Sunday, 30 January 2011

Worzel Gummidge (1979-1981)

Worzel is one of my earliest book-memories, audio-book-memories and tv-memories. Somehow I remember all three when I try and think back as far as I can... I can picture Worzel falling backwards in Ten-acre Field very clearly as he does in the end credits of the TV show I watched repeats of as a child. I can hear Jon Pertwee's voice proposing marriage to a lady scarecrow and then telling her he's going to kick her head off if she doesn't accept him from the audio book I listened to when I first had tonsilitis. And I can see the illustrations of ferocious Aunt Sally, the one in the book, the one who's actually his aunt- not his cruel but cute love interest.
I got the boxset of Worzel for Christmas, I haven't watched the series they made six years later in New Zealand, I'm not sure if I should... I've just finished watching the 30 original episodes and I think I will wait a while before tainting it, I often wish I'd never seen the second series of Catweazle.
I feel both happy and extremely sad while watching Worzel, the British countryside and village teashop, climbing over fences and kids wearing clothes that could be from any time between 1945 and 1985. I feel like it was my childhood -especially my holidays, but maybe it wasn't, maybe it was the things I read in my childhood and I'm just remembering it wrong. It makes me sad that childhood isn't going to be like that for future kids and sad that what I draw and how I think is nostalgic, when I draw children they look like Susan and John. And that's just the look of Worzel. The characters and the scripts they make me happy and sad too.
I remember enjoying the books as a child, but they are odd books, they are amusing, but they're quite sinister. Worzel was a sometimes angry sometimes miserable weirdo, completely disinterested in the children, just going about his business. Lots of these classic kids' books and TV shows rely on the idea that children have secret friendships with these grown-up freaks (Stig of the Dump, Worzel, Catweazle, et al.) No wonder TV has got so boring, kids wouldn't be allowed to be friends with a creepy old scarecrow nowadays.
The TV show doees have the odd unsettling episode every now and then- these are the ones that stick to the books quite well and usually feature Geoffrey Bayldon wheeling about on his bike dressed as an undertaker- but there are jolly episodes too with singing and dancing and cake throwing. The main thrill for me comes from Una Stubbs' superb comic timing, I think she is the funniest woman I've ever seen, I only remembered Aunt Sally from the books- and I was scared of her. If I'd have remembered Una I would have smiled more widely at her when she walked past me last August in Chichester. She is perfectly horrible and aggressive, but so amusing, physically she is brilliantly funny, a look from her, a subtle grab at a plate of sausages or watching her cram a cake into her mouth has me laughing out loud. She was very physically funny in the two plays I saw last year, but she didn't feature heavily, maybe that's why I didn't mention her.
And yet it is because of this re-written character that Worzel is such a tragic programme, I watched an episode today where kind, giggly Dolly Clothes Peg (a pretty manequin played by Lorraine Chase) asks Worzel to marry her but Worzel chooses the selfish cruel wooden doll who will never love him instead despite knowing this and knowing he could be happy with the other. The last shot was of Dolly Clothes Peg looking back for a moment with her fingers crossed before turning back to her lonely walk home with tears rolling down her face.
So many episodes, I'd say more than half, end with a character being disappointed by their own existence. And usually so disappointed that they are weeping! I mean, god! It's utterly tragic! and then it cuts to the jolly theme tune!
I like things that make me sad, I enjoy Worzel all the more when after a chaotic episode we see Aunt Sally with all her dreams of grandeur and adventure looking sadly out of her attic window knowing she's just a fairground doll. Or lovestruck Worzel believing Sal when she says she'll look after his money then watching her march straight into a clothes shop and spending it before he walks away with tears in his eyes. It's not just a children's show then, it's reality! It's so sad. Remember when Catweazle disappeared and Carrot just walked sadly back to his farm, that was perfect! I don't want to watch the New Zealand episodes and find they are not tragic, I think that would be completely awful.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Loose Cannons (2010)

Lauren and I went to see this film a few weeks ago, everyone else at the cinema was a gay couple, also everyone else found it hilariously funny. It was the second of january, I can only assume they were all still drunk because we found it ok, but weirdly outdated. Have Italians really only just decided it's ok to be gay? There was a line in the film where one boy said seriously "It's ok for us, it's not 2001 any more," What?! What?! Full of one-dimensional characters, this film did nothing but paint bad stereotypes, gays are camp, women are mentalists, old men are bigots and everyone in Italy is thin. Pah!

V for Vendetta (2006)

So after seeing all these British actors I felt like rounding off my trip home this weekend with another dose of ensemble on DVD. Eddie Marsan and Guy Henry have a line each while sitting at a table with Tim Piggott-Smith (who is proper brill in this film), Ben Miles and Stephen Rea. Stephen's sidekick Gravesy plays the Sergeant Troy to his Barnaby (I watched a good Midsommer Murders today, it was one of the ones with Richard Johnson in it) Stephen Fry pretends to be an actor, Roger Allam gets naked, Mrs Jeremy Irons gets killed nicely and John Hurt makes a joke out of the fact he was in the film 1984.
The only problem I have with this film- well, I don't like all the torture Natalie Portman goes though but she does have that accent...- is that, Britain is this Hate-State and it needs to be brought down through revolution, yeah? Why does it have to be shown this by an Australian and an American? Pah! You don't even see V's face so why can't he be voiced by a Brit? Don't give me that 'But it has to appeal to wider audiences' shit! Bloody Yanks.

The King's Speech (2011)

And speaking of ensemble pieces... What a vast array of British talent in the background of The King's Speech! Yes, Colin Firth was brilliant (even in the mandatory British film sweary routine- fuck bugger fuck tits, etc.) Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter were their usual good support but look at the rest! And I'm not talking about Timothy Spall (they wheel him out for every Brit-flick) or Gambo or Luvvie Jacobi, I'm talking about Anthony Andrews! Adrian Scarborough! Claire Bloom! Jennifer Ehle! All these people lurking in the background having barely a line between them!
Bertie Portal stood behind Colin Firth in practically every scene! That man is a joy on stage! It's ridiculous!
I loved spotting them all and knowing their names, I am such a geek.

Stardust (2007)

I refused to see this film at the cinema purely on the basis it contained Ricky Gervais, a man so undeserving of fame and fortune it makes my flesh-crawl, or perhaps he just makes my flesh crawl, anyhoo- I saw it on TV a year ago and I adored it. Just to make things clear, I think that even though Gervais is perfect for the part (a flesh-crawly creep) they could have got an actor in, after all, the film is full of talent, why not go the whole hog!?
Yes, Stardust is a joy, a magical fantastical, adventure in the vein of The Princess Bride, it's not as clever or funny but it's more action packed AND there's more British actors! Yes, there are a couple of bum notes in it; Sienna Miller is awful, but again, playing an appropriately hateful character. The lead could do with being a bit more charming and definitely could do with being more handsome, but if he were too handsome (see The Princess Bride) there wouldn't be any point in having such an amazing ensemble! Robert De Niro and Dexter Fletcher are great together, Michelle Pfeiffer is super hot, and my god, Mark Strong (see above) is gorgeous! Hooray for wigs!!!

Hattie (BBC4)

Robert Bathurst was so good in this. I know he does a lot of theatre- though not enough in the West End- and he's always working in bits of TV and radio- he turned up in Downton Abbey as Lord Boring-middle-aged-suitor-to-ugly-sister (I think that was his character's name), but I've always thought he's so overlooked! Really he was phenomenally good as broken-hearted John le Mesurier in this BBC drama. He was the star of the show, I felt so awful for him, and almost instantly took back what I said as it started ("Rob's a bit miscast.") He was wonderfully tragic and charming.
He was the best of the Uptown Boys!! The most handsome!! And see! See!! He's the best actor too!!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Small Island (2009)

I finally got round to watching this series last night with Anna. I watched half of the first episode when it was on but gave up after Ruth Wilson was dancing about in the air raid, I tried to remember why I stopped watching it, because really it was ok. I think I stopped because it was on the week that the Cambridge boiler was broken and it was just too cold to sit in the living room and watch it!
Anyway, funny that I should review this today as yesterday my pal Susie reviewed the book on her blog! She totally slated it! And it's all true, but as a 3 hour drama it was much better I reckon, for a start there are some fabulous shots of Jamaica and the rest of the art direction was fab too, it looked great! Then there's Naomie Harris and David Oyelowo both brilliant, they were why I enjoyed it. Ruth wasn't great and I'm usually a fan but she just wasn't right for the boring part and I didn't think her accent was up to much- it seemed a waste of Cumberbatch too but the guy playing his shellshocked father was good.
Anyway, like Susie said, the story was nothing special but I thought the two leads were very good- especially Naomie- and it made me want to go to Jamaica.