Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood

Film of the Day

Gerard Butler and Idris Elba in RocknRolla

RocknRolla

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 06 September Idris Elba born, 1972 On this day in 1972, Eve Elba gave birth to Idrissa Akuna Elba, who shortened his name to Idris after starting school in London’s Canning Town. A big kid at school, Idris had the status that went with it, was good at sport, interested in music, keen on acting, where he found he had the self-confidence to “disappear into the character”. At 14 he was a pirate DJ. At 16 he was a theatre stagehand and also did night shifts at Ford’s Dagenham factory. In his early 20s the acting took off and he went from … Read more
Donald Pleasence and Gary Bond in Wake in Fright

Wake in Fright

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 19 April Captain James Cook espies Australia, 1770 On this day in 1770, the British captain James Cook’s ship Endeavour became the first recorded European vessel to catch sight of Australia. Cook had been commissioned to travel to the Pacific Ocean by the Royal Society, who were collecting data on the transit of Venus across the sun, during which the planet appears as a black dot against the solar disc. It is a rare occurrence and the Royal Society hoped the measurements Cook’s ship collected would add to the sum of scientific knowledge, as well as helping to calculate longitude, which … Read more
John Goodman and Alan Arkin in Argo

Argo

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 17 April John McCarthy kidnapped, 1986 On this day in 1986, the British journalist John McCarthy was taken hostage in Lebanon. Like most of the hostages taken during the so-called Lebanon hostage crisis, which continued from 1982 to 1992, McCarthy was chosen not because of any particular political affiliation but because of the country he came from and because, as a journalist, he was easy to target. Aged 29 when it happened, he was working for WTN news when he was grabbed by Islamic Jihad, and spent the next five and a half years locked up. Every time the location of … Read more
Pete Postlethwaite, Stephen Baldwin and Gabriel Byrne in The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 2 January Pete Postlethwaite dies, 2011 On this day in 2011, aged 64, the actor Pete Postlethwaite died of pancreatic cancer. It had been diagnosed in March 2009. Postlethwaite had already survived cancer once, having been diagnosed of testicular cancer in 1990, which went into remission after he had a testicle removed. An actor simultaneously of great force and nuance, Postlethwaite’s relatively uncommon name marks his family down as having originated in Postlethwaite in Cumbria, England (the name means Postle’s Farm). His relatively uncommon looks – huge bony cheekbones, honest putty nose, angry skin – were matched by his trajectory into … Read more
Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 24 November Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species, 1859 On this day in 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (to give it its full title). Building on work by Joseph Hooker, Robert Chambers and others, Darwin rushed into print a book he had been mulling over for two decades, because he knew that the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace had, quite independently, come up with theories remarkably similar to his own. Written for the layman, the book set out Darwin’s observations … Read more
Michel Piccoli as the pope, flanked by the Swiss Guard in We Have a Pope

We Have a Pope

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 11 October Second Vatican Council convenes, 1962 On this day in 1962, Pope John XXIII formally opened the Second Vatican Council. The first Vatican Council had been held nearly 100 years before, the most remembered of its declarations being that the Pope was infallible, when speaking ex cathedra. But back, or forward, to the Second, its aim being, broadly, to work out what the hell to do with the 20th century. The solution was to modernise. Out went the insistence that the Catholic church was the only way to sanctification and truth. Out went the Latin mass. In came a renewed … Read more
Palaeolithic drawings of horses in the Chauvet caves, in Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 12 January Caves of Nerja discovered, 1959 On this day in 1959, the Caves of Nerja were discovered. Or rediscovered. Stretching for about 5 kilometres close to the town of Nerja, Malaga, Spain, the system was entered by five friends who decided to follow a flock of bats into a locally well known small opening in the ground. This led to a narrow passage. And this led to a huge cavernous grotto now known as the Cascade Room. With the lights they had available they were able to make out the enormity of their find. They pressed on, accompanied by the … Read more
Josh Harris takes a shower in We Live in Public

We Live in Public

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 12 November Tim Berners-Lee publishes World Wide Web proposal, 1990 On this day in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee, an employee of the European research organisation CERN, published the formal proposal to create a more efficient information management system which would connect up hypertext documents on different computers running different operating systems, to be viewed by client-server applications (ie browsers). Building on a prediction by Arthur C Clarke that satellites would allow global access via console to vast amounts of information, telephony, video conferencing and so on, Berners-Lee took practical inspiration from the Dynatext electronic book system – which used a rigorous and … Read more
Chen Suqin and Zhang Changhua at the Guangzhou Railway Station, Last Train Home

Last Train Home

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 8 November Chinese engineers divert the Yangtze river, 1997 On this day in 1997, Chinese engineers diverted the Yangtze River, China’s longest, in order to clear the way for construction of the world’s biggest dam. The Three Gorges Dam was designed to announce the return of China as a player on the world stage – 185 metres high, two kilometres wide, costing $23 billion, able to withstand an earthquake of 7 on the Richter scale, generating the power of 15 nuclear power stations, a tamer of the Yangtze’s catastrophic floods. The project was not just huge in engineering terms but had … Read more
The Road poster

The Road: A Story of Life & Death

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 25 April Red Hat Day Today is Red Hat Day. It is celebrated by members of the Red Hat Society, membership of which is open to any woman aged 50 or over. It was started in 1997 when Sue Ellen Cooper of Orange County, California, USA, gave a friend of hers a distinctive red bowler hat as a 55th birthday present, along with a copy of the poem Warning, by Jenny Joseph. Its opening lines are “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple/With a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.” The hat, colour scheme and … Read more
Malcolm McDowell and Mirella D'Angelo cavort in Caligula

Caligula

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 24 January Caligula assassinated, AD41 On this day in AD41, or 41BCE, the Roman emperor Caligula was assassinated. His name was in fact Gaius Augustus Germanicus and Caligula was his nickname – meaning “soldier’s little boot” – picked up while he was a child accompanying his general father on campaigns. Caligula arrived as ruler of Rome by a tortuous, intrigue-filled and bloody route and worked hard once in power to increase the autocratic power of the emperor. This did not sit well with those who still saw Rome as a republic. Nor did Caligula’s spending of huge amounts of money on … Read more
Jeremy Irons in Margin Call

Margin Call

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 6 March Alan Greenspan born, 1926 On this day in 1926, the economist Alan Greenspan was born in New York City. His father was a stockbroker and analyst but Alan initially seemed to be heading towards a career in music, studying clarinet at Juilliard, playing with Woody Herman’s band, before switching to economics. He gained a bachelor’s and a master’s in economics before becoming an analyst, then a consultant. In 1974 he was appointed by President Gerald Ford as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Greenspan was a member of the Group of Thirty (wise men of economics, essentially) in … Read more

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