Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Show that Sank a Thousand Careers

I had in mind to watch Troy: Fall of a City twice: once with my classicist hat on and once with my ‘I like watching TV’ one. I thought that even if I became frustrated or struggled to enjoy aspects with the former hat on, the latter might be more successful. As it happened, I can’t face watching this show ever again. Nor is it so mentally taxing that I would need to watch it more than once to take it all in. In fact, I found I had time to start writing an article and make a cup of tea without missing much. Except maybe a few extremely sweaty sex scenes.

Films and TV dramas based on great classical texts tend to fill me with both joy and loathing. The number of children who take Ancient History based on having watched the dreadful 300 is great, right? A film has made them want to study a fascinating subject. Unfortunately, my own experience is that they aren’t that interested in finding out what Herodotus actually wrote about the Persian Wars. But then there are shows like Rome and obviously the film Gladiator and I reason that getting anyone talking about or interested in the ancient world must be a good thing.

Well. In walks the BBC’s new drama.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Bringing 'Dark Tales' into the Light

Haunting. Menacing. Horrifying. Nightmarish. These appear to be compliments when describing horror.

Aged 13, there was a period when sleepovers with friends were accompanied by the watching of a horror film. Despite protestations, I have therefore seen various numbers of Saw films in no particular order, The Ring, The Grudge, What Lies Beneath, Scream, Wrong Turn and the few parts of It during which I brought myself to look at the screen (not recommended). Not only did this result in sleepless nights and a fear of taking my eyes off the mirror in the bathroom, in case I blinked and found some monstrous being had appeared there, but I also could not see any reason to watch the films in the first instance. I did not find them entertaining or clever or cathartic. And they all seemed to end at random, as if the lead actress simply couldn’t back-brush her hair anymore that day or the writers had temporarily run out of horrendous uses for chicken wire, so that there was neither closure nor a great deal of sense in the ending but merely a certainty that there would be another film a year later in which much of the same occurred, very likely more violently.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Book of the Year? Perhaps Reservoir 13

In anticipation of the Costa Book Awards announcement on 30th January, I began feverishly to read Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13. I stopped only when I forced myself to take a break and think some more on what I had read and, I’ll admit, to have a night’s fitful sleep before continuing. Between the afternoon when I had started reading and the morning when I finished, Helen Dunmore’s collection of poetry had won the award. I had announced just prior to this news that it was surely between Rebecca Stott’s In the Days of Rain and Reservoir 13. To me, the only reason it would not be the latter was that the novel won it last year and it was a different category’s turn.

In which I fall over Sir Tom Stoppard

            ‘There is a way to die and a way not to die. That is very important. Hence my admiration for George the Fifth who - on his dea...