strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
I have wanted to make this post for three days, but have been unable to do so until now because I could not load my LJ photo galleries. As multiple friends have noted, LJ has been shonky in a number of ways over the same period, and although it seems OK again now, the problems seem to be associated with a server move to Russia - and I must say I also feel very uncomfortable about relying on anything in Russia for the ongoing preservation of a journal I have been carefully curating for 13 years now. I've never felt so inclined to set up a Dreamwidth mirror... but then again something [livejournal.com profile] nwhyte said in an entry earlier today made me doubt that Dreamwidth has proper picture-hosting facilities at all. It's all sadly ironic that this should happen just when people are genuinely popping up on LJ again, thanks I understand to a FB LJ-nostalgia community.

Anyway, here's what I actually wanted to post - a few pictures of our Christmas. We booked a cottage in the Cotswolds village of Bourton-on-the-Water this year - 'we' in this case being me, my Dad, my sister and her husband and children. None of us had ever done Christmas this way before, but we decided to try it on the grounds that it would be healthier and cheerier to do something new and different this year, rather than try to re-create our normal family Christmas but with one person missing. It would also allow flexible levels of participation for each person, in that everyone could choose whether to hang out with the other cottage residents, go out for a walk or simply lie on their bed reading a book. And I'm glad to say it worked really well. We did remember Mum of course, and Dad had a couple of tearful moments. But for a first Christmas without her, it was actually really nice and enjoyable and nothing like as difficult as I suspect it would have been in the family home, or even my sister's home (where Mum had also been for Christmas day a couple of times in recent years).

We arrived in the afternoon of the 23rd, in pretty rotten weather, and got settled in. We had brought a LOT of food, which took quite a bit of unpacking and putting away, while Christophe admired the (fake) Christmas tree which the cottage owners had supplied, and Eloise enjoyed The Snow Dog.

Pictures start here )

Anyway, here we are in the Festive Perineum (h/t [livejournal.com profile] inbetween_girl), which I found boring as a teenager, but has now become one of my favourite times of the year. The obligations of Christmas are all fulfilled, my work email account is blissfully free of people demanding things, and it is genuinely OK to sit around in my dressing-gown watching a Buffy marathon on SyFy and ordering the unpurchased items on my Amazon wish-list. I wondered about driving up to Allendale for their New Year's tar bar'l procession this year, as 2016 is a year which I feel pretty strongly could do with a good burning out. But the weather reports say it will be raining pretty heavily there right over midnight, so maybe not. I am open to other suggestions, if anyone has any?

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strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
I saw both of these with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan as a New Year's Eve double-bill at the Hyde Park Picture House yesterday, from our favourite seats on the left-hand side of the balcony.


45. Some Like It Hot (1959), dir. Billy Wilder

First of all, it does have to be acknowledged that this one particular film probably bears about 90% of the responsibility for the transphobic myth that trans women are really just straight dudes who want to infiltrate women-only spaces and ogle cis women. It didn't invent that idea, and nor is it now necessarily the direct cause of most people absorbing it, but it is a major theme of the film, and must surely have given it a very big cultural boost. So I think it's important to say that whenever talking about this film, as a small way of helping to chip away at the real-world potency of that very damaging myth. On a similar note, I also found the scenes in which Tony Curtis' character, in persona as Shell Oil Junior, coerces Sugar into sex by pretending to be sexually unresponsive and in need of 'help' to fix him pretty gross as well. I get that disguise and deceit are ancient staples of romantic comedies, and never more so than in this one, but she was totally into his Shell Oil Junior character anyway. She would very obviously have willingly and enthusiastically have had sex with him without that extra layer of lies and manipulation, so to me they broke through the romantic comedy genre conventions and out into some distinctly rapey territory.

But I am perfectly capable of separating out those things from the rest of the film in my mind, and seeing it for the of-its-time romantic musical comedy it is meant to be. As a star vehicle for Monroe it is magnificent, with her performance of "I Wanna Be Loved By You" capturing her appeal perfectly. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are perfectly paired as the two protagonists, the Chicago gangsters are brilliant, the music is great, the physical farce fantastic and the witty dialogue to die for. Plus, for all my reservations above, I also think that by showing male characters experiencing male treatment of women at first hand, and by including scenes with strong homosexual overtones (both lesbian ones between Sugar and Curtis-as-Josephine and the famous "Well, nobody's perfect" ending between Osgood and Lemmon-as-Jerry), it probably helped to achieve some social steps forwards as well as backwards. So, if the movie isn't perfect either, that doesn't mean it isn't still a great watch.


46. The Apartment (1960), dir. Billy Wilder

Part two of the double-bill was the next year's follow-up movie from the same production team, which brought back Jack Lemmon as the leading man. It's still a comedy, and starts out looking for all the world like a farce, but it has a dark undertone from the beginning, because of the way it portrays sleazy executives laughing it up together as they coldly conduct affairs in Lemmon's character's apartment, and him conniving in it for the sake of material promotion, while at the same time being very obviously strung along and exploited himself. Then, half-way through, the darkness bursts violently to the surface when one executive's to-him-casual (but to her serious) fling attempts suicide in the apartment. The overall arc is actually very moralistic - Lemmon discovers his moral compass and is rewarded with True Love, the chief sleazy executive gets his come-uppance, and the young lady (Miss Kubelik) rediscovers her sense of self-worth. But gosh, you do get put through the wringer along the way.

This made it a good second film for the double-bill, though. It felt a little more 'cerebral' than Some Like It Hot (if that's quite the right word), which worked well for its early evening slot once you'd been warmed up by the comedy first. It was certainly more moving, anyway - I found myself sniffing back tears as the end credits rolled, which you just wouldn't get from Some Like It Hot (unless, of course, Chicago mobsters had killed your grandmother, you insensitive clod). But it has in common with the other film all those classic qualities of slick pacing, seemingly effortless photography and of course a brilliant cast. Though his character isn't very nice, I actually thought Fred MacMurray was absolutely brilliant as Sleazy Executive Mr. Sheldrake, hitting that perfect note between oiliness and plausible charm which seems to be so characteristic of American Presidents (Nixon and Regan particularly spring to mind). It is essential to the whole plot that we should be able to believe Miss Kubelik might attempt suicide over him while simultaneously being able to see that he's a schmuck, so MacMurray had an important job to do there, and did it really well. I'd like to see more stuff with him in now on that basis. I also loved both the characterisation and the performances for the two Jewish neighbours, Dr. and Mrs. Dreyfuss - relatively small roles (especially hers), but ones which felt very human and three-dimensional al the same.

While Some Like It Hot has fun playing up the glamour of the 1920s jazz age, The Apartment is now just as fascinating for being set in its contemporary present day. I particularly enjoyed seeing how large-scale corporate office culture might have operated in 1960s America, complete with lobbies, elevators, desk diaries, rotary card index files, calculating machines and telephone exchanges. And I liked the insights into Lemmon's bachelor life-style as well, which was so close to and yet not quite the same as its equivalent today - frozen meals for heating up in the oven rather than microwave meals, a TV remote-control unit with a dial on it fixed to his table, and of course the time-honoured pokey apartment for one. In less cheery news from the 1960s, though, I was disquieted to realise that Miss Kubelik is obviously at risk of getting into trouble with the law for having attempted suicide, so that the whole thing has to be hushed up. We have moved beyond that, suicide-wise, in both the US and UK since, but that is still exactly where we are with drugs, leaving addicts unable to seek help for fear of punishment (not to mention at risk from unregulated products), and it's about damned time we sorted that out.

Back to The Apartment(!), it also turned out to be a Christmas / New Year film, which I guess was yet another reason (on top of release-date chronology and the tonal move from pure comedy to black comedy) why it needed to be the second half of the double bill. Miss Kubelik makes her suicide attempt on Christmas Eve, spends a few days recovering at Jack Lemmon's apartment, and then finally dumps her Sleazy Executive in favour of him on New Year's Eve. Not quite the Christmas-to-New-Year experience I would wish on anyone in reality, but still in its own way something to get us in the mood for our own NYE celebrations which followed.

Films watched 2014 round-up )

And now I believe it is time to get started on my films watched in 2015. :-)

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strange_complex: (Janus)
The Year of Augustus is officially over at last, and it's time to wish you all a happy and healthy 2015! May it be full of goodness and satisfaction for you all.

I spent my New Year's Eve this year seeing Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960) at the Hyde Park cinema with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan (both of which I shall write up separately), before returning to my place where we were joined by [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy and Mr. & Mrs. [twitter.com profile] ZeitgeistZero for champagne, canapés, a cosy fire and lots of wicked laughter. It was a lovely evening, and has only left me feeling moderately delicate today, so all in all just right.

Under strict instructions from [livejournal.com profile] glitzfrau, we made sure to compile the annual Death List and Scandal List, which we do most years and which I have occasionally published here (example), but which I don't think we got round to last year. The rules are that if anyone on the list dies or becomes embroiled in a scandal in 2015, we all get 10p, though I'm not sure from whom - ourselves, probably. Also, it's fine for people to be on both lists. Re the Death List, some people are on there in hope, others as a protective charm (since people on the list very rarely actually die), and some out of pure pragmatism, but I will leave it to you to guess which. And re the Scandal List, we have suggested specifics in some cases, in which case we get double points if those come to pass, but we still all get our statutory 10p if those people are involved in any kind of scandal, even if it's not the one we predicted.

So, without further ado, and in the utterly random order we wrote them down last night while drunk, here goes:

2015 Death List
Prince Philip (who has now taken Mrs. Thatcher's traditional place at the head of the list)
John Craven
Ex-Pope Benedict XIV (oops!) XVI (natural causes)
Current Pope Francis (suspicious circumstances)
Elizabeth Butler Sloss
Beryl Bainbridge (ah - actually, just looked her up on Wikipedia now, and it turns out she died in 2010. So nul points for us there I think.)
Katie Hopkins
Michael Heseltine
Kirk Douglas
Terry Pratchett
Alan Bennett
David Hockney
Mark E. Smith
Paul McCartney
Ken Dodd
Rolf Harris (in prison)
Stephen Hawking
Clint Eastwood
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran
President Muhammad Fuad Masum of Iraq
President Assad of Syria
George Bush Snr
Bruce Forsyth
Jimmy Tarbuck
Mickey Rooney
Maggie Smith
Paul Daniels
Any current Blue Peter pets
Mike Lee

2015 Scandal List
Justin Bieber (glue sniffing)
Nigel Farage (auto-erotic asphyxiation and / or found with an orange up his arse)
Boris Johnson
Katie Hopkins
Bono
Gary Barlow
Ed Miliband (turns out to be a LARPer)
Richard Dawkins (converts to Islam)
Jeb Bush
Jedward (it's possible that at this stage we were drifting into playing word association)
Any male BBC news reader
Lorraine Kelly
Neil & Christine Hamilton
Noel Edmonds
George Lucas
Damien Hirst
Paul Daniels
The McCanns
Noddy Holder

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Happy 2012!

Sunday, 1 January 2012 15:19
strange_complex: (Janus)
Well, here's wishing you a very happy New Year, oh denizens of livejournal! May it be one of good health, happiness, fulfilment and success for all of you.

I spent the last hours of 2011 chez moi, having a splendid time in the company of the lovely [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan, [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy, a roaring fire, some silly games and a great deal of champagne and canapés. At the start of the evening we played a QI board game which I'd got for Christmas, and all agreed that the best thing about the game by far was the red plunger-button that came with it, and which made the sound of the dumb-obvious-answer QI klaxon when you pressed it.

By the time we'd finished that, we were ready to move on to this year's death and scandal lists. We did quite poorly last year - on the scandal front, George Osborne did have to look a bit contrite about his cocaine-snorting habits, but still seems to be resolutely in-post. On the death front, Jimmy Savile (whose name I see I spelt incorrectly last year) is of course no longer with us, but that seems to be about it. So our approach this year was to take a scatter-gun approach to the death list in particular, basically just shoving anyone who is getting on a bit on there, along with a scattering of wild-card younger types. We typed it up directly this time, rather than scrawling it on bits of paper, so here it is exactly as we produced it last night, complete with our wild veerings backwards and forwards between celebrity entertainers and foreign dignitaries:

Death list )

On the scandal front we have been more restrained, and also much more specific. We reckon the rule is that we can cash in if any scandal affects the people listed, but that we get bonus points if it happens as we have envisaged:

Scandal list )

By the time we'd done all that it was pretty much midnight, so we got out the Piper-Heidsieck champagne, watched the count-down with Big Ben on the telly, and toasted in the New Year to a stereo display of London fireworks on the telly and local ones outside the window. After that, we turned our attention to sillier games - principally [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan's Spongebob Squarepants clam-catching game, which is chuffing brilliant, especially after a few glasses of bubbly, and prompted much laughing, shrieking, dastardly cheating, and exclamations along the lines of "I've put it in a different hole!" (as, of course, the Bishop said to the actress). Here are [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy locked in a deadly clam-catching duel:



Then it was on to Jenga-with-the-giggles, playing with a remote-controlled Dalek whose failing batteries made him seem comically elderly, and plotting possible epic journeys to Northumberland. All in all a great start to the year, and I hope it continues as merrily as it began. :-)

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strange_complex: (Janus)
Mine has certainly started out well. I decided, rather late in the day, to host a New Year's gathering at my house - nothing epic, as I knew most people would already have plans by the time I announced it, but just a convivial little get-together with canapés and champagne. And so it transpired. My neighbours and their friends popped round to kick off the evening with a glass of wine, and then [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy arrived, shortly followed by [livejournal.com profile] glitzfrau and [livejournal.com profile] biascut . My pictures are a bit rubbish, because my proper digital camera has died, so I could only use my mobile phone which has no flash. But I hope they give some inkling of how glamorous and lovely everyone looked:


We discussed topics as diverse as false nails, plushies and how people respond to civil partnerships, punctuated by a lot of uproarious (and increasingly filthy) laughter, and then saw the New Year in with Heidsieck champagne to the accompaniment of Big Ben's chimes and seemingly infinite quantities of fireworks on BBC 1. And we'd hardly started at that point, either. More champagne and the fun of compiling this year's Death and Scandal lists kept us going until nearly 3am.

Talking of the lists, I have ended up left with the paper copies of both, so I assume it is my responsibility this year to type them up. Last year's are both available on [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan 's journal, though to friends only. The Scandal List doesn't seem to have scored a single hit, unless you count the low-level miasma of scandal which perpetually surrounds both Nick Griffin and Silvio Berlusconi. The Death List did a bit better - we correctly predicted the death of Michael Foot, who was first on the list. But otherwise I don't think we got anybody, despite taking a scatter-gun approach and listing a hundred-odd people. Anyway - can we do better this year?

Scandal List )

Death List )

Obviously there are quite a few names on both lists - so it's bonus points if they die in a scandalous manner.

[livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy wended their way home in the early hours, but [livejournal.com profile] glitzfrau and [livejournal.com profile] biascut stayed overnight - so we had girlish dormitory-style fun getting into our pyjamas and calling out 'goodnight!' to each other, and then having coffee and chat this morning. Once both had taken advantage of my shower (a rare luxury, as theirs has turned into a 'unique water feature' which is currently unusable for its intended purpose), we headed out to a local cafe for a hearty English breakfast over a shared copy of the Saturday Guardian. And finally I was a big brave girl and gave both of my guests a lift down to the railway station - much helped by [livejournal.com profile] biascut's navigation and a general absence of traffic. There certainly weren't any buses to contend with, anyway, because for some reason they just don't run at all for the whole of New Year's Day in Leeds - which is a pretty rum deal if you ask me.

And now ITV 1 is thoughtfully doing a re-run of Downton Abbey, which is very kind of them, as I missed it the first time round, and it is just the ticket for sitting writing an LJ entry in front of. The characters are all a bit more spiteful and back-biting than in the lovely new version of Upstairs, Downstairs, where the household itself was largely wholesome and kind-hearted and most of the drama came from external events instead. I think I like Upstairs, Downstairs better - but that's partly because what I wanted from it was a heart-warming nostalgia-fest, and that's largely what I got. I do hope it will get a longer run with more time for slow-burning story-lines now.

All in all, then, an extremely pleasant turn to the year - and I'm sure it's no coincidence that I am feeling quite optimistic about the prospects for 2011 as a result. The only downside so far is that I had thought over the past couple of days that I was probably fighting off the first signs of a cold, and by the time I went to bed last night it had indeed settled firmly in my nose, making it rather difficult to sleep. But I don't feel too ground down by it, and don't exactly have much to do today anyway. So it could be worse.

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strange_complex: (Janus)
Saturnalia is sorted: off to a cottage with the Bristol Bunch.

Christmas is sorted: parents.

But I'm still pretty vague about what to do with my New Year's Eve. I find myself looking in the London direction, since I know I owe the people of that fair city a visit. And I'm aware that there's a New Year's B-Movie going on. So:

[Poll #632064]

Edit: And, of course, option 2 on question 1 should read 'I might if I can still get a ticket'. Bah.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 1 January 2005 02:24
strange_complex: (Janus)
Out with the old, and in with the new:
May 2005 be a fine year for you!

I have drunk half a bottle of real, trual champagne All By Myself, and I feel deeeLICious! Definitely ready for a new year...

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] damien_mocata for a fabulous party, and to both [livejournal.com profile] thebiomechanoid and [livejournal.com profile] greydragon for being deeeLICious too!

*kisses to you all*

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