Friday, 13 January 2012

Friday Five:Mini Steps to Recovery

Six weeks ago I ruptured my medial head gastrocnemius playing football. Apparently it is a textbook injury (I prefer the word 'textbook' to 'common') and the rheabilitation period is twelve weeks, made in incremental steps.

I spent two weeks in a cast with my leg totally immobilised, and hobbling around on crutches, and no, sadly, I didn't look anywhere near as good as Emily Blunt. I am going to the physio two or three times a week and doing stretching and strengthening exercises for about two hours a day. It's getting better slowly and steadily, but it will be another six weeks before I am allowed to run again (and I'm not sure if and/or when football will be permitted again).

Yesterday I returned the crutches to the hospital with a great sense of satifaction, and it led me to think about injuries and recovery and the things we (or certainly, I) take for granted.

5 Mini Steps to Recovery:
  1. Being able to carry stuff, particularly drinks, particularly hot drinks - have you any idea how long it takes to move a cup of coffee from room to room by putting it on a surface, picking up the crutches, hopping forward a step, putting down the crutches, moving the cup forward a few inches, picking up the crutches, hopping forward a step, etc? About twenty minutes. Of course, I could just lean in the kitchen and drink it standing up, but that somewhat defeats the purpose.
  2. Being able to stand up - hopping around art galleries or racing through airport terminals is simply not possible so although most of the time crutches are manageable, there were occasions when I needed to be in a wheelchair. Although some of my friends enjoyed pushing me around for a change (you know who you are), it is not pleasant to be at groin level with the general public - especially those who insist on exposing midriffs and bumcracks. Please put it away - I don't want to look and when I am at this height, I really haven't got a choice!
  3. Having a bath - sitting on a garden chair in the shower with a plastic bag wrapped around your leg just isn't the same.
  4. Driving a car - it's my left leg, so if I drove an automatic it wouldn't be a problem, but I don't and so it is. The pressure you need to apply to depress the clutch and change gears has been beyond me for the last month and a half. Appreciative as I am of Him Outdoors dropping me off and picking me up from places, the nature of his job means he is on-call and his timekeeping is fluid if a call comes through that he must attend. Being given the all clear to drive last week has returned much of my freedom and independence - hurrah!
  5. Exercise - I never thought I'd miss it. Times have been tough over the last couple of months and I realise that I like to get out and go for a jog or a bike ride in the fresh air to clear my head and stop things getting me down mentally. As this has been impossible I have been sitting in the sweltering heat with my leg elevated and my mind churning over depressing thoughts. Yesterday I went for my first bike ride in the outdoors (only twenty minutes around the block, but so much better than the stationary bike in the garage) and it felt good.
This is not part of the recovery five, but I have noticed the amazing kindness and generosity of many of my friends, from holding doors open for me, to patiently waiting while I hobble slowly, sitting doing nothing but drinking cups of tea or glasses of wine, and even coming round to hang out my washing when I was incapable. Thank you all - you're great and I appreciate all your friendship and support.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Films watched in 2011 (Part Two)

The Fakers (dir. Richard Janes, 2004)
Crime comedy set in London – witty gangsters; art forgeries and high stakes – you know the sort of thing.

The First Grader (dir. Justin Chadwick, 2011)
Beautifully shot although entirely predictable film about an 84-year-old man attempting to go to primary school in Kenya to take advantage of the free education. If you allow yourself to be swept up in the emotion, you will be moved even if manipulated.

From Paris with Love (dir. Pierre Morel, 2010)
John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers play the good cop/ bad cop CIA pairing in a high-octane spy drama with lots of guns and fast cars – set in Paris. Written by Luc Besson (who wrote and directed the far-superior Léon) it’s fast (92 minutes), frenetic and very silly but a good boy film that girls can like too.

Get Him to the Greek (dir. Nicholas Stoller, 2010)
This was better than I was expecting, largely due to Russell Brand actually being quite appealing – he does sensitive and highly-strung as well as over-sexed and funny. The film plays to his strengths as he pretends to be a rock-god/ fallen idol, and Jonah Hill, as the hapless record-company flunky who has to get him to the Greek theatre in time to perform his gig, is personable enough that you hope he achieves his mission, despite overwhelming obstacles of sex and drugs and rock and roll.

The Ghost Writer (dir. Roman Polanski, 2010)
This interesting adaptation of the Robert Harris novel removes all of the subtlety and political satire to focus purely on the action and the thriller mystery aspects, but does it very well. Ewan McGregor plays the patsy memoir writer to Pierce Brosnan’s troubled prime minister, while Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall provide strong support.

Happy, Happy (dir. Anne Sewitsky, 2010)
These two couples are anything but – but they live in Norway, swap partners and wrestle in the snow, so that’s all the stereotypes accounted for, then. Strangely, it still manages to be a bleakly entertaining film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (dir. David Yates, 2011)
And so it is finished, and I am glad. It probably makes a difference if you see it in 3D, because in normal 2D it seems flat – once again, acting, plot and characterisation are sacrificed on the altar of special effects. This is cinema for the ADD generation.

I’m Not There (dir. Todd Haynes, 2007)
Bob Dylan biopic with the shaggy haired folk-singer played by six different actors, to represent different aspects of his career and personality, most notably Cate Blanchett, whose performance earned her an Oscar nomination. Bits of it are inspired but it is also rather rambling and goes on too long.

The Importance of Being Earnest (dir. Brian Bedford, 2011)
The filming of a Broadway production of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s performance is more interesting as an alternative media experiment than as an interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s classic. Brian Bedford plays Lady Bracknell as a pantomime dame which is all very amusing but lacks depth and nuance.

Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2010)
The girl at the video shop told us we would have to concentrate very hard to understand this film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. She was wrong as it all seemed fairly obvious to me, although the dream within a dream within a dream etc was an interesting angle, and the shifting physical perspectives were effective.

The Insider (dir. Michael Mann, 1999)
Russell Crowe discovers that attacking the big bad tobacco companies cannot end well in a drama with issues of integrity and responsibility, of both the perpetrators and the whistleblowers.

Just Like Heaven (dir. Mark Waters, 2005)
Reese Witherspoon twinkles as the ghost in Mark Ruffalo’s apartment in a rom-com rather than a horror way. Sweet, charming, corny and predictable – great rainy Sunday afternoon stuff.

The King’s Speech (dir. Tom Hooper, 2010)
Superlative acting, directing and screenwriting led to a thoroughly deserved Oscar haul for this practically perfect film.

The Last Station (dir. Michael Hoffman, 2009)
You can’t ever understand what goes on inside a relationship – especially when it’s Tolstoy and his wife trying to reason what to share with the public and what to keep for themselves, and especially when they are played (with fabulous sincerity) by Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren.

Limitless (dir. Neil Burger, 2011)
If you could take an unauthorised drug that would lead you to be smarter and better at everything without knowing the consequences, would you? Of course you would. What happens when the consequences catch up with you? Bradley Cooper may or may not find out in this smart sci-fi thriller with several twists.

The Lincoln Lawyer (dir. Brad Furman, 2011)
Matthew McConaughy is not averse to performing dubious legal manoeuvres from the back of his Lincoln, but he draws the line at defending sleazy little rich kids – nicely done.

Little Shop of Horrors (dir. Frank Oz, 1986)
I finally watched the film of the musical with the big singing plant – totally ridiculous and quite good fun with a great turn from Steve Martin as a sadistic dentist, and a harmonious narrative chorus.

Love Birds (dir. Paul Murphy, 2011)
Feather-brained comedy about two completely mismatched people (Rhys Darby and Sally Hawkins) who get together due to a child and a duck – largely forgettable.

The Maiden Heist (dir. Peter Hewitt, 2009)
Three old security guards hatch a plan to steal their favourite artworks to prevent them from being sold to another art gallery. Despite a trio of great actors (Christopher Walken; Morgan Freeman; William H. Macy), it is ponderous and feels long at 90 minutes.

The Mark Pease Experience (dir. Todd Louiso, 2009)
I don’t usually watch films about inspirational teachers in high school and, even though this is meant to be a comedy with Ben Stiller debunking the genre, it still reminded me why.

The Mechanic (dir. Simon West, 2011)
A professional hitman takes on an apprentice – the son of his murdered mentor. It’s a man’s world, apparently, and Jason Statham is king.

Midnight in Paris (dir. Woody Allen, 2011)
Woody Allen directs Americans in Paris in a time-hopping romantic comedy with a clear love of the city throughout the ages, including the present.

Morning Glory (dir. Roger Michell 2010)
Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton are an inspired pairing in this comedy about the sound-bite-obsessed morning TV where real journalism is eschewed in favour of celebrity gossip and motivational yoga. There is a lesson to be learned and it is stop casting Rachel McAdams – she is annoying.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Films watched in 2011 (Part One)

Having already posted about my favourite films released in 2011, I thought I would post about all the films I saw this year. Of course, they were not all released this year, so I have put the year in brackets. There are quite a few of them - once again, I didn't realise I have seen so many, so I shall split them up into three posts. They are in alphabetical order, so without further ado...

13 (dir. Gela Babluani, 2010)
An English-language remake of the 2005 French film 13 Tzameti, starring Sam Riley, Ray Winstone, Curtis Jackson, Mickey Rourke and Jason Statham – a kind of Clockwork Orange menace brought to Russian roulette.

Adam Resurrected (dir. Paul Schrader, 2008)
Jeff Goldblum stars as a literally barking mad Holocaust survivor in an asylum – not exactly a laugh a minute, but it’s certainly different.

Adjustment Bureau (dir. George Nolfi, 2011)
Smart sci-fi, futuristic, action adventure about how much we control our destiny and how much it is controlled by outside forces, with solid performances by Emily Blunt and Matt Damon.

Anonymous (dir. Roland Emmerich, 2011)
If you are happy to go with the premise that the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare (despite being dead when the events that inspired some of the bard’s greatest works – including MacBeth – occurred), and have no idea about English social history, you might enjoy this over-earnestly acted period piece. However, the character of Shakespeare himself (played by Rafe Spall) is still the most entertaining thing in it.

Being John Malkovich (dir. Spike Jonz, 1999)
It must be tough – it’s certainly crazy, according to this film, and also insanely brilliant.

Being Julia (dir. István Szabó, 2004)
Annette Bening is fantastic as the ‘older actress’ (40) resorting to desperate measures to get noticed in a youth-obsessed industry. And this was in the 1930s! Based on a short story by Somerset Maugham, the story rings true and provides wry smiles, sharp dialogue and credible characterisation.

The Birthday Girl (dir. Jez Butterworth, 2001)
From the days when Nicole Kidman actually acted; she speaks Russian too – she’s pretty good at both in this offering.

Bitter/Sweet (dir. Jeff Hare, 2009)
This is meant to be a romance/drama/comedy, but there is little of either with an entirely predictable story-line (I’m reluctant to use the word plot) and woeful acting from the leading lady, but the scenery is nice – it’s set in Thailand.

Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
The trailer for this is better than the film itself. It’s a bit bonkers with no surprises to anyone who has even rudimentary knowledge of Swan Lake. I believe it is meant to be a psychological thriller but I found myself laughing out loud. Bizarrely Natalie Portman won an Oscar for best performance by an actress in a leading role, although Mila Kunis outshines her in every way.

The Box (dir. Richard Kelly, 2009)
Would you open a box if it meant you would get a million dollars and someone you didn’t know would die? Sort of like philosophy for dummies; college students will love it.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (dir. Mark Herman, 2008)
For some reason I was expected the ending to be changed to a happy Hollywood affair – the fact that it remains the same as the book managed to shock me even though I was expecting it. The tension is maintained throughout – a well-produced film.

The Break-Up (dir. Peyton Reed, 2006)
Jennifer Aniston has a nice bum; Vince Vaughan has a sense of humour and is probably better off without her – that’s all I can tell you from watching this film.

Brighton Rock (dir. Rowan Joffe, 2011)
Graham Greene’s classic tale of teenage nihilism has been moved to the 60s, presumably because audiences will find it easier to relate to, but even with superb performances from Helen Mirren, Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough and Philip Davis, it lacks the necessary menace and foreboding to make it a top-rate thriller.

The Butcher’s Wife (dir. Terry Hughes, 1991)
This is how they made rom-coms twenty years ago with Demi Moore and Jeff Daniels as the love interests; thank God those days have gone.

Cewek Gokil (dir. Rizal Mantovani, 2011)
An Indonesian film in which the ‘star’, Keke, narrates the story of how she desperately wants her own car to gain independence and help her mother; the acting is uniformly bad and the cod psychology even worse – a Disney-style capitalist’s dream in Indonesia.

Chaos Theory (dir. Marcos Siega, 2008)
Entertaining rom-com/drama about a man whose highly-structured and organised life is thrown into turmoil by a sequence of unrelated events which threaten to destroy his marriage, career, and family – it ends obviously ever after, but takes quite a fun route to get there.

The Conspirator (dir. Robert Redford, 2010)
Worthy but plodding take on the justice system after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln – James McAvoy is good but even he can’t quite raise it above a pedestrian level.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (dir. Glenn Ficarra, 2011)
Perfect plane viewing – pretty obvious and not at all demanding with some good solid acting and snappy dialogue. Jacob, played by Ryan Gosling, is the highlight of the film, delivering with panache, one-liners Oscar Wilde might have written were he alive today.

Desperate Remedies (dir. Stewart Main and Peter Wells, 1993)
Deliberately over-blown melodrama with lingering looks to the camera and appalling dialogue; supposedly a classic but like a big bad opera.

Devil (dir. Drew Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle, 2010)
Being stuck in a lift is bad enough, but when your fellow trapped passengers are dying in mysteriously gruesome ways, and one of them turns out to be the Devil, it must be the ultimate nightmare. This story conceived by M. Night Shyamalan is entertaining to watch although Him Outdoors says there are easier ways to get people out of lifts.

Duplicity (dir. Tony Gilroy, 2009)
Spy thriller with action, romance, Clive Owen and Julia Roberts – of course I’m going to love it. All the pieces fit in the puzzle and after all the smart technology, split screens, chronological leaps, dazzling directing, and seductive acting, the final picture is a just reward.