Get Out

This is a genuine thriller. If you don’t know what’s going to happen, it can have a real effect: it did on me.
Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017) prod. Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm, Jordan Peele; Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener; nominated for Best Film Actor; nominated for Best Actor Oscar: Daniel Kaluuya

Darkest Hour

If you’d told me in 1996 when Idiot Box was released, or in 2000 with Sample People, or 2001, with Mullet, and above all in 2010, when Animal Kingdom came out, with Ben Mendelsohn superb as a loser, small-time career criminal, that Mendo would get to play the King of England in 2017, I would have lolled. I think Ben would have too. But here he is doing quite a plausible representation of Geo VI – tho HRH his daughter would almost certainly disagree.

Oh, and there’s this other guy, a Londoner, in the part of the PM. Unfortunately for my estimation of Oldman, I happen to live three doors from an actor who has recently played Churchill in a stage play. I worked with James Hagan on my front verandah reading in lines for him as he prepared for the role, and I have to say that I could believe that I was in the presence of Churchill himself when James was six feet away, with no (four-hour) makeup on: just acting – mostly with his amazing voice.

That digression is my self-disqualification for commenting on Oldman’s performance – which is pretty much the point of the film’s existing. It’s one of those specific acting exercises – which has been carried out by Robert Hardy, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Brendan Gleeson, and so on. Churchill created himself to some extent: the V sign, the cigar, the elocution, and it’s not surprising that it’s a recurrent challenge to re-create him.

Call Me By Your Name

As a homosexual love story, this is not something to which I relate. However, that’s mostly relegated to the third act. I saw the film mainly in relation to its setting, in both social and geographical terms. It’s set in the Italian countryside (but could also be in France, as French is spoken as much as Italian), and in the bosom of a charming family, in whose company I felt like a welcome visitor.

I saw Chalamet in Lady Bird, where he comes across a spoilt American brat, unlike here, where he is sophisticated and charming. I’m not sure how much of this is his acting (he’s so young) and how much the effect of the design and direction  (Luca Guadagnino, 2017).

The Post

I suppose this had to be made. … Spielberg might be a great cinema director, but judging by this film he’s not a good director of actors. Or maybe he thought that Hanks and Streep are such masters of their craft that he didn’t have to get them to do any work on their roles. Her nomination for an award is clearly undeserved: she looks bored.

It’s about the Washington Post‘s publication of the Pentagon Papers. The New York Times is in the story too, but I couldn’t have cared about less about their relative positions. Some paper published some classified documents: did it really need two hours to get that fact across?

The Shape of Water

I am surprised the poster gives away so much about the creature, and that the image shows the end of the film. Also unusually, the story first shows him quite close to the beginning of the film. Clearly, a surprise disclosure was not the plan – and for a reason: the story is a ‘fairytale’ as old as all the time in which people have been telling children stories about monsters, and gods, and princes charming.

I was disappointed at the naivety of the conception, tho I admit it has its charm – and also complexity.

Invasion Day

The only local impact was the flyover of twenty or so old aeroplanes – rather different from that of Remembrance Day, when there was a scary flyover by a fighter aircraft of today: an FA118 or whatever.
But the message is the same: National Day < nationalism > militarism.
With my interest in language, I’m very aware that the first two letters in ‘Nazi’ are the first two letters of ‘National’. It’s not a coincidence; it’s a historical fact.

Oscars

So far (for me) the standout is Three Billboards.  I really like also Call Me by Your Name, and Lady Bird. I thought Darkest Hour ordinary. Dunkirk is out because I can’t tolerate war films. The Post is less than ordinary: it’s on the way to bad, and Meryl Streep’s nom for Best Actress (the only one for the film) is just a courtesy: she’s not good in the role. I haven’t as yet been able to see Get Out, Phantom Thread, or The Shape of Water.
My page of Oscars info is here.

Alto: male or female?

I have spent much of the afternoon typing in the performers into the indexes of the Gardiner Bach cantatas in my iTunes library. It’s as much as anything because I wanted to know in any given work whether the alto part is being sung by a man or a woman. It seems to me to make a significant difference – and I am bemused by Gardiner’s choices, which I’m guessing were determined by whoever seemed to him to be the best singer at that place and time. I’d really like to read anything he might have said about his choices, if they have been published anywhere.

Lectures

I am having fun putting up my lectures on Narrative Fiction from 1995, some of which would form the basis of my only published book. I see all of my personal and academic faults displayed in them, but they still might be of use to someone. My study of Freud  on the one hand, and narrative on the other, may still provide some useful insights.

Xmas Day

Alone as usual. I spent the morning with John Eliot Gardiner and his reading of the Xmas Oratorio. It’s from 1987 – and I’m hoping that the 2000 revision will be on the complete cantatas set I’ve ordered from Amazon. He’s brilliant. I may never again listen to the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt performances (with boy sopranos) or the Suzuki. I felt very comfortable with the latter, and could have it on for hours. But Gardiner gets your attention – which is a good thing.

But now I’m (easy-) listening to James Taylor. It took me two years to discover that he put out a new album of original songs thirteen years after the previous one. It don’t think it’s quite as good as October Road (2002). In my opinion, that’s his best.

On a couple of tracks, James uses a backup female singer or two. The accuracy of their work makes me think of comparisons. Chris Smither and Rusty Belle, who subtly ruins his last album (Still on the Levee, 2014). And, more importantly, RT – Richard Thompson, who sinned unforgivably by banging the band, and married his backup singer (Norma Waterson told her daughter Liza not to – but she got up the duff with a roadie instead)  – which meant that she became the lead singer on a number of songs. Which – if you worship RT, as so many people do – means committing sacrilege. For some ten years now, I’ve been meaning to establish which are the best performances of the best RT songs, and as a result to be able to commit Linda’s lead singing to the trash, where it belongs.