Monthly Archives: December 2009


Help me out here, will you? Christmas carols are generally quite nice, one way or another.

Back in my foreign days we read about the quaint English custom of going carolling, which sounded really nice, both for the singers and the sung-to. We no longer live in charming little villages, with charming church choir quality type people doing the rounds singing Christmas carols outside people’s houses, in the snow, with robins nearby, and so on.

So why do young people still think carolling is a good idea? It is meant to sound good, isn’t it? They want money for their trouble, so I’d want something good in return. Or am I paying to get rid of them? And in general, should it not be my right to ignore them, not to have (bad) carols in the middle of dinner?

It’s nearly always boys of a certain age, who have never been able to sing to save their lives. Why now? Do they honestly believe they contribute to everyone’s well being in December? And why can’t they even sing something decent, however badly?

Today at dinner we had the same group of boys we turned away last week. Did they forget, or did they think we’d love them today?

I wish I could understand how their minds work.

Joan Baez and whatsisname

It was the fact that I was feverish that meant I had time to watch the Joan Baez programme on BBC the other evening. Had I been more myself I’d have been too busy. So, silver lining and all that. I believe the programme was introduced as something that would tell us lots (all?) about Joan we didn’t already know. That may have been over optimistic.

But it was still a good programme, with a lot of 1960s ‘nostalgia’, Martin Luther King and the Vietnam war and other stuff long forgotten. Joan talked fairly openly about some things, but I bet she kept quiet about a lot more which we, quite rightly, have no business knowing.

Joan Baez 9

The interesting thing was that every person who was interviewed for their knowledge of Joan had a name displayed when they were on screen. All except that little man in the spotted purple shirt. I’m old enough to know who he is, but had I watched with the younger generation I’m fairly sure he’d have been anonymous. At what stage is a person so important that they can appear without a credit?

Anyway, never mind him. Joan is infinitely the most talented of the two, and it was her programme. I also think she is better now than she ever was. Power to older females!

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest

The third Stieg Larsson film confirms what I said about the first two. If this is low budget, then that’s what we need. No glossy Hollywood stars driving too fast in fancy cars. Instead we have what the books want; namely normal looking Swedish people acting the parts of – almost – normal Swedish people and immigrants in Sweden today. If fast driving is required, then that has been done quite normally, and ‘on the cheap.’

Lisbeth Salander

Luftslottet som sprängdes has been changed from the book a little more than the previous books, but only to fit in with a plot that will work in just over two hours of film. I’d say there is very little that’s incomprehensible to someone who didn’t read the book first. The only thing I would have liked is more insight into the complex way the police worked out what was going on. There was very little room for the police work at all.

The doctor at the Sahlgrenska hospital was just right, if awfully young looking. (Can’t find the actor’s name, though.) They have also kept all the female roles, rather than integrating several into one, which just shows that the trilogy does have a strong voice for women.

As I mentioned re the second film, they have played around with the seasons. In film three we have winter most of the time, except when at home with Annika Giannini, who has perpetual summer outside her house. Slight oops, perhaps.

Director Daniel Alfredson has put his famous father Hans in a cameo as Evert Gullberg, which is confusing as he comes minus his moustache and his normal speaking accent.

And an appearance by the Prime Minister would have been fun, obviously.

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Having read reviews of the second Stieg Larsson Millennium film, The Girl Who Played With Fire, which were critical and claimed it’s nowhere near as good as the first film, I was worried. No need. I’d read complaints that there weren’t any cameo appearances by big names. There was one, actually, with Per Oscarsson as Holger Palmgren, and he was good as this respectable old man, which is different from his younger days.

Flickan som lekte med elden

There is simply no need for big names. And if we can agree that the books hardly count as great literature, but are great reads, then the films are in the same vein. Not exactly Bergman, but good, exciting films. And that’s enough. This second film may well qualify as a ‘low budget’ film, but what more do we need? It’s all there, inasmuch as you can put a long book like this into a two hour film.

Good Swedish scenery, and they may have turned the seasons upside down, but I’ll forgive them for that. Lisbeth’s flat is somewhere we’d all love to live, and it’s good to see it for real. A lot of the inner reasonings you get in the books are missing, but we can’t have everything.

Flickan som lekte med elden

Why they have Lisbeth using Windows on her Mac is beyond me. Old Windows at that, according to Son who watched with me. Less of the hacking than would have been fun, but I daresay there was no time for all that clever stuff.

Flickan som lekte med elden

The advantage with giving big name actors a miss, is that we get to see many unknowns (to me, at least) who are both good at what they do, and who fit the roles better than the big stars might. I gather that Paolo Roberto plays himself, which is weird, but fun. If this is what we get on a budget, I’m all for it. Give us more!


‘A woman tormented by an abusive, sadistic husband desperately tries to find her way out of her predicament. She discovers that she may have found the solution in, of all places, her cooking class – she finds out that one of the men in her class is even more of a sadistic psycho than her husband, and she hatches a plan to get him to kill her husband.’

Casualties 2

As I was saying the other day, good looking actors can be bad for a film. But in Casualties from 1997 I’d say it’s the fact that Mark Harmon is quite so handsome which makes the chilling plot of the film so effective. I mean, would you expect to find Mark in a cookery class in the first place? And when he chats you up, and you ask what he does for a living, he smiles and says he kills people.


This film is good enough that you actually forget that you’re watching Mark Harmon. His Tommy Nance is so awful that you just want to kill him yourself. Poor Caroline Goodall as Annie has really jumped from the frying pan into the fire, and you soon give up any thoughts that this will sort itself out, as it gets worse by the minute.

Casualties 1

My DVD copy of Casualties comes subtitled in the four Nordic languages, and you can’t turn off the subtitles, so it’s a case of picking the least disruptive language. I was intrigued to find that the Swedish translator thinks Annie tries to attack Tommy with vinegar. It was rather stronger stuff than that.

The really funny thing about this film is the comment I came across in an online review, which said it was a shame that the two main actors weren’t younger and better looking…

Pretty boys

She’s kind, that Catherine Shoard in the Guardian. In her interview with Zac Efron last week, she felt sorry for stretching Zac’s interview skills, which isn’t usually what reporters do when they find a struggling victim.

I have very little interest in, or knowledge about, Zac Efron. I only know him as the snivelling teenager taken in for questioning in an episode of NCIS season 3. There was an outlandish joke about testicle cuffs played on the two teenagers found with a stolen mobile phone in the woods. Later I was surprised to find that Zac was the male lead in High School Musical, something I never watched. I saw it flickering past on Daughter’s laptop screen on the train once, minus sound, and it didn’t make me to want to watch it.

So, just a pretty boy then, now trying for a life post-HSM. Catherine ponders whether he will be a Leonardo DiCaprio or a Chris O’Donnell. Hmm. I know Leonardo Di Caprio and I can’t stand him. I only know Chris O’Donnell from NCIS:Los Angeles, which is a current CBS show, and he is no longer a boy. I have to assume he was pretty once. Also guessing he is seen as a failure, unlike Leonardo?

But it’s an intriguing thought, this wondering what happens to pretty boys as they grow old. My thought when I saw the photo of Zac in the Guardian, was that given another 35 years and some wrinkles and greying hair and he can be a future Gibbs in NCIS. Because Mark Harmon is also a former pretty boy, who only manages to be Gibbs aided by age and some not unattractive wrinkles.

The Guardian headline wonders if Zac could play a psycho. Mark Harmon did – if Ted Bundy counts, and that other charming mass murderer Thomas Capano – but to my mind, not very well. Just too sweet looking. Much more menacing in Casualties, which is probably partly due to higher age.

Chris O'Donnell

I suspect that in NCIS:Los Angeles Chris’s Callen is intended as a younger ‘Gibbs’ figure. They certainly have the traumatic background necessary for women to go all lovey and protective. And I imagine that given another fifteen years the 39-year-old Chris will be Gibbsier still. If he can do it, maybe even Zac can, except that 58 seems light years away for the High School star.

Mark Harmon

Don’t know how Chris O’Donnell interviews, but Mark Harmon sits there every time and says the same things. Most fan reports go ‘… and he said what he always says …’, and an interview with a young Mark had him spouting clichés and nothing else very interesting. The older Mark is only marginally different.

So maybe Zac doesn’t have to have any deep thoughts that he can wax endlessly on about in interviews. Not all interrogators will be as understanding as Catherine Shoard, however.