Lately I’ve been…

In residence on inside a dog.
All January.

Albert Nobbs – Restrained Glenn Close playing opposite a hearty Janet McTeer. Always wonderful to see Pauline Collins, too. This time upstairs. Subtly and quietly tragic. The whole story. As indeed it must have been. And that’s all I can say without spoilers. Though perhaps the screenplay is just wee bit Banville.

The Iron Lady – I’m sorry, but I can’t feel a shred of empathy with Margaret Thatcher, I don’t care what the script says. Nor am I comfortable with the bulk of the film’s lionising of her, and the claim that her economic policies led to recovery. All bollocks. We get to the truth of the matter in a brilliant Cabinet scene in which she has clearly gone too far, but that’s treated as if it’s a one-off – a harbinger – whereas in fact she was a thug in Cabinet and out. But Meryl Streep is magnificent and it’s worth seeing for the performance. And Giles is in it. As Geoffrey Howe, no less.

It’ll be Streep versus Close at the Oscars. Close might win it, since if you wear men’s clothes you’re almost certain of a statuette. Unless you’re actually queer, of course. Sad but true.

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol – Actually not bad for a blowing-things-up movie. Though why, in this day and age, the otherwise kickass woman agent (Paula Patton) has to get dressed up in a slinky evening gown to seduce a bad guy is inexplicable. And then there’s Tom Cruise, who always does that stupid sprinting thing and yet never catches anyone. Not to mention the hair. But, you know, someone does blow up the Kremlin. And that’s always fun. Holiday movies.

I Love You Phillip Morris – Jim Carrey. Why? Nothing more to say except Ewan McGregor is just beautiful. Always.

Damages – (on DVD) Glenn Close again, absolutely petrifying. But now she’s freaked me out and I’m too scared to watch the rest. That means it is very effective TV.  Also I’m a wimp.

I was on holidays, so I’ve been on a binge, and not reading anything at all related to French opera or 16th century printing. Instead, I’ve been reading:

The Chanters of Tremaris, Kate Constable’s YA fantasy trilogy set in a beautifully imagined world laced together by the magic of song.

The Old Kingdom, another YA fantasy trilogy, this time by Garth Nix. It’s also perfectly imagined, but much darker: worlds of old magic held in place by necromancy and … ooh, makes me shiver just thinking about it.

Mortal Instruments. Yes, one more YA fantasy series, this one by Cassandra Clare and set mostly in New York. I like the world, and the logic of it, and she’s a dab hand with the snappy dialogue, but the characterisation is very thin. Still, what would I  know? She sells millions and they’re making a movie and girls everywhere want to marry Jace and apparently that’s what matters.

War and Peace and Sonya by Judith Armstrong. This was on my wishlist for Christmas and then it arrived and I was happy. Tolstoy, through the eyes of his wife Sonya. A wonderful premise. Then I read it.  I struggled, dear reader, I’m sorry to say, because I really wanted to like it. But the voice doesn’t work for me, it’s strained and clunky, the pace is inconsistent, all telling and then mostly awkwardly. Bits of it read like a university book review. And it’s oddly lacking in passion.

Why be happy when you can be normal? This is Jeanette Winterson’s memoir of the Oranges are not the only fruit years and their aftermath. Oranges, she has argued in recent years, was fiction or something between fiction and memoir. This is the real story and it is, as she says, even more bleak. It’s Winterson in essay mode, sometimes fragmentary but not showing off, not trying to do anything but tell some truths and understand. (I don’t mind it when she shows off, by the way – she’s allowed.) It works, as an extended riff on life and religion and class – and honestly with a mother like Mrs Winterson she need only present her to us in all her glory, and you can’t tear your gaze away. The only shocking new revelation: Winterson voted for Thatcher once. That’s big.

The Last Jew, by Noah Gordon. Actually, this was vaguely research, as it’s set in Spain in the early years of the Inquisition, but it didn’t hurt my holiday brain too much. Well-written historical fiction and interesting for me because it’s along the lines of a quest, but one in which there’s no great crescendo of action or denouement. It is, like Isabella’s quest in The Sultan’s Eyes, about searching for home.

Which I’d really better get on to…

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