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Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man

Repo Man

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 4 February Radium synthesised, 1936 The element radium had been discovered by Marie Sklodowska-Curie and her husband Pierre in 1898. They had taken a ton of pitchblende and from it separated out a tenth of a gram of radium chloride. From that, by 1910, Marie Curie had managed to isolate pure radium, along the way coining the word “radioactivity”. Sources for this useful metal (it was what made luminous watch faces and instrument dials glow) were scarce and when the Austrian government banned further export of silver-mine tailings, the search was on to find other radioactive elements, and to produce radium … Read more
Ian Bonar, Kieran Bew, Lyndsey Marshal and Mathew Baynton strike the indie pose in 1234


A movie for every day of the year – a good one 3 February Buddy Holly dies, 1959 On this day in 1959, 22-year-old Buddy Holly died in a plane crash. He was in a plane because he had suddenly become insanely popular – his songs That’ll Be the Day, Not Fade Away and Oh Boy! had seen to that – and was hopping between gigs on the Winter Dance Party Tour played with a pick-up band posing as his regular band, The Crickets. With him in the plane were fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson aka The Big Bopper, plus the pilot, Roger Peterson. Peterson was not licensed to fly without … Read more
Bill Murray in Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 2 February Groundhog Day Today is Groundhog day. In areas of Pennsylvania where a High German dialect known as Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch (from Deutsch) is still preserved the event is marked with a fersommlinge (Versammlung in modern German, meaning meeting) at which much interest is shown in a groundhog, a type of marmot, and whether it throws a shadow when leaving its burrow. If it does, so the folklore says, there will be another six weeks of winter. But if it is cloudy, then spring is on the way. The largest of these celebrations is held in Punxsutawney, where … Read more
Martina Gedeck in The Wall

The Wall

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 1 February Alexander Selkirk rescued, 1709 On this day in 1709, a Scottish sailor named either Alexander Selkirk or Selcraig was rescued from an island in the South Pacific. But the model for Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe wasn’t the victim of a shipwreck. In fact he’d asked the captain of the privateer (ie pirate) ship he was sailing on, the Cinque Ports, to leave him on the uninhabited island known as Más a Tierra in the Juan Fernández archipelago about 700km off the coast of Chile. Known since his youth as a quarrelsome sort, Selkirk had been loudly protesting … Read more
Roxane Mesquida grabs lunch in Kiss of the Damned

3 February 2014-02-03

Out in the UK This Week Kiss of the Damned (Eureka, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) There’s a scene early on in Xan (daughter of John) Cassavetes’s vampire film in which a man (Milo Ventimiglia) with the hots for a woman he’s just met (Joséphine de la Baume) is pawing at her passionately through the centimetres-wide gap in her intruder-chained door. What Paolo doesn’t yet know is that Djuna is a vampire who’s struggling with her vow to stay off human blood, which is why she’s reluctant to unchain the door and let him in. Cassavetes shoots the encounter from above – their arms snaking through the gap, his head thrusting forward, their mouths meeting … Read more
Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd in Frida


A movie for every day of the year – a good one 31 January Leon Trotsky exiled, 1929 On this day in 1929, Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, aka Leon Trotsky, was exiled from the country he had helped create. A member of the victorious Bolsheviks in the revolution of 1917 (having earlier switched allegiance from the Mensheviks), Trotsky rose quickly through the party, proving himself decisively in the civil war against the Mensheviks in 1918. Ideologically he was loosely aligned with Lenin, believed in mass democracy, permanent revolution and internationalism and was opposed to the “socialism in one country” of Stalin. Trotsky found his ideas and those of the Left Opposition increasingly marginalised in … Read more
Vincent Price

Witchfinder General

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 30 January Oliver Cromwell executed two years after death, 1661 On this day in 1661, Oliver Cromwell was posthumously executed. A member of parliament who had entered the civil war against the king, Cromwell had risen quickly to become on of the best generals on the side of the “roundheads”. In 1649, Cromwell was one of the signatories of the death warrant of King Charles I. In 1653, having led campaigns against the Irish and Scots, he abolished a quarrelsome parliament and became de facto monarch of the country. When he died five years later, in 1658, the title of Lord … Read more
The original magic bus, whose name was Further

Magic Trip

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 29 January Mantra Rock Dance, 1967 On this day in 1967 one of the key events of the era of psychedelic rock, and the hippie era generally, took place. It was organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, who saw it as an opportunity for their founder, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, to speak to a broader public than normal. The reason why there would be a broader public was because of the other people taking part – the bands Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company (lead singer: Janis Joplin), Moby Grape, beat poet Allen Ginsberg, LSD guru Timothy … Read more
Darths Maul and Vader face off in Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out

Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 28 January Lego patents its brick design, 1958 On this day in 1958 the Lego company patented the brick design it had been working on for five years. Originally a company created by a carpenter in 1932 to produce wooden toys (called Lego from the Danish phrase Leg Godt – play well) Lego had been into the production of plastic bricks since 1947. By the early 1950s more than half of the company’s output was plastic. In 1954 Godtfred, son of founder Ole Kirk Christiansen, acting on a conversation he’d had with an overseas buyer, began working on the idea of … Read more
Yuri Gagarin

First Orbit

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 27 January The Outer Space Treaty signed, 1967 On this day in 1967 the USA, USSR and UK jointly signed the Outer Space Treaty, more formally known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. It is the treaty that seeks to impose some legal, agreed structure on regions beyond our own world. It is the first move towards Space Law. Its basic tenets are that no signatory state shall place nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction into Earth orbit. It restricts the … Read more
Ted Levine and Katia Winter in The Banshee Chapter

27 January 2014-01-27

Out in the UK this week Rush (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD/VOD) Recognising a good thing when he sees it, director Ron Howard sticks with Frost/Nixon writer Peter Morgan for this entirely satisfying, largely factual re-run of the rivalry between 1970s Formula 1 stars Niki Lauda and James Hunt. There’s tons to like in this film – Chris Hemsworth makes an excellent Hunt, and Daniel Brühl is actually an even better Lauda. But it’s Morgan’s screenplay which is the thing of wonder. Managing to tell the real story of the dramatic “couldn’t make it up” 1976 Formula 1 season and yet bouncing along simultaneously on the sort of good versus evil dynamic that Hollywood demands, … Read more
Robert De Niro, Anne Heche and Dustin Hoffman in Wag the Dog

Wag the Dog

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 26 January President Clinton denies “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky, 1998 On this day in 1998, a serving president of the United States responded to allegations that he had had sex with a woman other than his wife. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky” said Bill Clinton at the end of a White House press conference, with his wife standing beside him. Unfortunately for Clinton, there had been what most people would call a sexual relationship, and Lewinsky had a blue dress stained with the president’s semen to prove it. Later in the year, boxed into … Read more

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