Monthly Archives: March 2012

I’ll Remember April

This is a lovely film, about the shameful period in US history when they forced US citizens of Japanese extraction to live in internment camps. It’s something I didn’t know much about at all, and where I expected a mediocre film, I felt I got a charming and instructive story about what might have been a brief part of American history, but so very traumatic for those involved.

I'll Remember April

In 1942 four boys discover an injured Japanese submariner on the beach where they live in California. They are scared, and don’t know whether to kill him or report him or help him. One of the boys, Duke, has a brother in the war, another is a Japanese American and about to be interned.

It’s both funny and touching as you see their fear and the excitement, and the frenzy whipped up in their little town when the FBI arrive. Duke’s parents are normal upright people who stand up for their Japanese neighbours, and worry about their soldier son as well as the father working double shifts because there is a war on. So different from other war time films where we are made to believe that the American way of life never changed because they didn’t fight ‘at home.’

Things turn bad, as they have to, but the film ends on a hopeful note.

For a fairly unknown little film, there were some good performances from all involved, including Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon as Duke’s parents, and especially from Pat Morita as their elderly Japanese neighbour. I could watch this again. It was cute, but the seriousness of the politics counterbalance this perfectly.

It’s 45 candles on the cake for John Barrowman

Happy 45th birthday to John Barrowman!

John Barrowman and parents

Hardly surprising John is like he is with such crazily fantastic parents. Good thing they gave up on the idea of throwing him out for being a noisy baby. (Although he is still pretty noisy at 45.)

(Photo Helen Giles)

Due South

Due South

Ah, those polite Canadians! I’m so ignorant that I didn’t know they are especially polite until it was mentioned in the pilot episode of Due South. In which case I’m sure it’s correct. I knew Canadians don’t want to be continually mistaken for Americans, but the bit about manners was new to me.

I was fairly certain that Due South was a television series from about five years ago. Proves how fast time goes, as it’s getting closer to twenty years by now. But never mind that. I’m just glad I discovered it, however belatedly. And really, it’s mainly the size of mobile phones which has changed.

For anyone under the impression that I am mentioning Due South today because it happened to be Lucy Mangan’s choice of DVD-box this week, I have to say you are wrong. I may have been late with my discovering, but I did it just before Christmas, and lovely Son went and supplied me with the whole caboodle, and now the Resident IT Consultant and I can enjoy an episode whenever we need entertainment featuring an over-polite Canadian Mountie on Chicago’s mean streets.

I even watched the pilot twice, as Daughter was out the first time and I felt a compulsion to introduce her to RCMP Benton Fraser. She politely said it was fine, but she didn’t see any need for watching every single episode. She must be a little Canadian.

Apart from being a wee bit too handsome for my liking, Benton is a sweet thing, holding doors open for old ladies and being able to chase people for miles, not getting lost either in the wilderness of Chicago or in the vast, empty spaces in Canada. His wolf Diefenbaker is deaf and lip-reads, except sometimes I notice he seems to hear after all.

Once he got to Chicago Benton was paired off with smooth Italian detective Ray Vecchio, whose dress sense seems stuck in the 1980s. But he’s a nice man, once he gets used to the Mountie ways of doing things.

Well, what can I say? Being late I haven’t watched the whole series yet. But I will, and I intend to enjoy every step of the way. Starting with our pasta dinner tonight. (That’s the drawback. I have to think of meals that are easily eaten in front of the television.) And I’m a little disappointed to find they didn’t film in Chicago after all. It’s Toronto. Oh well.

Arrugas – Wrinkles

Arrugas

Or you can live long and go into an old people’s home. Not dying early might seem like a good thing, but it’s not necessarily much fun having to go into a home. Arrugas is a Spanish animated film set in a care home, and it is both heart breaking and at times very funny. But the heart breaking wins, and I was in tears by the end.

Emilio is getting increasingly confused and his adult son puts him into a home. At first Emilio seems quite ‘with it’ but gradually it becomes clear that he has Alzheimers. His room mate Miguel is a cheerful sort and he tries to keep him going.

Arrugas

He makes friends with a number of the ‘inmates’ and each of them has a problem of some kind. There is the woman who collects all the un-eaten food, to give to her ungrateful grandson when he visits. The childhood sweethearts who are still together after all these years. And then there is Miguel who appears to be a bit of a crook.

The selling point of the home is the swimming pool, except the old people don’t get to use it. The weekly gym is popular only because it gives the men an opportunity to ogle the teacher’s breasts.

Arrugas

Bleak though this film is, there is also hope. They have all lost so much (except maybe Miguel, who never had anyone to begin with), but when they look more closely, they find someone new, be it a puppy or a companion for travelling on the Orient Express (don’t ask).

Arrugas

And when you are elderly you can’t even kill yourself with your stash of stolen pills if they spill out all over the floor.

But there is hope. Not much, but some.

Beautiful film. Sad, but beautiful.

La Hora Cero

You can die young, and violently. The copious amounts of blood in La Hora Cero entered my dreams after watching this Venezuelan film at Cornerhouse. But don’t let that put you off! Nor the way the television reporter’s high heeled shoes caused her to slip in a puddle of blood. La Hora Cero is an incredibly good film.

La Hora Cero

It’s politics that’s behind most of what goes wrong. As always. In this case, both actively, and also because we are shown how the hero/bad guy Parca slips from being a nice young boy to adult paid killer, and if that’s not because of politics which causes poverty, which in turn sends young people the wrong way, then I don’t know what is. It’s not because he was evil.

The doctors are on strike. They probably want to be paid, or something. And then Parca discovers his childhood friend Ladydi (sic) heavily pregnant and shot, and there is no hospital to take her to (that is open), so he and his fellow thugs kidnap a young doctor, steal a car and take off for a private hospital where Miss Venezuela is about to have a boob job.

La Hora Cero

You can imagine the rest. It’s a bit like Assault on Precinct 13 (the original), except bloodier and with an even bleaker outlook as far as happy endings are concerned.

The medics do their bit, and the police are surprisingly competent as well. So is the Governor, if by competent you mean corrupt and looking after his own interests. With the help of morning television, which turns into afternoon television as the drama continues, Parca becomes more of a Robin Hood figure than he was. The striking doctors do the decent thing.

But that’s about as decent as things get.

Let’s look on the bright side. Some people are alive at the end.

La Hora Cero

Los Backstreet Primos

It’s time for this year’s ¡Viva! at Cornerhouse, and what an excellent start I had last night, seeing Primos by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo. It is easily the best film I have seen in Cornerhouse’s Spanish language film festival over the last few years, and as I came out of the cinema I was busy planning how to get hold of a copy for friends and family to enjoy too.

Primos

Having seen Daniel’s Gordos last year, I thought I knew what to expect; a fun film. But this was so much more, funny, romantic, and with that little bit extra that made it more memorable than other funny and romantic films.

The plot is simple enough, with Diego having been left in the lurch by Yolanda, and his two cousins (primos) Julián and José Miguel stepping in to prevent him from going crazy. Except they are possibly crazier than Diego ever will be, so their impromptu trip ‘home’ doesn’t turn out as they think.

Primos

Although, perhaps they aren’t crazy either. They have been formed by the people around them, and coming back home they meet up with their pasts. There is the drunk, former owner of the video rental shop and his beautiful daughter. There is Diego’s first love Martina, and her young son, who proves wiser in many ways than the three primos. And it’s hardly surprising that Spanish men are so very preoccupied with cojones and the size of them, if they are introduced to this ‘important’ subject so early on.

New and old romances flourish in beautiful settings, and the primos revisit their youthful impersonation of the Backstreet Boys, as well as the local seaside theme park. As I’ve noticed with other non-English language films, there is none of the prudish hang-ups about going topless on the beach, or of being seen perching on the toilet.

Primos

And breakfasting isn’t always easy, or ‘desayunar no siempre es fácil,’ as Diego finds.

It’s fluffy and silly, but so very wonderful.

Joan Baez – the 2012 Manchester concert

Joan Baez

I felt so guilty, dragging the Resident IT Consultant to another concert, even though we don’t go often and even though it was Joan Baez at the Bridgewater Hall. Decided it was good for us, however, and it was. What won’t be so good is this amateurish review of Joan’s concert. I have just been reading what one of my favourite music reviewers thinks of people who are not experts on writing about music. Although I refuse to be intimidated.

Well, I know what I like, as the saying goes…

Besides, I like Joan Baez, and whereas she might not sound the same as she did forty years ago, her voice has the ability to transport me back to about 1970, and that’s good enough for me. Her singing reminds me of what ‘it felt like’ back when it was cool to like Joan and when we still thought the world might one day – soon – become a better place.

Joan Baez

She went through guitars as though there was no tomorrow. Her assistant Grace trotted out with a new one (newly tuned, I assume) for almost every song. On this tour Joan has a two-man-band along, and that is quite sufficient. Many of the songs she did on her own anyway, and her style is such that too much ‘noisy’ accompaniment is neither necessary nor wanted.

Joan started out with some ballads, including her favourite type, with unhappy people who will soon be dead. But there is no avoiding the fact that Farewell, Angelina made the audience much happier. She reminisced about Woodstock, and about not giving birth in a caravan. Praise for Dylan, the best songwriter of the 1960s, and some confusion over Donovan’s contribution to one song.

Her stage drink this time was reported to be fruit tea, rather than the Irish coffee she’d once enjoyed, leaving her face with froth all over. It’s a relief to see someone like Joan on stage, feeling so secure in herself that she can wear cool and clunky shoes, so unlike the seductive dresses and impossible shoes other singers go for.

Joan Baez - the shoes

She must have been reading my mind, because as I was wondering if she only consorts with people on the right side of politics (the left side, obviously), she mentioned a conservative friend who loves Joe Hill, despite this beautiful song having been written about the ‘wrong person.’

I could be mistaken, but I felt Joan sung more songs that I didn’t know, or perhaps just ones I haven’t heard so much, including a love song written by her keyboard and strings and everything else musician, Dirk Powell. There were big hits as well, like Suzanne, Jerusalem, and an unusual arrangement of Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

Joan Baez

As usual, no interval, but after 90 minutes Joan came back on for three encores. First ‘Dixie’, sung with a bunch of fan’s flowers in her arms (very effective look), followed by Imagine. We had to ask for the third, but Joan said we were worth it, so got Blowin’ in the Wind. That’s when the audience stood up, and cameras flashed, making it the ‘rowdiest’ part of the concert.

Joan Baez

Came to my senses on the way out. No point in feeling guilty. Not just because  we are worth it. But I remembered that of all the singers I’ve forced on the Resident IT Consultant, Joan Baez is one he fell in love with. That could be why he seemed so happy.

It was a good concert.

NCIS: Los Angeles – Kensi x 2

The two-parter about Kensi and her Dad proved to be another well written story for the LA arm of NCIS. True, it was another one with family involved, but it worked. We became suitably suspicious of Assistant Director Granger. Is he another Vance or not? That’s the question. To dislike, only to like later? Or not?

NCIS: Los Angeles - Deeks and Granger

At least we have now had Kensi’s past sorted and she can be anguished about real crime in the present. Although, I expect we will get the past of some of the others. Callen might be done, but we could do more with Sam and Deeks. Maybe.

I wasn’t worried about Kensi’s future in NCIS, so didn’t have to freak out after the first of the two episodes. I could tell the shooting was about to happen and that it was probably planned in some way.

Less sure how they managed to clean up the house of you-know-who at the end. It can only have been a case of hours and usually crime scenes remain just that for some time. It would be good if fewer people were actually killed in this series. Surely it should be possible to shoot to disable more often?

And we had an armed Nell out with the others!

Bye Davy

Davy Jones

How could anyone not fall a little in love with Davy Jones? He was so small and cute. And unlike many other bands, with the Monkees we got to see our darlings on television every week. Much appreciated in the hinterland of pop.

And now Davy’s dead. Far too young. It was interesting to see the reactions on facebook. People I’d have expected to be too cool or simply not old enough turned out to be fans. I’m totally with the woman who said she wanted to marry him. A daydream.