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.

Soft Heaviness

Here is the opening paragraph in Liz Byrski’s  first venture into writing fiction, in Gang of Four (2004).

There was a moment when she first woke, a moment free of any sense of the day ahead; a moment before she opened her eyes and when all she could feel was the warmth of the early sunshine falling on her face through the open curtains, and the soft heaviness of her body relaxed after sleep. A moment of innocence before reality interfered.

I’d already lost interest at ‘soft heaviness’.  I didn’t need the naivety (‘innocence’, ‘reality’?) of the second sentence to confirm my disinterest not only in this character (I’m not a woman of a certain age) but also in this writing.

Fremantle Fiction

There’s a writers conference in Fremantle as we speak, and I took the opportunity to seek out writers with some connexion to Freo and make pages for them on my Fremantle Stuff site. I’ve also bought some of their work to sample if I didn’t have any already.

I had already read two of the three Alan Carter novels with Cato Kwong as the central character: the first (Prime Cut) set in  Ravensthorpe/Hopetoun in southern WA, and the second (Getting Warmer) set in Fremantle. Cops ‘n’ crims.

Which is also the milieu of David Whish-Wilson, at least in Zero at the Bone, the only one of his books I’ve looked into so far.  This one’s set in Perth and Fremantle in 1979.

Liz Byrski‘s first novel, Gang of Four, is the only one I’ve looked at. I’m not in the target audience of women of a certain age, so I found it of no interest. It’s not writerly.

I’ve read all of Tim Winton‘s novels. One which is clearly set in Fremantle is Eyrie (2013): a main character lives in Johnston Court, the absurdly tall block of flats in central Freo. Friends dislike his endings, including this one, but I didn’t have a problem with it: you just have to read closely.

Background Music 2

If I find that I’ve a song in my head that I’d rather not be there, I replace it with one of two standby tunes, chosen because they are long and complicated and I still like them many years after making this decision. The first fallback is by Brahms:  it’s the big theme from the fourth movement of the first symphony. The other is the main subject of the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, the one wrongly called ‘Pathetique’. That tune is in 5/4, so it demands a little attention to get it going, which is one of the points in its favour.