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Sandra Bullock in a space suit, Gravity

Gravity

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 14 April Sputnik 2 falls from orbit, 1958 On this day in 1958, the second satellite to be launched into Earth orbit, Sputnik 2, fell back to earth. It had been launched on 3 November 1957 and was carrying Laika, a samoyed terrier cross chosen for her good nature – the first animal launched into space. Sputnik 2 carried enough food, water and air to keep Laika alive for ten days, but because of a malfunction, the temperature inside Sputnik 2 got too high (104ºF/40ºC) and Laika died after a few hours into the mission, from heat and stress. If she … Read more
Stacy Martin and Shia LaBeouf in Nymphomaniac

14 April 2013-04-14

Out in the UK This Week Nymphomaniac Vol I (Artificial Eye, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital) A middle aged man finds a woman beaten up in the street. Taking her back to his house – she doesn’t want the police involved – he coaxes her story out of her with nothing more than a bit of tea and sympathy. And so starts Lars Von Trier’s most “normal” film to date, effectively a Victorian bildungsroman in which one party (Charlotte Gainsbourg) relates the ping-ponging progress of her life, while the other party (Stellan Skarsgård) prompts more revelations with a “do tell me more”. Von Trier barely bothers to hide the structure and sets about acclimatising us … Read more
Still of a naked woman from The Substance: Albert Hoffmann's LSD

The Substance: Albert Hofmann’s LSD

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 13 April MKULTRA launched, 1953 On this day in 1953, CIA director Allen Dulles officially created the MKULTRA program. Its purpose was to investigate ways of controlling human behaviour, using drugs and other methods. It was a continuation of Operation Paperclip, Projects Chatter, Bluebird and Artichoke, whose purpose was also mind control and the exploration of more effective interrogation techniques. The MK of the name marks it out as being a project under the aegis of the Technical Services Staff division of the CIA. The ULTRA indicates that it was classified as being the very highest level of secret. Its main … Read more
Natalya Bondarchuk in Solaris

Solaris

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 12 April Yuri’s Night Today marks the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first flight by a human –a “man” back then –  into space and the first orbital flight of a manned (humanned?) vehicle, on 12 April 1961, on board the Soviet spaceship Vostok 1. It is celebrated across the world as Yuri’s Night, in the astronaut’s honour. It’s also used to applaud similarly momentous space exploration milestones. Yuri’s Night was first held in 2001, on the 40th anniversary of human spaceflight, though the Soviet Union had been honouring Cosmonautics Day since 1962, which since 2011 has been called the International Day … Read more
George C Scott in Patton

Patton

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 11 April President Truman fires General MacArthur, 1951 Today in 1951, President Truman fired his most popular, successful general, Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur had been chief of staff of the US army in the 1930s, had been commander of the US Army in the Far East and supreme commander of the southwest Pacific during the Second World War. It was MacArthur who accepted the surrender of the Japanese in 1945 ,and it was MacArthur who effectively governed Japan between 1945 and 1951. It was also MacArthur who led the United Nations forces into Korea, where he was initially successful, before being pushed … Read more
Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland in Melancholia

Melancholia

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 10 April Halley’s comet and earth at closest point, 837 On this day in AD837, Halley’s Comet got as close as it’s ever got to the earth, as far as records and calculations can tell. The comet has been tracked since at least 240BC and has re-appeared in the skies every 74-79 years, the variation occurring because of the gravitational effect of the different planets it meets on its journey. It travels around the sun elliptically, swinging between the orbits of Mercury and Venus before heading out to somewhere about the distance of Pluto from the sun, then returning. It is … Read more
Mathieu Amalric in You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 9 April Oldest recording of a voice, 1860 On this day in 1860, Edouard-Léon Scott de Martinville made what is the oldest recording of a human voice still in existence. The recording was made on a machine called a phonautograph which Scott had invented and patented in 1857. It worked by emulating the human ear – sound travelled down a funnel, hit a membrane and was transferred to a stylus (pig bristle) which transmitted the vibrations onto smoke blackened paper or glass, the two-dimensional results being used to study amplitude and waveforms. No one at the time the recording was made … Read more
Simon Callow as a professor possessed by the spirit of Aleister Crowley

Chemical Wedding

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 8 April Aleister Crowley transcribes Chapter 1 of The Book of the Law, 1904 On this day in 1904, the British-born occultist Aleister Crowley was contacted by Aiwass, the messenger of the Egyptian god Horus, or so he claimed. Independently wealthy and the rebellious son of strict evangelical christians, the 32-year-old Crowley was in Egypt, having arrived there after an extensive world tour – he had already visited Mexico, Hawaii, San Francisco, Japan, Hong Kong, Ceylon, India and Paris. And en route he had climbed mountains (including the first attempt on K2), written a play based on Wagner’s Tannhäuser, written several … Read more
Lorraine Stanley and Georgia Groome in London to Brighton

London to Brighton

London, 3.07am, in a horrible manky toilet, Joanne, a very young girl (Georgia Groome) is having the lipstick wiped from her teary face by Kelly, an older woman (Lorraine Stanley), whose bulldog features have taken a battering and who’s wearing a skirt so short she can only be a prostitute. Who are they? What’s going on? Who is the vile piece of shit (Johnny Harris) who is soon on their case? As the two females gobble fast food in the stall, then decide to take flight to Brighton on the coast, we are hungry for answers. This relentlessly and properly unpleasant film is the feature debut by Paul Andrew Williams and from the … Read more
Nick Nolte and Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 7 April Rwandan genocide starts, 1994 On this day in 1994, a period of mass killing lasting 100 days started in Rwanda, during which around 20% of the country’s population was killed. The violence was organised by the government, targeted against the Tutsi tribe and carried out by members of the Rwandan army, the police, as well as government backed militias and members of the Hutu population. Between 500,000 and a million people were killed, largely by machete, as neighbour turned on neighbour, the Hutus gaining the land of their Tutsi neighbours once they’d murdered them. The grievance of the Hutus … Read more
Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 6 April Petrarch first sees Laura, 1327 On this day in 1327, one of the most celebrated romantic sightings in literature happened, when Francesco Petrarca, the scholar, poet and former priest often credited with starting the Renaissance, first caught sight of a young woman called Laura (possibly Laura de Noves) in church. He was immediately smitten. Laura was married and rebuffed his advances. So he poured his feelings into poetry, resulting in a book of 366 poems which later were called Il Canzoniere (Song Book). It is one of the most sustained works on unrequited love in the literary canon and … Read more
JBL Noel shooting The Epic of Everest

The Epic of Everest

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 5 April Birkenhead Park opened, 1847 On this day in 1847, Birkenhead Park was opened in Birkenhead on the Wirral Peninsula, UK. It is the country’s first publicly funded civic park and was designed by Joseph Paxton, best known for designing the Crystal Palace exhibition space. A feat of engineering which required that the marshy site first be drained, before vistas could be built, avenues created, terraces and lakes built, it covers 226 acres and was financed by the selling of adjoining plots to local merchants, many of them from Liverpool. It was visited by American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted … Read more

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