Category Archives: Film

Happy 200th birthday, Emily.


Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Emily Bronte.

Haworth, where the Brontes lived, holds a special place in my, (and my children’s), hearts.

We visit the place as often as we can.

Here’s a little haiku I penned after a walk on the Moors with my daughters a couple of years back.

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Knee deep in heather,

Bright red sock wavers aloft,

Boot stuck in peat bog.

Brontë Parsonage Museum

Brontë Parsonage Museum

 

Brontë dining room

Brontë dining room

This is the room where, Emily, Anne and Charlotte did most of their writing. And that is the actual sofa in the background that Emily died on aged just 30. (I didn’t pass that information on to my children.)

Patrick Brontë's study

Patrick Brontë’s study

If you haven’t read Wuthering Heights yet, I urge you to do so. I promise you, it’s like nothing you have ever read before. It’s a complex and staggeringly passionate tale of unrequited love and dastardly deeds, set amidst the bleak and rugged Yorkshire Moors.

And, if you get the chance, watch the recent film adaptation by Andrea Arnold. It’s a pretty radical take on the book and one of the best interpretations I’ve seen to date. (See trailer below.)

wuthering-heightsIt’s not just the collective brilliance of the Brontë siblings that I find inspiring, but the whole beautifully barren backdrop of the moors. That, coupled with the picturesque cobbled streets of Haworth itself, makes perfect for a day out.

Haworth

Haworth

"Top Withins" Emily's inspiration for Wuthering Heights. (Now a ruin.)

“Top Withens” Emily’s inspiration for Wuthering Heights. (Now a ruin.)

"Top Withens" as it would've looked back in Emily's day.

“Top Withens” as it would’ve looked back in Emily’s day.

P.S. It’d be positively churlish of me not to also include this classic by Kate Bush… whose 60th birthday it also is today. Bit of a spooky coincidence, don’t you think?

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I [heart] America


There’s been a lot of hullabaloo this past couple of years because of the Cheeto-in-Chief of the good ol’ U S of A.

What with cosying up to dictators and alienating allies he certainly cuts a divisive figure. Unfortunately, this has had a backlash against America in general and its people.

So, to redress the balance, I wanted to write a positive post about some of the things I love about America. After all, one Mango-Mussolini shouldn’t taint the whole country.

In no particular order…

MUSIC

From Elvis Presley to Tom Waits to the Talking Heads. Who could argue that America has produced some of the greatest artists and genres the world has ever seen. Who are your favourites?

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Next up, MOVIES.

When we think of American movies we tend to think of Hollywood blockbusters. But there are so many unbelievable directors and actors. Here are some of my favourites, who are yours?

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As I have a penchant for the Arts, I’m going to pick out a few photographers who have inspired me over the years.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold

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Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen

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Vivian Maier

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Ansel Adams

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Cindy Sherman

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Saul Leiter

Understandably, most people couldn’t give a rat’s ass about advertising. But I do, because I worked in it for 30 years. When Doyle, Dane, Bernbach set up shop in the 1960s they revolutionised advertising. They focussed on simple product truths. Their ethos/philosophy permeated continents and generations. Still does. I had the privilege of working for DDB Dublin.

ADVERTISING

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Leading on from advertising we have GRAPHIC DESIGN, and this iconic classic by Milton Glaser for the New York tourist board. which has been ‘parodied’ a trillion times. (Yes, including me.)

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Milton Glaser

Next up, ARTISTS. Again, a multitude to pick from. Here are a couple of my faves.

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Jean Michel Basquiat

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Edward Hopper

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Mary Cassatt

Moving on to something non art related – LANDSCAPE. America has such a diverse landscape, from snow-capped mountains to sun-scorched deserts.

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I’ve always loved CLASSIC CARS, Mercedes, Jaguar, Citroen, Volvo. But I also love American cars for their sheer ostentatiousness.

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I couldn’t write a post about America without including a few WRITERS. Too many to choose from. Here are a few of my heroes who have inspired me over the years. Recommendations anyone?

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What else do I love about America? I really like their ARCHITECTURE. Whether it be a monumental skyscaper or the traditional colonial white-picket-fence style complete with veranda.

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You won’t get very far in the States without some top-notch tucker. What is more quintessentially American than the humble DINER?

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Who says Americans don’t get irony? They make some fantastic COMEDY and have some wonderful comedians. Obviously, you’re not as funny as us Brits. But you’re getting the hang of it. (Benny Hill.)

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There you have it. Have I forgotten anything, anyone? What would you have included?

Obviously, there is one other thing I would like to give credit to. And that is the American people. (Well, only those that didn’t vote Trump.) You’re an innovative and inspiring bunch. Not only that, you saved our asses in two world wars! So, cheers for that.

My, (our), world would be a lot poorer without you.

 

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Blackstar 10


I’ve decided that we should have a week-long period of mourning for the recently departed genius that was David Bowie.

I know it’s probably a little presumptuous of me to take this unilateral decision. But I thought the world celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and even Princess Di. And what have they ever done for humanity?

They certainly didn’t belt out Queen Bitch. (Though I can imagine Nelson busting a few shapes to Boys Keep Swinging.)

There has been a myriad of plaudits written about the Great Man, by far more eloquent people than I, so I’ll leave that to the music intelligentsia.

So all we have to do is decide what to call this celebration of the man’s legacy. Initially, I was thinking of Black Sunday. You know, like they have Black Monday for the pre-Christmas sale and Black Friday for the day when everyone finishes work before Chrimbo. The only problem with that is it would have to change every year. Next year it would be Black Tuesday, (coz of Leap Year), the year after, Black Wednesday, etc.

Then I thought, how about the name of his latest, and final album, Blackstar, along with the date: Blackstar 10?

So, henceforth, the 10th January shall now be referred to as Blackstar 10 and celebrated accordingly.

So long and thank you, David Bowie, you were the Picasso of music.

 

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What’s the Score?


I was listening to Radio 5 t’other day and film critic Mark Kermode was giving a whippersnapper some advice on the best music scores in films.

Of course, all the movies Kermode picked were complete pants. But it did get me pondering how crucial a soundtrack is to a film. And, when done correctly, can infinitely improve a movie from great – to masterpiece.

So, here are my top five. Actually, there are six. Because I couldn’t decide which one of these to leave out.

First up is Betty Blue. Composed by Gabriel Yared and directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix.

 

Next up, Paris, Texas. Composed by Ry Cooder, directed by Wim Wenders.

 

These aren’t in any particular order, by the way. Next is The Piano. Composed by Michael Nyman and directed by Jane Campion.

 

Who could forget The Soggy Bottom Boys? This classic from O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?. Composed by T Bone Burnett, directed by the Coen Brothers.

Aimee Mann isn’t actually credited as the composer of Magnolia. But apart from a Supertramp song at the end, the entire soundtrack is by her. Directed by P.T. Anderson.

I couldn’t resist popping in another masterpiece by Michael Nyman. This time for The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, directed by Peter Greenaway.
All absolutely brilliant movies and worth checking out.
I’m sure there are many more I could’ve chosen. The Godfather springs to mind, as does Jaws.
All alternative suggestions welcome.

 

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Things for which I am grateful #365/365.


Some folks might think this is a bit of a cheat. I started with my kids and I’m going to finish with them. In my defence, I have two of the little rascals so I’m counting it as one post apiece.

There is nothing more precious to me on this Earth than my two daughters. Anyone who has children will know that something changes inside of you – chemically, biologically – and nothing else seems to matter.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every parent, and true, the pesky varmints do get on your nerves a lot of the time. And yes, they bicker constantly. And they manage to talk in a stream of consciousness James Joyce would be proud of. But, when all’s said and done, they don’t outweigh all the adorable moments. I simply couldn’t live without them.

It’s been an epic year of blogging. Thank you for sticking by me and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Right, I’m going for a lie down.

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Here are my 365 things that I am grateful for:

1 My daughters

2 Water

3 Poetry

4 Baths

5-7 Notebooks, pens, pencils

8,9 Butterflies and moths

10, 11 Softball and baseball

12 Fresh coffee

13 Sound / masts

14 Indoor toilets

15 Stepping Hill Hospital

16 Birds of Paradise

17 Roget’s thesaurus

18 Mother Earth

19 Clingfilm dispenser

20, 21 Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy

22 Jorge Luis Borges

23 Classic cars

24 Curry

25 Tim Berners Lee

26 Charles Bukowski

27 Yorkshire

28 Shiraz

29 Food

30 Katell Keineg

31 Tao Te Ching

32 A roof over my head

33 Peat fires

34 Street art

35 Friends (as in – mates, not the T.V. show)

36 Wilfred Owen

37 The Penguin Café Orchestra

38 The fry-up

39 Wolves

40 W.B. Yeats

41, 42 Cherry blossom trees and haiku poetry

43 Bread

44 Boules

45 Maps

46 Refuse collectors

47 Candy Chang

48 Sparrows

49 The tomato

50 Studio Ghibli

51 Oliver Jeffers

52 Johannes Gutenberg

53 Tom Waites

54 The cello

55 Mothers’ day

56 The Phoenicians

57, 58 Bacon and brown sauce

59 Tulips

60 Fish and chips

61 Giselle

62 Airfix

63 Firefighters

64 Rain

65 Libraries

66 Raymond Carver

67 Toulouse-Lautrec

68 The Goldfinch

69 Wings of Desire

70 Silence

71 Elizabeth Barrett Browning

72-99 Ireland

100 Talking Heads

101 Sylvia Plath

102 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

103 My mum

104 Modigliani

105 Kurt Vonnegut

106-128 Electricity

129 The pop man

130-147 Comedians/comedy

148 Commando magazine

149 Pastry

150-156 Social media

157 David Bowie

158 Football

159 D-Day

160-194 France

195-230 Novels

231 Graphic Design

232 Viva! Roxy Music

233 – 274 Art

275 Betty Blue

276 Writing

277 Joy Division

278 – 287 Scotland

288 – 324 Italy

325 – 352 Photography

353 Leeds Utd

354 Love

355 Universe

356 Advertising

357 Pan’s Labyrinth

358 – 363 Democracy

364 Miscellaneous

365 My daughters II

If anyone wants to read any of the previous posts simply type the title into the search box on the right. (It’s underneath the ‘topic’ cloud.)

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Things for which I am grateful #364 – Miscellaneous.


When I first started doing Things for which I am grateful, one for each day of 2014, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it. Now, on the penultimate post, I have far too many. So rather than pick just one I’m going to give you a miscellaneous list of all the ones that didn’t make it – but could have quite easily. (Lucky you.)

The point I’m trying to make is that we are very lucky in the ‘west’. And, even though I gripe on about our Tory overlords, I feel very fortunate to live in England.

The sun. (The big orange ball of fire, not the newspaper.)

England. (So much history, beautiful scenery and towns.)

History. (I love history.)

Wind turbines. (I think they’re cool.)

Thai food.

Chinese food.

The industrial revolution.

The sea. (I love the sea. And would love to live by it once again.)

Manchester.

Leeds.

The Romans.

The Greeks.

South Africa.

Elvis Presley.

Schools.

Public transport.

Sri Lanka.

Australia.

Bali.

Hinduism.

Buddhism.

Taoism.

New Zealand.

Optometry. (I wouldn’t be able to see without my glasses.)

My ex-wife for having our children.

Evolution.

Monkeys. (I do love a monkey.)

My neighbours.

Garlic.

Penny sweet tray.

The Peak District.

Typography.

Architecture.

Sci-fi.

The dictionary.

Drawing.

Farmers.

Butchers.

Fishermen.

America.

Uilleann pipes.

Sub-atomic particles. (Where would we be without these little jaspers? Nowhere, that’s where.)

Martin Luther King Jr.

The BBC. (Kiddy-fiddlers aside, they’ve done some great stuff.)

The Guardian.

Snow.

Erik Satie.

The emergency services. (Police, fire, paramedics.)

So, as you can see, plenty for me to be grateful for. But the point is, not what I am grateful for – what do you have to be thankful for in your life?

Wonder what’s in store for the last one?

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Pan’s Labyrinth – #357/365


Not long to go now before I complete my 365 things for which I am grateful.

If you’re a newcomer to this blog, at the beginning of 2014 I decided to embark on a project that highlighted just how lucky we, in the ‘West’, are in comparison to many other people around the world. And how much we take for granted – such as running water, a roof over our heads or food in our bellies.

Today’s offering is a magical movie directed by Guillermo del Toro, called Pan’s Labyrinth.

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It’s the story of Ofelia who travels with her pregnant mother to meet her sadistic step-father, the brutal Captain Vidal, at his base in the north of Spain where he is fighting the post-civil war rebels.

Once there, she is befriended by a maid by the name of Mercedes who is helping the rebels with medical supplies, information and such.

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One night, a fairy comes to Ofelia and takes her to meet a faun in a secret labyrinth. Now, when I say, ‘fairy’, don’t be thinking of Tinkerbell or some pretty, pink fluffy thing with wings. This fairy bears more of a resemblance to a flying stick insect than a Winx Club. (Which prods us to wonder if this is all just in Ofelia’s imagination to help her through the violence and misery of her surroundings.)

Once in the bowels of the Earth, the faun tells her that she is the princess of a long-forgotten kingdom and, if she is to meet her real father – the king – ever again, she must complete three grizzly tasks to prove her loyalty.

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Of course, Ofelia is well up for it and goes about her task with such vim that an I’m a Celebrity contestant would only balk in horror at.

Meanwhile, her mother is a sickly lass and has taken to her bed. The vile Captain Vidal has his hands full torturing and butchering rebels and has no time for Ofelia.

pans-labyrinth

It all comes to a head when Ofelia kidnaps her newborn baby brother to protect him from his evil father. Unfortunately, Captain Vidal, who only has eyes for his son and heir, has other plans for Ofelia…

And, you know what the spooky thing is? It’s all true.

"A little off the top?"

“A little off the top?”

Pan’s Labyrinth is spine-tingling  fairytale for adults.

Exquisitely filmed and beautifully acted, the film is both horrific and enchanting. And, I for one, am grateful that I got the opportunity to see it. Several times.

Here’s the trailer, but you can actually watch the entire film on YouTube if you like. Don’t know what the quality’s like, mind.

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