Category Archives: i have mostly been watching…………

Breaking Bad….and why YOU need to watch this

So, here’s the thing…..
I don’t own a television and haven’t for over a decade, so, generally TV, TV shows and series ( no matter how well reviewed) tend to bypass me a bit and I’ve NEVER gone down that boxed set viewing binge fest…..but my hip and trendy teen daughter, whose tastes are generally impeccable, has been talking about Breaking Bad for a couple of years now and the arrival of the first 3 series in a box was just too much temptation and it is partial explanation as to why this blog has been a little quiet since Christmas ….
I can’t write….I’ve got TV to watch.

But actually, it’s riveting, well made, beautiful, exciting and constantly challenges your judgements and loyalties, oh and in parts it’s very funny.

Even the Guardian pays its respect….

Like a Dostoevsky in the desert, this great series charts a decent, slightly pathetic man’s tragic descent into moral depravity
Thursday 5 December 2013

Maxton Walker

When I reviewed the first series of Breaking Bad for this slot back in 2010, the show was almost unheard of: a little tale of a high-school chemistry teacher in a dusty corner of America, toiling away in a life of quiet desperation, only to be told he’s dying of cancer. So he teams up with a wayward former pupil, Jesse, to make and sell crystal meth, to earn big bucks fast and thereby provide security for his family after his demise. At the time, it felt like a poignant Chekhovian story about a decent, if slightly pathetic man trying to shore up a failed life. The only reason I bothered watching it at all it was because I’d studied chemistry at university.
How wrong I was. This wasn’t suburban Chekhov. This was, as the four subsequent, explosive seasons showed, Dostoevsky in the desert – an epic tragedy that now, appropriately, arrives in a box set thick and heavy enough to compare with anything any Russian writer ever produced. And just in time for Christmas, too.
It’s a portrait of one man’s simultaneous ascent (to drug lord) and descent (into moral depravity). In an extraordinary performance, Bryan Cranston, playing Walter White, takes us with him every step of the way. To get a sense of the scale of his achievement, just compare the first and final season covers: in the former, a mildly quizzical-looking man in white Y-fronts holds a gun in a way that suggests he doesn’t know how to use it. In the latter, a monster looks out, a barely discernible snarling shadow. It’s a different man and the same man. It’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Breaking Bad is great. But it’s not perfect. Early on, we get intriguing flashbacks to Walter’s early life, hinting at some mysterious backstory, but that fizzles out. And do crystal meth kingpins really care so much about the quality of their product (98% proof and a lovely shade of blue!) that they will pay our two master cooks millions? It’s not like they’re making sofas for John Lewis. What’s more, as has been said before, this is a show about guys. The women are passive observers, carried along by the increasingly deranged actions of the men. (You should cut the slightly stuttering first season some slack, though – it was hit by the 2007 Hollywood writers’ strike. And anyway, Dostoevsky could be a bit slapdash himself.)
Breaking Bad has been called the future of television, and rightly so: it allows a superb actor time and space to fully develop a character. And the bizarre trajectory of his teacher-pupil relationship with Jesse – the best sidekick in the history of television? – is at the heart of the show. And right from the start, the New Mexico desert is a constant presence, making this an epic perfect for widescreen TV. It showed, too, how today’s audiences will seek out great television: the show was almost canned after its first two seasons failed to really take off, but – thanks largely to word of mouth and of course my review – people tracked it down on Netflix and DVD.
This complete box set, meanwhile, has the usual making-of featurettes and commentaries, which largely focus on the dull mechanics of making the key episodes, rather than providing any insight, as well as the slightly irritating and widely leaked “alternative ending”, suggesting it was all a bad dream by Cranston’s Malcolm in the Middle character, Hal.
When I reviewed the first series, I asked: What is Walt up to? Is this some desperate, incoherent scream of rage in the face of the approaching blackness? In the end, we do learn the rather simpler answer because, well, Walt tells us. And it really does make sense of everything. Almost.

So, on cold winter nights, when the sofa calls, well you could do a whole lot worse




Le Weekend…..a film for people like us

So, rubiesandduels is usually found extolling the virtues of art-house, independents and the subtitled, but, my secret weakness for anything Jim Broadbent appears in, sent me off to see ” Le Weekend “.
The film knows who its target audience is, almost half the seats were taken up by people who could easily have been friends, neighbors and colleagues of the 50 somethings played by Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan.

A romantic week end in Paris is by turn funny, touching and painfully honest, a truthful look at the lives of those of us who somehow thought it would all be better than it turned out and find ourselves in jobs that feel increasingly meaningless, with mildly disappointing adult children and a sense that life has not delivered on our early promise.

The film is a meditation and finally, a celebration of those long marriages and the strategies we use to survive them and is brutally honest about sex and the older woman, but with a light and delicate touch.

And so good to see an actor actually allowed to look her age, Duncan is hot and attractive, but looks the way many of us do now, a little faded, a little plumper, but still the absolute object of desire for Broadbent.

It’s a “little” film and non the worse for it.


The wonderful Joan of Arc – Carl Dryers’ masterpiece



Because I’m working on a longer piece of fiction at the moment, so have no story to share today and because, finally, I have actually seen this film in the big screen for the first time and what a wonderful way it was to spend a Saturday afternoon,  I thought I’d share some images from the film.

If you have the opportunity, ever, to see the film played at the correct speed, then do so.

I promise that you will be moved and uplifted and nourished.

Ben Wheatley…..A field in England

To steal a phrase from a proper film reviewer ‘ if you only see one black and white, civil war, trippy film this summer, make sure it’s this one’.

Ben Wheatleys’ latest film, ‘ A field in England’ released in cinemas, on TV ( channel 4) and via on-demand TV now is extraordinary, beautiful, puzzling and refuses to be boxed into any known genre.

4 men, a field, a crop of magic mushrooms, oh and the English civil war come together to make something which is always engaging and dares to be as experimental as it needs to be.

If you get the chance to see it on the big screen, go for it….the delicacy of the camera work demands that format.

The soundtrack is stunning and the performances are nuanced and totally right for the tone of this film.

Enjoy….I did.

Jafar Panahi – latest film at the Berlin Film Festival

i have blogged about the plight of Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi before, he is currently under house arrest, forbidden to make films, write screenplays, edit film, speak to journalists or leave the country.
His last film “This is not a film” was smuggled out of Iran – look for it on t’interweb, its out there and was made in defiance of this blanket cultural ban.

His latest film was previewed at the Berlin Film Festival last week, obviously Panahi could not be there himself, instead a large cut out photo of him stood in place of the director.

Iranian film has been decimated by a fundamentalist Islamic government, with many filmmakers in exile, unable to work, in fear of draconian bans of their creative freedom.

Panahis’ “Closed Curtain” does not currently have a cinematic release in the UK, if this changes, please, please support freedom of expression in Iran by going to see it.

Amnesty International currently are campaigning on behalf of Panahi [ links in the side bar].

Iranian cinema is extraordinary and important in terms of world cinema, if you love film and believe in cultural freedom, please get involved;
Join the Amnesty International campaign
Feel free to re-blog this article
Watch his [ and other Iranian film makers] work
Make some noise – his high international profile is probably the thing keeping him safest at the moment.

Iran has complained to the organizers of the Berlin film festival for giving Iranian director Jafar Panahi an award for an allegorical movie made in defiance of a 20-year state ban.

Panahi shared the best script prize at Berlin on Saturday for “Closed Curtain” with co-director Kamboziya Partovi for a film made in secret, which mirrors aspects of Panahi’s life under house arrest in the Islamic Republic.

“We have protested to the Berlin film festival. Its officials should amend their behavior because in cultural and cinematic exchange, this is not correct,” said Javad Shamaqdari, the head of Iran’s national cinema organization, Iran’s student news agency (ISNA) reported on Monday.

The movie follows the story of two people on the run from state security and is considered by critics to be a multi-layered portrayal of how restrictions on the filmmaker’s work and movement have brought on depression and even thoughts of suicide.

Iran banned Panahi from making films for 20 years in 2010 and sentenced him to six years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the state” following the country’s 2009 disputed presidential election.

While he remains at home under house arrest, Panahi has previously described himself as a victim of injustice and an Amnesty International statement published at the time of his conviction said he may be forced to report to prison at any time.

“Everyone knows that a license is needed to make films in our country and send them abroad but there are a small number who make films and send them out without a license. This is an offense … but so far the Islamic Republic has been patient with such behavior,” Shamaqdari said without mentioning Panahi or the film by name, ISNA reported.

A celebrated filmmaker in the West for his portrayals of issues such as women’s rights and support for political opposition, Panahi was not able to attend the Berlin festival.




The Life of Pi – in 3d no less

So. I’m sitting in a multiplex, reeling from the price of mainstream cinemas, waiting to be entertained in glourious 3d.
And I’m looking forward to it, Life of Pi is a book I have enjoyed, recommended and re-read and besides the last popular Hollywood film I saw was Avatar, so I’m interested in seeing how 3d-ness has improved in the last couple of years.

Life of Pi is a fabolous novel, it may or may not tell the story of a young Indian man, who travelling with his family and their zoo to a new life in Canada, is shipwrecked as the sole human survivor when the boat capsizes and is cast adrift in a dingy with a dying zebra, a hyena , an ape and a fully grown Bengal tiger.

The novel is playful, mischevious, drops hints throughout that thungs may not be what they seem, the tiger is called Richard Parker, the namesake of the first survivor eaten in a well known and well documented 19th Century shipwreck and cannibalism case.

The film cannot capture this tone of deceit, game playing and the ultimate unreliable narrator, so settles for a boy on a dingy with a dangerous carnivor, think snakes on planesm but has the additional major problem that the framing device of the boy now grown to adulthood, re-telling his story, takes away any tension as the story unfolds, after all, we know he survives and the final sequence, where a very different story is told and far darker deeds unfold. is so throw away that it looses the weight given to this version in the original novel.

The 3d sequences look lovely, the CGI tiger is impressive, but if you havn’t seen it, I strongly suggest that you hunt down the novel instead, if nothing else, it will be a whole lot cheaper.

Bela Tarr – Satan Tango & other films

A cat dies
A child commits suicide
It rains continuously
It ends with an ageing, possibly dying man as he boards up his window to sit in complete darkness on a desolate muddy wet failing farm collective.

Its a hard film to sell……

so, its 7 hours long, its in black and white, its Hungarian and very, very little happens, oh and did i mention that Bela Tarr [ the director] is particularly well known for extremely slow moving and enormously long takes.

But, there is something magical and hypnotic about the process of watching his films. The are both boring and mesmerizing at exactly the same moment. Images from his work stay with you, haunt you, creep into your own dreams.

They may change the way you look at cinema.

From Wikipedia
After 1984’s Őszi almanach (Almanac of Fall), Tarr (who had written his first four features alone) began collaborating with Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai for 1988’s Kárhozat (Damnation). A planned adaptation of Krasznahorkai’s epic novel Sátántangó took over seven years to realize; the 415-minute film finally appeared to international acclaim in 1994.[1] After the epic he released a 35-minute film Journey on the Plain in 1995 and fell into silence until the 2000 film Werckmeister Harmóniák (Werckmeister Harmonies), occasionally shot in very intense circumstances.[such as?] The film itself was very warmly welcomed by critics and the Festival circuit in general. Many if not most of the shots in these later films are up to eleven minutes long. It may take months to do a single shot. The camera swoops, glides, and soars. It circles the characters, it moves from scene to scene. It may, as in Sátántangó, travel with a herd of cows around a village, or follow the nocturnal peregrinations of an obese agoraphobic drunk who is forced to leave his house because he’s run out of booze. Susan Sontag championed Tarr as one of the saviors of the modern cinema, saying she would gladly watch Sátántangó once a year.
After Werckmeister he began filming A Londoni férfi (The Man From London) an adaptation of a Georges Simenon novel. It was scheduled to be released at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival in May, but production had to be shut down because of the suicide of producer Humbert Balsan on February 10, 2005 and there were disputes with the other producers over a possible change in the film’s financing.[3] It premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival[4] and was released worldwide in 2008. Tarr then began working on a film called A torinói ló (The Turin Horse) which he has said will be his last.
For many years, none of his work was available on DVD (except in Japan), but Werckmeister Harmonies and Damnation have been made available on a two-disc DVD in Europe, courtesy of Artificial Eye (who have also issued The Man From London) and both films are now available in North America on separate DVDs from Facets Video. Tarr’s early works; Family Nest, The Outsider, and The Prefab People; are also available on DVD in the USA, courtesy of Facets. Facets was supposed to release Sátántangó on DVD on November 28, 2006, but was delayed until July 22, 2008. Artificial Eye released the film on November 14, 2006. A comparison of the two DVD editions has been posted at DVD Beaver.[5]