Month: May 2010 (page 5 of 5)

The Ghostwriter

We saw and enjoyed Polanski’s The Ghostwriter this evening. It is based on Robert Harris’s novel, The Ghost. I am a great admirer of Robert Harris. For a long time he was a successful and respected television and newspaper journalist and a non-fiction writer. Then, in 1992, his ingenious thriller novel Fatherland was published and its deserved success enabled him to retire and become a full-time author. Besides the same age (both born in 1957), he and I have something else in common: he wrote the first biography of Neil Kinnock, in 1984, and I wrote the last one, in 2001. Harris’s Prime Minister in The Ghost, Adam Lang, is admittedly modelled on Blair, but as a fictional character he also has some of Kinnock’s characteristics: it was Kinnock whose family originally came from Scotland, for example, and it was Kinnock who fell in love with the beautiful Glenys, as she distributed tracts at Cardiff University. As to the film, it is good, but there are loose ends and inconsistencies in the plot and these are precisely in those parts of the story where Polanski abandoned Harris’s original storyline. Ewan McGregor is brilliant as the ghost writer and Olivia Williams is excellent as the former Prime Minister’s manipulative wife but – I’m sorry – whenever I see Pierce Brosnan now I think of Mamma Mia!

Jury Power and the death sentence

Sidney Lumet’s film, Twelve Angry Men, tells a brilliant tale of how one dissenting voice in a jury of twelve ultimately leads to the unanimous acquital of the accused. The lone dissenter, played by Henry Fonda, gradually convinces his fellow jurors that the case against the accused is unsound. It is great cinema and an uplifting tale. Just today my contact in the charity Lifelines sent me a cutting from the Charlotte Observer (North Carolina) with a very similar story – this one from real life; ‘a lone juror persuaded eleven others to settle for a sentence of life without parole instead of death by lethal injection…’  The accused in this case was by his own admission guilty but his defence argued that he had mental health problems. It’s not the same as walking free but it sends out a strong message to state prosecutors. As one lawyer, quoted in the article, says, “You look at that case as a prosecutor and say ‘If you can’t get the death penalty in that case, gee, what case are you going to get the death penalty in?'” And all because of one angry person on a jury.

Torva songsters

Thanks to our staff committee, a grey and rainy Monday was brightened up this lunchtime by a choir of schoolchildren from Torva (Estonia). They had a repertoire of songs from Gospel through to pop and dance movements to go with it. They were very good. In the spirit of my 4 April post (Estonian insights), their performance gave an insight into Estonian popular culture for, if you go onto You Tube, you will find there lots of clips from a television programme where such schoolgirl choirs compete. The Torva choir, in last year’s composition, can be heard here.

Iron Man again

Let's squeeze some more action in...

This evening we went en famille to see Iron Man 2. It’s something of a mixed bag. Robert Downey Jr. is very good and Mickey Rourke is a great villain. Maybe, just maybe, the scriptwriters wanted to stay faithful to the Marvel comics character, but Gwyneth Paltrow’s part (as Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts) consists of nothing much more than screams and pouts and Scarlett Johansson (as an undercover spy for S.H.I.E.L.D.) is unconvincing. As to the plot, there’s simply too much of it. It’s as though the producers thought to themselves ‘how do you follow up on a successful action movie? answer: yet more action!’ That said, I am sure I was not the only person in the audience who would love to take a trip in a suit like Iron Man’s!

Dandelion fields

We’re in the Ardennes this weekend. Nature, always a little later here, has burst out of its starting blocks and the fields and hedgerows are frothing with flowers and blossoms of various sorts. Curiously, the fields are awash with dandelions. In a notebook somewhere I once wrote about nettle fields and dandelion fields and thistle fields (you can be fined in Brussels if you have thistles in your garden). For sometimes, certainly when in sufficient quantities, weeds can be just as beautiful as cultivated flowers – think of untreated wheat fields full of poppies (indeed, think of Monnet). Certainly the brilliant yellows of the dandelions contrasted beautifully with the dark greens of the Ardennes fields and forests. I wonder, though, why there are quite so many dandelions this year. Something to do with meteorological conditions, I suppose.

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