Friday, 30 December 2016

Friday 30/12/16 - The Year The Music Died (RIP George Michael), An Antidote to This Year's Misery, & This Weeks's Wristwatches.

What a friggin' year it's been. I can't think of any generation that hasn't been hit by the deaths of notable people this year. 
If you're into music, we started the year by losing Bowie back in January. Prince followed a few months later in April. If you limit this list just to musicians under the ago of 70, just about every musical genre lost a band member this year;
- Vanity (Denise Matthews) , a protege of Prince. 
- Joey Feek, country music singer.
- Phife Dawg, rapper. 
- Glenn Frey, co-founder of The Eagles.
- Greg Lake, guitarist of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

If you add a few who were over the age of 70, then we lost Merle Haggard, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Leonard Cohen, as well as founding member of Earth, Wind and Fire, Maurice White. Not to mention Beatles Producer George Martin.
This past week saw the death of British singer/songwriter George Michael and Rick Parfitt, co-founder of British heavy rock group Status Quo
If you're into music in every way, shape or form, my condolences to you. 
You've had a very rough year, my friend. 

That's just the music side of things. Add in Muhammad Ali, Harper Lee, John Glen, Fidel Castro and the deaths this week of Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds the very next day, and you find that no corner of popular culture or world history was left untouched.
A quick stroll through the Wikipedia list of notable deaths of this year makes for sad reading. 
Quite a few names have resonated with me. I've already written about Bowie and Prince. The death of The Thin White Duke really knocked me for a loop. I still find it hard to believe, and it's almost been a year since Bowie died.
As I said last week, I can mourn the deaths of elders like George Martin and astronaut John Glenn, but I can also reason that both of them achieved a great deal in their time and both lived to a ripe old age.
With people like Bowie, Prince, and now George Michael, it is all the more wistful because you just know that they still had plenty of fuel left in the tank. They still had more to do.

I can't say I was ever a big George Michael fan, but I had the 12-inch vinyl of the Wham! single Young Guns and, whenever I think of my late teens to mid 20s, I can hear this song blaring from stereo speakers at every single party that I went to throughout most of the Eighties.
So, I tip my hat to George Michael. Another talent gone too soon.
There's one day left of this wretched 2016 and I fear that nobody's safe.

I was curious to see how Ryan Gosling would fare in a film like this. I have to admit that I do like him as an actor. And he's a sharp dresser too.
He's soon to be seen in the long-anticipated Blade Runner sequel, due out next year, and co-starring Harrison Ford, who reprises his role as replicant hunter Rick Deckard.
Gosling was great in La La Land. Mrs Teeritz informed me that he practiced piano for two hours a day, six days a week, in order to master the instrument for the required scenes. And it shows. I've always admired actors who immerse themselves in the Method to prepare for a role. Robert De Niro and Daniel Day-Lewis are renowned for going to great lengths with their characters before the cameras start rolling.

Emma Stone was astounding in this film. I'd like to think that she'll win the Best Actress Oscar in March, but she faces some heavy competition from three-time Oscar Winner Meryl Streep, and Natalie Portman, who appears as JFK's grieving widow in Jackie. I'd like to think that Stone will win, but I suspect that the Academy voters will consider a slice of 20th century history to be more significant than a musical. Still, with the kind of year 2016 has been, maybe some escapism is exactly what is needed.
Stone gives a great, multi-layered performance in this film. Something I noticed about her when I saw The Amazing Spider-Man (Dir: Marc Webb, 2012) -in one of her early scenes with Andrew Garfield, we get a close-up of her face and she appears to be 'lit from within'. This is a phrase I heard in some film documentary years ago. The narrator was talking about the stars of Old Hollywood. Emma Stone has this. The screen seems to light up whenever we get a close-up of her.
She has worked with Gosling in two previous films and they have a nice chemistry.

The cinematography was beautiful too, capturing the streets of Los Angeles in dusk-lit hues and its night-life in shadows and light.
It was a great film to see. Refreshing in many ways, and a reminder of why we should go to the movies more often in the first place. 

Another film I was looking forward to was the new Brad Pitt movie, Allied, directed by Robert Zemeckis. I have always found him to be a highly competent director and, while I haven't liked everything he's ever done (What Lies Beneath was a tad lacklustre), I can't fault the technical prowess of his films.

I was a little underwhelmed when I first read the premise of this movie- a Canadian intelligence agent begins to suspect that his wife may be a German spy- I began to think; 'Uh oh, Mr & Mrs Schmidt.
However, I was both surprised and entertained by this film. For the record, I happen to think that Mr & Mrs Smith (Dir: Doug Liman, 2005) is a great film. One of my favourites. I can't count how many times I've watched it, and I have two different DVD copies of it. It's one film that I'll write about at some point.

Allied is a sumptuous film to look at. Zemeckis is known for his use of CGI and in this film, he and his team perfectly recreate wartime Morocco and England, but with a certain sheen added to every frame. The night skies of London are dotted with barrage balloons and criss-crossed by searchlight beams as German bomber planes try to avoid being peppered by tracer rounds from the ground. 
The first hour of the film takes place in French Morocco where Canadian Max Vatan (Pitt) partners up with Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), a former French Resistance fighter. They masquerade as a married couple prior to undertaking a mission to kill the German Ambassador stationed in Casablanca. 
By the end of this first part of the film, they have fallen in love, gotten married, and had a baby daughter.
The second half of the film deals with Vatan's suspicions that his wife may not be who she says she is. There are some very tense moments, as we watch as Vatan tries to get at the truth. 
Composer Alan Silvestri's score perfectly suits this film, often adding to the tension, and the cinematography by Don Burgess is sharp as a tack. 
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are great together in this. Sure, the filmmakers may have been aiming for a Bogart/Bergman vibe (it's no coincidence that the first act takes place in Casablanca), and comparisons will no doubt be made by reviewers and film historians in future, but if you put Casablanca/Bogart/Bergman out of your mind, this film is very entertaining. Besides, the allusions to the Bogart/Bergman film are ever so slight anyway. 

It was my son's birthday this week. Time to get him a wristwatch of his own. Here's a rare shot of his hands keeping still while holding a PS4 controller;

Oh, my wristwatch for this week was the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean. I finally managed to take the Oris Diver Sixty-Five off my wrist long enough to put something else on;

I was happy with how some of the photos taken with the FM2 turned out. I've switched over to the Olympus OM2n for the next roll of film. 

And, a final shot for the year, with the watch on my wrist;

So here I am. It's eight-thirty pm on Friday night. Thirtieth of December, twenty-sixteen. Twenty-seven and a half hours left of this year. 
It has been a good year in lots of ways. I finally got back to work, in a job that I'm enjoying very much. We took a family trip to Europe in September (still working on that post), and everybody under this roof has their health. And that's the most important thing, after all. 

Anyway, I want to wish you all a safe and Happy New Year. I hope that 2017 treats you kindly, and gives you more of what you truly want and what truly matters. 
I'll leave you with a snap-shot from an Esquire Magazine interview with Woody Allen, who's been using the same typewriter since he first started writing when he was sixteen;

It certainly is. I used a similar- if not the same- model, a 1951 SM2 to write the short type-cast above. 
Works like a new machine.

Thanks for reading, gang, and have a wonderful New Year!


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  2. Since you mentioned Robert Zemeckis and Blade Runner... I wonder if Johnnie Walker will do a Blade Runner Jubilee version of its Black Label whisky bottle and if they can do a better job than Pepsi for the year of Back To The Future II. 2019 is not that far away...

    1. Yeah, I remember that Johnnie Walker bottle. That would be cool. Especially considering that Johnnie Walker Distilleries is one of the few companies still in business. Many companies shown in the film's 2019 world have gone bust since 1982.
      I also liked the cubed whisky from "Alien: Resurrection".

    2. Thanks for a great year of blogging, I always look forward to my Fridays.

  3. I'll forgive you leaving out Nikolaus Harnoncourt, but no Neville Marriner either? All those definitive Mozart recordings. Anyway, good post as usual, and here's hoping for a better year next year.

    1. Bound to have been some classical music artists as well, NA, but I got further and further depressed as I trawled through the Wikipedia listing of notable deaths of 2016. The younger they were, the worse I felt.
      Hope you have a great New Year, NA!

    2. I can understand that. Cheers!

  4. I greatly enjoyed 'Allied'. Old fashioned film-making and great clothes!

    1. Yes, I had a craving for a linen suit after seeing the film. Beautifully shot film, too.