“Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House,” directed by H.C. Potter

Movie, 1948 Cary Grant comedy, whose plot is pretty much summarised in the title. Grant plays an advertising executive looking to move his family from New York and into the country. Things start going wrong and expenses pile up from the off, as plans fall apart, relationships strain and things get complicated. Not a shining example of any genre, but an amusing film all the … Continue reading “Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House,” directed by H.C. Potter

‘The Cry of the Owl,’ by Patricia Highsmith

Novel, 1962 Terrific psychological thriller, in which a deranged cast of characters get involved and wound up with each other’s affairs. Every one of them ends up in a much worse place than when they started. A terrific piece of storytelling, in which tragic and almost comedically escalating situations involving stalking, ex-wives and vengeful lovers are played out against a backdrop of respectable small town … Continue reading ‘The Cry of the Owl,’ by Patricia Highsmith

“Hidden Figures,” directed by Theodore Melfi

Movie, 2016 The story of the struggle and contribution of black women to the NASA space programme, concentrating on the early 1960s, when Soviet supremacy was putting pressure on the Americans. A well-paced story, which blends its three strands in well and plays elements and nods to the civil rights and segregation issues prevalent at the time. The period detail and space centre shots feel … Continue reading “Hidden Figures,” directed by Theodore Melfi

‘A Walk in the Woods,’ directed by Ken Kwapis

Movie, 2015 Part buddy movie, part road movie, part environmental comment, in which Bill Bryson and his improbably addled friend set off to hike the notoriously unforgiving, 2,000 mile long Appalachian Trail. Robert Redford and Nick Nolte are even more grizzled than the bears they encounter, and deliver a decent, solid if hardly pulse-busting film. Gorgeous scenery, pot shots against all consuming ambition and the … Continue reading ‘A Walk in the Woods,’ directed by Ken Kwapis

“Play It As It Lays,” by Joan Didion

Novel, 1970 Savage novel about an actress whose career and life both appear to be on the skids and which offers little in the way of either relief or comfort. This is a book of alienation and the surface glitz of a shiny, showbiz world, overlaid with real tragedy, abuse and the horror of a life deteriorating. A beautifully written piece as well; Didion’s choppy … Continue reading “Play It As It Lays,” by Joan Didion

“Stoszek”, directed by Werner Herzog

Movie, 1977 Tale of a struggling German street musician, fresh out of prison, and who’s chased out of his home country by a couple of thugs and takes up with a couple of friends in the USA. A story with a touch of Candide about it, in which the well-meaning, essentially good, and entrepreneurial hero is let down by a world he’s ill-equipped to deal … Continue reading “Stoszek”, directed by Werner Herzog

“Red Harvest”, by Dashiell Hammett

Novel, 1929 A novel which racks up incidents, gangster teams, weapons, fights, narcotics and shoot-ups steadily at first, before building, by the end of the book, a frenetic pace. This is a novel where characters are sketched then slaughtered in short order, as the plot and almost everything else about the book is chewed up in an extraordinary tide of corruption and destruction. Everything is … Continue reading “Red Harvest”, by Dashiell Hammett

“BlacKkKlansman”, directed by Spike Lee

Movie, 2018 A darkly and predominantly comic account if the infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan through the efforts of an afro-touting, colour-barrier breaking policeman. While there are a few moments of heightened time at the beginning of the film, during a dramatised portrayal of a Kwame Ture speech which raises and almost deifies the profiles and faces of audience members, it’s the combination of … Continue reading “BlacKkKlansman”, directed by Spike Lee

“Prince Avalanche”, directed by David Gordon Green

Movie, 2013 Buddy movie set in Texas, in which a couple of road repairers help each other through a few trials and tribulations of their interconnected lives. A film with echoes of Beckett and Magnus Mills, which drifts along but holds the viewers’ attention. One of those independent productions when everything that happens does so off camera, and the very most is made of the … Continue reading “Prince Avalanche”, directed by David Gordon Green

“Pigs in Heaven”, by Barbara Kingsolver

Novel, 1993 A story of three generations and two cultures struggling over the custody and problems resulting from an unconventional adoption of a child born into the Cherokee tribe. A pretty good, snappy read, which if a little didactic at times, and all wrapped up a little too conveniently at the end, is worth the effort. Some really great writing and images here and there … Continue reading “Pigs in Heaven”, by Barbara Kingsolver