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, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

News round-up: Elton, Jacobi, Jasmine, bad reviews, Vanessa, Downton Tabby, A Single Man again ...

Sliding into mid-autumn already here, at least the 2 pigeons who live in the tree in the garden are still around ...

Sirs Elton and Jacobi: I did not think I would be buying any more Elton John albums. Like Rod Stewart (whom I also liked back in that 1970 era - over 40 years ago!) he seemed a spent force now - content to churn out concerts for the faithful who had not seem him yet. At least Dame Elton did not attempt The Great American Songbook or albums of Tamla covers or Christmas songs. His new album however THE IRONING BOARD - sorry, THE DIVING BOARD, has been getting universal raves - like that other '70s figure back with a stunning album this year - David Bowie's THE NEXT DAY.

THE DIVING BOARD is a treat with a host of new songs, some of which I am not too familiar with yet - but "Oscar Wilde Gets Out" is a stunner, with a simple lolloping piano background Bernie Taupin's lyric imagines Oscar's release from prison as he heads off to France and exile. Its going to be a grower, as no doubt will others on here. Recorded with a pared-down unit of piano, bass and drums, it is quite an achievement for an artist in his sixth decade. 
I suppose I could say that I used to 'hang out' with Elton back in the early 70s, that year 1972 when I moved to Chelsea and shared an apartment just off Kings Road, where we could congregate on Saturday afternoons, when Elton would drop in to D J Noel Edmunds' record shop where he would chat and sign albums - he signed my DON'T SHOOT ME I'M ONLY THE PIANO PLAYER gatefold - 
and I also remember chatting to him at Harrods, where he was sporting a pink suit, and with manager John Reid (and we saw 2 early concerts of his, one with Marc Bolan - at one of these I had a spare ticket which I sold to a visiting American or Canadian, who pulled out a large joint during the concert, which we smoked, to my initial "you can't do that here"  - how very rock'n'roll!). This was also the year I met Joni Mitchell, also in Kings Road - people must just have been more approachable back then, they didn't have entourages and were friendly, as both Joni and Elton were. I liked those first 3 albums of his - the ELTON JOHN album, TUMBLEWEED CONNECTION (you can hear Dusty on background vocals) and MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER - even now the opening chords of "Your Song" or "Tiny Dancer" bring it all back - like Rod's "Every Picture Tells A Story". By the time Elton has succumbed to showbiz glitz we had moved on, and also moved from Chelsea, down to South London .... good though to have Elton back, in good health again, and with a successful album, now lets hope its a popular success as well.

Sir Derek Jacobi's book is an engrossing read - a treasure trove of theatrical stories, featuring the likes of "Sir" (Laurence Olivier), Maggie Smith, Sarah Miles, Edith Evans, Ian McKellen and all the others Jacobi worked with, particularly during those great National Theatre days of the '60s. Young Michael York was also there, and it seems they were all besotted with him. He and Jacobi were friends and travelled around Europe, and there is a delicious story of them dropping in on Noel Coward in Switzerland - he had told Derek to drop in if ever passing. Jacobi was also York's best man at his wedding and has some interesting comments on dinner with the Yorks! As I said, a fascinating, easy read. It is though the standard price (£20) for a theatrical memoir but surely with a memoir like this one needs an Index and a full list of stage/film/tv credits (Jacobi keeps busy, with over 130 credits according to IMDB), but they haven't bothered .... It may be worth investing in his turn as Francis Bacon opposite Daniel Craig in LOVE IS THE DEVIL ?; and it looks like there will be a second series of that dreadful sitcom VICIOUS about the bickering old queens. The book is by Derek "as told to Garry O'Connor" (a reliable theatre biographer - he did a tome on Ralph Richardson, as I recall) - and indeed reads like Sir Derek is talking to us himself.  Just one howler: Veteran director Fred Zinnemann (Derek had a part in his DAY OF THE JACKAL is referred to as Fred Zimmermann 3 or 4 times!
Writer David Plante's book BECOMING A LONDONER will also be an engrossing read, covering as it does his arrival here in the '60s and being part of the Hockney/London literati set, due to his relationship with Nikos Stangos ... another fascinating '60s memoir then; also like Victor Spinetti in his delicious memoirs, Sir Derek has only good to say about Richard Burton with some nice tales of Burton's generosity, including to other actors. 

Its been an amusing week for reviews of current events. Two new films have encouraged the critics to heights of new adjectives. R.I.P.D. is DOA and TBA.
"Just when we assumed we'd seen the last of this year's wretched batch of summer blockbusters - many of them commercial and critical duds - one last contender arrives late, limping its way into release. Against stiff opposition R.I.P.D. may be the worst of the lot ... its laughs are almost non-existant, its action depends on seen-it-all-before CGI trickery and its plot defies comprehension" - seems such a waste of Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges - but surely they must have realised what a stinker they were making.

DIANA on the other hand has had them laughing out loud. "An utterly pointless, shoddily scripted biopic that does no honour to the memory of the Princess of Wales .... the film is likely to be best remembered (if at all) for its squirmingly embarassing dialogue and unintentionally comic moments" and "Connoisseurs of awful films will enjoy this fantasy of what famous people are like in private" - its a Rom-Trag (as opposed to rom-com) as the tragedy unfolds. Naomi Watts (so good in EASTERN PRIOMISES, 2000s label) is not even the same height as the real Diana who was very tall. An interesting comment of Camilla Paglia's is quoted - that Diana was the last great silent movie star.

Why though do well-known actresses continue these impersonations?, which can never match the well-known reality - we are also getting Nicole Kidman as GRACE OF MONACO. I think we can safely assume that neither of them will be competing with Cate Blanchett (BLUE JASMINE) or Judi Dench (PHILOMENA) come next award season - here they are in their NOTES ON A SCANDAL in 2006, below The new Woody - his best in years it seems - opens here this week. I loved MIDNIGHT IN PARIS as per my review (2000s label) but just did not want to see his laboured TO ROME WITH LOVE at all. Talk about busy: I just checked Blanchett's profile on IMDB, she has so many current projects in pre and post production, including a Patricia Highsmith: CAROL. Interesting interview with her today too - she has been reading Highsmith novels and showing VERTIGO to her 5-year-old, also saw 2 television interviews with her, so they are certainly promoting the new Allen film! She has also got the well-paid gig of being the face of that new Armani perfume 'Si'. Woody has already had another filmed since JASMINE! (and the ever busy Sir Jacobi pops up in GRACE OF MONACO, like he did in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN!).
Odd reviews too for David Walliams as Bottom in the new A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM - "The Daily Telegraph" hated him, while other reviews have been raves, and it seems the new MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING with Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones, at the Old Vic, has fallen rather flat, with the leads being rather too old. Mark Rylance's production has set the play in 1944 wartime England, hence Vanessa with her gun out shooting rabbits! - like an older version of her lady of the manor in YANKS ?!

Another eye-catching quote - by "Sunday Times" critic A.A. Gill: "Kate Moss's one-liner "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" is the defining quote of our age". I like it.

Meanwhile, Benedict Cumberbatch looks just right as Alan Turing in that new film he is making with Keira Knightley. I trust it will be true to the Turing story ... (Sir Derek of course also played Turing in BREAKING THE CODE).

The London Film Festival is about to open, and DOWNTON ABBEY is back for its 4th season tonight -  bring on the Gin & Tonic ... yes, Autumn is certainly in full swing! and of course we have STRICTLY COME DANCING too: Keep dancing! and I must get to see that new Italian film THE GREAT BEAUTY in the cinema this week.  

Another look too at Tom Ford's A SINGLE MAN, on tv: I covered this in full in my review (A SINGLE MAN label) - it seems more annoying now: a classic novel turned into a high fashion shoot, with a house and clothes totally not right for 1962 when the story is set, there is no gun or suicide intent in the book where George and Charley (Julianne Moore) are ageing in their late fifties, in rundown homes - not the glamour here in the movie, making it more unlikely that the fit 40s George would suddenly keel over - Isherwood in the novel imagines the time when George's body would give out - not it literally happening there and then when the young student (who is soon got out of his white underwear) is still in the house ....  

How to view DOWNTON ABBEY: Today's papers report complaints about the number of ad breaks in the latest series (fourth) of DOWNTON ABBEY - same as the others then. It seems that of the 90 minute programme 67 were the programme with 23 minutes of adverts, almost at 10 minute intervals. Here's how I watch it:  Record it to your device (Sky+ box in my case), prepare a gin & tonic, and begin watching the recording half an hour or so later, with drink in hand - then you can zap out the commercial breaks as they occur without ruining your enjoyment of the programme! The dvd should be out for Christmas!

And finally: 20 more posts and I will have clocked up 1,000 (as per archive and labels, below, right hand side) - which I think is enough for me, I never imagined I would do that many when I began back in 2010. I think I will have covered all I wanted to by then during my 3 years here, and I do have other writing projects I want to get on with - maybe my own '60s memoir! It won't be farewell though, I shall still be looking in and adding comments and photos of interest - so keep watching! 

1 comment:

  1. Just in and read your News, a great piece. More of this please. Actually, the 'Metro' could do with the column instead of wall to wall Jessie J and Rhianna.