Is there still . . .
Last night it was GBBO’s ‘bread week’. What? Well, for the uninitiated GBBO is the BBC’s unexpected hit show the ‘Great British Bake Off’ which is now on its fifth series. It is simply a baking competition where contestants bake each week, but somehow it is more than just a ‘competitive’ cooking programme.
I’m not a big telly person, but this is my guilty secret not least as I love baking cakes and, well, anything sweet! Sweet, yeasty breads such as Chelsea buns, cinnamon brioche and stollen are all personal favourites, but last night only one person made a sweetened showstopper loaf. I guess with all the recent fuss about sugar being so bad for your health savoury breads were considered the safer option. Anyway, following a batch of chocolate hazelnut cookies last week I have restrained myself and baked a few granary rolls.
Sometimes it is really obvious that something is just plain wrong with a picture. Of course, you can deliberately have the sea sliding off planet Earth for an effect, but usually it’s just you haven’t noticed the background or in my case trying to photograph the sea/horizon (above) was not holding the camera properly (excuses, excuses).
Photographing water – oceans, rivers, canals and even a glass of liquid comes with expectations. It feels right when the liquid looks level. Well, obviously getting a flat calm sea horizon level is pretty easy, but it all becomes more tricky when the waterline isn’t the main focus of the picture.
Since I took these canal photos I’ve been more careful when framing a shot that includes water, but I really, really struggled with this City of London skyline.
And, in the end – defeated – adjusted it in Photoshop.
Enough gloom I think it’s time for a little ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’.
Gosh – a mini celebration here on the old blog – at midnight tonight it will be one year since I started blogging. I kind of started by mistake, experimenting, thinking if you don’t tell anybody then nobody sees it, and I remember being quite amazed when I investigated the stats info and discovered that there had been visitors! Well, I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank all the readers, likers and comment makers for their ‘activity’. And, also to offer an inclusive thank you to all the bloggers I view and read who are so interesting and often inspiring. – Speech over –
A slice of celebration cake then?
In the UK, Mother’s Day usually falls on a Sunday in March. This year I notice it is quite late, March 30th, as Easter is late too. When I was a child my sister and I were expected to help out with the chores on Mother’s Day. As we got older we’d either bake a cake or a nice pudding for my mother – she had a very sweet tooth. We didn’t have a dishwasher, so my sister and I were used to washing and drying up. If, we had baked we were expected to leave the kitchen as clean as we’d found it particularly on Mother’s Day.
My mother was not into kitchen gadgetry, like dishwashers, but she did have a large front-loading washing machine. Despite this I still remember her meticulously washing any special, delicate clothing by hand. I remember explaining the ‘wool’ cycle on the machine, but she told me that she found hand washing beautiful garments quite therapeutic and not a chore. It is not how we think today, but I did notice when cold rinsing by hand a batch of scarves that the colours of the submerged silk were worth capturing in a photo.
Stating the obvious a film is a creation. It is an imaginative construction as much as any piece of art although it is usually a collaboration too. I have just listened to an interview with the director of ’12 Years a Slave’, Steve McQueen (also the artist who won the 1999 Turner Prize), and he said that if art is poetry then film is the novel. So with ‘American Hustle’ we have a film which is entertainment, a diversion and a piece of work that makes us engage with a story from recent history seen through someone else’s eyes, the eyes of David O. Russell, the film’s director.
There has been some buzz around ‘American Hustle’ not least various award nominations for the film and some of its stars (so far seven Golden Globe nominations). Critics have talked about possible Oscar winning performances. It is intriguing to see Christian Bale so thin in Werner Herzog’s ‘Rescue Dawn’ and virtually skeletal in Brad Anderson’s ‘The Machinist’ physically transform himself to appear unfit and genuinely overweight so much so even his hands looked bloated with excess. It is fascinating how he still commands the screen even when trying to suppress his energy and star quality by shuffling and stooping. There was also an electric cameo performance by Robert de Niro in a similar vein.
‘American Hustle’ is a film that is steeped in period detail circa 1978 and the well-informed are even praising the shots, angles and cut rate of the film as similar to those of films from the late 1970s. I’ve not been to film school so I’m not versed in the minutiae or technicalities of film making, but I really do look at films. I love to look all round the big screen which is one of the reasons why I don’t like 3D because often the background is so out of focus you can’t see the detail. The selection of period elements for a film depicting a time that many people can remember is tricky. Of course, there are big gesture signifiers like the types of cars, the lengths of women’s skirts/men’s hair or even the overall palette selected for the clothes and interiors, but it is in the details that the film’s visual authenticity is achieved or not.
I am a couple years younger than David O. Russell, but I clearly remember the seventies and 1978 in particular as it was the year I left school, took a gap year and started my first job. I know any film is artificial, but the essence of ‘American Hustle’ doesn’t capture my version of 1978 in England – we had lots of colour. It may of course be that New York and New Jersey were a bit grim then and are appropriately evoked and feel right to an American audience. There was a pantomime quality to the film, a larger than life aspect to the acting and the styling, after all it is entertainment. We did have soft jersey dresses and plunging necklines, but the versions of the plunging neckline in this film owe more to 21st century ‘red carpet’ interpretations of this fashion than 1970s dresses.
Looking back to 1978 there were obviously huge differences either side of the pond between Europe and North America that now we hardly notice as so many constituents of modern living such as clothing, technology, food even coffee are global brands. Difference and diversity should be cherished and it would be a pity if multiple versions of the 1970s get swamped by a standardised, received, Hollywood rendering.
Overall the film was enjoyable even if the pacing was a bit slow and it was about 20 minutes too long. It is just a shame that it’s another addition to the one view, visual myth of the 1970s that includes a lot of brown, a layer of greasy grime all highlighted with a few flashes of grotesque glitz.
A couple of family photos from 1978. That’s it.