Archive for the ‘What I'm watching’ Category

I went to a special screening of Warrior at Lincoln Center just because mixed martial arts  is my way of keeping fit:

Tom Hardy stars as Tommy Conlon, a former wrestling prodigy who returns home to Pittsburgh after a stint in the Marines and grudgingly enlists his estranged father (Nick Nolte) to train him for a tournament dubbed “the super bowl of mixed martial arts.” Meanwhile, Tommy’s brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton), a high school teacher desperate to support his family in a lean economy, also sets his sights on the tournament’s winner-take-all purse.

The fight scenes were great but what kept me enthralled was the story of this damaged family and the fantastic performances – especially from Nick Nolte. I knew going in that Tom Hardy was British but had no idea that Joel Edgerton wasn’t American until I heard his Australian accent when he was interviewed after the film.

One thing I took away from the film is  that Brendan’s trainer made him work out to classical music. I tried it yesterday with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and No.7 and had one of my best sessions – so I recommend it .

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On a recent flight I watched Fire in Babylon, a fascinating documentary on the West Indies cricket team. I remember watching their test matches against England when I was a teenager but am ashamed to admit that at the time I had no idea of the political importance of their victories.

One of my favourite scenes in the film is when a member of the crowd holds up a sign saying “Black Wash” after the West Indies beat England 5-0,  a resounding win over their former colonial masters.

The trailer for the film sums it up perfectly, “They brought the world to its knees and a nation to its feet”, as the team accomplished a winning streak of 29 Test series between 1980 and 1995. As the great Sir Viv Richards says in the film: “My bat was my sword.”

I would have known a lot more if Andrea Levy’s novel, Small Island, had been around when I was young. She tells the story of Jamaican immigrants to England in 1948 just after they had fought for the Empire in the Second World War.

Although it is very recent history, it is shocking to read about what people went through purely because of the colour of their skin: “A devout Christian, Curtis was asked not to return to his local church for his skin was too dark to worship there” and “Louis now believed bloodyforeigner to be all one word.”

 One Englishwomen says: “All those coons eyeing her and her daughters up every time they walked down their own street. Hitler invading couldn’t have been any worse.”

When Hortense, who had been a teacher in Jamaica, arrives in England she asks herself how the “Mother Country”, which she has known all her life, does not know her:

Can this be that fabled relation you heard so much of? This twisted-crooked weary woman. This stinking cantankerous hag. She offers you no comfort after your journey. No smile. No welcome. Yet she looks down at you through lordly eyes and says, ‘Who the bloody hell are you?’

I imagine my parents received similar reactions when they arrived in England from Bangladesh in the 50s and 60s. Yet it is heartening to see that progress is possible as our family is now a wonderful mix from Bangladesh, Spain and England.

Andrea Levy’s latest novel, The Long Song, is set even further back in Jamaica when “the coffin with the words, ‘Colonial slavery died July 31, 1838, aged 276 years,’ was lowered into the ground” and “a joyous breeze blew.”

The treatment of the slaves was even more shocking , including women:

Half-way between the town and Shepperton Pen, they had come upon a naked slave woman, tied to a coconut tree by her arms. As her feet could not reach the floor, she was slowly spinning in the sun’s heat. Dangling juicy as roasting meat upon a spit, crows kept pecking at her to test her as food. As she spat and kicked to shoo them, she would start to spin faster. She had been beaten before being tied up—with a stick or a short riding whip—for her skin, dusty and black, was in places torn off, creating a speckled pattern that appeared like dappled sunlight upon her.

and children:

The small boy had been running with messages to rebel slaves—a crime—there was no doubt in Howarth’s mind upon that. But the boy was then sealed into a barrel which was roughly pierced with over twenty-five long nails hammered into the shell. The boy, still trapped within that spiky cask, was then rolled down a hill.

This further explains why the West Indies cricket team was so important:

And for any number of legendary West Indian fast bowlers – a proud lineage that ran from Andy Roberts to Curtly Ambrose – the ball was a bullet. If the odd bruise was inflicted, the odd bone broken, that was as nothing compared to the suffering of the African people under the yoke of slavery. (The Daily Telegraph)

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I don’t expect to be introduced to new poetry when flicking through channels on my TV but that is what happened this weekend. I caught the end of In Her Shoes and it included a moving recital of I Carry Your Heart With Me by E E Cummings – I cried even though I hadn’t seen the beginning of the film.

So now, not only am I going to have to read more poems by E E Cummings, but I am also going to read Jennifer Weiner’s novel on which the film was based.

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Jackson Pollock is one of my favourite artists and I love hanging out at MOMA where there is a room of his paintings.

 Dripped is a wonderful and beautifully animated French short film by director Léo Verrier, paying homage to the great artist. (Brain Pickings)

Dripped: French Animated Homage to Jackson Pollock | Brain Pickings.

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“I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land”

The last verse of Jerusalem by Willam Blake

Last year I saw Mark Rylance give a virtuoso performance as Valere in La Bête when he came on stage and  launched into a 30 minute mesmerizing monologue.

In Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem he manages to achieve the same thing without speaking a word. As Johnny “Rooster” Byron he emerges from the trailer where he lives after an all-night rave and with mesmerising physicality washes his face by doing a handstand and dipping his head into a trough of water. He then makes himself a liquid breakfast of eggs, alcohol, milk and drugs while gyrating to music.

As you can tell from his name, Johnny represents an Englishman – but one far removed from the usual image portrayed on American TV in either regency breeches or the landed gentry. Instead Rooster can only be a muscledound tatttoed drug-dealing bling-wearing swearing gentleman of the 21st century who fights for his own mythical vision of England against all forms of modern authority.

The play is set on St George’s Day, which happened to be the day when I went to see it. After many standing ovations, Rylance gave a great speech about how the English don’t celebrate St George’s Day because the flag and nationalism came to be associated with racism and fascism – but true Englishness does not mean any of these things.

Like Rooster, he is fighting for his own vision of England’s green and pleasant land.

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This is in honour of the fabulous Kylie Minogue who I saw in New York last night :

I love that she fully acknowledges her past, performing  her first hits such as  Locomotion from back in 1987. Who would have imagined that she would transform into the artistic goddess that she has become – a true testament to what can happen if you continue to learn and are not afraid to change:

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Last August NPR’s Radiolab had a program on words and commissioned a magical video from Everynone which managed to capture their power, despite not using many.

The same team has reassembled to create an equally wonderful video on symmetry (via Brain Pickings) :

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I went to see Source Code at the weekend which I really enjoyed – as original as Inception but with characters you actually care about.

One of my favourite things was that the film featured Anish Kapoor‘s Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago:

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The birth of a word

MIT researcher Deb Roy wanted to understand how his infant son learned language – so he wired up his house with video cameras to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son’s life, then parsed 90,000 hours of home video to watch “gaaaa” slowly turn into “water.” Astonishing, data-rich research with deep implications for how we learn.

Deb Roy: The birth of a word | Video on TED.com.

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Wonder goal

Phil McNulty, BBC

78 minutes into the Manchester derby Rooney cast aside a season of relative under-achievement and occasional animosity with a strike that had a fitting home in the self-styled “Theatre Of Dreams”

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