Thoughts in 60 words…

19 09 2011

This week I’ve been on a bit of a theatre and film binge. I tend to go through little cultural spurts every now and then, interspersed by arid wastelands of theatrelessness. This week was one such spurt. Rather than inflicting a long series of rambling thoughts upon you, I thought I’d just summarise four experiences in 60 words each.

Dr Marigold and Mr Chops

A wonderful opportunity to see one of England’s greatest actors, sadly ruined by… one of England’s greatest actors. Simon Callow gave an exceedingly ropey one man performance, stumbling over lines and prematurely giving away vital plot twists in the process. Very disappointing… And to top it off, he could no better hold an accent than I could hold the wind!

The Tempest

Ralph Fiennes, on the other hand, was brilliant as Prospero in Trevor Nunn’s production of Shakespeare’s classic at The Theatre Royal Haymarket. He pitched it brilliantly: compelling and emotional, but not overstated or hyped. Definitely the most enjoyable performance of Shakespeare I’ve ever seen. Aside from some flat singing from the spirit chorus, the whole cast was brilliant: Highly recommended!

Franco Manca

Not a work of drama, but certainly a work of art! And well worthy of a comment. I don’t need sixty words for this. Best pizza ever! Perfect sourdough base. Go there immediately! Nothing more to say…

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I loved this film! A brilliant performance from a brilliant cast. Oldman was particularly faultless. The pace was perhaps a little slower than I had expected, but every shot was so perfectly and meticulously directed that it was a beauty to behold. A haunting soundtrack, well thought-through cinematography, and a gripping storyline that kept me guessing. Definitely well worth watching!


Simple Pleasures

13 09 2011

At our midweek small group the other week someone asked the question, ‘what are your top three simple pleasures?’ The results were fascinating. It’s amusing how the smallest things can bring such joy: often cheap, rudimentary or fortuitous experiences – popping bubble wrap, finding a coin down the side of the couch, sleeping in a bed with new sheets. Not that you would ever actually plan time in the diary to do any of these things as an evening’s entertainment: “Come on love, tonight’s the night we’ve been waiting for… we get to open and sniff a new bag of coffee!”

It got me thinking about the things I like and dislike, and why. There are some things that just rile me up for no discernable reason, and many more things that bring a smile to my face, but when I stop to think about them are a little peculiar.

It also reminded me of this brilliant bit of narration in the film Amélie:

‘Raphaël Poulain doesn’t like peeing next to somebody else. He doesn’t like noticing people laughing at his sandals or coming out of the water with his swimming suit sticking to his body. He likes to tear big pieces of wallpaper off the walls, to line up his shoes and polish them with great care to empty his toolbox, clean it thoroughly, and, finally, put everything away carefully.

Amélie’s mother, Amandine Fouet, doesn’t like to have her fingers all wrinkled by hot water. She doesn’t like it when somebody she doesn’t like touches her, or to have the marks of the sheets on her cheek in the morning. She likes the outfits of the ice-skaters on TV, to shine the flooring, to empty her handbag clean it thoroughly, and, finally, put everything away carefully.

Amélie Poulain likes sportsmen who cry from disappointment. She doesn’t like it when a man is humiliated in front of his kid. She doesn’t like to hear “le fruit de vos entrailles est béni” … She enjoys all sorts of little pleasures, putting her hand in a bag of seeds, piercing the crust of crème brûlée with the tip of a spoon.’

What are your simple pleasures (or displeasures)? What are the things that amuse you or get under your skin?

Faith and Film

8 11 2010

I’ve been meaning to link to a few articles on faith and film… I was spurred to action this morning by seeing the first post from a fellow Newfrontiers blogger.

Read, digest, feed back.

  • Why are Christian movies so bad? (via The Simple Pastor)
  • The Independent asked the question a few weeks ago: Can the Movies Do God? I was particularly provoked by the final paragraph. If Muslims start producing faith-based films that recommend good values, would I be willing to endorse them?
  • The Telegraph beat them to it with an article a few weeks earlier on the way films are tailored to a Christian audience, and the increasing use of film clips in churches
  • The Guardian ran an article earlier this year on the return of religious themed films, saying “Biblical themes have only ever been one global crisis away”
  • I found this interview with Michael Flaherty from Walden Media fascinating! A great discussion on the Narnia films and the forthcoming Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Very insightful and interesting. (Though I must admit I didn’t enjoy the films one bit, I appreciate very much their aims and ideals. These guys are doing it far better than most!)
  • And there was the recent saga of the demise and revival of the Blue Like Jazz film project through crowd-sourced funding. Whilst in general I have infinitesimally low hopes for Christian film, I have high hopes for this one. The book was outstanding and fresh, and I think this could be an interesting, real, positive, but not-saccharin big screen portrayal of evangelical Christianity

So, a few questions:

  • Have you ever seen a good Christian film?
  • Should we even be making ‘Christian films’?
  • (Maybe you want to step back one stage and ask what differentiates a Christian film from a film made by Christians? Sure, be my guest.)
  • Why do Christians flock to see sub-par films irrespective of personal taste just because they were made by a believer?
  • Is there danger that the Christian sub-culture of low quality, cringe-worthy movies discredits those believers who are trying to make it in the secular world?

Oh… and while we’re on the subject of Christian subculture, I received this email the other day. Somehow it avoided my spam filter!! Take a look, see what you think.  Then check out this article from the BBC Website in 2006. I shall resist commenting further for fear of saying something for which I will later need to repent…

The Social Network

18 10 2010

On Saturday afternoon I went to see The Social Network.

On Saturday evening, I mentioned this to someone in the pub and they asked me what it was about. I struggled… “Uh… It’s about theft and conspiracy and greed and…” (whispering in the smallest voice possible) “facebook.”

You see, no matter how much I actually enjoyed the film, at the end of the day, there is something a bit odd and embarrassing about admitting that you went to watch a film about Facebook. Add into the mix that one of the stars is Justin Timberlake, and it really doesn’t sound like the kind of film I want people to know that I’ve seen!

But having said that, Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay, which elevates it somewhat. As people have remarked in the past, ‘Sorkin could write a film about the telephone directory and make it interesting.’ Well – this is probably (hopefully) the closest we’ll ever get to testing that theory. And lo and behold, he does a great job. The script is the best feature of the film – except for the opening scene which, whilst engaging and well written, was just one notch too fast for my liking and so packed full of American jargon that I had more or less no idea what was going on for the first 2-3 minutes of dialogue. But I blame that on the director!

There was an interesting soundtrack from Trent Reznor, though I was slightly puzzled by the choice of music for the Henley Regatta. Apparently ‘In the hall of the mountain king’ sounds quintessentially English, in spite of it being written by a Norwegian composer for inclusion in a play that is expressly about the Norwegian personality!! But that quirk aside, it was a good soundtrack, and Reznor was an apt choice, given his creative and rebellious stance towards record labels, music sharing (stealing) and the suchlike.

To be honest, I have no idea how accurate the film was, but it made me almost want to quit Facebook. The background, the vengeful motives behind creating it, the ‘two fingers to the corporations’ attitude… I just didn’t like it. Zuckerberg comes across as an unlikeable and untrustworthy guy. But then again, that may not be at all true to life, and I’m sure that at this point Facebook is so bound up with businessmen, legal teams, systems and structures that Zuckerberg’s ‘hack things on a whim’ attitude will be somewhat reigned in.

There’s also something very peculiar about watching a film that is so current. Zuckerberg is two months younger than I am, is worth $6.9 billion, and has had an unflattering film made about him. What pressure! In addition, the story is not even complete. Facebook is still developing, growing, morphing. According to some reports, the legal battles may not even be over. It’s very much a film of the moment, and in a year it will be dated. But I suppose that’s indicative of this ‘throw your thoughts out there, they’re gone in a second and never remembered‘ age of social networking and micro-blogging.

At another level though, it was an interesting portrayal of how ideas spark, spread and shape culture. Who would have thought we’d see the day when 500 million people would belong to an online community, let alone paying to see a film about it? For better or worse, Facebook is a cultural phenomenon, and The Social Network is a thought provoking explanation of how it got to be that way.