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Archive for March, 2009

West Wing

I wanted to try and write something about The West Wing but I have already waited too long and forgotten many of the points I wanted to make; no doubt I can return to this post after future re-viewings (which I am sure there will be).

I do not want to spend too long on the programme’s utter brilliance as televisual art – the scripts, acting, camera-work all of the highest possible order. (more…)

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25 Years On

It is 25 years on since the Miners strike began and there has been both newspaper discussion and a few television programmes. Much the best of the latter was a documentary very simply entitled ‘The Miners Strike’. In fact this documentary was made and first shown in 2004 for the 20th Anniversary, but I would have no objection to it being shown annually. It was a history of the strike at the South Yorkshire pit, Hatfield Main, and was structured around the stories of five Hatfield Main strikers, inter-cut with interviews with scabs, policemen, striker’s wives. (more…)

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Waiting for Godot

No, not an introduction to some general musings on existence! Instead a note of a trip to see a very remarkable production of the play at Malvern. The cast comprised Ian McKellen as Estragon, Patrick Stewart as Vladimir, Simon Callow as Pozzo and Ronald Pickup as Lucky. It is, I would imagine, highly improbable that I will ever again see such an assembly of thespian talent on stage together in my life-time. One of the most remarkable things about the production was that not for one minute, not from the instant that McKellen appeared on stage, clambering over a wall at the back, did one think of him as anything but Estragon. Gandalf, Magneto, Captain Picard and Charles Xavier disappeared completely. (more…)

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Light on Christie

I attempt here to précis and comment on Alison Light’s brilliant and innovative analysis of Agatha Christie in her Forever England (Femininity, Literature and Conservatism Between the Wars: 1991) which was a group read for WWTTA in 2007 (yes it has taken me that long!). This analysis, which forms Chapter 2 of the book, is much the most interesting thing I have ever read on Christie and has led me to re-think many assumptions. The analysis is of Christie’s cultural, social and political position not of her as a mystery writer (which is a field that has received a certain amount of coverage).

Attempting a précis is no small matter as Light’s analysis is densely packed and closely argued. Anyone really interested is recommended to try and get hold of a copy of the book: unfortunately in the UK at least this is much easier said than done. I purchased my copy at an exorbitant price in Wigtownacouple of years ago, but that was cheap compared with on-line prices. (more…)

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Slumdog

Looking back I see it is 2 years to the day since I last wrote about going to the cinema and seeing a really good film ( Dreamgirls – http://nickhay.blog-city.com/dreamgirls.htm ). Now while part of this is down to going less often, it is also true that virtually every new film I have seen within that period has been a disappointment, ranging from the average to the bad. So it was good to be reminded of just how good an experience movie-going can be by Slumdog Millionaire. I am not going to claim it is perfect, an all-time great, but it is certainly worth the Oscars it has garnered ; which makes a nice change (I think of recent movies such as that boringly pretentious Giant rip-off which was There Will be Blood).

Having read Swarup’s Six Suspects it was easy to delineate certain features in the film: the strong narrative, the social panorama, the excoriation of injustice, the broad humour (though my suspicion would be that there might be rather more of this in the book). But Slumdog works as a really good movie which is what counts. It is wholly involving at an emotional level and passed my critical ‘tears’ test (a simple one : did it make me cry? although there are truly great movies which contradict this test – Kane, Regle du Jeu etc. – it is a pretty good stand-by). But in addition to this it clearly has substantial moral weight. And some pretty effective cinematic moments – the Taj Mahal rising out of the haze, the pull-back shots of the slums, the climactic montage of the final Millionaire show. Again I would not want to over-state; one could not call it cinematically brilliant. But it does enough, when taken with its emotional impact, to remind me what cinema can achieve. I do rather hope it is not 2 years before I feel moved enough to blog about a film again though!

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Now that I have settled in here and put all the essential posts in the February archive, I will produce something a bit more current. Or catch up with lost months of December and January anyway. Lost of course to Depression. It has been a very bad eight months. Since July only October was wholly untouched by illness, though November was good until the last week. Why this new turn? Looking at my records since July 2006 I have only 3 months with sub-4 mood ratings and none of those were below 3. But since July 2008 I have had 4 sub-4 and 3-sub 3 (which means pretty severe depression). What is even worse is that I have no good explanation. Maybe it was doing too much public and social activity. But I think it maybe means that I need a medication change!

Anyway a lengthy and severe bout of Depression always leads to re-assessment; to thoughts of mortality and futurity, of how I should spend that time I do have; of the parlous state of sanity and so on. Not that I reach any new or different conclusions. But I am certainly reminded of just how fragile a state my ‘normal’ one is.

One new feature of this bout was that I found that, even when fairly severely depressed, I was on occasion able to read some serious books. (more…)

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