Films that I don’t like

Another film post from 2013 that only Vinnie appears to have seen. More unpopular opinions from me about many much-loved films. As always, feel free to disagree.


Having listed numerous films that I do like, in my tour around the World of Cinema, I thought it appropriate to also let you know about the types of film that I never watch, and just don’t like. These choices are unlikely to gain me many friends, but I will stand by them, and try my best to plead the case for the prosecution. No clips with these, as they are generic, not specific.

Comic Book Franchises. I do not refer to the recent trend for filming graphic novels, as seen in ‘Sin City’, and ‘300’. This is an entirely different subject, and I have some time for these efforts. In particular, I am launching my attack at the filming of the heroes of Marvel, and DC comics. The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Superman, Silver Surfer, Spider-Man, Captain America, and of course, Batman. There are many others, and you will no…

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When You Just Don’t Get It

You know how when you can do something, you just don’t understand why someone else can’t?

I once worked with a woman who failed her driving test no less than eight times. She had paid for over one hundred lessons, and finally gave up trying after her eighth fail. The rest of us could all drive, and were amazed at her inability to be able to do something that was second nature to us. I asked her why, and she said “I just don’t get it. It doesn’t sink in. They show me one week and I do it, but the next time I have forgotten what I have to do, or it feels different”.

I don’t know how to swim. People find that amazing. All my life, people have told me, “It’s so easy to swim. I could teach you in minutes”. My first wife was a champion swimmer, and she tried to teach me to swim on numerous occasions. But whether it was being uncomfortable in the water, or lack of coordination, I just didn’t get it. It never felt right, and I didn’t seem to move the same way in water as everyone else.

During my working life, I frequently met adults who could not read and write. I was surprised, to say the least. Did they not go to school? How were they allowed to progress into adulthood without some extra tuition? One evening, I asked an illiterate man in the back of my ambulance how that could happen. He shrugged. “The taught me, they showed me, but I just didn’t get it. It didn’t sink in”.

So I have learned a fact of life, over the past fifty-odd years. Just because someone thinks something is easy to learn, that doesn’t mean it is.

You all know what I am talking about, I’m sure.

That other blog

Not all of you are aware, but I do have another blog. It is very different to this one, and allows me to get very political on occasion, or to let off steam about issues that annoy me. Having just posted about reaching five years and 100,000 + views on this blog, I thought I would have a quick look at the stats for that one while I was at it. I also get to put in a shameless plug, for those of you who don’t know about it. I warn you, it is rather opinionated, and not for everyone. No photos or images, not one mention of Ollie the Dog, weather, music, films, or anything like that.

If you like the Royal Family, you probably won’t like this blog. If you support American, British, or Israeli foreign policy, you definitely won’t like it. If you vote UKIP or Conservative, I doubt you should bother to even look at it. It is the other side of me as a blogger. If this blog is Luke Skywalker, then the other one is Darth Vader.

In April 2013, I decided to remove political comment and politics of any kind from this blog, and start a separate one. Redflagflying was born, and is still going today. Compared to the stats I published about Beetleypete, stats for the other blog are minimal. But it serves a purpose, allows me to express that other side, and even has a few followers. So, one year less, and a great deal less posts too. How is it doing?

It has had 4,536 views in that time.
There have been 1,737 visitors to read the 106 posts published.
The blog has 121 WordPress followers, 5 followers by email only, and 139 Twitter followers.
A total of 265.
The most popular day for views is a Sunday, and the peak time is 4:00 pm.
The most views in one day was on the 22nd July, 2013. The figure was too low to be considered worthy of recording though, so probably less than 100.

I really enjoy writing on that blog, and although I don’t post very often, it does give me a lot of satisfaction. So if you fancy a change of scene, or just want to see the other side of the man who writes short stories, and complains about how much it rains when he’s walking his dog, then here’s a link. Don’t forget, I warned you…

For those of you who already follow that blog, leave likes and comments, and engage in the debate, I send my best wishes. Thanks for being part of a very small community. You are all treasured.

Top Ten Films

When I first started this blog in 2012, Top Tens were all the rage. Most days, it seemed to me as if there was a Top Ten of everything on the blog. This ranged from the top ten cute cats, to the top ten favourite film stars, through to the top ten favourite places to go in the world, and the top ten best snack foods. Top Ten mania had hit blogging, and could not be avoided.

Not long after I started to write posts about film and cinema, the ‘Top Tenners’ came knocking on my door. They sent me links to their own top tens, and asked to know my own preferences. Who were my favourite actors? My list of best directors? The questions went on and on. The barrage was relentless, for a while. Some blogging sites were even called ‘My Top Ten’, and other variations. These Top Ten addicts went into almost everything you can imagine, believe me.

But I resisted, I refused to play ball. There was no way that I could think of my personal top ten films. After all, I had seen so many, how could I choose? I offered them categories. I would suggest my top ten films by Japanese directors, or my top ten war films, and so on. But this did not satiate their desire for me to provide that list. Even when I said things like, “my tastes are constantly changing”, they refused to accept that I could not provide them with a ready-to-order selection.

Almost five years later, and I hardly ever see Top Tens anymore. Maybe they ran out of subjects to place in order, or perhaps they just stopped blogging once they had got all the answers. They should have waited for me though, as I have just decided that I WILL list my top ten favourite films after all. There are some thoughts accompanying this list though. I do not claim that these are actually the best ten films ever made, far from it. Nor do I claim that their subject matter will suit everyone, even the most ardent film fan. They are just the films that I remember fondly, and always enjoy seeing over again. I will also state from the outset that those people who do not like subtitles will be disappointed. You lot better not bother to read on, in that case. And everyone should also realise that these are personal favourites at the moment, so that does not preclude new films appearing, and knocking some of these from their spot.

So, here goes, in ascending order. Feel free to add your own top tens in the comments. Let’s keep the spirit of those Top Tenners alive, in 2017!

10) The Conformist (1970)
Bertolucci’s political drama has long been a powerful memory for me. Fascism in Italy, amazing sets, and the portrayal of a man prepared to do almost anything to move up in the world. Memorable performances from a talented cast, and everything feeling just right, at the hands of one of the best directors. The period is recreated impeccably too.

9) The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
This unusual British film, written and directed by Peter Greenaway, can best be described as having a ‘cult following’. The amazing costumes, the wonderful musical score, and the unusual construction, all surround a baffling ‘whodunnit’ murder mystery, set in England in the 17th Century. I have heard it described as the ultimate case of style over substance. I don’t care. It is fabulous.

8) Great Expectations (1946)
David Lean had to feature here, and this film is undoubtedly one of his best. Beautifully filmed in luxurious black and white, this is a masterclass in how to bring the work of Charles Dickens to the big screen. Add to that a great cast at the peak of their form, stunning imagery, and a faithful depiction of Victorian England, and you are left with a work to treasure; one to watch over and over again, and never tire of.

7) Carmen (1983)
I have always loved to watch Spanish Flamenco. I admire the percussive dancing, the hand-clapping, and the wonderful guitar work. Carlos Saura took the story of Bizet’s opera, and transplanted it to a modern flamenco school. It was a stroke of genius, and works so well, with the flamenco rhythms replacing the operatic score. This is a very personal preference of course, and I will understand if you are baffled to find it in my list. But it is a great film, in so many ways.

6) Kagemusha (1980)
Akira Kurosawa is one of my all-time favourite film-makers. I could have probably populated this list with ten of his films, and left it at that. Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior is a visual feast. This is how to make an historical epic. Set in the turbulent days of feudal Japan, this film left me reeling after watching it at the cinema. Sweeping vistas, a riot of colour, and the use of countless extras in the cast. This feels completely authentic at all times, and the plot, about a small-time crook who resembles a warlord, is almost unnecessary.

5) GoodFellas (1990)
I have admired many of Martin Scorsese’s film over the years, but none more so than this. In my opinion, this is the ultimate gangster film, and the best ever made in the genre. (You will note that it managed to squeeze The Godfather trilogy out of this list) From the opening scene, it had me gripped, and I watched every second of the film with the same fascination. This is the seedy side of the hoodlums who do the dirty work for organised crime, with a succession of first-rate actors taking on every role as the film unfolds, as well as the performance of a lifetime from Ray Liotta. Throw in some of the best long-shot scenes ever put on film, and the constantly convincing changes in the eras covered, and you have what can only be described as a modern masterpiece.

4) Touch Of Evil (1958)
I have always loved to watch Orson Welles. I write about him a lot on this blog, from his twinkling-eyed smile in ‘The Third Man’, to my own admiration of his performance as Falstaff, in ‘Chimes at Midnight’. I really rate him as an actor, though he is best known as a director. His work on this film is second to none, in both areas. From what is perhaps the best crane shot in cinema, as the film opens, to his portrayal of the run down bloated detective Quinlan, Welles has crafted a film that is complete in so many ways. There is a seen-better-days Marlene Dietrich to enjoy too, and you can even forget that Charlton Heston is in it.

3 ) The Lives OF Others (2006)
This Oscar-winning German film deals with life in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989. It is about surveillance, dissent, and living in a very controlled society. But you can now just forget that, because this film is high on my list for one very good reason. The acting of the star, in the main character of Wiesler, the Stasi captain. Ulrich Muhe might well have been unknown to most of us, were it not for this film. As he sadly died the following year, aged just 54, we are left with this amazing performance as his legacy. His depiction of the obsessive captain is second to none, and he displays such nuance, that at times it appears that he is not acting at all. One of the great films of all time, without doubt.

2) Come and See (1985)
Regular readers of my blog will hardly be surprised to see this Russian film so high on my list. This is a war film like no other. A haunting, surreal production that will live on in your memory, and is unlikely to ever be erased from your mind. It is almost impossible to describe. You just have to see it, to experience its terrible wonder.

1) Blade Runner (1982)
A film that has had its own post here already, and been praised to the hilt by me so many times, it just had to get the top slot. Few films have stayed with me like Ridley Scott’s dystopian film noir. Part science-fiction, part gumshoe detective story, it just has it all. Wonderful performances, amazingly-rendered sets, and fantastic ideas. When I left the cinema after watching this, I knew that I would never forget it. And in all those years since, it has never been bettered. There is a sequel due out soon, but don’t wait for that. See the original, and marvel at the invention.

There you have it. My first ‘real’ Top Ten. No great surprises, for anyone who knows my taste. I hope that you will play along in the comments, and maybe even watch the ones on this list that you have never seen. Let me know if you want more Top Tens too.

More camera chat

After my recent run of photo posts, I am very pleased with the response to them. The positive comments, and huge increase in views, all are of course very welcome. After many years of avoiding photos and images on my blog, I might finally be coming around to recognising the positive aspects of illustrating many of the posts.

I did write a post about my current camera, and in general, I have been very pleased with it. For the money, it is a great little all-round compact, capable of producing some very pleasing results. But my rekindled interest in taking photos has left me excited about equipment once again. So I am thinking of adding another camera to my collection. I have narrowed down the choice to a mirrorless micro four-thirds camera. These seem to offer the ideal combination of a good-sized sensor, with smaller bodies that are more portable, and lenses that are easier to afford, than on larger systems. They also offer many cutting-edge features, all crammed into attractive retro-styled bodies that are as much of a joy to look at, as they are to use.

I know that many of you are keen photographers. Most of you are very good too, and at least some of you already own and use cameras based around this system. Perhaps there are others out there who have never seen this blog, but might be attracted by the tags. They might also use MFT cameras, and have their own opinions. So my question is this. I have narrowed down my selection to three choices, all of which will be investigated with a view to a purchase after Christmas. What do you think of my choices? Do you have alternative choices, or personal experience of using any of these?

Before I commit to what will be an expensive and possibly final decision on something I will be owning for a considerable time, I would appreciate comments and input from anyone out there, especially from those in my existing community. Here are the three choices, in no particular order.

Panasonic G80.
Olympus Pen F.
Olympus OMD EM-5 Mark 2.

Let me know what you think. Any comments will be much appreciated.

Films and Cinema: Some more thoughts

Blogging about films comes in many forms and styles. Some bloggers write solely about the subject, often with passion and detailed research or experience. A few publish chatty posts about films or genres that they enjoy, or the latest releases they have just been to see at the cinema. If you want to get serious, you can find blogs and websites where films and the cinema industry are discussed and debated at an academic level. Certain productions and individual directors are dissected with surgical precision, and some scenes, even just on-screen glances, are examined as if seen under a microscope.

Many bloggers, myself included, just have a part of a wider blog dedicated to the subject. They post occasional reviews, overviews of current or past trends, and offer their own opinions on what makes a film good or bad. Many enjoy the ‘top list’ approach, where the blog author suggests their own list of the top ten (or more) films of all time, or in each genre. This often generates lively debate, and comments for or against the published choices. Most people like to be in groups, and sometimes seek like-minded individuals to agree with, and support. You will see the same bloggers commenting or posting similar articles on their own sites, which is all a welcome part of forging a blogging community.

Others like to arrive on these blogs with counter-arguments. They claim to know about the films mentioned, and present evidence or personal experience as to why the review is incorrect, or not to their taste. On many occasions, their arguments are sound, and well-informed, though sometimes they do appear to be rather pointless, and come across as spiteful. Luckily, I have not been the recipient of this, but have seen it happening on many other sites.

After four years of blogging about many things, film and cinema included, as well as having more than twenty articles on the subject published elsewhere, I have not been shy in expressing my own opinions and ideas. As anyone who reads this blog will know, I have little or no time for the comic book franchises and super-hero blockbusters that fill the cinemas these days. I am not a fan of American romantic comedies that I find to be generally unromantic, and unfunny. And I am even less enamoured of the endless and pointless remakes that smack of lazy film-making. Only this year, we have already had remakes of Ben Hur, and now The Magnificent Seven, as well as others.

On the positive side, both British and American serious drama has continued to impress, as well as the excellent foreign films generally known as ‘World Cinema’. There have been some very good historical and period films, and a few inventive horror releases. Despite the reliance on populist films to fill the multiplexes, it would appear that the film industry is in good health overall.

So, why this post?

It recently occurred to me that I was guilty (as are many others) of taking the subject rather too seriously. After all, they are just entertainment. Better acting can often be found in TV dramas these days, and streaming services are changing the face of the industry. The recent crop of ‘Nordic Noir’ drama serials on TV in the UK are every bit as good as anything on the big screen, with each double episode as satisfying as a two-hour film. DVD releases sometimes even offer the viewer the chance to change the ending, or see alternate cuts of the same film. If we are going to continue to write about this subject, we have to be aware that tastes are changing with the times too.

Just because I say a film is a ‘masterpiece’ doesn’t make it one. It is just my opinion. If someone adores a soundtrack because it seems relevant to them, that same music might well ruin the film for someone else. Jarring visuals and camera angles that are thought to be innovative and cutting edge might bring high praise from certain bloggers. But for others, they will make the story confusing, and hard to follow. So in future, I aim to be less pretentious, use less references, and to try to have more fun with the category. It will only ever be what I think anyway, and is unlikely to change anyone’s mind.

After all, it’s just a film.

Random questions: Part One

After a reasonably long, and often frustrating life, there are always unanswered questions hovering around in my mind. Sometimes they have been there for as long as I can remember. Others are recent, and might pop into my mind as I settle down to sleep, or when I have just woken up. So I decided to get them down on the blog. They are rhetorical in nature, not requiring answers. They may resonate with some of you though. Or they might just be the grumpy ramblings of someone getting on a bit.
Other questions will undoubtedly appear in time, hence I have added Part One to the title of this post.

Why do people walk so slowly in supermarkets?

I do our main grocery shop every week. I work out what meals I am going to prepare, and write a shopping list based around the general layout of the supermarket. Once I arrive and grab my trolley, I walk normally up and own the aisles, avoiding any that contain products I have no need to buy that week. I complete the shopping at the far end of the store, reasonably close to a checkout. Before I put the goods onto the belt, I make a final check of the shopping list, just to ensure that I haven’t forgotten anything. I don’t consider all this to be unusual. I have always shopped this way.
However, most of my fellow shoppers seem to have been trained to shop by snails. They move at a pace that somehow is even slower than actually standing still. Some appear to have to inspect every single product in all the aisles, even if they are only holding a small basket. Just when I suspect that they are going to move, and I make for the gap, they will suddenly turn back, remembering that they had failed to examine one of the hundreds of different brands of coffee or tea. I can only conclude that they intend to spend the main part of their day in the shop. I know there’s not that much to do around here, but please think of the shoppers who just want to buy their stuff and go home.

Why do people drive in the middle lane of an empty motorway?

This is something that has gone on ever since I started driving, in 1969. Most sensible drivers are aware that they should stay in the inside lane, only moving across to the other lanes when having to overtake a much slower vehicle. Once that is done, they should move back to the inside again. However, a large section of drivers do not seem to follow this sensible code. Instead, they get straight into the middle lane and stay there. Generally driving under the maximum speed limit, they make life difficult for all other users of that road, and create dangerous situations that they appear to be blissfully unaware of. You know who you are, so just stop it. Please.

Why do people litter attractive places?

When you live in an unattractive urban environment, one surrounded by graffiti and unloved by those responsible for looking after it, as well as those that have no option but to live in it, littering is understandable. Not that this is an excuse to do it. But when it seems that nobody cares, and the place ends up looking the same whether you do or not, it is easier to come to terms with.
In an attractive country setting, surrounded by the delights of nature, and all that rural Britain has to offer, why do they do it here? The small car park at Hoe Rough is always full of litter. Fast-food containers, drinks cartons and cans, unwanted periodicals or leaflets, and the ubiquitous plastic carrier-bag. All of these and more can be found thrown from car windows in this small space that leads to a very nice nature reserve. When I see this, I sadly conclude that respect has gone, and is unlikely ever to return.

Why do people park across two spaces in car parks?

Are they such bad drivers that they are unable to slot a conventional-sized car into the space available? This habit seems to apply whatever the type of available parking. Huge open-air car parks, multi-storey inner-city car parks, even airports and large public car parks. You will find Mr or Mrs ‘two space’ in all of them. They have made sure that someone else will have to drive around looking for the spot that they have been told is available, only to find a car straddling two bays. They have also guaranteed that their own exit will be made easier, by not having to give a moment’s thought to driving or reversing out. I think that they should get a penalty ticket, even though they have paid. That, or have to pay twice. Even better, why not just stop doing it, and learn to park?

More questions to come. Let me know in the comments if you have any similar thoughts.

That other blog

If beetleypete could be called my full-time job in retirement, then my other blog is just a hobby, I suppose. I added my 50th post over there today, and it made me reflect on how small it is, and how the blogging process differs between the two. This week, it has enjoyed a total of only five views. It regularly lies quietly unread for weeks at a time, and has only ever accrued the rather feeble number of 140 comments, after less than 1300 views.

I have no issues with that at all, as it it rather outspoken at times, and offers opinions that are a little unpopular in the mainstream. Despite the fact that much of the content is deliberately intended to be both ironic, and not too serious, I do allow some controversy to get in, and shamelessly expound some political ideas and theories that are, to say the least, outdated. Many other blogs cover the same subjects, and most do it better than mine.

Despite all this, I still enjoy writing it, and regard it highly. But then I would, wouldn’t I?

It is a blog that allows me to be unconcerned about being interesting to readers, or keeping a personal record of my life. It is just opinionated, allowing me to express thoughts and ideas that would be unwelcome in the everyday world of the general blogging that I enjoy so much here. It is not a guilty secret, as it is not a secret, and I don’t feel guilty about it. It is more akin to having an unpopular pet, like a poisonous snake, or a scorpion. Others rarely see the point of such things, but the owners love them just the same.

So, at the risk of upsetting some good blogging friends, and perhaps alienating others for good, I invite you to have a look at it, and see what you think. If it is not something that would interest you, then feel free not to bother. But if you fancy a trip to my different side…