Monday, 2 April 2007

Back to the Future I & II

Sat 31/03 & 01/04

Channel flicking over the weekend yielded this classic - Back to the Future! This was made 22 years ago... geez, it makes me feel ancient. I had a tremendous crush on Michael J Fox for the longest time. This spurred us into hiring Part 2 and even the arty, continental proprietor of 'The-Best-DVD-Shop-in-London' commented that the movie was a classic. We'll be watching Part 3 tonight- oh yes!

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

The Girls' Guide to Hunting & Fishing - Melissa Banks

I've had this book for years and tried to read it way back in 2002. Didn't really like the Catcher-in-the-rye-ish narration at first so I'm glad that the style shifted quite quickly away from that pre-pubescent voice. The book as a whole had several styles and voices but belonged firmly to the 'Sex-in-the-city-oh-why-are-men-so-rubbish' moaney genre. Am quite glad that I left it behind in Geneva airport.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Sin City

Sat 18th March

Liked the noirish B&W quality but it was just a little bit too violent for my liking. Fell asleep during this one too but I'd be more inclined to give it another go.

Tideland by Terry Gillian

17th March

Very strange movie - quite sinister too. Took the form of a childish nightmare and I inadvertently fell asleep.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Radio 4 goodness

Perfect accompaniment to work. Just heard this . My little secret pleasure as I'm supposed to be monitoring phonecalls. Heh heh! Now it's Lucy Porter (top comedienne who was headlining @ Comedy Candy* last Thursday - big it up little lady) playing Regina Spector - class! (excuse the MC/DJ speak, thought i'd balance it off after my previous post which became a bit of a lit crit review!

* fantastic evening kicked off by Justin Edwards playing his comic songs.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

The Tempest - RSC @ Novello, London

14th March

Fantastic vision of The Tempest as a post apocalyptic hinterland by Rupert Goold. Aside from King Lear, this is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays simply because it contains so many verbal imageries of the sea. I love the sound of the compound words in the play like 'sea-sorrow', 'sea-storm' and it is ironic that the 2 non-human characters in the play, Ariel and Caliban have some of the most elegant lines in the whole cannon. There was an excruciatingly long pause as Prospero realises how hardened his heart has become after Ariel tells him he would show compassion if he was human. In this version, Ariel is rendered almost frozen and immobile through the spell Prospero has place on him which has a whole raft of Beckettian overtones. The clowning between Stephano, Trincalo and Caliban was some of the best I'd ever seen and both Antonio and Sebastian were played with the right combination of sarcasm and cynicism. I loved the opening storm scene and Gonzalo's little speech about his socialist vision of utopia without a dependency on oil seemed so modern, especially in light of the war on Iraq.

Being one of Shakespeare last plays in the Romance genre, the themes of redemption, reconciliation and transformation are pretty potent ideas. I was still in a thoughtful mode this morning contemplating the filmic, stage images and felt strangely cleansed and transformed. I really wish more Shakespeare plays were presented in this way.

Hootenanny @ The Big Chill House, King's X

11th March

Lovely afternoon which was a heady cocktail of comedy, mates, alcohol and some nudity thrown in for good measure. Run by my good friends Phil Nichol and Janice Phayre we were treated to the talents of Suskin, Nick Doody, Justin Edwards and Gary Wells. We were treated to a fabulous butterfly dance and I also ended up line-dancing with the tallest woman ever!

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Charlotte Hatherley @ Carling, Islington

Went to the gig because Gruff's good mate was playing. Loved her voice and unpretentiousness. Really fresh and honest singing. 'Be Thankful' is a really beautiful track and comparisons to PJ Harvey are just a result of lazy journalism.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Apollo/Children of Adam/Themes & Variations - Royal Ballet @ ROH

5th March

Gruff's first ballet and I'm so glad that he enjoyed in. The dancing was sensual and we got to watch the great Darcey Bussell.

The History Boys by Alan Bennett @ Wyndhams, London

An excellent play which lived up to the hype. AB weaves all the differing stands of arguement about the nature and value of education. In today's world of league tables and parental anxiety about schooling, AB's play gives much food for thought. What is the point of being able to simply pass exams when you can't really learn? Can knowledge be examined? Is there no merit in learning for learning's sake? It was laced with so much humour and wit in the repartee between pupil and teacher. I liked the 80's soundtrack and use of filmic material - can't see how it would work on film when it has some highly theatrical and poetic monologues. Definitely want to try to read the script at some point.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007


25th Feb
Nostalgic trip down memory lane. I remember being mildly disapproving of Bill Murray's lasciviousness as a youngster watching the film many eons ago. Much preferred him in 'Groundhog Day' and Dan Ackroyd made much more on an impact in 'Trading Places'. This is still a fun movie though if only for the scenes of the Marshmallow man striding through the streets of New York.

p.s. think I also suffered from some sleepless nights when I was little just because my young fertile imagination couldn't cope with all the Zul stuff. I'm still crap at scary movies till this day and I don't understand some people's ghoulish fascination with the genre.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Mrs Henderson Presents by Stephen Frears

Sun 25th Feb

Watched this for lovely DJD playing a dotty, crabby widow. I liked the production values and thought it captured the WW2 era pretty well. Perhaps it might have packed a greater punch if I'd watched this at the cinema - it'd be more of a 'show'. Will Young was really rubbish - he came across as a lisping, mincing luvvie that you just wanted to punch. Bob Hoskins was great though - nice, cuddly and not one bit as creepy as WY.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Holiday by George Cukor

Sunday 18th Feb

Read somewhere on the net about Hepburn's knitting scenes in this film and thought I should check it out. I liked Cary Grant's character who was still lost at 30 and wanted to find himself, to see the world and be a child again. Not sure what the handstands and rolls were about though - perhaps it was a throwback to his early days in vaudeville. Think Hepburn steals the show hands down despite the debonair charms of CG - tough, witty, funny yet vulnerable and sweet, she's such a legend!

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Tales from the City - Amistead Maupin

What a fantastic and funny book - it had me chuckling and even laughing out loud a couple of times. No mean feat considering I was pressed between a fellow commuter's smelly armpit and another's beer belly on the hell that is the Central Line during rush hour. This book was recommended to me years ago but it was just one of those that I've never got round to reading until now. I'm so glad I did, it's a real gem and already one of my favourite books this year (with Perfume a close 2nd).

Also managed to catch my first Book Crossing release this week which was extremely exciting. As soon as the alert popped up in my inbox, I rushed out for lunch to the spot which was a posh New Bond Street shop staffed by bemused sales assistants with trendy, sculptured, gravity-defying hair.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Great Expectations @ the National Film Theatre

Loved it- every frame is a masterpiece. For a brilliant critique of Dicken's influence on film read this. There's something about watching films in its original scale at the cinema - watching stuff on the small screen just seems to diminish its quality. Without the distracting effects of colour to express emotions, balck and white seems more concerned with narrative, telling the story. (Think about black and white newspaper stills carefully shot and chosen in order to make the most impact in the limitations of space) and the use of lighting becomes even more integral to the creation of atmosphere and mood. In this movie, the contrast between light and dark, the dichotomy of good and evil within Pip and Estelle and the end cry of 'letting the light' in is repeated as a motiff throughtout. In the halls of Satis House, the light from Estella's candle is completely oppressed by the darkness of the halls.

And has there ever been a more malignant creation to compete with that of the decaying Miss Haversham? The jilted and scorned victim of a fickle lover who ends up catching on fire just as she comes to realise the dire consequences of her smouldering hatred. And proud, insulting Estella who is the embodiment of the 'Treat them mean, keep them keen' mantra. This is storytelling at its most powerful and really deserves preserving.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Uncle Vanja @ Wilton's Music Hall

Saturday 10th Feb

Have wanted to check out this venue for a while now and this Mamet adaptation spurred me to action. What a fabulous space! Light blue crumbly walls and Indian murals at the back of the Balcony - it was shabby yet sophisticated like some grand dame. It was therefore such an apt venue for a play about decay. Michael Billington has said that he measures his life out in Uncle Vanya's and funnily enough, the last production that I watched was the one with SSB @ the Donmar. Okay so Colin Stinton wasn't as charismatic but the bitterness of his existence was very moving, his tears flowing freely in the final scene with Sonya. I was pretty curious to watch him as he's worked with Mamet a lot and he managed to pull off a British accent really well. Rachael Stirling was a complete chip off the old block - I've watched her mother in Medea many years ago and it was startling to see it mirrored- the voice, the gestures and the poise!

Turns out that Charlie Cridlan who I went to uni with and was extremnely talented even then designed the show so we had a reason to hang around for the after-show drinks where I tried really hard not to gawp at Sue Johnson (from The Royle Family)! It was very sad though to see Max Stafford-Clark once the Artistic Director of The Royal Court wheelchair bound and frail. Pretty sobering to see evidence of how time ravages the physical self, all the more poignant after the Margaret Salmon exhibition.

Margaret Salmon @ the Whitechapel Gallery

Saturday 10th Feb

Treated myself to a chocolate breakfast and then saw this exhibition whilst flipping through my timeout. Inspired by last night's cultural outing to the ballet, I thought I should check out my local gallery - built in 1901 as Britain’s first purpose-built contemporary art gallery. It was such a lovely exhibition plus it was free (something that is virtually unheard of in New York or Paris). The first room had a triptych of images on loop of 3 seperate mothers with a lullaby playing over the images. It was hypnotic yet apparent that the women were so isolated and removed from any other human reference or relationship. MS shoots in black and white and plays with light and images of windows opening, closing and silhouettes.

The wall of the second room was a huge gigantic screeen of an old lady singing 'Amazing Grace' on loop. Her wrinkled face magnified looked like crumpled tissue paper, delicately lined. Each time the song played, you heard the stress in the idea of seeing and being seen. Was she senile? Why was she looking lost in thought at the breakfast table? Why was it set for two? It was pretty ghostly and haunting yet the song seemed determined to find some strength in suffering - the song alluding to the pain of slavery.

Rhapsody/La Sylphide - Royal Ballet @ ROH, London

Friday 09th Feb

Went to the Opera House to watch Rhapsody/La Sylphide. It was magnificent - I was drinking in the footwork and was just floored by the elegance of the dancers - oh, to be blessed with an iota of the talent and ability contained in their little toe!

The first bill - Rachmaninov's Rhapsody was a modern day, Turner-resque romance with Miyako Yoshida a Principle Guest artists dancing with Carlos Acosta. (by the way - what's the term for a male ballerina? I reckon they're called Balleroonies). INHO Miyako easily outdanced her male counterpart, she was just atonishing - entering on pointe for what seemed like all eternity. She tiptoed delicately across the fragile stage as if it would crack under the strain of her immense grace. Charting out with her feet the passion of their love - it was just soooooooo romantic, I felt as if my heart would burst smilingly (to borrow a quote from King Lear)

La Sylphide - a parable about trying to have it all but losing everything in return is supposed to be a classic in the danish repertoire. The tartan outfits were just a little bit too comic although the pressence of Tamara Rojo as the Sylphide redeemed it. She's definitely one of my favourite dancers at the Royal Ballet just because she got this inimitable quality about her.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Unless - Carol Shields

Picked up this book at an OBCZ and was mildly intrigued by the blurb. I liked her sparse style and it references another Canadian writer Margeret Atwood whom I think is just superb. Reta's oldest daughter Norah gives up college one day and takes to begging on a street corner, becoming a vagrant. This novel charts her mother's reaction and her own thoughts about the position of women in literature and in life. The impetus to find out what led to Norah's mysterious behavoir kept me reading till the end - would have otherwise given up because it charts the inner worries a mother has for her daughter and is sometimes too fretful in tone. Have passed it on to the UK Bookcrossing Yahoo Group's sweepstake winner December mum and hopefully she'll enjoy it. It's made me want to re-read another Atwood this year.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Thank you for not Smoking

Reserved 'Litle MissSunshine' but it had not been returned so this was second choice off the back of Jess's recommendation. Great movie - loved the particular sayings about 'arguing correctly' and not having to prove that you're right, just that the other person is wrong.

Must confess that I was struggling to stay awake at the end but it was purely my own lack of sleep and not in any way due to the content or quality of the film.

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The Queen - Stephen Frears

Have watched this movie twice now - once while baby-sitting the adorable Freddy and then at a BAFTA screening at Chez Butch. Wasn't too surprised that HM bagged so many awards, the transformation is startling and complete. HRH should be really chuffed that her image has been given such a sexy injection with HM. But, (and there's always one on this blog) - the humor and the oddity of the family and it's place in the British public's consciousness is debated and but never really taken apart. Yes, there's the cry that the Queen represents all things quintessentially 'British' stoicism, tradition, stiff-upper lip etc but I everyone else in the world sees the British monarchy as a huge pantomime, glossed up figures behind a glass showcase. At times, the movie felt as if it owed a debt to the Spiltting Image series, Philip ranting about how the 'Tea's gone cold'. In essence the popularity of the film just shows how fascinated people are by the idea of monarchy - when will this nation get to grips with modernity and step closer towards a republic!

Monday, 29 January 2007


Pretty disappointed with JC's latest efforts - the premise was orginally quite enticing given that it's like Malory Towers or St Clare's for adults. But there's only so much interest you can gather for tales of youngsters bonking their hearts out. It was also pretty disturbing that the central plot twist involved the breaking of a peadophile ring - dark stuff for something that's supposed to be frothy reading! Am now truly convinced that JC's target audience is the Daily Mail brigade - I feel a little bit cheated.

On another note, I'm thinking of subscribing to an on-line audio book subscription. That way, I'll be able to knit and 'read' books at the same time - genius!

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Ballet 101

Ordered this off Amazon for the massive sum of 67p - the postage was 3 times that price. It's extremely factual giving you the history and information about the various schools but very useful indeed. Still plodding on with Wicked! though my interest in it is slowly ebbing away.

Monday, 15 January 2007

The Shipping News by Lasse Hallstrom

Pretty depressing and heavy at certain points but great all-round performances. Cate Blanchett played against type as a nasty, horrid mother and Kevin Spacey too as a timid & shy loser. Laughed out loud at some points; essentially at the sensationalists headlines. I've had this book for a while (before it was made into a movie) but have never got round to reading it. Movies based on books you've already read seem slightly diminished. They're both such different mediums that you can't impose any comparisions - I love the visual aspect of movies, the nuances that aren't spelt out in black and white but when you have a good grasp of how the plot is going to unfold you loose a slight bit of interest because you not as engaged in the narrative. Read Brokeback Mountain and then watched the film pretty dispassionately. I guess when you read the book first, your mind is untainted with images of places and people who never look as ugly or normal as they were described.

Have started on 'Perfume' but have deliberately stopped as a crucial part because I don't want to loose that element of curiousity when I watch the film. Also indulging in a bit of trashy reading - Wicked by Jilly Cooper (such a big tome that I've allocated it as home reading for practical reasons). Lighter, shorter and pithier for tube journeys, I've got 'Labyrinths' by Jorge Louis Borges.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Read Brighton Rock when I was a young, voracious reader but this little novel is a mature treatise on the nature of love, desire and jealousy. Structurally surprising, it is a story about a story and written by a writer (Greene) writing about a writer (Bendricks). The self-conscious narrator in the first half of the book speaks with the twisted hatred of a male lover betrayed and abandoned. This is replaced convincingly by the feminine perspective voiced through the intimate medium of diary entries (perhaps borrowed from Joyce's 'Ulysses'?). The end of the affair, secretive by nature occurs half-way through the book when the tryst is revealed and confessed hence bringing about the demise of its existence. The Affair in the title alludes of the sexual liason but also to life as a trivial inconvenience. It examines the tension bewteen extremes such as God versus the Devil, good versus evil and love versus jealousy and asks whether such boundaries exists. Both Bendricks and Sarah suffer a crisis of faith in their own manner - and was as passionate as Richard Dawkins in its indictment of organised religion. Well written and an inciteful multi-layered view on adultery.

This is all part of my big book-reading campaign for 2007 and I'm hoping that Bookcrossing will help. Was originally aiming for 50 books by December 2007 but that equates to roughly a book a week which is going to be pretty ambitious when I've got so many ECA's this year!

Thursday, 4 January 2007

This Other Life

Like most of the UK's 30-something, telly-watching populace the prospect of This Life + 10 was simply too intriguing. A symptom of the Friends Reunited syndrome. Yes, the characters still hadn't changed much and could swear and bitch for England but surely that's the deep-seated fear that we all have within us. That life and life lessons have taught us nothing, that we repeat the same mistake unable to escape our own demons and weaknesses. This Life was groundbreaking in the 90s for its content and style. I was a little too young to completely identify with the characters then but I suspected then that this is how we were headed, that we'd be a disaffected, unhappy, navel-gazing lot caught up in the trite minutaie of trivial anxieties. It was never 'real' or edgy (for that 'Shameless' pushes more buttons), you never believed that they were really lawyers, just young people in LA Law style pretending and blagging their way through their jobs much like what we all do. In any case, my post-uni life was more 'Gimme Gimme Gimme' than anything else!

What followed 'This Life' was 'The Thick of it' - what a sublime show, the blinking politician on Paxman was hilarious. This programme and Radio 4 justifies the BBC's license fee - I just wished the Beeb would produce more programmes of this calibre.

Have also become a BookCrosser and it's strange how I'm so thrilled. It feels slightly subversive as well, like we're secret book spies passing on intelligence to fellow reading counterparts. Dropped off 'Dracula' and 'The Beach' both of which should give the new readers some joy and entertainment. Hope that they provide a bit of a surprise to someone's day and that they don't end up in TfL's 'Lost and Found' section! Was planning on dropping off a whole loads of books to the local charity shop but I suspect they'll just languish there for ages waiting to be picked up by a browser.

I'm making it my mission this year to read all the untouched books on my shelf so hopefully this will prompt me to get through them quicker so that I can BC them.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Christmas crackers ... and whimpers!

Thanks to the lovely Craig from Iknit, I brought Wood and Phil to watch 'Caroline, or Change' for the princely sum of £10 and we were 5 rows from the stage, absolutely amazing seats and I cried,.. (again!)

Besides stuffing myself silly with mum and dad's yummylicious food, I also had a bit of a filmic galore and watched;

- all 3 'Lord of the Rings'
although due to the fact that baby Alex aka Gollum was asleep - we had to watch it at half the volume which meant that I watched a lot more closely due to not being able to listen. Very strange experience indeed.

- The Da Vinci Code
TH had such dumb hair and the plot was as convoluted as a twisty thing which meant that you were riverted by the action. Did think that IMK was going to be a baddie though, in movie land, cripples normally turn out to have twisted and cruel intentions. Definitely spoof material.

-Memoirs of a Geisha
Hated the idea of this movie when I saw the initial trailers prior to its release but I realised that I had to actually watch the movie in order to have the grounds to diss it. I hate the Hollywood-isation of Orientals as mincing, passive and vapid and I don't think this will help Japanese people break away from that stereotype. Hello? Hevn't they heard of Edward Said and 'Orientalism'?!Granted, this was a period movie but it was also about the objectification of women and say what you like but they were prostitutes - selling their virginity to the highest bidder and female escorts at the end of the day. This just seemed to glorify the whole seedy business and was very much shot with a male gaze. Dire, superficial stuff - thought Gong Li was marvellous, they made Michelle Yeoh look bovine and Zhang Ziyi was vapid. Preferred the both of them in the Chinese Action movies when they really kicked ass instead of fluttering their sleeves (puke, gag). Again, up for spoofing!

-Pirates of the Carribean
Ahhhhh, Johnny Depp - always a pleasure

Cheesy, tacky but oh so tragic when you thought about poor old Christopher Reeves. Brought a lump to my throat.

-Life of Brian
Will never tire of it, Michael Palin's hopping leper is probably one of my favourite characters of all time.

-The Great Escape
Steve McQueen yum yum, total top totty ensemble acting and no smaltzy love story in sight.

-Top Ten wild Dives with Tanya Streeter
Amazing, made me green with envy. Loved the footage of manatees, sea lions, whale sharks but best of all manta rays. Nothing would beat actually being immersed in water, think it's pretty hard for the camera to capture the beauty and pure silence of that world.