Category Archives: Film

A Monster Calls

This was the film we tried to go and see all week. We should be grateful it made it to the local cinema, because who would want to be deprived of a good long cry? As it was, Kleenex were required, and there was a bucket too.

A Monster Calls

I can no longer recall the exact details of the book by Patrick Ness, and by that I mean the minor characters and any minor plots. I think there were some. They are not in the film, which is good, as you don’t want to detract from the main story about Conor, his dying mum and his angry grandma. And the school bullies, because to be beaten up every day as your mother is dying is obviously [not] what a 13-year-old boy needs.

A Monster Calls

The film let us concentrate on Conor’s nightmares and the subsequent meetings with a tree monster who comes to the house (voiced by Liam Neeson) to tell him stories.

Then there is grandma, played by Sigourney Weaver, doing a good British accent, while going around being at least as angry as her grandson. And who can blame her; she is losing her child, and gaining a grandchild who hates her.

A Monster Calls

At first the film went so slowly I was afraid it would ruin things but, almost imperceptibly, it sped up and before we knew it we were hooked, by Conor’s dismal daily life, and his mum’s sufferings, and you could literally see her getting worse.

Beautifully filmed in the Northwest, it looked like home to us (not quite as I’d imagined it from the book or from Jim Kay’s illustrations).

And it was only on the way out I remembered I had tissues in my bag, after casting around in my mind what we could possibly use to mop those tears with.

(Also posted on Bookwitch)

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This was absolute bliss. Whereas it is generally ‘quite nice’ to revisit a film and its characters, the concept of J K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them beats most that I have seen. Even though I obviously read the book [by Newt Scamander] however many years ago it was published, almost as an afterthought, the new film is such a tremendous bonus!

It’s something you didn’t see coming, separate but still belonging to Harry Potter’s world, and it couldn’t have been better. I never thought of Newt Scamander as anything but an obscure historical character, with an interest in animals. The film about Newt shows how wrong I was, and how Rowling’s magic just carries on and on.

As someone said the other day, it’s rather a relief to have a film like this with almost no children in it. It meant we could see Muggles and Wizards in the New York of 1926 as it might have appeared in just about any film; it was all about adults going about their business, which in Newt’s case was rescuing creatures at risk, and trying to teach other magic people that the beasts have a place in the world too.

Kowalski, the wannabe baker Muggle, was a Rupert Grint kind of man. Quite ordinary but also quite brave and someone who adapted well to the seemingly crazy world of magic. The two main female characters, sisters Tina and Queenie, were just as intelligent, kind and beautiful as you needed them to be. And Eddie Redmayne’s Newt was mysterious and enthusiastic and kind, with a nice sense of humour towards his ‘walking stick insects’ and dragons and all the other creatures.

The bad guy was so charmingly bad that you almost believed he might be all right. And the remaining characters made for a rich background.

Isn’t it wonderful how you can have a spin-off like this from a ‘mere’ children’s publishing sensation? Something so good and fun and mature, which wasn’t born from the usual film mould?

I don’t often float away from cinemas, especially not in the middle of the night. But I did this time. And I felt happy.

(Also published on Bookwitch.)

Bing and Bowie

I needed this. Having only heard the soundtrack before, I enjoyed seeing Bing Crosby and David Bowie in this video. Bing, of course, is Christmas for me, even discounting White Christmas. Back in the olden days, when Christmas in the television backwater of Sweden meant that you got old films every day, instead of once a week, somehow Bing was always there with one – or two – of his films.

I took a while to appreciate his singing, though. I arrived in Brighton autumn 1977 and noticed that he was appearing at the Brighton Centre a few weeks later. I didn’t go, because he was an old man and I had no interest in that kind of thing. After Brighton he went to Spain to play golf, and died. And then I regretted it, and I have since bought his albums and learned that he was a marvellous singer.

The same can be said about David Bowie, it seems. I have to admit to not being a fan, and in most cases if you played me one of his songs, unless so well known that even I knew the title, I’d not have recognised him. If you’re a fan, I apologise for my lack of enthusiasm. Back in the early 1970s when my friends at school loved him, I had no interest in Bowie at all, and I never changed.

But this Christmas video helped bring his voice to me. I find that when famous singers sing something completely different to their normal repertoire, you are able to discover their voice for what it is; unfettered by what they usually do. If they are truly good, then that will shine through that ‘other’ song. And this is what happened here, when I encountered Bowie with Bing on social media.

I could even see myself trying some regular Bowie now. Any suggestions of where to begin?

Bye Napoleon

So, 2016 has claimed another life (or so it seems). Robert Vaughn died today, on the day we learned that Leonard Cohen had died earlier in the week.

He wasn’t my favourite Man from U.N.C.L.E. but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t fond of him. A little, anyway. I’m trying to refrain from calling him Nappy, but it was a nickname Napoleon Solo used at some point. Maybe it didn’t sound so stupid to them, then… It certainly wasn’t sexy-sounding.

I thought he was very good as the politician in The Towering Inferno. And after that I didn’t see much of Robert in anything. Once, in Prince of Belair, with Mark Harmon, as a not terribly nice man. (Could be why it’s not on Wikipedia..?)

More recently he did well in Hustle, which I never watched, but Daughter loved. It’s quite nice when older actors can come out and be sort of recycled when they are well past retirement age.

And it’s good when the different generations can enjoy the same stars in the same shows.

David Calder

‘Oh, there he is.’ That’s usually what I think when I see David Calder in something. And the point is he looks so familiar, like a long lost friend, but I still won’t remember his name. Or what else I’ve seen him in. I suppose some actors just are like that; like your neighbour whom you know well without knowing them at all.

This last happened in The Lady in the Van, where he was Maggie Smith’s long-suffering brother. Whenever I see him I want him to be good. It’d feel wrong if he was a baddie, but you can never be sure, so I always worry. I suppose I need my neighbours to be good.

Forgetting his name isn’t a problem, so long as there is IMDb. And with its help I can check what else I’ve seen him in, and the list is surprisingly short. Half a dozen television crime things, and perhaps something else. You know, not enough for that intense familiar feeling.

But perhaps that’s it. All you need is for a face to pop up every now and then, and you are convinced you are old – and dear – friends. Maybe we are.

And, erm, yes, David is 70 today. Happy Birthday!

Brooklyn

What with lack of time to actually get to the cinema in recent months, I decided to splash out and treat us to some home cinema over Easter, so bought two DVDs. (Yes, real splash, that.) And then we ran out of time, and barely managed one of the films after all.

As Daughter preferred to watch Brooklyn, that’s the one we saw, and I’m glad we did. I’d come across some less than enthusiastic comments when it was available on the big screens, but here at CultureWitch Towers we enjoyed it, and personally I could easily watch it soon again. If I had time, I mean.

Brooklyn

I suppose it was unrealistically romanticised, but I reckon you can see past that, and imagine what it was like to leave Ireland in 1951 and move to New York, all alone. And having vomited my way into England many years ago, I fully sympathise with looking green as you try and enter the US.

Brooklyn

Some things would be easier today, and others not. I quite liked the old Brooklyn, and thank god they made the landlady sympathetic, while no pushover. Julie Walters is always good. And I expect it’s modern media we have to thank for feeling suspicious of Irish priests, which wasn’t necessary here, with Jim Broadbent as your dream religious father figure.

Having seen trailers – in the actual cinema – I was afraid Eilis would opt to stay in Ireland when she returned. What I felt made the story true was the fact that you can love both places and want to be in the new place as well as the old one. You just need something that helps you decide. That feeling when you realise how much you belong where you grew up. Or the feeling when you can see that the new place is good and you want to stay.

Brooklyn

Because that old priest had a one very good comment to make on homesickness; how most people have it and it’s bad, but eventually it stops and someone else catches the bug instead. It does, most of the time, and often you don’t even notice that it’s stopped hurting so much.

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And then it’s your turn to help someone newer – not to mention greener – than yourself. It’s how it works.

There’s nothing wrong with feelgood films, and besides, there was plenty to cry over too.

The deathlist

It is hard keeping track of who has died when you’re living in exile. There are two categories of people I’d know about if I hadn’t left the country of my birth; famous people [but not so famous that their deaths are reported internationally] and local people [to me] that any remaining friends I have would know that I’d want to hear about.

The Retired Children’s Librarian has done a sterling job over the years by keeping a deathlist. In between our phone calls, she writes down who has died, and when we have spoken, she rattles off the dead ones. Some I will know about, because they made it into a British newspaper. Others I won’t, and I’m grateful to be told. She also has a fairly good grip on who I’m most likely to be interested in.

Dead local ordinary people is the hardest. Mother-of-witch would tell me the names of those she knew, but of course, there are always names that wouldn’t have meant anything to her. And it is quite hard to find out if someone is still alive, once you’ve tried the phone directory [which tends no longer to be very effective].

My reason for talking about deathlists here is that today I read a Swedish magazine article about someone famous and long dead. There had been a television programme about her, in which ‘the late’ Alice Babs had taken part. That was the first inkling I had that Alice Babs is dead. Not surprising, though. She died two years ago at the age of 90, which is pretty good going. And when I searched, I found that she made it into the New York Times, but that was probably mainly the Duke Ellington effect.

I have blogged about Alice once before. I still maintain that her Swe-Danes album is one of the best ones I own.