Archive for the Film Category

R.I.P. Roger Griffin (1935-2021)

Posted in Film, History, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on February 19, 2021 by telescoper

Roger Griffin (picture credit: St John’s College, Cambridge)

Earlier today I heard the sad news of the death at the age of 85 of astronomer Roger Griffin. He passed away on 12th February 2021.

Roger Griffin worked at Cambridge for over six decades, except for one year when he had a post-doctorate position at the Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. He was the Assistant Director of Research in Astronomy at the University of Cambridge for nine years before he was promoted to a Readership of Observational Astronomy and later a Professorship. He appeared in the film Starmen alongside Donald Lyndon-Bell, Wal Sargent and Neville “Nick” Woolf.

Roger Griffin worked on astronomical spectroscopy and his main scientific claim to fame was that he invented a method of measuring radial velocities of stars in binary systems described in this classic paper published in 1967:

Over the subsequent years he published many radial velocity curves thus obtained in a long series of papers in the Observatory Magazine and the same method was subsequently used for measuring orbits of black holes and detecting extrasolar planets.

Despite the Cambridge connection I never met Roger Griffin personally but people who did talk about him with great affection and he will be greatly missed.

Rest in peace, Roger Griffin (1935-2021)

R.I.P. Sean Connery (1930-2020)

Posted in Film with tags , on October 31, 2020 by telescoper

Rest in Peace, Sean Connery, a very fine actor in many roles, but above all The One True James Bond..

Black ’47

Posted in Beards, Film, History with tags , , , on October 14, 2020 by telescoper

The film Black ’47 was released in Ireland in 2018 (just after I moved here) but although it got good reviews I didn’t get around to seeing it in the cinema. Last Friday however it turned up on TV so I watched it and thought it was excellent.

The film tells the story of Martin Feeney (played by James Frecheville) who returns home to Ireland having deserted from the British Army, in 1847, only to find his native Connemara in the grip of the Great Famine. Witnessing the callous treatment of his people by landlords, their agents and the British authorities he sets out on a trail of violent retribution against the oppressors. In structure the film is very like that of a classic `revenge’ Western, though set in the Wild West of Ireland rather than America. It’s very well acted by a very fine cast and superbly photographed, grimly convincing in its depiction of the extreme deprivation of the time, with gripping action sequences. Among many other things, I was impressed by the realistic portrayal of the unreliability and inaccuracy of mid 19th Century firearms. The rifles in use by the British Army at that time were muzzle loaded, using paper cartridges, so their rate of fire was very low too.

There are some splendid beards too.

I’m sure there will be people to correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think there were any feature films made about the Great Hunger, despite its importance in Irish history, before this one.

Here’s the official trailer for the movie. I think it’s well worth watching if you can get to see it, though somehow I doubt it will be on prime time television in the UK like it was here in Ireland…

R.I.P. Diana Rigg (1938-2020)

Posted in Film, Television, Theatre with tags , , on September 10, 2020 by telescoper

More sad news today: the death at the age of 82 of the wonderful actress Diana Rigg. She had a long and distinguished career on TV, film and in the theatre. I had the privilege of seeing her opposite David Suchet in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf on stage in London many years ago and thought she was brilliant. But it is as Emma Peel in The Avengers that people of my age will remember her best. Here, by way of a small tribute, is her very first appearance in that role, way back in 1965.

Rest in peace, Diana Rigg (1938-2020)

Two X One Y

Posted in Film, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on August 22, 2020 by telescoper

I found out yesterday that the title of the above paper (on arXiv here) has been causing a bit of a scandal in the astrophysics community.

When I saw the title I was baffled as to why it could cause offence. Then I was told that it was a reference to pornography. I still didn’t understand at all. Then I was told the title of the film to which it is alleged to refer: Two Girls One Cup. I had never heard of it until yesterday and wish I hadn’t because it’s so gross. It is so notorious that it even has a Wikipedia page describing it and reactions to it. Don’t click if you’re easily disgusted. I am fairly broad-minded but I found it entirely disgusting.

I’m told that the film generated a large number of derogatory and misogynistic memes circulated on social media but they all passed me by too. I must be too old.

But even knowing about the film I still don’t see the paper’s title as a reference to it. Had it been an attempt to be a pun then I would have got it, but I don’t think it is. “Flares” and “shock” don’t rhyme with or sound anything like “girls” and “cup”. If it was meant as a pun it’s a failure on two counts. Is every phrase of the form “Two X One Y” now a reference to scat porn?

If anything I would interpret the title as a reference to the idiomatic expression “to kill two birds with one stone”. Or it could just be a reference to the fact that the paper is about two flares associated with one shock.

Regardless of my opinions, though, if this combination of words has caused offence – whether intentionally or not – then it is not a big deal to change the title and that’s what should be done. I’d suggest that simply inserting “with” or “from” would do the trick.

The comments I saw on Twitter yesterday basically divide into those like me who didn’t get the alleged reference at all and those who were appalled. The latter were almost exclusively younger people based in America (who are more likely to have been exposed to the film) . The authors of the paper are predominantly based outside the USA and in my view it would be a mistake to assume they all share the same cultural experience as a particular demographic of the United States. I think it would be very unfair to jump to the conclusion that the reference is deliberate.

I’m genuinely interested to see what people think about this title. I realise I have spoilt this by giving the background, but here’s a poll. Please answer by giving your initial reaction.

Update: the title has been changed, as I suggested…

Storm Scenes

Posted in Film with tags , , , on August 19, 2020 by telescoper

Ireland, especially the South and West thereof, is bracing itself tonight for the arrival of Storm Ellen. It seems likely to reach Maynooth in the early hours of tomorrow morning but will probably have dissipated a bit by then.

Anyway, the thought of a storm battering the Irish coast reminded me of the memorable storm scenes in David Lean’s 1970 film Ryan’s Daughter. The film crew had to wait almost a year near the coast at Dingle for a sufficiently violent storm but when one arrived they caught its elemental power superbly. No CGI in these shots!

I love the long shots of the people scurrying like ants on top of the cliff. Their movement makes them look terrified. I suspect they weren’t acting.

Update: it was indeed a very stormy night. I was woken up a few times by the gales, and there are lots of reports on the radio of fallen trees and debris, but I don’t know of any serious damage here in Maynooth.

R.I.P. Ennio Morricone (1928-2020)

Posted in Film, Music with tags , , on July 6, 2020 by telescoper

I heard the sad news this morning that legendary composer Ennio Morricone has passed away at the age of 91. Morricone will be remembered not only for the music he himself created for films but on the huge influence he had on other composers and indeed on cinema generally.

I’ve posted this piece before but I make no apology for posting it again as a tribute to the Maestro. It’s the climactic final shoot-out from Sergio Leone’s iconic Spaghetti Western* The Good The Bad And The Ugly, featuring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach, respectively, together with superbly innovative (and very complex) music on the soundtrack from Morricone. It was the guitarist Alessandro Alessandroni (who also did the whistling on the soundtrack) producing that unforgettable twangy sound with a hint of scordatura. I also think this is the first time any film composer had used gunshots as part of the score…

*These films are way better than was generally appreciated at the time of their release.

Update: I just love this response to an efflux of babble…

And so it begins..

Posted in Film, Politics on June 13, 2020 by telescoper

This Violation

Posted in Film, Politics with tags , , , on May 31, 2020 by telescoper

A typically perceptive and powerful piece in the Guardian by Fintan O’Toole about dignity, violation and the Dominic Cummings has been turned into a short film by Mark Cousins. It features a hundred people, from all walks of life, each reading a line of it to camera. It’s very well worth watching.

Educating Rita in Maynooth

Posted in Film, Maynooth with tags , , on May 24, 2020 by telescoper

Not a lot of people know that the 1983 film Educating Rita, starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine, though mostly set in Northern England, was entirely shot in Ireland.

For example, the scenes at the University in which Caine’s character Frank works were filmed at Trinity College Dublin. Here’s the facade from an early scene:

A list of many of the outdoor scenes and their actual locations can be found here.

One thing I hadn’t realised until yesterday involves the short part of the film in which Frank is on holiday in France. Here is a still from that sequence.

The setting is St Patrick’s College Maynooth!

Other scenes supposed to be in France were filmed just down the road from Maynooth, in Celbridge.

I never thought Maynooth looked particularly French, but there you go. You live and learn…