Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Sporting metaphors

Recently I was thinking about sporting metaphors, as you do, and I was struck by how many of them have passed into common parlance. Apparently English (and I mean English English, not American or Australian English) has more of these than any other language. I’m not talking about clichés – game of two halves; sick as a parrot; bulging the auld onion bag (or indeed anything by Tommy Smyth ‘with a y’ – yes, why are you on my television?) – but actual metaphors.

It’s no surprise that we have a load from football; score an own goal; on a level playing field; from the kick-off; moving the goalposts; back of the net. It amuses me that the ones from rugby generally imply defeat or incompetence; kicked into touch; blind-sided; drop the ball. And then there’s the insidious way they creep into business speak as those around the boardroom try to make their meaningless drivel sound more entertaining – pick up the ball and run with it, anyone?

I also find it amusing that many of the metaphors derived from cricket relate to complete and utter bemusement; bowled over; stumped; hit for six; caught and bowled; sticky wicket. Apart from being forever linked with confusion (Americans don’t even understand these expressions, let alone the game), cricket is also associated with ‘fair play’; itself a term to which any number of sports can lay claim. I like ‘it’s just not cricket’ and ‘he/she had a good innings’. It generally shows initiative to do something off your own bat (not back, which is a common misapprehension).

Horse-racing also provides a host of metaphors; first past the post; also-ran; neck and neck; down to the wire; win hands down; by a nose; ringer/ring-in; flogging a dead horse. Motor racing gives us pole position and pit stops, while it could be any kind of racing that supplies the home stretch, first out of the blocks, front runner and false starts.

Some sporting metaphors have no definitive origin. Crying foul, grand-standing, being on the bench, getting the ball rolling, and keeping your eye on the ball could come from a variety of sports.

Other metaphors are clearly derived from one source. Golfers were the only ones originally under par and it was only those playing bowls who need concern themselves with the rub of the green. Touché was a cry reserved for fencers; high-jumpers (and potentially pole-vaulters) raised the bar; and those scoring card games, particularly cribbage, were level pegging. Chess players had opening gambits, end-games and reached stalemates; tennis players knew the ball was in their court; wrestlers were told there were no holds barred; and there are no prizes for guessing who was snookered.

If you consider sailing a sport, rather than merely an extravagant waste of money, there are numerous metaphors, frequently involving drinking and other states less than top-hole (bar billiards). So you can be on an uneven keel, three sheets to the wind, chock-a-block, be taken down a peg or two, or have the wind taken out of your sails. To avoid such trouble you may have to change tack, batten down the hatches and get all hands on deck.

It surprises me that we employ so many baseball metaphors in English – a sport that we don’t even play. However, these are generally used in the business world (dominated by American capitalism) and the sexual sphere (heavily influenced by the American film industry).

So pointless management meetings will be all about touching base, stepping up to the plate, throwing curve balls, knocking things out of the park, covering all the bases, playing hardball (as opposed to softball), hitting a home run, coming out of left field, three strikes and you’re out, pinch hitters and taking rain checks. Meanwhile testosterone-challenged teenagers (the same ones who will [arguably] grow up to spout this boardroom bingo) will be trying to get first base.

Perhaps most surprising, however, is the clear ruler of the sporting metaphor kingdom: boxing. For a sport that many people claim to disdain, it racks up (snooker?) more common phrases than any other. Here are some:

Against the ropes
Beat someone to the punch
Below the belt
Best foot forward
Blow-by-blow account
Boxing clever
Come out swinging
Down and out
Fancy footwork
Gloves are off
Have someone in your corner
No stomach for the fight
On the back foot
Out for the count
Pull one’s punches
Punch above your weight
Punching bag
Ringside seat
Roll with the punches
Saved by the bell
Sparring partner
Sucker punch
Take a dive
Take it on the chin
Throw in the towel
Throw your hat into the ring

Monday, 28 December 2009

My newest favourite thing: Mascots

There’s something strangely endearing about the sight of a grown man dressed up in a fluffy mascot costume clapping his hands and covering his eyes with oversized hands. It’s a Knockout realised the humorous potential and featured many comedy capers as folk with giant feet raced each other over obstacle courses collecting water in buckets, while Stuart Hall collapsed in hysterics.

When I worked at a bookshop in the children’s department, there were plenty of character costumes to wear. I remember once being crammed into a Mr Happy suit with a hangover – it wasn’t pleasant and the darling little kiddies kept poking me in my giant eyes and pulling my fingers going, ‘There’s a person in there.’

I did, however, fare rather better than our deputy manager who once ventured out into St Anne’s Square in the fat puffin costume without a minder. This probably went down a treat in West Wombletown or some such, but the inner city Manchester kids soon knocked her to the ground, pulled off the head (of the costume that is) and rolled her around the cobbles. Her orange tight-clad legs were wiggling out of the bottom of the costume complete with webbed feet, but she couldn’t stand up as she became an impromptu football. She wasn’t hurt although the costume (and her pride) was dented, but I’m afraid to admit I may have been doing a Stuart Hall impersonation of my own.

And now it’s an intense few days for the English Premier League so I am watching hours of football – most of their teams have mascots, and in fact there is a hotly contested annual mascot race. Liverpool have a Liver Bird, which stands to reason, and lots of teams (Chelsea; Aston Villa; Reading; Bolton; Middlesborough; Blackburn) have lions, which seem appropriately large and fearsome. Manchester City’s Moonchester is oddly cool and West Ham’s Herbie the Hammer is frankly odd.

Burnley have Bertie Bee. Him Outdoors once bought me a cuddly Bertie Bee – he was very proud of himself for giving me this gift. Bertie is really not to be messed with and is actually a former rugby league player, as a streaker in a match against Preston found to his disadvantage.

I actually really like Gunnersaurus – he stands in the tunnel and shakes hands with all the players when they get off the bus. The Arsenal players often give him a hug or a slap on the back too, while the away team look at him with bewilderment. I can understand their bemusement; it seems an odd thing to do to dress up in a hot furry costume and pretend to be one of the lads, but if anyone will, the English will. Long live their peculiarities.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Songs of the 2000s

Recently I was hosting a music quiz in which I played the first 10-20 seconds of a song and people had to guess the title and artist. All of the music came from my own record/cd collection. There was no problem for the 70s, 80s and 90s but then the 2000s came along and my music collection rapidly dwindled.

Surely there are just as many good tunes in the past ten years? Is the dearth of them on my shelves due to my age (did I simply just stop buying music in my late 20s?) or the lack of exposure to decent music in New Zealand. If you don’t like country, hip-hop, dub or ‘singer-songwriter’ music you’re pretty much stuffed living here. I don’t.

So, after much thought (this is what we do on Christmas Eve round our way) Him Outdoors and I came up with our favourite ditties of the decade (in date order). Feel free to differ:

  1. Last Nite – The Strokes (2001)
    My new favourite going-out song; it’s a guitar thing.

  2. The Scientist – Coldplay (2002)
    Heartbreaking vocals and transcendent guitars, it can make you cry every time – if you like that sort of thing.

  3. Get Loose – the D4 (2002)
    Solid rocking record – saw them live at Rippon Festival and they were far and away the best thing there (apart from the wine)

  4. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes (2003)
    A fantastic guitar riff that became a football terrace chant – the match is simply sublime.

  5. Where is the Love? – The Black Eyed Peas featuring Justin Timberlake (2003)
    Protest music doesn’t always have to be angry, but it does have to have a point. This is the velvet glove approach.

  6. I Predict a Riot – Kaiser Chiefs (2004)
    Classic indie anthem – I would have loved this when I was a student. I love it now.

  7. American Idiot – Green Day (2004)
    You’ve got to love the under-three minute American punk single of which this is a pretty good example; ‘I’m not part of a redneck agenda’ – I bet they don’t play many gigs down south...

  8. Love Generation – Bob Sinclair (2005)
    At last reggae lovers can play something other than Bob Marley (thank the lord) – this was the song of the summer and goes perfectly with a game of cricket and a pint of cider.

  9. In the Morning – Razorlight (2006)
    Taming their ‘raw edgy’ sound with a more mainstream feel got them accused of being derivative (NME journalists are alive and well I see) but comparisons with The Strokes and The Who are nothing to be sniffed at.

  10. I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor – The Arctic Monkeys (2006)
    My sister sent me this album with the words, ‘everyone’s listening to this’ and rightly so.

  11. Smile – Lily Allen (2006)
    Whatever you think of her, the girl makes a good record. She once described her music as that of ‘a sort of over-excitable teenager who desperately wanted attention.’ Maybe so, but most teenagers aren’t that talented – or that interesting.

  12. Rehab – Amy Winehouse (2007)
    Okay, so she’s a mess, but if you leave the tabloid gossip aside and just listen to the songs, you’ll find a great voice and a depth of emotion. This may not be her best, but it’s her signature tune.

  13. Grace Kelly – Mika (2007)
    A prime slice of bubblegum pop with layers of musical theatre; this is perfectly written and insanely catchy – I couldn’t get it out of my head when cycling. Thank God he didn’t listen to the record execs who advised him to ‘be a bit more like Craig David’ – Yawn.

  14. Paper Planes – M.I.A. (2007)
    I loved this rebel song when I first heard it – good sample of The Clash in there – and then I saw the film Slumdog Millionaire and I loved it even more.

  15. No You Girls – Franz Ferdinand (2009)
    I bet this sounds good on the dance floor – another swirling electropop, guitar bass and drum mix to wave your arms around to.

  16. Invaders Must Die – The Prodigy (2009)
    The band who claim their music is ‘full of electric dance/punk, noise and power’ have made their best album (of which this is the eponymous single) for a good ten years. ‘We are The Prodigy’ they intone – welcome back.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas carols

I love Christmas carols – proper ones like Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, and While Shepherds Watched, and Little Town of Bethlehem. I love going to church or standing on a village green singing my heart out with people who were strangers only minutes ago but with whom I now share a bond. There’s something warming about communal singing, whether at carol services or on football terraces. I have sung carols at schools, churches and old people’s homes, on streets and in parks, and, on one memorable occasion, Digbeth Coach Station.

I was coming home from Manchester for Christmas; it was Christmas Eve; snow had fallen steadily and the M1 was closed. I spent hours huddled in a freezing coach station in Birmingham that smelt of wee with the bus driver and several other passengers as we waited for news that the road had been cleared and we could carry on our journey. I just started singing Silent Night – I thought I was singing to myself until other people joined in. It was a magical moment.

In the Bleak Mid-winter was the first solo I ever sang. I went to a C of E primary school and we were taught the carols for school assemblies. I loved the words and the sentiments – there were often sheep and donkeys and little baby Jesus lying in a manger. It was all jolly lovely I thought.

Once my siblings and I made a tape for our cousin, who lived overseas, onto which we recorded ourselves reading stories, singing songs and playing instruments. My brother sang Once in Royal David’s City and he could hardly get the words out through his explosive nervous laughter. Every time I hear about the lowly cattle shed I think of him.

Recently I was having a discussion about how I hated ‘modern’ Christmas music, such as Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and the like. I was horrified to find that someone whom I previously liked and even respected had a secret penchant for Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas. I’ll never look at her the same way again. Fairytale of New York is about the only decent non-carol Christmas song I can tolerate. I was at this concert.

At the local English language school where they teach English to foreign language students, the ‘festive season’ has dispensed with carols altogether – many of them celebrate a denominational religious holiday which is not accepted in current culturally sensitive circles, but also the language is too archaic and difficult to understand.

It always was. My father, who hates blind faith, insisted that if I was going to sing those ‘infernal tunes’ around the house, I should at least know what they meant. When I was about eight, he sat me down and we went painstakingly through the lyrics of Good King Wenceslas until I fully understood the socialist principles of the 10th Century Bohemian king, who believed in helping the poor.

I loved the part where the page and monarch went forth together ‘through the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.’ I have often thought of this carol when trudging through snow on seemingly endless walks or skiing trips when I have trailed behind Him Outdoors, following in his footsteps. The merry tune and the positive thoughts it inspires does indeed help to ‘freeze my blood less coldly.’ Father dear wasn’t so keen on the good king’s politics or the inherent Christian message, but I think he may find more cheer in the fact that the regal Wenceslas is also the patron saint of beer.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Food waste

When I was a child, I was subjected to school dinners. Actually, they weren’t that bad – I heard horror stories of far worse meals than the ones we were served in our canteen (liver with tubes is often mentioned by Him Outdoors in tones of horror and revulsion). But we were made to eat semolina.

It’s still one of the few foods that I don’t like (melon and tripe are the others, in case you’re interested), although I’ve tried. Back then I simply couldn’t see the point of it, once you’d swirled the blob of raspberry jam into it and made it go pink. The dinner ladies were aghast and told me that ‘starving children in Africa would be grateful for that’.

I wished no harm on the starving children in Africa and thought I was doing them a favour by transferring the congealed goo into an envelope and addressing it to them. Apparently not. I got into quite substantial trouble for that, and I have been concerned about food waste ever since.

8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year. That’s a lot of food. The ‘
Love food hate waste’ website states that if we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road. That’s a lot of cars. A recent study conducted by the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson, reveals that almost half of the food in America goes to waste. That’s outrageous.

I blame the supermarkets and the advertising – they tell us that we need to eat this or that in bright shiny packaging to be better people. There are mounds of tempting fresh fruit that we just have to have – we take it home to rot in its bowl. We are bombarded with advertising for ready meals and additive enhanced snacks that will supposedly fill the emptiness in our souls. Anita Desai’s 1999 novel Fasting, Feasting explores this concept horrifyingly well.

We need to buy it all at once because we don’t want to make excessive trips and burn extra fuel. We can’t take a trip down to the local high-street greengrocer, butcher or baker because they no longer exist – the corporate supermarket in the shopping mall squeezed them out of existence.

And the effort of getting there and parking and walking around the impersonal, clinical cavern with the soporific music, and then waiting in the line with tantrum-throwing toddlers and loading it all onto the conveyor belt and taking it all off and getting it all into the car and returning the trolley and driving home and unpacking it all and putting it all in the fridge and the pantry is such that you don’t want to do it any more than you have to – so you buy as much as possible in one go, and are rewarded with coupons if you spend over a certain monetary value.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, but I am crawling out of the pit and have discovered my own form of resistance. It’s called planning. I plan my week’s evening meals. I buy magazines (Dish is a current favourite) and I try out new recipes from them and old cookbooks. I write out a list of the ingredients that I need to make these meals and that’s all I buy, plus some fresh fruit and salad stuff for snacking on, and (of course) cat food for Chester.

I write the meals up on a blackboard and I know that either Him Outdoors or I can make anything on that board because we have a recipe and the ingredients. I don’t have snacks in the house because I will eat fruit if I need a quick fix.

If I do ever have leftovers I have a pantry full of herbs and spices, dried pasta and tins of beans – a mixture of some of these staples can make something healthy and tasty (and if we have a civil emergency I’m sorted for a good few weeks).

It’s not a massive step (I need to start a compost heap to make use of the scraps) but it’s a little thing that makes me feel better about the starving children in Africa. I may not be able to do much to help them individually, but I can at least not waste the resources that I have.

I’m also adopting this procedure for Christmas presents this year – make a list and stick to it. Impulse buys are rarely a good idea in the long run. 'Waste not; want not' as the old folk used to say. They probably still do, but now I agree with them – help; I’m becoming an old folk!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Cromwell Races - doo-dah!

Having been to the Alexandra Blossom Festival, I thought I should also try out another Otago event – the Cromwell Races. Him Outdoors works for an outfit who were going as their Christmas do, so we trotted along with them. We were picked up by a coach as we stood at the side of the road at Arrow Junction and then the day began.

Let’s talk about the horses first – that is (in theory) what we were there for – although the free food and booze seemed to be an equally big hit. I like horses – they are amazingly powerful beasts and I love to see them run. They paraded around the paddock before they hit the race course and you could see their glossy flanks and noble faces.

Horses are sociable beasts and also highly sensitive – picking up vibes from others around them. There were a couple of smartly dressed blokes on calm steeds who walked around excluding serenity for the racehorses to assimilate. These horses were friendly and liked the attention of being stroked and patted – well, who wouldn’t? – and between the races they stalked along the course by the railings charming the crowd.

I don’t really bet. The last bet I placed was on the final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. ‘How many points is a drop goal worth?’ I asked, and was reliably informed that it was worth three. I knew that Johnny would kick us to victory in the last minute of the game – I just knew it. So I placed my bet for England to win by three points and as I screamed at the television and my premonition eventuated, I was indescribably smug.

When I went to collect my winnings, however, I was told that I had bet on the outcome of 80 minutes and not 100. They didn’t pay out. I was gutted (although England had won the World Cup after all, which sort of made up for it) and lost all faith in the TAB system, vowing never to bet again.

So, I sent Him Outdoors up to the little ticket window to hand over our five dollars to place (he has all the lingo) while I ‘studied the form’ – this consisted of finding a name of a horse that I liked or colours that the jockey was sporting (pink armbands were a favourite – I thought this might mean they were going swimming as well) and going ‘I’ll have that one’. This began with ‘Sweet About Me’, ‘Ratsandall’ and ‘Tiddley Pom’.

It turned out to be not the best method of picking a winner. I’ve since been told that the way to do it is to watch them come out into the birdcage and pick the one which does the biggest pre-race constitutional as this will make him lighter. It’s all about weight, apparently.

In fact, we soon realised that the best guarantee of success was to choose the horse that Chris Johnson was riding. He may be just a wee jockey (they’re all just tiny but very angry for some reason – they remind me of Rumplestiltskin) but he seems to know his stuff and we soon started betting on him rather than the horse.

In the last race he was down in the programme to ride ‘Illicit’ but he didn’t – someone else did and the horse plodded across the line in eighth place while the one that Chris Johnson did actually ride won the event. We tried to cry foul but the TAB people didn’t care – they really are heartless, that lot. As I said, I don’t trust them enough to bet with them.

The horses were great though and I loved watching and hearing them come thundering past. A vet's vehicle sped after each race, going a fair clip and still being well out-paced, but fortunately it wasn't needed at all and break-neck speed was merely a metaphor.

So there was horse racing and betting, but mainly there was drinking and leching. We were in a marquee where a barbecue service turned up, cooked steaks, sausages and kebabs, accompanied by heaps of bread and salad, and, after we had eaten it, they carted it all away again. There were bottles of wine and crates of beer – it was all kept cool in those chilly bins and everyone seemed to have sufficient.

At one point we went for a walk to see what the poor people did. It seems they went to the general bar (hastily established in an old shed), spread rugs on the grass and held impromptu picnics.

They sheltered from the wind and the sun as best as they could while some bought bag of the season’s first cherries from the back of vans. The army were there trying to recruit – although I wouldn’t have thought sunburned drunken hoodlums are exactly what you want in your armed forces – and in fact, the people we saw were wearing camouflage and eating ice creams.

There were a lot of well-dressed women. They go for the fashion and the occasion to wear jaunty hats or fascinators – what a great word for a few flimsy feathers.

A lot of them had made an effort and were tripping daintily around hanging onto their floaty dresses and sinking into the turf with their stilettos. To be fair, as the day wore on and the sun cream wore off many changed from swanky to skanky, but at least they all seemed to be having a good time – alcohol and inhibitions simply don’t mix.

The men let the side down somewhat. True, a couple had worn their best shirts, but most looked like your average Kiwi bloke – jeans, polar fleece, baseball cap with folded arms a bottle of Speights in one hand. Despite their lack of sartorial (or indeed any) elegance, they appraised the women like they were the horse flesh – standing and grunting as attractive young fillies walked by, while leaning against the railings with their backs to the races. You know what I mean, and if you don’t, this picture should tell the story.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Stepping Up

A friend of mine told me she had started wearing a pedometer – you know; one of those things that count your steps. The recommended number of steps is 10,000 a day for adults (children need to do more) - that's just to maintain a healthy weight - you need to do more if you want to lose weight. Apparently most of us don’t do enough.

She said she was feeling pretty smug because she went for a half-hour run a day, but she has a sedentary job, answering phone calls, and was alarmed to find that although she considered herself to be reasonably fit, she wasn’t doing the required number of steps.

As a writer, I too have a sedentary job so I wondered how many steps I do a day. I have been wearing one of these devices for the past three months (apart from the odd occasion when I wear a dress – there is no way you can ‘discreetly’ clip it to your knickers) and I can scientifically tell you that my average daily step count is 10,251.

Yes, that’s not bad (and no, that's not me - sadly), but the thing is that I was training for a 10km in that time. I am now training for a triathlon series so some of the steps have been replaced by swims and bikes – these don’t count on the gadget.

I reckon I’m okay because I make myself walk into town every day (that’s 4,000 steps and approximately a kilometre each way). I get lonely working from home and have to see or speak to a real person at least once a day, so I post letters or buy bread or just have a coffee at the cafe, so that I can have human contact.

There is a lot of support for people to be active for at least half an hour a day, which is a good thing – but if you are walking as your activity, that’s about 4,000 steps. I’ve seen people drive to the gym rather than walk, do a work-out on some machines, and then drive back to their office and sit at their computer. It’s not enough.

Adverts trumpet the benefit of various contraptions that look like instruments of torture and fold conveniently under the bed. Apparently they work all your core muscle groups in three minutes. That’s nowhere near enough steps.

Of course, people with active jobs in service and trades will do plenty of paces. I've seen stats that show how many kilometres people run in football matches (Stevie G does about 10km).

But so many of us work from home or from offices on computers and only get up to make a cup of tea or go to the toilet. Retail assistants spend a lot of time on their feet, but it’s standing still. Bank clerks, receptionists, and teachers are going nowhere – literally if not metaphorically.

I’m not suggesting that everyone run a marathon, but it is quite frightening to think how many more steps most of us need to do.

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Great Mince Pie Bake-Off

I’ve been through this before – everything is upside-down here and the seasons don’t fit.

Certain Christmas traditions with which I grew up seem out of place in New Zealand. There is hardly any possibility of a White Christmas; turkey with all the trimmings will leave you feeling stuffed; it’s too hot to dress up as the fat bloke in a red felt suit and a big white beard (unless you live in Wellington); and the robins look different.
So I was delighted to be invited to a great mince-pie bake off. The lovely Amanda Wooldridge of XL Coaching and the charming Anna Passera of Vivace Group were holding a contest to see who makes the best mince pies.

In a blind tasting with a glass or two of bubbly, friends and connoisseurs gathered to taste the gourmet delights. And delightful they were. I love a good mince pie and these two were fine examples. Brandy butter, custard or whipped cream are often the perfect accompaniment, but these two varieties boldly held their own without need for enhancement.

I had some insider information into the secret recipes – apparently (as the French have always maintained) the key to success is butter. In common with that other Christmas staple (mulled wine), the coup de grace is the spirit you choose to add a certain je ne sais quoi. It seems that a soupçon of whisky or Cointreau is preferred.

There has been some recent brouhaha over claims that mince pies can push you over the alcohol driving limit. To this I say pish-posh. Every second year chemistry student knows that baking alcohol means it’s not really alcohol anymore – something to do with evaporation or some such. This was exposed on BBC Radio 5 Live. Alarmingly the segment went on to condemn Christmas cake instead, for soaking up the three or four bottles of sherry that people (by which I mean my mum) pour over it in the lead-up to the big day.

I read that infamous killjoy Oliver Cromwell banned mince pies (the devil’s food or some such piffle) in 1647 and, since the law has never been revoked, it is still actually illegal to eat them in England. Obviously no one takes this seriously and they really are an institution. They are handed out as a treat at such diverse venues as trains and theatres throughout the land.

One of the big mince pie traditions, of course, involves leaving one out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve to say thank you for filling our stockings. In our house, this used to be accompanied by a glass of sherry and a carrot for the reindeer. *Spoiler Alert* It was when I heard Dad asking if Father Christmas could have a glass of whisky instead that my doubts were aroused.

FC used to leave us clues to find our presents – we had to work for them, you understand. The clues often comprised complicated physics equations or anagrams of cabinet ministers and football teams. These were particularly challenging as Dad (I mean Father Christmas) couldn’t spell, but Dad always seemed to know what he meant – they had long chats over the mince pie and whisky, apparently. I liked to picture this for years, but really it was an obvious giveaway. That and the suspiciously familiar handwriting.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Best films of the decade - part 2

Carryng on from where I left off yesterday, here are my further musings on the films I have seen on the combined 'best of/definitive' films of the last decade from The Times and The Telegraph.

The Last King of Scotland: Great film, great acting and James McAvoy

Little Miss Sunshine: Made me laugh and cry out loud: very embarrassing and very surprising!

The Lives of Others: Quite simply outstanding

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / The Return of the King: The first one was the best, I was bored by the end – just get on with it for God’s sake! There's a reason neither listed the middle of the trilogy - it was mind-numbingly dull. The projector broke down four times while I watched this film; I thought I would never get out of there alive. NZ went into orgiastic self-congratulatory mode.

Memento: I love Guy Pearce – I loved this film

Michael Clayton: Guess what; good actors and a good script can make a great film. It's a suspense, but not a thriller.

Milk: Not bad for an ‘issues’ film, but I love Sean Penn – the man can do no wrong. I prefer Mystic River as his better performance of the decade, however.

Minority Report: I like future-world-gone-wrong films, and they go very wrong here indeed

Moulin Rouge: Who thought it would be a good idea to take two actors who patently can't sing and put them in a musical? It seemed to work - Parisian slums never looked so glamorous and sales of absinthe rocketed

Mulholland Drive: I never got David Lynch, so I watched this to see if it would help – it didn’t

No Country for Old Men: Would have been a great film with one of the most excellent scenes – flipping the coin at the gas store – but ruined by the rambling pseudo psychoanalysis at the end

The Pianist: Adrien Brody shone, America continued it's love/hate relationship with Roman Polanski. Whatever you think of the man, he makes a damn fine film

The Piano Teacher: Ouch! Painfully uncomfortable to watch, deeply disturbing and typically European

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Is it weird when you and your mum fancy the same bloke? Johnny Depp desperately deserves an Oscar for making pirates sexy again.

The Queen: I love Helen Mirren and I love The Queen

The Royal Tenenbaums: So much hype; so many good actors; so ultimately disappointing

School of Rock: Strangely appealing – grown men acting like geeky teenagers is occasionally funny – as long as it’s not real life

Shrek: I'm not a big fan of animation or kid's films, but I'll make an exception for the grumpy green ogre and the funky soundtrack

Sideways: Great understated film although merlot gets a shockingly bad rap

Slumdog Millionaire: How could anyone not like this film?

Spiderman: Not a patch on Batman but Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are cute together

Syriana: Everything's political - I love stuff like this

There Will Be Blood: Will there ever! Often compared with No Country For Old Men, I preferred this, but then I studied the book at university

This is England: Margaret Thatcher has so much to answer for; this film is part of her legacy – brilliant (the film, not the legacy)

Traffic: Ho hum; too worthy for it's own good

United 93: Why did I watch it when I knew it would all end so badly? Depressingly realistic

The Wind That Shakes the Barley: I never expected Ken Loach to sympathise with the IRA – nearly walked out of the cinema in disgust