Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The wonder of Hugh

I am delighted with my title pun! It is in reference, of course, to Les Miserables which D kindly took me to as a wee treat. He is very patient. So, I realised I haven't yet posted a review of this so here it is...

Funnily enough I actually preferred it to the stage version and it is not often I say that. There are two reasons: 1) the book (which I have nearly finished) has such tremendous scope, particularly when it comes to the French Revolution. The stage show, for obvious reasons of brevity, is forced to ignore this. The film (because a picture can say a thousand words, of whatever the cliche is) manages to capture some of that scope. As a prime example, Hugo devotes twenty pages or so to discussing the Paris sewer system, a fact that goes unrecognised in the stage show. On screen, Valjean and Marias' escape through the sewers is pretty graphic and perfectly responds to Hugo's description 2) on stage your perspective is set. Unless you run up and down the aisle (not recommended) you are always the same distance away from the stage and even if the set designers mess with the perspective a little, you are always more or less a particular distance from the action. In the film, Tom Hooper used close ups...lots of them...and then scanned back...a lot. While this 'in and out' movement had the potential to become a little grating, actually it worked wonderfully for this film especially for Fantine's solo (Anne Hathaway should win every award going for this) and Valjean contemplating his fate in the Bishop's church.

I really liked the live recorded singing. It made the whole piece feel very fresh and unusually raw for an on screen musical. This worked particularly well with its sense of realism, again chiming with Hugo's prose. As for the individual performances...well my standout was, of course, Hugh Jackman as Valjean who was born to play that part. As anyone who knows me will know, Hugh can do no wrong in my eyes. Anne Hathaway is immense and Russell Crowe has been given some bad rap but is actually a rather good screen presence especially in the 'Wolverine v Gladiator' scenes. Eponine and Marias were both excellent, although I wasn't a huge fan of Cosette's voice, but that might simply be personal preference. In a lovely nod to the history of Les Miserables (one of my pet hates is calling it Les Mis - don't even think about it!) the Bishop was played by none other than my childhood hero (and original London Valjean) Colm Wilkinson, whose voice remains as good as ever. And it was nice to see a brief cameo role from Sheffield Crucible's own Dan Evans.

So, my verdict? For me this film redeemed a musical that had become rather tired and cliched. I have fallen out of love with the musical over recent years but this has convinced me that there might be a place for a really good musical story in the modern world.

Anyways, back to the books. I am in France at the end of the week at a conference and have plenty of work to do on a book chapter and, of course, the Difficult Second Book which I approached with intrepidation today after some months away from it. The Introduction is a 6 out of 10 currently which really isn't too bad.


Friday, 11 January 2013

Slow down 2013...

...so, I guess this is my happy new year post. Quite ridiculous considering that half of January has already gone. Well, happy new year anyways! So far 2013 has been a rather odd year - lots of happiness and some sadness.

Rather than go through everything, I'll mention some happy things that are currently in my world:
1) deadlines: OK so deadlines aren't necessary happy things and having 5 before the 1st March is a bit much. That said, it is jolly nice to be wanted! And all the work is very interesting.
2) running with my new fitgloves: former wrestler Trish Stratus has created these amazing fitgloves which adds 1lb to each arm while you run. It is rather remarkable what a difference such a small amount of weight makes! My run today was freezing but fun. Lincolnshire is a wonderful place to run - flat, well-pathed and relatively pretty. And you never know when you'll come across a tiny brown Labrador puppy or a naughty horse who doesn't like walking on grass!
3) Punchy: this is the new name for my punchbag, a Christmas present from D. I love it! Boxing is brilliant for fitness.
4) the darts: I would like to say I am embarrassed about my love of darts...but I've not. The past week has been a celebration of the big men and I love the drama, even of the rather rubbish BDO. Stockport-born Tony O'Shea is still in it. Up the Hatters!
5) reading about Russia: one of my projects right now is about Russian theatre in the UK. It means dealing with a heap of fascinating books and archives. It makes me want to go to Russia some time soon.
6) rooibos tea: I used to drink a lot of rooibos but I haven't drunk it for ages. Recently the wonderful people of eteaket sent me some and I am loving it.
7) admiring D's computer game chops: I have never seen anyone finish a computer game and, not growing up with computer consoles and therefore being rubbish, even at things like Sonic, I was super impressed that D finished Uncharted 3 two days ago. Actually it is easy for none gamers to scoff, but these games are unbelievable - cinematic, well-scripted, exciting. I was quite impressed and got into spotting the baddies as D played.
8) riding: I am still loving my riding and get to have a jolly half hour with Tommy tomorrow morning. Horses are amazing - they just get it.
9) Twitter inspiration: recently I've been following a number of new folks whose attitudes and great work ethic are extremely inspiring. It just shows how fantastic Twitter can be if used well.
10) planning 2013: there are so many wonderful things to look forward to - gigs (lots!), holidays, time with friends and families, living in faith.

So, when life feels just a bit on the odd side, or the sad side, or the confusing side, how good to focus on wee blessings.

Hope 2013 is proving great for you so far.