Tuesday, 18 December 2012

my films of 2012 (4)

Dans La Maison (In The House), with Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas, directed by Francois Ozon - a talented but dysfunctional 16-year-old boy forms an attachment to the inhabitants of a particular house. His teacher encourages him in his creative writing, and it all goes too far. Witty, and referencing Rear Window, and entertaining. Kristin Scott Thomas is especially good as a neurotic art dealer. In French.

Ruby Sparks, Zoe Kazan, who is excellent, writer and star, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Paris. But - writer who can't write, invent  your girlfriend and then she comes true? Do me a favour.

Quelques Heures de Printemps (A Few Hours of Spring), with Helene Vincent, directed by Stephane Brize. Lower middle class provincial French milieu. A man has been in prison and has therefore to go and live with his mother when he gets out. She has brain cancer and decides on assisted suicide in Switzerland before she goes gaga. Well, there is plenty else going on there. A warm and touching film which is hard and cold at the same time, if that makes sense. Highly recommended. In French.

Paperboy, Zac Efron, directed by Lee Daniels. Well, it's not very nice, what happens. I tried to work up enthusiasm, I really did.

Ides of March, with George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffmann. Fab fab fab. Even though the plot line with the girl who is pregnant is not plausible. Excellent. And also totty heaven.

Three Days of the Condor, with Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, directed by Sydney Pollack, 1975, so blast from past. Stylish and cool, but so dated as to be meaningless.

Skyfall, Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Dame Judi Dench, directed by Sam Mendes. Up there with the best Bonds ever. Would have been a fabulous action film even if it hadn't been a Bond, takes you everywhere. Love love love.

Argo, Ben Affleck, John Goodman, others, directed by Ben Affleck. 1979. An attempt is made to get six American hostages out of the embassy in Iran. This is a true story. Who knew? Apparently Bill Clinton made it public in 1997, which passed me by. Anyway, excellent. The Canadians are heroes. Sort of.

Them's me films for 2012 - I do think I saw others, but did not make notes on them, and in particular Holy Motors deserves a post all to itself. Which it will get.

Monday, 17 December 2012

my films of 2012 (3)

To Rome With Love, Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, directed by Woody Allen. Does what it says on the tin. He loves Rome. Enjoyable, especially if you love Rome. Penelope Cruz is completely fab as a comedy hooker. Fun but forgettable, for me.

The Angels' Share, with various young Scottish people, directed by Ken Loach. Our Kenny loves humanity, even the Glasgow criminal underclass. Well, it was quite amusing and not uninteresting. Some of it is in Glaswegian: the French subtitles were very helpful.

The Deep Blue Sea, from the play by Terence Rattigan, with Rachel Weisz, whom I love, directed by Terence Davies. A doomed love affair. Ho hum.

Un Bonheur N'Arrive Jamais Seul - can't translate this title without help: "happy things never turn up on their own" - meh. Sophie Marceau and Gad Elmaleh, both of whom I like, directed by James Huth. A fun romantic comedy. In French.

Les Enfants de Belle Ville, directed by Asghar Farhadi. This film dates from 2004, and was re-released following the success of A Separation, see earlier post. It may have an English title, but I couldn't find one. The "Belle Ville" of the French title is a rendering of the name of a young offenders' institution in Tehran. This film may well be a masterpiece. It is about love and separation and death and reparation. In Farsi with French subtitles.

Laurence Anyways, French-Canadian, directed by Xavier Dolan. The 10-year relationship of a male-to-female transgender person with her (female) lover. Interesting. Made me think. Set in Quebec. In Quebecois French, some of which was subtitled for a European francophone audience (those bits however were easier for anglophone me to understand).

my films of 2012 (2)

38 Temoins (38 Witnesses), Nicole Garcia,, Yvan Attal, directed by Lucas Belveaux. Great stuff. Set in an atmospheric Le Havre. A woman is murdered outside an apartment block. Thirty-eight people could have witnessed the killing. Which of them did? Why are they so silent? In French.

Margin Call, Kevin Spacey and others, directed by J.C. Chandor. Twenty-four hours in the life of an investment bank at the start of the financial crisis. Gripping stuff, stylishly done. This film seems to have been forgotten, unjustly so.

W.E. Andrea Riseborough, directed by Madonna.  The critics hated this, but I enjoyed it. Edward and Mrs Simpson, we know the story - but told from HER point of view, which I do not think has been done in film.

Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson, with Bruce Willis as you may never have seen him before. Two very young lovers and a hurricane in New England. A strange and charming vision, and very funny in places. Something completely different.

De Rouille et D'Os (Rust and Bone), the lovely and wonderful Marion Cotillard, and the hot Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts, directed by Jacques Audiard. In French, but there is an English version now I believe. The underclass, kind of. Killer whales at a water park, bare-knuckle fighters, passion and pain. This one will stay with you, if only for the special effects when Marion Cotillard loses her legs (not a spoiler).

On The Road, the lovely Kristen Stewart, directed by Walter Salles. Every bit as dull and misogynist as the book.

my films of 2012

These are the films I saw in 2012 (at the cinema) in chronological order. With links. Language indicated if not English. First tranche:

The Iron Lady = Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, directed by Phyllida Lloyd  Terrific. And affecting. Meryl Streep's usual staggering performance. Wildly inaccurate re Parliament and some of the political events of the 1980s though. I saw it twice.

J. Edgar - Leonardo di Caprio as J.Edgar Hoover, directed by Clint Eastwood
 Clint has never made a boring film. Here the makeup was probably the star.

Une Separation - Leila Hatami as a wife with a serious dilemma in modern Iran, directed by Asghar Farhadi. Magnificent stuff. A couple at war, a parent with Alzheimer's, class and conflict in the Tehran of today. In Farsi with French subtitles. I saw it twice.

The Descendants - George Clooney as a Hawaii lawyer with an inheritance who is trying to restore his lost connection with his family, directed by Alexander Payne. Families are complicated,and this film is complex. Wonderful performances, real, and no easy solutions. I subsequently read the book, by Hawaiian writer Kaui Hart Hemmings, new to me, which is recommended.

Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows - Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, directed by Guy Ritchie. Load of terrible old tosh. I only went to see it because it was partly filmed in Strasbourg.

Millennium - Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, directed by David Fincher. Pretty good, but once you have seen the Swedish films and the TV series - this film is exactly the same. They tried so hard not to Hollywoodise this totally European story that they made the European film again, which made it forgettable.

More to come. I'll try and post these daily to limit the suspense. I know you can't wait.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

the final frontier...

real space suit
was at a very good little party last night, thank you Sue, at which a number of scientists from the International Space University, which as any fule kno  is right here in Strasbourg, were present.  A real space suit, which has actually been in actual space, was brought out and shown to us.  We were allowed to touch it!  Suddenly I was 15 again and being yelled at by my parents for staying up to watch the moon landings. How I wanted to take my protein pills and put that helmet on.

pic: University

Saturday, 15 December 2012

freedom of expression - is it real?

I do sometimes wonder.  Freedom of expression is not real if it is confined to the expression of views that those who read them are comfortable with. It means nothing then. Following a couple of links led me to this rather impressive blog (in English, he also writes in Arabic) by one Waheed al-Hussaini, of whom I had not heard before. Read it.  He is Palestinian, and was arrested, imprisoned and beaten up, effectively for not believing in Islam and saying so on line.  He was told that society would not tolerate criticism of Islam. He got out and into Jordan, and thence became an asylum seeker in France, where he remains, pending a decision. He says he still does not feel safe. He appears to believe that he is now free to write on line, and so he is. The blog, published in the Independent newspaper's website, is evidence of that. But for how long? The chilling effect of persecution and abuse is well known, even if there is no risk to the writer of being arrested or imprisoned, or worse (try it in North Korea and see how far you get). The Satanic Verses would not be published now, because publishers would not want their buildings firebombed. Jew-hatred is rife. Goose-stepping and Nazi salutes in Brighton, England because it happens to be the location of an Israeli-owned business. This blogger is still doing it, but had to leave his family and friends behind to be able to continue.  How many others would? Would you?

Victoria's Secret - at last they start to get it

The barely literate former councillor John Howarth, prop. Public Impact Ltd. (remember "Your Better Off With Labour"?) has sounded off on misogyny.  An authority on the subject, you might think him.  You would be wrong.  He doesn't actually understand the thing at all.  He was talking about the newly selected Labour candidate for Reading West, Victoria Groulef.  Here is part of what he had to say, fisking in red as always mine:

Conservatives really don’t like Labour people being involved in business, large or small. Evidence for this view?  No Conservative has said this.  They feel it is their territory. It makes them uncomfortable. Incoherent use of pronouns.  And some Conservatives still don’t seem to like women very much either as can be seen by the knuckle-dragging comments to another nudge nudge, wink wink item about Ms Groulef on the Conservative blog Guido Fawkes. Guido is not a Tory, as any fule kno.The item, under the headline “Victoria’s Secret” which for those who have led exceptionally sheltered lives is a popular American lingerie chain, is to be taken even less seriously than is Mr Willis. Guido posted the item referred to a short while after I posted a piece about Victoria's selection.  My piece was titled, er, "Victoria's Secret".  Ms Groulef’s business is no secret and I suspect will benefit from the increase in attention this internet chatter will bring. But what is it about these people – only right wing British men would think there is anything remotely unusual about women liking lingerie. Nobody said there was anything unusual.  Nobody dissed Victoria's business.  You are making this up, John.Try talking to some women, guys! Ah, here we have Reading Labour homophobia.  Jolly good.  Just what the electorate needs right now, hein?  Order of the Dog-Whistle, Second Class.

Jolly good though to see former Cllr Howarth coming out (fnar, fnar) against misogyny.  Been a long time waiting for that, haven't we John?  But now that you have done it, do stick to your guns, won't you?  Don't do a Doddy on Vicky and lock her up in someone's attic if she gets uppity and starts having her Own Ideas now.

And now we see former mayor of Reading Mr C. Maskell (Berk), who links to the post from Special Needs John from which I quote above, and has this to say:

A few days on from her selection she is already attracting a lot of free publicity because she is a successful woman in her own right. If you have ever met a female Tory politician you may have noticed that they are subservient to the Tory male. Insane.  I have met many female Tory politicians and been friends with several.  And no, call me unobservant, I haven't noticed anything going on in the way of subservience to the male.  In which party's interest was our only female Prime Minister elected?  I only ask.  Of course this is a personal opinion but don’t take my word for it, if you get the chance spend some time observing!
So there we have it.  Tories are misogynist, apparently.  (Female Home Secretary (and Berkshire MP) anyone?)  Reading Labour, of course, are not.  Because they've now selected a GIRL in Reading West.  Except that, er, they've got to.  Them's the rules.  Not their choice.  In Reading East, where they did have a choice, they selected - a CHAP.  Oh yes.  White bloke, obvs.  Gotta be.  What they wanted.  When they had a GIRL who was not foisted upon them but chosen, and who won not one election but two, Mr Howarth was recorded as saying "Never again".  When a GIRLwas foisted upon them in 2010 in Reading East they locked her up in Stuart Singleton-White's attic and refused to let her appear in public.  The Taleban could take lessons from them.
However, all the above is unworthy of me, and unkind.  The sheep that is lost, etc.  If a blow is being struck ("Steady on." Ed.) for gender equality, then I congratulate those who have struck it, yes, both of you, present and former Cllrs Howarth and Maskell, the Fat-Arse Boys.  You have seen the light, at last.  GIRLS are OK!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

get rid of what you've got

it's very short

Bob Ainsworth

pic: BBC
is to stand down from Parliament at the next election.  He says it's time.  Well, maybe, but it seems good people like him should stay in politics if they can.  Bob was Defence Secretary for the last year of the Labour Government.  He got to Cabinet at the wrong time, not his fault.  He left school at 15 and worked in the Coventry car industry for 20 years, then got the chance to represent his native Coventry for Labour in Parliament, which he always saw as a privilege, never as a right, as his smugger and posher Labour colleagues often did (step forward, Ed Balls).  I knew Bob ("Uncle Bob" to those who liked him, and we were many, despite the venom to be found on Labour List and elsewhere) best when he was deputy chief whip, in 2003-4.  He was deputy to Horrible Hilary, the vile, crabbed virago, possessing no discernible political intelligence, and nothing to recommend her at all, she having attained her position by virtue of who her father was, misogynist language entirely intentional, yes, I mean Hilary Armstrong, Chief Whip who presided over several of Labour's major disasters.
photo of this ghastly old bag: PA
Uncle Bob did his best to undo the damage that Horrible Hilary was doing, and went out of his way to treat people - all people - with the decency and respect everyone deserves.  And I include Hilary Armstrong in that.  I am treating her with anger and venom.  Some people deserve that too.

I wish Bob well in his retirement, or in whatever he chooses to do next.  Thanks for the drink that time at Conference Bob, and thanks for the chats in the Smoking Room.  I learned a lot from you.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

All about me

Lady Jennie has this meme, so here goes - the questions are hers, the answers are mine.

1. What’s your guilty pleasure? You know what I mean? What do you do that you know is probably not the wisest thing for you but you can’t seem to help yourself?
A  large glass of Alsace Pinot Blanc on weekday evenings 
 as the opening credits roll for Plus Belle La Vie (a soap)
2. Have you ever been able to overcome a bad habit? If so, how?
I stopped smoking in September 2003.  I did it by moving the furniture around so that I was never in the same position as I had previously been, so it kind of broke the habit.  What got me through it was knowing that I only had to do things without a cigarette for the first time once - then it gets easier.  It does, but I still miss it, and I am told that the first 20 years are the worst.
3. What’s your first memory?
Being in a a twin pram with my brother.  I was two, and he six months. He was asleep with his mouth wide open, and I could see down his throat.  I remember wishing I was at the end of the pram that he was, so I could see our mother's face.
4. Have you ever had an experience with a ghost?
Kind of, though I have never seen one.  Where we lived when I was about ten there were stairs to the attic room, which was my bedroom.  The dog would not go up those stairs, and both my sister and my cousin were frightened of them - they said a little old man was sitting there and they didn't want to go past him.
5. Have you ever had a significant dream? One that came true, or one that meant something to you?
We planned a trip to Australia, my first, in 2001.  In the weeks before it I had a recurring dream in which there were flames, and ash, and planes falling out of the sky.  I begged for the trip to be cancelled, because I had such a bad feeling.  Significant other told me not to be so silly.  We flew on 9/11.
6. What’s your most embarrassingly funny memory, and if you dare, your embarrassingly embarrassing memory?
Embarrassingly funny: I spent at least half an hour at a dinner party in 1979 telling the person next to me about someone we had both met, her history, how interesting she was, blah blah, people around us began sniggering - then it came to me that not only had he known her for longer than I had, but that he had actually introduced us, and I had forgotten he had.  Embarrassingly embarrassing: the formal dinner at my university graduation in 1975.  I asked the people near me to pass the wine.  They looked at me hard, but they passed the wine. Only later did I realise that wine was not provided with the dinner.
7. Alright moving on to more distinguished topics. Favorite book. Why is it your favorite?
Two favourites: Howard's End by E.M. Forster and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.  The first because it is complicated, and sad, and joyful, and is about a house.  The second because it is complicated, and sad, and joyful, and is about a house. They are both about England.  All the characters in both these books are quite horrible. For some reason that makes me love the books.
8. Last question – most romantic. At what precise moment did you know your spouse/partner was “the one?”
No difficulty.  In 1993, well before we got together, when he told me he was a Leonard Cohen fan.  At that time Lenny was deeply unfashionable, unlike today.  

OK, as you were

Allegations have been made, unsubstantiated and untrue, about the provenance of recent posts on this blog.  Access is now unlimited again, as before, and I shall continue to post whatever I like here.  I do not post about my workplace, never have, and have no intention of ever doing so.  I may however muse on any topic of my choice, and my polite suggestion to anyone who does not like it is, as always - go away and read something else.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

this just in

My musings, which have been appearing here since 2005 (with a brief hiatus in 2009, when forces of evil got it taken down), are henceforth going to appear on a different platform, and in a somewhat different form.  Times change... when this is finalised visitors here will be redirected.  Watch this space...

Monday, 3 December 2012

you're either in front...

Here is Guido, posting about the newly selected Labour candidate for Reading West, Victoria Groulef, and her "Lolita lingerie business".  The picture he uses is...

this one.

You're either in front of janestheone, or...

third to second?

in Reading East Labour were of course in third place in 2010. The national swing should take them back to second, as they were in 2005 when the seat was lost by Tony Page.  Don't think it much matters who or what the candidate is.  Myself, I would have chosen Mr D.P. Singh.  However, because Reading East was not all-woman shortlist, it has to be a White Bloke, so Matt Rodda it is.  Well, good luck with that one.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Victoria's secret

Victoria, pic accompanied a business website interview
Victoria Groulef has been selected as Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Reading West, which is, as the estimable Mark Bennett puts it, a seat which should not have been lost by Labour in the first place.  But that was then, and we move on.  Should be a pretty good election for Labour next time, but 2015 is some way off.  It appears to me that this was the right decision.  So, boys, don't try and bully this one, OK?  That kind of carry-on loses elections, as I hope you have finally understood.  Best wishes, Victoria, do it your way.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Roy McPherson

Island Road, Barrow, where Roy lived
Roy, on right, pictured at my grandmother's funeral in 2002
was a man who was born and spent his whole life in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria (previously Lancashire).  Like almost all Barrow men he worked in the Vickers shipyards.  He never married, and lived all his life in the parental home on Barrow Island. Roy was my father's cousin, the only child of my paternal grandmother's older sister Winnie.  He was exactly a year younger than my father (they had the same birthday).  Roy died on 12th November this year, at the age of 81.  Part of my family's history passed away with him, so I wanted to remember him here.  I was rather fond of Roy, and sometimes used to send him postcards from places I had been.  But although part of my roots are in Barrow, and I have been there regularly all my life, ever since my grandmother used to take me there when I was a small child, I have never lived there, and my grandparents and the generation of great-aunts and uncles I knew as a child have all gone now.  So I cannot do better than reproduce below the eulogy given at Roy's funeral by his cousin's husband Eddie,  which I appreciated for its gentleness and humour.

Roy Henderson McPherson was born in Risedale Maternity Home Barrow on 20th April 1931, the only child of Albert (Mac) and Winnie McPherson, and soon went home to 20 Island Road, where Roy would continue to live for the whole of his 81 years.

After attending school, Roy started work in Boots the Chemist but after only a short while was accepted for an apprenticeship as a shipwright with Vickers Armstrong’s. Because of his protected employment status, National Service was deferred until Roy eventually joined the Army in 1952. Roy served in Egypt about the time of the ‘Suez Crisis’. After being demobbed from the military, Roy resumed at the shipyard where his was to remain for the rest of his working life.

In his spare time Roy was quite physically active. He enjoyed cycling and travelled many miles in company with his friends.

Roy also played rugby with Furness Rugby Union Club and after his playing career ended he took up the whistle and refereed local matches as part of the Furness Rugby Union Referees Society. Roy rose to be a referee assessor and was the appointments secretary for the Society. He was rewarded for this work by being appointed a Life Member of the Society.

Roy enjoyed travelling and as well as holidays in Europe with friends, Roy visited his cousin Win and her husband Ted in Africa and also visited another cousin, Pat, in Malta.

Roy was always well dressed and loved looking at the latest men’s clothing in Marks & Spencer and Mister Mr, sometimes travelling to Morecambe to have suits or jackets made to measure at a bespoke tailor.

Roy was very devoted to his mother and when we start to tidy his house we found his mum’s dressing gown and hair net still hanging on a hook on the back of her bedroom door, even though it is 25 years since she passed away

Roy also enjoyed his food and was a very good customer of the food section in Marks & Spencer and was on first name terms with many of the staff. He also enjoyed going out for meals and would always say yes if asked to join in a birthday or other celebration.

Roy took an interest in current affairs and recently much has been in the papers and on TV about same sex marriage. One day during his recent stay in hospital he asked me ‘In these relationships between two men how do they decide which one does the woman’s bits?’ I was wondering how to answer when in all innocence Roy added ‘You know the washing up, cooking and ironing’. That saved me being embarrassed at having to answer what I thought was the question.

When his cousin Win Mills returned to live in Barrow, following death of her husband Ted, Roy became very close to her. The pair would talk on the phone once or twice each day and it was a great loss to Roy when Win passed away earlier this year.

Roy will be greatly missed by his family, neighbours and his many friends. He was a generous, kind and gentle man, of which there are very few about today.