Sixty-ish

For his sixtieth birthday my wife Roberta gave our good friend Boyd a book (I put Rob’s name there in full for the rhythm of the sentence). Appropriately enough the volume, a memoir on his sixtieth year (‘is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end,’ Toronto author Ian Brown evidently asks, in the vein of Churchill) was called ‘Sixty’ – you can read a review of it here. I haven’t read it, but I plan to. I mean, a book by a guy who names his haemorrhoid “George” has to be worth reading, right? There […]

‘Amy’ distilled

Whatever circle of hell the jazz singer Amy Winehouse may have descended to, the documentary ‘Amy’ puts you right there with her, voyeur, watching. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. Observing the opportunists and piranhas circling – her drug-riddled boyfriend/husband, her creepy dad, the mobs of unfeeling, slavering paparazzi – as fame and addiction slowly swallow her is deeply disturbing. I hadn’t realised before this quite how unmediated and raw Amy’s songs were – life dumped on the page, bleeding. But what a voice, what a huge talent. And what a loss, and tragedy. A morality tale for the celebrity era. Verdict: Tough […]

‘The Danish Girl’ distilled

The Danish Girl, set in Copenhagen and Paris in the 1920s and based on a true story, relates the travails of a married painter who decides he is a woman, and undergoes a sex change operation. Beautifully shot, wrenching. The universal in the particular. Director: Tom Hooper. Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander Verdict: Strong stuff. Excellent. Double whisky

‘Youth’ distilled

Set in a Swiss spa, ‘Youth’ focuses, if that is the word, on the philosophizing and reminiscences of two elderly creatives, one a composer, played by Michael Caine, the other a film director, played by Harvey Keitel. Director: Paolo Sorrentino Verdict: Artifice not art. Pretentious; lacks sparkle. Tap water.

‘Mr Turner’ distilled

The past is another country, and Mike Leigh shows us this is about more than differences in costume and manners. The world that JMW Turner, in this terrific portrayal, inhabits and paints is different from ours – none of our cold scientific rationalism, or post- post-modernism here. But then – this is not history, or biography, or art documentary, but drama, and a fine drama it is too. Beautifully, even lavishly filmed, there is nary a false brush-stroke to be found. Director: Mike Leigh. Timothy Spall Verdict: It’s a Mike Leigh film, right? A fine red wine – Rhone? Bordeaux?

‘Scrooged’ distilled

A ‘Christmas’ re-run of the 1988 Bill Murray movie. The premise: the guy making a movie of Scrooge is a bit of a Scrooge himself. Supposed to be hilarious. It isn’t. Verdict: Asinine. Cost me two hours of my life. Vomit

A call from Mr Bell

In the immortal words of Alexander Graham Bell – ‘Mr Watson – come here – I want to see you.’ Continuing his experiments in Brantford, says Wikipedia, “Bell brought home a working model of his telephone. On August 3, 1876, from the telegraph office in Mount Pleasant five miles (eight km) away from Brantford, Bell sent a tentative telegram indicating that he was ready. With curious onlookers packed into the office as witnesses, faint voices were heard replying. The following night, he amazed guests as well as his family when a message was received at the Bell home from Brantford, […]