BIRDMAN (OR ‘THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE’) directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (USA, 2014)
From the stylish opening credits and free-jazz drumming of Antonio Sanchez’s unorthodox soundtrack, this is a movie that is keen to make an immediate impression.
It is the kind of derring-do which could so easily have backfired and then been dismissed as nothing more than brash arty-fartiness. Yet Birdman postively revels in its showiness and having a excellent supporting cast, that includes Naomi Watts and Edward Norton in prime form, means that all the risks are calculated ones.
The story revolves around Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, one time celluloid superhero who now feels all too human as he approaches the third age. By adapting a Raymond Carver story for a Broadway show he wants revitalise his flagging career and, in the process, demonstrate that 60 is the new 30. Continue reading
BLACKBEARD’S GHOST directed by Robert Stevenson (USA, 1968)
What was your favourite movie when you were 10?
At that age, my tastes were strongly dictated by Disney so mine would have been a toss-up between Jungle Book and Blackbeard’s Ghost. The latter would probably have narrowly won by a hair of the dread pirate’s ragged whiskers.
Watching it again now, I can guess that one of main appeals was the way it pitched underdog outsiders against crooks and jocks.
It is based very loosely on real life 18th century pirate Edward Teach and a novel by Ben Stahl.
Blackbeard’s spirit has been wandering in limbo following a curse put on him by his aggrieved wife Aldetha as she was being burnt at the stake as a witch. Continue reading
BIRD CLOUD – A MEMOIR OF PLACE by Annie Proulx (Scribner, 2011)
Place is a major part of Annie Proulx’s writing and life. Everything begins with the landscape.
However, as a feature in The Guardian notes, she is scornful of the adage that you should write what you know. She has said: “All it produces is tiresome middle-class novels of people who I think are writing about things they know, but you wish to God they didn’t”.
Proulx is a late learner and was a thrice divorced 53 year-old woman when she wrote her first collection of short stories (Heart Songs). Five years later came her Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Shipping News. The film version of her short story Brokeback Mountain introduced her to an even wider audience.
My collection of Annie Proulx’s books.
I am a big fan of her fiction and have made a point of buying any book of hers I see but this one turned out to be a big disappointment.
It is the account of an ambitious but ultimately misguided building project. The profits from her belated literary success was ploughed into what he hoped would be her dream home built on wild prairie land near a dramatic cliff in 640 acres of Wyoming, the least populous of the United States. Continue reading
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING directed by James Marsh (UK, 2014)
The doctors who told Stephen Hawking that he only had around two years to live must be feeling pretty silly. They obviously weren’t counting on the man’s superhuman willpower or what the love and dedication of a good woman can do.
In some ways Hawking’s story is like one of those Sci-Fi movies where a brain is alive when the rest of the body is dead. In Cold Lazarus, for example, Dennis Potter’s final play for television, a preserved head is tapped for the brain waves it generates.
In the recent movie, Transcendence (a turkey by all accounts) starring Johnny Depp, there is a similar theme of a scientist’s brain surviving the death of his body.
Hawking’s case is different in one crucial respect, however. The fact that he has still been able to father three children is proof that his ‘muscle of life’ is unaffected by the motor neuron disease. Bizarre tabloid reports of him attending sex clubs and enjoying the attention of lap dancers also shows that his sex drive remains high. Continue reading