Monthly Archives: December 2010

Wiping the floor

Funny though Charlie Brooker’s 2010 Screenwipe was, there was only one item on Monday’s show which made me laugh. And that was the sight of Ann Widdecombe being used to sweep the floor on Strictly Come Dancing.

I never watched the show, but the sight of her hoover-like sweep put tears in my eyes and a kind of hard-to-stop laugh threatened to erupt. Luckily it was a very brief clip. But my lips still twitch when I think about it.

NCIS: Los Angeles – Disorder

Good thing we didn’t delay watching the NCIS: Los Angeles Christmas episode a day longer. It was quite Christmassy, despite being California and shorts weather and broadcast far too early in December. But we ran out of time when it was on, and then having a visitor with no interest in ‘such nonsense’ we just had to wait.

Carollers

Kensi and Talbot

Christmas presents

There were carollers. Didn’t know they had them in California. But what’s the point of wishing people a pc Happy Holidays, when you have just sung a carol full of Christian meaning? And you just know they will encounter a body or something.

We wondered why the witness had to walk round in his severely blood stained shirt for so long, but it did look dramatic. Though given the amounts of blood, how come the carpet was clean? But it was a good episode in general.

Hetty went slightly mad over the presents, but it’s nice to see we all do ‘it’.

(Photos © CBS)

Upstairs Downstairs

I was never a regular viewer of the old Upstairs Downstairs. Not sure why. I think I was of an age when it sounded boring. But you still knew a lot about it, even in distant and foreign lands like mine. And it’s not every servant who makes it onto Sesame Street. (Put down the ducky?)

We enjoyed the new mini series over Christmas. The Resident IT Consultant cried at all the right times, while the Grandmother fell asleep.

I like Art Malik, but you wonder at the apparent shortage of Asian actors. Was quite taken with him without the turban, flowing beard and all. I often wonder about those things.

Not too keen on Keeley Hawes, but thought Ed Stoppard did a passable job. And we got a history lesson, having to sort out the order of princes available for becoming King, but I do wonder about the gravelly street. In fact, when I start wondering about authenticity I know I need to stop before I get grumpy.

The Guardian had a piece about people enjoying the idea of having servants rather too much, forgetting that most likely we would all be the servants. I’m sure we can rise above that notion and learn something from both Upstairs and Downstairs. I’d have hated being a servant, but I really wouldn’t have liked having servants around at all times, either.

But a nice 1930s dress would be welcome, as would the china. And the radios and the car.

A Muppet Family Christmas

It was a few years ago. Probably 1993 or 1994. As any mother of small children I didn’t do much chilling out over Christmas. (So unlike the rest of the time when I’d do nothing but sit around…) I knew A Muppet Family Christmas was on television one morning. Though I sort of doubted I’d get to watch it.

But I found myself free just before it was due to begin, and thought ‘if I can’t watch this now and forget about the chores and the children, then what good is Christmas?’. So I watched, mostly on my own. I suspect that Mother-of-witch stepped in and kept an eye on Offspring.

A Muppet Family Christmas

Ernie, Doc and Bert

Big Bird and the Swedish Chef

And it was wonderful. I sat there feeling good. It must be the ‘togetherness’ of the film. The way the Muppets end up spending Christmas with their Sesame Street friends, and the way the poor man who had originally rented Fozzie’s mother’s house, staying there with his dog, faces each new batch of house guests as they arrive and just finds more places for everyone to sleep.

I love it when Jim Henson and the dog do the washing up at the end. And the Swedish Chef measuring Big Bird for … you-know-what. I love a lot of other things too. The companionship. The snow. Miss Piggy.

It’s one of the most perfect films for Christmas, and I try to watch it every year. I’m hoping someone will keep an eye on Offspring for me this year too.

The big shark in the sky

It lost a little bit of momentum some time around the third quarter. Otherwise Doctor Who was pretty refreshing after too much Christmas food. Was it just that we’ve been missing him, or did they try harder this time? The Christmas Carol theme was hardly original, but worked quite well.

Michael Gambon, Matt Smith and Laurence Belcher

Amy in her police uniform and Rory as an old Roman was slightly odd, especially on board a spaceship, but seeing them in ‘clothes past’ almost made sense. And Michael Gambon is always good.

Matt Smith continues to put a smile on our faces, and his instant time travelling was fun and at times almost impossible to keep up with. Dashing back for the pin code was a good one.

Katherine Jenkins

If they are going to cast singers in the Christmas episodes, Katherine Jenkins was a much better choice than many, and her singing (it was ‘bleak midwinter’, wasn’t it?) was magical. The first song in particular worked so well, both for the shark and for us. Slightly strange to have her use the screwdriver as a microphone, but odder things have been known to happen.

Suitably romantic, suitably sweet little boy, and suitably literary Dickensian plot. According to Son it was a better Christmas Who than most. I agree.

Pieces of Poirot

Poirot falling to pieces was a novelty. I’ll give them that. But the consensus in these parts seemed to be that we prefer a slightly saner Poirot, and if the murderers can be more cheerful as they go about their business that would not be a bad thing. At least if it’s Murder on the Orient Express, and they are almost justified, and they get to travel on that great train.

David Suchet, Murder on the Orient Express

But it must have been the justification that had the screenwriter in a twist. It wouldn’t be pc to allow murderers to get away with it (although it seems to be in vogue in real courts, here and now), so we need to have Poirot all religious and with flashback to a possible mistake made earlier, as well as putting the current murderers in context with the stoning of an adulteress.

It is a very Christmassy Christie, what with the snow and all. Considerably more current news than they could possibly have hoped for, as well. Trains stuck. Cold trains. Bad customer service. Ineffective digging in snow drifts. Almost British. The period feel is good, and the train is lovely.

But we don’t want Poirot falling to pieces. He didn’t in the ‘old’ film, nor, as far as I recall, did he in the book. When did he become a catholic, or at least, so overtly religious? As the film began Daughter muttered that she hoped they weren’t going to change who did it. A bit hard with this scenario, but it began to look as if they’d change Poirot’s decision at the end.

Was it just me, or had much of the casting been done by someone who knew exactly what each character should look like, as defined by the old film?

And was this intended as Poirot’s last case? If so, I suppose he’s allowed to go round the bend somewhat. As Son pointed out, everyone was so very angry.

Murder on the Orient Express 2010

Christmas in Washington

with Joan Baez. Not a traditional Christmas song at all, but so very beautiful, and still so valid. To me it’s especially good that Joe Hill gets a mention.

There are other video clips of this song, and they are nearly all bad, with wobbly camera work or dreadful acoustics from various concert venues.

Let’s hope things will get better one day, both here and there.

Merry Christmas

CultureWitch Christmas card

Wishing you all a lovely Christmas!

The Plaza café

How long to get to the Plaza for a cup of tea? Pot of tea, even. I reckon it was in the vicinity of 49 weeks, and I only live half an hour’s walk away. Last Christmas I asked Son if he’d come with me to try out the recently restored Plaza theatre’s café, once a normal January commenced.

It never happened. Somehow nobody seemed to be free to just go out for elevenses or afternoon tea for no particular reason. And in case it was bad, I didn’t want to go alone. And in case it was good, I didn’t want to be on my own.

Then Borås Girl happened to mention that she had heard that Stockport has a nice cinema or something. We needed to meet up, so we decided to make it the Plaza, which is the ‘nice cinema’.

It was freezing out, but us Swedes are hardy. Borås Girl and I ventured upstairs, but they could do with a sign. It’s a lovely large room filled with pale green Lloyd Loom furniture, making it look very Art Deco.

Plaza café, Stockport

We sat by the window (with a view of the buses outside). I was so cold I was tempted by the toasted teacakes, but my standard test of a new place is the quality of the scones, so we ordered scones.

They were of that perfect homemade type, and large enough to satisfy even me. We ate slowly – sorry about that! –  and lingered for almost two hours, gossiping about the ins and outs of the church of Sweden (as you do). When it looked like people were filling the place up for lunch we departed and decided we’d be back. Sooner rather than later.

And if Son is not up for it, I’ll take Daughter.

(Photo borrowed from ‘stagedoor’, as I forgot my own camera…)

Good old NCIS – Sandblast

It started with a face, and I had to work my way back to whose face and what episode. It turned out to be Blake Bashoff’s face and the episode was Sandblast, a great episode from season 4 which we don’t watch nearly as often as we should. I remedied that with yesterday’s lunch, and it reminded me of what has almost gone missing in more recent seasons. It’s choc-a-bloc with funny one-liners and you sit there wearing a big grin as you watch.

The reason Blake as the teenage Josh came to mind was that he was unusually good. Bereaved, but allowed to be funny and normal, with DiNozzo being very DiNozzo-ish while still not coming across as insensitive or making me want to bash his head in.  If you apply ‘an eye for an eye’ you end up with ‘a lot of toothless blind people’.

It’s the episode where Gibbs meets Lt. Col. Hollis Mann, and what a meeting it was! She gave as good as she got, and sometimes before getting it. There was never a more suitable match for Gibbs, which is why she couldn’t be allowed to last. But she was fun while she did, that future fourth ex-wife of his.

DiNozzo had also met ‘his match’ in Sandblast, and it’s weird how Jeanne was sneaked in and barely noticed because of Hollis Mann. What we did notice was Tim’s poison ivy. Second time round for poor McGee. And Director Shepard was more than acceptably catty, now that we have hindsight.

There was the charming muslim terrorist, and his pal Abraham, ‘a few puppies short of a petshop’, but who nevertheless knew what names mean. Although he’d never come across Tim as ‘he who is about to wet his pants’. Understandable, but ‘when your time’s up, it’s up’.

Sandblast was better than ever, and I don’t think it was just because it had been a while. Quality shows.