film, film reviews, history, Uncategorized

Kitchen-Sink Films of The Sixties.

The 1960s heralded a new age for cinema with the production of many, what were termed, ‘kitchen sink’ dramas. These films centred around the social reality of life as part of the working-class. Films such as ‘The Loneliness of The Long-Distance Runner’, ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.’ For the first time, these films looked at the struggles of the working-class. They were gritty, without any rose-tinted frames and many focused-on characters with strong working-class accents who lived in or on the peripheries of poverty. They looked at real life in all its bleakness. Themes such as extra-marital and inter-racial sex, unwanted pregnancies, illegal terminations, and homelessness. For once films were shot on the location in which they happened. The Sixties was a time of enormous social change and when we watch these films now, the landscape is one of a Britain long since left behind. This was also an age when you were supposed to accept your fate in life and not try and rise above your class.

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I have always had great affection for such films and many of these are up there with some of my all-time cinema greats. I am not sure why, except that my parents used to show me such films and explain how difficult and miserable life had been during the late fifties and sixties. My Father came from a very working-class background. He told me that his mother had been desperate for him to take up a paper round when he was thirteen in order to contribute to the very limited family budget. My Dad tells me that during that period, when midwives would go to the families of the poor, if they saw that they already had a large family and were struggling to eat, the midwife would suffocate the baby away from the parents and then claim that it had been stillborn. It was the archetypal example of being cruel to be kind.

The working-class in those days would often work in low-paid, menial and monotonous jobs in factories. My Grandma and her sister had worked in John Player’s cigarette factory in Nottingham, stripping the tobacco. My Grandad worked for Raleigh. The Raleigh Factory is featured in one of my favourite films from the period Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.  Starring Albert Finney in the lead role of Arthur Seaton, it tells the story of a Nottingham factory worker who is having a relationship with a married woman and she becomes pregnant by him. The film was based on Alan Sillitoe’s novel of the same name and he adapted it for film. Arthur Seaton is the archetypal angry young man, desperate to escape the repressive system and rebel against the older generation. When this film came out in 1960, many thought that it was so realistic, that it must be a documentary. A little bit of trivia is that my Great-Grandmother lived in the same street as Alan Sillitoe and his family in Nottingham when he was growing up and she even acted as his wet nurse for a time.

 

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Billy Liar may be my ultimate favourite film, ever. I have seen it so many times. It starred the sublime Tom Courtney. The film is based on Keith Waterhouse’s book in which Billy Fisher is a young working-class lad who lives with his parents in Yorkshire. Billy hates the mundanity of working as a clerk for an undertaker and spends his time living out extravagant fantasies in which he is a famous comedy-writer. As the title suggests, Billy’s lies become bigger and more ambitious as the film unfolds. The film starred the very beautiful Julie Christie in her breakthrough film role. Although Billy seems to get himself in more and more trouble during the film, there is a great deal of slapstick humour. Tom Courtney is so believable in the role, that you just want to shake him and bring him to his senses to stop the huge snowball of lies from exploding and causing utter mayhem.

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A Kind of Loving stars Alan Bates in the role of Viv Brown, a draughtsman who falls for the beautiful but ice-cold and petulant Ingrid. Ingrid becomes pregnant and Viv is forced to marry her and move in with her domineering mother played by Dame Thora Hird, who was only fifty-one when the film was shot, but appears much older.

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Georgy Girl. Starring Lynn Redgrave as the awkward and plump Georgy. This film tells the tale of what it is like not to fit in because of how you look in Swinging Sixties London. Lynn Redgrave’s enthusiasm and vulnerability stand out in this comedy drama.

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Poor Cow Carol White stars in this film directed by Ken Loach about a young teenage girl named Joy, who makes incredibly bad life choices. First, she becomes pregnant by Tom and they marry. Tom begins to abuse Joy, but he ends up in prison for attempted robbery. Joy then takes up with Tom’s associate, Dave, played by the utterly gorgeous Terence Stamp. Sadly, Dave ends up in prison himself and Joy reunites with Tom, only for him to continue to abuse her. The film was a surprising success when it was released in 1967. Like much of Ken Loach’s work, it has a documentary and improvisational feel to it, and it was not afraid to look at the more unspoken aspects of family life and marriage.

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A Taste of Honey : Staring the very striking Rita Tushingham, it tells the story of a seventeen year old schoolgirl named Jo, who has a very difficult relationship with her alcoholic mother. She meets a black sailor and becomes pregnant. The film was based on a play by the then nineteen-year-old Shelagh Delaney. It was something of a revolutionary play and film, since it is one of the first plays and films to comment on, and put into question, class, race, gender and sexual orientation in mid-twentieth-century Britain.

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All of these films are available on DVD if you click on the film title, it will take you directly to the link on Amazon. They are an essential part of social and film history and will remain so for many years yet. 

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blogging, television, Uncategorized

Better Things : One of the Few American Shows I Will Watch.

BETTER THINGS BBC I-PLAYER 

As I get older, I find it more and more difficult to find programmes on television that I enjoy. My husband gets quite frustrated with me, as I’ll start watching something and then stop because I usually find that the programme is ‘too slow’.  It is rare that I will watch anything that is American. The only shows that I have watched being House, Breaking Bad and 30Rock and Making a Murderer. I was attracted to watching ‘Getting Better’ because I heard that Celia Imrie was in it. I have to say that I was disappointed when I learnt that it was American, as usually that will mean I dislike it. However, I found the main character, Sam Fox, (no relation to the glamour model!) instantly likeable and last night we ended up binge watching the entire first series of ten episodes. So, if I like it, there is a good chance that you will too.

closeup photo of person holding panasonic remote control in front of turned on smart television
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

The programme follows the life of Sam Fox, a former child-star who is now mainly a jobbing actress and voice-over star. She is also a single parent of three daughters who are far from easy. Her mother, played by Celia Imrie lives next door and is not unlike my own mother, with her slightly eccentric behaviour and racist views. It is meant to be a comedy, but the comedy is gentle and more situational than laugh out loud funny. It reminds me of Jo Brand’s irreverent and self-deprecating humour. Those moments in life when things go spectacularly wrong, mainly because of those family members we spend out lives with.

The lead role is played by Pamela Adlon and is semi-autobiographical, as Adlon is also a single parent and voice-over actress, with three daughters. She wrote the show with Louis Szekely, a comedian and it has been produced by the FX channel. I think what really makes the programme work is that Sam is struggling to be a parent as well as the sole breadwinner. Parenting three individual daughters is incredibly hard and she frequently gets it wrong. There is a lot of comedy in her interaction with her girls. Sam is a bit of a tiger Mum, fiercely protective of her kids to such a point that she even threatens her daughter Max’ s boyfriend with what she will do if he tries to have sex with her daughter. The scenes with Celia Imrie are pure joy. Imrie is such an incredible actress that is easy to believe that she really is such a dotty old lady with hoarding tendencies.

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This is definitely an intelligent programme that really makes you think about the different roles women play in their lives from daughter to mother to grandmother as well as the different stages that we all experience. I loved Sam’s rousing speech on feminism at her daughter’s school. There are very few men in the show and those that are present are mere bit players in life.

There were ten episodes that we watched in quick succession and I’m really pleased that this show has already shot a second and third series. You can watch the entire first series on BBC I-Player. If I enjoyed it, then you definitely will! I give it four stars out of five.

 

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barnsley, blogging, Discussion, Uncategorized

In A World Where You Can Be Anything…

It’s been a tough week for me. Mega tough. I don’t want to go into the detail of it but when we go through challenging events, it can leave us feeling really exhausted and almost numb with our emotions. We want to do something about how we feel and yet we just don’t have the energy or even the will to do so.

Without giving away too much detail, whilst I was experiencing a very challenging event, a professional treated me in a very troubling and unprofessional manner. Calling into question my behaviour and presenting me a in very different light to how I am. Her comments were unnecessary, and she was trying to prove that she was better than me. I’m not sure why exactly.  I’ve tried to forget about it since but I’m a classic over-thinker and try as I might, I can’t seem to forget about it.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

A friend of mine who I have known since school, suggested to me that when I felt better then I should make a formal complaint about how I have been treated. Her view being that as a comparatively strong person, I can ignore what has been said, as I know that it is wrong. Yet this professional person might go on to treat other less confident people in the same manner and that could ultimately lead someone to break down.

I do not want to deliberately cause someone to be upset in their job and I really thought about this. However, my friend is right, you do need to call out examples of someone being unprofessional and unkind, in order for them not to continue to repeat this behaviour to others. In truth, all it boils down to is being kind to people.

There is a great saying that is frequently repeated on those inspirational quotes you see everywhere on Facebook. In a World where you can be anything, be kind. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Yet why is it that so many people find it difficult?

I remember many years ago when I was working in a boarding school, there was a particular parent who would often attend school events. On the surface she appeared quite a polite and well-mannered lady. Yet she used to have a saying that she would frequently say, “I hope you don’t mind me saying but….” She would then go on to follow it with saying something incredibly rude to someone but claim that because she began with her innocuous remark of not wishing to upset someone, then it was a licence to say some incredibly hurtful things. One day she said to someone, “I hope you don’t mind me saying but you should not be eating those cakes as really you are quite overweight.” In all truth, however she had begun the sentence, was no excuse for her being downright nasty.

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It’s the same with people who begin their sentences with “No offence but…” and then proceed to offend you with some spiteful comment. There is no excuse for saying anything that sets out deliberately to wound someone and that is just what these kinds of sentences set out to do. It’s also the same as people who make comments about your physical appearance and then say it’s just banter or a joke, or even they’re just an honest person who ‘speaks as they find.’  It isn’t a joke, it isn’t excusable when someone is upset.

I’ve never given my children a list of rules to live by. I have only ever told them to treat people as they would prefer to be treated. In our modern age why is it so hard to be kind to people? I can remember watching Bambi and hearing Thumper say, ‘If you can’t say something nice. Don’t say anything at all.’ Perhaps if we all tried harder to put this ideal into action, then we wouldn’t need to make complaints in the first place and we’d all be a lot happier?

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christmas, Days Out, history, honest review, nostalgia, places to stay, royal, Stately Homes, Uncategorized

HAREWOOD HOUSE: One of England’s Finest Treasures. You Simply Must go!

Last week we visited Harewood House, just outside of Leeds. As a lover of history, my ideal weekend is spending time visiting a stately home and, in the past, we have bought annual membership for a particular house or for English Heritage. Stately homes offer so much nowadays with a range of activities as well as special days, festivals and conventions. Over the Christmas period, we saw a wonderful television show on the BBC with Mary Berry visiting Harewood. I was struck by the impressive preparations being made to celebrate Christmas. So last weekend we made the forty-minute trip to see Harewood for ourselves.

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Harewood is steeped in history. It was originally built in the Eighteenth Century for a very wealthy plantation owner Edwin Lascelles, the first Baron Harewood. As money was no object in its building, the landscape was designed by Capability Brown. The house has an impressive collection of art treasures including family portraits by Joshua Reynolds, John Hoppner and Sir Thomas Lawrence, as well as a collection of Modern art.

In 1922 the sixth Earl married the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary; Princess Mary, who eventually became the Princess Royal, preceding our current Princess Royal: Princess Anne. They moved to Harewood in 1929.

Harewood has proved to be a very popular location and stately home. The painter Turner visited and painted the landscape. Elton John has performed in the grounds and recently the ITV television series Victoria was filmed there.

When we arrived at Harewood, we were struck by how much there was to do. This is a place where you need to spend several days to appreciate everything it has to offer. The House is incredibly impressive and when we went, there was a special exhibition on, which took as its inspiration, the dreams of Princess Mary’s two young sons at Christmas time. The exhibition had been designed by the set designer Simon Costin and it was magnificent, with a giant wicker Pan and elements of classical stories and childhood wonder at the festive period.

The most impressive room that we visited was The Gallery. The room is an incredible size being 76 feet by 24 feet and an incredible 21 feet high. We were told by the  knowledgeable guides to make sure that we looked at the ceilings. In doing so, I was reminded of the Sistine chapel in Rome. The ceilings depict the exploits of Greek Gods and Goddesses and are unique in their intricacy. The room also features many furniture designs of Thomas Chippendale – the younger – as well as a wealth of Renaissance art work. It is one of the most imposing rooms in a stately home that I have ever seen.

There is so much to see in the house. Harewood is staffed by many volunteers who clearly love the house and their enthusiasm for the place is infectious. There were many interactive exhibits such as trying on of period costumes and laminated copies of Twentieth Century magazines to flick through. You could easily spend all day there.

I am partially disabled, and I was struck by how helpful and kind all the staff were in ensuring that I was able to move around the grounds without any inconvenience. There is a shuttle bus that runs services between the Main House and the Grounds and other attractions to help those of us unable to walk any long distance. Throughout our time we were treated as though we were the only visitors to Harewood. Even the shuttle bus driver was kind and accommodating and told us what to see. It is rare to meet such genuine hospitality where nothing is too much trouble.

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The grounds  have a farm where you can feed the animals as well as a walled garden, a Himalayan garden and a bird garden. We loved seeing the penguins and Harewood offers you the chance to help feeding them. There are several shops in the grounds and they sell a wide range of beautiful gifts including scarves, teas, biscuits and most importantly Harewood Gin. Throughout the year there are many activities and events such as music concerts, art exhibitions and a food and drink festival. The price for a year’s membership is exceptional value for money. We also enjoyed a very decadent afternoon tea in the Billiard Room. It was the perfect way to end our visit.

 

“Make sure you come and visit us in every season.” The shuttle bus driver advised,” Then you can truly appreciate how spectacular a place this is.”

Harewood reopens on March 23rd and when that date arrives, you can guess who will be first in the queue at the entrance gate!

https://harewood.org/ 

https://harewood.org/visit/

https://harewoodholidays.com/

https://harewood.org/visit/

harewood

Fast Anchor Film Festival, film, film reviews, history, Uncategorized

#Honest Review : The Favourite

#Honest Review : The Favourite

3 stars out of 5

Director : Yorgos Lanthimos

The Favourite Movie Poster.

There has been much hype concerning this film and I have to say that I was really looking forward to seeing it. I’m a huge fan of Olivia Colman and I also love anything to do with Royal history. I first heard about the film last Autumn and I made a point of reading up on Queen Anne in order that I would understand the context.

Set in the early-eighteenth century, when England is at war with France, The Favourite tells the story of the relationship between Queen Anne and her somewhat domineering and controlling confidante and lover, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough. Sarah’s position at court is usurped by her impoverished cousin, Abigail Hill, who schemes and deceives her way into the Queen’s affection. I knew by its very nature that this film was going to be more a study in intrigue and politics than a straightforward biography. It is in a similar vein to such films as Amadeus (1984) and Marie Antoinette (2006). For those of you unclear about the historical background, Queen Anne was a somewhat hesitant ruler and preferred to pass most of the major decision making onto the Duchess of Marlborough. The great tragedy in Anne’s life was that despite being almost continually pregnant, she lost seventeen children. Some were miscarried, some stillborn and others died in early childhood or infancy. That level of tragedy inevitably left Anne exhausted and unable to be an effective and present monarch. She also suffered from painful episodes of gout as well as emotional over-eating.

The quality of acting is sublime, well, apart from one rogue miscasting in the role of the Cook. Inevitably, Olivia Colman steals the entire film. What is particularly impressive is Colman’s ability to appear as something of a chameleon, she can make herself appear uglier and weighed down by the drudgery of Queen-ship. Her entire face seems to hang down with the burden of her responsibility. When we see her enjoying her lovers, the face appears to lift. She makes much of Anne’s somewhat child-like need for approval and love.

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Costumes, courtesy of Sandy Powell and cinematography courtesy of Robbie Ryan, are equally impressive, and I am sure that these will win big at the Oscars. I loved the use of real locations; Hatfield and Hampton Court Palace, rather than CGI.

All the characters are well-formed and believable. Nicholas Hoult plays against type as the devious Harley and Mark Gatiss has thankfully managed to tone down his tendency for ham acting, although I am slightly reminded of  The League of Gentlemen in his portrayal of Lord Marlborough.

In The Favourite we see the very baseness of the human condition. There is an awful lot of sex portrayed more as a bodily function than through love. There is a great deal of filth and mud in all senses. Secondary characters are debauched and selfish or downright corrupt. Much is made to show how fashions of the time were ridiculous with huge wigs and men wearing badly-applied lipstick and mascara. Everything takes on a somewhat grotesque appearance, possibly as a reflection of the times. In fact, much of the film feels as though it is a living Hogarth painting with its lewdness and grime.

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This is not a rip-roaring fast paced adventure and there are some occasions when the pace is a little too slow and the sound a little too muffled,  but it is an intelligent and thought-provoking movie that on the whole is enjoyable to watch because of the high calibre of its actors along with the attention to detail. The ending is slightly lame and seems to peter out rather than reach a climatic finish. I gather that this a criticism frequently applied to Yorgos Lanthimos’s films.  However, on the whole it is a great film and should ensure that British film-making is centre stage in the next Academy Awards.

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