Christmas has come and gone in a flash – it’s all over now. This was the last morning view of the Christmas tree, which we dismantled yesterday and the decorations lovingly put away for another year.
I am always astonished that our very old decorations have lasted through the decades and weren’t smashed during our many moves! Btw, son and daughter-in-law are now testing negative and our 2nd Christmas (minus the Christmas food) will be the following weekend. So we do have that to look forward to.
I always feel a slight sense of melancholy after Christmas especially as these Twixmas days now seem to stretch to beyond New Year’s Day. However, we’ve put up a couple of our old paintings that were stored at our daughter’s while we lived in the two smaller flats in Brighton. With our larger flat there is now space for them and what with re-arranging some of our ornaments I feel that we are starting afresh a new and hopefully better year.
So do I have some New Year’s Resolutions? No! I feel that making ‘resolutions’ that are so easily forgotten is rather yesterday, however, I do have some plans and thoughts about how I am going to tackle 2023 and will share those thoughts in my next blog.
Also on the next blog I will share the amazing haul that I got a couple of days ago from that the best charity shop for miles around, which has the best ever quality pre-loved clothes. I give you Outfit@Emmaus based in Emmaus, Portslade Here’s a taster.
This is a pair of Ryker boots that appear to be unworn. They are soooo comfortable and cost all of £12 – what a bargain!
Now for the books, tv, and films watched and read during 2022.
We watched 59 films this year, three more than last year, I am quite the film fan and love the fact that we have returned to seeing films on the big screen. As well as the size of the screen, which gives those films with good cinematography a chance to come into their own, it’s the deep base of the sound system that is for me such a huge part of the film-going experience. I love being surrounded by sound, something you can’t do satisfactorily in your own home and we have tried.
So because films are so important for me, I’m giving you, some thoughts on each of them, while books and tv are listed below with the odd comment here and there.
I’d like to nominate a laugh-out-loud book. It’s Diary of an MP’s Wife, by Sasha Swire. You might be astonished that I like it as the Swires are true-blue Tories, but this book is hilarious!
Can I recommend anything by Helen Dunmore. Last year I read, Exposure and The Greatcoat. Both good.
Also, Star of the Sea, by Joseph O’Connor, The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky,
I like anything by Rose Tremain, but in 2022 read Music and Silence, and her memoir Rosie. And anything at all by Margaret Attwood is a must-read for me. Last year it was The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and Burning Questions – that women’s mind! I can’t get enough of her.
I think that when American television gets it right, it gets it very right. And Better Called Saul, the prequel to Breaking Bad, was way and above so much television this year. The transformation of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman over six seasons was stupendously good and very much down to the writing of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. I felt seriously bereaved at the end of Season 6, but what an ending. I cannot give enough praise to the acting of the principal characters but the writers were simply outstanding.
Nearly as good, was White Lotus, Season 2. Why oh why include a series about very rich people being horrible to each other? Again it’s down to the writing and funnily enough you come to care about these characters. Also, as the episodes were released weekly you were on tenterhooks to get to the next events, crises, relationships with which each character became involved. Along with the writing, the acting was exceptionally good, especially Jennifer Coolidge as the wonderful Tanya and Tom Hollander as the creepy Quentin. Compelling viewing.
Also recommended: For All Mankind, an alternative view of the space race, Bad Sisters, a remake of a Belgian noir, and don’t forget The Outlaws, which was hilarious, not least because it was an ensemble of actors with no-one in a starring role. Nothing new there until you realise that the one and only Christopher Walken was one of this otherwise very British ensemble. With two seasons it was a fabulous watch and very funny too. Sherwood was good too.
I did not watch The Crown, nor did I watch I’m a Celebrity! But I always recommend The Great British Sewing Bee, which is so sweet, also Who Do You Think You Are?, and Masterchef Professionals and the Celebrity version. Ted Lasso is also the loveliest and nicest tv to watch particularly after a grim Nordic Noir. I love all those dysfunctional detective series set in the north, e.g. Arctic Circle. And finally do watch Babylon Berlin, we are on the 4th Season.
I have to admit I’ve watched some rubbish and very few films come up to my strict (but very personal) 5* standard. Little Women starring Meryl Streep with a stellar supporting cast including Florence Pugh and Saoirse Ronan nearly got 5* but Laurie being played by Timothy Chalamet? Please no, that was so wrong so 4 and half stars from me. You can still catch this classic tale and quality film on Netflix.
Four and half stars also for The Joker starring Joachim Pheonix, which absolutely won’t be for everyone. But it is a well made film. It is, of course, an origin story of the character, The Joker, who appears in the Batman series. For what it’s worth I enjoyed it, but avoid if you don’t like jeopardy and violence. Still available on Amazon.
Not until the month September did I think a film deserved the accolade of 5* but this film? Oh yes, this was so good, so finally, I give you a 5* film, it’s Untouchable or The Intouchables, which is a truly lovely film made in 2011 about a quadriplegic who’s life is turned upside down by a street smart young man who becomes his carer. I believe there’s been a remake of this. We showed it at the Hillcrest Cinema (the film society that we are once again helping to run) and everyone loved it. Please, please, though, watch the original (with subtitles) as it is absolutely wonderful. A buddy, buddy film it’ll just uplift and delight you to watch it. Available on Netflix. And did I say, it’s based on a true story – even more reason to watch it.
Shortly after we watched Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, which is another utterly delightful film. And why? Well with the cast including Lesley Manville playing Mrs Harris you can’t go wrong. But as Mrs Harris is going to Paris to buy a Dior dress I absolutely swooned through the entire film at the sight of the frocks. Watch on Amazon if you missed it.
Now here’s a film that I initially gave 5* but on reflection I have reservations, so it misses the heights of 5* but is included it as I thought it good. Also it has had countless nominations for awards and is a front-runner for many Oscars, so it must be excellent? Then why do I have these reservations? The film is The Banshees of Inisherin starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, I mean what could go wrong with these great actors in it? The thing is it is a quality film and very beautiful to look at. But. It is a tale of male friendship going sour and wrong told in a slow, melancholic and macabre way and after the film had finished I rather wondered if it was such a good advertisement for Irish culture. Rather too much hype around this film, I think, but don’t listen to me, you might love it.
Ditto, another film that oozes melancholy amidst the poverty in rural Ireland. This is the film The Wonder, which is again beautiful to look at, and, yes, you know you’re watching a quality film, but there is a but! This is the tale of young girl who has apparently not eaten for weeks and it is a miracle, and she is a ‘wonder’. But, oh my goodness, poverty and ignorance rules – almost – to the end. There is, I’m glad to say, in the final moments of this film, some light and relief from the relentless misery. Florence Pugh, again, is magnificent in her role as the nurse. Available on Netflix if you missed it in the cinema.
A documentary this time and a beautiful film to boot was Ravilious: Drawn to War. Eric Ravilious, was a British artist who painted numerous water colours of the Sussex Downs. In the documentary he is depicted as a grossly undervalued artist and so very quintessentially English with his soft washed landscapes of the English countryside. He became a war artist and sadly died in a plane crash in 1942 whilst on a flight over Iceland. It is a lovely film to watch.
For the penultimate best film I give you a much lighter, sweeter, and seriously, a better film you could not find in The Living, starring the indomitable Bill Nighy. If I say it is about a dying man resolving to live as best he can in his remaining months you might think, hmm, maybe that’s not for me. But it is delightful, and if you leave the cinema with a tear in your eye, you also know you’ve watched a truly lovely film. Btw, it is also very, very British in a kind of stereotypical way. Our hero is exactly what people outside of this country think all Brits are like when they’re not, of course. I wonder if it will translate and be popular elsewhere? Have any American readers of this blog watched it? If so what did you think?
And now I’m cheating, as this film, which gets 5*++++ from me, we watched on 1st January 2023. This is the latest version of All Quiet on the Western Front and I include it as it is the best film I’ve watched in a long time. The futility and horror of war, it’s all there and for me it is a truly great film. I have seen some criticism of it as unlike the film made in 1930 it doesn’t wholly follow the book of the same name, there are some changes, but if you haven’t read the book recently I don’t think the changes will have any impact on you. What does impact on you is the suffering the young soldiers endure and the waste of their young lives. Yes, one of the greats in my view and should be watched by all politicians and be compulsory viewing for anyone who thinks war is a suitable means of nations gaining power. Astonishingly it wasn’t seen on the big screen but is purely a Netflix film. Do see it if you can, as it is still on Netflix and will be for some time – you won’t regret it.
That’s all for now – in my next blog there’ll more about frugal shopping for clothes plus thoughts on 2023.
With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper