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Music and Movies

    Music and Movies

    The Italian Job at Birmingham Symphony Hall

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    Confession: until this evening I’d never seen The Italian Job in full. I’m not entirely sure how this happened; I’ve always watched a lot of films, both at the cinema now, and growing up as a child on video and taped from the telly, and yet somehow I never got round to watching it.  Perhaps it’s one of those films most people see thanks to their parents, but my dad grew up in rural Ireland, where there didn’t appear to be much in the way of cinemas and he was too busy riding horses into the city centre to watch a British blockbuster.  I know all the classic bits from the film, the “you’re only meant to blow the bloody doors off”, the self preservation society song, and yet I managed not to watch it, even in 2003 when the remake was released.

    So when there was an opportunity to see a HD remastered version of the 1969 version of The Italian Job, performed ‘in Concert’ with a live orchestra (for the first time), playing the famous soundtrack by legendary composer Quincy Jones, I figured it was about time I got round to seeing it.

    And what a way to see it, it was.

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    The plot of the film is a fairly simple one, by modern standards.  Recently released from prison Charlie Croker, played by Michael Caine, is left the plans for a multi-million pound heist by an old friend who has been murdered by the mob.  Convincing a major British crime lord to finance the plan takes some work, but eventually it’s full steam ahead and even intimidation and the destruption of their beloved cars (integral to the plan) by the same mafia mob who killed his friend isn’t enough to stop Croker and his gang.  They head to Turin to enact their plan, which involves disrupting the traffic lights and causing a major jam, steal several bars of gold and engaging in a cat-and-mouse car chase.

    Sure it’s a bit predictable, but it’s a fun, comedic film, evokes full on nostalgia for the 1960s and has some well known British actors, including Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill, to name a few.  And it’s easy to see why it gets included in lots of the top British film lists, as lots of being have a soft spot for it.

    I really can’t believe it has taken me this long to see The Italian Job, but I’m glad that when I finally got round to it, this is the way I got to see it in full for the first time.  The orchestra were a brilliant edition adding a real richness to the screening, really bringing the film to life.  At times I’d forgotten that the band weren’t always part of the show, it was that well timed and knitted together.  I adored their rendition of “Getta Bloomin’ Move On” or as it’s more commonly know  “The Self-Preservation Society” – I did wonder how they’d do it with the cockney accents, but they’d retained this from the original acre, layering them over the live big band music.  It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday evening.

    It looks like Birmingham Symphony Hall are showing a few other films in a similar format, including the beloved British movie Brassed Off with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band to provide the soundtrack.  Although the one I’m most excited about is  Jurassic Park with a full symphony orchestra performing John Williams’ legendary and magnificent score live.

    Music and Movies

    Kopfkino at Stirchley Baths: Can You Dig This

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    I love living where I do and I love seeing films that make me think.  And lucky for me the two combine with Kopfkino, a quarterly film club that shows a film or documentary aimed at getting you thinking.

    Kopfkino, which literally translates from German is “head cinema”, has previously put on I Daniel Blake and a documentary about the Syrian crisis.  This time round it was a bit more upbeat, with a documentary called Can You Dig This.

    Set in South Los Angeles, infamous for gangs, drugs, liquor stores, abandoned buildings and vacant lots, Can You Dig This follows the lives of several of South LA’s local residents through their urban gardening, showing how they are trying to transform their neighbourhoods through an urban gardening, and changing their own lives in the process.

    The evening started with a talk from Northfield Eco Centre, in the process of rebranding to Eco Birmingham, about the work they do on encouraging sustainable living through grass roots activities, events and programmes for the local community.  One of the projects, Edible Brum, helps people to learn how they can grow it themselves, and looks at ways to tackle food poverty and waste.

    I’d seen the TED talk of Ron Finley, one of the subjects of the documentary as a previous TEDxBrum and adored his no-nonsense attitude to wanting to change the food desert in his neighbourhood.  But Can You Dig This went one step further, looking at other residents on south LA, including two men who had previously been released after a long stint in prison, a woman who had dreams of becoming a healthcare professional and a somewhat lost man who found belonging in the community gardens.  It is a charming and uplifting documentary that made me want to go plant a vegetable garden – sadly the lack of garden hinders that somewhat.

    For a taster of the documentary, here’s Ron Finley’s TED Talk…

    Birmingham, Music and Movies

    Flatpack Festival is back!

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    There’s not a lot I can do at the moment, as I’ve been struck down with the lurgy, but the good folk at Flatpack Festival have released their line-up and I’ve been having a look through it.

    Returning for a ten-day festival of cinematic invention and audio-visual delights, #flatpack12 has yet another a great line-up this spring.  Running from 13-22 April 2018, Swedish witchcraft, animated sushi, teenage mermaids, silent trapeze and Shakespearean puppets are just a few of the delights.  And if that’s just a few of the selected highlights, then you know there’s going to be so much more creativity in store.

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    Music and Movies

    Pad Man and period poverty

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    Last Sunday I dashed out of my flat to catch Pad Man, a Bollywood film based around the real-life story of social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham and his low cost menstrual hygiene machines.  Sadly it didn’t seem to be showing in many cinemas, so you may well have missed it – if it is showing near you, I highly recommend seeing it.

    Played by Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, Lakshmi is a newly-married welder who works in a rural village in India.  Lakshmi discovers his wife uses an unhygienic rag during her period and is banished from the house, forced to sleep outside.  Upon discovering the prohibitive costs of commercial sanitary pads, Lakshmi is determined to find a way to make them cheaper.  After several attempts earn him the ire of the community for discussing a taboo topic, Lakshmi is banished from the village but is determined not to give up.

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    Birmingham, Music and Movies

    Stumbling across live music

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    I love living in a city for so many reasons, but one of which is the richness of live street art and music that you can stumble across – sometimes it’s part of a festival and sometimes it’s just because.  Last night whilst I was ambling around the city centre, trying to decide what I should do for dinner, I spotted three people setting up equipment for a gig.  It’s not uncommon to see people playing around this area in Birmingham, but usually it’s a soloist with maybe a single amp, mic and possibly a guitar; a drum kit and enough kit for a full gig is quite unusual.  That, and the make up of some of the band, made me want to stick around to find out more.  Plus, I still hadn’t decided what to have for tea.

    Unsurprisingly it turned out they were a rock band, and the man in front of me was right in his assertion they looked like they were going to be worth sticking around for. Once they’d told the group of bemused onlookers who they were, I did a quick online search and turns out StOp,sToP! have quite the following. I stuck around for a few songs, ignoring my rumbling tummy, and thoroughly enjoyed their rendition of Proud Mary in particular.

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    In a week when terrible things have happened in our fellow second city, armed police patrol the streets and trains, we’re told trauma centres are on high alert, and the country’s threat level is raised to critical, a rock band plays a free gig in Birmingham city centre. It feels ridiculous and defiant, and as the crowd sung and danced along, it felt like the right.

    Music and Movies

    2015 film round up

    Ever since the 2013 film challenge I seem to have decreased the number of films I’ve seen and 2015 carried this on; although with 34 films at the cinema-ish is still pretty good.

    The year started off typically with a lot of the films that I thought would be Oscar nominated, and I was right.  Personally of the films I saw that were Oscar nominated, Whiplash was by far my favourite for how much it kept me holding my breath and engrossed in the film.  There were also lots of big blockbuster movies; Mad Max, Jurassic World and Ant Man, as well as rom-coms like Pitch Perfect 2, Trainwreck and The Duff and a couple of documentaries like Internet’s Own Boy and Amy.  Actually, looking back it was a more rounded list than I’d realised.

    Anyway, should you be interested, here’s the full list is below (or clickable here).

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    Music and Movies

    2014 film round up

    I never actually intended to set myself any challenges for films in 2014. I certainly thought about it – see all of the films nominated for an Oscar, watch X amount of foreign/indie/British films, finally see the classic film X. But in the end it came down to realising that I’d already proven I could watch over 50 in a year, if I made time to do so, and at times at the expense of other things.  And I didn’t really want to give up another year to excluding things for the sake of a silly challenge that was too similar to one I’d completed.

    Screen shot 2015-01-13 at 00.53.28So for 2014 I decided all challenges were off and to watch whatever I wanted whenever I had time (but still keep a list).  A year of going to the cinema whenever something semi-decent and I sort-of had time put me into a routine of thinking about going more.  Which translated into actually going more.  And is probably how I ended up at 45 films in 2014, without even really trying.  Sure there were still cinema days (three films in one day), but because I realised it was the best way I could recapture old days of binge watching films, something I struggle to do at home now because I get easily distracted by twitter/facebook/instragram/blogs/news/cat videos.  If the phrase didn’t make me shudder I’d suggest that it was much more a sense of being ‘in the moment’ of which what I really mean is absorbed in a good story.

    Much like 2013, the list for 2014 is an eclectic one.  There’s was a lot less watching films in non-cinemas and one month I didn’t see anything on a big screen.  However there were still films apparently aimed at children where the audience was mainly made up of adults (I’m looking at you The Lego Movie), superheros, love stories, thrillers, romcoms, action movies, chick flicks, foreign films and even one set in Birmingham itself (Arjun & Alison – good work Cineworld for showing it).  Some of 2014’s gems, for me, were the aforementioned Lego Movie, Her, Veronica Mars, Boyhood, Calvary – and the two films that made me cry, Pride and the Fault in Our Stars.

    Anyway, should you be interested, here’s the 2014 Film List.