Friday 17th March 2017

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Monte Carlo or Bust!

Monte Carlo or Bust! is a 1969 British/French/Italian co-production comedy film, also known by its American title, Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies. The story is based on the Monte Carlo Rally – first raced in 1911 – and the film recalls this general era, set in the 1920s. A lavish all-star film (Paramount put $10 million behind it), it is the story of an epic car rally across Europe that involves a lot of eccentric characters from all over the world who will stop at nothing to win.

The film is a sequel to the 1965 hit Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. Terry-Thomas appeared as Sir Cuthbert Ware-Armitage, the equally dastardly son of the Sir Percy Ware-Armitage, which Thomas had played in the earlier film. Some others of the cast from the first film returned, including Gert Fröbe and Eric Sykes. Like the earlier film, it was written by Ken Annakin and Jack Davies and directed by Annakin, with music by Ron Goodwin. The title tune is performed by Jimmy Durante. The credits sequence animation was the work of Ronald Searle, who was also featured in Annakin’s earlier Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. Tony Curtis and Susan Hampshire played other contestants in the race; Curtis also starred in the similar period-piece comedy The Great Race (1965) from Warner Bros.

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The film was originally intended to be called Monte Carlo and All That Jazz. The American distributors Paramount Pictures re-titled it Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies to tie it to Annakin’s 1965 film; re-editing also meant cuts, up to a half-hour, from the original UK release.

An international car rally in the 1920s attracts competitors from all over the world to compete in the Monte Carlo Rally. The archrivals from England, Italy, France and Germany find that their greatest competition comes from the United States in the form of Chester Schofield (Tony Curtis), who had won half of an automobile factory in a poker game with the late father of baronet Sir Cuthbert Ware-Armitage (Terry-Thomas). Ware-Armitage has entered the race in a winner-take-all to exact revenge and win back the lost half of the company.

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The international cast of characters appear to mirror their national foibles. British Army officers Maj. Digby Dawlish (Peter Cook) and Lieut. Kit Barrington (Dudley Moore), who have entered to preserve the honour of the British Empire, drive an outlandish vehicle festooned with odd inventions. Italian policemen Angelo Pincelli (Walter Chiari) and Marcello Agosti (Lando Buzzanca) seem to be more interested in chasing three French women, led by Doctor Marie-Claude (Mireille Darc). The German entry from overbearing Willi Schickel (Gert Fröbe) and Otto Schwartz (Peer Schmidt) turn out to be convicts, driving with stolen gems on board.

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As the race begins, the contestants find that not only are they in a 1,500-mile battle with each other, but dangerous roads and the elements including a massive avalanche, are just as formidable. Chester and his new co-driver, Betty (Susan Hampshire) end up duelling with Cuthbert while the Italians are the winners of the rally but relinquish their prize to the French woman’s team to help people injured in the snowslide. Various misfortunes plague each of the contestants, with Cuthbert, poised to win, being disqualified for cheating, the British Army team blowing up, the Germans being arrested and Chester falling asleep at the wheel. In the end, the Italians are declared the winners and share their winnings with the French girls. Chester does eventually cross the finish line, albeit due to Betty and some others pushing his car.

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I Am A Rock

Paul Simon

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December
I am alone
Gazing from my window
To the streets below
On a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island
I’ve built walls
A fortress, steep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock
I am an island
Don’t talk of love
Well, I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
And I won’t disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died
If I never loved, I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armour
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Opening preview for the Clearing and Compton Verney new season.

A major exhibition examining our relationship with the countryside, bringing together Old Masters and contemporary artists whose work spans more than 350 years.

Creating the Countryside provokes reflection on the artistic, social and political forces that have played an important role in forming successive generations’ perceptions of this ‘green and pleasant land’.
The rural idyll occupies a deeply rooted place in the nation’s psyche – Compton Verney’s ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped grounds are themselves an expression of this. Creating the Countryside explores how artists have shaped the vision of rural life and landscape, offering a new perspective on the countryside and its expression in contemporary art and society.
Works by artists including Thomas Gainsborough, Claude Lorrain, George Stubbs and Stanley Spencer are joined by pieces from contemporary artists such as Mat Collishaw, Anna Fox, Sigrid Holmwood and Grayson Perry to present you with a broad spectrum of responses to, and interpretations of, this sceptred isle.

The Clearing is a collaborative artwork by artists Alex Hartley and Tom James (He of the clean boots). Together they are building a geodesic dome by the lake, an ‘eye-catcher’ for the 21st Century, where visitors can explore at first hand a future afflicted by climate change.

Vix and myself had volunteered to help tend the fire for the opening. As usual we ended up doing almost all of the arty farty peoples work for them. Mckenzie Vix daughter was brilliant as always and Stacey’s gang of kids helped out when they arrived. for sure Vix had been there all day and stayed on in her own time to make sure the event went smooth.

She does not get enough recognition for the amount and quality of work and support she brings to the projects. I for one know how committed and how hard she works. The artists did what artists do and at one time they made themselves tea and ignored offering us one.

We did the potatoes the fire the butter the beans and served them up and cleared away the plates on what was a bitter cold day and evening. We never got to hear the speaches or see the exhibition. We had no visit from the director either.

Well done the volunteers I say!

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Maev Kennedy The Guardian 

Green and unpleasant land: UK countryside takes sinister twist in new exhibition
Warwickshire gallery explores how artistic, social and political forces have shaped Britain’s relationship with rural landscape

Images of a green and pleasant land with a sinister undertone – where lambs gambol but a corpse might lie under a nearby hedge – feature in an exhibition examining Britain’s relationship with the countryside. The show at Compton Verney gallery in Warwickshire sets the scene with a small 1645 sketch by Claude Lorrain of a beautiful vista, charming ruin, mannerly animals and a picturesque peasant boy. It shows how centuries later the vision still seeps into everyday life, from pictures on beer bottle labels to air fresheners.

As well as idyllic views by JMW Turner, John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough, the exhibition includes a Midsomer Murders souvenir tea tray, a vase by Grayson Perry of villagers jostling to watch a woman in Victorian attire being taken away in a police van, and an ominously brilliantly coloured photograph by Anna Fox of a pair of feet in scarlet high heels in a green ditch.

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“There’s just something apparently endlessly seductive about the idea that beneath all this lovely greenery, something evil lurks,” said the curator, Verity Elson.

Joint curator Rosemary Shirley, of Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “We want to preserve this ideal of peace and solitude, but at some level it also induces anxiety.”

She has contributed a unique collection of air fresheners, whose creators boasted of capturing the essence of English national parks. The Lake District fragrance is described as “midnight, berry and shimmering mist”, and the Peak District is “golden lilies and spring breeze”. “Actually I live very near the pub,” Shirley said, “so when I open the window what I mostly smell is chips.” The Compton Verney is set in an Arcadian fantasy, a mansion by a lake in what appears to be idyllic countryside with cows grazing by a rippling stream. However, it is a careful construct by the most famous landscape designer of the 18th century, Capability Brown, involving moving a village and flooding a valley.

“Many visitors assume this is quintessential English countryside, unchanged for centuries,” said the gallery’s director, Steven Parissien. “In fact absolutely everything you see is manmade.”

Another project at Compton Verney this month is The Clearing, a “living, breathing encampment” built in the parkland grounds of the former stately home, where some 21st-century ornamental hermits will spend the next seven months as residents. The geodesic dome – the futuristic housing solution beloved of 1960s hippies – was built from salvaged and donated materials, including packing crates for Rolls-Royce airplane nose cones by the artists Tom James and Alex Hartley.

I have to say I am surprised at this as I saw piles of new wood when the construction first started and on asking about it I was told that new wood is cheaper than reclaimed timber?

Anna Bennett, who will move in on Monday, the first of 40 people chosen from 160 applicants, is interested in solar technology, which is handy as the lighting rig has just failed. The hermits are permitted “alcohol in moderation”, but it is bad news for anyone expecting newly laid eggs for breakfast: the chickens do not arrive until June.

The dome has a composting toilet in a separate shed, but that proved a retro step too far for the planning authority – the hermits will be expected to walk 200 metres to the loos in the visitors’ centre. The dome, built on a platform overhanging the lake after the curators won planning permission for three years in the Grade II-listed landscape, is described as “part school, part shelter and part folly” – seen as partly an echo of the eye-catcher ruined abbeys and castles with which Capability Brown studded his landscapes, partly a genuine experiment in living off-grid and partly a horrible warning.
The artists will be hosting weekend workshops “to teach you the skills you’ll need once the seas have risen, the global economy has collapsed, and big Sainsbury’s is on fire”.

“It’s half satirical, half serious,” James said. “But it gets less and less funny every day Trump has got his finger on the button.”

Country Girls

Collaboration with Alison Goldfrapp exploring story telling and constructed imagery.
A series of staged colour photographs based on both personal stories (experiences of growing up as young women in rural Southern England) and the story of Sweet Fanny Adams, violently murdered in Alton in the early 1900’s.

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Poor Fanny’s headstone which was erected by Public subscription and renovated a few years ago, is pictured here with her younger sister and Minnie Warner, and still stands in the town cemetery on the Old Odiham Road. It might have been our only reminder of the tragic affair had it not been for the macabre humour of British Sailors.

In 1869 new rations of tinned mutton were introduced for British seamen. They were unimpressed by it, and suggested it might be the butchered remains of Fanny Adams. “Fanny Adams” became slang for mutton[6] or stew and then for anything worthless – from which comes the current use of “sweet Fanny Adams” (or just “sweet F.A.”) to mean “nothing at all”. It can be seen as a euphemism for “fuck all” – which means the same. The large tins the mutton was delivered in were reused as mess tins. Mess tins or cooking pots are still known as Fannys.

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Fanny Adams

Fanny Adams (30 April 1859 – 24 August 1867) was a young English girl murdered by solicitor’s clerk Frederick Baker in Alton, Hampshire. The expression “sweet Fanny Adams”, or “sweet FA”, refers to her and has come, through British naval slang, to mean “nothing at all”.

On Saturday, 24 August 1867, at about 1:30 pm, Fanny’s mother, Harriet Adams, let 8-year-old Fanny, her friend Minnie Warner (aged 7) and Fanny’s sister Elizabeth (aged 5) go up Tanhouse Lane towards Flood Meadow.

In the lane they met Frederick Baker, a 29-year-old solicitor’s clerk. Baker offered Minnie and Elizabeth three halfpence to go and spend and offered Fanny a halfpenny to accompany him towards Shalden, a couple of miles north of Alton. She took the coin but refused to go. He carried her into a hops field, out of sight of the other girls.

At about 5 p.m., Minnie and Elizabeth returned home. Their neighbour, Mrs. Gardiner, asked them where Fanny was, and they told her what had happened. Mrs. Gardiner told Harriet, and they went up the lane, where they came upon Baker coming back. They questioned him and he said he had given the girls money for sweets, but that was all. His respectability meant the women let him go on his way.

At about 7 p.m., Fanny was still missing, and neighbours went searching. They found Fanny’s body in the hop field, horribly butchered. Her head and legs had been severed and her eyes removed. Her eyes had been thrown into the River Wey. Her torso was dismembered and the entire contents of her chest and pelvis had been torn out and scattered across the hop field, with some internal organs found further slashed or mutilated. Her remains were taken to and put back together in a nearby doctor’s surgery at 16 Amery Street.

Harriet ran to The Butts field where her husband, bricklayer
George Adams, was playing cricket. She told him what had happened, then collapsed. George got his shotgun from home and set off to find the perpetrator, but neighbours stopped him.

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Fences

Fences is a 2016 American drama film directed by and starring Denzel Washington and written by August Wilson, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name (Wilson died in 2005, but completed a screenplay before his death). In addition to Washington, the film also stars Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Saniyya Sidney.

Principal photography on the film began on April 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the Hill District, and wrapped in mid-June 2016. Fences was released in the United States on December 16, 2016, by Paramount Pictures, received positive reviews and has grossed $63 million. The film was chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2016, and has been nominated for numerous awards, including four Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Washington), Best Supporting Actress (Davis), and Best Adapted Screenplay, with Davis winning for her performance. It also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for Washington and a Best Supporting Actress win for Davis.

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In 1950s Pittsburgh, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) lives with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo), and works as a waste collector alongside his best friend, Jim Bono (Stephen Henderson). Troy’s younger brother, Gabriel Maxson (Mykelti Williamson), sustained a head injury in World War II that left him mentally impaired, for which he received a $3,000 government payout that Troy used to purchase a home for his family. Gabriel has since moved out, but still lives in the neighborhood, often getting in trouble with the law for his eccentric behavior, which includes religious fixations.

In his adolescence, Troy left home from his abusive father and became a robber to sustain himself. After killing a man during a robbery led him to prison, he met Bono and revealed himself to be a talented baseball player. He then played in the professional Negro Leagues; but he never made it to Major League Baseball, which had no black players in the years before 1947. When Bono says that Troy was born too soon, Troy rejects this choice of words and insists that he was passed over due to the color of his skin. Having survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in his youth, Troy claims to have done so by defeating the Grim Reaper in a fistfight, upon which the Reaper vowed to return for a rematch.

Troy’s estranged son from a previous relationship, Lyons Maxson (Russell Hornsby), visits him on each payday to borrow money, upsetting Troy, whose belief in responsibility rejects Lyons’s pursuing his dream of becoming a musician instead of finding a real job – Troy refuses to even visit the club where his son’s band is playing. Rose later tells Troy that Cory is being scouted by a college football team, but Troy is dismissive of Cory’s chances of reaching the NFL. Not only is he stung by his own lack of success in baseball, but he believes that racial discrimination is still common in the major leagues. He tells Cory that he will not sign the permission documents. He does not want his son to fail as he did, but there is also some jealousy that Cory might achieve the success that had eluded his father.

Rose asks Troy to build a fence around their house, and Troy demands that Cory help him as punishment for Cory not doing his chores due to football practice. Troy and Cory clash over Cory’s ambitions to play college football. On learning that Cory is not working at his part-time job due to football practice, Troy demands that he return to the job, despite Cory’s attempts to convince him that the job is being held for him until football season is over.

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Troy achieves a promotion to driving the garbage truck, becoming the first African-American to do so in Pittsburgh, even though he can’t read and doesn’t have a driver’s license. Bono finds out that Troy is cheating on Rose with Alberta, a woman he met at the local bar, and alerts him his actions will have repercussions. The two then become estranged when Troy is assigned to a different neighborhood. Troy later finds out that Cory did not return to his part-time job at the A&P, and forces Cory’s coach to kick him off the team – Troy also refuses to meet with the college scout who plans to visit their home. Cory lashes out and throws his helmet at Troy, which Troy claims is the first of Cory’s three permitted offenses. When called to bail Gabriel out of jail for disturbing the peace, Troy unknowingly signs papers rerouting half of Gabriel’s pension to a psychiatric hospital, forcing Gabriel to be institutionalized.

Troy is forced to reveal his affair to Rose when his mistress becomes pregnant, leading to an argument in which Troy aggressively grabs Rose, causing Cory to intervene and knock Troy into a fence, which Troy marks as Cory’s second offense. In the following months, Troy and Rose become estranged, although they keep living in the same house, as Troy continues to visit his mistress, who ultimately dies in childbirth after going into early labor, leading an embittered Troy to angrily challenge the Reaper to another fight.

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Troy brings his baby daughter Raynell home, and Rose decides to raise her as her own, but refuses to accept Troy back into her life. Cory is considering enlisting in the United States Marine Corps after missing his opportunity to attend college. One day, when he returns home, an intoxicated Troy blocks his path and instigates a fight in which Cory swings at Troy with a baseball bat. Troy gains the upper hand, grabs the bat from Cory, and drives him out of the house. Both energized and disoriented by his victory, Troy once again challenges the Reaper to come for him.

Six years later, Troy has died of a heart attack, and Cory, now a USMC corporal, returns home but informs Rose he will not attend the funeral. Rose admits to loving Troy despite his many flaws and pleads that Troy is still a part of him, and Cory later reconsiders after interacting with an older Raynell (Saniyya Sidney). Lyons is serving three years for fraud, and gets furlough to attend the funeral. Similarly, Gabriel is released from the hospital to attend and reunites with his family as they all bid farewell to Troy. Gabriel prays for St. Peter to open the gates of heaven for Troy, and a shimmering sunlight glistens over them, symbolizing intergenerational forgiveness and peace.

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