Saw Mike Leigh movie Another Year on DVD. It's his usual semi-improvised kitchen-sink drama, more like people-watching than movie-watching.
This one is a bit like "Happy-go-lucky" in that the main characters are happy: this time it's a couple in late middle age called Tom and Gerri. However they are surrounded by people with various problems, in particular the twice-divorced, unhappily single Mary.
I found it pretty compelling, though the slow pace seems to have driven some people crazy. It has some cringingly funny moments and is convincingly acted. The final scene is exquisitely painful with Mary surrounded by headless forms but but isolated as the soundtrack fades to silence and she gulps down more wine. Also there's quite a lot of ambiguity there: are Tom and Gerri altruists or smug enablers?
Overall, I liked it, but it won't be everyone's cup of tea.
One thing that struck me as a bit unrealistically archaic is that Mary doesn't seem to be on OKecupidmatchharmony.com. I know she's supposed to be self-sabotaging, but I would have expected her to be frenetically busy updating profiles, Nudging and Winking and going on an endless series of dates; rather than to be sitting isolated at home or trying to catch the eye of strange men in pubs.
What I'm Watching
Saw Part 2 of the Niall Ferguson series Civilization: Is the West History? This one was a bit more convincing since the "killer app" (sigh) was Science. Was interesting to see that the Ottoman Empire initially banned printing and had to scramble to keep up. The general point that the rest of the world missed out on the scientific and technical benefits of the enlightenment seemed pretty reasonable.
However the specific example of the use of Newtonian mechanics to build accurate artillery could have done with more support: what wars or battles did these make a difference in? How does that tie in with the initial statement that the the Siege of Vienna in 1529 (much earlier) was the critical turning point? I get the feeling that he's trying to cram various "clash of civilizations" theories together that are not necessarily consistent.
Now Osman might work as an example, but it's hard to see Frederick as being typical of anything. An aloof, ultra-rational devotee of the Enlightenment, he devoted himself utterly to reason and to increasing the power of Prussia.
One problem is that he was an utterly autocratic, centralizing figure who ran the whole state practically single-handed, which doesn't really fit in with Ferguson's ideas about competition and democracy being the big advantages.
Also Ferguson sneeringly compares Osman's indulgence in the harem to Frederick's apparent dedication, but mysteriously never mentions the complex issue of Frederick's sexuality. Whether he was homosexual, celibate or surgically castrated, it seems likely that his lack of time wasted with the ladies was more likely a personal issue than an expression of Western culture.
(As a teenager, Frederick fled from his literally tyrannical father with a male companion. They were caught, the father had his companion decapitated in front of young Frederick. As far as we know, Frederick never had a loving or intimate relationship ever again.)
This actually seemed pretty good. I thought the well-rounded scholar Francesca Stavrakopoulou went a bit far in suggesting that perhaps David never even existed, but she makes a very good case that his achievements were greatly exaggerated by bible authors with a Southern/Judean bias, while the northern king Omri was unfairly ignored.
However it was actually a rare thing in TV biblical history in that it's actually sane. Half of the shows actually take the bible far too literally, and the other half often drift off into daft fringe theories: but this one actually critically examined historical evidence.
Saw the Jan Gossaert's Renaissance exhibition at the National Gallery. Very good exhibition focusing on an allegedly-overlooked Flemish painter.
He's from an interesting period: he died in 1532, about thirty years before the Reformation clobbered most religious art and anything with a hint of eroticism, leaving us with some plump and juicy still lives, but less human interest. Jan Gossaert has a strong Italian influence: complex compositions, bright colours, good draughtsmanship.
Even with a single artist, there's a great diversity of art on display here: haunting portraits, religious works, and some nice naked ladies from Eve to Venus, who would soon disappear from art for a while.
Worth a look. £10 to get in though.
Ida Kar is a small exhibition of portraits of mid twentieth century artists, sculptors and writers: moderately interesting but not spectacular.
The Hoppé exhibition is great though. Has a great variety of work from portraits to nudes to British photojournalism. So they're not just good portraits but have historical interest: from Sandhurst graduates to rough sleepers and Borstal girls. Worth a look if you've got the money.
Socioeconomics. Does Anne Hathaway news drive Berkshire Hathaway stock? Does self-constraint lead to aggression? Latest DSM classes grief as depression. UK median incomes fall.
Politics. Scooby-Doo in The Case of the Phantom Bond Vigilante. 100 years of air strikes. Saturday's TUC cuts demo could be interesting with UK uncut aiming at surprise target and police short of volunteers after pay cuts. Security guards get police powers. Hyperinjunctions.
Video. Sheffield cycling carnage. New kutiman YouTube sound mashup My Favorite Color. Paris stills time-lapse. Eighties sax man terrorizes world. Wile E. Coyote's 127 Hours . CIA's 'Facebook' Program Dramatically Cut Agency's Costs.
|< 2011-03-20 | Just wasting my time >|