We’re in a hotel in West London for the New Year celebrations and we watched two movies before heading down for dinner across midnight.
We started with the original Italian Job which was shown on the television. It’s one of those classic films that you are supposed to have seen but neither of us had and so we watched it. I don’t think it mattered to either of us how much we knew (or didn’t know) about the film (‘you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’) as I think we both came away with a disappointed feeling. It’s considered a classic British film but it didn’t come across that way. Michael Caine is excellent, Noel Coward was interesting and I don’t think I’ve seen Benny Hill act away from his TV show before. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good film, and I enjoyed it but this was certainly a case where the preceding reputation heightened expectations too much.
On the other hand, I knew nothing about Amélie except it would be the second subtitled film in as many days and I am not a big fan of them. Yet again, however, I was surprised by the film and the interesting side of Paris you see through Amélie’s eyes. And again, it’s a well shot, colourful and stylised film and I only wish I had been a little more awake to appreciate it fully: it’s full of wonderful moments as Amélie decides to help her friends in her own quiet, special way.
You have to see The Italian Job but you should see Amélie.
After yesterday’s trip to the cinema, we decided that we would do it again and PY had been wanting to see House of Flying Daggers (Shi mian mai fu) so it was decided that we’d give it a go. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of subtitled films in any language so the strangeness of Mandarin didn’t bother me too much. It’s visually stunning both in terms of photography and the settings. The fight sequences well choreographed and executed and, overall it’s very stylised. Many people will enjoy the style of the movie and equally as many will see the style as a blocker to following the plot (undercover police deputy becomes captivated with suspected revolutionary on a journey to somewhere never properly defined). I was willing to give it a go and really enjoyed the film for the presentation and visuals but I couldn’t get past the ‘style’ to become engaged in the plot. Hand-on-heart I tried. I can’t knock the film as I think my inability to connect is due to my lack of experience watching films like this and I would urge you to get to see it before it closes and let me know what you think.
If Napoleon Dynamite is to be believed, Idaho (or at the very least a place called Preston) is stuck back in the mid-Eighties and everybody is slightly odd. Napoleon is a school misfit with a misfit brother (who cruises Internet chat rooms), a misfit uncle (who is trying to recreate his high school football days) and a misfit friend Pedro who is trying to become Class President and is up against the all-American cheerleader, Summer. Add to that some milk-tasting contest and eating raw egg yolks in a chicken farm and I’m happy to admit it was a very strange experience.
Usually, I like films with a plot and Napoleon Dynamite is missing much of one but somehow the offbeat comedy works in a subtle – not laugh out loud – way. Add to that the massive Idaho landscapes and somehow you have an enjoyable way to spend a few of December’s final hours in a cinema. Just thank goodness for LaFawnduh.
I guess it’s time to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas – wherever you are in the world Season’s Greetings to you. Christmas lunch this year will be made at home in London: a nice peaceful Christmas. Last night we spent several hours in the bars towards the City and had a very peaceful time sitting next to an open fire, drinking expensive Bloody Marys and laughing with friends. A very good way to end the working year. Next week I am working from home but I am not expecting it to be too busy.
I’ve admitted before that I love the whole Christmas vibe. Actually, I love the whole stereotypical, christmas card vibe rather than the rushed reality. Each year I buy a new decoration for the tree and this is the one I found for this year. Truthfully, a friend of mine had one and I copied her but I couldn’t resist the whole Santa-on-skis image – it’s far too cute for words. See, I’m just soppy for Christmas!
Jon's note: The December 2004 version of this blog, which can be seen here, didn't put post titles on the main page and that's were most of the blog would have been read (by the few people who did read it). So I have absolutely no idea why I used the year 2005 in the post title. I check the Wayback Machine archives to ensure something strange had not happened. The closest I can get is an archive from February 2005 which clear shows this entry in the previous Christmas.
When I was in Florida earlier in the year I went on the Shrek-themed ride at Universal but really didn’t know what to expect as I hadn’t been remotely interested in seeing the film. The Shrek experience was OK but I didn’t tush out to rent the DVD. Earlier today, however, Shrek was one of the Christmas Eve movies on the TV and I thought I would give it ago.
I have to say that I am very pleased that I did. It’s a thoroughly engaging movie of the classic fairy-tale variety that’s well animated, well-voiced and – most importantly – it’s a well-told story: a Prince called Farquaad (who’s not very nice) despatched a green ogre (are Ogre’s all green?) and a donkey to rescue a princess from a tower. See, it’s a classic fairy tale already!
If I must add Shrek 2 to the DVD rental list then you must certainly make sure you see this – it’s sure to become a classic piece of animation.
So while we were in the mood for a film we flicked to one of the movie channels to enjoy the delights of Rowan Atkinson in the James Bond spoof, Johnny English. It’s full of predictable – but well executed – jokes where English’s able assistant saves the day. Of course there are mistaken identity jokes, falling-down jokes and poo jokes. It may have been a great idea before the Austin Powers franchise but this is all a bit too weak, too late. But you might find something funny in it if you are an Atkinson fan but it didn’t really work for me.
Earlier (technically last night) I signed up to Audioscrobbler to submit my musical listening habits (at least from my machine at home) to the system. So, now you all get to see my appalling music tastes and have a good old laugh – although I recommend you sign up as it’s fascinating.
IMHO, the biggest problem Microsoft have with WMP is the lack of a Microsoft audio player and that’s Apple’s big advantage. I’ve had four or five players and none of them integrates well: playlists, ratings and recently played are not transferred. The iPod has all of this spot on: musical tastes need to be able to move between devices. In addition, WMA-compatible music stores have moved the goal posts so some of my previously purchased music is now not able to be played on my player.
I’ve used WMP for a while and encoded most of my music in their WMA format – it wouldn’t be impossible to switch but it would be a pain but I swear that it’s very, very tempting. It’s not just the iTunes software and it’s not just the iPod – it’s the combination they’ve got right.
Then Nick points out that the WMA conversion is all handled in iTunes and the whole thing becomes even more tempting. So, if you are a Windows user with iTunes and an iPod is it as good as it’s cracked up to be?
UPDATE: After posting this I realised the ‘On This Day‘ link is to a previous time I wrote about Digital Music players. I still have the Rio Riot and use it occasionally. It’s still a decent music player but suffers because they don’t update the software anymore and it won’t play all my rights-managed WMA files. An iPod user from two years agar would have no such trouble would they?
A year ago I noted that Armistead Maupin, author of the Tales of the City series, “helped me understand a bigger world where gay people live and have fun but are, deep down, just like their straight counterparts”. There’s an interesting debate over at plasticbag.org about when you should – or should not – declare you sexuality. It all started when Tom drew up a “Tongue-in-cheek-ish slightly-bored early-evening version of what I would kind of like my business card to be like” which spawned other conversations relating sexuality. It appears, kids, that when it comes to understanding the impact of sexual preference on our daily lives we are – unsurprisingly – not like our straight counterparts at all.
Essentially the plot runs like this: Ben Affleck reverse engineers technology and then has his brain wiped so that he can’t remember doing it. Of course, something happens and he has to remember. Luckily, he sent himself clues and we all get to play along and workout what the twenty items all mean and how he will (more-or-less) save the world.
Maybe I claim I am not as aware as I should be about Christmas but I have to admit I do like the whole season. Today, PY and I went to Kew Gardens in South London (or is it Surrey?). They’re having a winter wonderland. As the darkness falls the gardens/trees are lit by thousands of tiny lights making parts of Kew’s ground shimmer. There is also an ice rink (although it’s booked in advance and I stayed standing) which makes an interesting contrast with the temperate and tropical houses. It’s strange how much I really do enjoy this kind of thing – maybe I am a sucker for the magic of Christmas.