Monday, 31 December 2001

Movie Roundup, 2001

Working in traditional reverse order..

Harry Potter – This was a “take Karen to the flicks” expedition, and not one I'd've gone to see by myself. It was stunningly well cast, and well acted by a sterling cast of British character actors who probably cost between them less than Tom Cruise asks for an appearance. But boring – I was twiddling my thumbs by the time of the quidditch match (a pleasant surprise – quidditch was less boring to watch than read about – I guess they'd choreographed it off some real sports footage). After the Big V had had his come-uppance, I was silently pleading “roll credits now, please” as each scene terminated.
Nitpick – At King's Cross, platforms 9 and 10 face each other across two lines of track in a little annex (along with platform 11) off the side of the main station, and 9¾ would be approached from the railings in front of the buffers; the movie looked like they were going on to platform pi! In the real world, probably as a result of all the tourists coming to see the site, at the start of December '01, platform 9 was decorated with all the Hogwarts banners and such from the movie. I'm still surprised that nothing's been made of the fact that the platform 9/10 area is also the fabled site of Boadicea's tomb!

LotR part 1 - A joy to the eyes, but I was on to trivia scanning immediately, like I did about the 8th time I saw Star Wars, coupled this time with too much of an analysis of how they've gone about realising it within the limited confines of a 3 hour film. You know the sort of thing – “Ah yes, they'll use the birthday party to introduce the hobbit characters, then cut out the 17 years of delay.” “Is that a chunky black ring Gandalf is briefly shown wearing in the first conversation inside Orthanc?” “Spot the elf walking on the snow!” “Isn't the two arrows at once trick shot too reminiscent of some really cheesy 1980's fantasy film,” “Maize and canola are more Sharkey than Shire.” “Aren't the lines ‘They've got a cave troll with them.’ and ‘Let's hunt some orc.’ a little jarring in their delivery.”
We could have done without the crumbling stair in Moria, especially with that magnificent Balrog about to make its entrance with its cunningly ambiguous “wings”. Boromir's death had much of the “Agh, I'm hit! Cue death scene. No, wait, I'm a high level fighter and that only did a d8.” about it along the way.
They were faced with an impossible scene to film (one that so far as I can recall Bakshi wisely dropped completely), and made what I felt was a brave, but ultimately failed attempt at, in the Temptation of Galadriel. Playing it low key would have been better, I feel, as the infinitely beautiful ice queen isn't a one size fits all image.
Yes, of course I'll go see the rest. Unlike with Harry Potter, I didn't feel the time dragging.

OK, now onto the good stuff, in roughly ascending order:

Atlantis, the Lost Empire – This little steampunk/lost world gem felt like an anime scenario that ended up with the Mouse by accident, and certainly wasn't your average cute Disney cartoon – no bursting out into song, no cute slapstick supporting cast. Nothing profound, but it did at least entertain.

Lara Croft, Tomb Raider – This film did exactly what it said on the tin. Well, we could have had dinosaurs, an underwater sequence and the obligatory attack by dogs while in Italy (did one of the game designers have a bad Doberman experience one holiday, we wonder), instead of the dodgy "men in her life" sub-plots, but you can't have everything. A pleasant surprise in that it underpromised and overdelivered within its premise.

Shadow of the Vampire - A secret history of the making of the original Nosferatu, with John Malkovitch as the director. Worth it just for the scene where he demands that Count Orlok feed only on the dispensable members of the film crew.

Ginger Snaps - A pretty damn definitive “werewolf in the modern day” movie, all the better for not being a big budget spectacular. A plot summary wouldn't do it justice - just go get the DVD.

Brotherhood of the Wolf (Pacte des Loups) - The film I made most effort to see all year, eventually finding it on at the late, late show at the local multiplex, presumably because it was thought to be rather recherché in its appeal. For a start it's a French film, with subtitles - And a werewolf(?) hunter movie. Set in pre-revolutionary France. Costume drama meets kick-boxing action. This film has it all, while remaining intelligent, artistic and, well, French.

And at the top of the list? Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, of course. Wuxia done by a serious director. What more can I add about this one? It will be interesting to see what he does with the Hulk

Sunday, 24 June 2001

Jemima (June 2001)

Most recently arrived, surviving her brother, born June 2001 — and they were so tiny and fast at not quite 12 weeks! The other cats had just about gotten used to them by their first birthday — Smoke mainly ignored them, except when they chased his tail, when he wearily moved away; Penny squabbled wrestling with Bleys, but used either of them for warmth if they stayed still.

Jemima (torty) is a mighty huntress (taking squirrels as well as pigeons), but is still very timid about people, and doesn't like physical displays of affection (I bear the scars from my attempts), quite unlike Bleys was.

Saturday, 19 May 2001

Lady May (Aug 1984 - 19th May 2001)

Named after the combat cat from Corwainer Smith's The Game of Rat and Dragon, here she is in her prime, looking suspicious at being disturbed from her beauty sleep by the flash. She was always the most demanding and crotchety of the lot, and it was rare, though not unknown that she would settle with any of the other cats near her.

She was clearly getting to be an old cat - you could feel her spine when stroking her - when she was about ten, but continued to be a feisty, wiry old lady, though her once shaggy breeches became rather threadbare, as her coat thinned with age. In the spring on '99 she went in for dental surgery [same practice as Frank the Cat of fame] at the same time as Penny had was to be spayed, and we were told she had a slight heart murmur - so we expected that we might only take one cat home. She turned out fine (Penny took a long time to recover from a chest infection she picked up) By that autumn, when her check-up came we were told it wasn't worth giving her her boosters, as she had a growth in her mouth and wouldn't last much longer.

The growth did eventually begin to interfere with her grooming, so she needed dribble wiping up, and bathing (for which she seemed grateful), but not with her appetite. She remained a healthy eater until almost the end. Even on the last Friday, she was happy to stalk out into the garden to appreciate the fine spring weather, despite being increasingly stiff and a bit doddery. Perhaps she did not approve of Penny's attempts to play tig, and she worked herself into an apoplexy, but the next morning, we found her neatly posed in the study, but unable to move, save for shuddering. She could not walk, and showed no appetite, even for treats, still purred if stroked, but faded quickly.