Monday, 20 August 2012

Ghost Stories for Christmas

Well, this year's Christmas present is sorted.  The BFI are releasing all the BBC adaptations of MR James' ghost stories on a series of  DVDs.  These were a real highlight of festive season television.  Personal favourites are The Treasure of Abbot Thomas and A Warning to the Curious.  A more recent adaptation that was highly effective was A View from a Hill, which is only available in the 5-DVD set coming out in October.  Unfortunately that one also includes the hugely disappointing 're-imagining' of [Oh]Whistle and I'll Come to You [my Lad] with John Hurt that irritated me a couple of Christmases ago (see earlier post).  However, we did have the creepy pleasure earlier this year of seeing Robert Lloyd Parry's excellent interpretation of that story on stage at the White Rock Theatre, including the ingenious use of a large pocket handkerchief.  Also included in the bunch of releases are the outstanding Dickens adaptation The Signalman with Denholm Elliott, one of the most atmospheric films I've ever seen, coupled with related spooky late-70s tv films Stigma (never seen it, but anything with standing stones is a must-see) and The Ice House (similarly unseen).

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Perseid Meteor Shower

Since moving out of London I've had the opportunity to see the night sky more clearly and occasionally observe some interesting celestial phenomena I would never have seen in the capital. One of my favourites is coming up this weekend: the Perseid meteor shower. All you need to know can be found here. The best viewing so far took place when we were camping near Bodmin Moor where there was little light pollution. I got up in the wee small hours and stood outside the tent for half an hour or so marvelling at the shooting stars. The cold and the rather disconcerting noises emanating from the nearby wood eventually sent me back to my sleeping bag.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Robert Hughes

This is getting disturbing. After mentioning Gore Vidal to my wife last week I found out the following day he'd died; at the weekend I thought, after a gap of many years, that I'd renew my acquaintance with some of the articles written by the irascible art critic Robert Hughes. Now it's been announced that he's died as well. One of the few art critics who could also make you laugh out loud, he was certainly one of the major reasons I became interested in art when I saw his television series The Shock of the New and received the accompanying book as a Christmas present.  Obituaries via {Feuilleton}

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Gore Vidal

And so farewell Gore Vidal. Obituary here and more about his acid humour here and here. Coincidentally I'd been telling my wife the day before his death of one of my favourite putdowns, courtesy of Gore. In the long lost days when I listened to Start the Week on Radio 4 he was a guest, together with Watership Down author Richard Adams. When asked what he thought of Vidal's latest novel, Adams,who had come across throughout as a pompous ass, declared that he considered it 'meretricious'. Vidal's instant response was, 'Well, Mr Adams, meretricious and a happy new year to you.' Never read any of his books, but I enjoyed his feline presence in interviews. As some of the obituaries claimed, he could well have been the 20th century's Oscar Wilde. He famously hated Truman Capote (see earlier post) whose Answered Prayers I read recently: very funny and outrageous in parts, I'm glad that he didn't finish it, as what I assumed was the plot, involving an insanely jealous plutocrat husband, which slowly emerged from all the bitching, seemed pretty dull compared to the stories of bad behaviour amongst the American upper classes; presumably it bored Capote too. Also managed to see the second Capote biopic Infamous which was aired on BBC1 late one night recently: possibly better than the award-winning Philip Seymour Hoffman film with a brilliant performance from Toby Jones and a scary pre-Bond Daniel Craig.