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Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Just realised that my posts for July and August have been sitting as drafts for ages without being published.  So, this is what I have been up to apart from going to visit my friends and family in the UK and Spain over the summer:

Books

Small Island & The Long Song (Andrea Levy) : the best kid of historical fiction as I learnt about Jamaica through great characters and storytelling

Let The Great World Spin (Colum McCann) : my favourite book so far this year which really captures New York

The Tiger’s Wife (Tea Obreht) : magical mix of superstition, tigers and civilian suffering during wars

Conversations with Myself (Nelson Mandela) : the great man in his own words

The Heart of Haiku (Jane Hirshfield) : everything I wanted to know about haiku and more

Cinema

Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky) : who knew ballet could be so scary

The Fighter (David O’Russell) : ever since watching this film I have become much better at keeping my hands up and defending myself when boxing

Saw the two films above on my plane flights and the ballerinas turned out to be just as tough as the boxers

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (David Yates) : my favourite book in the series and the film lived up to my expectations

Another Earth (Mike Cahill) : interesting and original concept which stays in your mind – a duplicate Earth appears in the sky and scientists discover it is exactly the same as ours, even with the same people. Does this give you a second chance at life ?

Senna (Asif Kapadia) : best sports documentary I have seen. I idolised Ayrton Senna so the film made my cry all over again despite the fact I knew exactly what was going to happen

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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 am happy to see that The New York Review of Books’ piece on the new memoir by Jennifer Grant about her father, the great Cary Grant is accompanied by a photograph from my all-time favourite film, Bringing up Baby.

I defy anyone to watch this film and not laugh.  It’s a shame they don’t make screwball comedies like this anymore which has two adults, including a strong woman, and relies on the performances,  dialogue and wit for its humour rather than relying on grossing you out.

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My June 2011

Very late because of my holiday:

Art

The Transfinite (Park Avenue Armory) : Ryoji Ikeda’s installation was an amazing immersion in sight and sound

Set in Style: The Jewellery of Van Cleef & Arpels (Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum) : set in style is a very apt name because each piece was a miniature work of art.  I have always thought of myself as not being motivated by money but the stunning exhibition came close to changing my mind

Books

The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood) :  the title is also the title of  a novel within this novel but the multi-layered structure fits perfectly with the multi-layered story which encompasses the multitude of layers in love and life

Cinema

The Trip (Michael Winterbottom) : wanted a dose of British humour and found myself laughing at completely different times from the American audience

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My May 2011

Around New York

High Line – disused railway line turned into an urban park above the streets of the city

32 mile walk around the shoreline of Manhattan – totally worth the effort

Art

Picasso and Marie-Marie-Thérèse , L’Amour Fou (The Gagosian Gallery, Chelsea) – a visual love letter

Rembrandt and His School: Masterworks from the Frick and Lugt Collections (The Frick Collection) : in a digital era 400-year old drawings on paper still have the power to move

Books

Moby Dick (Herman Melville) : hard to believe it was published in 1851 because the structure is so modern

A Visit from the Goon Squad (Jennifer Egan) : my favourite book this year, and is very modern with one chapter in Powerpoint

The Solitude of Prime Numbers (Paolo Giordano) : unique combination of teenage angst, mathematics and love

Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) : scary and heartbreaking combination of teenage angst and love amongst children who grow up with a dark secret

Cinema

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog) – forget Avatar, this is what 3-D was made for

Thor – in contrast I went to see this because it looked totally ridiculous but fun and it totally delivered on this premise

Music

Kylie Minogue : a modern goddess

Theatre

The House of Blue Leaves : manages the difficult trick of being funny and tragic at the same time though pitch-perfect performances from Ben Stiller, Jennifer Jason Leigh and especially Edie Falco

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My April 2011

Books

The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins) : intelligent young adult books which topically highlight the impact of war and violence on children

Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule The World (William Cohan): for those interested in finance, an absorbing 600+ pages on the investment bank

One of Our Thursdays is Missing (Jasper Fforde) : one of my friends bought me the latest Thursday Next book which is my favourite brand of literary quirkiness

The Eyre Affair (Jasper Fforde) : so then I had to go back and read the first one

Cinema

Source Code (Duncan Jones): as original as Inception but with characters that you believe in and care about

The Princess of Montpensier (Bernard Tavernier) : typical French film in which every man falls in love with a beautiful, enigmatic woman in very low-cut dresses but this time set against the backdrop of the wars between Catholics and Protestants in 1562

Jane Eyre (Cary Fukunaga) : wasn’t going to see this but it was on at my local cinema while I was reading The Eyre Affair.  Visually atmospheric but not as emotionally stirring as my favourite version the BBC series with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson.

Lecture

German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse (MOMA) : have now seen this fab exhibition for  the third time and it was fascinating to learn that artists took their etching equipment with them while they served on the front during World War I

Theatre

Jerusalem (Jez Butterworth) : thrilling theatre which displays a decidedly modern view of England.

I saw this play in the same week as the Royal Wedding and it reminded me that one of the things I love about England is that it can be both very modern and very traditional at the same time.

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