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One of the things which made Eastercon go very smoothly for me was not having to worry too much about what I ate. I did have to be wary of anything with too much fibre, which to be honest isn't that difficult in a hotel like that, but I picked up some lactase pills in Birmingham and made good use of them over the weekend. It made a huge difference to how well I felt over the course of the weekend, since getting completely lactose-free food in a hotel is not usually easy. This is something I shall do again at future cons.

I think I mentioned before that Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London was a good read, urban fantasy with a very well-presented London sense of humour (in particular, he's nailed the way policemen talk, it's beautifully done); the sequel, Moon Over Soho, is just as good. Can't wait for the next book in the series, which I think should be published in November, if I recall correctly.

I am not sure whether I should be excited or nervous about the discovery that a film of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is in the works. On the whole, I think nervous, especially since it's apparently going to star George Clooney (I am assuming as Napoleon Solo, though I don't know for sure; wonder who would be Ilya Kuryakin...).

Back to books, and another rather good read is S.M. Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers. It's 2025, and a dastardly plot is under way to destabilise the British Raj... which is ruled from Delhi. In this world, a cometary impact took out chunks of the northern hemisphere and caused major climatic upsets. The Raj is the major power in the world, its main competitors Greater Nippon and a deeply unpleasant Russian Empire. France outre-mer is a potential ally. There's no real surprises in the way the story is resolved, it is pretty much a straightforward, old-fashioned adventure with no pretensions to being deeply thought provoking, but it is well-told (in particular, the action sequences are well-done). Plus, analytical engines and dirigibles!

There's just been an ad on TV mentioning a luxury weekend break in a converted jail... I don't think I've eaten any strange mushrooms...
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
Well, I went to Eastercon (LX, in Bradford) and had a good time. My original plan had been to take the laptop, but when I saw what the hotel was going to charge for wifi I reconsidered that plan, which seems to have been wise. (Not only was it very expensive, it didn't work very well, if you will excuse the understatement.[*]) Given that I started to feel unwell the night before I travelled down (still not sure what was going on there), and that something was giving me much grief at the hotel in the form of allergies affecting eyes, nose and throat, the spoons lasted pretty well. In fact, bizarrely, the single worst bit of the con was the closing ceremony: sitting in a chair with poor support for more than an hour wiped me out. By about two thirds of the way through it I was seriously despooning. Fortunately, there was sustenance in Ops which revived me so that I was fit to head out for the train. Anyway, I'll try to post a bit more about the con when I have more time. It was good fun, saw lots of lovely people, had an astonishing amount of hugs and free alcohol... Yep. Fun.

Today I surfaced for a bit, met a friend and went to the cinema (In The Loop — more vituperation per minute than any other film). Soon I need to drag myself home. Oh, and by the way... If anyone doesn't know or has forgotten, Satellite 2 in July in Glasgow will be a jolly good convention, with Iain M. Banks, science, lots of fun, and real ale. You know you want to be there.

Oh, and in case it isn't obvious: I have not remotely caught up with my flist. :(

[* One of my favourite overheard exchanges from the con: Fan: Your wifi in this hotel's shite! Hotel staff: Yeah, that's why I don't use it.]
dc: (Doctor)
Fopp, as I was saying in a comment on [livejournal.com profile] progmeister’s LJ, is a wonderful shop. It reminds me of the record shops I used to frequent when I was at school and the University. What is even better, it has absolute shitloads of CDs at prices like £5, and DVDs at £8-10. Many of the CDs around the back wall are absolute classics, and some of the DVDs are ones you won’t find prominently placed anywhere else (such as Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box or The Testament of Dr. Mabuse).

It is so difficult to go in there and not come out much poorer; the only sure-fire technique I have ever found is to go in there with no money (having previously shifted money out of the account you can use the plastic with!).

I had a close call today, though. I had money in the wallet and in the bank account and it took all the strength I could muster to reach into the back of my skull and throw the big switch marked Self-Control.

So I did not come out laden with CDs, and I did not even succumb when I saw that, at last, It Happened Here has been released.

It Happened Here, if you haven’t seen it — which is, frankly, highly likely since its reception on its release in 1966 was (euphemistically) stormy and it did not get a wide release; it has been shown twice on TV (on BBC2, I think), and once that I know of at the GFT — is a film about Britain under the Nazis. Hitler’s armies crossed the Channel, and England at least is firmly under Nazi control (Allied troops have landed in the West, but it is by no means certain that they shall prevail). This is not, though, a film where jackbooted Germans lord it over the subjugated British. The Germans are in Russia, invading the USSR: Nazi Britain is run by British Nazis.

The film took 8 years to make; it is filmed in grainy black-&-white; most of the actors are amateurs (in fact, as far as I can tell, there are only two professional actors in the whole thing: Sebastian Shaw, who was Annakin Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, and Reginald Marsh, who cropped up in a lot of British TV in the 60s and 70s), which strangely works to the film’s benefit; it was made on a shoestring, yet it is utterly convincing. The story follows an Irish nurse who is simply trying to do her job. Events unfold remorselessly until this chilling film ends, devoid of hope.

On its release, it was very badly received because of its portrayal of Britons readily collaborating with the Nazi regime; Jewish groups apparently were so incensed that it incorporated footage of a real British Nazi leader spouting anti-semitic bile that seven minutes were cut from the film. I have never seen that footage, it was not in the cut I saw on TV years ago, but apparently it has been restored to this DVD release.

And yet, I did not succumb. Which, for a cinephile like me, is saying something.

Last night

Feb. 23rd, 2006 10:41 am
dc: (Doctor)
Last night, as it was [livejournal.com profile] rhionnach’s birthday, we would normally have gone out, but the recent kerfuffle (especially the occasional taxi ride to Stobhill) has left me exhausted and us a little skint, so we had a boring meal in; we did, though, watch Playtime — she likes Tati (a woman of taste). It’s pure joy, that film.

And now, I must dash; unfortunately, I can’t shake this exhaustion, and tonight is a moot night, too.
dc: (Doctor)
I am feeling rough today. I was last night, too — partly this relates to the results of my getting flung onto a windowsill on a bus by a particularly crap driver. I still tend to forget that things like that will provoke a response of other symptoms, you would think that after 13 years I would have got that message by now. Ah, well.

Once again, [livejournal.com profile] progmeister has something which has passed a little time while I try to feel a bit more human — I’m with Burns, Up in the morning’s no for me — so here are fifteen of my favourite movies. )
dc: Me, in a pub.  (tanngrisnir)
I used to keep myself very up-to-date about the cinema — I would know what films’ releases were imminent, the directors and principal actors involved. I don’t do that any more. I’m not sure why, but I suspect there are a couple of reasons. One is that cinema seems in some ways a lot less interesting. Just about every film released is either a moronic comedy or a lamebrained action film (ignoring films aimed at kids). There are exceptions, but not that many, and it is certain that sooner or later you will hear about them, if not when the flm is in the cinema then when it is released on DVD or lined up for transmission on TV. And there is the second reason: catching the film at the cinema is not such a big deal. Miss a film which you hear good word-of-mouth about and it will be along soon on a shiny disc or on TV. Which brings me to the third reason: however good seeing a film on the big screen is in theory, in practice these days it sucks.

For some reason, people seem not to know any more how they should behave in a cinema. When Barry Norman said he was not going to see any films in cinemas any more but would only attend preview screenings, he was thoroughly derided; yet he was right. The noise from people munching on confectionary is astonishing; it is all very well for the cinemas to display a request that the audience does not add its own sound effects, i.e. mobile phone rings, crisp chomping and bag rustling, but they actually sell crisps and confectionary in plastic bags — there is a connection, surely? But that’s only half of it. The amount of talking which goes on now would have been unbelievable even twenty years ago. Often it’s some Ned giving his running commentary on the film: “Aw, see this bit, it’s pure brilliant… See, told ye, magic ’at, innit? Oh, he’s gonnae get it, by the way… See, man, whit did I tell ye?” And so on…

If it is a film for a general audience (I can’t actually remember if that is still called a “U” certificate) then there will be kids chattering all the way through the film, their parents dong nothing to restrain them. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, that the last time I went to the cinema, an infant was screaming all the way through it. What is the point of taking a child less than one to the cinema? I never thought I would miss those snotty usherettes with their torches who used to prowl the cinema, directing their reproving glare on anyone making a noise during the film, but cinema would be so much better if they were to return.

So I am usually happy to wait for a film to reach disc before I see it (unless it’s showing somewhere like the GFT). That means I don’t need to pay too much attention to what’s being scheduled for release, because I will pick up from general reading, talking to friends, and keeping an eye on the Amazon and Blackstar (now Sendit) lists of releases — these I do keep an eye on, because there are classic films and TV series which I try to collect. (Such as Timeslip, a classic teatime SF serial from ITV in the Seventies: it has just been released in its entirety on DVD.)

I am not completely unware of what is coming out in the cinema, of course. Given the amount of advertising on buses, bus shelters, and so on, that would be impossible. So I know there is a new version of The Stepford Wives because I have seen Nicole Kidman, finger to lips in a shushing gesture, on the side of numerous buses. And here is another gripe with the cinema today: so many films are remakes, and very often unnecessary remakes. I have not seen the Coen Brothers’ remake of The Ladykillers, it may be good, it may be enjoyable — but why remake a film when the original was so absolutely, perfectly right? It’s like remaking Casablanca — and yes, I know that they did do that; but those who think this was anything but a very bad idea are few indeed.

I don’t think the 1975 Stepford Wives is a classic like Casablanca or The Ladykillers, in fact I have always thought it tedious (though not so mind-numbing as the TV movie sequel). I don’t think it has aged well, it is solidly a mid-Seventies film, and not in a good way, but even so I was surprised to see it had been remade; the particular story that had been told seemed to me to have been handled as well as it could be in the original. If there had been some text apart from the title on the ad I might have had a clue: this is no straight remake, it’s a comedy, directed by Frank Oz. (So it might be amusing.)

There is an interesting article in The Guardian in which Jeanette Winterson ponders what the new film says about feminism today. The original came at a time when women were breaking out of their traditional roles and men were clearly threatened by this. Winterson argues that the comedic spin on the story is possible because women are perceived as having got what they wanted — a perception which does not fit with the reality “that women’s achievements have made little impression on working practices, which are still aggressively anti-family, geared around the outdated template of one parent working and the other at home.” It has to be good, though, that the assumption which underpins the new film is that women have a right to be themselves.

I think Winterson misses something, though, when she makes this comment:

Kidman’s Joanna is going through an identity crisis… She has made it to the top, but her life has collapsed. (Strangely, we are not asking how men have made it to the top without their lives collapsing underneath them. Answer, of course: they have a wife.)

Actually, a lot of men who “make it to the top” have found their lives collapsing under them, either their health failing on them or their marriages breaking up. The male midlife crisis is a cliché, but only because there is some truth in it. The problem is that assumption still current that anyone, male or female, who wishes to have a good career should subordinate every other aspect of their life to it. The difference between men and women is that this is still seen in many quarters as bad for women but something men should be expected to put up with. In the 21st Century we should surely be able to come up with new employment paradigms which allow for fulfilling careers and a full personal life?

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