Thursday, 10 March 2011


10/3/11, Bush

Dr T said psychologically convincing except the mother who was rather two-dimensional (mark you, if you're up to yr eyeballs in Prozac...)

S said it was nice to be told what really happened and not to be left hanging

I thought the family with something dark in the woodshed which emerges during the course of a family meal is something of a cliche, but when it's done this well -- so convincingly written and acted, with everyone talking over everyone else and then sudden silences for the great revelations -- it's impossible not to like


8/3/11, Southwark Playhouse

Saturday, 5 March 2011


4/3/11, Gate

Missed it. Couldn't get away from work in time. All the women said it was grim, so missed nothing.


2/3/11, Emirates

Fifth round FA Cup replay. Orient lost 5-0. Not normally our kind of thing, but D bought the tickets as an "early birthday present" because I've never been to the Emirates despite living only 25 mins walk away and admiring it from the outside (D has: she went with A a year or two back).

It was bitterly cold and I'd been sweltering all day, interviewing an ambassador in my thermals. We were up high behind the TV cameras and commentators, just over the half-way line. It was a good position and it's a fine stadium but I was struck walking to the exit at half-time by how much more atmosphere there seemed to be if you were lower down: not so much being closer to the action, though that helps, but being able to see the top of the stand on the opposite side and the sky above it, which adds to the feeling of enclosure and the sense of an arena, a cauldron of activity. Being up high is a bit like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

It probably didn't help that the place wasn't full. A midweek fixture, a much weaker visiting side... There seemed to be lots of empty seats and I'd have said the place was as much as one-third empty, though the announcement near the end claimed over 59,000 out of 60,355 seats were taken . There didn't seem to be a tremendous sense of occasion for the Arsenal fans generally, or for those around us, especially once the Gunners had taken the lead 1-0 just a few minutes in. After that it gradually turned into a turkey-shoot, with Orient struggling to get out of their own half, struggling to get possession, losing it when they did get it, and being generally outplayed by a much flashier Arsenal side (who were without several of their star players, apparently) who seemed towards the end to be actively playing with them.

A closer match against a team of the same standard might have ratcheted the tension up and got everyone on their feet.

The highlight were the Orient fans, around 7,000 of them in the far corner away to our right, who never stopped chanting and singing, even when their team were clearly out of it and had just given away a penalty to boot. For them clearly it was a Really Big Night.

As on those previous (rare) occasions when I've watched a football match live I found myself, however hard I concentrated, surprised by the goals and instantly unable to remember what had happened and who'd done what (even assuming I knew who the players were). (The same goes for fouls and free kicks). I felt the absence of the instant replay (though by craning our necks we could see it on the big screen in the corner).

An anthropologically interesting occasion, then, but not an especially involving one. Here's what an expert thought:


28/2/11, Curzon Soho

110 mins. The Coen Brothers' remake of the John Wayne classic with Jeff Bridges in place of the Duke. A great, laconic performance by Bridges and some lovely, drily witty lines from the Coens. But by their standards a disappointing film.

It is after all a Western and we all know the story, which is a given. There were some Coen-esque moments, like the discovery of a corpse hanging high up in a tree in the wilderness ("Why did they hang him so high?" "Perhaps that way they thought he'd be more dead") which is cut down, sold to a passing Indian and then turns up having been sold on to a huge man in a bear skin who, having removed the teeth, offers to sell it back to our heroes. There were a couple of lovely comic scenes involving the heroine (Hailee Steinfeld, who really was just 14 when they made the film) and the elderly dealer in horseflesh with whom she negotiates. And the conclusion was typically downbeat: our heroine, now grown-up, seeks out her saviour, who has become one of the attractions in a touring Western show, only to find he has died a few days before her arrival. Matt Damon once again showed what a good actor he is as La Boeuf (pron "Labeef"), the effete Texas Ranger.

But there were some longueurs and I'm not sure it was a good idea to write the whole script in clunky period dialogue, full of "is not" instead of "isn't" and "I will" instead of "I'll". In the end the Western has rules which even the Coens must obey. One, which doesn't help plausibility, is that our heroes make camp with an array of equipment which in reality would have needed at least one packhorse to carry, yet which they somehow manage to stow away in a couple of saddle-bags. The most glaring example comes towards the end when the heroine goes down to the river to get water and spots and is spotted by the man they've been chasing as he waters the gang's horses on the far side. She has a wooden bucket, which floats away in close-up: a bucket which has earlier been nowhere in evidence on her horse or Jeff Bridges'.

The Coens are good at subverting genre expectations with black and quirky humour, but the Western seems to defy even them.