Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Jorge in Sao Paulo, Martin in Derry & Colin, and Donal.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas TV treats: Tom, the Royles, Mapp & Lucia

Here at the Projector we love Tom Courtenay as Billy and Helen Fraser as Barbara his nicer than nice, too perfect but bossy girlfriend (Billy of course has 2 other girlfriends, the cafe waitress and free-wheeling Liz (Julie Christie's breakout role)).... thats the 1963 classic BILLY LIAR, see Tom label. It was delightful therefore to see them re-united a few years ago in a Christmas edition of the hit British comedy THE ROYLE FAMILY, about that family who just sit around watching telly all the time. In this festive edition Tom and Helen play the very square parents of daughter Denise's dopey husband Dave, as they all gather to celebrate the season with dinner at Denise and Dave's,with predictably hilarious results - 
they forgot to defrost the turkey for a start! and lazy Denise's first course is 'cuppasoup' with a twist - its in a bowl instead of a cup! This hilarious series is of course written by Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash, who are both perfect as Denise and Dave, while Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston do sterling work as workshy Jim Royle and his put-upon wife, Barbara. Tom and Helen though are priceless in this christmas edition, with his motoring gloves and their Ford Mondeo! 
We have a couple to watch in the New Year with Tom playing gay: in THE DRESSER and a tv film from a Noel Coward tale: ME AND THE GIRLS from 1985.
A new perfect treat should be the new 3-part MAPP AND LUCIA, though (as per label) we like a lot the 1983 series which is perfectly cast with Prunella Scales as Mapp, Geraldine McEwan as Lucia and Nigel Hawthorne as her screamer friend and later husband, Georgie, with his wig (right) and his devoted servant Foljambe; that 10 part series was scripted by Gerald Savory and directed by Donald McWhinnie. 

Steve Pemberton (of BENIDORM) has scripted the new series and plays Georgie - even shaving his head so he can wear that fussy wig! Mark Gatiss is Major Benjy, and the two terrors are Anna Chancellor as Lucia and Miranda Richardson gnashing her false teeth as Mapp - and cult favourite Frances Barber plays the Italian contessa who visits and whom Lucia and Georgie have to avoid as they do not speak Italian though they pretend they do. Lets hope the other characters in their thrall are well cast too: Diva Plaistow, Quaint Irene, Mr & Mrs Wyse with their rolls royce, and the Padre and wife. It is of course set in Rye in Sussex which plays the part of that ideal village, Tilling. E F Benson fans should be in for a treat. 
Also fun for the holidays should be a new Victoria Wood comedy musical THAT DAY WE SANG, featuring Michael Ball and the stupendous Imelda Stuanton, whom I will be seeing on stage in April in the latest revival of GYPSY - yes she is Momma Rose, and she should be as wonderful as she was in GUYS AND DOLLS a decade or so ago.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas treats: for me !

Christmas treats, and its not even Christmas yet and I don't know what Santa is bringing! 
I am engrossed in the new biography of Aretha Franklin, "Respect" by expert David Ritz who certainly knows his soul and r&b, having known and worked with them all. Its a terrific 500 page tome filling us in on everything Aretha!
The Joni Mitchell new 4-cd retrospective in that nice book package, with extensive notes by Joni, and the re-mastered favourites sound great. Nice Christmas references too:
"River" of course is a new Christmas classic and gets covered a lot: "Its coming on Christmas, they're cutting down trees, they're putting up reindeer, and singing songs of joy and peace" ..... and that nice reference in "Chinese Cafe": "Christmas is sparkling out on Carol's lawn, this friend of my childhood games has kids almost grown and gone".... and I love how she sings in "Barangrill" (not included here): "The guy at the gas pumps has a lot of soul, he sings "Merry Christmas" for you just like Nat King Cole".
Sophia's book is also a treat for devotees as she reveals a lot about her early Italian films and shares correspondence from Cary Grant and Richard Burton, and comments on a lot of her films, surprisingly dismissing EL CID as a "Superwestern" ....
That new David Hockney documentary has just arrived too - I have had a quick look, it contains moments from earlier BBC documentaries I did not have any more, and also from Hazan's A BIGGER SPLASH, and there is another new Hockney documentary too, covering his recent paintings. 
On the music front, Aretha new "Diva Anthems" cd nicely complements the new book, while Ella and Nelson Riddle is a treat (thanks Jerry), with perfect versions of songs like "I Can't Get Started" and "Georgia On My Mind", reminding one of that lush Nelson Riddle sound; Quincy Jones steps up to the mark too with that fabulous Donna Summer album now re-issued and expanded with great notes (also part of a Donna 6 cd reissue) - this is probably my most played cd just now, great to hear "Love Is In Control", "State of Independence" and/"Lush Life" again - as per my last post on Donna (see label). I am awaiting delivery of FKA Twigs and "LP1" (right) - modern hip hop with a twist. 
Then there is BFI stuff to catch up with: "Sight & Sound" and the January programme with some more Maggie Smith treats .... more at labels!
And the Christmas song? Tom Odell's "Real Love" .... along with Sam Smith ("In The Lonely Hour") and Ed Sheeran ("X") the success of the year. 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas treats: Strictly Come Dancing

Since October we have been enjoying the annual BBC dance competition "Strictly Come Dancing" each weekend (in America its "Dancing With The Stars"). This year's intake did not seem very interesting at first, with maybe what seemed a rather lacklustre, second tier ranking of celebrities, but it has turned out to be the most enjoyable in a long time.  What is fascinating about this series - as opposed to say "The X-Factor" is seeing how the contestants improve each week, as the no-hopers are weeded out one by one. Finally we come down to the last and best six .... and unlike that other TV juggernaut there are no fake or contrived dramas, but a lot of hard work, as people one would not normally expect to dance suddenly find their dancing feet. 
We have been entranced this year by Mark Wright (left and top, with Karen), an ITV2 Essex boy re-inventing himself and being utterly charming; the Blue boy Simon (being put through his paces by Kristina, who trained up Ben Cohen and Ben Calzaghe in previous years), and rugby player/model Thom Evans (of those French Diex De Stade calenders fame! - below right, with Iveta) who departed too early, and Jake (so obnoxious on EASTENDERS) with those amazing hip movements. The Girls have been wonderful too - another minor TV celeb Caroline Flack has stunned us, as has Frankie from The Saturdays (below left). They are all in the final this weekend.  It seems a more level playing-field now with the exit of stage-school trained Pixie Lott, who was hotly tipped to win, but the others are all new to dancing ...
We love the professional dancers too: Natalie, Aliona (who won with Harry Judd in 2011 - see Dance label), Iveta, Kristina and the departed Ola.  Shame that Flavia (who won with Louis Smith in 2012 - ditto) and Vincent are no longer with the show, and Artem has not been in this year's either. but Pasha and Aljaz (who won last year with Abbey Clancey) have more than compensated. We liked a lot of the previous dancers too: Erin Boag, Darren Bennett, Camilla Dallerup and more. I see Caroline and Pasha (below) lifting the trophy this weekend. (They did).
There were also of course the baffling contestants, this year's being Judy Murray! Poor Anton certainly gets the joker card each year .... the dances too have been marvellous, particularly those Argentine Tangos and some great ballroom moves, rumbas and charlestons. 
All their dances are on YouTube - enjoy. There is also a Christmas special on Christmas Day, with fun previous contestants like Russell Grant, and the return of Louis Smith, and of course Bruce Forsyth. This year's hit has been the wonderful Claudia Winkelman (or Claud - left) sharing duties with Tess Daly. The divine and very droll Claudia is now back and better than ever (after a family accident kept her out of the show for some weeks).   

Then there are the judges: Len, Bruno, panto villain Craig, and the most stylish woman on television: Darcey Bussell (above right). The weekly range of costumes dazzle too, as does the marvellous house band and vocalists, and the guest stars. In a world of increasing daily horrors, we need Strictly more than ever! 
The sheer logictics of the show are stupendous: 14 "celebrities" teamed with 14 professional dancers, for three months or more of hard training, and then the might of the BBC wardrobe department to come up with all those costumes, the group dances and the weekly programmes and results shows. Its glamour overdrive!  

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas treats: Paddington

A young bear from Darkest Peru with a passion for all things British travels to London in search of a new home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he begins to realize that city life is not all he had imagined - until he meets the kindly Brown family, who read the label around his neck ('Please look after this bear. Thank you.') and offer him a temporary haven. It looks as though his luck has changed until this rarest of bears catches the eye of a museum taxidermist (who turns out to be the daughter of the explorer who discovered the Peruvian Bears).

PADDINGTON is a joy from start to finish, children of all ages will love it, thankfully we had practically a private screening of it early this morning at the first show at the local multiplex, while schoolchildren are still at school! 

First of all it looks great, as directed by Paul King from Michael Bond's classic tales. Every scene is magical - whether the Brown's house, or the bears' hideaway in the jungle and its a terrific London film too, showing the city at its best. 
The cast throw themselves into it - Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins (PERSUASION, BLUE JASMINE) are both perfect as the parents, Julie Walters is their housekeeper, Peter Capaldi lives next door, Matt Lucas drives a taxi, Jim Broadbent is the kindly antiques dealer. Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton voice the older bears and Ben Whishaw (above) is sheer perfection as the voice of Paddington with his love of marmalade sandwiches, there are good running gags featuring pigeons, and then there is Nicole Kidman - repenting for her dreadful GRACE OF MONACO with her deliciously camp portrayal of the evil taxidermist as a modern Cruella De Vil. 
Hugh drags up as a wacky cleaning lady as he and Paddington look for clues and then head to the Natural History Museum - this is one night at the Museum not to miss! A Film of The Year for me then! 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Another ship of fools ....

Based on the true story of a ship carrying German-Jewish refugees which was sent to Havana in 1939 by the Nazis but was denied permission to land anywhere. The ship was eventually obliged to return to Germany, where certain death awaited its passengers. This terrible outcome had been cynically anticipated by the Nazis when granting permission for the voyage in the first place.

The 1970s was that era of all-star disaster movies: the US studios gave us EARTHQUAKE, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, AIRPLANE 75 and all the rest, while in England TV mogul Sir Lew Grade assembled several all star packages, some of which were amusingly awful like our favourite THE CASSANDRA CROSSING (Sophia! Ava! Ingrid Thulin! Alida Valli! Burt Lancaster! John Philip Law! and more) and others like ESCAPE TO ATHENA was just silly, but VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED in 1976 was meant to be a serious drama but it is so crammed with names that one just sits there bemused by it all - "look, there's Julie Harris talking to Wendy Hiller" - but a lot of them have nothing to do and some barely get a look in: 
James Mason, Katharine Ross as a prostitute, Orson pops in a scene or two, as does Ben Gazzara, Helmut Griem reprises his evil Nazi (a la CABARET and Visconti's THE DAMNED), Malcolm McDowell, playing nice for once, is the young steward having a romance with Lynn Frederick (the last Mrs Peter Sellers), her parents are Lee Grant (who goes over the top spectacularly as the berserk mother cutting her hair in the concentration camp style) and Sam Wanamaker. Other well known faces here are Nehemiah Persoff and Maria Schell (also barely seen), while Jonathan Pryce is one of the persecuted refugees hoping for a new life. 

Topping the bill are Faye Dunaway and Oscar Werner (his final role) - Faye as an embittered wife displays her haughty glamour and gets to wear a monacle and strut around while her husband, Werner, practically reprising his role in SHIP OF FOOLS plays an esteemed Jewish surgeon. The captain of the "St Louis" is none other than Max Von Sydow. It should be a grim drama but the all-star cast and plodding direction of Stuart Rosenberg render it interesting for all the wrong reasons. Kramer's 1965 plodder SHIP OF FOOLS, which we caught and reviewed a year or so ago (Simone Signoret label), did it all much better. 

THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN in 1969 was also an all-star spectacular, helmed by the reliable Michael Anderson - one of several that year (BATTLE OF BRITAIN, OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR) - from a novel about the first Russian pope and how he tackles world poverty, from a novel by Morris West - which is another long, if entertaining, plod to see now, but at least it employed Anthony Quinn as the pope, Laurence Olivier as a wily Russian official, Oscar Werner again as another doomed priest, Gielgud as another ailing pope, and many, many more. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Very 1964

Here's a fascinating group photograph from that wonderful month, April 1964 - when 18 year old me arrived in London. I do not know who took this shot (or is it a compilation of several pictures?) but it was at The Empire Pool, Wembley in North London. It seems all the pop stars of the time are here, apart from The Beatles who were off conquering America.
You can though see The Rolling Stones (including Brian Jones),The Searchers, Billy J Kramer, Freddie and his Dreamers, Paul Jones and Manfred Mann, Kenny Lynch, The Merseybeats and The Fourmost, plus Cilla Black (black leather coats were all the rage then for guys and gals) and Kathy Kirby and Cathy McGowan of READY STEADY GO where the weekends began!
Other 60s groups like The Yardbirds or The Moody Blues or The Kinks or Herman's Hermits, and The Who are not included, nor The Animals or Gerry and the Pacemakers or even The Dave Clark Five! but hey, not every group was there that day,  nor young Marianne Faithfull or Sandie Shaw! or Dusty ...

But this was the 1964 look, most groups wore jackets and ties - it was not until 1967 or so that the hippie look took off and lots more hair and moustaches and psychedelic clothes.
One sad note - quite a few of these here are no longer with us - but at that moment they were part of a golden age of British pop stars, mainly from the (Stones excepted) squaresville end of pop. The big music movie hit that year was of course The Beatles in Richard Lester's A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (The Beatles label).

One has to think back to what life was like in 1964 - no wonder young people were joining groups and making music. There were just two television channels, the BBC and commercial ITV, in black and white, geared to the family audience (READY STEADY GO on Fridays was about the only pop programme then catering for the teen crowd) and they closed down at night early, movies could not be shown on TV until they were 5 years old, if you wanted big screens and colour you went to the cinema. (The Third channel BBC2 and colour came in later in the Sixties, which were Swinging by then...) and in that pre-computer world typing on manual typewriters in the typing pool was normal and factory jobs were still plentiful. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Beatles for sale ?

I've just realised I am sitting on two fairly valuable bits of Beatles memorabilia. The 1964 Beatles calender which I bought at the time, when I was 18 and moved to London in April 1964. Here'a a blurb on it: 

The Beatles Book Calendar For 1964 (Very rare original 1963 UK official 9" x 11" spiral bound 12-page calendar with each page having a picture of the fabs, a great caricature & your month horoscope, complete with the original 'PRICE SIX SHILLINGS' caricature front cover. An amazing UK collectable from the beginnings of Beatlemania in fantastic condition.
Mine has terrific black and white pictures of the Fabs for each month. 

Then there is a Beatles headscarf, which I must have bought when new in London in 1964: again, a blurb selling one says:

Beatles Headscarf (Rare 1964 UK 27" square nylon headscarf designed by Barnett with a great montage of caricature Beatle scenes in brown & red print with a head & facsimile signature in each corner. This fascinating vintage item has obviouslybeen used, but apart from three very small holes and some yellow discolouration from extremely non eco-friendly 60s hairspray, it is in great condition. A fantastic forty year old piece of original Beatle memorabilia!).
Mine is a bit discoloured by age too, but has never been worn! 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

A classic year: 1975

IMDB 's Classic Film Board has a thread on the best films of 1975. I submitted my 1975 top twenty - I didn't realise it was such a classic year! and of course in that pre-video, pre-internet world we had to see all those films at the cinema (and London still had plentiful arthouse and revival circuit chains) and read the movie magazines to keep up with them ...  I have written about several of these here, as per labels.

THE PASSENGER - Antonioni 
BARRY LYNDON - Kubrick 
LOVE AND DEATH - Woody Allen 
NASHVILLE - Altman
HISTORY OF ADELE H. - Truffaut 
FOX AND HIS FRIENDS - Fassbinder 
SEVEN BEAUTIES - Wertmuller 
DOG DAY AFTERNOON - Lumet 
THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR - Pollack 
THE STEPFORD WIVES - Forbes 
THE MAGIC FLUTE - Bergman 
INDIA SONG - Duras 
JEANNE DIELMAN, 23 QUI DE COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES - Akerman 
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW - Sharman 
TOMMY - Russell 
ROYAL FLASH - Lester 
SHAMPOO - Ashby 
PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK - Weir 
MONTY PYTHON & THE HOLY GRAIL - Gilliam. 

Dreadful but compulsive (for Lee Remick, Barbra Streisand fans!): HENNESSEY / FUNNY LADY

A fascinating year in the mid-70s then, CHINATOWN was the year before, and the following year 1976 had TAXI DRIVER, OBSESSION and Visconti's L'INNOCENTE to fascinate us, while 1977 and beyond took us into CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, ANNIE HALL, NEW YORK NEW YORK and the rest ... not a bad decade at all, the 70s are up there with the 50s and 60s - great to have lived through them as cinema changed and developed so much.

1975 was of course also a great year for music - on those vinyl gatefold albums, like this Joni Mitchell favourite: "The Hissing of Summer Lawns".
Other classic years here, as per labels: 1954, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1970

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Clifton and Sophia

Thanks indeed to Daryl for posting this nice shot of Projector favourites Sophia Loren and Clifton Webb in BOY ON A DOLPHIN, 1957, on my Facebook page for my birthday. Delicious ! 

The Ripleys again: Matt or Alain?

We had to have another look at THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY on television once again, the other day, despite rushing to it when released in 1999 and seen it several times since. It is Anthony Minghella's glossy adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's classic novel and is an engaging, if hollow, thriller in bright Italian sunshine. Minghella though, as per his published screenplay, greatly expands on the novel fleshing out characters, played by Cate Blanchett and Jack Davenport, who are barely mentioned by Highsmith. Cate is rich girl Meredith, while Jack is Ripley's new love - whom he has to get rid of in order to continue his duplicitous new life. 
We note also how Dickie is made more of a heel - getting that local girl pregnant and his indifference when she drowns herself - so presumably we the audience do not feel too bad when he is bumped off - but of course Jude Law is so charismatic here the film drifts once he is not there to tease and taunt Matt Damon's nerdy needy Tom. So its an overlong, drawn out affair as our glamorous people act out Highsmith's chilling tale. Philip Seymour Hoffman scores too in that key small role
What sinks it for me is the trowelled-on Fifties period detail - all those fussy '50s fashions they wear, with hats and gloves. Whereas in Rene Clement's PLEIN SOLEIL, the 1959 original, they were smart casual clothes that would still be fashionable now, they look strikingly modern in fact - and 24 year old Alain Delon, stunnng Marie Laforet and Maurice Ronet as Dickie are all perfectly right. Its a shorter tale, and even with that changed ending, it works better. Delon in that ice blue suit strolling around the market, and Marie Laforet as Marge strumming that guitar surrounded by her Fra Angelico prints, and the tensions of the three of them on the boat, and of course Dickie suddenly realising he is in danger after pushing Tom too far ... all set on the real mediterranean of 1959 as captured by Henri Decae's glowing colours. 
I have written a lot about PLEIN SOLEIL here, see the labels below, It is of course the tale of how New York wannabe Tom Ripley's life changes after he is sent to Italy to haul back errant playboy Dickie Greenleaf. In the 1999 version Matt Damon makes Ripley suitably sinister and needy and Jude Law is at his charismatic best as the wastrel rich boy whom Ripley wants for himself or failing that to be him, taking over his life ...just as Delon and Ronet played it in 1959.
I first saw that version when 14 in 1960, when it opened my eyes to European glamour and beauty. Its a seminal movie for me. as much as 2001, BLOW-UP, or LA NOTTE BRAVA, SANDRA, MODESTY BLAISE, WHATS NEW PUSSYCAT? etc. but THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY is fascinating too.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Donna: de luxe and re-issued

I am delighted to finally have a cd of Donna's 1982 album titled "Donna Summer", the one produced by Quincy Jones - and a de luxe, remastered edition too, in a book format, with copious notes and extra versions of "Love is in Conrol" and "State of Independence". This for me is Donna's best later album and has been unavailable on cd for a long time. The album with Quincy Jones is one of my favourite 80's albums that never sounds dated and Donna's voice sounds amazing.  

"Love is in Control" was the first song I heard on a friend's Sony Walkman, so I had to dash out and get my own one - it still sounds terrific now, and I love her version of the Billy Strayhorn classic "Lush Life".

Its part of a 6 cd boxset, but the albums are available singly at a good price. Looks like Donna is back in favour again ... It was also good to get Grace Jones' seminal album "Nightclubbing" also in that de luxe re-mastered format with lots of extra tracks, earlier this year - Grace Jones label - and Diana Ross's Chic album "Diana". 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Kay by Cecil

And here is a nice photo of Projector favourite Kay Kendall, taken by Cecil Beaton - see post on him below, with Gary Cooper. Beaton also did some portraits of Rex Harrison (and Audrey Hepburn and Gladys Cooper) on the set of MY FAIR LADY in 1964. Kay died in 1959 - here are some other nice shots of her, which are new to me. 

She certainly knew how to wear furs (below, for Vogue in 1957) and feather boas - as in THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE in 1958 - it was a delight seeing it revived on the big screen a year or so ago. 
Lots more Kay at label ....