Film Review: Judy (2019)

Renée Zellweger is sensational in Judy, a deeply moving account of Judy Garland’s final months in London directed by Rupert Goold

“I just want what everybody wants. I seem to have a harder time getting it.”

As if there were any doubt, Judy is a phenomenal success, and should see its star Renée Zellweger add to her tally of Academy Award nominations, if not the award itself. Loosely based on Peter Quilter’s play End of the Rainbow, it recalls the final year of Judy Garland’s life as a roll of the dice sees her decamp to London to perform in a series of concerts that she hoped would reignite interest in her career whose light was seriously fading in the US.

But years of substance abuse and the relentless ride of showbusiness have taken a serious toll, even just turning up on time proves a struggle (hard relate!) and that iconic voice can no longer be relied upon. Thus Tom Edge’s screenplay takes a slightly more realism-based approach than the play to show us the riskiness that accompanied Judy’s every step towards a stage and the slow, crushing realisation of what her life has amounted to. Continue reading “Film Review: Judy (2019)”

Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”

Review: Art, Old Vic

“I just wanted an enjoyable evening”

 As someone who considers themselves otherwise rather culturally inclined, I always feel a bit sheepish admitting that I don’t much care for art. Going around a gallery with other people all around and pretending to know what is good about this painting or that is just not my bag, although I did spend an enjoyable couple of hours at the Rijksmuseum last week, on my own and with their app providing commentary on a recommended tour of the highlights, so perhaps there’s hope for me yet.

Which is all a prelude to saying that the idea of Yasmin Reza’s Art never appealed to me during its previous stays in the West End, and that even tripping along to the Old Vic for this new revival marking the twentieth anniversary of the play was something of a reluctant stretch. But go I did, to see Matthew Warchus resurrect his original production in the theatre where he is now artistic director, reuniting his creative team with a new cast of Rufus Sewell, Paul Ritter and Tim Key. Continue reading “Review: Art, Old Vic”

6th Critics’ Choice Television Awards nominees

Best Series
Best Comedy Series
Black-ish (ABC)
Catastrophe (Amazon Video)
Jane the Virgin (The CW)
Master of None (Netflix)
The Last Man on Earth (Fox)
Transparent (Amazon Video)
You’re the Worst (FX)

Best Drama Series
Empire (Fox)
The Knick (Cinemax)
The Leftovers (HBO)
Mr. Robot (USA)
Penny Dreadful (Showtime)
Rectify (Sundance)
UnREAL (Lifetime) Continue reading “6th Critics’ Choice Television Awards nominees”

Review: Closer, Donmar Warehouse

“I love everything about you that hurts”

Obnoxious people doing obnoxious things for well over two hours – safe to say Patrick Marber’s Closer rubbed me up the wrong way something rotten, and scarcely believing that this was the winner of the Olivier for Best New Play in 1997. Characters float from scene to scene with little genuine motivation, no sense of inner life, just this insistence that there’s something meaningful in being unerringly truthful to one’s self when it comes to matters of desire, no matter the consequences.

Some might be tempted to find something contemporary in Marber’s depiction of lustful impulses overriding all, where sex and deceit go hand in hand with the dawning of the age of the internet. But what resonated strongest for me was the outdated manner in which the two female parts, but Alice in particular, are written. Despite Rachel Redford’s best efforts, Alice never breaks through the distasteful male fantasy gaze that posits her as an enigmatic stripper who just wants to be loved by a man (and not just any man…yes, you) – it’s enough to make even the most homosexual of men feel dirty. Continue reading “Review: Closer, Donmar Warehouse”

Review: Old Times, Harold Pinter Theatre

“If you have only one of something, you can’t say it’s the best of anything”

I do try to have willpower, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. Having decided that I wouldn’t be going to see the revival of Harold Pinter’s Old Times, the announcement of Kristin Scott Thomas’ Olivier nomination crumbled my resolve and sure enough, I made enquiries into finding someone who would do me the kindness of day-seating. Part of the reason for not going was that I knew that if I had seen it once, I would want to see it a second time as Scott Thomas and Lia Williams alternated the two female roles of Kate and Anna throughout the run and I do like to complete a set.

In the end, I was lucky and able to call in on some favours which meant I did get to see it two times in the last couple of weeks and from the vantage point of the front row which made it worthwhile as the quality of the acting was hypnotically good, from both actresses and also from Rufus Sewell’s Deeley. But Pinter has always been a playwright whose charms have eluded me and Old Times is as gnomic an example of his work as any and though I was glad to have been able to take in both iterations of the cast, I can’t say that it really added a huge amount to my understanding (or lack thereof) of the play. Continue reading “Review: Old Times, Harold Pinter Theatre”

DVD Review: Charles II The Power and the Passion

“It’s amazing what Parliament will do when they feel guilty”

Charles II: The Power and the Passion was a 2003 BBC miniseries the likes of which I doubt we’ll see again in these times of austerity as it was a sprawlingly lavish costume drama, directed by a young Joe Wright. Covering the life and reign of Charles II, it starts just before his restoration to the throne after the death of Oliver Cromwell and runs right through to his death. Thus as 27 years of history are condensed into 4 hours, liberties and dramatic license is freely taken and this isn’t really the place to be too pernickety about this kind of things.

We follow Charles from his libidinous time in exile on the continent to arriving back in London to be crowned King and to lock horns with Parliament. Charles still believed strongly in the absolute power of the monarchy but the politicians of the day were determined not to surrender any of their new-gained influence and so much struggles ensued as members of his court both grew in influence and fell from favour as everyone jockeys for power and to make sure they’re on the winning side. There is also the matter of the succession as Charles has no legitimate heir, though plenty of illegitimate offspring, and wants his brother named but he is a Catholic. Continue reading “DVD Review: Charles II The Power and the Passion”