In the shadow of all the King’s speech “the British are coming” claptrap there are a couple of overlooked gems.

It’s actually an Australian/UK co production driven by the Australian See Saw Productions/Films but I don’t want to be a pedant here.

And it’s pretty good too.

In fact in some ways it has become something of a phenomenon with applause ringing out across the land after each screening.

But it’s not all that is good about British cinema right now.  Putting to one side NEDS let’s focus on two Oscar nominees that I have read not a jot about in the past two weeks; Banksy’s Exit through the Gift Shop which I have yet to see but rates very highly on IMDB and Silvain Chomet’s The Illusionist.

Edinburgh is the star of this delightful movie.

Closely followed by the Highlands of Scotland

Lovely period detail

Whilst I liked The Illusionist more in my heart than my head, the fact that it has garnered an Oscar nomination should not be overlooked.

From a selfish point of view I wish it well because I know the producer, Bob Last, pretty well as he was our landlord when we established my first company, 1576.

It’s a charming, whimsical tale by the director of Belle Ville Rendezvous and it was largely created in Scotland (Edinburgh and Dundee). However it’s deeply disappointing that of the 33 production partner companies listed not one of them is Scottish.  In fact of the 26 funders not one of them is British and yet it was made here.

It only faces two competitors; How to Tame Your Dragon and – bugger – Toy Story 3.

It’s already won best animated movie at The European Film Awards but it’s dissapointing that it did not gain any recognition at The BAFTAs.

Anyway, it’s highly unlikely to beat off Toy Story 3, but maybe we should take a moment on Oscar night to toast Bob and Sylvain.

Cheers chaps.

more bollocks from the Sunday mail

Last week I shared a great post from Phil Adams about the moronic nature of swearing censorship in our rubbish newspapers.

Today I picked up the Sunday Mail to see how much they’d insult their readers’ intelligence.  They did well…

A real beauty; and in red too.

So, hands up if you were unable to work out that Walter Smith was pissed off?  If they didn’t want to say “pissed off” why not try something like, say, “furious”.

Now bastards, I’ll grant you, is a little stronger, and yet we get a double whammy on it, “complete bastards” and “horrible bastards” but I don’t think you’ll find the word bastard *******ed out in the OED.

This is a peach.  It might be a pain in the arse to play against Hamilton Accies when they are fighting relegation but since when did that constitute swearing?  Come on.

I admit it.  This one works.  It has totally baffled me.  Was he calling her a bastard?  Odd.  Or a Bitch and it’s an ******* typo.  Should it have been b**** not b******?

Maybe it’s b******, sorry, bonkers, after all some people take offence at words like that.  Buggers?  Ballbag?   Be-itch (like in America)?  Boring?  That would offend me.  Broody?  Bloodys?

No, I’ve got it, it was barbara, and she took offence at the missing capitalisation.

Oh well.  Might come back to this one next week.

In between times answers on a postcard as to what Mr McGuire really did report.

I’m intrigued.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray in his "Hibs Green" shirt

I have refrained from blogging about Andy’s exploits for fear of jinxing him.  All I can say is good luck.  Scotland would be a very proud nation were he to succeed in the morning.

Anyone for Guga (Gannet chick)

Landing salted Guga. Honestly, it would give you the heave but what a fascinating tradition. Keep it up boys.

I just watched a superb documentary; The Guga Hunters of Ness in which a bunch of Western Islanders cross the North Atlantic to a remote rocky island to cull Gannet “ducklings” .

Beautiful, serene and awe inspiring.

But it would gie ye the boak eating them.

This is what the BBC website says about the documentary…

Ness is the last place in the UK where young gannets, known in Gaelic as guga, are hunted for their meat. The hunting of sea birds was outlawed in 1954 in the UK, but the community of Ness on the Isle of Lewis continues to be granted the only exemption under UK and EU law allowing them to hold the annual hunt.

Every August, ten men from Ness set sail for Sula Sgeir, a desolate island far out in the Atlantic. Following in the footsteps of countless generations, they leave their families behind to journey through wild storms and high seas to reach the remote hunting ground.

The men live on the island for two exhausting weeks, sleeping amongst ruins left behind by monks over a thousand years ago. They work ceaselessly, catching, killing and processing 2000 birds using traditional methods unique to the hunt.

It’s a great piece of filming and the music by the Dead Rat Orchestra really makes it haunting and beautiful.  Highly recommended if you get the chance.

I also watched a programme a few years ago featuring Gordon Ramsay cooking Guga.  (I think it was The F word).  It created a furore at the time because some people got all uppity about conservation; but they are entirely self sufficient as a species and in no danger of being hunted to extinction.

Here’s a Guga recipe I found on the BBC website

‘First catch your guga..and keep it a year in light diesel oil- if unavailable tractor paraffin will suffice. Drain the guga in a pale of water from the well and rub down with a strimmer as you would with Peking Crispy Duck. Put now clean bird in baking tray overnight on low heat in the Raeburn 1O0 degrees or three peats. The smell will now have cleared your house of mice and earwigs. Remove oil from top of pan in morning and fill tilley lamp with it. Bird should still be tough. Cut half into goujons and place under the grill and serve covered with crowdie. Remove reaminder and peg it out on the washing line. When it’s dried out in the breeze see whose shoes need resoling the most in your family and the guga will do the job better than anything any cobbler on the mainland can provide.’

Blue Valentine

What a curiously and disappointingly unengaging movie this is.
It manages to create two great acting vehicles for Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams and contrive to leave you uninvolved and remarkably unsympathetic despite performances that have been talked about as Oscar contenders.
The fact that the movie has ended up with but a single nomination for Williams says a lot, because, frankly, it’s not that good. Incidentally I agree that Williams puts in a better shift than Gosling, albeit both are fine pieces of work.
Gosling’s problems start with very poor make up work. He ages maybe 20 years in a film that spans 5 or 6.
But the real problem is with the film’s structure and, I suppose, the script. One is simply not convinced by the very simple plot vehicle that a couple insanely in love lose every iota of desire or affection in a very short period of time. Well, Williams’ character does. Gosling seemingly degenerates from charming cheeky boy into alcoholism almost overnight and Williams’ disdain for him is frighteningly sudden.
And it’s down to the script. It’s just too black and white. There is no transition. The film’s construction is based on flashback and whilst this works on paper, it doesn’t fare well on screen because it’s just too flakey.

Not only is Gosling’s character a bit unbelievable but the casting of Williams’ ex makes differentiation between the two (an important plot device) really difficult. (exactly the same problem blights The Departed). It’s a bit of a mess.
On the plus side, Williams’ performance really is very good and deserving of a nomination that will not convert because it has Portman’s name on old Oscar, and I liked the cinematography a lot. It works on a really tight depth of field, very tight cropping and a hand held feel which is designed to make the film feel intensely intimate, and at times it does, particularly in the sex scenes.
But, overall it’s too messy. It’s sort of sloppy and despite being the kind of movie the producers, I’m sure, expected us to shed a tear at; it didn’t even come close.