The Nativity? No.
Something has gone wrong.
There is a hole in the stable
acid rain drips through
onto an absence. Beauty
is hoisted upside down.
The truth is Pilate not
lingering for an answer.
The angels are prostrate
'beaten into the clay'
as Yeats thundered. Only Satan beams down,
poisoning with fertilisers
the place where the child
lay, harrowing the ground
for the drumming of the machine-
gun tears of the rich that are
seed of the next war.
By R. S. Thomas
from Counterpoint (1990) 2. Incarnation
There are white churches there, and the crackle of icicles,
The cornflower eyes of my son are blossoming there.
Diamond nights above the ancient town, and yellower
Than lime-blossom honey is the moon’s sickle.
From plains beyond the river dry snow-storms fly in,
And the people, like the angels in the fields, rejoice.
They have tidied the best room, lit in the icon-case
The tiny lamps. On an oak table the Book is lying.
There stern memory, so ungiving now,
Threw open her tower-rooms to me, with a low bow;
But I did not enter, and I slammed the fearful door;
And the town rang with the news of the Child that was born.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (26 December 1921)
– from Anno Domini MCMXXI
translation by D. M. Thomas
In December 1921, during visits to her imprisoned son at Slepnyovo, Akhmatova was tormented, while passing by the ancient town of Bezhetsk nearby, with memories of happier times she shared with Gumilev when she would visit this area.
‘A cold coming we had of it.
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces.
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation,
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky.
And an old white horse galloping away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
by T. S. Eliot (1885-1965)
from Ariel Poems
When Christmastide to Rhymney came
And I was six or seven
I thought the stars in the eastern sky
Were the brightest stars of heaven.
I chose the star that glittered most
To the east of Rhymney town
To be the star above the byre
Where Mary’s babe lay down.
And nineteen hundred years would meet
Beneath a magic light,
And Rhymney share with Bethlehem
A star on Christmas night.
by Idris Davies
So over the holiday season I have watched a few films on television. Some of them are well known and some are not. Don’t expect anything in depth as these are purely brief opinion pieces i.e. I have nothing better to post right now.
Was you favourite part when there is the non-dialogue musical section about Carl and Ellie’s married life together growing old, suffering the news they cannot have children and her passing away? Was it the bit when they reprise the ‘Married Life’ musical piece as Carl opens the adventure book and finds Ellie left him one last message thanking him for all the adventures and telling him to go have a new one?
You are lying!Those parts were far and away in a totally different league to the rest of the film!
To be honest once they realised the ‘married life’ backstory part worked better with no dialogue they should have just accepted they made something far better than the main part of the film and found a way to do the backstory segment a different way and have the ‘married life’ part be its own small feature. You can like Dug as a character but that is as far as I can allow. Ironically they ruined their own film by making a timeless moment with the ‘married life’ segment which leaves the rest of the film pale in comparison.
The Dark (2006)
AKA Sean Bean and his American wife with their daughter go live in rural Wales where ghosts cause them trouble. It would be a good film if it wasn’t for the fact I know about the Welsh mythology they allude to while mixing it with a heretical chapel community who committed a suicide pact together. Annwn isn’t the odd cold, blue, windy place they depict but a sort of Valhalla without the need to go fighting, a world of delights and eternal youth where disease was absent and food was ever-abundant. A film of tepid Welsh caricatures and tepid supernatural thriller. It’s okay to watch if you are unfamiliar with Welsh mythology but otherwise it seems very poorly intended despite being based on a novel… a novel called ‘Sheep’… because… you know… Wales… Sheep… Stereotypes. I have watched it a few times thinking maybe I have missed something as they leave any spoken Welsh untranslated at the start but no… no apparently it’s just not that well thought out.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)
Excellent fun adventure film and enjoy it whenever I see it. The motion capture is well done though the faces are in that strange uncanny valley area of features. It amalgamates a few Tintin stories to make its own thing. I would have liked it if they had stayed true to Herge’s original ‘dot eye’ look personally. Andy Serkis as ever proves he is the go to man for ‘ink suit’ acting. I wish they had made a sequel so we could see Professor Calculus. Thompson and Thomson steal every scene they are in due to Pegg and Frost. Admittedly the albums/graphic novels have more space to develop the storylines.
Hunky Dory (2011/2012)
Set in Swansea. So yes Minnie Driver ‘acting Welsh’ and seeing actors still doing the rounds on Welsh Language television and SkyOne’s Stella is odd. A 1976 comprehensive school does a version of Shakespeare’s Tempest with David Bowie music following the trials and tribulations of all involved. It is a period drama piece and I wasn’t fussed on it. Then again I have a very awkward response to Welsh period drama set in the late twentieth century but it did come across as quite flat despite flashes of potential occasionally. The director also did ‘Patagonia’.
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012)
I had wanted to see this for a while but never got around to it. A very fun anachronistic film I would happily see again. It is a stop motion film done by Aardman animation so you know its good stuff and you won’t catch every bit of humour in a scene the first time you watch it. Queen Victoria steals the film as far as I am concerned although all the characters are well done. Apparently based on the first of a series of books so it would be nice to think one day they will go on and adapt others from the series. I would actually go out of my way to see it again if it comes on television again soon it was that enjoyable.
The Wolverine (2013)
A film that didn’t need to be made. More to the point it ends with some things unresolved like his adamantium claws being sliced off but I’m guessing by ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ this is never addressed how they became adamantium laced again… They hired a slightly less attractive actress to make the love interest actress look better in comparison. The ‘bow and arrow’ guy I was never clear if he was meant to be Mariko’s dedicated protector or a loyal servant of the family and thus more of an anti-hero. He was eye candy for the ladies so I guess it doesn’t matter. The reveal of who the silver samurai is isn’t a surprise although the de-aging bit was silly. Dr Green is just a very odd ‘obvious villain’ character who is never really given any characterisation beyond ‘obviously evil’. In fact no one gets much to work with in this film in terms of their characters and it shows. I will never willingly watch this film again unless I need to sleep.
Puss In Boots (2011)
Puss In Boots stars in a film with humour on the level of Shrek the Third. It’s fun but unfortunately Shrek 2 kind of ruined it for the later films due to its multifaceted cultural references giving adults and children an equally enjoyable film and expecting the later ones to follow suit. Humpty Dumpty I wasn’t too sure about but in the end I think he was a very good character albeit the ‘he was a golden egg/good egg all along’ part was a bit too contrived. There is a lot of Mexican/Spanish style music and it really keeps the film at a strong energetic tempo. Also just after this they showed the short ‘The Three Diablos’ which was okay but should have either been a bit longer or tightened up a bit as it felt a bit ungainly in its story progression.
Men In Black III (2012)
As good as the first one if not a little better in some respects depending on what you like. Josh Brolin does a brilliant impression of Tommy Lee Jones playing the younger version of the character. Emma Thompson and Jermaine Clement are both excellent and should have been in the film more. However Griffin, played by Micheal Stuhlbarg, steals every scene he is in. The inclusion of interesting alien characters was what was missing from the second film where they confused ‘weird and a set up for some puns’ with interesting as you actually care what happens to the characters here. I wouldn’t mind seeing this on television again one day.
As a stand-alone film this would have been a cheap and cheerful bit of fluff quickly forgotten. How it has had sequels I have no idea as there only seemed enough there to just barely make one film let alone more. It was okay to watch once but I will never watch it again even if there is nothing else on.
Mary Poppins (1964)
Classic film. Dick Van Dyke and his dodgy cockney accent. Good stuff. Tarnished in my mind by ‘Saving Mr Banks’ and knowing P. L. Travers wasn’t happy with what they did with her character. It is never nice to find the original creator is unhappy with an adaption of their work. Personally I think they should take a view that it is an adaption and doesn’t change their own work but as we all know sometimes, if not more often, it is the adaptions people know and not the original upon which they are based.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
A film for those who would like something like Mary Poppins but don’t want to watch Mary Poppins again i.e. Disney live action mixed with ‘in animation land’ sequences. I never really ‘got’ this one personally. I think because the character basically go running around stealing a king’s pendant and having an element of ‘the protagonists are in the right always’ even when being thieves. Also the setting lends itself to ‘stiff upper lip’ English stereotypes which when the film was made in 1964 must have already seemed a very old fashioned idea already. I think this was one of the films in my childhood that made me always identify with the villain rather than the protagonists. Also the villain is named Astaroth just like the demon which I found surprising in a Disney film considering that in Fantasia they changed the name of the devil/Lucifer in the ‘Night On Bald Mountain’ section to that of the ancient Slavic mythological deity Chernobog… because… you know… Eastern Europe = Communism.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
DC animation film. It’s basically about Super-girl arriving on earth, being trained by Wonder Woman, kidnapped and brainwashed by Darkseid and then returned home. They obviously didn’t think people would buy it if they admitted that. It’s okay but quite generically comic book story wise. Watch it once if you are interested but there is nothing there to draw you back ever again. A very generic comic book story… in fact shockingly so to the point you could imagine it being a satire. The one good bit is when they think everything is resolved then Darkseid appears out of Ma and Pa Kent’s house and there is a massive battle. In the aftermath Ma and Pa return to find their home decimated and Clark introduces his cousin. I’ve ruined the best bit but to honest it was quite boring even if it was only about an hour long.
Dreamworks always tend to be a very hit or miss affair with more ‘fails’ than successes in my mind. Megamind is one of the few I feel actually works as it stays true to its subverting of superhero films although it brings nothing new to the table. There is good interaction between the characters and I feel that they could easily have made some interesting continuations with the story if they had wanted. I always think it is George Clooney and not Brad Pitt doing Metro-Man’s voice. Jonah Hill voices Hal Stewart/Tighten and ironically life imitates art is seems as he has more and more come across like an asshole in recent times with his ‘suck my dick faggot’ comment amongst other things.
Конец Санкт-Петербурга (Konets Sankt-Peterburga) / The End Of St. Petersburg (1927)
Silent black and White film made to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. Worth watching, very intense visuals and performances. As a film made during the early Soviet era about a key period in its beginnings it is of course propagandist but you should check it out if you have even a passing interesting in the history or cinema.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
AKA the one where Bond marries at the end and she gets gunned down in a drive by shooting by Blofeld and his henchwoman. If nothing else that makes sure I could never think of this as ‘the bad Bond film’ as many insisted it was for years due to George Lazenby being the ‘Milk Tray’ man. The death however is foreshadowed far too heavily by how many times they said the phrase ‘we have all the time in the world’ even to the point of having it as the last line in the film but mostly its reiterated by how often the song reoccurred during the film. There’s a room of women from different nations as Blofeld’s ‘angels of death’. This was the ‘worst’ Bond film apparently for a long time but I actually enjoyed it albeit there are far better ones but if you take this one with a pinch of salt it is really enjoyable and at least breaks the mould of the 007 series up a bit as it’s not as by the book as some others. For me personally Quantum of Solace is the worst one.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Basically its a rehash of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The villains who are generic villains but this time Soviet Communists instead of Nazis are after a mythological item… lots of call backs… Cate Blanhett doing a hammy Hollywood Ukranian accent… substitute Nazi occultism for Soviet ESP experimentation… adventures… rocket cart… survive nuclear blast in a fridge… strongman villain with little no dialogue killed in a gruesome way… someone talking in riddles… treacherous colleagues… fantastical resolution EXCEPT THIS TIME IT WAS ALIENS NOT MAGIC! …as M Night Shamalan would say ‘What a twist!’…or to be correct as Ox says in the denoument they are interdimensional beings not ‘alien’ aliens so yet a further twist! ‘knowledge was their treasure’ they conclude in the end… I hope you feel the same way now you’ve read these mini reviews.
So the next two posts will be regarding films I have on DVD. They will hopefully be uploaded later this week… hopefully.
O slavnosti a hostech / A Report on the Party and the Guests / The Party and The Guests. (1966) Czech
Pociąg / Night Train / Baltic Express (1959) Polish