Cinema

Tyrone Herald: “On The Spot”

TH 001
A bit more media coverage for the book via the Tyrone Herald’s “On The Spot” feature.

The picture was taken in the Cabo de Gatos National Park in Almeria, Southern Spain, where many “spaghetti westerns”, notably those directed by Sergio Leone were made in the 1960s. How appropriate – it’s certainly bad and ugly, but I can’t see much good there.

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Another shameless plug…

ICC Press Release 002

In Complete Circles: The Memoirs & Travels of an Ageing Schoolboy…

Available now from Amazon for £4.95 or $10.50 or €8.24 (in Italy), €8.12 (in France), €8.56 in Germany, €7.90 (in Spain).

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Memoirs of An Ageing Schoolboy # 7: The Life of Larry

As some of you may know I’m currently writing a memoir concentrating mainly on my school days.  Just over a year ago I published some early extracts on the blog.  I’ve been working hard on it ever since and now hope to have the finished product out in time for Christmas.  And before any smart remarks come in – yes I do mean Christmas 2012.

In advance of a certain long-awaited reunion due to take place in just under a fortnight’s time, here are some further extracts to whet the appetite.Image

At the behest of our English teacher, a walrus-moustached Belfast man called Lawrence Muldoon, known among the pupils as Larry, a small group of us attempted (“attempted” being the operative word) to set up a film club.  The idea was to hire a film projector and show selected films of the more artistic type like Casablanca or Citizen Kane and profound subtitled European films from the likes of Bergman, Fellini and Truffaut rather than the standard current Hollywood blockbuster to an audience of appreciative younger pupils.

We managed to procure some used film posters from the local cinema and stuck them up at various locations around the school to publicise the imminent formation (ahem!) of the club.  Inevitably they were defaced.  On the Steel Magnolias poster two drawing pins had been strategically stuck through each of Julia Roberts’ breasts, and another one further south.

Due to a combination of apathy and logistical problems the film club never saw the light of day, even though about 20 pupils (mostly gullible first and second years) had already paid the £1 a head membership fee.   Where that money ended up remains a mystery to this day. 

Larry like many of that particular generation of teachers born roughly between 1940 and 1955 was a bit of a character.  He had nicknames for virtually all of his pupils based on agonisingly bad puns. 

If we ever had him for a free period (or study periods as the principal preferred to call them – even though during these interludes we did anything but study) he would go around the class asking boys their names.  A typical exchange would go like this.

Larry: What’s your name, boy?

Pupil A: Sir, Aidan Duddy.

Larry: Sir Aidan Duddy?  Have you been knighted? 

What’s your name?  (Pointing to Pupil C)

Pupil D:  Otis McAleer.

Larry: So what do they call you then? McAlnose?

Pupil D: No, they call me Curly because I’ve got curly hair.

Larry:  Where are you from?

Pupil D: Ballygawley.

Larry: Is that Ballygawley, Tyrone or Ballygawley, Zambia?

Pupil D: Zambia.

Larry:  What’s your name, son?  (Turning his attention to Pupil B)

Pupil B: Sam Teague.

Larry: I just asked your name, not your religion.  (To Pupil C) What’s your name?

Pupil C: Martin McTosser, sir.

Larry: Are you from Ballykilbollocks?

Pupil C: No, Killybastard.

Larry: I didn’t know there were any McTossers in Killybastard.  Sure McTosser’s not a Killybastard name.

Pupil C: My da’s from Ballykilbollocks.

Larry: Is your da called Pat?

Pupil C: No, sir.

Larry: Mick?

Pupil C: No.

Larry: What the hell is his buckin’ name then?

Pupil C: Frank.

Larry: Frank, the butcher?

Pupil C: No, he’s an electrician.

Larry: You mean electricity has actually reached Ballykilbollocks?

Pupil C (Unamused):  I wouldn’t know, I’m from Killybastard.

Larry: You didn’t have a brother at the school a few years ago?

Pupil C: No, I don’t have any brothers.

Larry:  And what’s your name?

Pupil X: Sergio McBastard

Larry: You’re not one of the Drumgallykilderrymore McBastards are you?

Pupil X: No, I’m one of the Castlegorfinmorebrack McBastards

Larry: You McBastards don’t half get around…

And so on…

There would be situations when certain troublesome pupils were making a nuisance of themselves in class.  Larry would pretend to get angry and bang loudly on his desk, then say: “Get yourself down to Brother O’Loscan’s office now!”  The miscreant in question would go out the door down the corridor and on his way to receive a bollocking or perhaps much worse from the Great Satan only for Larry to shake his head with a sigh and reveal his bluff, ordering a designated pupil to:

“Run after thon buckin’eejit and bring him back here!”

He would also indulge in the occasional spoonerism – If someone had left the door open he would bark at them – “Fose that cluckin’ door!!

Watch this space…

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS

PL’s take on Guy Ritchie’s Robert Downey Jr’s latest outing as the reinvented steampunk sleuth from Baker St: 

Moriarty: Graham Norton meets Anthony Worrall-Thompson – with disastrous consequences…

 

I helped celebrate the Christmas season of 2011/2012 by going to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie, “A Game of Shadows”, starring Robert Downey Jr as the titular hero, Jude Law as Dr Watson, and Stephen Fry appearing as Holmes’ brother Mycroft. Another newcomer was Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty, son of the late Irish actor Richard Harris. As with the first movie in this series, CW warned me beforehand about expecting too much authenticity, or anticipating that the plot would remain strictly faithful to the original canons of Conan Doyle. I took his warning to heart, and am very glad I did, because I was thus able to take the movie on its own merits, and found myself taking in over two hours of what I consider to be very mindless escapism and great fun.

As CW rightly warned, there was practically no link between what happened in the film and the original Holmes creation in the stories, the first glaring error being the relationship between Downey Jr and Law, with the abrasive nature of their communication between each other in the picture more closely resembling that between Bodie and Doyle in “The Professionals” than the mutually respectful regard that both had for each other in the canon.  Historically, too, there were glaring inaccuracies with some of the weaponry deployed by the protagonists not being invented until years later (I mean, a submachine gun in 1891!). 

Professor Moriarty, rather than being merely a criminal mastermind “godfather” figure, was transformed into a more Dr Strangelove type of character, bent on causing international mayhem through a major European war, which he then planned to fuel by arms sales from his munitions factories.   The plot of the story was very thin, and indeed, in at various points was a little difficult to follow (not to mention incredibly far fetched!), but it certainly had its moments. Fry was a deliciously eccentric Mycroft, and, as with the first movie in this series, the special effects and action scenes were fantastic, being fast paced and frenetic and served to hold the the plot together, sweep it along, and hold the interest of the audience (well, me at least!).

Perhaps most interesting was Jared Harris who played the part of the Jekyll and Hyde figure of Moriarty with great aplomb, and is someone to look out for in the future.

Altogether, I heartily recommend a viewing, provided that you don’t expect much fidelity to the original stories!

 

On Springboks & Rainbows: Invictus reviewed

Having come a long way from his days as “The Man with No Name” and “Dirty Harry”, veteran actor-turned director Clint Eastwood has proved that at nearly 80 he still has that magic touch.

You don’t have to be a rugby fan to enjoy this film, a highly uplifting morality tale on the strength of the human spirit and the concept of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – in a sporting and psycholoogical sense.

One of the film’s opening scenes features archive footage of Nelson Mandela being released from his long incarceration with a voiceover making the statement “Mandela is now a free man” – surely an intentional pun on the name of the lead actor. Morgan Freeman is uncannily accurate in his portrayal of Mandela as the highly charismatic and charming individual that he was – and continues to be. Although it should be noted that such parts – ie the world weary wise old sage who has a knack of influencing those around him as in films like The Shawshank Redemption and Driving Miss Daisy – are his stock in trade.

John Carlin in his book Playing the Enemy on which Invictus is based sums up the spirit of worldwide revolution that was in the air in the lte1980s/early 90s:

“The world was changing fast. The anti-communist Solidarity movement had come to power in Poland; demonstrations in Tiananmen Square were calling for Chinese reform; the Soviet army ended its nine-year occupation of Afghanistan; the Berlin Wall was tottering. Apartheid belonged like, communism to another age.”

Mandela’s philosophy of in order to make progress you need to know your enemy is one of the central tenets of the film. Freeman is excellent in putting across Mandela’s extraordinary lack of bitterness towards his former oppressors following 27 years of incarceration.

When questioned by his black colleagues about his enthusiastic support for the Springboks who had previously represented the oppressive game of the white Afrikaner Mandela says “If I can’t change when circumstances demand how can I expect others to change?”

Despite the heavy overall message of Invictus its not wihtout its comic moments. A notable example is when the white presidential security guards who had previously worked for FW de Klerk under the apartheid regime report for duty to their boss who is now black – and suspects he is the victim of some kind of joke. But in reality it is all part of Mandela’s grand plan to heal the divisions and unite a once bitterlydivided nation which had not so long ago been on the brink of civil war.

Although Matt Damon doesn’t look like your average rugby player his portrayal of Springbok captain François Pienaar is convincing as is his Afrikaner accent. The scenes on he field of play are also well choreographed as are the reactions from the crowd.

The sickly sweet feelgood factor is perhpas a little overdone by the end of the film,with the final scenes of the jubilant team and their supporters now both white and black, but this doesn’t detract from what is a fantastic piece of cinema.

“It’s a little secret, just the Robinsons’ affair…”

As a general rule The Dreaming Arm tends to avoid commenting on that storm (or should that be Stormont?)-in-a-teacup  style primary school playground bunfight known as Northern Ireland politics.  There are other blogs better equipped to do that, such as Snailer McCoole (or whatever his name is) or that Russian bloke who likes football and David Cameron.  Nevertheless, I just couldn’t resist commenting on this particular incident!

Mrs Robinson and Benjamin in "The Graduate"

 
“Here’s to you Mrs Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know”
 
So sang Simon & Garfunkel in the soundtrack to the film The Graduate.
 
In a fascinating case of life imitating art the film was about an affair between Mrs Robinso,n a married middle-aged woman (Anne Bancroft) and Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman), a young university graduate.  Now it’s been reported that a real life Mrs Robinson, Iris Robinson MP and wife of Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has had an extra-marital affair with a lad almost young enough to be her grandson.  As a bible-thumping self-proclaimed Christian and noted homophobe Iris may feel that true to the song, Jesus (being a forgiving sort of chap) does indeed love her.  Whether young Kirk feels the same remains to be seen, but unlike the former (to quote from The Life of Brian) he’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.
 
 And to further spice things up there’s also a tale of alleged financial impropriety tied to the whole affair.  Tabloid journalists (and bloggers with too much time on their hands) are no doubt having a field day.
 
Peter not surprisingly denies the allegations of his wife’s financial wrongdoing.  But then he would.  A bearded politician from the opposite side of the sectarian fence is also prone to issuing denials – which are greeted with howls of laughter from the dogs in the street.
 
Robinson is known as “Peter the Punt” after leading a violent incursion across the border into Co. Monaghan with a baying mob in the 1980s and subsequently escaping jail by paying a court-imposed fine.  But experts in rhyming slang have claimed that he always was a bit of a punt anyway – in much the same way as Bernie Madoff was a banker.
 
Iris has made her bed, she can lie in it –as I’m sure she did once or twice with Kirk!  
To drown his sorrows the Punt may well down several cans of strong beer such as Stella (or “Wifebeater” as I believe it’s colloquially known for some reason) – or whatever his preferred tipple is.  (Other alcoholic drinks are available).
 
And isn’t it doubly ironic that Robbo’s deputy in the NI Assembly bears an uncanny resemblance to Art Garfunkel who co-sang the above song?

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Popular recording artist Art Garfunkel

 
We’ve come full circle…as the actress said to the bishop.

The New Sherlock Holmes

Kelly Reilly who plays Dr Watson’s fiancée Mary

A review in one of the broadsheets described this film as something of a cross between James Bond and The Da Vinci Code. There are certainly elements of Dan Brown and Ian Fleming in the film, but an over-simplistic summary like this doesn’t do it justice – the film has much more besides.

Given that celebrity mockney Guy “the ex-Mr Madonna” Ritichie was directing it I wasn’t expecting a literary purist’s version of the works of Conan Doyle.  In typical Ritchie style Holmes relies on brawn almost as much as brain. While not strictly based on any of the canonical Holmes stories there are shades of such gems as Scandal in Bohemia, The Valley of Fear, The Sign of Four and The Final Problem.

Downey Jr as Holmes with Jude Law as Watson

I had my doubts about the casting of Robert Downey Jr as Holmes, but was pleasantly surprised. The great Jeremy Brett he ain’t, but he does make an excellent Holmes.  Downey’s post-modern Holmes is a scruffy, unshaven character who dresses somewhat flamboyantly in an almost Byronesque manner.  Also a dashing man of action in the mould of a Victorian James Bond with the nervous energy and subtle sex appeal of David Tennant’s Dr Who.  There are perhaps one or two fight scenes and explosions too many though.  The literary Holmes was a skilled pugilist, but was rarely seen in action.  Nevetheless Downey’s Holmes has the usual remarkable powers of irritatingly logcal deduction using the flimisiest shreds of evidence to draw conclusions and is true to tradition a master of disguise.  The plot is quite far-fetched and less plausible than any of the Conan Doyle stories, but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment.  Downey’s Holmes is also considerably less dignified than the tradional interpretations and is subjected to his fair share of humiliating experiences throughout the course of the show. One could hardly imagine, for example the likes of Jeremy Brett, Basil Rathbone or Peter Cushing enduring the indignity of being drugged by a temptress waking up naked chained to a bed.  But then in this digital mass-media centred world modern audiences have an increasinglsy short attention span and are this so much more demanding than their predecessors of the late 19th/early 20th century.

Jude Law puts in a decent perforamance as Holmes’ loyal  sidekick the soon-to-be married Dr John Watson.  The doctor’s dignity and domestic duties contrast well with Holmes’ eccentric uncoventioanl behaviour.

Mark Strong as the villain has the menacing presence of Bond adversaries like Blofeld and Scaramanga or Dr Who’s arch-nemesis The Master.  One of his heavies is even vaguely reminiscent of the heavily-built metal-toothed Bond assailant Jaws.   Ironically Strong’s aquiline features and neatly greased back hair give him the appearance of how Holmes himself is traditionally portrayed. If this was deliberate then it’s a stroke of genius. It it’s purely coincidental it still works.

There is also the recurring theme of Holmes constantly solving the crime before the police much to the annoyance of Scotland Yard’s incompetent Inspector Lestrade.

For some bizarre reason The Rocky Road to Dublin by The Dubliners is played over the end credits as well as during a bare knuckle fight involving Holmes and a hulking gorilla of a man. Come to think of it Conan Doyle was of Irish origin, but this is probably just coincidental. There is also a number of very minor Irish characters in the film, including Derry’s Bronagh Gallagher who makes a cameo appearance as a street fortune teller.

Kelly Reilly and Jude Law

 

Rachel McAdams as American seductress Irene Adler provides the main eye candy.  Like Holmes she is portrayed as something of an action woman in the style of Lara Croft, who becomes a third unofficial member of the Homes/Watson team during the course of their investigations.  However Watson’s fiancée, the more feminine Mary is for this author more easy on the eye.

If any 9-year olds are tempted to go down to to their local police station in order to settle an argument with a schoolfriend as to the real existence of Sherlock Holmes (although as the film has a “12” certificate this shouldn’t be the case!) the standard disclaimer at the end should put their minds at rest “The characters in this motion picture are fictional and any resemblance to any real characters living or dead is purely coincidental”. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Pun very much intentional.

There is a very strong hint of sequel in the making, which I very much look forward to should it go ahead.  Despite a few forgiveable deviations from the literary Sherlock Holmes Downey has certainly proved his credentials as one of the three great iconic characters of popular fiction. He’s probably a little too old to play James Bond, but if Doctor Who ever transfers to the big screen…