Grand Budapest Hotel: is as great as both audience reaction and critics promised. Ralph Fiennes in a rare comedy (well, tragicomedy) role is fabulous and clearly has great fun as the metrosexual Monsieur Gustave, the young actor playing young Zero Mustafa is the perfect deadpan straight man (well, boy) to him, lots of famous actors (sometimes behind tons of make up) in cameos, and I bet Adrien Brody whom I've mostly seen playing soulful sensitive types enjoyed hamming it up as Dimitri the evil nephew. Director Wes Anderson delivers a visual feast, of course, and goes for a novel-istic narrative structure that's almost a parody of same (girl brings classic book to statue of author who in second flashback is shown writing the book narrating how in the third flashback he met the man who told him the story which in the fourth flashback within a flashback turns out to be the gist of the movie - but that structure works with the artificiality/enhanced realism/what have you the movie exudes. It also gleefully ticks of tropes - murder mystery! Caper! Escape from prison! - and between the stylish madness throws in some nostalgia for a lost past that never was, as is verbally acknowledged, and none too subtle arrival of fascism as the not too background threat in the end.
The credits claim this was inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig, but to me - and I love some of Zweig's books - this had more of an Ernst Lubitsch feeling, even To be or not to be, honestly. (The writer in the second and third flashback level is made up to look a lot like Zweig, though.) Which is a compliment.
Rush: I'm not a Formula 1 or car racing in general fan, and so I knew only the bare minimum of the incidents portrayed in the movie - to wit, I knew that Niki Lauda - ( rl spoiler! ), but no more, and I'd never heard of James Hunt. Otoh I saw that this one was written by Peter Morgan, he of the Blair trilogy and Frost/Nixon fame, specializing in two character stories, and it was starring Chris "Thor" Hemsworth and our own Daniel Brühl, so I thought, why not?
(BTW, this is another movie where the German - or maybe European, I wouldn't know - poster is notably different from the international/US one. The US one I saw online has Hemsworthin the foreground and a blurred version of Brühl in the background. The German one has them both equally clear on the same level. Given that the movie itself treats them both as main characters, with neither being put in the antagonist position, and that Brühl-as-Lauda opens and closes the movie with his narration, so if anyone is a bit more equal than equal, it's him, the prominence of Hemsworth in the international posters is clearly marketing of name value over actual story content.)
Morgan's talent for writing entertaining flawed duos does indeed come through and makes the movie accessible for non-car racing fans like yours truly, together with the acting - Brühl does a great job as Lauda, all focus and disdain for politeness, and Hemsworth does the hedonistic playboy with self destructive streak thing well -, the 1970s setting means 1970s fashion (though thankfully neither main character ever tries that very 70s thing, a Pornstache), and lo and behold, everyone who speaks German actually is a native user of the language, so no weird accent attempts and weirder pronounciation. (If you want to be really nitpicky, Brühl isn't Austrian which Niki Lauda very much is, but I think Brühl does a great job speaking English with an Austrian, not German accent - yes, there's a big difference to our ears! -, and his few lines in German do sound Austrian.) I also can't help but make comparisons to Morgan's earlier efforts in scripting real life duos:
The Deal: Gordon Brown and Tony Blair: both get about the same screentime, but the narrative sympathy is a bit more with Brown, and I'd say he's the pov character, if there's one.
The Queen: Tony Blair and, well, the Queen: same screentime, narrative sympathy given to both main characters, both are also pov characters.
The Special Relationship: Tony Blair and Bill Clinton: Blair gets more screen time and also the main pov, but he's also moving into self deluded character territory by the end of that one, with the narrative giving Clinton, not Blair, the final accurate message.
Frost/Nixon: actually, this one starts with multiple povs - of Frost's staff more than of Frost, because "is tv gadfly Frost up to handling Nixon?" Is part of the suspense, and that works better with Frost as well as Nixon is seen from the outside - but as the story moves on, we're narrowing into Frost's own pov. While Nixon gets ample screentime, I don't think the narrative ever positions us into his pov. Again, "will Frost get Nixon to crack?" Being part of the suspense wouldn't allow that.
Rush: equal screen time and pov to Lauda and Hunt - Hunt gets a few voice overs within the movie as well, just not the opening and closing ones. Neither man is painted as the better racer or person (they're both prone to refer to the other as "asshole", and the audience can see why every time), though I will say in terms of movie heroics, ( spoiler for aftermath of famous incident ). Since there are no politics involved, the stakes are our characters' lives which they wilfully endanger on a regular basis, so of course the movie asks what type of a person chooses this type of job, and manages to make the audience care for the two results of that question, warts and all.
During the week made a Standen Loaf, 2:2:1 strong white/wholemeal/buckwheat flour. V nice
No Saturday breakfast rolls due to getting in too late on Friday evening.
Today's lunch: pheasant breasts beaten out flat, seasoned with salt and pepper, panfried in butter, deglazed with madeira, served with roasted buckwheat (kasha), and mangetout peas and fine asparagus roasted in olive oil and splashed with gooseberry vinegar. (This was not as ambitious as it might have been but we thought we might be going hospital-visiting today.)
Letter in today's Guardian Weekend, which I am unable to find in order to link to it, in which someone whom we presume a scientist or an engineer claims that arts graduates find employment in 'politics, journalism and managing, often badly, organisations where science graduates do the actual work', and that
after the shitstorm created by arts graduates, it will be left to scientists and engineers to solve the economic, social and environmental problems they have left. It's what we are trained to do.'
Historian larfs liek drayne.
Quite apart from the recent reports about various scientific centres and departments in which bullying and harassment by Top Scientist People are rife - which doesn't suggest that they are that great at managing and running things - and the inglorious history of scientists so committed to a theory that they would commit fraud -
- so, really, not pure, disinterested 'experts' -
- I have lately been reading the latest in Jo Walton's 'Thessaly' trilogy, and considering HG Well's notions of 'samurai' and 'Open Conspirators'
- and the Platonic notion of disinterested Guardians guided by philosophy, and Wells' rather similar dedicated elite, run aground on the notion that everyone, including your Guardians or Samurai, will all be in entire accordance once they have seen the revealed wisdom.
I just don't think that any set of people, even if they are in general accord over some basic principles, will all inevitably agree at any given moment about What Is To Be Done.
And let's just not go into the wild generalisations about 'arts graduates', 'scientists', and 'engineers', which flattens out very diverse groups with different disciplinary training and biases, even before you get into questions of individual personality differences.
After Hector has committed me into Dorcas’s hands in my own dear house, and gone to be about delivering the lunatick Marquess to Bedlam, I sit shaking while she fetches me brandy, that she considers quite permissible to take for reasons of health.
Should you like to go lie down for a little, Your Ladyship? Sure 'twas a very horrid experience.
No, says I, tho’ I find my teeth offer to chatter even tho’ 'tis so oppressive warm: sure I should most immediate be about writing to Lady B- to tell her what arrives. Tho’ my hand is shaking so much I doubt I could hold the pen, or write legible did I contrive to do so.
Dorcas looks at me and says she will go fetch Docket.
Comes Docket and says that, indeed, Your Ladyship, you should be helpt out of that gown, and have your stays loosen’d, and put on your peignoir and you will feel a deal better. And I will brush your hair and Sophy can wipe your face and hands with a cooling lavender water.
I burst into tears and sob that I am not mistress in my own household. I let her lead me upstairs to my dressing-room and indeed I do feel a deal better when my stays are loosened and my hair let down and cooling waters apply’d.
Docket says that of course she was not with me at the time when I was being bother’d by that nasty fellow, but indeed she has heard a deal about it, from Tibby in particular that took him in great resentment for preaching upon vanity and vain adornment.
O, says I, he was a most exceeding tiresome fellow even when he was sane, or mayhap better able to conceal his lunacy, and the late Marquess ever took him in very great dislike: but indeed, I say, and my teeth offer to chatter again, when he came creeping into that room 'twas like some Gothick monster.
Why, says Docket, 'twas most unpleasant that it should happen, but I daresay the time will come when you can work it into one of your tales.
I give a little tearfull laugh.
Comes in Euphemia with a cup of the fine soothing drink to my darling Eliza’s receipt, saying that she doubts not 'twill do me a deal of good. She adds that sure Hector has been wanting to do the like to that fellow this long time; they would sit about the kitchen in Surrey and he would talk of it, and Seraphine would talk of what she might contrive to get him to eat or drink that would do him some ill-service, but could not come at a way so that Your Ladyship might not partake as well. The nasty sneaking creature.
O, they are all so good towards me, and I perceive that they worry about me, even tho’ I am now so circumstanc’d that being overset and hysterickal is not like to affect my livelihood and that of the household. Indeed, I daresay that even were I to be carry’d to Bedlam, or one of the houses in Hoxton, that the household might be maintain’d until I recover’d. Indeed I daresay they would even come visit and bring baskets of comforts bak’d by Euphemia.
But o, I do desire the company of my darlings most desperate.
I daresay this matter may be kept quite husht up, for I am like to suppose that the madhouse-keepers would not want that it should get about that one of their lunaticks escapt and contriv’d to get as far as Town, and indeed this is all to the best, and am I kept out of the tale 'twill I hope be suppos’d that the mad Marquess merely raves does he mention that harlot Mrs C- that gave herself out wife of a sea-captain.
But sure I am fearfull that there may come about some discovery of what went forward in Surrey during my exile there.
However, I am cloth’d and in my right mind when comes Mr Q- in the afternoon to pat my hand and tell me 'tis a most shocking thing, that the present Marquess fled the madhouse and made his way, sure one cannot imagine how, for he is quite entirely raving, to B- House. Your man, Lady B-, had the prudent thought to take him to Bedlam, where they will have restraints to put upon him -
O, says I, 'tother Lady B- had desir’d me to find out how the works on the house went –
- 'Twas most fortunate, for I know not if any of those that were in the house would have known 'twas him, for who would believe babblings of such a figure that he was a Marquess? But I have writ to his keepers to say where they may find him, and chide them somewhat for such carelessness.
Indeed, says I, quite shocking, tho’ I have heard that lunaticks may be very cunning and perchance he contriv’d to deceive them that he was quite entire docile?
It must be some such, says Mr Q-. But to more agreeable matter, I may take this opportunity – by the way, this is excellent fine tea, who is your supplier? – to tell you that the preferment of the Reverend Mr L- to the cure of the parish proceeds as expeditious as any matter may when Chancery is mixt up in the business.
I tell him where I acquire my tea, but that indeed I will send him some, and say this is most agreeable news. But there is another matter that I need’d your advice in, I go on, and tell him about my lead-mine, and the desire of dear Josiah and Mr D- to go invest in the improvements, viz: a fine new steam-pump that will be quite a model of its kind, and some matters to do with the smelting mill.
Mr Q- says that I am exceeding well-adviz’d in the business and he has no doubts of the probity of Mr F-, that is everywhere spoken so well of, but indeed it shows a fine business-like spirit to have the thing done in all due order with the proper papers drawn up.
I confide that he is most prepossesst with me as a widow that will not be beguil’d into rash enterprizes.
Sure this soothes my spirits a little, and I mind me that I have still not writ to Mr H- about some suitable surgeon for the dispensary, and tho’ he may not be in Town at present I may still send him a message so that he may be about thinking on the matter. So I sit down at my pretty desk, and I take a little peep into the secret drawer with the miniature of my dearest sweet treasure, and am about the business.
And then I feel sufficiently recover’d to be about some several other tedious matters of correspondence.
The next forenoon I would be about these matters, but that I receive a very fine full letter from Lady J-, that also sends the dear Admiral’s regards, about her excursion into the Mediterranean, and the classickal sites she has seen, and the great pleasure 'tis to be on shipboard, and how very amiable and helpfull was the young man that takes care of my Naples property. What very fine classickal learning, and also excellent fine notions about improving agriculture. Sure she wishes she could have met the late Marquess that was given out such a savant in the matter of classicks.
The dear creatures.
I am back at the business of the quite endless correspondence of the philanthropick set, when Hector shows in Captain P-.
This strikes quite immediate fear into my heart that there is some dreadfull matter come to Josh or perchance Belinda, but Captain P- comes take my hands and say dear Belinda was most insistent I should ride post and tell you: that monster is loose, she had a letter from the keepers that he went about very sly to escape, and we were in considerable concern that he would come to Town –
O, says I, indeed he did, and came sneaking into B- House yestermorn when I was there seeing how the works went –
Did he harm you at all? asks Captain P- very urgent.
No, says I, I was in some fears, but Hector came into the room and employ’d his puglistick art. Ty’d the fellow up and convey’d him to Bedlam for the nonce, where we dar’d say they would be able to find a straitjacket for him until his keepers could take charge of him again.
Captain P- sits down with an air of great relief and I ring for Hector to bring some good strong coffee. I add that Mr Q- has writ a strong letter to the keepers concerning this carelessness.
I pour out coffee and ask about how Belinda and Josh do, about the health of Cherry-ripe, &C. All is entire well, he says, and what an excellent little fellow is Josh, they shall be sorry to lose him when he goes return to his family. I convey the good feelings of the F-s towards them for their care of Josh.
Do you wish to come stay again, he goes on, we should be entire delight’d.
I sigh and say alas, I should be entire delight’d to come stay, but I have a deal of engagements to go visit about that 'twould be most incivil to cut, however much I might desire to. (Tho’ indeed I am most tempt’d: but I will be entire dutyfull and go about in Society, for 'tis most entire usefull to our set.)
Incidentally: re: social media, the people managing the twitter account for the Munich police did a great job (as they've done last year when the refugees from Hungary arrived), reporting what happened, explaining as far as they knew, providing people with landlines and coordinating efforts from helpers. (Not just in German but also in English and French, and Turkish.) Also, the press officer, Marcus da Gloria Martins, who had to do the press conferences, became everyone's instant hero for refusing to be drawn into baiting and insinuating questions, staying calm, and projecting gravitas. (This is him.) Given that wild rumors had several shootings happen all over Munich (not true), and that for hours it wasn't clear whether it was one shooter or several, up to three (it was one), having someone providing information who refused to speculate and stuck to the facts while also communicating, not shutting people's questions down, was really a good thing.
Still: people are dead, killed in the city where I live. Within a week of the axe murderer in the train from Würzburg (which I often take). And a friend of mine, who is working in an organization devoted to helping underage refugees, says they're getting vile hatemail now. (Which has also been reported in the news.) These are terrible times we live in. Which reminds me of something Tolkien wrote:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
My father was taken into hospital again last night - I got b-i-l's text when I was standing on Tower Hill Tube Station and then connectivity went.
(It was his 94th birthday.)
So he's still there today under observation, and we don't have any info as to what might be happening, how long he's likely to be there, etc.
So, I said that I would go down to visit today, and b-i-l said he would pick me up at the relevant station at [time] as he would be taking my sister when she got off work.
So I got to the station, and went and waited outside (fortunately although it had started to rain in London it was still fine elsewhere), and then I got a text from my sister to say that there had been an incident on the motorway and traffic was being held up.
Perhaps I should have said stuff it and taken a taxi but we really didn't know how long the hold-up was going to be -
- which was rather longer than anticipated -
- but anyway they eventually turned up and we went to the hospital and found my father and he seemed in fairly reasonable spirits for someone in hospital and on antibiotics.
Still no news of what might happen next.
Anyway, this was all running later into the evening than I had anticipated, and by the time I was dropped off at the station to catch a train back, I was too hungry to wait until I got to St Pancras and bought what turned out to be a rather disgusting sandwich at the station snackbar.
But home now, anyway, and awaiting further developments.