Posts Tagged Music in the Round

2017 in Film and TV – the best bits

It was a good year for superheroes.  Most specially because of  Wonder Woman, not because it was the best of its genre this year necessarily but because for the first time with a superhero movie I didn’t have scroll through hundreds of images to find one where a woman was centre screen, in charge.  I wrote about the film, how it made me feel, the exhilaration of seeing all the tropes I love about superhero movies but with a woman, a glorious, magnificent woman, where usually there is a man, or mainly men (quite possibly glorious and magnificent in their own right, but still).

I loved Guardians of the Galaxy 2, warming to it despite a phase when I wearied of some of the schoolboy humour, until I realised what that was telling us about these lost children, and how they were forming a strange, new family.  There was plenty of daft humour too in Thor: Ragnarok,  as one would expect given that Taika Waititi was directing (responsible for last year’s delightful Hunt for the Wilderpeople and for What we do in the Shadows).  And it was perhaps a sign of changing times (and not a moment too soon) that Valkyrie is played as a cynical, world-weary, boozy mess who comes through when she is needed, such a male archetype.  As well as obviously kicking ass in a most splendid way.   Spiderman: Homecoming  was charming, funny and really used the notion that Spidey is an adolescent boy, cleverly and with heart.  Logan, though, of all the films that belong broadly in that genre, was the one to break your heart.  With gripping valedictory performances from Jackman and Stewart, and a mesmerising and terrifying one from Dafne Keen.

Star Wars is not so much my thing.  I did enjoy the first trilogy, albeit critically, but I never felt them to be mine, and I have never even seen the prequels (nor do I intend to).  But I loved The Force Awakens, and I loved Rogue One, and I look forward to seeing The Last Jedi before long.

rogue one

War for the Planet of the Apes was brilliant – referencing Biblical epics, Westerns, Apocalypse Now, Schindler’s List and probably other genres and specific films as well, whilst maintaining the power and emotional heft of its predecessors.

war planet apes

My efforts to find an image for each film in which a woman is prominent were doomed in the case of Dunkirk.  That’s fair enough, given the premise, I didn’t expect women to feature other than in traditional roles – as nurses, or serving tea and jam sandwiches.  There has been a more serious issue raised, that of the absence of non-white faces.  I don’t honestly believe this was a deliberate whitewashing, nor do I accept that just because Farage liked the film it was a pro-Brexit parable.  But it would have taken very little to ensure that there were visible representatives of the Royal Indian Army Services Corp companies, or the lascar crewmen on British merchant vessels that took part in the evacuation.  They were there, and this could have been conveyed without changing the basic structure of the film and its deliberately narrow focus on a few of the rescued and rescuers.  But having said that, whilst watching the film such considerations never crossed my mind.  I was overwhelmed, by that intense focus, by the score which built and built the tension until it was almost unbearable (and the use of the Elgar Nimrod as the first of the little ships appeared reduced me, predictably enough, to sobs), and by the non-linear structure which forced one to concentrate, to hold those strands together even as the direction teased them apart.

dunkirk

The opposite for the next two movies – three women foregrounded in each of them.  I wrote about Twentieth-century Women for International Women’s Day,

20th c women

and Hidden Figures we missed at the cinema but caught on DVD – uplifting and inspiring even if, oddly enough, the sexism and racism they encountered was actually ramped up for the benefit of the story.  Who would have thought that could ever be necessary?

hidden figures

Baby Driver was beautifully described by Empire as:

not a film just set to music. But a film meticulously, ambitiously laid over the bones of carefully chosen tracks. It’s as close to a car-chase opera as you’ll ever see on screen.

Even if the narrative arc (young man in debt to gangster does ‘one last job’ and finds out there’s no such thing) is traditional enough, the choreography, the seamless blend between diegetic and exegetic music, make it entirely original and massively enjoyable.

La La Land inspired me to write about musicals.   It was gorgeous and delightful and poignant and much more that I wanted to say was expressed so well in a piece on the marvellous That’s How the Light Gets In blog.

la la land

 

And one more cinema outing, a rather lengthy but entirely captivating one, for Bertrand Tavernier’s Journey through French Cinema.   It is what it says, a journey and a personal one at that, through French film from Tavernier’s first childhood moment of enchantment, on through the decades as he goes from a kid in the audience to a film maker himself.  I believe there’s a follow-up in the making, bringing his journey more up to date, to which I will happily commit as many hours as it takes, as soon as it’s out.

a-journey-through-french-cinema

Mind you, speaking of French cinema, I should really note that we did go to see Elle.  However, my feelings about that film are so predominantly negative, that despite my overwhelming admiration for Huppert, and despite moments of brilliantly black comedy, I shall pass over it without substantial comment.

On to the smaller screen.

As always a good deal of crime fiction.  The dramas noted below are not an inclusive list of what we watched.  There were others that were workaday, or that strained credulity with plot craters and characters who behaved with a stupidity that was at the same time predictable and utterly inconsistent with what we already knew of them.  I’m not going to name the guilty parties, just those that we were gripped by and that managed to avoid the worst clichés and pitfalls of the genre.

Sherlock: The Final Problem certainly didn’t give us genre cliché.  What it all meant, and indeed, whether it meant anything at all or was just a clever game, is uncertain.   The Guardian‘s reviewer was a bit cross about it, but identified two main strands in the narrative:

One was a subtle, beautifully crafted backstory about Sherlock’s childhood. The other was a fun if unfulfilling gameshow of wild hypotheticals, where everything was at stake yet it often felt as though very little was.

sherlock

It was frustrating and baffling but it didn’t make me cross, I was perfectly willing to believe both that it did mean something and that it was just a fascinating puzzle that I would probably have no chance of unravelling.

Line of Duty series 4 was just superb.  Thandie Newton’s Roz Huntley was absolutely compelling, and the plot twisted and turned as we were made to question everyone’s motives and integrity, at least briefly.  It had the classic LoD set pieces in the interview room, plus shoot outs and chases, and a plot that at least started to weave together strands from series 1-3, whilst leaving plenty to look forward to in series 5, which cannot come around too soon for me.

line of duty

The Missing had only one character in common with series 1, the grizzled detective (Tchéky Karyo) who I was very glad to spend another few hours with.  Keeley Hawes and David Morrissey were both excellent, as always.  The narrative begins, in a sense, at the point that one might expect it to end, with the return of their missing daughter.  Of course, it’s not that simple, it’s complex and agonising, and unexpected.

missing

Broadchurch 3 was much better than 2 (which I quite enjoyed at the time but actually struggle to recall what it was all about, really, apart from Joe’s not guilty plea).  The handling of the rape case was generally excellent even if the resolution left a few dangling plot threads that didn’t quite make sense.   Julie Hesmondhalgh was wonderful, as were, obviously, Tennant, Colman and Whittaker.

broadchurch

Strike was an excellent adaptation of the first two of Robert Galbraith (aka J K Rowling)’s Cormoran Strike novels.  Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger were perfect in the lead roles, and I look forward immensely to the adaptation of the third and any future novels in the series.

strike

I Know Who you Are was a fairly bonkers Spanish series in which most characters were pretty despicable, and one of the two genuinely sympathetic people didn’t make it out alive.  The only morality that prevailed was Family and within that there was a hierarchy of loyalty – to attempt to murder one’s sister in order to protect one’s son was seen by most characters (including the intended victim) as pretty reasonable.  It was all thoroughly enjoyable.

i know who you are

Unforgotten 2 was profoundly different, as Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar unpicked another cold case.  They are both deeply sympathetic characters and the whole thing is imbued with a kind of compassion and empathy that draws in the damaged people whose lives have been twisted in various ways by the past crime.

unforgotten

Rellik very cleverly subverted the way in which the detective story must follow a retrograde narrative path, starting with the crime and working backwards, by starting with the crime’s (apparent) resolution and working backwards and backwards, until in its final episode it leapt back to the beginning/end and a shocking dénoument.  The structure took a bit of getting used to and never quite stopped being unsettling, but we thoroughly enjoyed the ride.  It was produced by Harry and Jack Williams (The Missing) and featured, amongst other excellent performances, the wonderful Rosalind Eleazar as an early suspect.

rellik

Witnesses was the second series of the French crime drama starring Marie Dompnier.  This one also stars Audrey Fleurot, who we know from Spiral, and whose return in that series we look forward to impatiently.  Witnesses was compelling and baffling and ended most enigmatically (none the worse for that – I’d rather have honest to goodness open endings than ostensibly tidy endings that actually leave loose threads all over the place).

witnesses

Fargo 3 brought us not one but two wonderful female cops.  Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval).  And not one but two Ewan McGregors, as he plays twin brothers.  One David Thewlis was more than enough, however – his villain was quite the most revolting, viscerally unpleasant character I’ve seen on screen for some time.  That’s a compliment (I think) to the writing and the acting. Lord knows where this one is going next but we’ll be more than happy to go along.   Fargo also introduced the wonderful phrase, ‘unfathomable pinhead-ery’ into our vocab, for which we are truly thankful.

fargo

 

Telly sci-fi had an altogether brilliant year.

Agents of Shield had an outstanding season with a multi-layered narrative that messed with our heads and our hearts.  Beautifully played and written, and quite breathtaking.

shield

Orphan Black reached its fifth and final season, having maintained its form throughout the four years that it has been running.  The weight of the series is carried – seemingly effortlessly – by the awesome Tatiana Maslany, who plays not only various clone ‘sestras’ but at various times plays one of them masquerading as one of the others.  It’s dazzlingly done.  It also stars the rather wonderful Maria Doyle Kennedy as Mrs S.

orphan

We’re not far through Star Trek: Discovery yet, but from episode 3 on were hooked.  Yes, OK, that coincides with the arrival of Jason Isaacs, but it’s not just because Jason Isaacs.  Sonequa Martin-Green is excellent, as is Anthony Rapp, and Mary Wiseman as cadet Tilly.  It’s visually brilliant, and the plot is loaded with moral ambiguity from which it does not flinch.  It promises much and we look forward to it developing further.

discovery

I remain loyal to The Walking Dead even though no one could claim that it’s unproblematic.  The tone and pace are extremely uneven and it depends far too often on (a) plot armour, (b) magically inexhaustible ammo and (c) people who we know are capable of good judgement behaving with unfathomable pinheadery.  Nonetheless, I cannot envisage giving up on it.  I have to see how this plays out – and  there are episodes which grip and compel and convince.

Possibly the only one of my top TV shows which features in the critics’ lists is The Handmaid’s Tale.  I also read the book for the first time, as part of my 60 books in 60 days challenge.  So much has been said about the series that I don’t feel I can add anything especially insightful – it was horrifying and terrifying and brilliantly done.

handmaid

And of course there’s Doctor Who. I wrote about the (to me, brilliant) news that the next Doctor will be a woman.  Nonetheless, much as I look forward to seeing what Jodie Whittaker brings to the role I will need to grieve first for Peter Capaldi’s doctor, who I have loved – and for Pearl Mackie who has been a wonderful companion.   PC’s final series was excellent, and the finale was heart-stopping and moving.

I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone, because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun. God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind! It’s just that… Just kind. If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live. Maybe not many, maybe not for long. Hey, you know, maybe there’s no point to any of this at all. But it’s the best I can do. So I’m going to do it. And I’m going to stand here doing it until it kills me. And you’re going to die too! Some day… And how will that be? Have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” — The Doctor

 

whojodie

 

Three docs worth mentioning.  Suzie Klein’s Tunes for Tyrants explored 20th century music in the context of Nazi and Stalinist oppression.  She’s an excellent presenter and the material – and the music – was fascinating and powerful.

suzy klein

Bowie’s departure from this dimension was – for me amongst others – the greatest loss of  2016, a year of losses.  Bowie – the Last Five Years brought us the final phase of that extraordinary story, as he worked on his last two albums,  and the stage musical Lazarus.  We were reminded, as if we could forget, not only of his talent, but of his humour and intelligence, his warmth and wit.   And that last body of work is not only a worthy finale to his career but imbued with a sense of mortality and the fragility of life.

bowie

Neil Brand is one of my favourite music-explainers.  Charles Hazlewood and Tom Service have got that nailed in terms of classical music but for the music of stage and screen, for the popular song, Neil is your man, and The Sound of Musicals was a delight.

musicals

 

We loved Poldark, and not just for the scenery.

poldark

The Replacement was a bit bonkers but both Vicky McClure (see also Line of Duty) and Morven Christie (also in The A Word, series 2 of which isn’t covered here only because it’s yet to be watched) were excellent.

replacement

And another favourite of mine, Suranne Jones, was magnificent in series 2 of Doctor Foster.

dr foster

We got to see Jodie Whittaker pretending to be a doctor in Trust Me.  Plot holes a-plenty (unless they’re just an indication of a second series coming up?) but well done, and well played by JW – looking forward to her being a real Doctor shortly.

trust me

Homeland was on excellent form, with the dynamics between Carrie and the new female PotUS adding a new dimension to the plot.

homeland

And Spin took us back into the shadowy world of French political manouevering.

spin

It wasn’t all screen based culture.  I made several visits to Leeds Grand Theatre for Opera North productions, some of which I reviewed for The Culture Vulture  (see the  Reviews page of this site, which also features my review of the Sheffield Crucible’s production of Julius Caesar).  I also saw at Leeds Grand a magical production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden, at the Crucible, an intense Desire Under the Elms, and in the Crucible Studio various splendid Music in the Round chamber music concerts.

So, thanks to all who’ve shared these delights with me.  Liz, Viv, Arthur, Ruth, Aid, Dad, and of course him that I’ve been watching telly and going to the pictures and going to gigs and plays with for >40 years…

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

2014 – some of the best bits

Some of the cultural highlights of my year – a year of working at home, long train journeys to long meetings which gave me more time to read, less time to go to the cinema or the theatre.   However, I did manage a few outings…

  • Twelfth Night at the Crucible – a real delight.  I’d been disappointed that we weren’t getting a tragedy or one of the problem plays, rather than a comedy that I’d seen on stage before, but that feeling evaporated very quickly indeed.  The performances were excellent, the staging imaginative and suggestive of darker undercurrents (the cast appearing at windows almost like the undead, the showers of rose petals  – see also Poppeia).
  • Brilliant opera at Leeds Grand – La Boheme,  and The Coronation of Poppeia.  And another Boheme, this time in Graves Gallery, from Opera on Location. 

poppeia la boheme

  • Tramlines!
  • Music in the Round – I’d pick out the Schubert octet, Tim Horton’s bravura performance of the Prokofiev Piano Sonata no. 7 (described by the Guardian as ‘ferocious’),  Charlie Piper‘s WWI suite, The Dark Hour; works by Schulhoff & Haas, and consort of viols, Fretwork.
  • Once again we celebrated Tim Richardson’s life and passion for learning and teaching with the 24 Hour Inspire – 24 hours of lectures on a host of topics, from WWI poets to insect sex, from biogeography to Mozart, from underground science to fairground history – ok, you get the picture.  Once again a host of people stepped up to help, everything ran smoothly, and we were able to donate to Rotherham Hospice and Impact Young Heroes.  We’ll be doing it again on 16-17 April 2015.  Tim’s charity, Inspiration for Lifegoes from strength to strength.
  • I revisited the City Ground after far too many years, for the first home game of the season, and Stuart Pearce’s first game as manager.  That was a great game.  We’re in a slump at the moment, and that early euphoria has dissipated.   If it was anyone but Psycho in charge I suspect the calls to sack the manager would be ringing out right now, but few Forest fans would want to deny him the chance to turn things around.  I hope he can.  I really, really, hope he can.

Top TV of 2014

No attempt at ranking.  How could one decide on the relative merits of a gritty cop drama and a comic book fantasy?  So, what do all of these shows have in common?  First, excellent writing, and great performances.  Essential to have both.  So many big budget dramas skimp on the former and blow the budget on the latter, but even the best actors can only do so much with a script that clunks.  Second, great female characters.  All of these programmes  basically kick the Bechdel test out of the park.   It’s not just about having ‘strong’ women.  Not all women are strong, and no women are strong all of the time.  It’s about having women characters who are rounded human beings, fallible and flawed, but not dependent on men to make decisions or to solve problems.   Some of these women do indeed kick ass, but they don’t all have to.  So, to Nazanin Boniadi, Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Amelia Bullmore, Lauren Cohan, Clare Danes, Siobhan Finneran, Danai Gurira, Keeley Hawes, Elizabeth Henstridge, Gillian Jacobs, Suranne Jones, Nimrat Kaur, Sarah Lancashire, Melissa McBride, Vicky McClure, Tatiana Maslany, Lesley Sharp, Allison Tolmin, Ming-Na Wen and the rest – cheers, and thanks for giving us images of women that are as diverse and complicated as actual real live women are.

orphan line of duty happy valley mollyhomeland scott & baileycarol community shield

  1. Fargo – I was decidedly unconvinced beforehand, but it turned out to be funny, gruesome, and touching, with one of my favourite women cops in Allison Tolmin’s Molly (not just a re-run of Frances McDormand’s marvellous Marge from the film, but a character in her own right), Billy Bob Thornton as a grimly hilarious killer and Martin Freeman as a weaselly one, and a wealth of other characters, some of whom we came to care about so much that at tense moments there was much yelling at the screen as we thought they might be in danger.
  2. Line of Duty – I wasn’t convinced about this one either, mainly because the first series had been superb, and I wondered if they could match it.  They did,  and it was Keeley Hawes’ performance that clinched it.  Whilst I’d watch Vicky McClure in anything, Keeley wasn’t in that category for me, despite Ashes to Ashes.  But in this she was riveting, absolutely mesmerising.   The rest of the cast was superb too.
  3. Happy Valley was perhaps the most ironically titled programme of the year.  This valley was pretty damned grim.  But Sarah Lancashire as cop Catherine Cawood was wonderful, and the story was compelling and moving.
  4. Scott & Bailey maintained its form in series 4.  The three central women (count them!  three central women!) are all convincingly real, sometimes infuriatingly so.
  5. The Walking Dead opened series 5 with an episode so gripping that I really could neither breathe normally nor speak for quite some time.   It’s maintained that tension (more or less) whilst varying the format, to focus on different subsets of the characters, and different locations.   Carol has been central to this season’s episodes so far, and her character is one of those that has been allowed to develop and deepen throughout.  There’s no shortage of other interesting characters, and the plot allows for philosophical, political and ethical speculation as well as for gory shocks and suspense.
  6. Agents of Shield got past a slightly wobbly first series and got its pace and tone just right.  It fits right into the Marvelverse, but stands alone perfectly well.  And it features girl-geek Simmons, a Sheffield lass, and there’s just a hint of South Yorkshire in her accent from time to time.
  7. Community made me laugh more than anything else this year.   Just when you think it is as bonkers as it could be, it ups its game, to be even more meta, and even more daft.
  8. Doctor Who I have spoken of elsewhere.  I have a deep love for this programme, and whilst this regeneration has been unsettling at times, uncertain in tone perhaps, I have great hopes for Capaldi and Coleman in series 9 next year.
  9. Homeland redeemed itself.   Gripping stuff, with Clare Danes acting her socks off and getting us deeper into what makes Carrie tick.
  10. Orphan Black is one of the most criminally underrated programmes of this (and last) year.  Tatiana Maslany inhabits each of the characters she plays so well that I forget – disbelieve almost – that there is just the one actress involved.   And when she’s playing one of them pretending to be one of the others….  Cracking plot too.

Films of the year – I leave the in-depth cinematic  reviews to Arthur Annabel who promises an extensive blog on this topic soon.   I simply note these as films which have delighted and/or moved me, in no particular order.  Worth noting that whilst the programmes on my TV list get A* on the Bechdel test, the films are considerably weaker on that front.   Nonetheless, some fine performances, and Nicole Perlman was the first woman with a writing credit on a Marvel movie (Guardians of the Galaxy).

guardians 2 cap america x men lego dallas white ribbon mr turner  slavedragonaurielcornelia

Women of the year:

  Jack Monroe – for enlivening my repertoire of meals to feed the family, and campaigning about food poverty

Professor Monica Grady – for being emotionally, exuberantly passionate about science

kate Kate Bush – for doing it her way, as always

fahma Fahma Mohamed – for telling men three times her age what they needed to be told about FGM and how to protect young women in the UK

malala Malala Yousafzai – it’s all been said really.  A young woman of remarkable maturity and dignity, as well as courage.

adedevoh Dr Ameyo Adadevoh – helped to curb the spread of Ebola by quarantining a patient in the face of pressure from his government, but succumbed to the disease herself

 

laura bates Laura Bates – her Everyday Sexism project helped to give women a voice, to tell their stories, to shout back.

In 2014 I’ve blogged about refugees, genocide, footballW G Sebald and Michel Butor, Kazuo Ishiguro, everyday sexism, Tramlines, Josephine Butler and Doctor Who.  I got a bit personal on the subject of depression, and was inspired by Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl to present my manifesto – a plea to just be kind. And my blog about reading the last of the Resnick series of detective stories won the approval of the author, John Harvey, who linked to it on his own blog, and republished my jazz playlist!

Amongst the blogs I’ve followed, or at least tried to keep up with, I would particularly note Searching for Albion.  This is the record of Dan Taylor’s four month cycling trip across the British Isles, talking to people he meets, by plan or by chance.  A fascinating project, beautifully documented.

To all of those who’ve shared some of the above events, obsessions and enthusiasms with me, who’ve given me support when I’ve needed it, who I’ve learned from and with, thank you.   I don’t know what to expect from 2015 – but see you there!

 

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

2013 – the best bits. And some of the other bits.

 

It has been a funny old year.  Funny peculiar, though not without the odd moment of mirth and merriment along the way.

 

I came back from one secondment to my regular job in January, and went off on the next secondment in December.  This new one is a major change – working for HEFCE, based at home when not attending meetings in various exotic parts of the UK (oh, OK then, Croydon, Birmingham, Manchester, Dorking…).  It’s a fantastic opportunity, and challenges the way I organise my life as well as requiring me to acquire new knowledge and new skills.

 

I graduated, again.  Did the whole gown and mortar board thing which I hadn’t been fussed about when I was 21 and graduating for the first time. And then, with barely a pause, on to the doctorate.  Studying part-time, it’s going to be a long haul, with who knows what possibilities at the end of it, but I’m loving it.

 

In February, a beloved friend and colleague died, and we – his family, friends, colleagues, students – grieved but also worked together to put on an amazing event in his honour, the 24 Hour Inspire.  We raised money for local cancer charities, and have raised more since, through an art exhibition, plant and cake sales and various 10k runs/marathon bike rides, etc.   And we’re now planning the 24 Hour Inspire 2014, and the publication of Tim’s diary.  He will continue to inspire.

 

Culturally, my high points in 2013 have been:

 

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the Showroom, talking about Americanah, and Half of a Yellow Sun
  • Peter Hill premiering newly discovered/completed Messiaen at the Upper Chapel (and playing Bach, Berg and Schoenberg too)
  • Arnie Somogyi’s Scenes in the City, playing Mingus at Sheffield Jazz
  • Tramlines – the Enid in the City Hall, Soukous Revelation in the Peace Gardens, Jim Jones Revue and Selecter at Devonshire Green. (And more, but those were the absolute top bits).
  • The 24 Hour Inspire – 24 hours of lectures on life, the universe and everything, including Ed Daw’s blues piano, Rachel Falconer on poetry and birds, Jenny Saul on implicit bias, Claire McGourlay on the Innocence Project, and personal narratives from Brendan Stone and Elena Rodriguez-Falcon.  Plus John Cockburn’s rendition of (What’s so Funny ’bout) Peace Love and Understanding, and my favourite Beatles B-side, Things we Said Today, and more busking from Mike Weir, Graham McElearney and Eugenia Chung.  And more, lots more.
  • Fabulous Beethoven quartets/quintet from the Elias at the Upper Chapel
  • A magical Winter’s Tale at the Crucible
  • Two awesome Britten operas (Peter Grimes and Death in Venice) from Opera North at Leeds Grand
  • New (to me) authors enjoyed this year: Maggie O’Farrell, Louise Doughty, Lucy Caldwell, C J Sansom, Alison Moore, Edward St Aubyn, Rebecca Solnit, Wilkie Collins,  Jonathan Franzen
  • Wonderful new books from authors I’ve enjoyed before: Stephen King’s Dr Sleep and Joyland, Lynn Shepherd’s A Treacherous Likeness, Jon McGregor‘s This isn’t the Sort of Thing…., Robert Harris’s An Officer and a Spy
  • Finally finished Proust’s Sodome et Gomorrhe.  Allons-y, to La Prisonniere!
  • I’ve learned to love Marvel superheroes (Avengers AssembleThorIron ManAgents of Shield!), and have thrilled to The Walking Dead, Orphan Black (virtuoso performance(s) from Tatiana Maslany), Utopia and, of course, Dr Who.
  • Speaking of which, not only an absolutely stonking 50th anniversary episode, but also a fascinating and very touching drama about the show’s early days, with David Bradley as William Hartnell, the sweet and funny The Five-ish Doctors, with Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy and Colin Baker sending themselves and everyone else up with great affection, and Matthew Sweet’s Culture Show special.  And the Christmas episode
  • Other cracking telly – Broadchurch, Homeland, Misfits, The Fall, Southcliffe, The Guilty, The Americans…  And from across the Channel, not only another masterclass in French profanity from Spiral, but the wonderful The Returned
  • And other top films – Joss Whedon’s Much Ado, Lore, The Hobbit Pts 1 & 2, Lincoln, and Patience (after Sebald).

 

About the blog itself.  It’s been less focused on my areas of research recently, and that will continue to be the case, as I’m working on the PhD.  The odd digression will find its place here – as Tim used to say, tangents are there to be gone off on, and the blog is a good way of nailing those (to mix my metaphors somewhat) and stopping them from distracting me for too long.  I shall be continuing to go on about all sorts of other things that pique my interest.  In particular the blog will continue to be a place where refugee stories are foregrounded, as a riposte to the mean and dishonest coverage which those stories tend to receive.

 

Over the last year, my posting has been somewhat erratic.  I note that I didn’t write anything between March and June (I made up for it in June, however, with a Refugee Week blog-blitz, as well as a piece about Last Year at Marienbad which I still intend to follow up.  That hiatus may have had something to do with being in the final stages of my degree – finishing off my dissertation, and a last batch of essays and presentations.

 

There are so many fantastic bloggers out there, too many to do justice to.  We lost one this year, as the great Norman Geras passed away.  But I’ll continue to enjoy, and to share/reblog That’s How the Light Gets In, Nowt Much to Say, and Futile Democracy, amongst others.  For my research interests, I will no doubt continue to find lots to think about and follow up in blogs from Decayetude and Vertigo.

 

So, thanks to the aforementioned bloggers, to the various people with whom I’ve shared the cultural delights enumerated above, to friends and family who’ve supported me in my ventures and refrained (mostly) from telling me I’m mad to try to do so many things.

 

Thing is, I have a history of depression.  I know that the best way for me to fight that, to avoid sliding back into that dark pit, is to do lots of stuff I care about.  So, not just the job – which I care about, passionately – and my wonderful family, but research, writing, ensuring that we do Tim proud via the charity, and so on.   I am very aware that there’s a tipping point, that if I do too much stuff I care about, given that I also have to do stuff that I have to do, just because I have to do it, the anxiety of having so much going on can itself lead to sleepless nights, which make me less able to cope, thus leading to more worrying and so on and on… It’s all about balance, and about having support when I need it.  So, to all of you who, whether you know it or not, provide that support, and help me to keep that balance, a heartfelt thanks.

 

In particular, over this last year, I’d like to thank:

 

For unstinting support and encouragement through the part-time degree and especially as I reached the final stages – tutors Sophie Belot and Annie Rouxeville, and classmate Liz Perry.  And a special thanks to Chris Turgoose for ensuring that my graduation gown stayed put via an ingenious arrangement of string and safety pins.

 

For support and encouragement to go on to the PhD – the aforementioned Sophie, Annie, and Liz, plus Rachel Falconer, Helen Finch, and my supervisors Amanda Crawley Jackson and Richard Steadman-Jones

 

For their contributions to the work of Inspiration for Life, and the 24 Hour Inspire, and their support in commemorating and celebrating Tim – Tracy Hilton, Ruth Arnold, Vanessa Toulmin, Chris Sexton, John Cockburn, Lee Thompson, Matt Mears and David Mowbray

 

My family, of course, without whom…

 

And, finally, Tim.   I’d have loved to share this year’s triumphs and tribulations with him.

 

Have a wonderful 2014 all of you.

 

fireworks

 

, , , ,

1 Comment