Category Archives: Film & TV



A couple of nights ago I watched Michael Haneke’s much-lauded film Amour, in the original French, without subtitles.  Now this wasn’t an act of great pretension, I hadn’t thought that after four series of Spiral, the gritty Parisian cop drama that my schoolgirl French could handle a two-hour examination of love in its own language.  No my wii box that has been hacked to play dvds  wasn’t up to the job and able to provide the English translation.

So with great intrepidation I proceeded, and of course I will have missed much of the subtleties just like my time in Paris as a youngster I could understand the greetings and the beginnings and ends of sentences, alloras, and the voilas, the je crois, et je pense but not much of the main dialogue in the middle.  The line I was most confident with was “no I am sorry Monsieur I couldn’t get you any tomatoes from the market.”  As plot pointers go, I am not sure how vital that was.    But it proved how much of communication is non-verbal.  That actions speak louder than words.  The plot was straightforward, the protagonists were retired music teachers, seemly happy and content, he told her she looked tres jolie,”(very pretty) after a night out to a concert, facing what we will probably face, a debilitating  illness of ourselves or our partner at the end of our lives.

But even despite lack of comprehension, I loved the film. Amour, Je t’adore.  It is a masterpiece.  For me the true test of a film is if you think about afterwards, and Amour has lingered with me for days and days.  I can’t get those images of the elderly couple and how the husband cared for his wife after her stroke out of my head.  Despite the immense hardship he was so gentle with her, so caring.   And it was not easy.  There was despair. But everything seemed to be dealt with a quiet fortitude and despite scenes where nothing happened apart from an old man was trying to get a very bedridden old woman to drink some water, the film was compelling and mesmerizing.  This due to the incredible performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva and the unflinching script and direction by Michael Haneke.  This is a love story but there is no sentimentality here.

We are all so used to the Hollywood version of love, two youthful, beautiful actors meeting up, breaking up, and overcoming adversity to the happy ever after that to see a film where the average age of the actors was 86, where there was no “action” to speak of, no soundtrack, no flashy editing or camera effects, just a simple story told honestly and realistically and yet was the most sincere and genuine portrayal of love I had ever seen. But you just know that if they had pitched the idea in LA, it would never have been green lit in a million years.

But made it was in France, it won the Palm D’Or at Cannes Film Festival and was recognised with nominations for in all the major categories at the Oscars this year, director, script, best actress for Emmanuelle Riva and even nominated in the Best Film category (it won best foreign language film).  So I am happy to see that even if Hollywood couldn’t make this film they can at least appreciate it.

Have a look at trailer, there are subtitles.. you probably understand more about the film now then I do, but I really recommend Amour, even in French, but I warn you it will break your heart.








Question.. what do you do when you are an Oscar winning director and you have a part-time job as the Artistic Director of the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, a position that only occupies you on a Thursday and Friday?

Answer:  You shoot a mind-bending, time-shifting heist film set in London, on the Saturday to Wednesday.

Could that level of multi-tasking be successful on such an epic scale?  How could you devote your time and inspiration to two such mammoth tasks?  How could anyone showcase the very best of British to a watching world and then nine months later release a film that thrills and delights as the plot confounds and hoodwinks.  Only a man of Danny Boyle’s energy, passion, creativity and imagination could pull it off.

And put it off he does.  And how.  And then some.

Trance is a difficult film to describe without giving away any spoilers.  So I will be sparing with the details. It starts with trademark Boyle visual flair.  It’s London, it’s the art world and a painting has been stolen, by a gang possibly with inside help.  So far so entertaining. If you want to find out any more you need to go and watch the film for yourself. #Keepthesurprise just like for the Opening Ceremony.  But I will say I found it entertaining, suspenseful and surprising.  There are three protagonists and they all give very strong performances.  Rosario Dawson was captivating.  James McAvoy and Vincent Cassel as always were a pleasure to watch.

Trance has been compared to films directed Christopher Nolan, namely Memento and Inception.  I would agree but add the caveat that Trance is a film made by a man who is warm and engaging, who understands human nature and likes people.  I am not the biggest Christopher Nolan fan, indeed I found Inception to be cold, with less developement of the characters than a video game.

This is, as with all Danny Boyle films, an exhilarating, adrenaline rush of a film.  As he said in interview rounds a film can put you in a trance, when you are in the cinema, in the dark watching a story enfold on the 20 foot screen in front of you, you can be hypnotised,  the rest of the world can melt away whilst you are immersed.  It certainly worked for me.


Massive Girl Crush Incoming….

I have a massive new girl crush. Oh my goodness it has got me bad.  But a little bit like the Duchess of Cambridge I have come very late to the party on this one, but judging the comments on Twitter on Oscar Night, many many girls were wanting her to be their new BFF.

Jennifer Lawrence, second youngest winner of an Oscar for Best Actress.  She can do no wrong in my eyes.  She breezed down the Red Carpet on Sunday night, giggled “(Emma) Stone, your ass is mine” down the E! ManiCam (for those of you who maybe haven’t watched as many Red Carpet events on E! as I have, a mani-cam is a camera especially set up to show off manicures. I am blushing as I type this).  She showed Piers Morgan her loser face on CNN, this girl is such a breath of fresh air she even made oily Piers likeable.  She then told another Red Carpet reporter that she was starving!  Starving.. What A list female celebrity ever admits eating anything, of course to get into those fairytale dresses nothing more substantial than a lemon squeezed into hot water has passed their lips for months.  To admit that she eat makes her a goddess to me, well actually that is not right is it?  These visions of beauty and youth are held up as modern-day Gods and Goddesses, and hear that Jennifer Lawrence eats makes her human.  Real. Normal.

When she had been announced as the Best Actress, she fell up the stairs.  She tripped up on her beautiful ivory Dior Couture gown and fell up the stairs on the way to receiving her Golden Statue.   She has so much life and spirit that she could say to the packed room of peers giving her a standing ovation something along the lines of you are only being kind to me because you feel sorry for me.  I fell in the mud on a Saturday morning run last week, in the woods, and I wept, and I was totally alone, not with the eyes of the world upon me, I have 20 years on Miss Lawrence and I still cried at the indignity of it all.

I will admit that despite loving films as much as I do I have never even seen a Jennifer Lawrence one.  Again I blush as I type.  She first appeared on my radar on the Red Carpet season two years ago in a stunning Calvin Klein Red body skimming dress that fitted her to perfection.  In the parlance of E!Red Carpet presenter walking skeleton  Giuliana Rancic she looked “Smokin’ Hot”.  Really you might not like the terminology but there is no arguing with the verdict.   She had been nominated at 20 for Best Actress for Winter’s Bone.  It went on my love film list week.  My son has the Hunger Games on dvd.  I am  already looking forward to a Jennifer Lawrence weekend

And if all of the above wasn’t enough to convince you that Jennifer Lawrence is fun, lively and would be a really great person to party with just watch this clip of her at her post Oscars interview.  She seems like my kinda gal.

and I can’t wait to see Silver Linings Playbook.  The look she gives Bradley Cooper on the dance floor melts my heart every time (around 2.25 in on the trailer).  I am even going again the word of Danny Leigh from Film 2013, the critic I normally hold in the highest esteem.  To say he was not a fan of the film is quite an understatement, but it’s testament to the power of Jennifer just this once I am going to overrule him.  I will let you know he is right after all.


Do you want the truth or something beautiful?

The words to Paloma Faith ‘s song “Do you want the truth or something beautiful?” came into my head as the credits rolled at the end of Life of Pi tonight.

As I lifted my 3D glasses to rejoin the grey world of the multiplex after 2 hours of being dazzled and shimmered and bathed in phosphorous lights and so completely immersed in a fantastical world, I admonished myself for not having read the best-selling book Life of Pi by Yann Martel, despite it sitting in my bathroom (of all places, for the past year or so).   I had dismissed it out of hand, what kind of plot was this?  A man in a boat with a tiger, adrift in the middle of the ocean. It was just preposterous, it would never happen, and so I missed the chance to read something, if the film is anything to go by, that is magical and enchanting, wondrous and wonderful.  It is the beauty of story-telling that makes it so compelling, I guess the ultimate visual metaphor, that life should be about the journey not the destination.

It is not a suspenseful movie, we know the protagonist survives as we see him retelling his tale to an ever more sceptical listener at the beginning of the film.  However the film is not short on drama and tension.  At one point it gave me the biggest shout out loud shock moments I have ever experienced in a cinema.

Ang Lee as a director is renown for his films looking very handsome, in Brokeback Mountains, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal had to fight very hard not to be upstaged by the Montana backdrop.  He is also known for his films being ground-breaking, those spectacular flying scenes, so original in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon have been copied many times over since.  In Life of Pi these two aspects of his film making have come together magnificently, every shot is exquisite with many take your breath away moments.  In Life of Pi, the 3D effect is not a cynical money making exercise, it does truly enhance the story-telling and make it even more glorious to watch.  This really is one of those films you must see in the cinema for maximum impact.

There is a charm and an innocent to this film I have not experienced in a very long time.  The story is told slowly and carefully, and after seeing so many films recently where I have despaired at the rising levels of gratuitous violence , even in supposedly family orientated films, it was very pleasurable to watch and very easy to enjoy, and I would recommend  Life of Pi whole-heartedly to everyone for a genuinely  original and different, uplifting and life-affirming experience.


My Top 5 Songs of the Year

So here it is, my 5 favourite songs of the year, I am sure they will not feature on anyone else’s list but then they can do their own list  can’t they- this is really just an excuse to play my favourite songs of this year again.

At Number 5, and my memory is so bad I am not a hundred percent sure this was actually out this year. Ren Harvieu.  I love her, you can keep Adele Skkkkyyfaaaaaaaaaaaallling her way to the top of the charts, for me Ren’s voice is the true voice of pain and heartache, the sound of survival , of gritting your teeth and it making it through the other side. (Well after Amy of course).  Tonight also has the most amazing woozy sounding brass, the sound of a night spiralling out of your control, giddily exciting at first, but with more than a hint that everything could end in tears….

And at number 4, yes it’s that internet sensation, You Tube’s first million hit millionaire, Psy and Gangnam Style.  This is really one for my children.  They adore it, and really sneakly I do too, especially after seeing Damian Lewis “horsing” his way across the Green Room on Jonathan Ross.  I saw Brodie from Homeland in a whole new light.

So just in case you are the one person on the planet who has missed it, here it is… all together now.. “Hey sexy lady, Woop Woop Woop Woop”

Feel the Love by Rudimental is at 3.  I love this tune way more than I should.  Surely this is just a song for 16 year olds, but I can’t get enough of it.  How can anyone resist that soulful old skool vocal soaring over the dubstep?  One to be played very loud, especially out on a run, it makes me feel I never want to stop.

Jake Bugg is at number 2.  He is amazing.  When I first heard Lightning Bolt I didn’t know if it was a new track or just an unfamiliar old one.  For an 18 year old boy from Nottingham he sounds incredibly like Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan.  Simple, catchy tunes with lyrics that wise beyond their years.   The BBC used Lightning Bolt as the bed on a piece about Usain Bolt during the Olympics which made me ridiculously happy.

So here it is, my number one for the year.  I bet you can hardly care less.  But anyway I will press on regardless of the apathy.  In my best DeeJay Voice, at at Number One, Eugene McGuinness and Harlequinade.  And cut to everyone looking at each other and saying “Who?”  Why isn’t it Rihanna or One Direction or that nice Katy Perry, such a shame about her and Russell Brand.

Anyway it isn’t, it’s Eugene McGuinness.  He is the guitarist for Miles Kane.  He brought at an fantastic and very unrated album in the summer called “An Invitation to the Voyage”. It is jam-packed with infectious pop classics, just waiting to be discovered and played and made into ear worms in your brain.  Oh and the video is a masterclass in creativity on a budget.

So there you, my top 5 songs of the year.  I could have included the entire soundtrack to the Olympic Opening Ceremony, with special mention to Caliban’s Dream but then that would have to have been 6 songs of the year.. and well that is just ridiculous isn’t it?  Who has 6 top songs of the year, except hopelessly indecisive people?  Perhaps that should be another blog, my top 5 moments of the year but that would just been just one long moment; our glorious, wonderous, uplifting, never to be repeated summer of sport wouldn’t it?  So here is Caliban’s Dream.. enjoy… and if you fancy it, do let me know your tunes of the year.


How to lose weight without even getting off the sofa….

New research released in time for Halloween says that watching scary movies burns more calories than any other genre and if you want to stay slim then up your horror film intake.  Don’t believe me well read on here

And if that has whetted your appetite may I proudly draw your attention to Heretic a super scary chiller, written, directed and shot all in Yorkshire on a tiny budget by the most wonderful creative bunch of people I have ever had the pleasure of working along side (I was a runner on the film for 3 days last summer).


Heretic is having its World Premiere at the Hyde Park Picture House next Monday 5th November at 9.00pm as part of the 26th Leeds International Film Festival.  Tickets are selling fast but I think there are one or two left.  Then there will be a Q&A session with the principal cast and crew.  It is a night not to be missed (except for me, I’ll be on Guy Fawkes duty as I wasn’t there to light the sparklers last year because I was working at the Film Festival…bugger!)  The producer though has offered to buy me a big drink at the after party, and that is an offer I won’t be refusing!


Things I learnt on My Holiday

1. Think about what you wear traveling, don’t just throw on the nearest thing, you might have to wear it all week.

2.  Don’t pack shorts and tshirts and bikinis if you are spending a week in a caravan in Dorset, in June, I don’t care how hot the previous week was, you will need trousers, jumpers and quite possibly a winter coat, certainly one with a hood.

3.  Never, EVER, buy Budget Clingfilm. Never.

4.  The sound of rain pounding down on a static caravan is strangely comforting

5.  That said static caravan can endure winds up to 70 miles per hour.

6.  In a caravan, everyone can hear you being sick.

7.  CBBC’s afternoon schedule is just a repeat of the morning’s with different continuity presenters.

8.   In a strange Stockholm Syndrome way you can become bizarrely attached to those CBBC presenters, especially the gruff, Manc voice of the dog puppet, and truly believe you will come home and put Hacker Time into your sky planner so you never miss it again.

9.  That Clock Patience isn’t a patch on the original.

10.  That everything is comparable and once you have watched static caravans being washed away in flash floods in Wales, really all things considered you had quite good weather!

11.  And finally nothing rounds a holiday off better  than  5 minutes from home finding all routes are flooded and closed sending you a long and wild spray-filled voyage along the river roads.  It really helps you appreciate putting the key in the lock of your own front door and that first cup of tea.


24 Hours in A&E is back

and it is just as required viewing as the previous series. This is the best documentary on the tv, bar none.  It has everything life, death, love, loss, heroes and heroines performing unbelievable feats of human endeavour, and miracles.  Modern day  miracles.  Last week’s opener had 2 head traumas both so severe you thought if they survived they must be brain-damaged.  The final shots of the father who had fallen from scaffolding onto his head, alive and talking to the camera with no noticeable injuries was nothing short of miraculous. In a way of tribute to this remarkable programme I am reposting my blog from last year.   And as a footnote 24 Hours in A&E won at the Royal Television Society Awards.

It’s not just the rush rush rush and the money money money…

Posted on July 25, 2011 by Natalie

Today I want to sing the praises of the best programme on television at the moment. It was up against that business juggernaut ‘The Apprentice’ so I will forgive you if you haven’t seen it yet. ’24 Hours in A&E’ on Channel 4 (every Wednesday 9.00 pm) is the best hospital drama I have ever seen, and it’s a fly on the wall documentary.  It’s filmed at King’s College Hospital London, one of the busiest in London. All the action in each episode is filmed over a 24 hour period, Jack Bauer style. ’24 Hours in A&E’ does get close up and it does get the gory details, but they are the details of humanity.  Of life and love and death, and what it  means to be a human being. The first episode hooked me in following the story of Theo, a Greek Student student at the LSE who had been knocked over by a double-decker bus.  “He was kissing his toes” said the consultant when the paramedics got to him.  His pelvis was so fractured it resembled a map of the world.  He came in unconscious, clamped, bound and confined to the stretcher. Every second was critical.  A camera gave us an elevated overview.  I watched spell-bound, humbled and in awe.  They worked as a team, it was balletic and beautiful to watch.  Everyone knew what to do, and slowly minute by minute they were saving his life. As I watched, I realised why this was so moving.  This was the very best of human nature, a need and desire to mend people, to put profoundly broken people back together. They found his phone and managed to call his brother in Greece.  “Will he walk again?” asked his brother.  “We are just trying to save his life for now” came the stark reply.  The story is relayed to us by interviews with the medical team that worked on Theo.  The brother is also interviewed but we are given no indication as to whether Theo lived or died. In the final shots of the programme we see Theo, sitting down in a wheelchair.  I was so delighted just to see that he was alive, so when he stood up and walked towards the camera I couldn’t see anything for the tears streaming down my face. Subsequent programmes have dealt with the devastation of alcoholism.  The human and medical costs of gang warfare, young black men coming in every week to be patched up after gun or knife attacks. In one chilling episode Sister Jen had to prevent rival gangs from continuing the fight in the wards. They look at the old and vulnerable in our society too.  An 86-year-old lady was admitted. She had always lived alone.  She would have liked to have a family she said, but everyone was away at war and when they got back it was too late.  Yet another sacrifice that her generation suffered. There have also been the more mundane incidents and accidents, the drunks, the broken bones, the cuts and scrapes, there were moments of humour and light relief.  You feel the love and concern of the families, and the hard work and dedication of the always caring staff.  Good humoured and professional despite the incredible physical and mental demands made of them.  I do have favourites, the no messing Sister Jen, who used to work in Heaven for 8 years, patrolling the dance floor for party casualties, to Porter Kevin who prides himself on being the quickest response to the blood call, when stocks are needed for an urgent transfusion.  You realise every one of them is important to the team. As the consultant says at the beginning of every show, everyone should come through A&E once in their lives to make you realise what your priorities are, it’s not just the rush rush rush and the money money money, it’s the people you love, and the fact that one minute they might be there and then next minute they might be gone. There is no other show that can make you understand that so completely.   I hope ’24 Hours in A&E’ wins every award next year.  They certainly deserve it.


Watson and Oliver

Very quick blog this week…

I am totally enamoured by a new comedy duo, Watson and Oliver, currently on tv on BBC2 Monday nights at 10 pm.  A female double act which will inevitably garner them comparisons to Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.  But I think they are more like Morecambe & Wise.  It’s not cutting edge, in fact quite the opposite, it cosily harks back to the days of The Two Ronnies and Eric and Ernie, with song and dance numbers book ending the sketches in the middle.

What is it though, is just really,really funny.  Regardless to whom they have been compared  they have been entertaining my whole family from 5 to ahem 40+ for the past few weeks.

This sketch makes me cry with laughter, probably because I can see myself in “what are you doing, Susan”.

“Service My Darlin'” –  A catchphrase ready-made for the playground if ever there was one.  My daughter (5) is already mimicking “my darlin'” and interjecting it at the most surprising and amusing moments.

As they are a new act not everything is laugh out funny.  But there is so much potential there I really hope they get the chance of subsequent series to develop the good stuff.  I just want more of them.. especially dear, dotty, easily flustered Susan from Blakely Manor. If you haven’t already, give them a go.  They are worth it.


Nat’s Treasures No #17 Danny Boyle

An occasional series looking at people I admire

Tuesday 22 February 2011.  Already it’s a whole year since I attended the World Premiere of Frankenstein at the National Theatre.

If you don’t remember this, it was one of the biggest theatre events last year.  Benedict Cumberbatch (who had just shot to stardom in Sherlock, see previous blogs for my admiration of his talent!) was playing Victor Frankenstein and The Creature on alternate nights opposite an old Danny Boyle favourite Jonny Lee Millar.

Frankenstein was a new play by Nick Dear, who had previously worked with Jonny Lee Miller in the BBC TV series Bryon, who was famously with Mary Shelley and her husband in Switzerland when the idea of Frankenstein came to Mary in a dream, after a night telling ghost stories.

So tickets to the hottest show in town, time away from the kids, and a trip to the South Bank, somewhere I consider somewhat of a spiritual home, could the day get any better?  Well yes, this was a glittering star studded event, we lost count of famous people attending alongside us, in short it appeared to be the cream of British Acting talent there that night, oh and Paul and I.  We even ended up having drinks beside a noticeably nervous Danny Boyle (he is much taller in real life) and the extremely apprehensive  Nick Dear.  We even saw the long time Boyle musical collaborators  Underworld.  They seemed to taking their premiere much more in their stride.

I was quite dumbstruck to be standing next to Danny Boyle, director of so many of my favourite films.  Scenes from Trainspotting, (the only film I have seen at the cinema four times, to say I was obsessed is an understatement) Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Shallow Grave and my personal favourite, Millions raced through my head.  I wanted to thank him right for every exhilarating adrenaline fueled visual moment.  To thank him for all those sublime film soundtracks, for all that music which has become so entwined in my own life.  For all those characters he has brought to the screen so clearly and so vividly, and for all that new British acting talent he has brought to us.

His incredible energy was on display, he was chewing gum at a ferocious rate.  I couldn’t say anything he was with his family, but it was amazing to overhear the conversations about the Oscars being held that Sunday.  They were up for best picture with 127 hours, another film that jumps out of the screen and holds you in a rock hard grip for 2 hours.  There was much talk of it being Colin’s year for Best Actor  as he was in contention with James Franco.  It made you realise just how arbitrary these awards are.  How can you really say which  performance is better?  A very surreal moment.

And wonderful to hear that voice, that Manchester accent that has been softened by years of international film-making but still so distinct.  I love that Danny Boyle promotes all his own films.  I can listen to his analysis, passion, enthusiasm, creativity and total artistic understanding of his films and their power all day.  He makes me feel that anything is possible.  That I can achieve anything I want. In short a very inspiring man.

Which makes me so delighted that he is in charge of the Olympics Opening Ceremony.  Who ever made that appointment should be given a Knighthood themselves.   Danny Boyle understands how to communicate to and also to entertain an audience.  He knows exactly what makes something so exciting to watch.  How to tell a story clearly but also with impact, imagination and humour.   I am sure he is having a few sleepless nights right now, but I know he is the right man for the job.  I can’t wait to see what he does, but I know it will be memorable, spectacular and at the heart of it the very essence of what it is to be British.  Something we will be proud to show the world.

And the play? well it had all of Danny Boyle’s trademark visual punch and flair (the lighting that stimulating the life-giving lightening seared your eyes it was so bright, it actually hurt).  There was a giant bell (cast when Shakespeare was alive), birthing,  snow, rain, sun rises, full-size trains, fire, a revolving stage and award-winning, can’t take your eyes of them, central performances.  The Creature is birthed at the beginning of the play and then is naked on the stage for 15 minutes as he learns how to move and walk.  The script was clunky in places but when you are dealing with all the big questions of life, love, death, parenting, rejection, nature versus nature and that fine line between science and advancement on one hand and morality and religion on the other, well I guess you probably do need a bit of shoe horn.

You did need to see both castings in both roles to get the full impact of the play as well.  Thank goodness for the wonderful NT live scheme, where you can see performances streamed direct into the cinemas around the world.

And this year? well it going to be a bit more low-key.  Going to work as a Lunchtime Behaviour Supervisor isn’t quite the showy affair last year was, but I shall be chuckling as I keep that pizza queue moving that last year I was stood next to an Oscar-winning director. I like the contrast in that, in fact it could almost be a scene out of a Danny Boyle film.