Category Archives: Film

In your arms only

When asked – and sometimes even when not asked – about what makes the Edinburgh International Book Festival so special, or who you might meet there, I have often borrowed the tale below to describe what could happen.

But it’s never as good as when the someone who was there tells it. And since Julie Bertagna put it on Twitter, I feel it’s out there, in public.

It’s a lovely way of remembering Sean Connery. And what a lucky man he was, to have Julie in his arms!

Besides, rugs are a nuisance…

Bookwitch bites #147

Sigh. It’s time to stay at home again. I mean, more so than the last two (?) months. We didn’t exactly go to town during this time, but went out a little bit. Even considered going out for a meal, but on careful consideration couldn’t really face it. We can cook. Or we can order delivery of either pizza or Indian. Not much else the three of us agree on, foodwise.

So we will heed this t-shirt advice again. We started back in March or April, but haven’t got to the end yet. And there is more Mandalorian to look forward to, with the baby Yoda.

This post will be full of borrowings and stealings.

Having said that, I am obviously heading straight to the Lowry theatre. Not really, but for someone who no longer pays too much attention to theatre news from the place I no longer live near, my eye was caught by the press release about the Nightingale Court, so I read on a bit. The Lowry is to host several court rooms so that trials that have lagged behind for too long this year, can start taking place. This means the theatre receives some welcome revenue, and the jury members get to sit in comfort in theatre boxes; one each. (I could almost be tempted…)

Temptation can go both ways. I’ve heard from a reliable (cough) source that Camilla Läckberg’s recent novel has a lot of sex in it. Don’t know if this is good or bad. But according to e-newsletter Boktugg, lots of people dislike Camilla. It can be hard feeling happy about someone else’s immense success. Suffering from the green monster isn’t much fun. One day I might read one of Camilla’s books, if only to irritate the person who told me so many bad and, I suspect untruthful, things about her.

So what do you know about volcanoes? Do you have a gut feeling for where you might find them? That is if you don’t actually know about eruptions or remember where some of them took place. I was intrigued when reading in the Observer that someone had been stranded by an ash cloud after a Finnish volcano stopped flights. I tried to imagine those pine trees going flying as the volcano volcanoed. I know the Nordic countries are ‘all the same’. But doesn’t Iceland stand out at least a little bit if we’re going volcanic?

And finally some nice normality. This week, the day before the renewed lockdown, Theresa Breslin came to town. She was here to sign books at the Tinkerbell Emporium, which is where we last saw her, just over a year ago. (Theresa is the one on the right!)

It would have been even lovelier if I’d been able to pop over to say hello…

Fowl Film

We saved the Artemis Fowl film until we no longer felt needy. Back in May we really wanted to watch it, having already waited a year or so, and then feeling better for knowing it would be available on television, well, Disney+, with no requirement for getting to a cinema. And we kept putting it off. Son and Dodo jumped in almost on the first day, but were restrained in their judgement of it.

Let me first say it’s not Artemis Fowl, even if the name suggests it. But this happens with many books when they move to the big screen. What matters is that it’s a good, enjoyable film. That’s not what this is.

The next step is to try and decide if you’d understand what was going on if you’d never read the books. We don’t think you would. We’re not sure anyone knows what’s going on.

None of the characters are anything like what Eoin Colfer makes us believe they are. Commander Root is most like himself, despite being a woman played by Judi Dench. The others? No. The cruel, scheming Artemis is a babyish boy, wanting his daddy back. Holly Short is not dreadful, I suppose, but she’s not Holly. And Trouble is a girl.

Mulch Diggums is a sort of Hagrid, a large dwarf hoping to grow smaller. I quite liked his mouth, actually. That worked well, as did his rear end. Having Mrs Fowl dead is a bit of a drawback, should you want her to give birth to Artemis’s brothers later on. And was there really no spare piece of tinfoil to cover Foaly’s head with?

I understand that you can change stuff; that you will need to, but to rewrite the whole thing? I can’t even work out if this was to cover just the first book, or if enough of the next ones was in here that we can move directly to book four. Because there will be a sequel, won’t there?

Afterwards Daughter spent a fair length of time telling us what she thought of the film. I’m, well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

but I would love a talking horse!

I read Sunday’s Observer’s New Review with rising levels of panic and and a feeling that I really didn’t want to.

I didn’t want to anything. There were films recommended. Television programmes. All the kinds of things that reviewers review, in fact. Books, even.

They didn’t leave me cold, as they might once. I just didn’t want to read or watch or listen to any of that. It sort of confirmed that while this ghastly situation continues – and it does; we are not out of it yet – it is preventing me from doing most of the things I’d normally be doing.

Until I came to the page about Kit de Waal, whom I saw – heard – in Edinburgh (was it last year? No, it was two years ago) and liked very much. She said good stuff. But towards the end she says ‘as soon as you introduce a talking horse … I’m just not interested.’

I mean, that’s fine. Kit doesn’t need to like talking horses. In fact, what she wants in books are things that can happen in real life. That’s totally fine.

But I can’t help feeling that a talking horse would cheer me up.

They Called Us Enemy

Not being a trekkie I didn’t know who George Takei was when his interesting snippets turned up on social media. I simply liked them.

Now I have read his graphic, well, I suppose, autobiography, from WWII onwards, about the interning – imprisonment – of American citizens of Japanese background after Pearl Harbour. It is a great book about this atrocious and shameful history. (The only thing I knew about this before came from watching the film I’ll Remember April some years ago.)

George was four when his family were more or less removed from their beds in Los Angeles in the middle of the night, and taken on a long journey to Arkansas at the other end of the country, where they were to stay for most of the war.

I have deep admiration for George’s father, who worked hard, kept the peace and made himself useful to his fellow ‘prisoners’ for the duration of this wrongful treatment. His behaviour also meant that this whole period seemed like an adventure to George, and possibly as almost normal to his two younger siblings.

Through George’s later fame, some of this unfair treatment has reached more people than might otherwise have been possible.

And I was reminded of what I read on Normblog some years ago; something which made me want to cry again. But mostly good crying. In a world of many really very bad people, and leaders, there are good ones too.

(Almost as an afterthought, I have to comment on how easy it was to read this graphic novel. They aren’t always, but this one worked perfectly.)

The Hate You Give

You can probably work out why I am reposting this film review from March last year here, and now:

“Recently I have been mentioning Angie Thomas a bit over on Bookwitch. Before Saturday’s EIBF event with her, I wanted to read her books, and ended up reading the second one and watching the film of the first book on DVD. I thought this would be efficient use of my time. One problem now is that I liked the film so much that I might need to read the book too.

Having read On the Come Up, I felt that The Hate U Give exactly mirrored Angie’s writing. I almost sat there nodding my head in agreement with everything, as though I was reading the book. Knowing how most films are not exactly like the novels they are based on, I should probably treat the film with a little pinch of salt. And then read the book.

The Hate U Give

A refreshingly black film, I was aware that I don’t know much at all. I’ve no experience of the lives the characters lead, and it was often hard to hear what they were saying. But that’s me, not them. Just as fans of the books like the fact that the characters speak like them, that goes for the film as well.

The Carter family live in a poor, black neighbourhood, but ambition for their children means that all three are sent to the mostly white school further away. As the main character Starr says, she’s another person when she’s at school. She has to be. And Starr does it so well that none of her friends have an inkling what her real life is like.

Starr is with a childhood friend when he is shot and killed by the police. Her whole life changes. She doesn’t know what to do or whose advice she should take, but eventually she realises she needs to stand up for her friend and do ‘the right thing.’

It’s a bleak situation, handled very well. As Angie said, she needs triumph to balance the trauma, so it’s not all negative. But to stay true to what so many black people face every day, this feels like a hopeless situation. You shouldn’t have to spend every day in fear of what the police will do if they ‘notice’ you. Except this is reality for millions in America.

THE HATE U GIVE

Starr’s family are not perfect, but they work together. Her dad has been in jail, and her mum is another strong mother, just like Bri’s in On the Come Up. There are friends, neighbours, an uncle, even the local crooks.

I rather wish they had not made Starr’s white boyfriend* look like a Republican senator-to-be, but other than that this film was pretty perfect. It’s certainly an eye-opener. The question is whether those who need to see it, will.

(Photo © Erika Doss)

*I understand that the original actor was dropped because he made racist remarks. That proves how necessary books and films like this one are.”

Noughts & Crosses

It was good. What am I saying? It was great. Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses on BBC 1 was just as I’d have wanted it to be. It doesn’t quite follow the plot of the book, but the feel of it is right. And that’s what matters.

Sephy and Callum are perfect, as are their respective parents and siblings with all their flaws. Jude is promising as the terrible man he becomes [at least in the book]. As with the novel, even when you know that black and white people have swapped places – from our reality – you still have to work at seeing what’s going on. The brown plaster scene was illuminating in its simplicity.

I hope the next episodes will be as fantastic as the first one. It’s about time we had a really great dramatisation of one of our best YA novels.

The Lammisters

I suspect Declan Burke’s new novel would make a good film. In fact, I have no way of knowing that it’s not already happening. Set in Hollywood, slightly under a hundred years ago, it would be appropriate. And I do enjoy humorous films.

The Lammisters is completely different from Declan’s other crime novels, which – mostly – take place in Ireland, featuring inept and sometimes bad characters, but usually also very funny ones. If they talk too much, it’s because they are Irish.*

Here, though, is a narrator who uses a lot of words. Long words. Fancy words. Complicated sentences. Footnotes. That sort of thing.

Not being as well read – or educated – as the Guardian’s Laura Wilson, I don’t know Laurence Sterne, although I have heard of him. I gather it is his style that Declan has gone for. The review in the Guardian was very positive, which is well deserved. To my mind, all his books ought to have got a mention there.

It’s a period I like a lot, and coincidentally it’s the second of two crime novels set in that period that I had lined up over Christmas; one on each side of the US. (More about that tomorrow.) And the cover is fabulous.

Declan Burke, The Lammisters

* Apologies for the stereotyping…

The Bookwitch and Pullman screen adaptations

This time twelve years ago I was full of the latest Philip Pullman adaptation on BBC television. It was The Shadow in the North, and I loved it. I loved it so much that I persuaded the Guardian to let me blog about it for them. There was a lot to like, and I went on and on.

The Shadow in the North - Guardian blog

And now? I still like the various televised Pullman books. But the recent His Dark Materials I have almost managed to push from my mind. Not actively, but I’ve been surprised at how little I’ve thought about it. I never went back after the first two episodes, preferring to do other things when the Resident IT Consultant sat in front of the television for another six Sundays.

I’d happily watch the Sally Lockhart films again, not to mention I Was a Rat. ‘All’ we need now is The Tiger in the Well. Except I guess Billie Piper is too old. The Tin Princess might work, though, as Sally is older in the last book. And dare I say it? There was meant to be another book or two, or so Philip said a long time ago.

Little Women

I was about eleven, maybe twelve, and I thought it was a stupid title. Unga Kvinnor it was called in Swedish. But it was a gift – most likely from the Retired Children’s Librarian – and in those days I combed the shelves at home for possible books to read, so I read it. Despite the title.

It didn’t take many pages before I was hooked and I loved it and I read everything about the March girls, like generations of other young females.

Little Women

We went to see the film this weekend and on the way home Daughter and the Resident IT Consultant ‘fought’ over who’d get to read it first. It’s probably a reflection on them having enjoyed the film… As did I. The director, Greta Gerwig, is quite possibly a genius.

Starting at the end made a tremendous difference. If nothing else, it created a sort of Schrödinger’s Beth; you never knew whether she was still alive, or not. At times it was a little hard to be sure where in the story we were, although the length of Jo’s hair helped.

I hope lots of young readers will see this film, and not just us oldies who know what to expect. I hope it means they will read the book, and that it will change many lives. Apart from my early dislike of the title, I grew up at a time when classics got the attention they deserve. Now, I suspect most younger readers stick with new fiction [because there is so much of it]. Emma Watson has helped, by hiding/leaving copies of the book in London, as well as thousands across the UK as a whole.

Find it, read it, and leave it for someone else to discover.

Louisa May Alcott, Unga kvinnor