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James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window

Rear Window

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 8 January François Grimaldi takes Monaco, 1297 On this day in 1297, dressed as a monk, François Grimaldi (more properly Francesco, since he was Italian) was admitted to the castle at Monaco. Known as Il Malizia, “the cunning”, Grimaldi’s plan was simple – get inside, open the gates and then let his men rush the guards. This he did, and once his men, including his cousin, Rainier, were in he took control. For four years he ruled over Monaco, until he was chased out by the Genoese. He was the first of the Grimaldi clan to try and establish a claim … Read more
Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz in Upstream Color

6 January 2014-01-06

Out in the UK This Week Upstream Colour (Metrodome, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) Shane Carruth’s belated follow-up to his brilliant 2004 film Primer is a weird mix of body-horror and love story, the story of a woman (a rather good Amy Seimetz) infected by some parasitic worm who is hypnotised and then robbed while under the influence. Well, that’s the first bit anyway. After that she seems to be falling for some guy she’s met (played in a bit of Ben Affleck casting by Carruth himself), the whole thing told in the language not of film but of advertising – overlaps, quick cuts, montages, while a Sigur Ros-style soundtrack (a band advertisers love) bleeps … Read more
Obligatory slo-mo explosion shot with an unconcerned Nicolas Cage in Drive Angry

Drive Angry

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 7 January Nicolas Cage born, 1964 On this day in 1964, Nicolas Coppola was born. The son of a literature professor and a choreographer, Cage is the grandson of Carmine Coppola, another of whose sons is Francis Ford Coppola (which makes the director his uncle). Cage decided that trading on the family name wasn’t for him, so changed his surname to Cage, though he was happy enough to take a leg-up by taking a role in Coppola’s cult item Rumble Fish. One of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, Cage is also one of its biggest earners and alternates between what … Read more
James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy

Yankee Doodle Dandy

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 6 January FD Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, 1941 On this day in 1941, the president of the USA, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, delivered what has become known as the Four Freedoms Speech. Addressing the US Congress in the annual State of the Union speech, Roosevelt outlined what he believed those four freedoms to be – Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. The speech was significant for several reasons. First, it sought to extend the freedoms already guaranteed by the Constitution (speech and worship) with freedoms which more problematically lined up with a more progressive, interventionist, Democrat … Read more
Claudio Brook's Simon is tempted by Silvia Pinal's Satan in Simon of the Desert

Simon of the Desert

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 5 January Feast of Simeon Stylites Today is the feast day of the Christian ascetic saint Simeon Stylites. Unless you are an adherent of the Eastern Orthodox Church, in which case his feast day is on 1 September. This son of a shepherd born in what is now Turkey became a zealous believer in the denial of the fleshly world as a teenager. In this he was not unusual – the Church had increasingly come to see the world not as a stage on the way to Paradise, but as a contradiction of it. The world was bad; heaven good (hence … Read more
Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man

No Impact Man: The Documentary

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 4 January Thomas Edison electrocutes Topsy the elephant, 1903 On this day in 1903, the American inventor genius Thomas Edison electrocuted a live elephant to death with electricity. And filmed the whole event. The purpose was to demonstrate how dangerous electricity delivered by alternating current (AC)was. Edison was very much wedded to direct current (DC) and had been making a bundle in licensing payments from cities in the USA that were increasingly going electric, many using his system. And in the other corner we had George Westinghouse (and behind him the patents of Nikola Tesla), who reckoned that AC was the … Read more
Compay Segundo on stage with the Buena Vista Social Club

Buena Vista Social Club

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 3 January US severs diplomatic ties with Cuba, 1961 On this day in 1961, the United States formally cut diplomatic ties with Cuba. It had been building its position within the island since Cuba had gained independence from Spain and had long considered the eventual annexation of Cuba as a done deal. “The most interesting addition which could ever be made to our system of States,” is how Thomas Jefferson described the island which had been a part of the Spanish empire almost since the day the Americas were “discovered” by Christopher Columbus. Cuba fought two wars of independence against Spain, … 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
Sid James as Mark Antony, Amanda Barrie as Cleopatra in Carry On Cleo

Carry On Cleo

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 1 January Julian calendar takes effect, 45BC On this day in 45BC, or 708AUC (Ab Urbis Conditae – since the founding of the city) as it was known at the time, the Julian calendar was first put into effect. It had been introduced the year before by Julius Caesar, and replaced the Calendar of Numa (which had earlier replaced the Calendar of Romulus). The Julian calendar consisted of 365 days divided into 12 months with a leap year every four years. This means that a single year averages out at 365.25 days. The solar year is in fact a few minutes … Read more
Audrey Dana in What War May Bring

What War May Bring

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 31 December President Truman declares the Second World War over, 1946 On this day in 1946, the US President declared that hostilities had come to an end in the Second World War. Whether this means that the war itself ended on that day depends on your terms. The war in Europe ended on VE day (8 May 1945). Some suggest that the war ended with the defeat of Japan and the signing of an armistice, with VJ day (14 August 1945). Still others reckon the war can’t be termed over until the signing of the peace treaty with Japan (1951). And … Read more
Mark Wahlberg and Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 30 December Jeff Lynne born, 1947 On this day in 1947, Jeffrey Lynne was born in Birmingham, UK. Jeff was an early starter and by the age of 16 had formed a band in Birmingham, called first The Hellcats, then The Handicaps, and finally The Andicaps. By 18 he had learnt the rudiments of the studio recording process after buying a Bang & Olufsen BeoCord 2000 reel to reel tape machine, and joined a band called The Nightriders, who changed their name to The Idle Race. In 1970 he joined The Move, at the invitation of former Nightriders/Idle Race member Roy … Read more
Marius Goring in A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 29 December UK pays off Second World War debt, 2006 On this day in 2006, the last working day of the year, the British Government made the last of 50 payments to the US and Canada, money it had borrowed off them in 1945 at the end of the war, when the British economist John Maynard Keynes had been dispatched to Washington with the begging bowl. With the national debt standing at 180% of gross domestic product, the government had expected, or hoped for, a grant. Instead it was offered a loan, on terms of 2% interest annually, a rate that … Read more

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