Saturday, June 13, 2015

Two of Each, Salt, Vinegar and Scraps.

"Two of each, salt, vinegar and scraps" was a common request at the local chippie (aka fish and chip shop) back in Yorkshire. The customer would be presented with two neatly packaged parcels each containing a portion of fish, fried quickly in tender batter, and a portion of chips, all properly seasoned (British chips are similar to the kind of fries in the US known as steak fries). Before I start dribbling on my keyboard.....

Two of each, on the blog today, refers to two videos that caught my interest this week, and two movies likewise.

Two Videos:

From Clay to Mosaics - amazing skills on show here - watching all the way to to the end is essential!

100 Years of Fashion in 2 Minutes. This is women's fashion, of course. Men's fashions have changed in subtle ways, but not nearly as dramatically as women's. Having watched the video I wondered whether any astrological links would be possible to coincide with changes - investigated Neptune transits 1915-2015, but decided that fashion has links to too many other factors to clearly relate to the old "as above so below" doctrine.

Two Movies:

Words and Pictures, new to Netflix this month, is another movie about teachers. This time it's not about a mythical magical change-your-life type teacher such as Robin Williams portrayed in Dead Poets Society back in 1989, but a "warts and all" depiction of a couple of teachers who specialise in English and Art and wage war over the question of whether words or pictures are more powerful. Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche star as the two brilliant but flawed teachers. I enjoyed what exploration there was about the comparative power of words and pictures - would have appreciated more of this, but that would have turned the story into a documentary I guess.

The film held our interest, though I found it hard to like any of its characters - maybe that's a sign of their good acting!

The Quiet American from 2002, also on Netflix. It's the second adaptation of a novel by Graham Greene. The first adaptation, in 1958, is said to have skewed the novel's core intent, must have been an attempt to save American face, and do a bit of flag-waving.

The tale is set in Vietnam in the early 1950s. Michael Caine plays Tom Fowler a middle-aged world-weary British journalist covering the war between French colonial forces and the communists. The quiet American, Alden Pyle, played by Brendan Fraser, arrives in Saigon, ostensibly part of a US Aid Mission. There's a layer of love story involving the two men and a lovely local girl, with an strong second layer involving political issues Vietnam, and the USA, were caught up in at that time.

We found it a sad but engaging and, for me, an enlightening movie. Michael Caine is "just right" in the part of Tom Fowler - I cannot think of anyone who could have played the part as well as he.

Graham Greene's novel has proved prophetic in many ways (see here.)
During the Vietnam War and its sequels, the novel became routinely labeled "prophetic." But what Greene was trying to tell us half a century [ago] now seems to border on sedition, as our government implements the President's declaration, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Indeed, The Quiet American has become so subversive that Miramax tried to deep-six its movie after 9/11 (it was originally set for a 2001 release), until Michael Caine forced a two-week run in December 2002 and a wider opening in early 2003. So now Greene's exposé of the U.S. machinations for imperial war in Southeast Asia in the early 1950s reappears amid the machinations for imperial war in Southwest Asia and the Mideast.

That was the "two of each"'s the salt, vinegar and scraps:

Another film - an independent one, little known outside of Netflix I suspect - The Station Agent. While I didn't like any character in Words and Pictures, I liked all the characters of The Station Agent. Co-stars are Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Carnavale. I enjoyed their individual quirks, their non-mainstreamness, their silences, their minimalist chat, their quiet - and the actors' wonderful portrayal of living life on the fringes of what is common. That's all I'll say so as not to spoil it for anyone else who enjoys an out of the ordinary sojourn with out of the ordinary people in ordinary, yet so out of the ordinary, circumstances.


James Higham said...

Proximity to the chippy is a boon where I live.

Twilight said...

James Higham ~ In the three locations I spent the longest spans of my time in the UK, there was a chippie within very easy walking distance - just across the road in one case.
I do miss 'em!

mike said...

I viewed "East Is East" on Netflix last night. It's a discomfiting "comedy", 1970s portrayal of a Muslim Pakistani husband-father living in Britain with his British wife and their children. The husband owns, but the wife operates, a fish & chips shop. I had to use subtitles to comprehend...LOL.

Great video on handcrafted tile manufacturing. Liked the music, too. Watching these foreign films on Netflix has me craving tiled walls, ceilings, and floors...the surround-tile-mosaic effect. I didn't realize that the mosaics were created in sections, but makes perfect sense. I had thought the mosaic tiles were made individually from start to finish, but the video presents the labor-intensive sculpting of each from a large tile...fascinating.

The fashion video gets it right, but negates much as it plays into the trendy 2000s. The earlier years of the video portray a sense of designer fashion, which deteriorates in the video toward the 1990s and 2000s. There are many extant women (and men) that dress in high style, designer fashion, and would never appear in public dressed like the gal in the video representing 2015. I've been reading that yoga pants are a newer trend...WOW...I'm sorta in the trendy right now, as I've been wearing running pants with elastic waist and ankles for the last twenty years. Wait long enough and fashion comes to me!

I haven't seen any of the movies in your post. I agree with your assessment of the characters, that maybe not liking the character by the end of the film may be a sign of the actor acting the role proficiently. The father in "East Is East" made me want to smack him and I wanted to have a sit-down with his wife to bring her to her senses...the movie takes place in the early 1970s and that has to be remembered during the film.

Robert Prada said...

The first video is wonderful.

The second reveals how you lovely creatures keep us guessing. The link will take you to a series showing how hopeless it is for us to try and figure you out.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the artisans making those mosaics are unlikely to be paid wages reflecting their skills; although, it does appear some of the younger set are beginning to appreciate objects they so quaintly refer to as 'analog'.

I understand that Venus rules fashion so perhaps there is some correlation between her 8-year cycle - and every 20-month retrogrades - and the latest trends. (Funny, I found the fashions in the film of my heyday not quite as iconic as those of the earlier decades portrayed.)

I'm in the midst of gluttonizing on Mr Greene's short stories, most of which I haven't read before, although I have read his 'entertainments' many years ago. I enjoyed the Caine film precisely because it didn't glamorize history as do most Hollywood versions of it. (Many Canucks were not amused with the liberties taken by Mr Affleck in 'Argo', for example.)

There were so few chippies left in London the last time I lived there (late 70's) that a girlfriend and I made a pilgrimage by tube to enjoy gorging ourselves for the stupendous sum of 85p each.

Anonymous said...

I jumped the shark and became so discombobulated I couldn't spit out a sane phrase. Of course I meant " . . . for us to try TO figure you out."

mumble, mumble, mumble . . .

Twilight said...

mike ~ I'll give "East is East" a whirl - sounds interesting! :-)

Yes, the fashion video, done essentially for speed, gives just one facet of fashion of each era, while there were obviously several other facets available depending on situation, location, age, finances, etc.

In 2015 it seems we've, at last (in the USA anyway) reached a state of "wear what you like" - and not before time!

Twilight said...

Robert Prada ~ Our mystique is eternal, of course - but you lot can be more than a tad mysterious at times. ;-)

Twilight said...

Sabina ~ Yes, that thought crossed my mind too - also I'm sure someone, somewhere, has managed to mechanise this human skill, to some degree (results could never be as wonderful though).

I considered Venus and fashion, but decided it'd be too messy to untangle the threads, so chickened out. ;-)

Oh - I'm glad someone knows of Graham Greene's writings, and "The Quiet American". I've never read anything by him but am considering doing so, once I finish a long trek with John Galsworthy.

Maybe London never was a fish and chip capital - I'd say the DNA of fish and chips is truly in the North of England. The best ones I ever tasted, and ever will, came from a tent in the Hull Saturday market, when I was young. The scent of 'em could be enjoyed from streets away - it made the mouth water. It was said the secret was in the type of fat they used for frying - beef dripping I think (but I could be wrong). :-)

LB said...

Hi Twilight ~ Watching that one video, "From Clay To Mosaics", I wondered much the same thing as Sabina. Do you happen to know where the video was made?

Related to this, I've read where brick-making is often tainted with slavery, debt-bondage, child-labor and various other abuses:

According to that second link, India and China are the largest producers of brick. The article also explains the process used to create them from start to finish. In some parts of the world, clay-mining can be tainted as well. Same thing is true for the mining of stone used to make some tile and countertops. I watched a video recently of little children hauling stones (that weigh as much as they do) strapped to their backs.

The world is filled with millions of invisible and exploited people.:(

Twilight said...

LB ~ I don't know for sure where the video was made, but from the YouTube comments it seems it might be from Morocco. As I was watching it I had thought perhaps India or Pakistan, but Morocco is likely too.

I agree, exploitation is everywhere and, very sadly, always has been. A failing in our human DNA that we cannot seem to overcome.

Thanks for the links - will go read them now.

Twilight said...

LB ~~ this link is interesting

LB said...

Twilight ~ The work shown at that link is beautiful, but did you notice how small the hands of the pictured 'artisans' are in the two photos without heads?

Morocco has a huge problem with child labor too:

It gets worse. According to the following link, some of the worst forms of child (and forced) labor occur " . . .in the production of artisanal crafts and construction":

Twilight said...

LB ~ Hmmmm - yes, in two of the photographs of hands they do seem like young hands, for sure.
Sad that something so skilled and beautiful has to hide a dark side. thanks for the additional links.

Anonymous said...

Ah ... Fish and chips ... My beach food ... Especially with my late Aunt.
... But I can't eat fried food anymore however ... (sigh)

As someone who has worked with clay, I found the mosaic video interesting.
But I do not think the headless hands in the links are that young however.

Fashionably ... the 30's to 50's doesn't grab me
... economic hemlines notwithstanding ...
But I like the first 2 examples ... My Gal would be the 1995 version.

"Words and Pictures" will have to wait for the Library.
I like La Binoche in almost anything she does however.

Regarding mellifluous actors, I could listen to Mr Caine all night.
I watched "The Quiet American" only a month ago. Just before the Mercury retro.
As for Brendan ... oh boy, could it be that Canadian blood? ... or his textbook Sadge-e-ness.

I watched Mr.Firth's attempts to see-through Ms.Stone's mediumistic-mumbo-jumbo the other night.

And was delighted at Colin's and Rupert's Bunburying also ...

... As Judi (Lady Bracknell) says ...

- To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not ...
seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life ...
that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution.


Twilight said...

Anon/kidd ~ The hands - well, maybe not so small but relatively smooth as compared to the artisans' in the video. It's hard to say though.

The fashion video didn't give us much of a hippie vibe for the '60s - that's curious. I wasn't blown away by any decade as shown, though I appreciated the earliest - in a costume-y kind of way.

Yes, I hadn't noticed what a good voice Michael Caine has 'til now- I think it must have improved with age (and when he's not putting on an extreme London/Essex accent)!

I haven't seen the other two movies - two more for my list ! I think I saw an early version, maybe a filming of a stage version of ".....a haaand-baaag!" though, on TV many years ago. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm with you about Venus and fashion would be a job to work out ;P

Of course Hull is on the water and there's no fish like a fresh fish, though even in London one is not as far from the sea as most of us in Canada.... You're right about the beef tallow, BTW. I understand it's what McDonald's used until the early 80's. I used to like a suet pud every once in a while, too.

Twilight said...

Sabina ~ Didn't know that about McDonald's. Mmmmm suet puds in all their guises were real old fashioned scrummy comfort food - yes! Mum and Grandma used to make variations regularly, both sweet and savoury. My favourite at our school canteen (back in the 1950s) was a suet and mince roll, a bit like a Swiss roll but with suet instead of sponge and finely minced beef instead of jam, then steamed in special pans. Served with onion gravy. I've never seen this served anywhere else since.

mike (again) said...

Short film "Denali"
"There's no easy way to say goodbye to a friend, especially when they've supported you through your darkest times."

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Sniffles, wipes eyes....thanks (I think!)

Anonymous said...

The Station Agent DVD has been placed on hold for me at the Library ...


I have bookmarked the Denali video ...
Due to my nature, and Annie's heads-up, I must wait past the public part of my day.

When some proud son of man returns to earth,
unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
and storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the tomb is seen,
not what he was, but what he should have been.

But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
the first to welcome, foremost to defend,

Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
denied in heaven the soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who behold perchance this simple urn,
pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn.

To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one -- and here he lies.

- George G. B.


Twilight said...

Anon/kidd ~ I hope you enjoy both - in different ways. :-)

Lovely piece of poetry - thank you - I hadn't met that one before.