Saturday, 22 June 2013

Cinematic Thoughts

Hang 'Em High is Hollywood's response to the spaghetti western - borrowing some of the stylistic tics of Sergio Leone and repatriating the scion of spaghetti, Clint Eastwood. Despite this unpromising derivation this is not altogether a poor film. Eastwood is magnetic as ever and the spaghetti ingredients receive a coy leavening of  truth, justice and the American way. I like Eastwood. He can rescue moderate films.

For many afficianados the most depressing words in the language are 'me's a Jar Jar Binks.' I was reminded of this tonight when rather against my better judgement I viewed The Phantom Menace. Actually it is not as bad as my memory had thought. Mind you it's not very good either. Even more off-putting than the Binks banality is Ewan Mcgregor's accurate but annoyingly affected adoption of his best Alec Guiness voice. Ok it's clever and makes theoretical sense but, I'm sorry it just drew yet more attention to the wooden George Lucas dialogue.

Sport, Sport, Sport

Several and different reminders of just why I love sport.

Thursday afternoon at Royal Ascot and an hour and a half which ranged over and above melodrama. First a winner for  the widow of the recently deceased Henry Cecil. Story book stuff. And the next race - nothing less than a Gold Cup victory for a horse owned by the onlooking reigning monarch. And in the next race, the winner's enclosure invaded by a joyful Irish syndicate quite clearly and deservedly set for a night on the lash. You simply couldn't have scripted it.

Thursday night and the NBA finals went to a deciding game seven, won frenetically by Miami Heat. A long way from Royal Ascot but every bit as compelling, even if contested by a freak-show of millionaire giants.

This morning a first test between the Lions and Australia, with the Lions hanging on to win 23-21 and the Wallabies missing two late and eminently kickable penalties to win the match. The melodrama only abetted by enigmatic (that's polite for crap) refereeeing. Great fun.

To paraphrase the unloveable but undeniably brilliant Sir Alex Ferguson - sport, bloody hell.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Move Over The Boss, We Have A New Winner

It was the summer of '81 when Ian and I saw Bruce Springsteen at the NEC. Bloody brilliant and until a fortnight ago unbettered. But now we have a new answer to the best gig question (can someone my age realistically use a word like 'gig'?) and that answer is - Muse as seen at the impressive Etihad Stadium in Manchester. An incidental bonus to attendance at this extravaganza and having missed it so much at Cheltenhanm this year was the availability and the good-as-you-rememberedness of the foot long hot dog. With onions.

On the Saturday after the aMusement (you see what I did there?) there was an afternoon at another English institution - the one day international, England v Australia at Edgbaston. A comfortable England victory and a comfortably enjoyable day's drinking. In passing a word of praise for the ICC Champions Trophy of which this game was part - a concise and therefore arresting tournament without either the interminable pissing-about of your modern World Cup or the monstrous vulgarity of Twenty20. Not a patch on test cricket mind.

In golf the US Open is this week being played at The Merion Golf Club in Philadelphia, sister club of the estimable Merion Cricket Club whereat the Boy Roberts batted in the nets in 1981 as the guest of Professor Alan Lawley of Drexel University. It's a long story.

Rugby Union. Yesterday afternoon I watched a valiant Scotland lose to South Africa and the commentary made me realise that there are plenty of things worse than that annoying tit Stuart Barnes. Barnes may be infuriating but he is at least not tiresomely biased which was the unabashed modus operandi of the Springbok commentators. Embarrassing.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Paddling Benllech Bay 5 June 2013

Quiet North-Easterly
Whips genteel waves
I remove my shoes
Sand brack-scours my feet
Young lovers depart for canoodling
Or whatever it is they do
I have the water to myself
On Monday I was sick
Tuesday part cured
Today part sick
Tomorrow well I hope
After my water cure
Junior beach engineers
Dig out a stay of execution
From a proud father
Dreaming of a seaside pint
Their excavation diverts
Attention from the still
Smouldering barbecue of
An entented couple
Bare feet protruding
Shadow cast through water
I have the sea to myself

The Godfather

From the comfort of my private cinema at my country seat (aka the front room in Anglesey) I have been treating myself to a Godfatherthon. My very first copy of Halliwell's adorns the bookshelf here and it reminds me that none of the Godfather films was deemed worthy of its top four star rating. In the case of Part 3 I doubt this is a matter of dispute even for the most die-hard fan - it is not by any means a bad film but indisputably it is not a great one. The two much earlier films are a different matter however. The original is gripping and stylish and the second episode is better yet, best enjoyed with an entire bottle of decent claret and strong cheese - these being the Anglesey equivalent of a bucket of Coke and a pail of popcorn. Godfather and Godfather Part 2 are both in the Overgraduate Top Fifty 

Catch 22

Every act of adaptation is itself a new work of art which should arguably be judged on its own merits. This becomes difficult with something as treasured as a great novel like Catch 22. If the adpatation to film does not fit the book's lovers' precise expectation then the film becomes a disappointment or even to some a betrayal. Thus I came cautiously to this film. And you know what - I don't think it's nearly as bad as some criticism would have you believe. The black humour is there in spades and I am a fan of Alan Arkin who plays a suitably bemused Yossarian. The narrative time-line is cleverly established. I liked it. Didn't love it. Not Top Fifty material but worth the time. Joseph Heller himself had a good immodest line he used for critics who asked if he was disappointed not to have written another book as good as his first novel. He used to reply that he didn't feel too bad, after all no one else had written one as good either.