Archive for the Film Category

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…

R. I. P. Honor Blackman (1925-2020)

Posted in Film, Television with tags , , on April 6, 2020 by telescoper

More sad news today: the wonderful actress Honor Blackman, best known as Cathy Gale, John Steed’s first sidekick in The Avengers, and as Pussy Galore in the Bond film Goldfinger, has passed away at the age of 94.

Rest in peace, Honor Blackman (1925-2020).

What’s the Vector, Victor?

Posted in Film, mathematics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on February 18, 2020 by telescoper

Following on from Sunday’s post about the trials and tribulations caused by Storm Dennis, here is a clip of a plane (an Airbus 380)  landing at Heathrow airport on Saturday.

There are other clips of this same event on Youtube and some of them describe this landing as `dangerous’. Although it undoubtedly involved skill and concentration by the pilot it’s not actually dangerous. Aircrew are trained to land in windy weather like this, and it’s fairly routine. My plane to Dublin (an Airbus 320) landed like this on Saturday evening and, although the pilot got a well-deserved round of applause on landing, nobody was ever really at risk.

As it happens, this week I start teaching vector algebra to my first-year Engineering students, so the weekend’s weather events have  given me a good illustration of vector addition. The plane has to have a velocity vector relative to the air such that the sum of it and the wind vector adds to a resultant vector directed along the runway. Lots of people seem to think this is just guesswork but it isn’t. It’s applied mathematics.

This is in principle simple as long as the crosswind is steady, but obviously the pilot needs to be alert to gusting and make adjustments along the way. When the plane has slowed down enough to land in normal conditions, the wind over the wings is still causing a bit of extra lift. You can see that in the last moments before touchdown this aircraft is gliding because of this effect. I’m told that because of this, in windy conditions planes usually descend at a steeper angle than usual.

The interesting bit for me is that the plane touches down in such a way that its body is at an angle to the runway. As soon as it has landed it has to correct this and point along the runway. I think this is done with the rudder rather than the undercarriage, but I don’t know. Perhaps any experienced pilots that happen to be reading this could give more details through the comments box?

P.S. The title of this post is a reference to the film Airplane!


The Final Shootout

Posted in Film, Music, Politics with tags , , , , on December 6, 2018 by telescoper

“Only connect” they say so I thought I’d connect two topical items with this video clip of one of my favourite movie scenes.

The first item is that on 15th February next year the legendary composer Ennio Morricone will be conducting a concert of his music in Dublin. Moricone’s 90th birthday was on 10th November 2018.

The other thing is that the UK Parliament is currently debating the terms of Brexit. It seems that there are now only three options: accept Theresa May’s ugly Withdrawal Agreement, reject it and suffer a bad `No Deal’ Brexit or take the sensible, good choice of withdrawing Article 50, admitting it was all a terrible idea in the first place, and remaining in the European Union.

So here we are then, the climactic final shoot-out from Sergio Leone’s famous Spaghetti Western The Good The Bad And The Ugly, featuring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef respectively, together with superb (and very complex) music on the soundtrack from Morricone. We all know who wins in the end, at least in the film.

P.S. Hats off to the guitarist Alessandro Alessandroni (who also did the whistling on the soundtrack) producing that unforgettable twangy sound with a hint of scordatura

R.I.P. Fenella Fielding

Posted in Film with tags , on September 12, 2018 by telescoper

I was very sad last night to hear news of the death, at the age of 90, of the sublime Fenella Fielding. There was much more to Fenella Fielding than the Carry On films – she only appeared in two, but everyone will remember her as Valeria in the hilarious spoof horror movie Carry on Screaming with the classic gag “Do you mind if I smoke?”

R.I.P. Fenella Fielding (1927-2018).

The threads of an old life

Posted in Biographical, Film with tags on November 18, 2017 by telescoper



Making Bela – A Tribute to Martin Landau

Posted in Film with tags , , on July 18, 2017 by telescoper

I was saddened yesterday to read of the death, at the age of 89, of the fine actor Martin Landau. His was a familiar face from my youth, from Mission Impossible and Space 1999 but I’ll remember Martin Landau best in Ed Wood  an affectionate biopic of the man often described as the worst film director in the history of Cinema, in which he played Bela Lugosi a performance that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1995. The New York Film Critic’ Circle report noted “The Oscar goes to Martin Landau, its shadow goes to Bela Lugosi.”

I wrote about Bela Lugosi here – blimey, was that really five years ago? – and am a firm admirer of him as an actor. Unfortunately his heavy Hungarian accent made it very difficult to land roles in which he could demonstrate his true talent. That, together with an opiate addiction, led his career into a downward spiral. He was firmly on the skids when he linked up with Ed Wood to make some execrable low budget horror movies.

In Ed Wood, Martin Landau’s performance is remarkable not least because he didn’t look at all like Bela Lugosi. He nevertheless managed to achieve something better than a mere impersonation, largely through his uncannily accurate interpretation of Lugosi’s speaking voice and body language. He somehow captured the essence of the character without merely mimicking him. The make-up helped, but wasn’t the main reason why Martin Landau was so wonderful as Lugosi. It was just great acting.

By way of a tribute to him, here’s a short but fascinating documentary called Making Bela:

R.I.P. Martin Landau (1928-2017)