unfailingly cynical in it's approach to the "humanity" of humanity. It is full of excellent performances and contains a touching cameo by Mr M.Emmett Walsh as a dying writer that as far as I can tell has no relevance to the story but he is so good it doesn't matter. Mre B.Gleeson and Mr J.O'Dowd are outstanding as the protagonists in the battle between good and evil.Who represents which is up the the individual viewer to decide. "There is just enough religion in the world to make men hate each other but not enough to make them love each other". I say "Amen" to that.And so,I'm pretty sure,would Father James.
King Charles III (2017)
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown...
Behold the king.As yet uncrown'd;his beloved mother,a clever and subtle queen loved by her people recently dead. He is weak,vain,embittered ;a vaunting ambition to execute his own will even to the detriment of his people's. Two princes:one of serious mien with a wife keen for power.The other a jackanapes set on earthly pleasures before duty. As their father waits to assume the trappings of kinghood they plot to steal the throne. Bernard Levin wrote a clever poem comprised entirely of quotes from William Shakespeare. It was very popular.People understood it. Quite why there is an assumption on some writers' parts that the viewing public would not "get" a 21st century play written in part in blank verse I am not sure.I think these writers are underestimating the intelligence of the audience. I thought "King Charles the third" was rather elegantly done. We all know the Royals don't occupy the same planet as the rest of us. This play merely confirmed that. Monarchist or Republican,there is nothing in it to change your point of view. Just enjoy the magnificent Mr T.Piggot - Smith having a whale of a time and enunciating beautifully as the spoiled 70 -odd year old new king. He and Miss C.Riley use the speech patterns most successfully . The conscience of the king proves to be his downfall. Aided and abetted by the Prime minister and the Leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Charles would have been justified in saying " A pox on both your houses".
The Book Thief (2013)
"Ve have vays of making you talk........"
It's heart may be in the right place but "The Book Thief" suffers mightily from the almost impossible task of translating a book which was basically about the power of words into a medium that is often at its best when it uses as few words as possible. When an illiterate young girl is adopted by a poor but worthy German family prior to the outbreak of the second world war her desire to better herself is aided and abetted by her adoptive father. As the influence of The Party grows the family give shelter to a Jew thus endangering all of them. That's about it,really in basic terms,but the girl and the fugitive from Nazism develop a friendship and he eventually leaves the house in order to protect them all. The village is destroyed in a bombing raid and only the girl survives. In the end,a bit like in "Titanic",we see the mementoes of her long life and history. It's all very standard stuff but somehow unaffecting when we should be in floods of tears. What happened to "Death"?Here he is an almost peripheral figure whereas in the novel he binds it together and adds to our understanding of the actions of the characters. And the German accents ?They were very much of the "Ve have vays of making you talk"variety and merely distracted the viewer.We know they're supposed to be Germans,for heaven's sake,this isn't "Hallo,Hallo!" where Herr Flick of the Gestapo is going to limp in slapping his leg with his baton. Mr Rush and Miss Watson were particularly guilty of giving us 1950s British War film Germans,but then they say there's nothing like a foreign accent as a prop an actor. I did want to like "The Book Thief" and I did want to be moved by it.Unfortunately I didn't and I wasn't.
Decline and Fall (2017)
Once more Waugh's propensity for irony - as opposed to Post - Modern irony - is overlooked and his work turned into low comedy with the sort of acting that may have pleased Lord Rix 60 years ago and kept bums on seats at the Whitehall Theatre but really has no place on what I can only assume was a serious attempt to translate "Decline and Fall" into 21st century television entertainment. Like a live - action "Punch and Judy" we have clumsy physical comedy performed by people who have no talent for it. Mr Jack Whitehall seems like a nice bloke but a farceur he ain't. A person unfamiliar with Waugh's oeuvre might be forgiven for wondering what the fuss was all about. This is really "Nil Points" as far as I am concerned. The 3 I have given it are purely down to the casting of the guy who played Anthony Blanche in "Brideshead" - the single Waughian touch in the whole sorry business. Watch the re - runs of "Inside No9" if you want to see how great TV comedy has evolved.It's like looking at "The Ascent of Man.