Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Hildalgo and The Executioner

I saw two films over the past couple of days. Hidalgo pleased with two fine actors Viggo Mortinson, a cowboy and the army despatch rider who delivered the authority for the Wounded Knee massacre. His secret is that he had a native American mother. Omar Sharif replays his Lawrence of Arabia role, this time as an aging head of a race whose passion is breeding horses and winning with his entry in a 3000 miles across desert race to the ocean. Hearing about the boast that the Cowboy is best rider in the world he sends an emissary to invite him to be a competitor in the race. He meets two individuals who are to have a major influence on the outcome of his visit. The first is an Englishwoman who is also a competitor but in league with a relation and rival to the Sheik and who willing to do anything to win including killing the horses of leading rivals as well as their riders.

He also meets the daughter of the Sheik who wants to break with traditions and from a forced marriage for political reasons. She is kidnapped as a way to blackmail the Sheik to give up his horse and the secrets breeding such animals. The Cowboy who under threat because of being found in a misleading comprising situation with the daughter is sent to rescue her and he then triumphs over various obstacles to winning the race.

The film is beautiful photographed and with excellent acting progresses beyond the usual fare. The conversations between the cowboy and the daughter appear authentic about both trying to breakout from the social and traditional confines of their cultures. While is social intimacy and adult conversation about life there is no romance. Their destinies are different. He returns to the USA where following his ordeal in the desert he has accepted his native American background and culture. He releases his horse back to the remaining wilderness and the company of other wild horses..

The second film was very different. A 1970 spy film with George Peppard and Joan Collins called the Executioner. The story has the makings of a good film such as “the Spy Who Came in from the Cold with Richard Burton and TV series Smiley’s People. The Spy suspects treachery when a ring he controls in a Russia state is killed or are missing and in particular he suspects a colleagues with whom he has a vendetta as the man steals his lover who becomes his wife. Although he still loves the woman, he has a new girlfriend who is able to gain access to closed records of previous situations which have caused concern and where the common denominator is the colleague who seduced his lover. When the spy is contacted by a friend who appears to confirm that the man is a traitor he kills him and with the help of the friend dumps the body in the channel from a light plane. When he is captured by the Russians they convince him that the friend was innocent. Later he learns that the man was a double agent and that his superiors knew and had been feeding him false or misleading information for years. They want to promote Peppard but he feels the whole basis of his beliefs and work has been undermined. They could have stopped the destruction of his colleagues and friends in the Russian state. My problem with the film is George Peppard and Joan Collins who are George Peppard and Joan Collins.

I enjoyed my roast chicken and tined vegetables so much on Sunday that I had a chicken salad for the evening meal after the match and a bottle of Peroni. There was strawberries and melon I enjoyed a sausage sandwich with Branson pickle out in the sunshine on Monday and a prawn salad in the evening with melon. There was smoked salmon on toast as treat at tea time. I also had a Pecan flake pastry twist in the sunshine.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Angels and Demons in and out of Parliament

Instead of going to the cricket I went to see the film which is a follow up to the Da Vince Code. I enjoyed the film and the book which I bought subsequently. The film had a very serious aspect. The film, Angels and Demons, was very disappointing. Tom Hanks is not credible in his role as a serious Academic turned detective and the religious historical component about the Illuminati proved to be a gigantic red herring. The new thing on which the story is based is not the Illuminati but the particle mover which has been built in Switzerland in the multi billion project to try and establish the scientific origin of the universe and confirmation of the big bang. The crucial aspect of the film is the stealing of a vial of anti matter from the Swiss project. The Illuminati were a society of progressive thinkers interest in science as well as religion to found themselves persecuted by the Catholic Church who feared their work would destroy the faith of those who took the bible literally. The premise of the film is that Illuminati has reformed in order to use the latest scientific knowledge destroy the Catholic Church once and for all. It is presented that they first kill the Pope in time to coincide with the successful experiment to create anti matter and then blow up the cardinals while they are in conclave. In addition for some reason inexplicable reason the four preferred cardinals under consideration to become Pope and kidnapped, branded and three are killed before the fourth is rescued. There is an elaborate plot which involves a history of the Illuminati, and tour of religious centres and churches in Rome. There are lots of explosions and killings before it is revealed that the Pope has been killed by his adopted son because he had considered the work undertaken in Switzerland to confirm rather than destroy the concept of God and the Illuminati conspiracy was a means to attack science and for the individual concerned instead of being prosecuted for conspiracy to murder and kill the Pope, a Cardinal, the Head of the Swiss Guard, the head of Vatican security and of anti terrorism in Rome, three Cardinals and a dozen members of the security forces and police, is about to be proclaimed Pope! Only the brilliance of non believer Hanks and a leading female scientist at the Swiss project prevent this from happening.

I attended an afternoon performance which was attended and for once I accepted the need for some of the audience to try and explain what was beings said to their friends or partners. James Berardinelli is always fair but even he had to admit that aspects are so preposterous that you are immediate aware as the films is being shown and you are tempted to laugh at out loud. I did a couple of times. The also admits the plot is convoluted with the whole effect dumb. Limp and lifeless. I did not have the impression that there were any real people in this film. His comment that it is a film aimed viewers who are half asleep, drugged, drunk, or simply uncaring also hits the target. In order to appease the Catholic Church who refused to agree to filming within the Vatican there is a little sermon about the need for faith and science to coexist. The Spirituality and Practice duo who like good Christians see good in everything and everyone fore they see the evil, liked the Tom Hank Performance and enjoyed the mini lectures and mini sermons. I wish I could be as charitable. This was a waste of money and time but I needed the break. At least it was cheaper where I had considered going first I found out I could have slept in the car if that way inclined well in theory at least because the car park ticket if endorsed when going to the cinema is valid for 24 hours which means free car parking to return and shop if you want to leave the car, take the bus home and back the following morning.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Batman Forever and Lost

For entertainment on Sunday I watched the 1995 Batman Forever, fifth feature film, which was the right way round because it was not until 2008 and the eighth film that we had explained why Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face wanted to kill Batman. In The Dark Knight, we learn that Two Face was originally a leading crusader against crime and corruption in a situation where Batman was given the choice to save his girl friend or his friend and failed in relation to the girl and his friend badly disfigured one side of his face and becoming torn between the good and bad sides of his character. In Batman Forever the main villain is The Riddler, played by Jim Carrey who worked for Batman and then went his own way discovering device which beams Television direct to an individual’s brain. It is not clear how this is different from actual TV viewing except that it also enabled the Riddler to read the minds of individual viewers and harness their collective knowledge and energy. There is the statutory Batman girlfriend, played by Nicole Kidman who is unconvincing as a psychiatrist specialising in people with divided personalities. The film also explains how Robin, played by Chris O’Donnell joins the team in which Michael Gough plays the faithful Butler father figure, although it is his lack of awareness which causes Batman, the girl and Robin all to be captured and only escape death after a series of great escapes. The film is full of divided souls in need of spiritual and psychological healing.

The most look forward to event of the day was the two end of season episodes of Lost which prepared viewers for the final season. The season had commenced ad the Oceanic Flight survivors returned to the USA, Jack, the former leader of and fugitive criminal Kate with the daughter of Claire which she is raising as her own, Sun, the wife of Jin from South Korea and her daughter, the disturbed Hurley, winner of the lottery using numbers which were of significance once reaching the island, and Sayid former Iraqi torturer, were faced with pressure to return to the island.

The pressure came from Ben the former leader of the Islanders known as the Others, brought to the island as a child by his father as a Dharma Initiative worker. They are all persuaded, that they must return to the Island to put things right and much of the season was devoted to the their reluctance and eventual persuasion to do this.

At the conclusion of the previous season Locke had been instrumental in creating a time and space instability and moving the island and those on it. In order to resolve the movement Locke also leaves the island to persuade the others to return. Key figures in the present day are also Charles Widmore who we learn was responsible for the fake discovering of the plane with the bodies of everyone at the bottom of the ocean and the mother of the Mathematician who is part of the Widmore expedition which leads to the six escaping and the rest of the island being moved. During the series we learn that both Charles and the mother of mathematician were on the island some thirty years before as part of a cult group which became the Others. The Mathematician is their son. The mother becomes a key figure is getting the seven back to the Island.

However when go back and their second plane ride together crashes there are different outcomes for those on board. Jack Kate, Said and Hurley find themselves back on the Island in 1974 where they also find. These include James Sawyer who became the lover of Kate and Dr Juliet Burke. James has become a senior member of the security Team and Juliet his effective wife. There are also three members of the then expedition team sent on the freighter by Charles Widmore, including his son. The husband of Sun, Jin also survived the blowing up of the freighter and has became part of the 1974 era Dharma Initiative. They have been on the island in the new time for three years the same period as those who returned to the USA

There are also survivors of the new flight who do not return to 1974 but land on the Island or on an island close to the Island but fidn the situation different from went Sun, Ben and Locke left it. This includes the body of John Locke as well as his resurrected state

Locke was murdered Ben but Jack is told that it is essential that the body also returns with them. Ben is amazed that Locke is alive and tries to turn one of the others against Locke before Locke reveals what has happened. Sun has learnt her husband survived the explosion and wants to find him, prepared to leave her daughter to do so. There is humour over the existence of Locke who Ben previously. Ben full of angst because he witnessed the death of his daughter who he could have saved and he is required by Locke to visit the base of the smoke monster where his daughter appears to him and orders him to obey everything which John Locke tells him.

During the series we go back to have even earlier point in time the 1950’s where Richard Alpert is seen with Jacob who is the human face of the island. Throughout the series Jacob appears to have been the leader of the islanders, telling them what to do and this includes Ben who at the end of this season admits to Locke that he has never met the being. Locke persuades Ben that he is the one to kill the being Jacob in the final episode. Richard Alpert is also a major figure who has appeared in and out of the series, but always as an ageless individual and he takes Locke and Ben to where he knows Jacob resides. In the last two episodes we learn that Jacob has appeared to the Oceanic group in the USA to help them at key points in the period leading to their return.

There are three other potential key moments before the grand seasonal finale. The first is when the returnees and those who stayed on the island but were taken back to 1974 find a young Ben who is shot and they take him to the cult Others to be saved. The second is that the Mathematician Daniel Faraday is sent back in time to the island by his mother to explode the hydrogen bomb which was placed on the island for a test explosion but is then buried underground because of concern about leaking radioactivity.

In the earliest series we find that something happened on the island which caused a switch in polarity and that Desmond when he comes to the island is told that he has to press a computer button to ensure the polarities remain in balance and that without doing this not only will the island destroy itself but the whole world if not the universe. A way is found of stopping the need for the button to be pressed. The reason why all the surviving Oceanic flight victims have to return to be on the island in 1974 is because in that year a scientist on the Dharma Initiative is boring into the island’s core and strikes the force which creates the whole chain of events. Faraday is told by his mother (with the help of Charles Widmore) that if the bomb is exploded at the same time as the Island’s core is breached then everything will be different and Oceanic Flight 316 will not crash.

The third key aspect is that the scientist working on the project has a son. The son is part of he Widmore freighter team with psychic abilities. He has the unusual experience of seeing himself as a child and of identifying himself to his father. At one point the submarine which is able to visit the island crossing time leaves the island with all the children and most if not all the women folk and scientist see his wife and son depart and then is faced with his son in the present day who is killed in the fracas that follows.

I now come to the two finale climaxes to the season. Ben does kill Jacob at the behest of Locke while members of the second flight reveal to Sun and the flight captain the anomaly that the hold of the plane was the body of Locke while he has been claiming leadership of all the survivors of both flights in the present time. There are therefore two of Locke existing at the same time.

In the final finale the bomb does not detonate as planned as the core breached and the reversal of polarity begins and Juliet is swept into the bore shaft and crashes to the bottom where seriously injured she comes to her senses and manages to explode the bomb. Will this do what was believed could happen or did this act actual create the situation which subsequently happened in a circular event. The only reason that they are able to find the bomb and take it to the drilling site is because Faradays mother kills her son thinking he is one of the enemy. They persuade his mother to help them although she has no memory of her future. The proposition is that when the bomb explodes those who have recently died will be resurrected.

Kate has left Claire’s child with her grandmother and it is understood Claire will reappear in the final season. Desmond who was not on the flight but who was stranded on the island when his boat was forced there is reunited with Penny the daughter of Charles Widmore. They marry and have a child which stops Ben Killing Penny after he blames Charles for the death of his own daughter. Desmond is shot but survivors and their role in the final season is unclear. There are other original flight survivors who have been reintroduced in the fifth series or when it has been said will reappear in the final series when he reason for what has happened is expected to be revealed. I for one cannot wait.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Von Ryan's Express, How to lose a guy in ten days ugh and Being There

December 31st was a day of shopping madness in the land of variable pricing but I had been in quite a state since rising at 3am bright as polished tunic button the previous day after a good but short sleep and feeling wide awake, I started to write and continued for several hours deciding that I would try to sleep again with the first hints of dawn. It was approaching 1 pm when I woke after a long vivid dream which I have continued to remember factual aspects as well as its feelings. This is unusual. Moreover the sleep had been uninterrupted. During the remainder of the day I completed sixty artman signature cards and tomorrow, New Years Eve, I will commence the completion of the otherwise finished sets followed by making the photographic record. This will take several days. I watched several films while I worked and remembered one I had not previously mentioned, inconsequential as it was.

This morning after going to bed at 1am I stayed in bed intentionally having read the opening chapters of a Christmas gift novel where the opening was set in the town of Perth which I have visited several times. It was 10.30 before woke again feeling a tiredness and lethargy which lasted until driving myself to get into the car going on a short trip to the new Lidl which had promised coloured A4 size ring binders from 79p the size I wanted would cost 99p. The roads and car parks were full of cars and everybody seemed to be on the move. The new Lidl was disappointing with none of the offers I wanted on display so I had a bright idea. I was convinced that there was another branch on the way to the home where my mother had been resident. I joined the route with a mini market in one of two directions and I opted for the one towards the Home rather than back to my home and bingo I had chosen correctly although I got the entrance to the car park wrong and had to reverse, encountering the continuing build up at one of those traffic lights where the lights alternate between every roadway, a wise municipal decision given the awkwardness of the junction and the amount of traffic at the best of time.

The decision proved a brilliant one as one of the first finds was a mountain of boxes each holding 18 Torta Spanish Almond cake better known as Turron. There was also the supply of ring binders eight of the size I wanted coloured red. There were also simple wood boxes containing 600 grams of smoked salmon for £4.40 alas the best eat date was January3rd and I had already acquired a 200 gram back on Saturday which with the smoked ham would see me well into the New Year. However I also bout a lettuce, some rolls and new high powered bottle opened which I thought was priced £12 but with a device which cut through foil however on the receipt it was under £8. It looks forbidding and it will be tomorrow when will I try it as I am drinking water today. I may also invest in a kit of replacement top for fizz drinks as well as wine as the one I use has served its time.

However the surprise bargain of he day and many others was small tubes of acrylic paint 12 colours and six of each colour 72 tubes for under £8 or 11 pence each.

I had not planned New Year's eve other than to be in and had noted a showing of the Girl with a Pearl earring, but as I have the DVD this ca be viewed on an otherwise blank day. It was not until just after 6.30 that I switched from an uninterrupted all music channel on Sky to the programme options and discovered that there was a showing of the last Tina Turner concert at the old Wembley. It has been my privilege to experience two of her live concerts placing her along with Bruce Springsteen three times, and also only the Live Aid appearance of Queen as the three great on stage exceptional value over 100% give all performers that make you thrilled excited drained and exhausted. The presentational aspect of the Wembley concert remains extraordinary. The Biography channels was trumps tonight because of Tina there was Queen at Budapest and then Live Aid concert remembered.

As planned my work of the day concentrated on adding the dried Artman signature cards to otherwise completed volumes and then photographing twice, each card individually and then as double spreads,. First were 10 sets in five volumes of My Space writings 5493. However it was only when I was adding the photos to the 200000-300000 listings with 262000 entered as this note is completed that I worked out that I had made the registration card 5493 5395 cards 131809 131856 twice and that a new card had to be created, and this was followed somewhat later various diversions by the seven sets about Mabel reaching 100 and her life.
Two days ago I provided another example of this being the land of variable pricing having paid £9 for a Travel Lodge double bedded room with TV and coffee and tea making facilities, with £15 and £19 for room which can be booked for £29, £39 and £49 outside the cities with the highest noted £105 shot notice booking in the centre of London at Covent Garden.

Sunday night I watched a celebration film introduced by Sir Richard Attenborough marking the three years in which Jose Murinho led Chelsea two Championship titles and in 2007 to winning the League Cup at the Millennium stadium Cardiff and the return of the FA Cup final to Wembley. Despite losing key players this achievement was not enough and early on in the present season Murinho parted company to return to his homeland. For the three seasons the majority of Chelsea supporters have lived in dreamland and for the rest of us the concern has been at the ability of one man to buy success through his bottomless cheque book. I have a history with Chelsea Football club in that in 1980's after two visits to the ground I experienced horrifying violence around me. On the first occasion on leaving the ground shortly before the final whistle in a drawn match I encountered about 100 men lounging in a nearby roadway in groups of two and three when suddenly with the noise of away supporters leaving the ground, an umbrella was raised and the men formed into ranks and moved off silently at the double in the direction of the departing away supporters.

A few minutes later there was the sound of police cars and a group of men were running escorted by police on horseback. I kept out of the way in the entrance to a shop until the street quietened. Eventually about an hour after the match ended I found an underground station at which I was later told the London branch of the away supporters club were escorted by police on to the train where they merged with Saturday shoppers and those going into central London for the evening. At two stations before Earls Court the platform was crowded the length of the platform on the lookout for the very young men who boarded the train, and some managed to get on the train and a vicious fight broke out in the next compartment with the attackers armed with knuckle dusters and strong books. They used the leather holding loops to swing into opponents hitting and kicking some senseless. I managed to help some young men escape through the door separating compartments and they left the train at the next station, while others entered the compartment through the platform door to get into the adjacent compartment. I prevented one individual who appeared to me to be no more than a child barely an adolescent from joining the affray and when questioned he said with hate that he had to get at the fellow Londoners who supported a different football team. A couple of years later after a near riot within the ground because the away team I was supporting won the match, I had a similar experience, although in this instance, West Han supporters smashed their way out oft eh train, having been to a match at Wimbledon, in order to get into a fight with Chelsea supporters who were being prevented by the police from entering the station. Thus the police found themselves in the middle of a conflict between two groups of men whishing to try and kill each other. In both instances the trains were so badly damaged that they were taken out of service at Earls Court. My enquiries revealed that this was a regular occurrence within the capital.

These days the football authorities have made strenuous efforts to eliminate such violence within grounds and in the surrounding areas. The warring factions now arrange to do battle at different locations and fights are arranged according to tribal issues, and the territories are no longer a football club, owned by Russians, Americans or other foreigners, and where there players all come from different countries and continents, but an artificial geographical location such as a post code. On previous visits to Chelsea the extent of open recruiting by extreme right wing organisation outside the ground was evident. I once had an interesting correspondence with the then Chairman of Chelsea Football club Ken Bates about the subject and also with Sir Jimmy Hill. My previous experience has nothing to do with the present Chairman and Board, or the players and I have made several visits to the modernised ground without incident. It now costs an astronomical sum to be come a season ticket holders and even greater sums are required for those who have parking spaces and like to dine and wine friends and fly to similar facilities in clubs in other parts of Europe. For some supporting the club has become their way of life, The British game has been weakened by the departure of Mr Murinho and until, this season the Premier League was dominated by four Clubs, Manchester United and Liverpool from the North West and Arsenal and Chelsea in London. 2008 could be the first year in over three decades that I do not have a season ticket.

Travelling by train in the UK also has as great a variable pricing structure varying from £20.40 two singles usually booked two months in advance from Newcastle to London 300 miles to an open second class return of £269 and £379 for first class. Talking of trains!

Some weeks ago I remembered an occasion in Italy when I attended the gala evening of the Sorrento film festival and saw Von Ryan's Express or was it after a deluge at the coastal resort of Rimini after visiting Venice, but wherever ti was the film was in German with Italian sub titles. It was years later that I saw the American and English language version and it was only on Sunday night that I saw the film again and began to remember the story and its ending.

In the last days of Italian involvement in World War Two Frank Sinatra is shot down near a coast in southern Italy is taken prisoner becomes the de factor head of a P.O.W by reason of rank although it is full of a captured British regiment with the remaining senior officer, played by Trevor Howard. Given the stated information that they have bee incarcerated for two years I assume they had been ordered to surrender in North Africa for their aim has been to escape and continuing the fight with every man volunteer career soldiers. Sinatra is a 90 day wonder having been a commercial flyer the rank was gained on completion of training. A clash of attitudes is inevitable and Sinatra's decision to give up the latest tunnel in exchange for decent clothing, red cross parcels, hot water and delousing powder earns him the epithet Von to his surname of Ryan. This is reinforced when the men having left the camp after the Italian surrender are recaptured because of his decision not to execute the camp commander. The prisoner are put in a cattle truck train to Rome and on to Austria. However they manage to capture the train and devise a way to reach Italy. This is an escape adventure film in which many die and both leaders come to respect each other and their different approaches. It is of no consequence except that it was seen in Italy as part of an adventure travelling through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France.

On New Years Evening Day I saw the last Peter Sellers film made in 1979 to be released before his death and which led to an Oscar nomination in 1979 and won several awards 1980/1981 in both the Uk and America.

Peter Sellers plays a middle aged man who has spent his adult life tending the garden at the home of a wealthy man without any outside contact except for what he gains from TV watching. When the Old Man dies he is forced to leave the home on a wintry night and while watch TV in a shop window steps back and his leg is injured by the vehicle of another very wealthy and influential man who is dying with a young wife played by Shirley McLaine. Sellers introduces himself as Chance the Gardener which is misunderstood as Chauncey Gardener when invited to recuperate at the home of the couple who are anticipating a visit from the President.

Being slow witted and his experience only that of the garden and what eh has seen on TV Chance talks slowly relating everything in simple fashion to the seasons of growth and decay and this is interpreted by the great and good and the great and not so good as profound especially after the President quotes something said to him on the private visit in major televised speech and over night Chance becomes a political and media sensation turning the fortunes of the President. When his new benefactor dies he is the choice of the board. The reality is recognised by the benefactor's doctor who keeps quiet because of the positive effect Chance has in the last days of his patient.

The charm and significance of the film is the way Chance is critically examined by the great and not so good. The CIA cannot find any record an conclude the cover up of the past could only have been achieved by a former agency, one of them and the FBI come to a similar conclusion but this time it is a former FBI agent. The President goes off Chance when he sees him as a threat, especially when the political elite conclude he would make a better prospect instead of a second term President, because all the opinion poll and media evidence is that the general public regard the man as brilliant. In the final scene Chance is seen as appearing to walk on water. Being There proved to be the oldie of the year

On the same day I saw The Good, the Bad and Ugly again remembering how much I had forgotten. And the Worst film of the year was undoubtedly How to Lose a guy in Ten days, although I enjoyed it. Got no taste, Got no class, Ain't got no.

Lilies of the Field, When Eight Bells Toll, The Empty Beach, Firefox, Ivanhoe

13. I discovered that it now possible to renew my motorcar tax disk by an automated phone system just tapping in the reference number which triggers first your name particulars and can then check that you are insured and have a valid MOT without you having to supply any details. Clearly now there is a requirement for this to be registered centrally and which also means the police can check on the last registered owner, their tax, insurance or and MOT status on any vehicle seen on the road from their on board vehicle.

14. There are so many films to re-see at Christmas although finding new ones is nigh on impossible. One was Lilies of the Field, an excellent vehicle for Sydney Poitier in which he has become an itinerant jobbing builder who is prayered upon by a small group of new immigrants nuns to America (who escape over or under or through the Berlin Wall to minister to a small community of American Mexicans/Indians) into building a chapel, and who then moves on to make real money and continue an empty life when the next projects of a school and a hospital are mention, thus rejecting the offer to become a valued member of a community and possibly a wife and children The Oscar winning performance has no backstory and potentially no earthly future, but his effort to build the chapel is a gesture, and insurance against the possibility that heaven does exist as a self aware after life.

15. After that the film experience was downhill with When Eight bells toll, brought together Robert Morley as a gentleman club and gentleman's value M with a very young Anthony Hopkins as a Bondlike who saves the nation gold bars, and the lives of the hostages in a splendid Scottish island/peninsular setting.

16. Even less can be said for an Australian private eye hired to find the miscreant husband who committed suicide or disappeared rather than face the music of influential and powerfully rich characters one of whose rackets is to warehouse imprison the elderly for their pension books, other state benefits and savings, burying their remains in the garden when they die from malnutrition, disease and neglect. The Empty Beach also included Ray Barratt as a baddie who gets his come uppance even watched Firerfox once more as Clint Eastwood steals the latest Russian Plane.

17 I have been reflecting on the plethora of film available to be seen, viewed, experienced or as in my case to be used as a backcloth or screen saver to trigger memories and stimulate new thinking. Because of this if I am busy I do not re experience the more important offerings such as the Motorcycle diaries, Good Will Hunting and the History boys. But I do intend to experience with my full attention the Girl with a Pearl Earrings(DVD). Others in this category included Merry Christmas about the 1914 cease fire. The Enemy Below which along with morning Departure are two great films about submarines. Pan's Labyrinth contender for top 100 special for because it is about the Spanish Civil War, at one level, and all war. The English Patient is another war film (DVD) with a top 100 The Bridge over the River Kwai. Two great romantic films on offer were Casablanca(DVD and Video and Brief Encounter DVD. Combining war, adventure and romance between the unlikeliest of couples Bogart and Hatherine Hepburn in the African Queen. The Western Unforgiven along with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,(Video). One comedy Groundhog Day. One good film because its music but otherwise overrated The Third Man and a top 100 crime drama Get Carter (DVD and Video)

18 I do not fault the Barry Norman Christmas Family film selection oh please bring back Barry to replace that who is he Jonathan Ross. Gone with the Wind(video), Doctor Zhivago,(Video) It a Wonderful Life(Video) for the mums and dads with the oldies. The Teenagers will enjoy the Great Escape and everyone ET, the Railway Children(video) and the Wizard of OZ(Video) Miracle on 34th Street deserved its mention. He should also have included The Red Shoes, Babe, Annie. Oliver, Marty Poppins, Chicken Run, Black Beauty

19 I am less sure about the early evening viewing of Robin Hood which I have only seen episodes11 to 13 and which appears to be a precursor to the more commonly known tale as the greater part of the final two episodes shown on Saturday comprised Robin and his men chasing after the Sherriff who go to the Holy land with Guy of Gisborne to kill King Richard taking Marian with them as a prisoner because Sur Guy wants her as his woman and the Sheriff to find a way to get rid of her after she has attempted to kill him. In fact the only likeable characters in the series who appear to have the usually spherical male attributes are Marian and fellow goody Arab girl who tells the truth and opens up her heart to one of the men who decides to stay and live happy ever after, as he also speaks Arabic The sheriff reminded me of Rick Gervais and King Richard came across as a stupid unreliable git. And therefore King John as a better prospect of turning the Kingdom effectively doing what Kings have to do. I think the writers were modelling Richard or player and the Iraq war,

19 Give me the original films or Ivanhoe with Elizabeth Taylor as the Jewess daughter who saves his life after injury in a Joust. Felix Aylmer played the chief money raiser for British Tribe promised to be given a place in their new homeland if they provide the bulk of get ransom for King. In order to save her from being burnt as a witch Ivanoe is forced into a dual with the excellent the Kings Champion who gives up his life out of love for Elizabeth, weren't we all although her time would come with Caesar and Mark Anthony, and Richard Burton.

20 Other oldies on offer included Changing Lanes worth seeing once. Fiddler on the Roof Video remains several times watchable along with My Fair Lady Video which I tool the aunties to see in the West End.. Mr Deeds goes to Town. Ryan's daughter, More recent oldie is Mrs Henderson presents, the story of the Windmill Theatre across the way from the Cy Laurie Club. The Queen. Primary Colours Political comedy (DVD) Von Ryan's Express seen at Sorrento, Mrs Brown on Queen Victoria and her relationship with John Brown. Spartacus the epic and everyone should see once the Rick Horror Show to understand why some people see it 100 times and know all the words and act the script. Samson and Delilah and why I grew long hair, Quatermas and the Pit, the first of the modern sci fi Horrors. Havana, Rob Roy and Local Hero and several hundred more if only I had the time to work through the Radio Times listings. River of no Return which I did see with Marilyn Monroe

21. A Quirky programme was the self congratulatory 30 year anniversary of the years of M*A*S*H although I enjoyed the film. I suspect the fund and games of the field medical unit is closer to the truth than most would admit to. Another programme which is of interest to social anthropologists , those who went their and found the love of their life or a one night stand, the story of the Hammersmith Palais.

22 It was also anniversary time for Saturday 5pm Sports report and it appropriate that Desmond Lynham should get an OBE. It was interesting that an OBE also went to the retiring rugby star, while the new English coach only got for an MBE

23. A one year old child is savaged by a dog when staying at the home of grandparents and left in the care of a sixteen year old aunt and two other children one a six year old. My sense of horror is mingled with anger at where were the parents?

24 I went by my former home of 30 years today four times and this will account for having a dream about going back to the house to see what changes have been made, but also linking in with a dream I have had before about another house which was part of a lager property, but which in turn was bigger than its appearance and was part of extensive grounds. I have had this dream before in various form but with the same core experience and appears to include a mixture of actual homes, and day dreams about a home I would like to have had. I understand part of the significance but not the whole which brings back to my work of cards each representing an hour in sets of 24 about my life and those of my extended family, back through time to the present.

The Race for Yankee Zepher, The Boyfriend and more

Yesterday the Pakistan Opposition Leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide attack, as she returned to her country to contest he forthcoming general elections. My day had commenced without attempting to engage in great thoughts other than an awareness that December and the year were drawing to an end, but hopefully not my life, although it continues to ebb away against the tide of my wishes. I felt on top of my work although I am not up to-date because there some 50 or more sets of work requiring Artman cards and then to be photographed recorded. The delay is the need to conserve photo cards until I can track a new inexpensive supply. One local supermarket has indicated there will be a good offer at the end of the second week of January and I will need to check Staples and Neat ideas before then for some additions in the interim so that I can recommence the completion of the second volume of Rivera 2007. I will also look out for white card although I have at lest three months supply as present work levels. Yesterday such was the progress that I completed the first two master volumes of creative work and memorabilia about my mother and almost completed a six or seven set volume about films experienced prior to 2003.

The work was such that that I continued to watch films, trivial frothy films to begin with. In the afternoon trhere was the Race for Yankee Zepher which starred Donald Pleasance is a good role for him as an drunken old codger with a conventional daughter by one of his marriages, whose help he seeks to enable him, and his friend, who runs a dilapidated helicopter, to embark on an expedition in a remote mountainous region of New Zealand to recover the contents of a US plane Yankee Zepher, which the audience is instructed at the commencement of the film contained 50 million dollars in gold 1939-1945 prices ( no inflation adjustment is made), and which disappeared on a pre Christmas flight intended to provide for the American Troops fighting in the Southern hemisphere. Our anti hero discovers the plane having been dropped into a lake by his partner from a rope under the helicopter which for some inexplicable reason has never been discovered until several decades after its disappearance. Would today such a valuable transport be left in the hands of one pilot and one plane, but then the information on 25 million Britain's on computer disks has recently disappeared and cannot be found!

The old codger brings back some pristine medals which he finds in the wreck unaware of what he is leaving behind and more interested in the crates of Christmas Cheer. He sells the medals to a local dealer for 75 dollars apiece to raise cash for booze and gambling at cards having had no difficulty in making the trek home, despite his age and the isolation of the location, although as we subsequently learn the area appears to be inhabited of a race of mountain hard drinking and gambling fearless aging mountain men. The creation of the stake money, sets in train the arrival of Mr Big, the baddie, played in as comic way as he can by George Peppard, who although has no knowledge of the location of the plane comes in a convoy of off the road vehicles, a helicopter and two boats capable of skimming through the only entrance to the lake because of the shallow waters.

It is never clear how the gang learn of the find and are so quickly are to assemble the items necessary for the expedition, including full arsenal of modern weaponry, and arrive in the area without attracting the attention of the authorities. However as this is the Land of the Lord of the Rings one must accept that anything can happen. There then follows a James Bond type adventure in which the two partners and the reluctantly involved daughter, race ahead or behind the baddies to get to the plane to claim the treasure. It lacks the credibility of Bond in the sense that Bond lives in a world of violence, whereas the famous trio are able to participate in the death of their adversaries as if something experienced on a regular basis. Although by the end of the film the treasure has sunk to the bottom of lake along with several baddies, with others disposed of along the way, by luck rather than skill and endeavour a box of gold bars is retained to enable them to live happy ever after, for we are told along with the credits that the old codger is now running a dubious bar in the most unlikeliest of locations, convincing the more gullible of cinema goers that this story is based on fact. The film was directed by David Hemmings.

There was no such pretensions with The Boy Friend which I first say as a show at the Streatham Hill Theatre in the later 1950's taking my mother my aunt and another aunt to see Sandy Wilson's energetic song and dance, having first seen a performance on my own earlier in the week. The musical opened in London in 1953 as a small scale show but quickly transferred to the West End and to Broadway(1974) and ran for five years and over 2000 performances. The musical captured the nostalgia of the British middle classes for the roaring twenties of the Charleston era and who were able to afford their summer on the French Riviera. There are several catchy songs whose words I learnt having purchased the ten inch long play record, and the script is suitable for children and middle aged church going folk such as my aunties. The film was given the Ken Russell Treatment in 1971 with Twiggy in the main female role, supported by Glenda Jackson and Barbara Windsor. The Russell idea was to have a small time seaside theatrical company performs the original show on the night that a big time film producer happens to visit and when the leading lady is injured and understudy Twiggy is give her big moment. The film stage production has props more West End and than end of the pier and is augmented by Busby Berkeley type moments, extending the original song and dance routines into a film lasting 2 hours and 17 minutes. It is very colourful but despite the energy of the dancing routines loses for me the vitality and freshness which the show brought to a still drab post war and ore sixties country, Despite having the early success in the USA in 1954, the film was not a box off office success although there was a Broadway revival in 1970 and a North American Tour in 2005 after Julie Andrews directed a New York production in 2003. There were also smaller scale reproductions in London in 1995, 2006, and 2007, thus confirming my reaction 50 years before that this was harmless frothy entertainment one could take a maiden aunt or two to see, or in my case three.

There was a plethora of films to see again in the evening at 9pm and I opted for The Queen, the film which Dame Judy Dench played her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As I thought at the time when I saw the film in theatre no one comes out very well except for the Queen, with Tony Blair shown as a twit who reveals himself as a secret monarchist and ties to help her understand and respond to the public reaction. Coming worse off are Mrs Blair and Tony's inner circle who are seen to want to seize the opportunity to push the nation towards a republic, Having watched the wall to wall news coverage including that of the US news channels on Sky and then visited London during the funeral week I also understood the public reaction as did the Prime Minister. The public mourned Diana, not just because she was glamorous trend setter, or her good works, but because she came across as being a flawed human being like the rest of us, willing and able to exploit her talents and position to the maximum of her capabilities, and to be honest about her lifestyle and interests. She captured the mood of changing Britain. The initial failure of the Queen and her Royal advisers was not to realise that the public needed her to do what she subsequently was forced into, according to the film, and join them in public demonstration of mourning while her natural instincts was to express feelings in private and concentrate on the welfare of the grand children. It is understandable that the Queen recognised that Diana had become the catalyst which threatened not just the future of the Monarchy but the future of the old order and a stable quartet of nations at the heart of the Commonwealth

The significance of the Blair Premiership will not be Iraq but that he completed the transformation of the UK initiated by Prime Minister Thatcher into an elitist, competitive, global money making enterprise in which Prince Andrew has become its chief salesperson and Princess Diana its Icon.
As the recent TV series on the Queen at work has demonstrated, the Royal firm led by the Queen has learnt to survive better than before. The ban on Foxhunting has been circumvented and the democratic and essentially republican reform of the Lords put on ice, I suspect on the duration of the lifetime of her Majesty. If the monarchy in the UK is to survive then it will need to jump a generation sorry Prince Charles and Camilla, as what will work, is a good marriage and a next generation Kingship, although the situation could change if the Queen is able, like her mother, to continue for another decade, or two.

At one level the protracted inquest into the circumstances into the death of Diana (and what I expect to be an inconclusive conclusion but rejecting the wilder conspiratorial speculations) will aid this viewpoint that to skip a generation will protect the Monarchy and traditionalist Britain until the Chinese need an Emperor to lead their economic imperialism, as a buffer to the Russians who are moving back towards a contemporary Tsar, while, the Indian Sub continent will move towards an identified aristocracy to counter the need for Pakistan to have a dictator if it is not to quickly become a fundamentalist state with its independent nuclear weaponry which in turn would precipitate the third World War and potential the premature ending of all our self conscious beingness.

OK so this is all wild and fanciful at the end of a workmanlike day full of froth and frills! Or is it. I hate to admit but without knowing anything about the reality of Pakistan, the last thing we and the world in general needed is a genuine free for all democratic elections in which the Muslim fundamentalists could gain legitimate power. The premature death of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic loss for her family and her political party, and it may be for all of us unless a strong single minded anti Muslim fundamentalist government can be established in that country for at least the next decade, while Europe and he USA adjust to the rise of China, the development of Russian and India
Moreover back home the Labour Party is playing the wrong card in accusing the opposition of having no policies and the Liberal Democrats of thinking they need to have different ones from the other two parties. What the British nations need is good mature government and leadership. It does not need lots of new policies, new legislation or new anything. It has enough new to cope with thank you. It wants good government and a government it can trust. Gordon Brown was able to provide this over the first months after Blair and then there was some madness that he had have a General Election and a vision which requires changes in policies and lots of legislation. The Queen is now more popular and secure as a concept that ever before because she had the guts to face the music, as did Queen Victoria when she came out of her long period of mourning for her husband. The only danger I can foresee to her now is that the stronger a symbol of Britishness she becomes, the more she will be a threat to all those who want to see a divided and disillusioned people. This is an era for strong leadership, g

Straight Story, The Terminal, Flag of our Fathers and the Old Curiosity Shop

Another twenty four hours when it could appear that all I have done is watched films, the experience of life of others artificially created. Sometimes I do feel that my life is like that even when I am not watching a film.

Yesterday, that is Christmas Day, the film was about an old man old man who had fought in World War II and encountered another old man, and they were able to share the nature of the horror they had experienced which cannot be shared with anyone else who has not experienced the shock and the horror of war. At least now there is now excuse for anyone not knowing this and at least there are indications that the new Western armies are not treating the lives of their colleagues so cheaply as was done throughout almost the whole of the twentieth century. This man has also known what it is to bury a wife and to share with her the loss of children childhood and the loss of children when they grow up and leave home, or just grow up and become themselves. In his instance he had the attention and interest of a daughter who was slow but knew how to run a home and because she was slow and three children when of these died in an accident while not in her care, the other two were taken into care and the old man and to love with the grief which he knew his daughter felt. The old man had a brother with whom they had been close and spent the summer nights together talking under the stars making the most of things before the harsh winter months returned to dominate their existence, and then in later life as they approached old age brothers being brothers they fell out and did to communicate for a period of ten years. And then the old man learnt that on top of his difficulty in walking and picking things up from the floor he had to change his ways, including the smoking of cigars which had become his one joy in life although he had given up the alcoholic drink. And so he decides it is time to make peace with his brother who lives just over the border of the state across the Mississippi river but also involves a trek across his home state and this poses a problem because his poor sight means he can no longer drive a car on the road and he cannot bear being driven by others for long distance so what does he do?

He attempts to make the journey on his ancient lawn mower, pulling a makeshift camper which comprises a coffin type box to sleep in, on top of other boxes for food, clothes, tools and his walking sticks. Of course he does not get very far when the vehicle breaks down beyond repair and he has to return just like home made boats which attempt to cross oceans and home made planes that jumped of cliffs in order to try and fly like the birds, so what did he do, he uses his savings to buy another second hand lawnmower up to the task of driving at five miles an hour up and down hills for six weeks. This is the Straight Story made in 1999 and directed by David Lynch and based on the feat of Alvin Straight. It is the kind of film which the majority of today's film going generation will find boring, where is the action man? Or the sex?

A similar kind of stubborn determination to finish a task is the subject of the Tom Hanks 2004 starring film The Terminal. However because it is Tom Hanks and there is a romantic interest with the delicious Catherine Zeta Jones many more of twentieth century film goers will have enjoyed this tale of another stubborn man who decides try and fulfil a simple forty year ambition of his recently deceased father, involving a trip from his homeland to the United State and New York and when the task could be completed with moments of locating the whereabouts of one individual. Unfortunately he is not given an entry permit and then finds that his [passport is no longer valid because of civil war back home and he is imprisoned in the JFK airport for month upon month. In this instance the film does not claim to have been based on a true situation which went on for years when an Iranian was required to live at the Paris airport Charles De Gaulle, not for months but for years because his refugee status papers were stolen while in transit, and in fact trhere has been film with a similar story line called Lost in Transit. In this film there are several stretches of the incredulity but the film has the kind of charm and sensitivity of experience that can be expected from Steven Speilberg and while the man completes his mission he does not get the girl, who although she knows her own problem and its solution knows that only one person can break down the walls and release her from the chains, and he does not wish to do so while she remains the delicious woman that she is. The film is harmless entertainment which leaves one feeling good about human beings who will do the right thing when push comes to shove.
The reality of us was not long acoming, first with the second of the Clint Eastward's two films about the taking of the Japanese island rock of Iwo Jima. The first in Japanese provided their viewpoint as to how they fought and died and was based on the discovery years later of a stack of letters written home, but which had become unintentionally hidden.

The second film Flags of our Fathers focussed on the reality of the battle which last thirty five days and the truth of what happened when a handful of men, six, raised the USA flag on a hill overlooking the bay where the vast force has disembarked from the vast navel fleet. The first was a spontaneous gesture which inspired a nature which longed for a meaningful victory over an enemy which had inflicted Pearl Harbour and which occurred only five days into the battle, during which three of the six died. When a fight arose over the ownership of the flag and the need for some permanent record a second flag raising episode was created with a new flag. Thousands of men lost their lives or were maimed for life by the battle and those who raised the original flag while the battle raged as well as those who repeated the venture under order were not heroes because of this action, but were heroes for being part of the force which won the battle against a well defended and organised Japanese force who knew they would lose and die but wanted to do their duty and forestall the US advance for as long as they could.

James Bradley grew up without his father ever talking about what he did in the war or revealing that he was the one naval person seen in the photograph which has become the symbol of American heroism and victory. It was only after the death of his father that he discovered the story and that his father had received the naval cross for valour. He decided to find out about the five other men and the battle.

The Island was of strategic importance in terms of its navel and airbase facilities for both sides and as stated on the fifth day the flag was erected on Mount Suribachi and the Naval Secretary of State, a politician knowing the significance of the action requested that the flag be sent to him as a souvenir and the six men who put up the photographed replacement became the heroes especially when three died in the subsequent fighting without knowing anything of the popularity of the action. Bradley's father has been responsible for arranging for the corpses to be brought home and therefore he quickly learnt how bodies are mutilated war, and in particularly the tortured body of his best friend. By not talking about the experience he was able to marry his grade school girlfriend and become a prosperous undertaker raising a normal family as part of a local community. The film is concerned about how the three survivors were used on their return home to persuade the public to invest in War Bonds. One was a native American Indian who was the subject of segregation and abuse along with the black Americans , while the other was never provided with work opportunities offered when he was today's news worthy man. Controversy also centred over the identity of the sixth soldier with parents only subsequently learning who he was and whom he was not. The film provides universal truths about the nature of war and wartime and its aftermath. The men, and now the men and the woman are required to perform a role and are honoured if they die. The treatment of those who are maimed physically and mentally has remained questionable, because the general public want to forget the reality and subsequently generations do not want to know, and those who did the fighting and he surviving do not want them to know.

The fourth film was at the depressing end of the reality of human nature. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. For the most part it was unbearable Boxing day viewing with perhaps only one of the adults surviving the tale with any integrity or honour. At the core of the story is the willingness of most adults to exploit children, including their own, and the willingness of children to try and do what their parents want, irrespective of how they are treated. Now we like to think this was only a situation during the 19th century and not something which was carried on in varying degrees throughout the twentieth. Unsurprisingly the behaviour of the adults to each other was no better.

I spent the morning listening to radio Gibraltar who covered the Boxing Day swim organised by the Caletta hotel and given the size of the Gibraltarian population the reported numbers were commendable comparing favourably with the 1000 fancy dressed mostly young people who participate in the swim organised by Sunderland Lions at my former home beach of Whitburn sands at Seaburn. A number of prizes were on offer for anyone who answered one of three questions which included the name of the Sunderland football manager who would be shaking the hand of Sur Alex Ferguson at the Stadium of Light. On my 2004 visit to Gibraltar I had had lunch a couple of times at the Man U supporting club close to the former church of my mother and father as well as visiting the Toon on the Rock a grander pub given over to Newcastle United. Part of my email was read out including my prediction that Sir Alex would be the disappointed man at the handshake. Later in response to a request from the programme presenter I gave a more honest assessment anticipating that we might lo a couple of early goals and then fight back during the second half. This proved to be the case although we gave away a third before half time and were never able to master their defence, giving away a fourth and only escaping a home humiliation by good luck and one suspects Man U staying in second or third gear for the greater part of the game. The gulf between the two teams was evident and it is evident the pack will have to be significantly shuffled in January if an immediate return to the Championship is to be avoided. The match of the day was at Chelsea where Aston Villa nearly brought off, and some will say should have brought off the first home defeat in the Premiership for close on four years after going 2,0 up at half time but overall the 4.4 draw was a fair result with Chelsea down to 9 men and the Villa to 10 by the end of the game.

Mother Russia and The Riviera Christmas

Although I was up early I did not develop enthusiasm for writing until 11pm. I had written on and off about Christmas and this will be the basis for something about my actual day when I hope to welcome to my table the ghosts of time past, present and the future.

This evening, tired after a meal of a pizza, I was awoken again by a surprise, the 1999 Oscar Best Foreign film East West, a film which some critics savaged for being melodramatic and others for being overambitious. There have been two films, until now which, captured the epic nature of what happened in Russia immediately before and since the revolutionary period between the Two World Wars but also provided the human dimension seen through the eyes of the creative artist and individualist. The first was the idealised and romantic poet Dr Zhivago and the second Reds which featured the American journalist and poet Jack Reed who only survived until 1920. The 1999 Best Foreign Film Oscar winning East West, is not about a creative artist, but concerns a real life Russian born man who was raised in France, became a doctor, married a French woman and who accepted the 1946 invitation of Stalin to bring his talents home.

The invitation was a general one to individuals and their subsequent families who had left Russia at the time of the revolution. There appear to have been two main reasons for the temporary lifting of the iron curtain. The first was the genuine need to replace the technical skills lost through the revolution and the second World War. Those who accepted the invitation and could make the mind bending adjustment from liberalist and capitalist democracies and become good soviets as define by Stalin would be rewarded with better living conditions than the majority and gain other privileges. In the instance of Dr Alexei Menchikov he was told before disembarking that he had to rid himself of his French born and raised wife and that if he did he would immediately be provided with an appropriate Russian wife. When he declined and realised that he had placed his family in immediate peril he was softened up for the reality of post World War Russia by the brutal interrogation of his wife and the deployment as the doctor to a 2000 employ factory in the industrial city of Kiev. Had he accepted then he could have been given a more prestigious post as head of a hospital, and provided a two bed roomed apartment. There was likely to have been a more sinister motive.

It would be surprising if all those who responded had not been thoroughly investigated and carefully watched to establish their political ideology. It would be better to have potential enemies, actual and potential spies and subversives within the system where they could be dealt with one way or another. In the film the first arriving group once disembarked were met with armed troops and the political commissar divided everyone into two groups those to be imprisoned, sent to work camps or who had to be immediately killed because of their potential threat, and those who might fit in and prove useful.
It is sometimes forgotten or overlooked that while millions of Jews gypsies, the physically and mentally disabled from throughout Europe were butchered by Germany, in Russia the purging of similar numbers was indiscriminate. In both countries extensive use was made of labour camps and throughout the Soviets and German occupied countries, regimes were established in which citizens knew they could survive and better themselves if they spied on their neighbours, reported anti government behaviour and denounced. Many did this for no other reasons than jealous, spite, and the power to blackmail and extort money until themselves were denounced. It is a method used by all governments and we are openly encouraging Muslims to do this in Britain today. However the check and balances that we try and maintain to limit excess and misuse become non existent in fast moving revolutionary times and subsequent totalitarian regimes.

In the liberated Western style countries we should all be careful not to be seduced into democratically voting for or accepting the creation of the police and secret service state. The increasing widespread use of surveillance cameras, the developments in digital technology and databases which enable instant recognition and tracking, the attempts to change from the jury to a professional judicial system and the detention of individuals without charges, and then holding for increasing lengths of time without trial are as dangerous in a democracy as they are in a dictatorship.

Having failed the first test set him Dr Alexei and his wife and child then had to adjust to the post war living conditions of the working classes in Russia but which were in fact no different from the cities and towns throughout war devastated Europe, or which had been the situation for the working classes who moved away from the land in the industrial revolution.

In Dr Zhivago we learnt of the impact upon the middle class when houses similar to my present home were requisitioned and given over to families on the basis of one private room a family, with shared kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities. In Dr Zhivago we were not shown these facilities but in East West, the toilet seat was kept outside the loo and the indoor bathroom could be used by each family for washing clothing and bathing on an allocated day each week. In Dr Zhivago a common bucket was used on the long train journey to the family's former estate when all the travellers were treated like cattle.
However at the same time as they experienced such conditions which will have horrified younger generation cinema goers in 1999, I spent the greater part of the first decade of my life sharing a double bed with three adult women, in a house slightly smaller than my present one, full of adults young people and other children. We did not have a bathroom until after the war and had to make do with a tin bath in front of the fire. We were then allocated a flat in a requisitioned property which was not handed back to the owners until the 1950's. My mother in law lived in a council house without a bathroom or inside toilet until the late 1960's when improvements were made.

Similarly workers in the East and West were expected to work hard from early morning until bedtime with limited breaks and days off until the end of the 19th century. Before then in the US and British Colonies of the West Indies in particular, slaves were used and then indentured workers and in Victorian Britain workers lived in squalor until they dropped dead or were struck down prematurely through illness or industrial injury while those who survived such calamity, and their families, had then to rely on the workhouse. In 1963 I narrowly avoided being ejected from my professional training course after disclosing the nature of tenement housing conditions in Birmingham to Member of Parliament who I already knew and he then spoke of the twilight zones in a Housing debate which achieved national publicity and only in the past month I listened to a radio story about housing conditions in Glasgow where the new Europeans had been housed in appalling conditions in property owned by dubious shell companies registered in tax havens.

East West is not intended as a political or social statement but the political and social conditions are the backcloth to an amazing love story in which it appears that the couple separate beyond repair, and take lovers as they adjust in different ways to their new way of life while relinquishing dreams of escape., Because it is a film highly recommended and the most emotionally engaging of this year, I will not chronicle the rest of the story in case what I write is read by someone who then wishes to borrow or buy the video, If so beware that it has a wonderfully inspiring but sad ending.

This experience contrasted with two films about the reality of Christmas, first around an American parental Catholic table, and the second a British made for TV special about getting away from it all in a seaside hotel, the Riviera. I missed the start of the first and instantly forgot its title, but it was a good slice of the reality when families with come together because of parental loyalty and wishes when they lead different lives in different places and appear to have nothing in common except having been brought up in the same household as children and young people. The mother has been the dominating force within a traditional Catholic background, setting down clear rules for her children and now for their grandchildren and finding it difficult to accept any behaviour which conflicts with her own and very willing to use emotional blackmail to get her way. At one level it is possible to criticise the children for not playing the game for a few days one or twice a year. But there are two forces at work which makes this impossible. Each individual cannot detach themselves from the reality of their lives just like that, especially when hours before relationships might be ending, and work issues predominate.

I would dread the approach of the Christmas season each year for close on two decades. This was the time when I was expected to prepare a list of expenditure savings, usually involving reductions in services and staffing, sometimes their abolition, together with proposed developments and cost neutral service changes. These had to be kept secret with knowledge restricted to a handful of those required to do the costing and provide the information on the staffing implications. By the time of sitting down at the Christmas Table I had a good idea of the likely decisions which the controlling politicians would first put to their political colleagues in private and then through to the formal process of Committee, the service committee, the finance personnel sub committees, the policy and resources committee and then the Council meeting to determine the budget for the coming year and local taxation rate level. For the greater part of the period we operated in the context of zero budgeting which meant that changes were not restricted to the listed options for growth or reduction but the whole budget was under scrutiny and indeed management structures could change and departments become amalgamated as they are from time to time at Westminster. Nowadays the approach is to privatise, changing the approach to structures, wages and working conditions. Knowing what the impact would be on those dependent on services and on staff and their families made it difficult to switch off and into the family Christmas. People get ill, people die, have accidents, jobs and homes are lost, and relationships come to an end in the way that they do on every day of year, men and women are fighting in war while others provide emergency and essential services and none of this can be held over because it is Christmas.

Similarly in every family however happy and content the parental relationship, and however loving and caring the parenting there will be the disappointments, the rivalries and sense of injustices, the unfulfilled dreams, and inevitably, the family gathering becomes the opportunity to make comparisons, to remember slights and lacks of attention and consideration, sometimes with explosive and destructive consequences.

So the solution for many is to get away from it all, or from each other in some form. One way is to avoid the stress of cooking the family dinner and going out on Christmas and or Boxing Day, or go for the whole holiday with the family, or without all, or part of them to a restaurant or to a hotel at home or abroad. I missed the first hour of Riviera while experiencing East West but if the second hour was a good indication of the whole then this is also a film to see again. It had the kind funny moments which contain horrible truths although it all ends far better than each individual anticipated. The programme highlighted the difficulty of running away from ourselves and our problems and there is much to be said for the security of home. There were some great moments albeit moments which would have been unpleasant for some viewers. The couple who go for walk and encounter their child, partner and family believed to be away skiing but staying with friends because they refuse to put up with the obnoxious behaviour of the father towards them and his treatment of the mother who is also in on the deception, played magnificently by Barbara Flynn and Warren Clarke. Then there is the Vicar, divided between running off with the sexy curate and his alcoholic wife who needs to keep hold of if he is to become a Bishop.

There was also the widower and son where his wife's ashes get used for the Turkey stuffing and the stuffing becomes the ashes, and where father hits it off with a woman whose cancer prognosis is that that she might see her two year old grand child reach primary school.

The message of both films is that we cannot usually get away with trying to be a different person because it is the Christmas holiday but for the sake of others we should all at least make the effort. However I am tempted to suggest that governments should take the revolutionary step of only treating the day as a bank holiday, and special for practicing Christians, and that to qualify for the holiday they should have to get at least half a dozen non Christians to vouch for them. This would enable true Christians to make their day and the rest to continue to behave as they usually do. Of course a similar holiday would have to be granted to all other religions at appropriate occasions for them with a similar requirement to have to submit references from no believers to obtain the additional holiday. This would also help integration ay local and national level.

This is not eliminate the seasonal national holiday all together which could still be extended over a week but become spiritually and religiously neutral and take place to mark the end of the old and the new year. The rest of the commercialised business of trees, cards, lights and other decorations, gifts and sales, parties, dressing up for football matches, the shows and films designed for children and their families would also continue although the sexist notion of a Father Christmas and the damaging influence of make believe nursery stories and pantomimes should be abolished.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Woody Allen's Celebrity

During the day I sorted completed work cards into one pile and generally worked out what to do over the rest of the week. I was not planning to go out unless the weather prevented play in the Test match at Chester le Street. I then watched Celebrity in the evening. You either tune in to the way Woody Allen looks at life or you do not. Most critics did not like Celebrity his1998 black and white film about those who seek fame and the company of the famous

Kenneth Branagh plays a would be serious novelist who first attempts were critically savaged but still has ambitions while working as a journalist and bored with his highly strung and unconfident wife becomes sex obsessed with any and every young woman who crosses his path. The film is full of excruciating social situations, art show and film previews, parties and fashionable restaurants. One interest is Melanie Griffiths who he first meets as a film extra and with whom the later establishes a relationship after meeting her again when she is living with someone and he has just arranged for his girl friend to move in and have her possessions brought over. She, Winona Ryder, then destroys the only copy of his novel in revenge. That he has no copy is one of several absurd points which removes credibility from this piece of well trodden nonsense.

The film is amusing for the appearance of Leonardo Di Caprio who invites Branagh to participate in a four way swinging session. Another is the cameo appearance of Allison Janney (CJ of the West Wing) interviewed having a posh nosh, Charlize Theron plays a super model who is turned on which ever part of her body is touched but abandon Branagh when he gets so excited that he turns his Aston Martin into a store window.

Judy Davis plays Robin his neglected and abandoned wife who is picked up by a TV executive who for some reason enters the cubicle where she is waiting to see an eminent plastic surgeon and who compliments her on the work that has been carried when she has decided not to have any. Why the man finds her personality and appearance more desirable as a potential wife and mother given the opportunities previously and subsequently is a further flaw although that he is able to get her a job when she has no talent or experiences in the industry probably is not. I liked the ending in which Branagh meets his happily married and confident former wife who has become a celebrity interviewer in her own right whereas he still struggles to write his book, finding out that someone else has made a success of a similar theme and abandoned by all the girl friends including Melanie Griffiths. He is genuinely delighted with the outcome for his former wife. It was time for an early night.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The State of Play as Brighton Rocks

On Friday in the morning I explored central Brighton on foot, the shopping centre and shopping street parallel to the sea front towards Hove, and then in the evening the North Laine and the South Lanes and the cultural area around the Royal Pavilion. In the afternoon I went to the pictures at the Odeon Cinema adjacent the travel Lodge.

Yesterday or perhaps the day before I wrote about my understanding of Brighton having become several distinct communities, conference and holiday centre, two university and recreation town, commuter, retirement and gay town. I did not set out with any intention to establish how far I had correctly judged the situation but now a couple of days later I have to express pleasant surprise at its cosmopolitan sophistication. On my first evening I had a brief conversation with a young man in the lift on his way to watch the match and drink beer with friends and discovered that he came from Jesmond in Newcastle and therefore knew South Shields well but wished to move to the south coast. I now know why.

After two days watching cricket, one day in the sun but with a chill wind, and the second hiding from the bitter cold behind glass or clinging to the back of the lower member’s pavilion on a park bench against the wall, I needed recovery and exercise. As forecast there had been rain overnight and it was after eleven before the skies brightened. I had eaten croissants and drank coffee around between six and seven and then snoozed before undertaking some writing and making my way to the car to transfer the remains of the evening meal and to begin to sort out the rear before the transfer to the Hove Travel Lodge the following morning. As the skies still looked threatening I decided to make my way first to the Churchill centre and do so without climbing the Hill.

Brighton and Hove has a population of 150000 and is located at the western edge of the county of East Sussex. Worthing which I was visiting next has a population of 100000 and is the largest town of West Sussex and in between is the unexpected port of Shoreham by sea, unexpected because I had no idea before visiting that there was such a large port in the form of a waterway created by the mouth of the river Adur and a huge bar which extends to Southwick and Hove. Its population is around 20000.

Brighton the town is built around a hill with shopping and recreation district south of the railway station going down towards the sea front. The main shopping road extends for over a mile east west and part of this road is restricted to buses and taxis and in order to get to the major car parks it is wise to first reach the sea front coast road and then taking the turning past the Brighton centre, which also contains the Odeon cinema, the Travel Lodge and with the Grand Hotel also on the sea front adjacent. I made the mistake of trying to enter the parallel road on my way to the Hove ground on the second day and had to enter the bus only road area at one point. It was all very confusing until working out the system operated.

On Friday I missed the easiest entry into the Churchill shopping centre development which takes on into the Debenhams store with entry from the road between the Travel Lodge and the NCP Car Park. I did find a way from the outer centre car park which involved negotiating incoming and outgoing cars, noticing as I did that a stay here of more than 12 hours to 24 costs a massive £25 designed to restrict use to shoppers and day visitors. I joined a number of passengers from the car park basement who knew that the main entry level into the shopping mall was on the fourth floor and then take the escalators up the next level to reach the front centre street level and the buses.

I felt peckish and made my way to the highest level where there is small food court, MacDonald’s, Spud U Like, a ubiquitous Subway type filled baguette outlet and an healthy organic fruit drinks and hot good restaurant. I was in the mood for a MacChicken, French fries and diet coke and knowing this was unhealthy managed to tip most of the coke onto the floor, a just punishment I felt for the eat the food at a table overlooking the central area where down below a stage had been erected with a cabin like changing area for five tall models giving a professional fashion show with music, lighting, a compere and the designer taking a bow to the bemused shoppers who had intended to pass by.

I picked up a copy of a free magazine Latest 7 which combined property advertisements with articles about local entertainments and I was impressed by a piece by Will Harris on Britain’s I got talent and the sensation of the Scottish singing lass Susan Boyle. I must send him an email later.

It was time for a walk so the decision was taken to travel the shopping road east west towards Hove. I had forgotten that the only Wilkinson’s on this part of the South Coast was at Worthing and not Brighton so misguidedly went in search and to buy lottery tickets of the evening’s £80 million Euro draw. The street and the walk seemed longer than indicated by the return journey or went travelling by bus.

There were two noteworthy discovering and both involved food. La Fourchette is Brighton based with adjacent restaurant and separate bar restaurant and a separate restaurant in Kemptown, a patisserie and a Kemma bar. The place had contemporary European style and a mouth watering menu which needed a partner in gastronomic indulgence for the main course and pudding as well as the wine choice.

For starter I could not make up my mind between Mediterranean King Prawns sautéed in a parsley sauce, garlic and butter £11 or the Pan roasted red Mullet salad with oven dried tomato sauce and a petite salad £7 but the wine choice was a half bottle of Pouilly fume Chateaux Favray 2007 £13. Then we would share a shoulder of lamb slow braised and marinated in 25 spices with mixed vegetables and sautéed potatoes and a bottle Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 £20 and then a shared pudding of Assiette Gourmande, a chef’s platter of portions of all the sweets on the menu for £14 drank with Bollinger £55 and followed by Liquor Coffees for a total of £9 about £150 for two including gratuities.

The second discovery was Taj ( Mahal International) in the Mediterranean end of the street. This was the most interesting store encountered on my travels with a stupendous selection of olives in 2 kilo kegs, tins, cans bottles and served loose and fresh from large vats and with every size and stuffing.

I then went back to my room which had been cleaned and tidied for a second wash and a cup of tea and relax before going to the pictures in the afternoon. After a cup of tea I went out on an evening explore. There was still the cold wind but it had brightened up although I was not inclined to follow those heading for the pier along the sea front. My first destination was towards the cultural area and as I walked up the hill I was joined by a young man with a pedal bicycle hording on the pavement accompanied a young woman guide leader and a part of about ten young women dressed in green frocks and sashes advertising but can I remember what. Before getting to the cultural area I saw a number of younger people remembering everyone under sixty is young heading into the Lanes to my right, twisty and leading down to the sea front and was tempted by a piano at the Friends meeting House where for a modest few pounds there was a 90 minute concert and a light buffet. I needed to explore and to exercise so I passed and the various inns crowded out in preliminary for the rest of the evening entertainment. There are by the some 400 inns, pubs, restaurants and clubs in the town ranging from the sophisticated already mentioned to the tourist sea front, everywhere chain, earthy environmental and those used by the gay community the largest in the UK including London with its annual Gay Pride event.

The cultural area lies next to the Brighton Pavilion and a wide traffic free piazza before theatres and facilities used for the fringe performances leading to the North Laines. Here environmentalism, the organic and bohemianism was much in evidence and an interesting hotel whose name I forgot which had a lounge bar in a shop window. And then there is the Komedia a multi performance centre boasting 700 activities a year with two most nights featuring comedy, cabaret, club and music as well as performance for young people. Before going home I bought a two glass bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon with two cheese twists but what else I had I did not note or remember. The lights on the seventh floor were fused at one point, perhaps a lady used the wrong voltage hair dryer was one suggestion but it was soon fixed and I Found out that only five of the twenty rooms on the floor were occupied at the time. I conveyed one lot of luggage to the car and then bought a diet coke with ice at the bar around 11pm. There were lively sounds from the young until the early hours.

Fort anyone who has not seen State of Play and intended to do so Goodbye for now. It was my most enjoyable film of the year, requiring constant attention and a great plot with an ending twist which I worked out the bare bones but only just before it was revealed.

The film is an American update of the equally brilliant six part British BBC TB drama series in 2003 which won awards for Nighy and David Morrissey and also starred James McAvoy and concerned the death of a young woman researcher to a Member of Parliament.

The film opens with a black man running for his life and being executed for the metal case he is carrying. You it is more than a drug killing the police believe because the behaviour of the assassin indicated a professional hit and he also attempts to kills a pizza delivery man on a bicycle. Chasing this story for a national newspaper is Russell Crowe, long haired unkept but at the top of the job with Helen Mirren as his editor boss concerned about impressing the new owners of the paper .

Congressman Stephen Collins is participating in a committee investigating the activities of Points Corps a mercenary force which is involved in conducting work on contract for the army abroad as part of a government out sourcing operation. His research assistant appears to have committed suicide or had an accidental death on her way to work and fellow journalist who concentrates on the internet edition is investigating the sexual aspect in terms of the relationship between the assistant and the married Congressman. An added complication in the story at this point is that Crowe roomed with the Congressman, Ben Affleck at college and also had a relationship with the wife of the Congressman during their college days. As the story develops it emerges that the girl researcher was placed by Media Point to spy on the work of the Congressman but she stopped doing so when she fell in love and became pregnant by him. It began to look that she had been killed by Media Point when she failed to deliver further information and their involvement might become known as a consequence of the relationship.

It also emerges that in addition to the overseas involvement, Media Point is responsible for the creation of a raft of companies successfully bidding for multi billion homeland security contracts and the reason for knowing about the research of the Congressman and ensuring that he is silenced or removed from the committee. At one point a female friend and club hostess alleges to the press that she and the murdered girl were involved in group sexual activity with the Congressman as a further means of discrediting and eliminating the threat he poses. A later revelation is that the senior politician who suggested the girl as a research worker is also linked with Media Point who have an operation at the Watergate building!

And the twist in the tale comes from the efforts to find the killer of the black man in the opening sequence. He and his druggy girlfriend operated a racket of stealing brief cases of businessmen and then selling them back to feed their habits. In this instance the case contained surveillance photographs of the murdered and a weapon which suggested that a hit was being planned. The pizza delivery man is then killed while under police protection in hospital by a riffle at a distance from an adjacent taller building and Russell barely escapes with his life when discovering the base use by the assassin. The congressman with support from his wife agree to make a statement to the paper about his knowledge of the situation but Russell holds publication of the story when he puts together the actual scenario. The Congressman and served with the assassin in Vietnam and the twist is that the Congressman began to have suspicions about the role of his assistant and also the seriousness of the relationship and the implications for his marriage and political career. He argues that he intended for the girl to be frightened and that his former military colleague had gone to far. However this is shown to have been a further attempt to limit responsibility because of a telephone conversation between them on the need to kill the pizza man and the girlfriend of the black drug addict, four deaths in total. It is also true that Points Corps were prepared to go considerable length to protect their growing financial interests.

The film covers the problems of media ownership and political interests and the problems faced by newspaper media by 24 news TV and Blog writing stories. It has a relevance given the stories about Ministerial and parliamentary expenses and how to use the system. It was a good day.