Sunday, 31 May 2009

Teacher's Pet (1958)

I don't like old Clark Gable and I don't like Doris Day full stop BUT in this film they worked extremely well together. It was only creepy sometimes.
But really, Doris Day looked very well suited to rough old Gable because she is not gorgeous Sophia Loren in It Started in Naples (shudder!!!), she is average could-be-in-her-late-30s Doris Day. And the script made it very plausible! First time I've ever seen one of those older-man/younger bird screwball comedies give you some hints to WHY it's happening!
Doris Day's only other friend is the obviously gay Gig Young (he and Gable hang out in his bedroom playing dress-up and drinking martinis- Young only gets out of his pajamas and into clothes when Day drops round) and she constantly talks about her father, a newspaper man who she literally has a shrine to. So yeah, Doris Day has a daddy-complex and Clark Gable just happens to be in the same line of business her daddy was in. Thank you for the explanation Hollywood. It was much appreciated!!
The script and the set-up was good, it seemed to be the template to the Doris Day/Rock Hudson films- and even had the Tony Randall character. And really, even though Clark looked pretty damn rough, he was supposed to and having prissies Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant in that role would not have worked at all, Clark Gable looked like the grizzled old alcoholic he was playing, because he was.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Brideshead Revisited (2008)


Someone woke up one day and said "Hey, I got a great idea, let's make Evelyn Waugh's classic novel Brideshead Revisited!"
"But, like, they already did it in the 80s... I think it's been voted the best television series ever made, and like, it was word for word to the book, and, well, 14 hours long..."
"Oh yeah, I saw that! Write this down 'Charles lights her cigarette,' that was the main bit in the TV show, yeah, hey, what else happened in that show? Somebody get me the name of that house."
What the hell was the point of remaking it?! At least film it somewhere else so that not EVERY fucking scene looks exactly the same as the series. No, film it at Castle Howard, use the same shots, whatever... "We've got this 14 hour box-set to use as our storyboard! Job done!"
Here's another suggestion say to anyone who's thinking of making The Jewel in the Crown into an hour and a half movie: Use actors who don't look and sound exactly like the actors in the original. Matthew Goode basically IS Jeremy Irons, I've covered this in my Watchmen Review. Ok, so he was the only one who looked like his original actor, the rest were all just uglier less talented versions of their originals....
Fuck! I can't believe I'm going to start ranting about this film, I knew I should never have watched it but here's the main difference (because believe me, the length of the film makes NO difference, in fact it seems longer...) Charles is attracted to Sebastian because of his CHARM. Anna and I overheard a gay American couple in the Cambridge Arts Cinema last year saying to each other "Hey, did you see the new Brideshead? The new Sebastian is so much cuter than the old one." What the FUCK!? Excuse me?! no... NO. The new Sebastian is portrayed by Ben Wishlaw as a creeping camp slimy pansy with absolutely no charm, the whole film seemed to turn the decline of drunken raving homosexual Sebastian into a metaphor for AIDs, I mean, christ! Look at him!! What the hell's wrong with that boy?! He looked horrendous.
While watching the series you are constantly hoping Sebastian will come back, you see the charm that Charles loved. In the film I couldn't wait for him to leave, he was not the same character at all. Ruined.
I can't be bothered typing all the horrible things wrong with this. Everything was wrong plot-wise... Here's a list of little irritations that might or might not amuse.

Anthony Blanche seemed straight next to Sebastian.
That's not John Gielgud.
No Death's Head or Sickly Child?!
Michael Gambon will do anything for money so I still respect him and his banana-hands. Emma Thompson can go eff herself after I heard her say arrogantly in an interview "I've never seen the original, I was a punk- so that wasn't really my scene." Wow, Emma, you're so punk going to Cambridge and getting your degree...
The guy who played NLP's part had more screen time than him and a close up- And he didn't even speak French!
Bridey died in the Blitz?!?!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

A Night at the Museum (2006)

It was 2006, Lauren and I were tense, Susie was leaving, she was the bread that held the sandwich together (or was she the pickle? I forget...), without her we knew we were doomed. What was she thinking, going off to America to find true love?! As if that would ever happen!! Lauren and I tried awkwardly to carry on our friendship but ultimately we all fell apart, I turned to drugs and Lauren had several children by many different mysterious fathers... Before Susie went we made a pact that we should all see one last film together, one last Ben Stiller film. He was the man who brought us together, the man whom Stan and Froggy admired so much (now a couple of drunk multi-millionaires), we had to see A Night at the Museum!
We never got round to it.
But I saw it tonight, yes, I waited until it was free and on TV.
It was ok actually. I think I'll wait 'til the sequel's on TV as well though.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

La Ronde (1950)

"Tournez vous, mes personages."
Creepiest song to have stuck in your head- EVER.
Then add the made-up lyrics: "Je suis Anton Walbrook, j'ai une ronde établi avec des boîtes de coco pops. Et un orchestre de singe..."
Yes, this was the song Anna made up while we let the dog out after the film, we were both in hysterics, it was probably a combination of tiredness and Anna's gift for the ol' French lingo (Though actually I remembered all that up there myself and the only word I couldn't remember was "établi").
The opening sequence; one-take Walbrook, brilliant. Genius. Perfect. (See above for fab opening sequence) The rest of the film; disturbing! Yeah, it opens with Walbrook as your narrator and owner of creepy metaphorical roundabout talking to his audience, walking along the streets of Paris, or is it on a stage? or is it a film set? Wow! That's some good panning and great timing! He takes off his 1950s coat and dons a cape and top hat quipping something or other about how he adores the past and continues to walk until he is in turn of the century Paris by his little carousel, he talks to a prostitute and then sings a song. This was my favourite bit of the film.
Not just because it was Walbrook and I love him, I was much more impressed with the idea, the whole thing being one long shot and the art direction... ok, I was really impressed by Walbrook too, such a good actor, perfect timing, perfect little looks at the camera. And hey, he speaks French too!?
Or does he? Later on we were treated to a dubbed Walbrook and some more dubbed actors. Were their accents and attempts really that bad? Ho hum.
So the theme is love is a roundabout, everyone is connected, sort of like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or whatever it's called, but imagine it's called "Everyone in France has slept with everyone else- except Anton Walbrook." Ten couples, all connected by, uh, each other... Some of the stories were good, but some weren't. And mostly I just looked forward to Walbrook coming in as a waiter or a soldier or a bum and casting disapproving glances all over the shop. I think I'd like to see it again when I'm not so exhausted! I liked the little jokes, very very racy for 1950!! It wasn't really about love at all...
The actress and the Duke settling down to it, her sighing that he wouldn't have to come to the theatre to watch her as they could both watch themselves then the camera pans up to see them reflected in a huge mirror above the bed- Christ!- Cut to Walbrook holding a reel of film and some scissors, he raises an eyebrow: "Le censuré."

Weekend at Bernie's (1989)

Lauren made me watch it. I thought it was good.
Well... crap. But perfect for our holiday- which was good!
I've watched loads in the last few weeks but I've been so busy entertaining and being entertained that I haven't had time to review! Other films introduced to me on Lauren and Amy's Caravan Holiday were: Orgazmo (1997), Basketball (1998), Delicatessen (1991), Mirrormask (2005). Lauren lent me the new Brideshead (2008) (Brideshead Revisited Revisited) but I haven't watched it yet.
Sarah came to visit for the Haworth 1940s Weekend and we watched BBC drama North and South (2004), by golly was Richard Armitage ever gorgeous, I mean, he still is, but now it is wasted in trash such as Robin Hood (saturdays) and hideous afternoon plays... Australia (2008) was also seen and it was super-appalling. Alison stopped over and we watched favourite Anton Walbrook slip in and out of being dubbed in French sex-classic La Ronde (1950). I will review that later tonight.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Last Cigarette (Trafalgar Studios)

Nice theatre, easy to find, opposite the National Gallery, under Nelson's Column, on Trafalgar Square (hence the name), you'd think easy to find so long as you remember which bloody tube stop all those things are at. Which I just couldn't!! But it was Charing Cross, I got there in the end- with ten minutes to spare, not even time to check where the stage door was (I'm not usually a lurker, only when what's-his-name is involved. He seems very well by the way.)
If anyone reads this journal of Matt Morgan style Cultural Reviews then hear this, You Can See the Hills finishes on Saturday so my review came too late, sorry I'm not actually invited to Press Nights, The Last Cigarette however opened two weeks ago and will be there until August. So go and see it, it's great.
I've read Simon Gray's Smoking Diaries, he wrote exactly as I would like to write, exactly as all my favourite writers write, full of cynicism and hatred and humor. The play was based I think (if my memory serves) on the first and the last book. I recognized it all as it was curiously and amusingly brought to life. In his diaries he argues constantly with himself, questions his memories until he answers himself with suggestions. The play was staged very cleverly and I did believe that all three actors were Simon Gray- even Felicity Kendal, well, most of the time.
The first half of the play is a lot of Gray's childhood and the second is him dying, but it is not a sad play, it is very funny, I didn't come out thinking "Oh god, he died," I thought, "oh good, a happy ending!" Strange really...
The three actors argue with each other as Gray, sitting at their identical desks talking to themselves- or should this be each other? Or is it the same thing?- But most of the time they are not all Simon Gray, they all speak Gray's thoughts, but usually there is just one Simon Gray and the others play the parts of the people he's talking about, they slip in and out of character, with particularly memorable characters. I'd read a lot about Felicity Kendal's nurse/aspiring writer, now I see why, very very funny (Try picturing Felicity Kendal playing a big 45 year old black woman from Barbados). And also about Nicholas le Prevost's chipmunk-faced consultant (people cheered when he returned!) He reminded me of someone I know actually, though maybe he just reminded me of Nicholas le Prevost...
Jasper Britton was very very good too, he played Si's father and at the beginning the electrician who wanted to see the cheeseboard. But I feel that he mostly played Gray while the other two- unquestionably character actors- made the very most of their talents. Together though, all three Simon Grays were extremely good, it was never confusing but always very clever.
The set was cute though the huge print of actual Simon Gray, grey ink on black screens creeped me out a bit, I'm sure it became more 3D at times, or maybe that was just my eyes...
It was a very enjoyable play, I mean, yes, it is about a man dying, no though, it's about a man's life, probably a very normal life, but that's why we can identify and enjoy these horrible embarrassing situations and feelings and not think "this is a play about cancer" it's not at all, it's a very funny play about an extremely talented writer.
Himself told me afterwards that there were parts in it he didn't like, and I was tempted to ask which bits, but I didn't because I liked it so much that I didn't want to have second thoughts and agree with him. Nick also didn't think it was a fitting tribute at all (self-deprecating handsome bastard!), and being a fan of the books I admitted I agreed, but said; "some sort of tribute though."

You Can See the Hills (Young Vic)

This play, this theatre-experience, is the reason for mine and Anna's latest trip to London. Anna saw William Ash perform the one-man show last autumn in the back room of the Manchester Royal Exchange theatre.
Ashy talks you through his teenage years growing up in Oldham (near Manchester- mad for it, etc.). The play was written by Ash's old school friend Matthew Dunster with him in mind to perform it, I wonder how close William Ash is to Adam Ash the character he plays?
For some reason this play has been given a bad review from the Guardian, the closing line was something like this " half the length and twice the concentration, this could be a funny, satisfying evening rather than one that, like Adam's life, goes nowhere very slowly."
For fuck's sake, but this was exactly the point of the play- not the very slowly part, I don't know what the hell that is, I found him enthralling!- but the play is about the fact that there are so many children out there who are intelligent but because of circumstance, surroundings, class, etc. end up as wasted lives! I just don't think the London theatre-goers get it! The audience the night Anna and I went were made up of elderly toffs and very rich very fashionable young toffs. Idiot girls who giggled at the most inappropriate moments and old men who fell asleep!! I couldn't believe it! I mean, the performance was incredible! Ash sat there for two hours just telling us his story and I have memories of each scene he painted stronger in my mind than anything I've physically seen on stage! I could see every one of the characters he mentioned so fucking clearly! How the hell could people fall asleep!? Anna said that the audience in Manchester were all in tears through the traumatic stories, that the audience all spoke to Ash afterwards and told him how much they'd loved it, how good it was, how good he was.
It can't just be that Anna got it because she went to a rough northern comprehensive. It can't just be that I got it because at twelve all my pals (though at the public school) were from Oldham and I stayed the night there- I was exposed to my friend's junkie brother and his mates, her scary mates who probably went to Ashy's comp and, hung out in the park in the middle of the night scared I was going to be killed, and had to listen to her stories of losing her virginity at 13 behind some bins... I quickly made other friends. This is the Oldham Ash talks about. Exactly. But I went there once. You don't have to be from the North or from that working class background to understand what he's talking about, there are rough areas of London! You just have to have seen it! You just have to be aware of it! Who the fuck were the idiots at that play?!
William Ash is a wonderful actor and story teller, this play was a fantastic play, gripping, moving, it was all so fucking true.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Robin Hood (BBC1) Series 3 Episode 5: Do you Love Me?

This episode would have been perfection, television gold, if only they hadn't kept cutting back to Robin and the outlaws- yawn!
I didn't watch the first two series of Robin Hood, because it's awful. I'm sorry but tall dark handsome "northerner" Richard Armitage did not outweigh all the awful elements of the show, ie the plots, the budget and the main characters.
But now that I live at home with three people who do watch it I watch it too. I have been waiting for Toby Stephens to arrive hoping that he would improve it because even if my mum can somehow filter out the crap and just see Richard Armitage and even if Anna can enjoy Alan and Much I just CAN'T. Well, sometimes Much and Alan are ok...
This episode was pretty much gold from start to finish, Richard Armitage thrashing about on his bed with no shirt on, having a nightmare (probably about Marian, at least he remembers her) he is dragged by Toby Stephens' goons to see Prince John. Ah, what a catchphrase "Do you love me?"
Yes, it's totally gay and if you're not into that then at least it's hilarious. Every scene Tobes was in was brilliant. He was creepy and campy, he was charming and ridiculous, echoes of I am but a child, He's fab. And then scenes between Guy and the Sheriff were brilliant too! Actual proper fight scenes- still ridiculous of course- but at least they were all being evil!
The outlaws themselves are pathetic, they don't seem to have a brain cell between them, it must be down to luck that they keep outsmarting the bad guys. And there are no good female characters. I'm not keen on Isabella, she's rubbish, but I suppose that's because she's one of the good guys snore, boring. So apart from her being there those scenes with P.J, Guy and the Sheriff, they were the best bits of Robin Hood ever. I am looking forward to next week mightily because even though I said his scenes were good this week I can't stand Keith Allen either.