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Woody Allen’s breakthrough movie; it won four Oscars (best picture, best actress, best director, best screenplay) and established Allen as a leading auteur film-maker. Thought by many critics to be Woody Allen’s magnum opus, Annie Hall confirmed that he had “completed the journey from comic to humorist, from comedy writer to wit, and from inventive moviemaker to creative artist” (Saturday Review).

Before my obsession with Christina Hendricks takes over this blog, I have decided to give her a page to herself.

I’d sure hate to see the genre disappear.

(Clint Eastwood, Cannes 1985)

Kevin Costner tried to bring the Western back but he failed. I don’t know if it’s him, his inability to hire a good editor for his movies or if we’ve all grown out of Westerns, but it seems the genre is pretty much dead now.

I recently watched Wyatt Earp, since I had seen it when it came out and it bored the crap out of me … I enjoy it more now. Anyway, I think that Open Range should be his best Western, but I have a soft spot for the icky Dances with Wolves … the ickiest moment is seeing Kevin Costner wagging his bare arse at the camera … he directed it too … just to make sure it wasn’t called Two Dogs Fucking

My point is, Kevin Costner just isn’t convincing in Westerns. That’s the problem. Give me Unforgiven for a straightforward western, or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford for a stylized one.

If a film has Kevin Costner in it, chances are its going to be bad. That’s a given.

Speaking of modern Westerns, I was positively surprised by Unforgiven. I was expecting something completely lame, but it was actually pretty good, and Clint Eastwood’s acting is still as intense as ever, which is amazing, considering he looks like he’s about to crumble into dust at any moment.

Plus, in contrast to Costner, any film with Gene Hackman and Richard Harris in it is going to be good.

Dolly Parton arrives at the premiere of her latest film, Joyful Noise, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.

Show-business history records that the American actor Peter Falk, who has died aged 83, made his stage debut the year before he left high school, presciently cast as a detective. Despite the 17-year-old’s fleeting success, he had no thoughts of pursuing acting as a career – if only because tough kids from the Bronx considered it an unsuitable job for a man. Just 24 years later, Falk made his first television appearance as the scruffy detective, Columbo, not only becoming the highest paid actor on television – commanding $500,000 an episode during the 1970s – but also the most famous.

-Absolutely, Sir. Thank you very much, Sir.
(Walks to the door, then turns around)
-Er … Just one more question, Sir.

This became a cliché, and as much as I loved his anti-hero persona when Columbo was originally broadcast, it is equally annoying when I watch the repeats now.

And why did they call for Columbo in the first place – before they even knew it was a murder?

He also knew who the killer was after talking to him once …

This is no criticism of Peter Falk as an actor, just an observation of blemishes that I didn’t think about when I first saw Columbo back in the 1970s.

Peter Falk had been suffering from dementia for the last few years. It appeared to have come on suddenly after a series of dental surgeries in 2007. When someone asked if he’d ever reprise his role as Columbo again, his reps said, “He can’t even remember who Columbo is.”

Not long before he fell ill, he denied that his raincoat had been donated to a museum, saying that it was still part of his wardrobe.

R.I.P. Peter Michael Falk, actor, born 16 September 1927; died 23 June 2011

Helena Bonham Carter’s great-grandfather was H.H. Asquith. She has some kind of domestic arrangement with film director Tim Burton.

Helena Bonham Carter is 45.

I cannot believe she’s 60. A fine woman, who enjoys her lunch.

American film director Sidney Lumet, who has died aged 86, directed three of my all-time favourite films: Serpico, The Hill, and The Offence.

For the bulk of his career, he averaged a film a year, earning four Oscar nominations along the way for best director, for 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network (which earned Peter Finch a posthumous Oscar) and The Verdict.

The Hill, like 12 Angry Men, has an all-male cast, and simmers throughout with repressed rage and resentment which eventually explodes, conveyed brilliantly by great British actors like Ian Hendry, Ian Bannen, Sean Connery and Harry Andrews.

The Offence, another of Lumet’s British films with Sean Connery and Ian Bannen, has a score by Harrison Birtwistle, Serpico picks up on that documentary feel that William Friedkin used in The French Connection, and The Hill, which has no music and is shot in monochrome, certainly makes my top ten films ever. It scared the shit out of me when I first saw it.

R.I.P. Sidney Lumet, film director, born 25 June 1924; died 9 April 2011

Sidney Lumet: a career in pictures
A Director of Classics, Focused on Conscience

Great play, ludicrous movie.

Where to start … it distorts Mozart’s character, he was not this continually asinine schoolboy, despite what one may infer from his letters. I don’t think there is evidence that his father became a source for fear, although he probably thought his father a prick stuck in Salzburg. It makes his composing look too casual and easy. The film makes the point that he works hard, but it undermines the concept.

There is no evidence that Salieri ever tied to seduce Constanze, a pure invention.

There is no evidence that Salieri had any even marginal involvement with him in his final weeks. His wife was not as portrayed, the idea they call one another “Wolfie” and “Stanzie” in inane voices generates a tone that also undermines the character of them both. She was bright, a gifted singer and hardworking. The children are pretty much kept out of the way.

I think that will do for now.

No, no, no …

Of course, the film gives a distorted view of the composer; Peter Shaffer was not trying to create a biographical play but only used events from Mozart’s life to create a model in which he could explore the nature of artistic genius as compared to artistic mediocrity.

Mozart’s life and experiences in Vienna were a convenient framework in which to set up this examination. This means that whenever Mozart’s life’s events fit the model, they were used or adapted; those events which did not fit the model were discarded or altered. Where events did not exist, and were needed to advance the thesis of the play, they were invented (e.g. Salieri commissioning the Requiem, and in the end helping him to compose it, the most ludicrous part of the movie). In the play, Salieri must destroy Mozart because Shaffer wanted to demonstrate that mediocrity is the mortal enemy of genius. The work is one of fiction and bears as much resemblance to Mozart’s life as any novel about a historic figure resembles that figure’s life. It is a great play, but Mozart’s life is the scenery and background; it was never about Mozart. The movie is a stupid movie, one of the worst screen adaptions of a stage play, but the music is really an exquisite frame for the ideas which are independent of Mozart as an historic personage.

BTW, I saw Amadeus at the National Theatre in 1979, aged 17, with Paul Scofield as Salieri, Simon Callow as Mozart, and Felicity Kendal as Constanze, directed by Peter Hall, music arranged by Harrison Birtwistle, so FUCK YOU!

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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