MonthNovember 2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas review – bah, humbug!

Dan Stevens plays Charles Dickens in this tin-eared, saccharine, entirely terrible comic fantasy about the writing of A Christmas Carol This entirely terrible film feels about as Christmassy as watching England go out of the World Cup at the group stage. Dan Stevens – usually a likable and ingenuous screen presence – is horribly miscast and misdirected in the role of Charles Dickens in a kind of wacky and saccharine muttonchop-whisker-gawd-bless-yer fantasy-comedy of what it was like when he wrote A Christmas Carol and thus supposedly “invented Christmas”. Dickens keeps bumping into people called “Marley” and “Copperfield” and nodding significantly to himself, occasionally writing in his notebook. The film suggests he wrote this Christmas tale out of the blue (in fact he had already written three other Christmas stories). We see him having lunch with his friend John Forster (Justin Edwards), getting exasperated with his Micawberesque dad John (Jonathan Pryce) and having hallucinatory conversations with all the people he’s dreaming up: including, of course, Scrooge, played by Christopher Plummer. Related: Dan Stevens: ‘Dickens could be bleak, but also very silly’ Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Should we push for our grandson to have an eleven-plus tutor?

His parents don’t approve of the exam. He is bright, but his classmates are being tutored and we could pay to boost his chances of getting to grammar school Our grandson is in year 5 at school. Most of the children in his class are obsessed with next September’s 11-plus exam. He says his friends all have tutors, and naturally he wants one, too. His parents don’t approve of the 11-plus; they know he is very bright, and should do well in the exam – but, of course, anyone can have a bad day. Also, there is the obvious possibility that other children will get a sufficient advantage from tutoring that they overtake him and take up all the grammar school places, thus relegating him to one of the local non-grammar schools. We are well able to pay for tutoring, which is quite a substantial business in the area. Should we interfere, and push for him to have a tutor? • When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Love, Cecil review – intelligent tribute to fashion’s Bright Young Thing

Rupert Everett narrates designer Cecil Beaton’s diaries in Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s sympathetic study of his life and influence on British style Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s previous documentary was a portrait of art patron Peggy Guggenheim, and this study of Cecil Beaton is in the same celebratory mode. This was the British designer, photographer, social alpinist and Bright Young Thing who suffered a scandal after making an antisemitic slur in the 1930s, but after his craven, miserable (and sincere) apology for this silly shock tactic, he enjoyed royal patronage from the then Queen Elizabeth and was rehabilitated with the approach of war, during which he took valuable reportage pictures for Life magazine. He went on to create the look for the movie version of My Fair Lady, and maintained his own slightly quaint neo-Edwardian aesthetic for fashion magazines well into the swinging 60s. The film is intelligent, thorough and sympathetic, with Rupert Everett narrating Beaton’s diaries. But it never quite persuades you that Beaton really deserves to be considered a substantial artist. I found myself thinking of FR Leavis’s wisecrack about the Sitwells belonging to the history of publicity rather than of poetry. There is a touch of satirist Craig Brown in Beaton’s icily haughty pronouncements such as: “The call saying that the Queen wants me to take her coronation photographs comes as an enormous relief.” A moderately interesting study. Continue reading… [hmp_player]