At last, some photos

This is another reblogged photo post for the benefit of new followers since 2015. Not much has changed around here in the last five years. 🙂

beetleypete

After the various posts about photos, both recently, and previously, I have finally managed to get some more onto the blog media library. They are not intended to be great examples of photography, far from it. This is not a photography blog, after all. They are in response to numerous requests to see Ollie out and about, and to give some idea of the area of Beetley Meadows, a place that features so regularly in my posts.

The photos were all taken with the new camera, trying it out on the first chance I got. For those of you interested in the technical details, they were shot on Aperture Priority, with f5.6 set on the lens itself. The film simulation mode was set before shooting, using Classic Chrome, a representation of Kodachrome 64, which was an old-style film, discontinued a few years ago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodachrome
Various exposure compensation was used, mostly…

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Lyrically Evocative (25)

In 2015, I heard a song on my car radio. I liked the voice well enough, but it was the lyrics that really grabbed me.

Perhaps you have to be a certain age, certainly older than the singer, to fully be engaged with such words. But he was young, and he seemed to get it, so that was good enough for me.

I later found out the the song was by a Danish pop group, with the name of Lukas Graham. The singer is called Lukas Forchhammer. I had never heard of the band before, and I confess that I have never heard of them since. However, some easy online research tells me that they are still performing in 2019, all around the world. Of course, they are still mostly known for this song, and trading on its reputation.

That doesn’t take away from the fact that it is indeed a powerful song, with particularly relevant lyrics to certain people.

And I am one of those people.

Here are the lyrics.

7 Years Old

Once I was seven years old my momma told me
Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely
Once I was seven years old
It was a big big world, but we thought we were bigger
Pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker
By eleven smoking herb and drinking burning liquor
Never rich so we were out to make that steady figure
Once I was eleven years old my daddy told me
Go get yourself a wife or you’ll be lonely
Once I was eleven years old
I always had that dream like my daddy before me
So I started writing songs, I started writing stories
Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me
‘Cause only those I really love will ever really know me
Once I was twenty years old, my story got told
Before the morning sun, when life was lonely
Once I was twenty years old
I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure
‘Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major
I got my boys with me at least those in favor
And if we don’t meet before I leave, I hope I’ll see you later
Once I was twenty years old, my story got told
I was writing about everything, I saw before me
Once I was twenty years old
Soon we’ll be thirty years old, our songs have been sold
We’ve traveled around the world and we’re still roaming
Soon we’ll be thirty years old
I’m still learning about life
My woman brought children for me
So I can sing them all my songs
And I can tell them stories
Most of my boys are with me
Some are still out seeking glory
And some I had to leave behind
My brother I’m still sorry
Soon I’ll be sixty years old, my daddy got sixty-one
Remember life and then your life becomes a better one
I made a man so happy when I wrote a letter once
I hope my children come and visit, once or twice a month
Soon I’ll be sixty years old, will I think the world is cold
Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me
Soon I’ll be sixty years old
Soon I’ll be sixty years old, will I think the world is cold
Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me
Soon I’ll be sixty years old
Once I was seven years old, momma told me
Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely
Once I was seven years old
Once I was seven years old
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Christopher Brown / David Labrel / Lukas Forchhammer / Morten Pilegaard / Morten Ristorp Jensen / Stefan Forrest
7 Years lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Songtrust Ave

And here is the band, performing the song.

Just Been Watching…(111)

Spotlight (2015)
***A true story, so spoilers do not apply***

Another film I am late to, one that got huge praise from critics and viewers at the time.

This looks at the real-life events surrounding a famous investigation by a team of reporters working at The Boston Globe newspaper, around 2001. The ‘Spotlight’ team are tasked by a new editor to expand their research into allegations of historical sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston area. They are told to take it all the way up to include the church hierarchy, including the powerful Cardinal Law.

Initially looking into the actions of a dozen or more priests since 1976, it soon becomes clear that almost one hundred priests were involved in this sex scandal, and that their crimes were covered up by not only the Catholic Church, but also by some police officers, and influential lawyers. They expose the corrupt system of pay-offs to victims, and the way that the guilty priests were moved around, or given long-term leave.

Many people conspire to obstruct the investigation. Records are ‘lost’, others sealed, and the team members become frustrated when they can get few victims to cooperate, and no help from any of the former perpetrators. The dogged reporters will not be put off, and put their own lives on hold as they work all hours, and travel around to demand access to paperwork, or try to get statements from those involved. Despite finding out that some of their own friends had stayed silent after being abused, and the team receiving threats from influential people in Boston, they keep going until the story is finally published.

I thought that this was an excellent film. Despite being very ‘wordy’, and having lots of characters to keep track of, it is never confusing or dull. And even though I knew the outcome before the film started, the tension stayed with me throughout. The locations are authentic, and the casting near perfect. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, and Rachel McAdams are completely convincing as three of the journalists, and the campaigning lawyer who steers them with tips in the background. The script is sharp and realistic, and even though the subject matter is potentially distressing, none of the actual abuse is ever featured, or even discussed in detail.

A satisfyingly intelligent film, and very relevant in the 21st century.

Mishka, Call home

Another fictional reblog, from 2015. Quite a few of you read this at the time, but for anyone who has followed since that date, it should be new to you.

beetleypete

This is another fictional short story, of just over 2000 words.

Oliver had always known that one day he might read the message. He checked the personal column every morning, and it was never there. On the few occasions when he had not been able to get a copy of The Times, or had been unavoidably distracted, there was always that nagging worry in the back of his mind that this might have been the day.

Well today had been the day. He checked it over and over. One line, in bold type, something he had never actually believed would happen, staring back at him from the page crammed with text. It had to be for him, there was no chance that it was a coincidence. It was obvious to anyone who understood the way things like this worked, that was certain. But they wouldn’t know it was him. Not…

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Just Been Watching (88)

The Revenant (2015)

As usual, I am late to this critically-acclaimed and Oscar-winning film. I finally got around to seeing it as it was shown on the BBC during the Christmas season, and I recorded it. Many of you have seen it already, and I have read most of the glowing reviews of the film on your blogs over the past couple of years.

For anyone who doesn’t know the story, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Glass, a guide and hunter in the wilderness of northern America, in 1823. He is hired by a fur-trading company to lead a large team of trappers on a mission to collect fur pelts along the river. His job is not only to show them where to go, but also to provide food for them by hunting game, accompanied by his half-Pawnee son, Hawk. In flashback, we see that his Native American wife and other children were killed by soldiers, and he managed to escape with his older son. During the film,, his wife reappears to him in dream sequences, and he also hears her voice.

The story gets off to an action-packed start when the trappers’ camp is attacked by a large band of fierce Arikara natives, who are searching for a missing girl they believe has been captured by white men. In a fierce fight, many of the Americans are killed, and the survivors are forced to flee in their boat, saving some of the valuable pelts. But they soon realise that the boat is vulnerable on the river, and Glass urges the Captain (Domhall Gleeson) to abandon the craft, hide the pelts, and set off on foot to make the long journey back to their fortified base.

One of the trappers, Fitzgerald, (Tom Hardy) is dead set against this plan, and only agrees to accompany the others with great reluctance. He is very unhappy with Glass and the Captain for making this decision, and his resentment grows as the journey proves almost impossible, in increasingly bad weather. Walking ahead of the main group to find the best route, Glass is attacked and savaged by a female grizzly bear. Although he manages to eventually kill the bear, he is left with terrible injuries. The Captain orders the men to carry the injured man on a rudimentary stretcher, but when this proves to be impractical in increasingly difficult terrain, he offers money to any who will stay behind to look after him until he dies, then give him a decent burial. Hawk stays behind with his father, along with a younger man, Bridger. (Will Poulter) Attracted by the cash offered, Fitzgerald also agrees to remain, and promises the Captain that Glass will get a decent burial.

However, when the injured man continues to survive against all expectations, Fitzgerald decides to intervene. He tries to suffocate Glass, and when Hawk intervenes, he kills the boy. He then convinces Bridger that there are fierce natives about to find them, and they bury Glass alive in a shallow grave, leaving him behind as they make their way back to the fort. But this film is not called ‘The Revenant’ for nothing. Glass survives, driven on by his obsession for revenge. And the rest of the film charts his journey back, to seek that revenge.

So, what did I make of this film? My lack of admiration for DiCaprio is legendary on this blog. I don’t rate him in the way that most people do. Most of the time, I don’t rate him above mediocre. But I have had that discussion many times. He is actually well-suited for the role of Glass. It requires little acting, and he has few lines. He is required to look hard, grizzled, confident, and tough. He does all that well, spending most of the film in make-up designed to show his numerous injuries. Tom Hardy makes for a very satisfying villain indeed, and there were times when I found myself rooting for him, as well as for the grizzly bear. 🙂 And I cannot see for the life of me why DiCaprio received the best actor Oscar. Unless it was for endurance on location filming.

The story stretches credibility, with Glass’s ability to survive a series of injuries and accidents that would undoubtedly kill any human immediately. As well as the grizzly bear attack, he falls off a huge cliff while riding a horse, still alive after a fall that looked to be in excess of one hundred feet. He survives extreme cold, and manages to cover large distances whilst crawling on the ground with a damaged ankle. Despite being swept over waterfalls, then carried for some distance on fast-flowing water, he still succeeds in managing to light a fire, drying out his soaking wet clothes, and finding just enough to eat. He is stabbed, half frozen solid by the elements, and overcomes infected wounds with the help of a passing Pawnee warrior who takes pity on him. It was a bit much, to be honest, and I found myself chuckling at times.

But Hardy was good, the sets convincing, the rest of the cast solid, and the period feel completely convincing.

And it had two huge stars who didn’t feature in the cast list. Location, and Cinematography. Amazing scenery, lovingly photographed with consummate skill.

Even on the TV in my living room, this film looked simply wonderful to behold. Breathtakingly beautiful at times, right from the start.
Watch it, if only for that.

It made me regret not seeing it at the cinema. It must have been enthralling, on a big screen.
Here’s a trailer.

Just been watching…(87)

The Big Short (2015)

***Spoilers do not apply***

Another film watched when curled up feeling ill. One thing about being unwell, you get the chance to catch up on films.

This highly-acclaimed film is about real events, and some real-life people too, although some names are changed. It is not a fictional story, as it is based on what happened in the US financial markets leading up to the world-wide crash of 2008. Star-studded, loved by critics, and made a lot of money at the box office. Has to be worth a watch, surely?

You have to really pay attention to this film. It is all going on. Narration, talking to camera, flashbacks, and a multitude of characters that have to be remembered, and kept up with. Financial terms, wheeling and dealing at all levels, double-crossing and betrayal. Oh, and more financial terms. At one stage, I thought only Wall Street Traders and Bankers might have a clue about what was happening. But the film-makers realised that too, so used an unusual device to explain things, in layman’s terms. They used real celebrities, playing themselves. They talk to the audience directly, giving an alternative perspective on those machinations. I wasn’t sure whether I thought this was amusing, helpful, or just plain patronising. I’m still not sure which it was.

To review this film in any detail would take a 5,000-word essay, and I am not about to do that, so don’t worry. The basic story is that a very few financial whiz-kids realised that the US housing market was on the verge of collapse. This was mainly due to the banks selling bonds, based on the value of the mortgages they held. When the demand for the bonds outstripped the amount of mortgages available, the banks went to crazy lengths to increase their mortgage holdings. This involved lending money to unemployed people to buy houses, or lending money to people who had no credit rating at all. The guys in the know soon worked out that once the mortgage holders began to default on payments, the banks would go bust, and the US economy (and world economy) would follow.

With me so far? That’s the easy bit.

So we follow some of these financial gurus as the reality dawns on them, and they begin to gamble huge fortunes against the mortgage bonds. They are ‘Shorting’ those bonds, betting the housing market will fail, and receiving odds from the banks against that happening. Hence the title of the film. Almost nobody believes them of course. and the banks are happy to take their money, whilst laughing at them behind their backs. From 2005 until 2007, these different groups or individuals ride the storm of the ups and downs of the property market. They discover that the SEC and the big banks are in collusion, and there are times when they nearly go under, making the payments based on their gambles. But they stick to their guns, and by the end of 2007, they are of course proved right.

Enough of that, what about the film? Well, here I am, eating my words. Ryan Gosling is outstanding, and barely recognisable, as money-man Jared Vennett. He abandons his usual moody say-nothing style, and delivers a powerhouse performance. Steve Carrell, who I usually can’t stand to look at, is a revelation in a very serious role, as the deeply-troubled and moralistic Mark Baum. He should do ‘serious’ more often. In fact, all the time. Christian Bale does his ‘method thing’, playing the socially-inept but financially brilliant Michael Burry. Then we get Brad Pitt, channeling his Robert Redford impersonation as the reclusive former banking genius who has put it all behind him for a self-sustained life in the backwoods. He does it pretty well, too. And everyone else is good. Very good.

The film delivers genuine tension, as real events like the Goldman Sachs crash are very well portrayed. Will our whizz-kids lose everything, or come out on top? We find out, and we might even end up caring too. (I didn’t) But it asks a lot of the viewer. A good memory, completely undivided attention, and a tolerance of the breaking of the ‘fourth wall’, which happens so often, it stops being noticeable. Then there is the flashy style. Pop video inserts, news broadcast inserts. Jumps, cuts, flick-backs, and ‘placement’ of other events and objects, or captions to let us know what year it is. Lots of fast-talking, a huge amount of swearing, and a great deal of shouting too. We are left under no illusion that this is a ‘smart’ film. It knows it is, and it wants us to know that too.

But maybe it’s not quite as smart as it thinks it is.
You decide. Meanwhile, here’s a trailer.

Just been watching…(85)

A War (2015)
Original Danish language, English subtitles.

It is easy to forget that countries other than the US and Britain were involved in the war in Afghanistan. Quite a few films have been made about the ongoing war there, and we may have all seen at least one. But you could be forgiven for not knowing that Denmark was one small country that sent troops to fight the Taliban, as their involvement got little coverage outside of their own country. This film redresses that balance, even though it might not be well-known.

One thing about foreign-language films is that few if any of the actors will be familiar. This helps lend authenticity to the action, as we have no preconceptions about them, or memories of their previous roles. In this case, it gives the film an almost documentary feel from the start, and that start is also powerful, taking us straight into the action almost immediately. This is a war we feel familiar with. Something we have watched live on the TV news, and perhaps seen documentaries about too. The patrols in desolate countryside, lack of contact with an often unseen enemy, shocking injuries caused by isolated explosive devices, and soldiers posted to remote encampments surrounded by suspicious locals, where every person might well be an enemy soldier. All that is present here.

But this is a film of two halves, and is intertwined with the home life of a brave young officer, his wife and children finding it hard to cope back home in Denmark. In the modern world, they can make phone calls, so both are trying not to upset the other by telling the real truth about what is going on. When the company loses a man to an I.E.D., the officer decides he will break protocol by leading his men out on patrol. After a local farmer is threatened by the Taliban and asks for help, the troops are sent out to clear the insurgents from the village, resulting in them walking into a trap. Under heavy fire, and taking casualties, the officer calls for air support, and the village is bombed. This means the company can escape, and the wounded can be flown out by helicopter.

This incident changes the film into a courtroom drama, when the officer is arrested for ordering the deaths of civilians in the village, and sent home to face a civilian trial in Denmark. Not only are his actions and judgments questioned, the rules of engagement in such a war are highlighted, with the the authorities showing little regard for the safety of their troops in a war zone. The pressure on the officer to justify his actions, and the worries of his family that he faces prison, then take up the second half of the film, and we see the trial unfold.

I thought this was a gem of a film. The scenes in Afghanistan were convincing, especially the injuries shown, and although there is little action, what does happen is tense in the extreme. The everyday lives of the soldiers and the family back home are handled just right, with suitable cuts to both, and every actor, even in the smallest role, is always believable. I was completely involved throughout, and totally invested in the characters.

For a very European take on this sad and continuing war, I don’t think you will see better.

Just been watching…(83)

The Visit (2015)

***No spoilers***

We had fourteen hours of torrential rain here yesterday. It was relentless, and came with a cold wind too. After trudging around in it for just short of two hours with Ollie, I was ready to get home, get dry, and settle down in the warm, in front of the TV.

Other than the film ‘The Sixth Sense’, I haven’t enjoyed many of the films of M. Night Shyamalan. They are usually damp squibs; promising much, delivering little. But I had recorded this one off the TV film channel, for a time when I had nothing else to do, so went with it.

Though not a ‘found-footage’ film, it is potentially equally annoying in that the two main characters are filming themselves throughout, and this is mostly how we see the action unfold. The back story is laid out rapidly, so we are soon up to speed. A single mother, left caring for two teenage children after her husband ran off with another woman. The kids are still having problems dealing with their dad’s departure, even though they were very young when he left. They have never met their maternal grandparents, as mum ran away from home at the age of nineteen, and hasn’t spoken to them since.

However, they have been in touch, and invited the kids to visit, as they want to make contact with the grandchildren they have never seen. Mum is packing them off to Pennsylvania by train, for a five-night stay in her childhood home. Meanwhile, she will be off on a cruise ship, with a new boyfriend. The daughter, Becca, decides to make the trip into a documentary and shoots everything on a video camera. She also takes along an SLR, so her younger brother Tyler can film her filming everything. They get the train to a remote station, where they are met by the kindly elderly couple, who welcome them with open arms.

Cue granny cooking lots of delicious food, grandpa being kind, and lots of walking in snow, and playing around the house. But of course, not all is as it seems, and the youngsters soon discover some strange behaviour going on with their grandparents, especially after dark. And as this is a ‘modern’ film, there is a lot of use of Skype, laptops, and hand-held camera shots. After half of the film had played, I was on the verge of stopping it, to be honest. The supposed ‘scares’ were very much a ‘So what?’, or ‘Nothing new’, and I was weary of the two young actors, who I found impossible to like. The older girl is pretentious, and her younger brother just plain annoying. She talks about cinema techniques constantly, and he likes to try to make up Rap songs. I was not only wondering if they were going to meet a gruesome fate, but hoping they would. Maybe they were supposed to be irritating, but I suspect not.

I decided to stick with it a little longer, wondering if I would ever bother with another film from this overrated director, and then something happened.

There was a GREAT TWIST! I say ‘great twist’, because I didn’t see it coming. And the ‘reveal’ moment was very well done indeed. But if you think you might see the twist arriving, or someone has already spoiled it for you, then don’t bother to watch the film. The twist is the only good thing about it.

Just been watching…(82)

Eye In The Sky (2015)

***No spoilers***

I am late to this one, and was lucky to catch it on a free film channel. I have seen and reviewed a very similar film made in the same year, ‘Good Kill’. But this one has a cast of British heavyweight actors, alongside some popular Americans who I don’t really know. When I see a cast list including Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Ian Glenn, and Alan Rickman, (in his last film) then you can be sure I am going to watch it.

Mirren stars as a British Army colonel working at the intelligence centre at Northwood, close to London. She was 70 when the film was made, so something of a stretch to believe that she would still be on active service, though she carries that off very well. She has been obsessed with destroying a fundamentalist terrorist cell, headed by two British citizens, and operating around the countries in East Africa. Using observation drones, and Kenyan undercover operatives on the ground, she is delighted to discover that all three of her targets are together in one house, in a suburb of Nairobi.

The action then splits to various locations. In Nevada, we see the American drone operating crew who will observe the area and the suspects, as well as carrying out any agreed strike. Back in Kenya, the local special forces commander has a group waiting to carry out a capture if necessary, and in far-off Hawaii, a young American army specialist is manning her facial recognition machine, to confirm identities of the suspects. In a room in central London, important government ministers and officials are gathering, to watch the capture of the suspects unfold live on screen. All of this is controlled centrally from Northwood, by Colonel Powell. (Mirren)

I caught on fairly quickly that this was to be about one event. I started to wonder if the film was ambitious in that regard, trying to maintain my interest for 102 minutes about one incident. But it did, and was very tense at times. The swapping of locations is never confusing, and the interplay between the characters and the action shown on large screens is always linear. The plot deals with the behind the scenes dilemmas surrounding authorisation of captures or missile strikes, and shows us the way that decisions are ‘referred up’ and the buck is passed, as various characters remain indecisive when faced with the possible recriminations of their actions.

The footage supposed to be from the drones is completely convincing, and the use of technology is not only very interesting, it is believable too. One example is a tiny camera disguised as a flying insect, and operated by a Kenyan undercover agent, using a Nintendo game control. Great stuff. The Kenyan/African cast all do a great job too, and the filming locations in South Africa pass off admirably for the seedier side of Nairobi. Helen Mirren is as solid as ever, but still feels a bit too ‘Mirren’ for my liking. Issues of ‘collateral damage’ are discussed, and the moral implications of drone strikes are addressed.

This is a serious film, with high levels of tension, and still very relevant in the modern world.
I recommend it, and together with ‘Good Kill’, it is a fine example of a modern war film, where a war is fought by remote control.

The trailer looks ‘blank’, but it does play when you click on the arrow.

Just been watching…(79)

Green Room (2015)

***No spoilers***

This Indie-style film was released to many rave reviews in magazines and on blogs, and some critics loved it too. Sold as a ‘Horror’ film, it soon developed a cult following. Despite this, it lost a great deal of money, as the box-office public decided not to bother with it. I also decided to give it a miss, until it appeared on a free TV Film channel recently. The cast interested me; a couple of reasonably well-known British actors, Joe Cole, and Imogen Poots, and the American Anton Yelchin, who I had at least heard of. Then there was Patrick Stewart, the famous British thespian. Yes, that one.
I thought that if he was in it, then it must be worth watching.

A grungy-looking Punk Rock band are touring around the north-west of America. They are making little money, sleeping in their car, and getting nowhere fast. On the verge of going home, they are offered a gig for $350 that will at least buy them enough petrol for the trip. They drive up to the Portland area, and discover the afternoon venue is a neo-Nazi skinhead club, little more than a huge shed on the compound of some decidedly unpleasant-looking men. But the gig goes well, and they get paid. Just about to leave, one of the band stumbles over the body of a dead girl in the ‘green room’ of the title, and events take a nasty turn.

The five are locked in the room, and the owner of the club (Stewart) is sent for, to decide what to do with them. Meanwhile, the terrified youngsters discover a huge underground heroin factory below the club, and realise that it is all a front for a well-organised drug-dealing gang. Things go downhill very rapidly as the band members fight for survival against an ever-growing number of skinhead thugs.

So, in my opinion, it’s not a ‘Horror’ film. It is a crime/murder film, with the second half taking on a classic ‘revenge’ element. There is a lot of violence, a theme of constant threat and dread, and most of it is shot in one or two shabby rooms, or outside in near-darkness. That makes it tiring to watch, (for me) as the director decided to use ‘natural lighting’ conditions for effect. And the music, when the band play their gigs, is just bloody awful!

There is nothing new or fresh in this film. The villains are villainous, and I found it hard to have any sympathy for the victims, to be honest. There is absolutely no point to the story, except to serve as a showcase for violence and fear, plus all of the acting is below average, and that’s being kind. Patrick Stewart plays the role of the criminal boss as if he is on stage at The National as King Lear, and I was left wondering what the hell he was doing in such a nasty film.
Honestly, do what the American public did.

Don’t bother.