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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Stephen Sondheim "Into the Woods"

B is going through a good run of film choices at the moment. This is the third very good film in a row that she has chosen.

We like Sondheim musicals. "Into the Woods" was the first we saw in a theatre, the Theatre Royal here in York, about fifteen years ago. Another of his, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", again at Theatre Royal, was one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

The film was very enjoyable, full of small, cameo performances, including Johnny Depp as the Wolf, great production, scenery and costumes. The plot covers several fairy tales all rolled together, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Repunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, this makes the plot very difficult to describe but, basically, the childless couple (James Corden and Emily Blunt) have to go into the wood to lift a curse on their horse by the witch (Meryl Streep) to complete a number of tasks. Silly stuff but well written and scored.

Good to see Tracey Ullman, first time for many years

Friday, 23 January 2015

Playtime and Budapest

This week I have seen two very good film comedies.

First "Playtime", written, directed and starring Jacques Tati as Monsieur Hulot.

Tati wrote films that created social situations as his main story line, constantly in the background, but he concentrated on the individuals on the edge of that situation, those who were not socially blessed, a little awkward, don't quite fit in. Tati's main creation is Monsieur Hulot and he is one of those, he has a funny walk, he dresses badly, not good at small talk, he is very cack-handed with gadgets and technology, loved by kids and dogs. There isn't much dialogue in a Hulot film, the comedy is nearly all based on situations and reactions.  "Playtime" was Tati's last film and he had a huge set built, an American style business and office park of the 1960's, all glass and steel (I loved it). The plot is simple, Hulot has to go to an appointment in one of these buildings but everything goes wrong - just getting into the building is a major challenge. Marvellous stuff, so funny, particularly a glass door (Tati and doors, in his films he gets so much humour using doors).

The second film was "Grand Budapest Hotel", directed by Wes Anderson and starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori and a huge cast of current great names in small parts. I was surprised by how much I liked this film, B had wanted to see it, I had doubts, but I am glad she prevailed. This is a lovely film, very funny, beautifully conceived and designed, beautifully acted.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Not much snow in York

We don't get much snow in York so people make the best of what falls. We had a bit last night and this morning so a few kids were out before school started. We spotted this poor chap when crossing Museum Gardens.

A nice try, high marks for effort.

This photo was taken at about 11:30, the snow has melted already.

As I said, we don't get much snow but when we do, York is very picturesque. These photos are from Winter 2010.

Museum Gardens, almost the same spot as today's snowman.

St. Mary's Abbey

The Roman Tower

A medieval building

York Museum and the Abbey

Our house and garden at the time.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Paddington and Vimy Ridge

Saturday - a visit to Cityscreen in York - it was B's turn to choose the film - she chose "Paddington". Not my choice but I have to hold up my hand and admit I laughed, a lot. It is a very funny film. This was followed by an Italian lunch at Carluccio's.

The highlight of last week's domestic viewing was a feature length history documentary "The Battle of Vimy Ridge", made by a Canadian company so the emphasis was very much on the 1917 Canadian Corps attack. The film is a mix of film and photographs from the Great War, re-enactors filmed in black and white and actors reading soldiers' letters and reminiscences, all linked together by a spoken commentary from Canadian actor Paul Gross. The timed length of the programme was 96 minutes which allowed plenty of time to go through the planning stage, how the Canadian Corps Commander Lt Gen Byng and his staff and Divisional Commanders, particularly Arthur Currie, developed new tactics and training methods, including talking to the French Army about their experiences at Verdun in 1916, creating new combat teams and initiatives like using sand boxes and giving maps to all soldiers. As my area of interest is French military history, I found this DVD to be very informative and well produced.

I have booked my battlefield tour for 2015. I am switching from Holts Tours to Leger Holidays for their June trip to the Maginot Line and I am very excited about this. The trip is four nights in Longwy, itself a Vauban walled town on the UN list, a day in Belgium to see Eben Emael, a day at Ouvrages Fermont and Villy le Ferte and the last day at Ouvrages Immerhof and Hackenberg (the daddy of them all). I can't wait, already I am very excited.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo

I've been trying to write a blog about the assassinations at Charlie Hebdo, to express my disgust, dismay and anger at the extremists, but I am lost for words.

Friday, 2 January 2015


2015 has started well. This afternoon I watched "Chef", written, directed and starring Jon Favreau. Two hours of gentle, good film making, nothing particularly serious or heavy, just good film making. I loved the scenes in the kitchens.