Celluloid Diaries: Reading / watching / listening to...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reading / watching / listening to...

john cleese so anyway


* So, Anyway by John Cleese. I'm a big fan of John Cleese, especially of his work on Fawlty Towers, but his autobiography wasn't what I expected it to be. The main focus is on Cleese's childhood, college years, and early work in theatre. Sometimes he touches interesting parts - such as his survival techniques as a teacher, his reveries about how life could have been easier if he'd become a lawyer or a banker, and his complicated relationship with Connie Booth – but he always returns to the bare facts and most of those aren't very absorbing. He rarely mentions Fawlty Towers and his movies, and only addresses Monty Python in the last chapter as if his editor obliged him to put it in after the book was already written.

* Billson Film Database: Short Reviews Of Over 4000 Films. If you enjoy reading the capsule reviews on my blog, then there's no reason you won't enjoy Anne Billson's collection of movie reviews, all of which have been previously published in The Telegraph and other publications. It's not the kind of book to read in one go, more something to leaf through whenever you're looking for a movie to watch. The author covers every genre, every era, every taste, and does so with both knowledge and humor. It's an inspiring read that will make you want to sit down and (re-)discover films all day long. Fun fact: being a cat lover, Anne Billson makes a special mention of movies with kitties. 

* Globule: Une vie de lapin by Mamemoyashi. Since I have just welcomed a rabbit to the family, my boyfriend now buys me rabbit mangas on top of cat mangas. Globule: Une vie de lapin is the true story of author Mamemoyashi and her rabbit Globule. Books like this have to be recognizable, and Globule: Une vie de lapin definitely is. It's impossible not to recognize your rabbit's special quirks, positions, and behaviors. Gift this book to someone who owns a rabbit, and they will be eternally grateful. 


* The Slayer. It's funny how opinions change depending on when and where you watch a movie. The first time I saw The Slayer, I felt ripped of. Nothing happened in the story, and when the monster finally arrived, he was gone in a matter of seconds. I just saw it again after fifteen years, and I was surprised to discover several efficient murder scenes, some great beach locations, and an addictive vintage atmosphere. It's not as boring as I thought it was. Don't get me wrong. We're far from a horror masterpiece here, but if you're into the eighties slasher genre, The Slayer is actually enjoyable. Just do yourself a favor and skip the last two minutes of the film. 

* Dogs. In a sleepy American town, all the dogs band together to hunt down their former masters. This results in several memorable scenes (such as the canines at a dog show going wild), but, overall, the story is too slow, and definitely not scary or suspenseful. 

* Before I Go To Sleep. I almost forgot to add this one to the list. That's how forgettable Before I Go To Sleep is. Based on the bestselling book by S.J. Watson, Before I Go To Sleep follows a woman (Nicole Kidman) who, after a traumatic incident, can't remember her past, including her husband. Not one second of it is believable, definitely not the so-called twist ending that you can guess just by reading this review. A big miss. 

* Daughter Of Darkness. The first thing that struck me about Stuart Gordon's Daughter Of Darkness was how reminiscent its design was to Roger Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum. Then it dawned on me that Gordon actually remade The Pit and the Pendulum one year after releasing Daughter Of Darkness. It's the atmosphere, as well as the seedy Romanian locations, that make this nineties horror movie worthwhile. On the other hand, the story about the girl (Mia Sara) who goes looking for her lost father (Anthony Perkins) and encounters a clan of vampires, is wooden and silly. 

* Slaughter High. Nothing is plausible in this eighties slasher movie about a nerd who seeks revenge for a prank gone wrong. Should the viewer think it's normal that a girl takes a bath in a closed-down high school after several of her friends have been murdered? Or that the killer is able to put poison in a closed beer can? Or that there's a bed with clean sheets in an abandoned building? Or that the former school janitor is still doing rounds at night? But no matter how silly it gets, I've watched Slaughter High numerous times before and it still stands as one of the coolest slasher movies in film history. It's fast, it's fun, it's gory, and it's great. Strange fact: Simon Scuddamore, who played the nerdy Marty, committed suicide even before Slaughter High was officially released. 

* Birdman. I still think Whiplash should have won the Oscar for best movie, but I certainly enjoyed Birdman. As a writer, I could identify with the idea of being more true to yourself in your art than in real life, and that when you try to please an audience you end up being invisible. I could also go on for hours about the double meaning of the dialogue, the symbolic undertones, the technical stunts, etc. It's a smart film, the kind that has so many undertones you can discover new things with each additional viewing. 

* The Theory Of Everything. Eddie Redmayne, who won the Oscar for his performance, is convincing as Stephen Hawking in this biopic based on Jane Hawking's second memoir Travelling To Infinity. The Theory Of Everything is a cute film, but too sweet and inoffensive. Surely, Hawking accomplished great things despite his disease, but the film was oddly lacking a sense of struggle and inner torment which would have made it so much more interesting and real. 

* Still Alice. I've always mistakenly assumed that people with Alzheimer's aren't aware of their fate and therefor never really suffered. Thanks to Still Alice, I now have a more realistic understanding of the disease. Based on a novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, the film shows the degenerative process from the victim's p.o.v. We are confronted with her feelings of being misunderstood as her husband denies her initial diagnosis, with her shame as she realizes she is no longer the intelligent and articulate woman she once was, with her sense of being lost when she can't even find her way to her own toilet, and with her fear of what the future has in store. I shed more than a few tears with Still Alice, but, most of all, it has turned me into a more considerate person regarding those who are suffering from the disease.

Listening to: 

* It Follows (original motion picture soundtrack) by Disasterpeace. This indie game music composer, known for Fez, manages to reproduce the vintage synthesizer sound of the eighties. Just like the movie, there's a strong Carpenter vibe to it. 

* Lost Themes by John Carpenter. The title is misleading, because all the tracks are new. Made in collaboration with his son Cody, the album is in the same vein as Carpenter's earlier work.

What are you currently reading, watching, and listening to? Anything here that piques your interest? 

You can take a peek at all the other books, movies, and music I've blogged about under the "reading / watching / listening to..." tag.


  1. I'd heard the Theory of Everything was lacking.
    Shame about Cleese's book. I'm a big fan of Faulty Towers. I could probably recite the one about the Germans.

  2. Hi There, Reading???? WELL--right now, I am not reading anything special --but read constantly since I try to keep up with tons and tons of blogs..... (Hard to keep up!)

    WATCHING? Well--hubby and I watch TV dramas. We DVR them --and watch them when we can.... We enjoy the good hour dramas more than movies these days.

    LISTENING TO? I love music and am constantly listening to all kinds of beautiful music. I enjoy classical, religious (not the modern contemporary), country, pops, etc.... JUST love music. Grew up in a very musical family...


  3. Hi!! Love your reviews, I need to make a list of some of those movies you mentioned. Im reading a book called AHA by Kyle Idleman, the author is great. Watching Law and Order on Netflix hahaha.

  4. You have definitely been busy. I haven't seen, read or watched any of the above, but I will check them out. Congratulations on your new family member, the rabbit.

  5. Isn't that funny about Cleese's biography. I'd rather hear about his personal moments on productions sets than moping about why he did't become a lawyer. Thanks for the mini reviews. I'm looking forward to seeing Birdman and Still Alice. (BTW, as I try to piece together my own coves for horror shorts, I noticed your A Good Man and Drowned Sorrow have brilliant covers - love them!)

  6. Nice review, thanks for doing the hard work for us! ;)

  7. I've had many rabbits as pets over the years and they are delightful creatures! Enjoy your new bunny!

    I agree with you about "The Theory of Everything." It was very superficial. Personally, I think Benedict Cumberbatch should have won Best Actor and "The Imitation Game" should have won Best Picture. Oh well!

    And incidentally, I DID go and see "The Duke of Burgundy" which you recommended. I enjoyed it although all the moths freaked me out because I have a phobia. Everything else was fine though!

  8. Your reviews are so astute, Vanessa, I fully trust your opinions. I didn't see any of the Oscar nominated movies, except Wild. Having read your blurbs, I am inclined to see Birdman. Seems a lot of people, though, think it should've have won for best movie.

  9. Used to love Faulty Towers, it was so funny! That was a great review.
    Lynne x

  10. Looks like you're keeping busy! And I hate it when a movie is ruined by a bad ending (The Slayer). It reminds me of The Mist, which is much better if you end it as soon as they're driving around the fog in the end (like the novella was).

  11. funny that Cleese's autobiography seems to be incomplete as you describe it.
    I won't be reading it, then.

  12. Hi Vanessa - I haven't seen many of these - though last night I did go to Still Alice and thought it was very good ... I enjoyed the imitation game - though I suspect many didn't really get the struggle he had to go through ... so cruel ... and I haven't seen The Theory of Everything .. though it's brought motor neurone disease to the fore ... and I now will need to catch it in London sometime.

    Cleese - I've gone off . .though I did like his early tv work etc ... you get through loads of reading, films, tv shows etc .. and thanks for highlighting for us .. cheers Hilary

  13. I really need to get myself back into reading again lol
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  14. I am seriously in love with John Cleese. Is he fascinating to anyone else in here? I had no idea he had a book out. *runs away to write it down to read later.* I'm almost as excited about his book as I was about Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiography!!

  15. Dogs tracking down their masters. Sounds like it could have had potential. It also sounds rather dumb. I'll probably miss that one.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Wrote By Rote

  16. You've given me many recommendations. I'd love to read Cleese's book.

  17. I HATE it when I read a biography and they spend half the book telling us about their childhood. One autobiography I think did a good job at telling us what was important about his childhood then getting to what we wanted to read was Rick Springfield. Although his life was pretty shady POST-fame and now I see him as a little yucky because he was such a cheating jerk, it was a GOOD book, I have to say! Arnold Schwarzenegger and Shania Twain both spent WAY too much time telling us about their youth. I don't really care. I ended up skimming over that stuff and getting to the part where they started working hard to become famous.

  18. Love the review and so many good recommendations! Thank you!!

  19. I like Hawking and Redmayne. I must watch Theory of Everything.

  20. Nice post!! ;) So nice.
    Kisses from Spain.
    Xoxo, P.

    My Showroom

  21. I have been catching up on the Oscar nominated films. Last week I saw The Theory of Everything and the Imitation Game both of which I absolutely loved. This week I hope to watch Birdman!

  22. John Cleese must be very interesting!

  23. I love the honesty of these reviews, and this is one of the reasons I'm in no hurry to see The Theory of Everything. I hate when books/movies/TV shows play it safe. I'm looking at you John Cleese. His book sounds pretty disappointing.

  24. Unfortunately, most people suffering from Alzheimer's know at the least what they will go through, know that they will disappear as the people they are. It's a horrifying condition.

    I want to thank you for coming by and offering kind thoughts on Tungsten's passing. She was my good friend, and I will miss her until I die.