2020 films and stuff

A lot of things happened in 2020, but mostly they happened to other people because I didn’t leave the house for most of the year.

And like, I don’t really have anything to say here about those things.

Anyway, on to the customary look back at the new films I saw in 2020 from least liked to most liked. I didn’t step foot in a cinema all year1, so I’m not entirely sure how I ended up seeing a good 10-15 more new films than usual – especially since I had a hard time sitting down and watching anything much over an hour long – and somehow I ended up watching like 100 films in total which seems… excessive. In previous years, I’ve said something about each film – that’s not happening today lol.

  • Genus Pan – This and the next film were just SO boring. This is the kind of thing I end up seeing when there’s a global pandemic and the film festival I normally go to moves online removing the logistic obstacles that needing to get a train across town to another cinema puts in my way.
  • Striding Into The Wind
  • Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal – Turns out I don’t enjoy interactive films
  • The Yalta Conference Online – In some ways, doing the Yalta Conference as a Zoom meeting was a good idea. In other ways, it was not.
  • Motorcycle Drive By
  • David Byrne’s American Utopia – Maybe this was overhyped? Maybe I’m just not that into David Byrne’s music?
  • The Light Side
  • Summer Shade
  • 180 Degree Rule
  • I Am Patrick: The Patron Saint of Ireland
  • Possessor – Everything I heard about this one beforehand was like “oooh scary horror, oooh body horror” (I guess because Brandon Cronenberg did it) but like… it’s just a science fiction film. It’s not scary horror.
  • Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And Legendary Tapes
  • Shadow Country
  • Sound for the Future
  • Identifying Features
  • The Real Right Stuff
  • Mulan – I still don’t get why so many of the animated Disney films get remade as live action (well, I mean, I DO, it’s for the money BUT STILL). This was… same old, same old I guess.
  • Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb
  • My Octopus Teacher
  • The Disciple – This was really good. I feel like a lot of good films seem to be way down the list but it’s just that I saw a lot of new films this year.
  • Wildfire
  • The Old Guard
  • Cicada
  • African Apocalypse
  • Ari Eldjárn: Pardon My Icelandic – Does an hour-long Netflix comedy special count as a film? Well, I guess. It’s in the films section after all.
  • Jude – This is a film about someone I know and tbh I don’t know whether I can really categorise it in with all the others very well because it’s valuable to me AS a film about this person and it’s not there to be entertainment.
  • One Man and His Shoes
  • The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special
  • Herself
  • The Reason I Jump
  • Time
  • John Was Trying to Contact Aliens
  • Soul – I wanted to go and see Soul as part of LFF but it was one of the in-person-at-the-cinema-only ones, which obviously was ridiculous because of the global pandemic, but then it eventually came to Disney Plus so here we are.
  • Undine – I kind of knew the folklore so I figured I knew what would happen, and then stuff happened and it didn’t seem like that but then you get to the end of the film and you realise that exactly what was supposed to happen did happen.
  • Mogul Mowgli – This was a big m o o d from start to finish.

    “They ever ask you, “Where you from?” Like, “Where you really from?” The question seems simple, but the answer’s kinda long”

  • Stray – I don’t know what I expected when I got a ticket to see a film about stray dogs in Turkey – certainly not a film that’s told at dog-height, but it works and it was great.
  • Wolfwalkers – We all know that the villain has always been Oliver Cromwell. The art in this was fantastic,
  • Enola Holmes – I am here for a whole franchise of this. CHURN THEM OUT. I will watch them. Forever lol at Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes.
  • The Painter and the Thief – This kind of reminds me of the film Dancer, which was about Sergei Polunin, in that clearly they start making the film and don’t really have any idea of where the story will end up and then it ends up being amazing.
  • Never Gonna Snow Again – Funny but also kind of sad.
  • Another Round – Yes, the last like 5-10 minutes are fantastic, but I think they’re only so good because you’ve just watched the whole film before that part and you need to, to kind of get that release.
  • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga – I LOVE Eurovision and this was great and the best part is how we never actually find out who won that context because that is not the point – much in the same way that with real Eurovision, it’s not really winning that’s the point for me.
  • Rising Phoenix – This was a really good look at a few Paralympic athletes from various backgrounds. I really hope that the Games can go ahead this year if there is a safe-as-possible way to do so, but at the same time WILL it be possible?
  • Uncle Vanya – Ok, yes, this is the filmed version of a play that I did actually go to see in person, in the theatre, about a week before my workplace sent us all to work from home and maybe 10 days before the entire country did her first lockdown. I’m not convinced that all of the changes they made (mostly way the monologues played out, but how would I have it differently???) were all good choices, but when I watched this on TV, I still felt exactly as I had when I’d finished watching in the theatre. Would this play leave me as emotionally wrung out at the end in any other year? Maybe not, but maybe so. The set was even more beautiful in person, and I’m not sure that the film really captures that. Incredible 2020 vibes.

While I didn’t get to go to the cinema last year, I did manage to go to two gigs back in February – Dave Hause at the Union Chapel which was FANTASTIC and Asgeir at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, which was also delightful. Bedouin Soundclash was supposed to happen in May, but got pushed back to February 2021 and of course, it’s now been cancelled. I’m not sure that they’ll tour again so I’m glad I saw them when I could. The Star Wars concert that I was supposed to attend in March, was also cancelled, but I guess someone is always going to put on a Star Wars concert at the Royal Albert Hall, so that one will come around again one day.

1.I was going to say “weirdly,” but look, we all know what’s going on this year so it’s not weird at all.

In the plague tiems

Considering the number of places my blog posts syndicate out to, you’d think I’d update a little more than I do. Such is life.

I’ve been catching up on a bunch of unread email newsletters in ye olde inbox and it’s like time-travel in a really nice way. The world when those missives were sent was still not that great a place but at least less of us were suffering and dying thanks to some pandemic and the failures of government.

The Home Screen newsletter (actually a recent edition, rather than one from some time last year) talked about how Adobe doesn’t like Photoshop to be used as a verb and I could only think that they probably wouldn’t be too fond of how I and a few other people say “potato-chopped” instead.

Read an article about people not remembering the 1918 Flu Pandemic and realising I had no idea that people don’t know about it? I guess a lot of people don’t study that period of history, and if they do learn about the First World War, they don’t learn about how there was this big double whammy of awful at the time. Plus, I guess, people who were alive then and are still alive now would have been tiny babies and there really aren’t that many of them left. And who hangs out with the elderly?

I mean, ok. I do and yeah, I knew a lady whose Dad survived WWI only to get it from flu when he came home – her mum used to drag her along to his grave on birthdays and Christmas and she hated it.

And I was thinking about it the other day, in the sense of “well how did we survive that?” but the thing is – millions and millions of us just didn’t. It’s that the way death works is that when you’re dead you’re not going to come back and chat about how you were sick and it was awful.

Saturday the 14th

It’s not quite time for my end of year film list (since I have at least one new film left to watch this year) but there have been things I’ve been thinking about writing down for probably a month now and just haven’t so here are some of those things.

  • I read an article about morning routine stories and how the right kind of morning routine is supposed to be able to make you more productive and how recently they’ve kind of morphed into a kind of self-care space and then went on to talk other ideas developing on from that. My weekday morning routine is to wake at 7am, visit the bathroom, fill my water bottle, put out my cereal bar and make a cup of tea that I then take upstairs and put on the bedside table. Then I get right on back into bed and go to sleep until the radio turns on at 7.30am and I find that past-me has kindly made now-me a cup of tea.
    And then like, get ready for work, leave the house, blah blah blah.
  • Still haven’t gotten the crib down from on top of the wardrobe to set it up downstairs for Christmas. Feels like it will be a lot of effort, although it will be the same amount of effort that it is every year and it’s just me that changes. The last couple of months have been kind of vague-feeling and I’ve been studiously ignoring it and buying tickets for things to look forward to instead. One week left until the days start getting longer again, maybe that will help too.
  • The election. Ugh. That’s not helped. I don’t get how people can throw the poor, sick, vulnerable, marginalised etc under the bus and for what? The people I know who’ve voted Conservative are certainly not going to profit from it and just, ugh. So many things. Briefly looked into whether emigrating to Germany or the Netherlands was possible. Considered moving to Scotland. Thought about the religious life again (although that’s a thing I think about on and off and just haven’t ruled out). And being right about what the new government will do doesn’t even have the satisfaction of being able to say “I told you so” because it will be a tragedy. I suppose a Conservative vote is a selfish vote but how does being selfish uplift society? If we don’t help everyone up, even a little bit, then how can we progress and make great new discoveries? I guess I watch too much Star Trek.
  • I basically need a TV channel that is Agatha Christie all the time. All the Marples. David Suchet’s Poirot. Tommy and Tuppence. Just that and nothing else.
  • I’d probably take a bird table livestream too.
  • If the psychiatric hospitals hadn’t been shut down  20-odd years ago, would the mental health of the nation be better now? I don’t know the answer to that, but the resource would be there at least.
  • Of course, I can’t remember most of the things I was thinking about writing down for the last month.

Sleeves

Today I’m wearing a dress that my Mum made for me a few years ago. She made two dresses at the time but it’s only occurred to me now, that that’s when she really understood the trouble I have with getting shirts and dresses that fit properly across my shoulders and allow me to still move my arms.

The dresses don’t have sleeves because she had such trouble having to alter them away from their original patterns to make them fit that she decided to cut her losses. LOL.

Hoarding

What’s Causing the Rise of Hoarding Disorder?

Even if they want to downsize (which is rare), there’s the overwhelming difficulty of sorting through the mess. People with severe hoarding disorder tend to be easily distracted and have a hard time focusing and concentrating. Paradoxically, they also tend to be perfectionists, so they’ll put off making decisions rather than risk being wrong. And when it comes to their own stuff, they don’t categorize by type. Rather than see an object as a member of a large group (say, one of 42 black T-shirts), they see it as singular, unique, special. Each black T-shirt is perceived apart from the others and carries its own history, significance, and worth. It’s not even categorized for storage (folded with other black T-shirts in a T-shirt drawer), but rather placed on a pile and retrieved spatially (that particular black T-shirt lives about four inches from the bottom of the corner stack). This leads to a deep aversion to someone touching the piles or sifting through them, unwittingly destroying the invisible ordering system.

It me.

Well, I’m somewhere between untidy and hoarder because when I do actually tidy, there’s a lot less “stuff” but yeah, that’s basically my filing system. Whenever a well-intentioned person attempts to tidy for me, without my knowledge, I always end up losing stuff and… having to buy replacements because I can’t find the thing – which I feel is the opposite of what the ideal outcome would be. :/

So far some of the things lost when tidied include: a boxed copy of Evil Genius (which I’ve just re-bought in the Steam sale as a download), a mobile phone and most recently the cable to connect my camera to my laptop (and also to charge my Mum’s Kobo – so yeah I’ve had to re-buy that one).

And there’s no way of knowing if the lost things are just…here somewhere or if they’ve accidentally gone in the bin.

The 42 black t-shirts is also me. However,  I have a “black t-shirt shelf” to go with my “not-black t-shirt” shelf.

Tuesday

I am languishing in my sickbed, riddled with plague and reading about all this Tumblr stuff.

Maybe not plague. A cold.

I know that the ringing in my ears is louder when I’m sick, but it’s coupled with the sound of the water moving through the radiators and hot water pipes – a similar sound to the one I hear in my ears – which makes it all worse somehow. No amount of earplug-wearing will help when it’s a noise already in my head.

Coincidentally, I’m also reading about how places like restaurants are really loud. I’m constantly thinking about how loud places are and how it seems like everywhere has gotten louder but can’t really decided whether they really have become louder or I just notice more now that I try to avoid loud noises. Probably both.

Restaurants are so loud because architects don’t design them to be quiet. Much of this shift in design boils down to changing conceptions of what makes a space seem upscale or luxurious, as well as evolving trends in food service. Right now, high-end surfaces connote luxury, such as the slate and wood of restaurants including The Osprey in Brooklyn or Atomix in Manhattan.

This trend is not limited to New York. According to Architectural Digestmid-century modern and minimalism are both here to stay. That means sparse, modern decor; high, exposed ceilings; and almost no soft goods, such as curtains, upholstery, or carpets. These design features are a feast for the eyes, but a nightmare for the ears. No soft goods and tall ceilings mean nothing is absorbing sound energy, and a room full of hard surfaces serves as a big sonic mirror, reflecting sound around the room.The result is a loud space that renders speech unintelligible. Now that it’s so commonplace, the din of a loud restaurant is unavoidable. That’s bad for your health—and worse for the staff who works there. But it also degrades the thing that eating out is meant to culture: a shared social experience that rejuvenates, rather than harms, its participants.
And the Underground is SO loud. I mostly travel on the Northern line when I use the tube and the TRAINS are SO LOUD. If you want to talk to someone, you’d have to shout (on the other hand what are you doing, breaking the unwritten rule of not speaking on the tube). I always wonder about how loud people must have the volume for whatever they are listening to on their headphones. I think about how that kind of volume from headphones on my own ears would probably be worse for my tinnitus than the sound of the trains the music would be drowning out. At least I can wear earplugs on the train.

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene

Romeo & Juliet at the Union Chapel
On Saturday, I went to see Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet at the Union Chapel, with a live choir. Basically that meant that there was about half an hour’s performance of some of the songs from a choir before the film along with some dude saying various quotes from throughout the play. Then they did a song at the end and some guy in the audience then proposed to his girlfriend, she said yes, we all clapped and the choir did another song, dedicated to the couple.
I don’t really get why someone would pick Romeo + Juliet as a prelude to popping the question, as so many people die and namely the “happy couple.” I am sure it was probably a nice evening for them so that must add context.
Romeo + Juliet was great though. I first saw it when I was about 12 and I didn’t really get probably about half of the language used, but it’s like watching Chinese historical dramas – you don’t know what anyone is really saying, but they are doing the right faces. I guess it probably helped that I studied the play at school afterwards and I’ve learnt a bit more about Shakespeare and that since then. Watching now, over 20 years after the film was released, and looking at 20 years ago Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes was kind of weird. I guess when I first saw it, the actors were like 5-10 years older than me and I was just watching stuff happening to people. Watching now, looking at 21 year old Leonardo and 17 year old Claire Danes, from the viewpoint of someone now in their thirties and like… they are really dramatic children. I know in Zeffirelli’s version, Romeo and Juliet are played by even younger actors – but they’re not in a relatable modern setting. I’m sure I must have written an essay about this in school, but man those kids needed some responsible adults in their lives who didn’t enable their nonsense.

It wouldn’t be quite so entertaining a play though.

What else? I think that’s all I have.

102

Today my Granddad would have been 102 years old, had he not died 14 years ago. He missed his birthday that year by a few days. We went out to the local carvery and had roast dinner in his honour. Inevitably we will always go out to eat roast dinner, because the right variety of bits for a roast dinner is tricky when you’ve only got two people to eat the thing.

On Wednesday night, I went to see Larry & His Flask at the Islington Academy. Weirdly I don’t think I had really listened to any of their music, since the last time I saw them live, bought an album and played it in the car on the way home. All I knew was that I enjoyed the last time I had seen them and it felt like ages since I had seen them and that I should see them again.

Which, of course, was the right decision.

Sam Russo, whose music I also like, and Crazy Arm, whose music I’d never heard but I think Emma likes, supported and were good. The last time I saw Sam Russo, he was supporting Dave Hause and he’d done his leg in but remained charming. He’s still charming and his music is still great but seems to admit to a lot of crime? He says he didn’t murder anyone, which is good.

Larry & His Flask though. I was thinking as I stood there listening, that my Dad would have really enjoyed their music. Being an only child, my parents were always fairly protective (maybe overprotective as I’ve always been cautious anyway) so my Dad used to come to gigs with me. He took me to my first gig – AFI’s Nightmare After Christmas gig at the London Astoria back in like 2002. We went to festivals and gigs and I never minded that I always “had” to go with my Dad because we had a great time and he was always up for going. I suppose maybe I was lucky that my Dad would listen to the music I liked – it always seemed more difficult for other people I knew whose folks weren’t keen on them going out late on a school-night and there was the tension between having to hurry home after and not wanting to hurry back. No such problem for me and my Dad, because since he didn’t like public transport, he would always drive us there and back and we didn’t have to contend with the thought of missing the train.

Plus like, he would buy the tickets and the drinks and the merch because he was my Dad and I was the child. I’ve still got the hoodie he bought for me at that first gig – he popped out during the encore to buy me something, have a smoke and bring the car round and miss all the crowds going for their cars and that.

Now, I don’t think my Dad loved AFI, even though he saw them probably 6 or 7 times over the years, but I think he would really have enjoyed seeing Larry & His Flask. This was the thought I had on Wednesday night, along with the thought that everyone there seemed to be really joyful and happy that Larry & His Flask were back on tour and were playing for us all that night.

I really want to seem them again.

Other things:

  • I am hoping that Anthropocene will be at the London Film Festival this year and at a time I can make. Last year, I got lucky that all the various extra religious holidays that my work gives us off overlapped with LFF but this year it’s all a month early so maybe I’m going to have to take actual time off to see films. We’ll see.
  • Our Attitude Toward Aliens Proves We Still Think We’re Special – I guess I just figured that aliens have a Prime Directive, like there is in Star Trek.
  • An idea that really resonated with me:

    “A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits.

    Multipotentialites have no “one true calling” the way specialists do. Being a multipotentialite is our destiny. We have many paths and we pursue all of them, either sequentially or simultaneously (or both).

    Multipotentialites thrive on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills. We are excellent at bringing disparate ideas together in creative ways. This makes us incredible innovators and problem solvers.

    When it comes to new interests that emerge, our insatiable curiosity leads us to absorb everything we can get our hands on. As a result, we pick up new skills fast and tend to be a wealth of information.”
    — Emilie Wapnick, Puttylike (found here)

  • The Story We Don’t Talk About: On Irishness, Immigration, and Race
  • I like to think that this ice cream was made from Old ones.
  • About my favourite food in the whole world.

Chinese Food etc

So I’m reading about a place I’ve been to eat at a few times and the article has the following:

Until roughly a decade ago, when the Chinese began travelling more freely, bringing with them thrillingly punchy cooking from its various provinces, Chinese food in Britain was dying. It was dominated by over-sweetened iterations of clumsy Cantonese dishes which made you hate yourself for eating them.

And I cannot help but wonder where this person had been going to eat. I mean sure, you do have English-Chinese food, but that’s why when you go to a Chinese restaurant you take a look and see if there are more white people than Chinese people there and then you know what kind of Chinese food to expect. I guess this guy didn’t know about the secret Chinese menu.

Uppercross excited no interest, Kellynch very little: it was all Bath.

Which is pretty true, tbh. I have no idea what house Uppercross and Kellynch might be based upon but visiting Bath last week was excellent and I’d heartily recommend a trip there to pretty much anyone. I’m not entirely sure why we never visited Bath before, since it’s only about two hours drive away.

Bailbrook House Hotel
Bailbrook House Hotel

I randomly managed to pick a hotel within 5 minutes drive of Bath and that turned out to be very comfortable with nice grounds and fantastic staff at a reasonable price (at least in comparison to what else was on offer in the area). Handily, it also turned out to be within 5 minutes (in the other direction) of the nearest Catholic church and that church turned out to have a decent-sized car park so we didn’t end up taking the 30 minute walk there on the Sunday were were there.

I don’t think I’ve eaten so many eggs for breakfast in a week at any other time in my life, but what are you going to do when the breakfast restaurant will do poached eggs (or in fact, eggs benedict) or soft boiled eggs and soldiers so well? Plus I’m sure it fortified me for a day’s sightseeing. Yes. That is exactly it.

The Royal Crescent
The Royal Crescent

As with most holidays that don’t have a pre-planned itinerary from a tour operator, we ended up sight-seeing at random. First up was the Royal Crescent.

It turns out that while house numbers 2 to 30 Royal Crescent have been turned into a swanky hotel, no. 1 Royal Crescent has been turned into a museum and decorated in much the same way as it would have been in the late 18th century. The rooms and history of the house was fascinating, but what really stood out was how the staff all seemed to be really interested in the house and sharing information about it and the Georgian period with visitors.

More about Bath to come!

Continue reading “Uppercross excited no interest, Kellynch very little: it was all Bath.”