Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One in, 2008)
"I'm twelve, but I've been twelve a long time." (Lina Leandersson as Eli)
The terrors of childhood are felt sharply in this Swedish film about a 12-year-old boy whose new neighbour is a young vampire girl. It's a hell of a life: his parents are divorced, he's being bullied cruelly at school, and he's living through a seemingly endless Swedish winter in an ugly suburban apartment block. His new friend is having a bad time of it too, and wreaking some bloody havoc. Director Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2011) directs the young actors in natural and heartbreaking performances. There's some appropriate but tough-to-take gruesomeness. But this film is so worth catching.
Captain Phillips (2013)
"Someone give this guy a hug!" (BPG)
on a true story, Tom Hanks plays a freighter captain whose vessel is
boarded by Somali pirates. You've probably heard how gripping it is, and
it is... with a relentless soundtrack and a gritty, realistic look. I
was warned I might not enjoy it, with my vertigo and all, seeing as
they're bobbing on the ocean the entire time. Weirdly it wasn't a
problem, and I was moved and thrilled, ultimately saddened for all the
characters. /// SPOILER WARNING! /// The pirates themselves were
ultimately tragic, victims themselves of despots, even though I wanted
to throttle them. But my lasting feeling was - for God's sake - couldn't
someone put their arms around Captain Phillips at the end? The guy in
the rescue boat? The medic on the carrier? Come on!!!
"I really need to see Blue Jasmine." (BPG)
The premise was pretty cool, and the special effects were great. I'll see Matt Damon in anything. That's the good part. The not so good part: Jodie Foster, who has always been excellent, maybe had something interesting in mind, but it turns out to be the worst acting job I've seen in a long time. I'm not sure what her accent was... I thought, well, perhaps it's some futuristic mid-Atlantic, French-accented thing. It didn't work for me. Plot holes... lots of them. A drawn-out ending that had me writhing in my seat. But like I said: Matt Damon.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)
This excellent series is having its North American television premiere on TCM. Irish film maker Mark Cousins is behind this very personal and compelling story of film. Instead of using a professional voice over artist, he narrates the series himself, in a lulling dreamy Ulster accent. At first it took me by surprise, but I'm quite addicted to it now. This documentary is a real work of art, and tells the story not just of western cinema, but cinema all over the world. If you are fascinated by film, this is for you.
The Walking Dead (2013)
The first episode of season four exceeded all my expectations. I've become used to the rather slow, two-hour set up episodes that start each Mad Men season, and I was expecting something of the same here. Instead I was pinned to the sofa in horror as this clever, terrifying, thoughtful and gruesome episode made me wonder if I could handle any more. Let's see how I manage next Sunday. As for Talking Dead, the post-show round up seems a bit long now at an hour. I'd rather they went back to half an hour but lost some of the unnecessaries, like the poll.
Schiller's Mary Stuart has been one of the big Stratford Festival hits this year. Added performances meant we managed to get in, which I'm so happy about as all the fuss was well deserved. The play is a great read (I first read it when the Canadian Opera Company did Maria Stuarda a few seasons ago). It came to life in full force with a cast of Stratford favourites: powerhouses Seana McKenna as Queen Elizabeth, Lucy Peacock as Mary Stuart and a great supporting case including Ben Carlson, Geraint Wyn Davies, and Brian Dennehy. The stage sizzled through the magnificent royal cat fight and I couldn't have asked for anything more... except for the awfulness of the seating in the Tom Patterson Theatre. Each year I try and avoid this venue, not for the stage which is a thrust stage and works well, but for the terrible audience conditions. As this isn't a theatre year round (it's a badminton court at other times I think), it has temporary bleacher type seating, and regular chairs, not flip-up theatre chairs, so there's no getting in or out of your row unless your whole row is ready to leave. How no-one has not toppled into a lower row and broken their neck is beyond me. The other two stages are fantastic of course, it's just this one venue I try and skirt... but when the offering is as good as Mary Stuart... I go along with it. Grrr.
Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit played at the Avon, at which I'd seen Tommy a couple of weeks earlier. We had great seats, about fifth row centre, and it was a Sunday matinee on a grey, rainy afternoon. Nothing could have been more charming than to settle into those seats and be swept up in the silly, sunny goings on in a beautiful English country house which is about to be shaken up - literally - by an wacky medium and a saucy spirit. As happens in a large festival company, scheduling dictates that actors often work together in two or three different shows in a season, so Seana McKenna, so magnficently glamorous and dangerous as Qieen Elizabeth the night before, was a wonderfully goofy and eccentric Madame Arcati, the medium who is about to discover how good her powers are. Ben Carlson, the previous night's conniving Lord Burleigh, was Charles, the master of the house, and James Blendick, Paulet in Mary Stuart, was an unsuspecting guest at dinner.
Funny aside: I've told my friend M how several years ago I was at the ballet when I sat in front of some very small, old ladies. They were concerned at my height and told me "Honey, we can't see past your head - you're blocking the WHOLE STAGE!" I felt this was slightly exaggerated but slumped down in my seat, at which point they both patted one of my shoulders and thanked me. On this occasion, we took our excellent seats and I heard a husband behind me say to his wife, "Do you want to switch seats with me again?" M nearly burst out laughing, and - to diffuse the hysterical laughter bubbling up in me - I turned and said, "It's okay, I know I'm tall and have a big head... I'll slump a bit." They were very sweet and somewhat embarrassed. We all had a good laugh and later they assured me they had seen the whole thing. On both occasions I had been seated near the front where - traditionally - seats are not sloped, so it does make seeing past heads tricky. And in case you're wondering, no my head is not that big, I mean, it's not like I'm encephalitic or something!
On a side note...
There comes an interesting point in life where there are experiences you don't need to go through again. I have to admit, one of those is seeing Handel's Messiah. It's beautiful and it's long. But I don't have the attention span for long, static performances... HOWEVER, that all changed when I heard that this blog's favourite small, rogue opera compay, Against the Grain, is performing it this December. The performers will sing from memory. There's a choreographer. They claim that this isn't your grandma's Messiah but that she would love it too. It's restricted to people 19 and older (I think it has something to do with the drinking allowed onsite). 'Nuff said. If it's anything like anything like this fantastic group has done before, I have to see it. Read more here. Tickets are still available.
That preamble was my set up for the Canadian Opera Company's production of La Bohème. The connection is that Bohème is one of those pieces I've seen many, many, many times. Do I need to see it again? Well... in this case, yes. Conductor Carlo Rizzi made it sound like I'd never heard it before - fresh and energetic and romantic and lush. More so than I'd ever heard. The cast were perfectly cast, young, talented. Director John Caird made it all very real. I shed copious tears, those hot, splashing tears that scald your cheeks. Ahhh... it felt good, as only a great opera can. And tickets are still available for this one too, but there are only two weeks left of performances.
Peter Grimes, as mentioned here, also a must-see.