Sunday, 27 February 2011

Celebrity Teaching Programmes

I am a big fan of Jamie Oliver. He has taken 15 unemployed people and created a restaurant giving people careers and he has tried to improve diets within schools in both the UK and the USA. These are both areas that he is familiar with and has an expertise in. I am less impressed with his latest venture where he gets experts in their field to teach a group of children who have been failed by mainstream education. There are a number of reasons why the idea does not really work.

1. The "teachers" have access to unrealistic budgets and facilities. To help making drama more real they get to use the Globe theatre stage and to teach history they use part of the Anglo-Saxon horde.

2. They appear to have one class to deal with rather than 5 classes per day, 5 days a week

3. By introducing the cameras they behaviour of all is fundamentally changed. Some kids will improve as they don't want to look like an idiot whilst others will see it as opportunity to play up to the cameras (if they are really noticeable this might lead some doors opening in other places)

4. After a while everyone leaves and the support and interest fades, a lot of these issues can't be addressed in a short-term piecemeal approach.

I suppose there is a bit of annoyance on my part. I have been to restaurants but won't lecture Jamie on how to run a kitchen/ restaurant and I guess I don't like the arrogance of people who think because I went to school once I can successfully teach a group of children. My hope is that at least one kid benefits from the experience.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Never Let Me Go

A film about a group of clones that are produced to provide body parts for regular humans but this and the moral, ethical and spiritual questions that are raised are used as a backdrop for an unlikely love story that seemed unlikely and never really convinced me they were more than friends. The film also did not quite seem to make enough of the original premise leaving far too many unanswered questions like "Why did they not run away" or have enough emotion to sustain a love story meaning the film fell between the two. I suspect that the book on which it was based may address some of these questions in more detail but the film did not have the time or energy to do so in sufficient quantity to make a good film.

Propeller Company do Comedy of Errors

The all male cast of the Propeller theatre company brought their version of The Comedy of Errors to the Theatre Royal in Norwich. A farce by William Shakespeare using two sets of twins separated at birth and the mishaps that occur when they meet up in a series of coincidences throughout the city bringing in a wife, goldsmith, a merchant and an abbess. Propeller have two main aims, the first is being faithful to the text and the second is having a fairly minimalist set with most people on stage in some role at some point (this year it was mainly as Mexican tourists!). All of the cast also play a musical instrument that is used to emphasis words or phrases in the script.

In review it was a bit uneven. Some bits of it were really funny and some of the modern additions to the script and set really worked however some of the lines were delivered so quickly that the became incomprehensible and despite the nature of the farce some of it was too manic and some of the themes that they wanted us to get did not really work. An example of this was a lunatic who is supposed to cure other lunatics portrayed as a US TV evangelist who ended up running through the audience naked with a sparkler in his bum!

At the end the cast came on stage to do a question and audience which was quite interesting and in the break came into the foyer at the interval to do a concert in aid of Save the Children so fair to the cast for being good sports.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

6 Nations

My prediction is


Top try scorer Chris Ashton
Most Swallow dives - Chris Ashton
Most tellings off - Chris Ashton

I love the way that Chris Ashton scores his tries and tweaks Martin Johnston's nose. It has also allowed MJ to show his more human side in the way he man manages the squad. Too often he is seem as dour but he was handed a squad going nowhere and has turned it around with some amazing back play and dummy runners everywhere.


Generally this has been going badly with a number of losses, some bad some worse than that until last week we met UEA2. UEA students are generally fit and bouncy but lack tactical knowledge and some inherent skills. There tactic was so predictable it was easy to intercept or work out who was going to shoot and out team could counter. When they did get a shot off it was in a basketball style which is different to the two handed shooting korfball is known for. This leads to a slight inaccuracy as usually you are shooting higher and without the help of a backboard.
I also scored twice from the half way line which were so deflating for the opposition they let us win.


Well the time came and went and no email of doom appeared in my pigeon hole. I am tempted to say luckily but the amount of hard work and effort that went it to maintaining the number of people choosing Geography and History in the school means luck was only a small part of it. Some colleagues have decided to take retirement or voluntary redundancy due to their age or home circumstances. The axe appears to have fallen most heavily on the support staff. BEST who do a lot of the parental liaison and individual work with poorly behaved children are being trimmed and when you consider the four of them have worked side by side as a team to find yourself being interviewed for your job against them must be horrendous. It is always easy to suggest that there are too many managers or support staff in the public sector (NHS managers always seem to be hit hardest in the media) but anything that means that front line staff can spend more time on being on the front line is good in my books. This years some of the easy options have been reduced - next year if funding is cut again then they will be cutting deeper and harder.

Jeremy Dylan

If you look at my post on Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins (BSATCOP) the director of the film has made a comment. How cool is that - even raising the issue if whether there is a cauldron at all!! I am considering adding "as read by film directors" to the title.

True Grit 2

There are some excellent performances from the kid and when did Matt Damon turn into an actor with such range. He can do grizzled western Texas Ranger and also doing a down on his luck medium in touch with the spirits. The landscape and pared back cinematography also made you feel that they were heading into a wild remote desolate untamed area. The large number of minor characters also is amusing including a beaten horse trader, a small child getting a kicking,an undertaker, a man wearing a bear head and a cowboy who only makes animal noises. The score is memorable and based on 19th century hymns and kind of sticks in your head.
To be improved my two wishes would be for more dialogue between the good and bad characters as they seem to take a long time to get to that point and then ends fairly quickly. I would also like to have seen Mattie's strong and unbreakable faith in right and wrong be more thoroughly tested by the situations that the "Wild West" put her in. After all at times she broke 1 or more of the Ten Commandments but did not seem unduly affected by it.

True Grit

A clever western film with an excellent dialogue between the characters with some real thought provoking ideas.

First Lawyer: Mr. Cogburn, did you find a bottle with a hundred and twenty-five dollars in it?
Cross-examining Lawyer: Objection your Honor, Leading
Judge Parker: Sustained. Rephrase the question.
First Lawyer: What happened then?
Rooster Cogburn: [slightly annoyed] I found a bottle with a hundred and twenty-five dollars in it.

Rooster Cogburn: [LaBoeuf has been talking about malum prohibitum and malum in se] It astonishes me that Mr. LaBoeuf has been shot, trampled, and nearly bitten his tongue off, and yet not only does he continue to talk but he spills the banks of English.

Col. Stonehill: I do not entertain hypotheticals. The world itself is vexing enough.

Mattie Ross: [cutting the rope on the tree] Why did they hang him so high?
Rooster Cogburn: I do not know. Possibly in the belief it'd make him more dead.

Mattie Ross: If I had killed Chaney, I would not be in this fix; but my gun misfired.
Lucky Ned Pepper: [Chuckling] They will do it. It will embarrass you every time. Most girls like to play pretties, but you like guns do you?
Mattie Ross: I do not care a thing about guns, if I did, I would have one that worked.

Mattie Ross: I guess I have a $10 horse. Tell Col. Stonehill I said 'Thank you'.
Stableboy: No ma'am. He said he don't never want to hear your name again!

Cross-examining Lawyer: So, you say that when Amos Wharton raised his axe, you backed away from him.
Rooster Cogburn: That's right.
Cross-examining Lawyer: In what direction were you going?
Rooster Cogburn: Backwards. I always go backwards when I back up.

Rooster Cogburn: We'll sleep here and follow in the morning.
Mattie Ross: But we promised to bury the poor soul inside!
Rooster Cogburn: Ground's too hard. Them men wanted a decent burial, they should have got themselves killed in summer.

Rooster Cogburn: That didn't pan out.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Reduced Shakespeare Company

Does the complete works of Shakespeare in 90 mins (apart from Coriolanus) because it sounds rude. With gags like that and go get them attitude the three interpid actors launched head long into their task. With balcony scenes on step ladders, drowning in cups of water and more than one sword fight the pace was quick with the comedy variable. Trying to combine all of the comedies into one sketch did not really work whislt combinig all of the histories into a rugby match did. Some sketches got the full speeches such as To be or Not be or Be Not or Be To (when they did Hamlet backwards) whilst others did not even get there most famous line. Overall it was a little uneven but with enough laugh out loud moments to have a great evening. Oh and puppets having sex (but more of that in later posts)

The other key moments include all of the female charcters vomiting into the audience when they die, apoligising to the dummy when the knocked it's head against the scenery and having A (and others) shouting how much they want to have babies!!!!!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Fiddler on the roof 2.

Last week we went to see Fiddler on the Roof by the local operatic society. My expectations weren't that high but it was absolutely fabulous. The writing was brilliant and I have listed some of them below. The scenes when Tevye talks to God in a kind of monologue on his situation are particularly witty. The most surprising thing, however, was the quality of the acting which was superb. John McInnes was especially brilliant as Tevye with the accent, mannerisms and world weary air being the highlight of the show.

We were also sat right at the front so we were slightly below the stage which gave the whole thing a slightly strange feeling especially when the dry ice drifted across the stage and into the front row. We could also see the conductor clearly and see his interaction with the orchestra and crowd and we could also see what the orchestra were doing when they weren't playing. In one instance the trumpet player had one note to play in a song and payed whilst holding her phone, everyone else had a book or other hobby to take part in.

Great lines from Fiddler on the Roof

Perchik: Money is the world's curse.
Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover

[to God]
Tevye: I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?

Lazar Wolf: How is your brother-in-law? In America?
Tevye: Oh, he's doing very well.
Lazar Wolf: Oh, he wrote you?
Tevye: No, not lately.
Lazar Wolf: Then how do you know?
Tevye: If he was doing badly, he would write.

Motel: [on being evicted] Rabbi, we've been waiting all our lives for the Messiah. Wouldn't now be a good time for Him to come?
Rabbi: We'll have to wait for him someplace else. Meanwhile, let's start packing.

Perchik: There's a question... A certain question I want to discuss with you.
Hodel: Yes?
Perchik: It's a political question.
Hodel: What is it?
Perchik: The question of... marriage.
Hodel: Is this a political question?
Perchik: Well, yes. Yes, everything's political. Like everything else, the relationship between a man and a woman has a socioeconomic base. Marriage must be founded on mutual beliefs. A common attitude and philosophy towards society...
Hodel: - And affection?
Perchik: Well, yes, of course. That is also necessary. Such a relationship can have positive social values. When two people face the world with unity and solidarity...
Hodel: And affection?
Perchik: Yes, that is an important element! At any rate, I... I personally am in favour of such a socioeconomic relationship.
Hodel: I think... you are asking me to marry you.
Perchik: Well... in a theoretical sense... yes. I am.
Hodel: I was hoping you were.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguinss

Following a throwaway line on the best hour of wittertainment you get per week it was suggested that in the light of the Harry Potter movies anyone who made a film starring x and the x could make money and people would even go and see a film called Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins. At which point an Australian film maker created such a film and has had the permiere recently. The only question it fails to answer is how many penguins you can fit into a cauldron. See more here.

Rules for visiting the cinema

Should be viewed at this location.


A film about death and whether there is a place people go when they die.


The acting especially the little kid and Matt Damon. Despite being lampooned in Teen America for a lack of range he produced a well judged performance especially when he is pleading not to give a reading to Cookery Girl.

The sets - London, Paris and San Francisco all used well show-casing the locations.

Effects - a good tsunami effect

The actress Cecile de France (Cecile of France) actually coming from Belgium.

Clint Eastwood's direction which felt unfussy and allows the characters to act naturally

Not being scared to use sub-titles (treating the audience with some respect)

The final scene


The plot lost the way a bit in the middle and could have used some cropping to maintain the interest

Product placement especially an airline, make of phone and a search engine

The teenagers who were generally teen-agish throughout the film and broke the Kermode-Mayo film code especially running down the aisle to get to the toilet quicker.

RIP DI Barnaby

Despite the strange plots, the incredible death toll, the crazy driving and having a daughter called Cully Midsomer Murders never failed to provide an entertaining couple of hours and most of that is the calming reassuring presence of John Nettles, an actor I have been acquainted with since mum used to swoon over during Bergerac. His solid, dependable, unflappable character with a heavily sacrastic overtone was a joy to watch amongst the strange plot lines. The other characteristic was the strange village names that were on display Elverton-cum-Latterley, Midsomer Magna, Morton Shallows and Burwood Mantle amongst my favourites.

It is no wonder that they were good as early episodes were written by Anthony Horowitz who is responsible for screen-writing a lot of the early Poirot series and Foyle's War as well as a large number of novels.

The final questions include how will he go, with a heart attack like Morse, retired like Frost or buried like Taggart and whether the seires can continue without the major star.