These are the things that made me smile this month
Films and TV shows
- The guns of Navarone. I have watched this 1961 film many times over the years. The storyline is a little predictable, perhaps, but the strong cast, featuring Gregory Peck, Anthony Quayle, Anthony Quinn, David Niven, and Irene Papas, compensate for this (Watched on Amazon Prime)
- The professionals. It’s a truly rare event for me to watch a Burt Lancaster film for the first time, as I’ve been a fan of his since I was a child. There are some undercurrents of “The Magnificent Seven” in this film, although it’s rather more cynical in tone. The excellent cast includes Robert Ryan, another favourite of mine, Lee Marvin, Woody Strode, and Jack Palance. Palance’s casting as the Mexican revolutionary turned bandit is, sadly, an example of Hollywood’s history of ethnic miscasting (Watched on Netflix).
- The taking of Pelham one two three. It’s been a while since I’ve watched this 1974 original version of the film and, once again, I was struck by how good the film is. The plot is tight and the film wastes no time on extraneous details. “Reservoir dogs” clearly based the colour-coded names of its villains on this film. Robert Shaw as, always, is excellent, and Walter Matthau, whom I can normally take in only small doses, plays the world-weary cynic very well (Watched on Tubi).
- Serpico. This is my second favourite Al Pacino film after Dog day afternoon. Pacino is a very talented actor, although he can sometimes be a little over the top. His performance in this film is nuanced and more controlled, which I very much appreciate. I own a digital copy of this film.
- The bridge on the river Kwai. I’ve always loved this classic WWII film starring Alec Guinness and William Holden. The film has won so many awards, and rightly so, as it’s one of the best films every made. The performances are top notch. I particularly like the fact that the film focuses on characters, rather than making judgments about the “right” and “wrong” sides of the war. And, of course, who could ever forget the whistling of the Colonel Bogey March? I own a digital copy of this film.
- Hannibal. I’m referring here to the excellent television series starring Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy, not the awful film starring Anthony Hopkins. I’ve watched this series at least 4 times now, and I never tire of it. It’s dark (and darkly funny) and intense, and is also incredibly beautiful visually. It’s also a celebration of elegance and style, and Mikkelsen’s wardrobe is stunning. The series was shot in Toronto, and I recall the day I literally bumped into Laurence Fishburne at the doors of Holt Renfrew on Bloor street. I own the DVD set
- Vikings. Sort of. I’m catching up with season 5. I find this to be the weakest of the seasons so far, mostly because I don’t find many of the characters particularly interesting. Some of the male leads rely too much on grimaces, snarls, and shouting angrily in the air as acting devices, none of which are particularly effective. It’s also getting tedious to see the Saxons always portrayed as militarily inept and gullible, while the Vikings are always brilliant strategically (Watched on Netflix).
I didn’t read as many books this month, as I was laid low with Covid and found it a little hard to concentrate on reading at times.
- Hidden depths, by Ann Cleeves. This is the third in the Vera Stanhope series. It’s always fun to compare Cleeve’s Stanhope with Brenda Bleythn’s excellent interpretation of the character (Borrowed from Halifax Public Library)
- The pale horse, by Agatha Christie. It’s been many years since I last read this. One of the things I like about Christie is that her writing is always to the point. The trend of so many mystery novels lately has been to drag the plot over dozens of chapters, as well as to throw in a few too many red herrings. (Borrowed from Halifax Public Library)
- The rising tide, by Ann Cleeves. Yet another Vera Stanhope book, courtesy of the Halifax Public Library
- I needed to invest in a warmer winter coat. It’s hard to find a vegan coat that is warm enough, so I was very pleased to have found this coat from Halifax-based company Cyanos Jay. I had been considering a Wuxly coat, but my new coat is one-third the price and has a higher cold rating. It’s the warmest coat I’ve ever owned.
- Nicolas Fairford. I’ve just started following this account, which concerns one man’s journey to make his life elegant and beautiful. The videos are a welcome refuge from the busyness of the world and focus on finding beauty in the smallest things around us,
- The Daily Connoisseur. I’ve been watching Jennifer L. Scott’s YouTube channel for many years. Like Nicolas, Jennifer focuses on elegance and poise, and in always prsenting yourself well. It’s not about vanity, but about self respect and grace.
- Hippy Highland Living. I discovered this channel last October and have been enjoying following Molly’s journey in slow living in her tiny home in the Scottish Highlands. I always have such deep admiration for people who have the courage to reject conventional lifestyles and to embrace slower living.
- Natural vegan deodorant. I’ve been using No Pong for a while, but I am concerned about the number of metal tins that I need to recycle. People often make such a fuss about plastic containers and think that metal is necessarily better, but recycling metal still uses a lot of resources. This new deodorant comes in a cardboard tube, which can go in the compost. It’s vegan and has no baking soda, which my skin cannot tolerate. I use the unscented formula.
- Solid Lotion. This also comes in a cardboard tube. It is slightly scented, but the smell dissipates quickly. Vegan, of course.
- Solid dish soap. I used to use Savon de Marseille to do my dishes, until I received a sample of this soap, given to me by the Etsy vendor who makes the two products above. I found it to do a much better job of cleaning grease from dishes. It is also very well priced and lasts months. There is a more popular solid dish soap on the market that is carried by many natural food shops, but I wasn’t impressed with its quality (the bar broke off into pieces) and found it very overpriced. I much prefer this Etsy version.