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    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.

    Lifestyle

    Halfway through 2018…

    How I am getting on with my 2018 challenges...

    I’m trying really hard not to say “how are we half way through the year already”, because it’s such a massive cliche.  But seriously, how are we?!

    As I mentioned in the first of these blog posts, I’m not overly keen on New Year’s Resolutions, but I do like to try and set myself fun challenges.  This year I went for a trinity of books, film and theatre, and this is the mid-way look at how I’m getting on.  In terms of the numbers, I’ve already completed one, am well on course to completely the other and failing miserably at the third.  But numbers rarely tell the whole story.

    I’ve really enjoyed how much having these challenges have kept the idea of going to the cinema or theatre more front of mind.  What this means is that if I’ve got some time free I’ll have a look at what’s on and see what my budget can afford.  It means I’ve seen some really interesting pieces of theatre around social issues, but also some things which are a bit more off the wall (I’m looking at you The String Quartest’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety).  I worried with taking up cycling that I’d lose my cinema days, but I’ve managed a few and now instead I cycle down and feel a bit less guilty at spending the day lounging around watching films when I’ve cycled a few miles to get there.

    50 films at the cinema

    I was well on track in the first quarter of the year, and was almost close to completing it by the halfway point, but after going on holiday for two weeks this would’ve meant cramming in a few films for the sake of it, rather than the enjoyment.  So I didn’t, but I am still at a respectable

    Second Quarter

    Ready Player One | Isle of Dogs | Midnight Sun | A Quiet Place | Ghost Stories | Love Simon | Funny Cow | Beast | Avengers Infinity War | The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society | Journeyman | Avengers Infinity War (IMAX) | Tully | You Can Dig This | Hereditary | Adrift | Love Sonia | Ocean’s 8 | Deadpool 2 | The Book Club | Cycle = 45

    Read 24 books in a year

    Looking very likely that I won’t get anywhere near this one.  With health struggles this year, I’ve really struggled to be able to focus on reading for any length of time, of even shorter bursts like on the bus (I’m usually having a nap instead).  I’ve been carting round Holly Bourne’s new book, an author I have enjoyed all of her previous work and have similarly for this one, but just struggling to maintain focus. Must try harder.

    Second Quarter

    The Exact Opposite of Okay | Nina Is Not Okay

    See 12 theatre shows – DONE

    I’d set this at twelve shows for the year thinking one a month was doable, but in the second quarter of the year I steamed ahead and managed to get to 17 shows.  I’ve got a few more lined up for the upcoming months, but rather than create a stretch target, I’m just going to keep trying to fit in shows when I can.

    Second Quarter

    Fat Friends | Police Cops From Outer Space | This House | Love From a Stranger | The String Quartest’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety | Legally Blonde | Summer Holiday | Birdsong | Woyzeck | Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

    Right then, onto the second half of the year…

    Lifestyle

    Quarterly update

    Quarterly Update 14

    I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions, there’s something a bit joyless about them – they always seem to be about berating yourself for not being good enough.  And I’m quite versed at doing that without having resolution hanging round like millstone round my neck.  But I do like the timeliness of setting myself a challenge that is smart – sensible, measurable, attainable, resourced and time-limited.

    This year I wanted to revive some of the challenges I’ve done before, like the book and film challenges, but add in another one for the theatre.  A few years ago I went to the theatre quite a bit, and I really enjoy it, but with everything going on it’s really easy to forget this.

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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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    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.