Monthly Archives: March 2013

She’s 44

Abby - 'It is so Pulp Fiction'

‘It is so Pulp Fiction!’ At the time I had not seen PF, so wondered what Gibbs gave Abby for the birthday he hadn’t forgotten. He knew how old she was, too. I hadn’t taken Abby for someone who’d be coy about her age, but she was.

Anyway, it’s Pauley Perrette’s birthday today, not Abby’s. 44 is a nice and even number. And since I still don’t know what’s in that parcel, Pauley can share it with Abby.

Maybe no one actually knows…

(Photo © CBS)

Magazine Mark

People - Mark Harmon

Is there anyone out there who needs a pile of magazines with Mark Harmon articles and interviews?

Not me, which is why I’m asking. Shall I just put them in the bin? Or do people still collect stuff like this?

It could be a zeitgeist thing. Either we all want something, or none of us do…

Seeing Red

They could always kill her. Paris Summerskill. The name alone is enough to bring me out in a rash. Thing is, when they piloted NCIS: LA they had to remove and later kill the female boss. They can’t do the same again. She needs to die – or resign, I suppose – in part 2 of Red.

NCIS Red Team

But enough of dear Paris for now.

It’s the spin-off idea I’m wanting to mention. I still feel LA is the weaker sibling of NCIS, except that this last year the writing has been better for LA. I suspect it’s because Shane Brennan is giving it most of his attention. And now he has come up with Red, the travelling NCIS unit. (Which doesn’t at all look like the Hollywood take on Rejseholdet. Oh, no.)

Nothing wrong with either spin-offs or stea… borrowing ideas. But I understand that Donald Bellisario – the wily old fox – had it written into his contract that he had rights on stuff that might happen later, even after he was got rid of. And whatever your opinion of his effect on NCIS or his departure, a contract is a contract. That he’s already rich enough not to need any spin-off related money has nothing to do with it.

(But, I do feel another spin-off might be taking spinning too far. On the other hand, a company that sits on the most popular show will want to get a larger piece of the cake if they can. I still feel small is beautiful. NCIS was best at the beginning. Bigger isn’t better.)

(Photo © CBS)

So far, so good

It begins with a machete in Kenya. I remember when I read it that I admired the great first line. First half page, in actual fact. More so, because I sort of considered Natalie and Roger Whittaker mere amateurs when it came to writing books. I’m talking about So far, so good, which is the autobiography they wrote together.

The book left me exhausted, because the couple seemed never to take a break. I couldn’t understand how they could live so frenetically and for Roger to produce his wonderful music, and for Natalie to do ‘all the rest.’

Because she did. It was home and family and admin for Roger and god knows what else. All over the world. And the pets! They must have had a real zoo at times. An unexpected side effect of reading the book was that for months I was so annoyed with Roger for putting Natalie through all this. I ended up being her fan instead, wondering how she put up with him.

Babe magnet, I suppose we would call him today. I’d had no idea that he was being chased by women all over the world. I mean, not quite like that. But Natalie gave as good as she got, I reckon. Fantastic woman.

And, I realised that he’d ‘lied’ in concerts. Or at least made the truth less obvious. Talking about their children, Roger made out it was really quite easy to end up with five of them. Whereas in reality they had to struggle to become parents, and there was a lot of heart-break involved.

But now, they have five adult children, and countless grandchildren.

Written when Roger was fifty, So far, so good contains all that you want an autobiography to have. It’s got things about which you’d had no idea, as well as the obvious stuff.

It ends with Roger’s appearance on This Is Your Life. I believe they have often intended to write the ‘second half’ of Roger’s life, but today when he is 77, I’m guessing they are too busy to get round to doing that.

That’s how life should be. Live it, rather than write about it. And from a singer, I’m sure we’d all rather have more songs, if we must choose.

Roger Whittaker, Köln 2009

Back when I bought the book, we’d searched the early internet for somewhere that would sell it, and found a shop in Canada. (There were other copies, but this one was signed.) I worked out when it would be daytime for both us and them and phoned the lady who ran the shop. She was flabbergasted someone would call from so far away just to buy a book. A paperback.

Today when checking again, I see it’s available from the famously tax-evading online bookshop, for only one penny, plus postage. It’s easier today, but it was more exciting back then.

I have stopped being annoyed with my favourite singer. I enjoy his voice, and I’m glad he’s got such a great wife. Roger probably is too.

Happy 77th Birthday!

Song for Marion

Song for Marion

My companion cried buckets, and I have to admit to having been not totally unaffected. But at least I didn’t disgrace myself by being lukewarm about Song for Marion. It’s another film full of old people, and it’s high time film makers realise that old people have a place in films. In fact, Song for Marion only had a few token young people in it. About time.

Song for Marion

To be perfectly honest, I thought that Vanessa Redgrave as the dying Marion wasn’t all that marvellous. But Terence Stamp as her loving, but unsmiling, husband Arthur was pretty good, and the group of elderly singers Marion meets every week at the community centre were great fun.

OK, they were only singing about sex, but otherwise it was my second film in a week featuring OAPs and community classes and sex. It must be the thing to do. Gemma Arterton as the music teacher got her oldies to go metal and sexy and generally quite young and with it. Never mind that some had to be carted off in an ambulance for over-stretching themselves with the dancing and prancing.

Song for Marion

They had fun!

So did we when we weren’t weeping and snivelling into our hankies. Which only leaves me wondering why the film lasted barely any time at all in the cinemas?

Christopher Eccleston did well as the grieving son, not getting on with his cantankerous father. Very easy to identify with what he was feeling. Perhaps the northern characters were a little bit too northern. We don’t all live in the south.

The judges in the choir competition were clearly modelled on certain judges on television. Perhaps too stereotyped, and something that might not age well with the film. Would people know why they were so rude, and suddenly so weepy, ten years from now? That’s if a film like this survives into the future.

Song for Marion

Q&A with Alfonso, Alberto and Àlvaro

Hardly surprising that Carmen who chaired the post-screening Q&A session at Cornerhouse last night got the three men mixed up. So many Als to keep track of!

This is the kind of thing Cornerhouse does best; great entertainment, followed by talking to the people involved, usually actors or directors to do with the film. Last night’s talk about El mundo es nuestro was no exception. We’d seen Alfonso Sánchez and Alberto López in the bar earlier, and it was fascinating to see them go from being two perfectly normal and charming men, to the crazy small time crooks they play in the film. Producer Álvaro Alonso joined them for the onstage chat in cinema 1.

Alfonso Sánchez, Alberto López and Álvaro Alonso

El mundo es nuestro is a small budget film with big results, that Alfonso started to write back in 2009, before Spain had a financial crisis. Which just goes to prove how far-sighted he was. (I doubt we can blame Alfonso.) He was pleased that the Manchester audience seemed to ‘get’ his film.

Alfonso Sánchez and interpreter

The three Als explained how they got the funding (you can’t make a film with €30,000). People wanted to support them because they were famous, but they reckon that kind of thing only works once. Their feeling is we need more humorous films about the bad economy.

Alberto López and Álvaro Alonso

Spanish television didn’t want to screen El mundo es nuestro, and didn’t advertise it at all. It’s forbidden to forbid this kind of thing, so they didn’t. You’d think that the current crisis would encourage more films on the subject, but the Als said they are the only ones.

There have been no nominations for awards for the actors. ‘Strange country, Spain.’ To them it’s important that the film gets distributed internationally, and at home they have offered cheap cinema tickets for various groups, at a variety of venues, including – I think – prisons. The prisoners related well to crooks Cabesa and Culebra; they were just like them.

Alfonso Sánchez and Alberto López

Their reasons for making the characters stereotypes was to have a small community inside the bank in the film; one that audiences could recognise and identify with. Alfonso said he listened to the actors and let them decide how they wanted to portray their characters. And to save money – I think – he used his own father for the role of the man his own character hits in the film. A bit Freudian, he reckons.

Alfonso didn’t mention this, so Alberto did it for him. He has been given an award for his writing. Well deserved, especially for someone who feels he is no writer, because waking up every morning, getting the coffee, staring out of the window, etc, is so hard.

Alfonso Sánchez and interpreter

They love British actors, and the fact that they are respected. In Spain all actors are supposedly ‘reds’ and receive no respect. They aspire to be an Olivier, or a Pacino.

Well, those of us who stayed after the screening loved you. We loved that you tried to speak English to us, and we loved the t-shirts. Please come again, and meanwhile we will tell all our friends (not that we have many) to illegally* download El mundo es nuestro. Or even pay for it, so you can afford to make more films.

Alfonso Sánchez, Alberto López and Álvaro Alonso

(*I only say this because they jokingly said we could. We are very law-abiding here. We have no friends, anyway. And hopefully our money is safe in that Spanish bank we have an account with…)

El mundo es nuestro

You don’t often get films that are a delight from beginning to end, with a great deal of humour and excitement, as well as having a political message. El mundo es nuestro has all of that, and packs it in in under an hour and a half. Good thing, probably, since I don’t know how long we could have gone on laughing without damaging something vital.

Last night at Cornerhouse was the second and last screening of El mundo es nuestro, so if you haven’t already been, I’m sorry, but you’re too late. Although, you could buy it, and help support a poverty stricken film venture. And when you’ve seen the film, tell all your friends.

El mundo es nuestro

The plot is simple enough, but simple usually works best. Two crazy small time crooks decide to rob a bank. They are no good at it, and the heist goes wrong and there are so many improbable developments that you wouldn’t believe it. But basically, the two end up taking the people in the bank hostage.

El mundo es nuestro

We get to know the life stories – almost – of the bank’s customers, and also that of the police on the outside, while they are working to resolve the hostage situation. This being Seville, religion and tradition have their parts to play, and having a police officer from Burgos is not so good. Or perhaps it is.

El mundo es nuestro

It’s mostly about Spain sinking quickly into its ‘unexpected’ financial crisis, and the effect this has on ordinary citizens. It’s a film with a heart (a very big heart) and it is very Spanish, and incredibly funny. My companion laughed like crazy throughout, and left Cornerhouse looking up where she could buy the DVD, so she can watch it again, and subject all her friends to the film as well.

It’s just wonderful!

La vida empieza hoy

I’ve said it before; the Spanish are far more open about sex. La vida empieza hoy is a rather sweet and humorous film about growing old, and about ‘discovering’ sex.

‘But you are 70 years old!’ is what the rather blinkered middle generation says to their ageing parents as they discover the old people might actually have an interest in sex. So they pretended they were going to exercise classes, when in actual fact they were attending (re)discover sex classes for the elderly.

La vida empieza hoy

This is a funny and charming film where the grandfather moves in with his son’s family, meets a new love, and finds he can talk more about this with his teenaged grandson (and that’s not all they do) than with his son.

We have the woman whose daughter gives up her own happiness for her ‘old’ mother, and is furious to find this old person has a new life, which includes a boyfriend.

The grandparents who have no time for each other, what with looking after the grandchildren, leading to gran visiting a sex shop accompanied by toddler and baby in a pushchair.

La vida empieza hoy

Or the archetypal older Spanish widow who thinks primarily about death, until she discovers her inner sensuality, and the ‘chickpea,’ to the extent that she wants to divorce her dead husband.

La vida empieza hoy

Wonderful film! So don’t write off all oldies just yet.

Violeta se fue a los cielos

Violeta se fue a los cielos

Forty years ago Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra struck me as old. She was also dead, which probably made her seem older still to a teenager. I listened to more of her songs sung by others, than to her own soundtracks. I found her voice a little scary at the time, whereas in the biographical film Violeta se fue a los cielos, it was the woman Violeta who scared me more.

She had a hard life, which makes her most famous song Gracias a la vida all the more surprising. She committed suicide at the age of 49, and in the film it seemed as if she was falling out with everyone around her. She acted crazy, and I’d guess people close to her never knew whether she was going to be nice, or scold them.

Violeta se fue a los cielos

But she wrote fantastic songs and her legacy to the world is a powerful one. Hearing Arriba quemando el sol in the film gave me the goosebumps. Violeta was very determined, even from a young age. The film jumps back and forth a little too much, and it’s not always easy to know if we get the child Violeta or the woman, or what age adult she is.

Àngel Parra is someone I do remember from back then, but I had managed to forget about him in the intervening years. Here he was as the young son tramping the Chilean countryside with his half crazed mother. She travelled around to learn traditional songs from other singers. Then she wrote her own.

She was a worthy heroine to have, back when we still believed in the possibility that a revolution might be successful. We thought it could be done with music. Violeta must have hoped so, too. And then perhaps she realised it was not to be.

I don’t know.

Powerful, and heart-wrenching, film. It’s worth it for the music, though.

Violeta se fue a los cielos

(On at Cornerhouse on Sunday as well.)


I suppose Shetland is about as Nordic as you get while staying in Britain. If the Shetlanders do feel British? The dramatisation of the Shetland Quartet crime novels by Ann Cleeves was quite enjoyable. Could have been better, but I am not saying there’s anything the matter with Ann’s novels. I’ve not read them, but have heard good things about them.


We’ve been spoilt with gritty and dark Nordic crime series. This wasn’t dark enough, and I’m talking daylight hours. If it was set in January, I have to say it was jolly light outside at most times, but especially so after nine at night. But they needed Up Helly Aa for the plot, so could hardly move it to June.

But then, it’s only me being picky.

While I’m picking, subtitles would have been more than welcome. I had trouble understanding people when I visited Shetland, many years ago. I got no better at understanding them this weekend. Had trouble with the plot, as well, but then this kind of thing might suffer when you only have two hours at your disposal. Twenty hours, or even ten, leaves room for all that lovely Danish grit.

He had the jumper for it, though, did Jimmy Perez. Not the looks for a Perez, however, according to someone who knows. I found it refreshing to see so many unknown actors at work. Sometimes too many stars can be a mistake.


Here the landscape was the star. They’d be inundated with tourists after this, were it not for the fact that you either get seasick expensively, or fly tiny planes equally expensively.

Puzzled by Berglund. Was he supposed to be Swedish? The Swedes were amply represented by Tosh’s Fjällräven jacket.

I wonder if there will be more? Shetland, I mean. Not so much the jackets, or even the jumpers.