Monthly Archives: March 2012

My Top 5 British Everything! part one

My monetary situation continues to not be conducive to buying new movies or books.  That means it’s time for another list–a long one this time! Part one will cover Books, Movies, and my favorite places in the British Isles.

My Top 5 British Everything*

*not comprehensive.

First off, books! This is very hard for me, obviously, as a quick inventory of my bookshelf will prove that about 60% of all the books I own are British.  To pick only 5 is like picking one meal to eat every night for the rest of your life.  But, nevertheless, here are my favorites!

1.The Harry Potter Series

Of course this is number one.  And, don’t gripe about this being 7 books, not one.  This list is only my top five, and it would be pretty boring if all five were HP books, as they most assuredly would be.  The bottom line is these are my desert island books, the only books I would truly need to be fulfilled for the rest of my life, if, god forbid, it came to that sort of choice.  These books absolutely and tangibly changed my life–cured my depression, inspired me to go back and finish my degree, inspired me to read again, to write again, to enjoy and love my time on earth.  When I am sad or weary, I pull out these books and, like some sort of black market European antidepressants, they make things better. Not only do I own the original 7 novels in their American versions, but also several foreign editions as well.  I picked up the British (children’s) copy of Deathly Hallows, plus an Italian Prisoner of Azkaban (which it took me 3 months to read), a Greek Half-Blood Prince, a Croatian Chamber of Secrets, and even a copy of Philosopher’s Stone that has been translated into Latin!

These books are largely responsible for my love of British culture, and you could draw a pretty direct line from my first experience reading HP books to me creating this blog.  They are the end all be all of my reading life.

2. Pride and Prejudice

See my earlier entry for why this is such a lovely book.  I can’t say it had the same impact on me as Harry Potter, but I just finished a reread last week and even after so many times reading it and watching the miniseries, I still find new and lovely bits that are delightful.

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3. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ‘trilogy’

The first time I read the Hitchhiker’s Guide, it was sitting in the Barnes & Noble cafe. I laughed so hard and so loud that I made an idiot of myself. For those reading this who are unfamiliar with the story, Arthur Dent is whisked off Earth minutes before its irrevocable destruction by his best friend, Ford Prefect, who reveals himself to be an alien.  But this isn’t science fiction; it never takes itself particularly seriously. What it is, in my opinion, is just funny and silly and wonderfully imaginative. The wordplay alone is enough to furnish me with great quotes for the rest of my life.  Here’s just a few to choose from:

In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

And my favorite (not technically from the series, but wonderful anyway):

I like deadlines.  I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

There is something very British (in my American mind at least) about this love of and playfulness with words and phrases.  Compare it, for a second, to something by Hemingway, whose prose has never even bordered on playful (at least, in my experience).  If you haven’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide,you should.

4.Hamlet

I’ve read a lot of Shakespeare in my life. I think I’ve taken 3 or 4 Shakespeare courses in college, plus the plays I read in high school.  I’ve read all of his sonnets and most of his other poems.  Of his 37 plays, I have read 20, so far.  I think Hamlet may have been the first one I read, back in middle school.  It has always been my favorite.  Some people think that Hamlet is indecisive and incapable of action. I just don’t see it.  He’s overcome with grief, with anger, with a questioning of the purpose of life and of revenge.  He feels trapped by circumstances and he talks his way through his feelings.  And he talks so beautifully.  I think it is, by far, the most poetic of Shakespeare’s works, and I can’t imagine anyone who has ever been depressed or suffered tragedy can read his famous soliloquy without finding echoing questions and statements in their own hearts. I think it is an absolute masterpiece, and encourage everyone to read it.  If you don’t think you can stand reading the play, please do not go get the Mel Gibson DVD.  At least invest the time in the Kenneth Branagh version, or at the very least the new David Tennant.

5. North and South

Please do not confuse this with that civil war miniseries with Patrick Swayze.  Though Elizabeth Gaskell is not that well known in America, she is considered just as popular as Jane Austen in England.  This is the story of a family who is forced to uproot from their life in the South (i.e. London and the counties surrounding it, which were agricultural, were old money, and were considered the most civilized) to the industrialized North (full of factories, the working class, unions, and pollution).  This dichotomy is a huge factor in England, even today someone with a Northern accent can be (unfairly) assumed to be less civilized than his/her Southern counterpart.  The book has the same plot as an Austen novel, and does have a truly scrumptious male love interest, but all of that is against an entirely different background. Gaskell weaves in poverty, unions, strikes, factory conditions, changing social norms, religious disparities, etc. etc. etc.  It’s a great way to get to know some of the background of the time, but to still get a fulfilling love story.  I also highly recommend the miniseries with Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton.

Honorable Mention: Jane Eyre

now, on to Movies.
Please keep in mind that I am not a cinema expert and haven’t seen a lot of what are considered the British ‘classics’. These are mostly mainstream films that were also very successful in the US.

1. A Hard Day’s Night

My love for the Beatles from an early age meant that, at the age of 9 or 10, I dragged my father to the video store every weekend to rent the same two movies: this one, and Help!.  Help! doesn’t stand the test of time quite as well as this one, but A Hard Day’s Night is a brilliant film. It captures the madness of the Beatles’ schedules and touring demands, the ridiculousness of press junkets, and the cheeky humor of the Fab Four.  It features great music, cute British boys, and lots of genuinely funny bits.

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2. Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz

I am listing these two together because, recently, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg revealed that they will be making a third in what they are calling the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. Shaun of the Dead can be described as a romantic comedy with zombies, while Hot Fuzz is a buddy cop action comedy.  But not action comedy as in Rush Hour; it’s more funny than it is action. Also, it’s not terrible, so that’s another key difference.  These movies are both hilarious, have cemented my eternal love for Simon Pegg, and spoof other genres so well that they manage to be both great parodies and great examples of the genres they are spoofing.

3. Snatch

 

This movie is just…unique.  Or, it’s unique if you haven’t seen Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels. But seriously, Guy Ritchie made this movie and it was like nothing I had ever seen before.  Vinnie Jones is amazing, Jason Statham is in his first big role (at least in the US), and Brad Pitt plays an absolutely incomprehensible gypsy/boxer.  It’s a stylish, interesting, funny film.  It also provides one with endless quotes. This movie contains both my least favorite moment in perhaps any movie (Brick Top–aka the foulest man on earth–talking about feeding corpses to his pigs) and one of my favorites (Tyrone backs into a van and claims it was at a funny angle. Vinny says It’s behind you Tyrone. Whenever you reverse, things come from behind you.).

4. Atonement

Couldn’t be more different from Snatch.  For all my bitching about Keira Knightley and Joe Wright’s version of Pride and Prejudice, they do a spectacular job with this movie.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it might be better than the book, and I loved the book.  The book didn’t have James McAvoy though, and the movie has an absolutely amazing score that actually works to help translate it from book to screen.  A word of warning, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, it will absolutely fuck you up. I was sobbing for days.  Ian McEwan’s fiction always does that to me, but this is a prime example.  It’s either going to make you depressed or make you very angry, or both. But it’s exceptionally good.

5. Bridget Jones’ Diary

How could I not love this movie? It’s based on Pride & Prejudice, has the real Mr. Darcy playing a man named Mr. Darcy, and features an imperfect heroine who Darcy loves anyway.

I do occasionally have a problem with the fact that Bridget is a bit of an idiot, and compared to Lizzy Bennet she’s a complete moron.  But she does have a sort of wonderful, vivacious, goofy energy that is a good contrast to stuffy, conservative, Mark Darcy.

Honorable Mentions: Notting Hill, Love Actually

Now, on to my favorite Places to visit during a trip to the UK.  Let me preface this by saying I have, by no means, seen the majority of the UK.  These are just the 5 favorite places I visited during my time there.

1. South Bank of London

I spent a lot of time on the South Bank during my time in London, though I didn’t live anywhere near it.  I did go to the theatre there almost every week, and it is among the most beautiful of all the places I spent time in Europe. As the name implies, it’s on the South Bank of the Thames, and features tons of big attractions within about a block or two of the water.  There’s the National Theatre, the British Film Institute, the London Eye, the London Aquarium, the Waterloo station, the Old Vic and Young Vic theatres, and City Hall (popularly known as Darth Vader’s helmet because of its shape).  It’s a beautiful, vibrant, interesting, artistic part of town.  It should also be avoided during tourist season, but if you go when it’s not packed, it can be absolutely beautiful. A few blocks east are the Globe theatre, the Tate Modern, and the Millennium Bridge.

2. Prince’s Street Gardens and the Castle of Edinburgh

I went to Edinburgh and was blown away by how beautiful this part of town was.  The castle sits at the top of a huge cliff and the gardens sit at its base.  The history of the place goes back thousands of years, you can see the entire town from the top of the cliff, and everywhere you go in the area, you have at least some chance of running into J.K. Rowling.

3. Oxford

Talk about history, beauty, the whole thing.  You can walk around this city in about an hour, but it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  I’m still considering going to Oxford for grad school, because can you imagine having this place for your home? Wandering around the same halls and rooms as so many of the important figures in political and literary history (26 prime ministers, 12 saints, kings, queens, Bill Clinton, Stephen Hawking, Joseph Heller, Aldous Huxley, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde…just to name a few. I could go on).  Plus Rowan Atkinson.  I think I could spend the rest of my life inside the Radcliffe Camera (reading room).

4. Bath

A place famous with Roman settlers for its healing waters, home to Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Rupert Giles, and set in a really beautiful part of a really beautiful country.  It’s a small town, but I found it really charming and lovely to walk in.  There are tons of Regency-era museums and houses open for viewing, plus the Jane Austen house, the original Roman baths, and a kickass chocolate shop across from the Cathedral.

5. Hampstead and ‘the Heath’


I lived approximately 1 mile from Hampstead, and ran on the heath most mornings during my time in London. As such, I have a lot of affection for the place.  Plus, it was home to John Keats, my favorite poet ever.  Hampstead is a small village to the northwest of London, rather trendy with celebs and the rich and famous. It’s got nice restaurants, and is surrounded by beautiful neighborhoods on one side and the ‘Heath’ (park) on the other.  The Heath itself has two basic parts, from my recollection, an open park, and a wooded section.  From the top of the hills you can see downtown London landmarks like the BT tower and the ‘Gherkin’ building (so named because it resembles a pickle).  It’s similar, in my eyes, to Central Park, because it is a place that tons of people go when the weather is good and they sit in the grass and just enjoy life.  What’s not to love?

That’s all for this list.  Next time, I’ll tackle my favorite British TV, British music, and my favorite tidbits from British history.

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Coming Soon to BBC America: Crash Course with Richard Hammond

The new season of Top Gear starts in mid-April, and BBC America recently released a trailer for Richard Hammond’s new show which will premiere just after Top Gear. It’s called Richard Hammond’s Crash Course, and it actually takes place in America. Here’s the trailer:

I can’t say the premise is my idea of great television, but it is Richard Hammond and he is by far my favorite member of the Top Gear trio.  And all of the Top Gear personalities are most enjoyable when they make idiots of themselves, and I can’t imagine there will be a single episode where Hammond doesn’t humiliate himself to some degree.  The premise of the show is that he has 3 days to learn how to drive each of a list of ridiculous vehicles. The two featured in the trailer (that I noticed) are a tank and a fire truck.

It occurs to me now that this show, the new season of Top Gear, AND the Julian Fellowes Titanic Miniseries all start the weekend of April 15th, which is also my birthday! That should be a fairly busy weekend for me and anyone who is an anglophile.

From the DVD Shelves: My Week with Marilyn

I put this on my post-Oscar Netflix queue, but had no idea that it was actually a British film with a mostly British cast.  It’s set in 1956, when Marilyn Monroe went to England to film a movie with Sir Laurence Olivier.

I haven’t seen the movie that she went to film, which is called The Prince and the Showgirl, but I have seen a lot of her other movies, including The Misfits, Some Like It Hot, and the Seven Year Itch. Tons has been written, discussed, and guessed about Marilyn Monroe, so there’s not much I can add to it.  And so many people have portrayed her in movies and in photo shoots (see this photo gallery), that it’s almost old hat at this point.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is playing her and who is playing another person’s version of her.  I have seen the Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino film, Norma Jean and Marilyn, which I remember thinking was quite good when I was 15.  No telling what I would think now.

So, Michelle Williams.  First thing’s first, a picture comparison:

I’m not sure I can say she looks exactly like Marilyn, but she does look incredibly beautiful and ethereal.  She does a very good job in this movie, and most remarkable is her ability to capture the vulnerability of Marilyn Monroe, the insecurities and the tragedy of her life. Basically, she is the reason to see the movie.

The movie itself, its plot, is based on the memoirs of a young British guy who was Olivier’s young assistant at the time of the film. The plot is pretty much what you would expect; he falls for her, she lights up his life for a few days, and then breaks his heart.  Not the first movie about Marilyn that worked on that same premise.  It’s similar to the audience reaction, I expect.  We are meant to watch Marilyn, to fall in love with Marilyn, then mourn her exit from our lives.  The point of this movie is all about watching Michelle Williams as Marilyn; everything else in it is like set dressing. Even Emma Watson manages to look dowdy sharing the screen with her (thanks mostly to some truly unfortunate bangs and pathetic dialogue). Kenneth Branagh is convincing as Olivier, who is simultaneously angry with and envious of Monroe. The actor who plays Colin (the man who wrote the memoir) is very good as an adorably naive, slightly dimwitted, typical young man.

There’s not much plot, though.  It’s supposed to be a bildungsroman, to the point where it ends with Colin being described as taller, more experienced, etc. than he was at the beginning of the movie. But generally in a coming-of-age story, you are deeply invested in the trials of the protagonist. Imagine a Jane Eyre where we don’t care much for Jane, but are completely enraptured with Mr. Rochester–ok, maybe this is a bad example as I know many girls who this might apply to.  Still, perhaps the knowledge that this is Marilyn Monroe and no happy ending can be possible, and that the movie is called My Week With Marilyn, not My Lifetime or My Years with Marilyn…the knowledge that it is fleeting and that the movie will certainly follow a designated path, makes it hard to care as much.  Plus, this is not really a story about an affair.  The two spend time together, but there’s never a reciprocal relationship.  And everyone seems to know that, except maybe Colin.

Overall, it was a movie worth watching, but only for Michelle Williams’ performance.

The DVD Shelves: Gosford Park

This is hardly a new movie, in fact it’s over 10 years old, but I had never seen it and it stars just about everyone in the British film industry.  It got 7 Academy Award nominations, so that put it at the top of my Netflix queue. And, as I seem to be making my way through the entire Julian Fellowes oeuvre, this was next on the list.

It’s commonly referred to as a mystery-comedy drama.  Whatever that is.  It seems to put its feet into every genre and not become a part of any of them.  I don’t think I knew what to make of it, not having heard much about it before hand.  It starts out like your typical upstairs-downstairs drama, in true Downton Abbey style, with the introduction of about 20 people upstairs and 20 downstairs, and alternates between the two worlds.  And of course it is remnicsent of a typical Agatha Christie work, with the murder mystery element.  But it isn’t quite either of these things.

Whatever can be said about its not being committed to a genre, the cast is spectacular.  Maggie Smith, Clive Owen, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillipe, Kristin Scott Thomas, the list goes on. Gambon (aka Dumbledore 2.0) stars as Sir William McCordle, who is murdered (not once, but twice!) after a dinner party. Stephen Fry also makes an appearance, as a completely idiotic detective.

The most bothersome part of the movie was how confusing it was at the beginning. I could not, for the life of me, keep track of the character’s names, or who was married to whom.  I had to look up the Wiki page to try to keep track of all the marriages, because after initial introductions there was a good hour of gossip back and forth between other characters.

I wanted to like it, and on the surface it has all the elements I like in a movie/story.  British? check.  Historical? check. At least two Harry Potter actors? check!  But for some reason it didn’t particularly resonate with me.  There was too much mystery for me to focus on the class system politics, and too much social commentary to focus on the mystery.  For me, it lacked focus.

That being said, there were a lot of fun/interesting moments, Clive Owen was delightful, and Maggie Smith was spectacular as always.  She was born to play an upper class lady from the first half of the 20th century, yes?

I found it particularly interesting that Stephen Fry’s Inspector Thomson declares (obviously I’m paraphrasing) that they won’t need to question the servants (about who murdered Sir McCordle), only to people who really new him.  This is such a ridiculous notion, given the intimate details that servants were privy to in such a household.  It actually reminded me of a short story called “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, where a man is found dead in his bed, and the police investigate while their wives wait downstairs in the kitchen and sitting room.  The men are examining the crime scene, while the women downstairs find all the evidence of the husband’s cruelty and the wife’s probable guilt in the murder.  The men don’t find any evidence where they look, and the women hide what they find.  The point of the story (or one of them) is that men (or those in power) often lack a true understanding of the world because of their elevated place in it, whereas the lower people on the social ladder can see the truth of the world in its entirety.  Similarly in Gosford Park, the servants are able to discern who and why the master of the house was murdered, and similarly the matter is hushed up by them on the basis of his whole-heartedly deserving it.

Just announced, Julian Fellowes’ Titanic Miniseries

As creeped out as I now am by Julian Fellowes, I can still enjoy his TV shows, so long as he doesn’t start casting himself.  I was excited when I heard about him doing a version of the Titanic story, because it’s the same time period as Downton Abbey, and he obviously does that well. Also, I am interested in the Titanic, partially because it sunk on my birthday, but also just because it’s an interesting story, and god knows nothing in the entire world can be worse than the James Cameron version, if only because of the Celine Dion associations. His miniseries will air in April to mark the 100th anniversary of the disaster, and it will be on ABC here in the States (yay).

In watching the trailer, I can’t help but notice all the similar visuals to the James Cameron movie, which I suppose is inevitable.  It is at least comforting to hear Fellowes explain that there will be big differences between his version and Cameron’s.  He explains that the movie was “a love story set against the [background of] the sinking of the Titanic”, and that he plans to tell the story of all the classes on board.  It’s already being called, only slightly ironically, Downton at Sea. Fellowes is sticking with the multi-story arc that works so well in Downton, and I can’t blame him for that.  I’m hoping it turns out well, and I can watch it without getting My Heart Will Go On stuck in my head.

Here’s the trailer, for those who are interested.

From the Book Section: Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

  I picked up this book at the grocery store of all places, and bought it on the sole basis of recognizing Julian Fellowes’ name as the writer/producer of Downton Abbey. This is his second novel, and according to the jacket copy the book combines “a masterful story of suspense and redemption with his unparalleled wit and insight into high society and human foibles.”  I can’t say I agree, unfortunately.

The story is one of a man in his early 50s and a friend he knew in his teens, Damian Baxter, with whom he had a falling out. He hasn’t spoken to him since the early ’70s, but gets an unexpected note one day.  Baxter is incredibly rich and successful, but he is dying. He has a letter from a woman that makes him believe he has a child in the world, which is suddenly very important to him because he never had one with his (now ex-) wife.  This could only have happened during the ’60s, when he was running around with the narrator and the upper classes in what was left of the Season (debutante balls and all that antiquated nonsense). Because the narrator (who I’m not certain has a name, now that I think back on it) knew the women and was part of the society, Baxter enlists him to find out which of the women has given him a child.  He wants to leave all his money to the child, but more importantly he wants to know that he has a legacy in this world.

The novel starts with a section describing his meeting up with Baxter again, a man he hates, and with apparently good reason. Many allusions are made to ‘that night in Portugal’ where they had a falling out and never saw each other again, but no explanations are offered. This must be the suspense referred to on the jacket. Damian gives the narrator a list of women he slept with that year that had children soon enough after to be contenders, a credit card to cover his expenses, and not much in the way of gratitude or politeness.

The rest of the book is divided into sections, one for each woman. Naturally, the narrator has to confront his own past as he politely and masterfully interrogates his old friends about some very personal issues.  He finds as he goes along that he didn’t really understand much about the people he went around with in his youth, and he says repeatedly how he would have liked them much better if he had truly known them back then. In the end, he does eventually solve the mystery, though not in an expected way.

There were some things I liked about it.  It was an interesting look inside upper class society in a period where it was more or less disintegrating.  The 1960s aren’t a time that people think about when they think about the Season or the trappings of upper class society. I certainly have never read or seen anything about it before.  And Fellowes would know what he’s talking about. He is about the same age as the narrator would have been, went to Cambridge just like the narrator, and I confess I had a hard time not seeing this as semi-autobiographical.  He is a peer, or part of the British nobility, and his title is the Barron Fellowes of West Stafford. He undoubtedly knows what he is talking about, and he does talk a lot about how the characteristics of the British upper-classes, from the 60s through today.  I feel I learned some about how they operate, though I can’t say it was worth the 400 pages it took to gain this knowledge.

What grated on me:

repetition, repetition, repetition.  This novel could have been about half as long, I think.  Maybe 2/3.  Fellowes has a  habit of giving his narrator these powerful insights into the people he is meeting, and he will explain clearly and easily what makes them tick, why they are unhappy or happy in their lot.  Then he will have another character explain the same thing in nearly the same words.  It is unnecessary, and it happens with almost every old friend he encounters.  I can’t imagine what he means by doing it.  Giving his narrator the ability to understand people would make sense, except a lot of what happens in the novel proves that he is a complete idiot. And if the people he is meeting are going to explain everything to him, why have him explain it to the reader just before? It just takes up space on the page.

Another ridiculous thing that happens again and again: He meets with these women and gets them to open up about the paternity of their children–and they all do, with very little hesitation.  This is believable, only if the narrator is particularly apt at dealing with people, which he doesn’t appear to be.  But putting aside this slightly unbelievable fact, there is something he continues to explain to the reader. When he acts really personal, slightly impertinent questions of people he hasn’t seen in 30 years, he says “It is hard to explain why, but this was not as intrusive a question at the time as it seems on the page.” Not that exact phrase every time, but every time an apology for what seems intrusive and explaining that it is not.  I would have found it much easier to deal with if he just explained that he was having one of those moments with these people, where the politeness and falsity of life wear off briefly, and you’re able to be truthful with one another.

lack of suspense.  The big mystery in the story is what exactly happened in Portugal that led to Damian and the narrator never speaking to each other again, but also to neither of them ever interacting with that crowd again. Only, by the end of the book, I really didn’t care.  And by the time the incident is recounted, it doesn’t seem so bad.  It’s anticlimactic.

the women.  All of the women portrayed in this book, with the exception of one, are treated as sort of ineffable, mysterious, and inherently good.  There are two that are represented as more or less Greek goddesses, whose only flaws involve not having a life worthy of their divinity.  The other women, even though the narrator doesn’t find them attractive, are saints trapped in terrible lives.  I do wonder, is it coincidence that the only truly unpleasant woman in the book is an American? Also, the men in the book are all terrible, dreadful, boring or abusive. Perhaps some people, perhaps even the writer, might think that this portrayal of men and women is flattering to women.  To me it implies something truly nefarious about the narrator.  And possibly the writer. People who idolize or deify women don’t see them as people, only as saints or deities.  That creeps me out.

the narrator. After spending 420 pages with this guy, I can’t say I know much about him at all.  He was a complete moron when he was living out most of the events he is now reliving, that much can be said for sure.  He had no idea what was going on with his supposed friends, and seems to have been completely unaware of their true selves. He absolutely loves one of the girls from his youth, and always has. But see above on why I find it creepy. He is described, albeit by someone who dislikes him, as a hanger-on, a grubbing non-entity, and I’m sorry to say the more I read the more I agreed.  And Julian Fellowes’ face plastered on the back jacket made me deeply disturbed.  This face is pretty much the face of a non-entity.  Maybe because it so so colorless and round.

At any rate, disliking the narrator so intently meant that I could not very well appreciate the book.  So I give it a big thumbs down.

I do want to say though that I was reminded quite strongly of The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.  There’s the same recollection of the 1960s, the same falling out between friends and death as a way to bring them back together as old men, even the same paternity mystery.  There is also the repeated and almost identical insistence that despite the action taking place in the 1960s, it wasn’t a wild and crazy time in the UK.  I think both books say the same thing, that for most of the people living, what is popularly thought of as the ’60s didn’t happen to most of them until well into the ’70s.

The books are similar, but I can’t express well enough how much better the Barnes’ version of a similar story is.  I loved that book, whereas this one gives me an unpleasant creepy crawly feeling.

Coming Soon

I thought I would take a day to look at what’s coming out of the UK and hitting our shores in the next few months. Warning though, this post is restricted in some ways to what appeals to me as an anglophile.  So, for example, if Big Brother UK is going to be on here, I probably won’t talk about it, because I don’t honestly care..

Films:

The Deep Blue Sea starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston (aka Loki from Thor).  Not to be confused with the Samuel L. Jackson movie of the same name.

This trailer isn’t anything spectacular, but the cast is.  According to Wikipedia, it is from a play by Terence Rattigan, about the wife of a judge who falls for a pilot in the RAF. Intriguing, could be good. Lots of good quotes on the trailer, but no telling if that translates to an actually good film. But it has been out since November in the UK, and currently has an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, so I’m guessing it’s going to be fairly good. It comes out in limited release here March 30th.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Could there possibly be a more boring title? I can’t think of one. But, then you look at the cast: Ewan McGregor (doing his native Scot accent for once), Emily Blunt, and Kristin Scott Thomas. And I’m in.

Seriously, though the subject of salmon fishing in the Middle East could not be of less interest to me for many reasons, this looks like a really good heart-warming sort of film that I love.  This one is coming out quite soon; limited release this coming weekend! I am definitely looking forward to this film.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is it! I don’t think there’s any movie that I’m more looking forward to this year.  Can you believe the cast? Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey, HP), Bill Nighy (HP, Underworld, Love Actually), Judi Dench (every period drama ever, the new Bond movies), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Penelope Wilson (Downton Abbey, Dr. Who), and Tom Wilkinson (tons of stuff, most recently Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol).  Seriously though, when the US does a movie with this many superstars, it is some absolute trash like Valentine’s Day or He’s Just Not That Into You.  But this is going to be brilliant, because not only are they quite famous in England, but they are famous for being actually good actors. Cannot wait for this movie! But I will have to, as it doesn’t come out until May 4th.

Books:

Some titles I’m looking forward to in the coming months include:

Britain, etc.–A nonfiction, light, trivia-based jaunt through Britain from A-Z.  Hopefully I’ll learn something and be entertained at the same time.

The English Monster–It’s historical fiction, it’s a murder mystery, it’s based on a true story.  Set in the early Regency period, based on some real murders. Difficult to think of dreadful murders going on at the same time Jane Austen was penning her lovely novels.  I have decided lately to get more into crime fiction and this may be one of my first forays into that oeuvre.

And of course, the unnamed J.K. Rowling book will be at the top of my reading list, no matter what it is about or when it comes out.  That’s just how it is.

TV:

Life’s Too Short: I’m watching this right now on HBO. It’s a lovely and ridiculous comedy starring Warwick Davis (Willow, HP films, etc.) as a warped and foul version of himself. It’s yet another Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant project, and expect a full review once the series is done. It’s brilliant.

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Whitechapel: This one is a modern police procedural starting with a Jack the Ripper copycat.   I am starting to be rather obsessed with Jack the Ripper! This was actually on BBC America last fall, but I missed it with the holiday rush. So I’m going to try to watch it now.

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Top Gear!: Anyone that doesn’t know about this show has my pity.  Ok, I should preface this by saying that cars are not of much interest to me.  I started watching this show with my bf because he loves cars and I love England, so it was a good fit.  But it is hilarious, one of the most popular shows in the UK, and lots of fun even if you’re not a ‘petrolhead’ as they call it. Season 18 starts in April. Also, do not confuse this with the American version, which has more cars and less class.

Here is a best of montage to wet your appetite: