nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
Some recent media viewing


It's absolute tosh, but it's fun tosh. There's a 10 minute section after each episode in which they tell you which bits are actually vaguely connected to reality, and which aren't. For someone with very little knowledge of the history of the period it manages to be quite educational. I certainly had no idea that in 1672 the Dutch Prime Minister was set upon by a mob in The Hague who not only killed, but possibly ate parts of him.

On another note, Wikipedia led me to this portrait of Louis XIV showing an early example of the contorted breasts and bum figure so beloved of bad film posters and novel covers.

My Cousin Rachel

Did Daphne de Maurier have an ill-advised affair with someone she met at a continental holiday resort? It would explain a lot. I enjoyed this very much, and finally found out the ending having somehow managed to avoid spoilers for about 20 years since I heard the first half as a radio play. I should like to read the book; the film maintained the ambiguity well, but I wonder how much the story relies for its depth on a certain interiority that is hard to maintain on film, but I can imagine being there in a novel.

Doctor Who

I've enjoyed this series very much in a low-key kind of way. I've really enjoyed Capaldi, and Peal Mackie is excellent as Bill. It's been nice to have a companion with no particular mystery or backstory to her, just someone going round the galaxy having adventures with the Doctor, and Mackie portrays a combination of cheerful friendliness and curiosity that works very well. Not to mention added fun from Michelle Gomez as the Master.

Read more... )
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Babette's Feast is on Film4 tomorrow night at 1:50 a.m. (i.e. very early on Wednesday morning).

A trailer.

Damn! Why didn't I nominate it for Yuletide?

There is one fic on AO3 - it's a Hannibal crossover.
nineveh_uk: Picture of hollyhocks in bloom. Caption "WTF hollyhocks!" (hollyhocks)
Youngest Sister is here for the weekend, and we thought we'd look up what this week's Studio Ghibli offering was at the cinema. Alas, I think not, after reading this blurb for the film Ponyo:

After running away from the sea she calls home, an effervescent young fish-girl is rescued and befriended by a five-year-old human boy called Sosuke.

Naming her Ponyo, Sosuke soon comes to realise the heartbreaking impracticality of their budding romance.

I think that even without the expertise in reading things into text brought about by an English Lit degree and years of fandom I'd probably be saying 'no' to that one. Yeah, yeah, I'm sure it's a charming tale of friendship, but I think I'll wait a fortnight for The Wind Rises.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Apparently I thought that it was a good think to watch yesterday afternoon, and indeed was a decent if not inspired film*, and Ralph Fiennes was very good, and Vanessa Redgrave was magnificent, and Gerard Butler showed that he deserves to get better roles**, but ultimately Coriolanus is the tragedy of an arrogant tosser for whom it is exceedingly difficult to feel any sympathy whatsoever. I can sympathise (just about) with Roman patrician who doesn't want to be a politician because it involves not telling the common people they are scum all the time, but mate, if you don't want to be a politician, don't apply for the bloody job!

Possibly I could feel greater engagement with Coriolanus if I had ever seen him played by someone other than Ralph Fiennes, whom I have now seen on both film and live. The sole thing I remember about the theatre version is that a member of the audience had to be discreetly evacuated from the theatre having been taken very ill.

Right, it is sunny and bright outside, and I am going to attempt to go for a gentle walk and talk to myself about plot, and then this afternoon I am going to write.

*Though they cut too much of the text, I think.

**Still not forgiving him for Phantom of the Opera, though.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Something I hate: Birds singing at 5am and waking me up at a time at which I can't get back to sleep. Shut you, you feathered bastards! See also babies, bells, and muezzins.

Something I love: Books! I am not a book collector, though I like to treat mine gently, but love the contents. Have a second one for contrast, being in beautiful outdoor places. It is amazing to stand someone with a stunning view and look at it.

Somewhere I've been: I won't say "Birmingham" because I promoted its joys recently. More excitingly, therefore, Bukhara. Here is UNESCO on the subject. It is beautiful and fascinating, and as UNESCO put it is notable not simply for individual historic buildings, but for its survival as a townscape that gives a sense of the urban structure. Avicenna was born near there, the Emirate survived until 1920 (though it had been a Russian protectorate for several decades before then), and it has a surprisingly good Italian restaurant. It used to have a substantial Jewish population, but Soviet rule was not kind, and the majority emigrated once this became possible. My boss, who lived in Jerusalem in the late 80s/early 90s, when many people moved to there, told me that they were easily recognisable by their gold-veneered teeth, a widespread Uzbek fashion.

Somewhere I'd like to go: Bolivia. It has volcanoes, the Altiplano, ruins, and I've never been to South America. That's a good start.

Someone I know: my mother and middle sister. It is a good letter!

A film I like: Babette's Feast. How the hell a recent Guardian review could give this only 4/5 stars I can't imagine. This 1987 film directed by Gabriel Axel is cinematic perfection. It was shown on BBC2 and my father taped, and it became a family favourite, to the extent that a couple of years ago we recreated the dinner. It isn't simply charming; it is profound and beautiful.

It is also responsible for a moment of classroom triumph on my part, when we were watching it in the Danish class before Christmas, with Danish subtitles, and during the General's speech the woman next to me whispered "What on earth is he saying?" to which I responded "Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace shall kiss one another." I was not, of course, that good after one term - I had realised very early in the film that I had seen it so often that I could remember pretty much all of the English subtitles. I did confess afterwards.

Have the trailer:

If you would like a letter to do this, comment away!
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)
I failed to see Spectre at the weekend because when I looked at the cinema website to check the times I discovered something called Addicted to Sheep, a documentary about a year on a tenant farm in Upper Teesdale. On the grounds that I could not possibly be a person who confronted with the opportunity to see something called Addicted to Sheep set nearly in the Yorkshire Dales, but much bleaker, turned it down in favour of James Bond, I went.

The film was utterly charming, largely on account of the family at the centre of it, farmers Tom and Kay Hutchinson and their three children, who were terrific at engaging with the camera, thoughtful, good at explaining things, and caring but not sentimental about their animals. Sheep farming as a tenant farmer looks incredibly hard work, not helped by the ambition of the average sheep to die as soon as possible. The Hutchinsons’ enthusiasm for the perfect Swaledale is both passion and economic necessity – competing with the big companies is impossible in terms of quantity, but quality can just about make a small scale operation viable. The film didn’t cover it, but they also farm cattle with the same approach.

Here’s the trailer:
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Bølgen (The Wave) involves – you guessed it – a giant wave/inland tsunami that happens when half a mountain slides off into the fjord. It is based on a real place, under a real threat, and on real incidents of this type in the twentieth century. The actual event isn’t implausible. There’s a BBC clip of an interview here with a couple of sailors who actually survived a ‘megatsunami’ event of this type in Alaska 1958, in which the wave in question was 30m high in the middle of the fjord and destroyed trees on its shore 500m above the normal sea level.

So far, I am intrigued. Unfortunately I then read the synopsis, which goes as follows:

The experienced geologist Kristian Eikfjord has accepted a job offer out of town. He is getting ready to move from the city of Geiranger with his family, when he and his colleagues measure small geological changes in the underground. Kristian gets worried and his worst nightmare is about to come true, when the alarm goes off and the disaster is inevitable. With less than 10 minutes to react, it becomes a race against time in order to save as many as possible including his own family.

New setting, new language, same old plot…

Just once, I’d like a disaster film premise that goes like this:

The Volcano/Tsunami/Earthquake/Whatever

Jo Smith is a nuclear physicist/geologist/volcanologist/civil engineer who notices something disturbing in the readouts for the power station/earthquake fault/volcano/dam/aeroplane. Instantly Jo informs their colleagues who all take it extremely seriously. Some additional observation/readings are carried out. They contact the local authorities and the existing disaster plan is put into action. Said plan has been drawn up based on evidence, and has been rehearsed by the local community.*

The plan is carried out. The disaster happens. Some people may die or be injured, but overall the actions are judged a success. Jo’s entire family is on holiday with their much-loved in-laws and play no part in the story. Anybody with a dog lets it off its lead to run to higher ground/swim alone, because dogs are better at that than humans.

Perhaps you are thinking that this sounds a bit boring? It needn’t be, with due attention to character and script. There can still be the giant volcanic eruption/whatever. And it couldn’t possibly be more boring than sitting through the umpteenth version of the same bloody story just with a different disaster.

TL:DR You don’t have to base everything on Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.

*Which is very helpful in such circumstances. See the evacuation of Rabaul in a volcanic eruption.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
'Scully? What did you see.'

'It was an obscenity. I felt as if I were seeing something against all the laws of nature. A glimpse into another time, another world, one where we made different decisions. Wrongdecisions. You can't imagine...'

'I'll have to, if you don't tell me. Come on, Scully, don't leave me hanging here.'

'You and I were there. We were - oh God, Mulder - we were in a relationship. We had sex. We'd had a child! Why are you smiling like that? It was awful.'

'It's amazing! Don't you see? It's the proof we've been searching for. I don't care however many universes there are: that could never happen of our own volition. It must be proof that alien mind control technology exists!'


Yes, I've now seen The X-Files: I Want to Believe*. As a film it is unimpressive. As a double-length monster of the week episode it's fine.** Except for the fact that I haven't watched The X-Files beyond random episodes of the first three or four series and the first film, and I had somehow managed to maintain ignorance of the fact that Mulder and Scully get into a romantic relationship. And sucker as I am for UST and romance in some stories, for this one I can only quote Willow from BtVS: 'Weird? It's against all laws of God and Man!' Truly, there are things on this earth with which one should not meddle, and the epic platonic comradeship of Mulder and Scully is definitely one of them.

*And made progress with the Ironing of Doom.

**Apart from the usual plot holes, lack of sufficiently supernatural mystery, and I have no idea what they intended with the gender and sexuality issues around the villains and their evil plan, but at the most generous interpretation they are bizarre and incredibly ill thought through.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Yesterday I went to see Force Majeure at the cinema, your standard Swedish drama about a family who find themselves in an avalanche incident and discover that the power of nature is as nothing in its destructive force compared to the power of the human response. Highly recommended, really rather funny, and containing one of the best beards on film since The Ten Commandments. I bumped into [personal profile] white_hart afterwards, and I don't think she would object to my saying that whether the film makes you want to go skiing will depend entirely on whether you already like skiing*.

In the way of things, I have reacted by watching avalanche videos on YouTube, preferably not ones of idiots boasting of their lucky escapes - sadly, most fatal avalanches are caused by people. Instead, have a video of an absolutely enormous non-fatal avalanche set off by humans in a sensible deliberate way (the explosions are c. 27 sec in). It must have been staggering to watch IRL.

There's another video of the mine workers watching it here.

*I like skiing. That said, my enjoyment of skiing comes very much second to my desire to avoid avalanches, which makes cross-country particularly suitable as the terrain that is suitable for cross-country off-piste is pretty much de facto non-avalanche-able. My desire to ski in avalanche terrain is about as much as my desire to go black water caving.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I returned my most recent LoveFilm DVD having battled through it with gritted teeth and the promise that this was the end, that I had reached the end of the second series of Twin Peaks. I didn’t see Twin Peaks when it was first broadcast, got the DVDs of the first series from the library a few years ago, and on hearing about the forthcoming revival, decided that I should see the second. Which was entertaining to begin with, went rapidly downhill, and I spent the last several episodes managing to watch only through knowing that there was no more.

But I was wrong. The second-worst news of yesterday was the email telling me my next disc - another four sodding episodes of sodding Twin Peaks. And there’s another four after that! It is going back unopened; I cannot spend another minute of my life on it. I am going to find some classic comedies to watch instead. Anyone who has recommendations for classic comedies feel free to make them.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)
I watched Star Trek: Into Darkness yesterday, and was unimpressed. Admittedly it is a long time since I saw Wrath of Khan, but I’m fairly sure that half of the film wasn’t spent in characters punching one another to ‘pow’ sounds. The upshot of this Punching Without Plot is that what could be an exciting narrative isn’t. The pacing is weird because every time something happens we have to pause for people to punch each other. There hasn’t been sufficient investment in the Kirk/Spock relationship as more than ‘antagonistic space buddies’ to give the death scene the emotional wallop it ought to have, so it has to have a lot more dialogue to spell things out – while saying less. Not to mention that instead of being the climax of the film, it gets less screen time than the next episode of punching.*

I also kept getting jolted out of the action by the difference in physical appearance between the other male members of the cast and Simon Pegg as Scotty, whose general lack of glossiness makes him look as if he is the member of a different species compared to the smoothed/fake-tanned/shiny rest of them. You can see that his skin is skin! It’s strange.

It's not a terrible film. I was in the mood for some undemanding entertainment and got it, it's just that it could have been much better undemanding entertainment. The acting is generally OK. Benedict Cumberbatch made as much of Khan as there was to be made. The underwear torpedo scene is even more egregrious than I had gathered from fandom. I think I'm going to add the old II, III, IV, and VI films to my LoveFilm list.

*I didn’t count. It may just be that the punching seemed to pass slowly.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I appear to have contracted an ear infection (or two, GP appointment booked for tomorrow morning). I am feeling predictably disgruntled.

Having retreated from the office to the sofa, I spent a pleasant afternoon watching Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, which was absolutely delightful. A duration of 90 minutes is always a good sign.* The story follows a couple of twelve-year olds who ‘run away together’ (from home and scout camp) on their north-eastern USA island, unfortunately just before a severe storm is due to hit. It is quirky without being irritating, beautifully shot, and was just what I needed. It struck me that Anderson is a particularly good director of children. All his films that I have seen have major roles for child actors, and he always achieves strong performances from them. I think that I shall have to work my way through his back catalogue.

*A film-maker who cannot tell their film in 90 minutes – particularly if it’s a comedy or comic drama - ought to be obliged to think really, really hard about why not. There are many longer films that justify their running time, but there are many more that don’t.
nineveh_uk: Picture of hollyhocks in bloom. Caption "WTF hollyhocks!" (hollyhocks)
One of the pleasures of DVDs-by-post is catching up with those films that you read a review of in the paper and wanted to see, but would never, ever purchase, are highly unlikely to catch on TV, and didn't see at the cinema on account of its being shown on three screens nationwide at midnight or lunchtime on a workday. One of which is Brotherhood of the Wolf, a 2001 French horror film that I am slightly irritated to discover is rather less horrible than anticipated so that even I might have watched in the evening. Which is a good thing except that I've been waiting about 3 weeks to have a free Sunday afternoon for the purpose. But I digress.

It is a sort-of werewolf film based on the Beast of Gévaudan, in which Our Hero, Grégoire de Fronsac, accompanied by his Mysterious Iroquois Companion, being a naturalist and taxidermist* has been sent to investigate a series of killings by a mysterious beast. Or rather, Beast. Who is, incidentally, always referred to as "she" in the subtitles. Are monstrous killer wolves always female in French? Enquiring minds want to know. So far so Hammer Horror (with a dash of Last of the Mohicans).

The only word for the whole confection is, of course, barking, and yet rather surprisingly it works. OK, the leads suffer from not-knowing-they're-in-a-story syndrome, and any viewer who doesn't get at least one guilty party on first introduction should never be allowed to watch TV again, the elderly Marquis d'Apcher, through whose flashback narrative as he is about to face the revolutionary mob we view the whole affair, would deserve the guillotine for his youthful mullet alone, and it has the most implausible brothel since - well, I was going to say Russell T. Davis' Casanova, but it seems unfair to single it out. Is there any work of fiction ever featuring a plausible luxurious brothel? There is Vincent Cassel being supercilious and strangely attractive**, some rather nice looking real wolves, attractive architecture, men in rouge, anachronistic gypsies***, secret societies, a dash of Midsomer Murders, evil religion, insurrection, a rather surprisingly good Monica Belluci as a tart who is more than she seems, and more and more madness that I won't go into in case anyone wants to see it without being completely spoiled.

It is, in short, by far the wierdest thing I have seen this weekend, and yesterday I went to the British Museum's Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition and saw amongst various fascinating things, the statue of Pan having sex with a goat.

*It's relevant, honest.

**And oddly like Horrible Histories' Dick Turpin.

***Wikipedia says they are supposed to be gypsies. I suppose it makes as much sense as any other explanation, i.e. none.
nineveh_uk: photo of lava (volcano)
Twilight: Breaking Dawn 1
Much like the Harry Potter films, the Twilight films aren't so much adaptations as illustrations. They vary enormously in quality, from the first, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, which is really rather good, to the third (Eclipse), which is very poor though still considerably superior to the second Star Wars trilogy. Breaking Dawn is the book in which the series goes completely bananas, so my expectations for the film were low. That said, I found myself pleasantly surprised. It was still very much painting by numbers, but there were some strong visuals, a good dose of humour, and the plot hung together pretty well. Those who have read the book will realise what a tribute I am playing to the director when I only cringed once: during the imprinting scene in which it was all too obvious that the director had thrown up his hands in the air and said “you can’t do anything with this”. Top marks as ever to Bella's teenage schoolmates, in this case, undercutting the dream wedding with speculation as to how pregnant she is, that being the only reason teenagers get married.

Frostbite (Frostbitten in the US)
I made a big mistake with Frostbite. I planned to watch it on Sunday afternoon, and then decided that I would do more useful things on Sunday afternoon and watch the film in the evening. I got about 2 minutes in and remembered that my low tolerance of scary suspense had been a key factor in the afternoon plan. It does not improve a film to pause it every 15 minutes to lower the tension. Fortunately it proved to be horror-comedy rather than straight comedy, and though it does my ego no good to admit it, because less scary after the Hammer-esque flashback opening. The plot involves doctor Annika and her teenage daughter moving to a town in the northern Sweden in the middle of winter, coinciding with the place becoming overrun by vampires – and with a whole month of night left to go. There is a Nazi eugenicist vampire, a helpless little girl vampire, a confused and rather upset medical student vampire (who gets the best scene in which, he meets his girlfriend’s parents whilst in the process of unwittingly becoming a vampire) and lots of partying teenage vampires, one of whom gets staked with a garden gnome. It’s cheap (total budget c. £2 million), and the mood is all over the place. But the acting is universally good and it’s a lot of fun for 90 minutes.
nineveh_uk: Picture of fabric with a peacock feather print. (peacock)
I learnt this week that in the original London cast of Les Miserables, Javert was played by Roger Allam. "Really?" I thought, "that means that he must be on the tape I've got."

I dug out the tape, which I haven't listened to in years. I listened. It is indeed Roger Allam, and he is several orders of magnitude better than Russell Crowe at singing Stars. Crowe is a fine actor, but you can't act when you're struggling to sing two right notes in a row, which is why the concept that "raw" singing is somehow "truer" than the singing of someone who can hold a tune is rubbish.

But I digress. Roger Allam played Javert. You can listen to him doing so on youtube here. But before you do so, I must give fair warning. You may, like me, find yourself listening to Stars as sung by First Officer Douglas Richardson showing off...

Oh God, I bet there's Cabin Pressure songfic about it.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
After a fortnight in the Bosom of my Family, I am now back in the land of no dishwasher. Once again, Christmas seems to have gone incredibly quickly. There were many presents, much food and drink, and entertaining a cheery baby is an excellent excuse for sitting on the sofa not doing much ("I would lay the table rather than watch Muppets Christmas Carol, but I don't want to wake him up"). There was also the opportunity to watch several good films.

The Hobbit (Cottage Road cinema) )

Midnight in Paris (the sofa) )

False Trail (Jägarna 2, Cubby Broccoli cinema, National Media Museum) )

2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony (the sofa )
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)
Back at work after a long weekend. Colleague is signed off for 3 weeks, so guess who is picking up her urgent work despite having a summer's backlog of her own stuff. Yes, Buggins here. Did I do any of my own stuff today? I did not. The awareness that if I had been sensible and got myself signed off in the summer instead of struggling on like a zombie, and might thus be capable of walking more than a mile without getting exhausted does not help. Oh, and I've caught a cold and am once again thinking that if only I could have a day off it would really help (though on the very, very plus side, no sinus pain so far even if the tissues are TMI).

And in addition to a new coat, I have a new watch (after a year of searching) so it's not all bad.

I saw Skyfall on Saturday. I could come up with a thesis about how it is ultimately a profoundly conservative film in which we are asked to agree that those who are in charge are de facto the best people to be in charge and it is wrong to question them, but I'll keep it short: I agreed with the Select Committee. This is not a film for people who get irritated by thinking "But why on earth did/n't they...". Yes, I know it's James Bond. The cinematography's quite decent, and the M plot was interesting - it was good to see them actually using the fact that they'd cast a woman and what that would mean for relationships in a workplace that is inevitably part of contemporary society, rather than being "gender neutral" by making her default male.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I had heard the phrase, but never understood what it truly stood for. Then last night I watched Thor on DVD, and now I know exactly that is meant by the fandom word “woobie”. Oh dear me, the characterisation of Loki. It’s as if the scriptwriters took every single cliché that fandom adores about a certain type of superficially “complex” character*, mixed them together, and gave them to a decent actor* who proceeds to play the character in the style of Rory Bremner’s Tony Blair: “Ambiguous suggestion, sympathetic nudge, big eyes, wobbly lip”.

* See also abused!leather pants!Draco.

**Actually, all the acting is really rather good, which is what elevates the film from mere entertaining tosh to really rather good entertaining tosh. It helps that it is fairly short - I can forgive a lot in 1 hour and 40 minutes that I can't forgive in two hours and a half.


nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)

September 2017

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