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  • This Week’s 20 Questions (2.02.2023)

    You are cordially invited to participate in this game of fiendish trivia. No prizes as it’s just a bit of fun but the answers may come in handy one day. You just never know.

    1. What is the capital of Guernsey?
    2. The 1989 novel by John Banville is called The Book of….?
    3. Alexas, Charmian and Scarus are characters from which Shakespeare play?
    4. In which country did Sachertorte cake originate from?
    5. We Do Not Belong Together is a song that appears in which Stephen Sondheim musical?
    6. The city Rovigo is located in which Italian region?
    7. How many moons does Neptune have?
    8. In which year did the ITV quiz show Tipping Point debut onscreen?
    9. What 2000 film stars Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire as a college professor/writer and student respectively?
    10. Which element has the atomic number 25?
    11. Galben is the Romanian for which colour?
    12. Yella, Wolfsburg, Phoenix, Jerichow & Barbara are films which all star which German actress, recently seen in Tár?
    13. Which Czech author wrote the novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being?
    14. A sculpture of a spider over 30 feet high called Maman is by which artist?
    15. In which American state was Thomas Edison born?
    16. Who had a UK number one single in 2012 with Call My Name?
    17. According to the upcoming movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, who is afraid?
    18. In which European city is the Bartholdi Fountain?
    19. On which album by Led Zeppelin did the song Kashmir first appear?
    20. In which of the 21st century was Wikipedia launched?

    If anyone wants to help,

    This year, I will present the films that I watched for the first time from the previous month. This was January’s viewings which as you will learn form an eclectic mix of films of various genres from various countries.

    Prior to making the modern classic Cycling with Moliere, Phillipe de Guay made The Women on the 6th Floor, a French comedy of manners starring the wonderful Fabrice Luchini as as a married middle-class individual who becomes acquainted and eventually besotted with a group of working-class women residing together on the floor above his more affluent home. A simple but charming viewing to start the year.

    Todd Field’s first film in 16 years sees Cate Blanchett in scintillating form as the eponymous world-famous composer whose past catches up with her in what is in essence an allegory of Me Too and cancel culture. The favourite for the Best Actress Oscar, if she wins, it will hardly be a surprise.

    It’s not Parasite or The Host, but Bong Joon-ho’s 2017 Netflix film combines thought-provoking social commentary with moments of entertaining action set pieces, bringing to mind the works of Luc Besson but with a degree of satire.

    From the late director of Perfect Blue and Paprika, Millennium Actress was an reality-bending anime tale of a former actress being interviewed from 2001 presented Satoshi Kon as a storyteller and director whose tragic death in 2010 makes him a much-missed figure of world cinema.

    One of the most reliable actors in French cinema, Daniel Auteuil has a knack for starring in films that have a habit of frequently impressing. With this 2019 comedy about a man who travels in time to rediscover his lust for life, it added another hit to his impressive body of work.

    The first of two contemporary Spielberg films watched this month, it is evidence that his days of greatness were long behind by this point. Though the last half generally works, its first half is fatally boring and marks the only disappointment from 2017’s Best Picture Oscar nominee list.

    A personal New Year’s resolution was to watch more South Korean cinema this year and this was the second this month, an intriguing yet tragic story of a policeman’s investigation into a series of grisly murders which leads to supernatural activity that poses a clear risk to his daughter. It’s two and a half hour runtime is totally necessary.

    Controversial for its recent Academy Awards Oscar nomination for its lead actress Andrea Riseborough, it’s no wonder she got the nomination considering how impressive she is as an alcoholic Texan lottery winner aiming to turn her life around after so many missed chances. Remember that she is a Geordie.

    In 2006, Mads Mikkelsen portrayed the vicious Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, but the same year, he starred in this Oscar-nominated tragedy from his native homeland. The polar opposite of the Bond villain, his India orphanage-running character is supported by a heartbreaking Rolf Lassgård as family secrets are unveiled during a trip where nothing is the same again.

    Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical The Fabelmans may be the best film he’s done in 15 years. Don’t judge it by its disappointing box office as you will miss out on a work from a director past his peak but still capable of often delighting. It may end up winning the Best Picture Oscar if the Multiverse and severed fingers polarize the older voters.

    One of Anthony Hopkins’ pre-Hannibal Lecter works from the 1980s, this London-set tale of a bitter divorcee helping a friend fight a custody battle was made for Channel 4 before being given a theatrical release. An underrated piece with a fine cast including Hopkins, Jim Broadbent, Simon Callow and a young Stephen Fry.

    Nominated for the Best Animated Short at the forthcoming Oscars, if you ignore the unusually risque title, you’ll get to see a tale of a teenage girl’s pursuit to losing her virginity told in five chapters. Some are better than others but is still plays as a funny, relatable and visually engaging work from Icelandic director Sara Gunnarsdóttir.

  • The extortionate prices of Heinz means a boycott is both necessary and essential.

    My crowdfunder page. Details in a nutshell in the link.

    If you go to a supermarket or even the website of a particular one, you will notice that the products of Heinz have become a symptom of a cost of living crisis that represents greed at a frankly unnecessary level, as well as unacceptable.

    Last week, an individual on Twitter posted about how a tin of Heinz soup was now set at £1.70, a frankly stupendous amount that is not the only concerning price from the company.

    There was news last year that Tesco would stop supplying Heinz products as a result of refusing to hand the prices over to customers, something which must have been rectified given products are on offer clear as day, albeit with effectively extortionate prices that query why they changed their minds.

    Now take a tin of 415g Heinz Beans and Sausages. To buy one from Tesco, it would set you back £2. You saw that right. Now you could get 3 for £5 with Clubcard but that still leaves it at £1.66 on average and why if you’re content with one.

    What makes this a frank insult to customers and an example of tone-deaf activity on the part of Heinz is that Tesco’s own brand of beans and sausages at a slightly reduced 395g comes up to 80p. And though Tesco should know better than reduce it to 60p, two tins at the current price would still be 40p cheaper than the Heinz equivalent.

    But there is something better. One of the saving graces of the cost of living crisis has come in the form of the Tesco-owned tertiary Stockwell’s. A 405g tin of beans and sausages will only set you back 53p. Essentially you could buy four tins of it and it would only be 9p more than for the one Heinz equivalent.

    So what this asks is what is the point of Heinz selling that product if the own brand versions are far cheaper, but crucially just as good as it. Customers shouldn’t have to tighten their belts in a first-person successful country like the UK but being realistic, spending £2 on an item from Heinz compared to an own brand version for barely a quarter of that price is like the shopping equivalent of failing to blast in an open goal in the final of the World Cup.

    There are more examples.

    At Asda, a tin of Heinz beans will set you back £1.40, or £1.25 as part of 2 for £2.50 offer, or even £1 on average if you buy the 4-pack version for £4. But what if you only want one? Well for 50p, you can get the own brand for 50p or even get the Just Essentials for 26p, 18% of the price of Heinz’s version.

    A near identical scenario goes for spaghetti where Heinz’s goes for £1.25 whilst Asda own brand and Just Essentials version goes for 48p and 19p.

    But one aspect of Heinz’s model is frankly a peculiar one. A 400g tin of Heinz Spaghetti Hoops goes for £1.25, when it should be no more than £1 anyway, but a 200g equivalent sells for 90p. At that rate the latter should be 63p and yet, who in their right mind would pay 90p for half of what they can get for an extra 35p, begging the question what is the point in the 200g version anyway, apart from trying to rip off customers?

    Their search for saving production costs and thus reducing prices overall can be found in one way by ditching the 200g tin on the grounds that there is no point in it, especially if the supermarket own brands of that version sell for far less, including bigger tins.

    It has a brand of beef ravioli that sells for £2 but the Asda brand goes for 80p, so what gives them the right to grant their product to be sold at a price when an own brand product is 60% cheaper or when Aldi sell a tin of the same size for 65p?

    Now in Asda, there are offers for Heinz tinned products that go for 5 for £6. But how often do people say they fancy buying five tins of Heinz Spaghetti with Sausages, when one tin is desirable? And what about the idea that five tins are going for that price when it really should be six for £5, or even 4 for £3, to at least compete with the more cheaper own brand items?

    And their model elevates from peculiar to outright goofy if you stumble into Morrison’s in the hunt for a brand of barbecue sauce. A 480g amount of Heinz Classic Barbecue Sauce currently sells for £3, down from the initial price of £3.39. But a 665g equivalent is currently priced at £3.50 which means that when the former was at its previous price, there was a difference of 11p for two bottles nearly 200g apart. So what were Heinz and Morrison’s thinking knowing there was an 11p difference between the 480g and the 665g? When choosing the two items at those rates and sizes, how do you think the customer is going to react? Even dropping the smaller bottle to £3 still feels a stupendous amount, especially if the supermarket is nearby to a Heron Foods outlet where Crucial’s BBQ sauce goes for £1.29, though £1.09 seems more reasonable.

    Ketchup is also concerning as it sells a Heinz 910g bottle for £4, down from an insulting price of £4.49, whilst the own brand at a slightly larger 960g goes for a reasonable £1.99. The 460g version goes for an equally ridiculous £3.39, compared to the 450g branded version at another respectable £1.25. For an own brand ketchup with a reduction in salt and sugar, a 440g goes for 80p.

    So I ask the question, what is going on?

    How can it be justified to have prices of soup at £1.70, spaghetti at £1.25, beans at £1.40 and ravioli at £2, when neither of the tins should be any more than £1? And with sauces more than £3 when there are products elsewhere that far cheaper, we have to ask if Heinz are attempting to commit commercial suicide.

    Crucial’s, Stockwell’s, Bramwell’s and the own brand of the supermarkets have been saviours as the cost-of-living crisis has persisted, unlike the more extortionate Heinz whose own pursuit of greed has arguably not helped with it. And yet, what goes in the mind of those in charge when they essentially greenlight their prices at supermarkets what they are knowing how cheaper alternatives are?

    There may be a cost of living crisis that may have been exacerbated by Covid, navigating Brexit and the conflict in Ukraine but that hasn’t stopped brands from selling for prices that are manageable during this climate. If anything, by using those reasons, it’s just a case of using excuses for their own inability to adapt in ways that stop prices going down instead of up.

    And with unnecessary elements in the way, they have to ask if abolishing smaller tins and certain sized bottles are achievable ways of saving costs that can then be felt for the customers seeking a bargain.

    But as long as prices remain what they are, I myself will be boycotting Heinz deliberately and implore those reading this to do the same to teach a lesson that contributing to the cost of living crisis can’t be rewarded with custom, no matter how much the product is pleasant.

    They must surely have made enough money over the years to be able to withstand any economic turmoil that meant not having to increase prices, suggesting they can afford to not do so and are thus greedy, or went too far with their productivity and were not as highly successful as thought.

    If every person boycotted Heinz meaning that the company collapsed, it would be a case of poetic justice because it would be better to see it go than remain in its current form. With some questionable decisions regarding prices and products, it simply cannot expect customers to pay more for their inability to find ways to adapt.

    Boycotting it is the way to ensure that the public are acknowledged in their demand for reduced prices to survive and with rival products significantly cheaper, they frankly have no excuse for the current prices. If the company wants to last another 154 years, it needs to listen to the public and accept that there is no sustainability in its current form, even if it operates at an initially temporary loss.

    Customers continuing to buy these products at current rates on only serves to encourage more of it, hence why a boycott is a necessary evil to get prices back to what they were several years ago. After all, the unaffordable cannot stay that way.

  • This Week’s 20 Questions (26.01.23)

    You are cordially invited to participate in this game of fiendish trivia. No prizes as it’s just a bit of fun but the answers may come in handy one day. You just never know.

    1. Which actress was Oscar nominated this week for the film To Leslie?
    2. In which year was Bill Gates born?
    3. Who presented the ITV game show Alphabetical?
    4. Who won the Nobel Prize Peace in the same year that the English Premier League started?
    5. Who is the manager of the Republic of Ireland’s national football team?
    6. Who wrote the play Skylight?
    7. Walt Kowalski is a character from which Clint Eastwood film?
    8. Who had a UK number two single in 2007 with Foundations?
    9. What was the first name of John Nettles’ character in Midsomer Murders?
    10. Face the Music was a 1975 album by which band?
    11. What was the first feature film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson?
    12. What shade of colour is a persimmon?
    13. Who won the 2004 Booker Prize for the novel The Line of Beauty?
    14. Approximately 76% of the Orinoco river lies in which country?
    15. What does the word garralous mean?
    16. Who won the Brit Award for British Male Solo Artist in 2021, the last holder of the award to date?
    17. Matthew Macfayden played which disgraced politician in an ITV drama screened this month?
    18. In Japan, what is a houri?
    19. On a dartboard, what number lies two clockwise of 10?
    20. Earlier today, which musician was heard on Sky News criticising the government and declared “give the Labour Party a go at it”?
  • The Brit Awards backfiring with their imbecilic genderless category is a lesson that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

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    Last week, the nominations for the Brit Awards were revealed and for the second year, the category of male and female artists were merged into a genderless Artist of the Year category.

    Now it seemed like an interesting innovation last year given it provided an answer to the fascinating question of who would win in a battle for the best artist between Adele and Ed Sheeran, without question the two most high-profile British musicians of their generation, culminating in the former claiming Brits supremacy.

    But fast-forward to this year and this futile attempt by the organizers to include so-called gender fluid individuals, or attention-seekers, to give them a crack of the whip due to not counting as male or female has backfired.


    Because all five nominees are men. No women. Not even one for the sake of tokenism. Ironically, no gender-fluid individuals the Brits claim to have done this for are included either, despite Sam Smith, the most high-profile gender-fluid musician in the country having a number one single, begging the question what was the point in this category being invented if the inclusivity aiming for was as missing as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

    Now you could lay the blame at female musicians and take the view they were not nominated because either they were rubbish or male artists just happened to be better the past year.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that female musicians had chart success in 2022 and if anything adds to the view that the female and male categories should never have been removed in the first place.

    Eliza Rose had a number one single, Becky Hill had a top 5 single, Mimi Webb had a top ten single, Charli XCX had a number one album, Cat Burns got to number 2 with a song originally released in 2020 and Kate Bush, though not having made new music, made chart history with Running Up That Hill topping the singles chart, marking the longest gaps between number ones.

    Now we have a situation where it was already clear that a man or a woman would miss out each year on an award for Artist of the Year when only two years prior, one of each gender was guaranteed an award.

    Those that drone on about the sense of gender being a trivial issue, either by becoming non-binary or supporting, miss the point that adopting such a stance risks bringing into conflict with the overwhelming majority of those who stick to the traditional the nature of gender roles.

    The organizers of the Brits have this fallen into that trap by essentially sabotaging men and women from sharing a piece of glory, all so that a couple of non-binary types can have a kick at the ball, even though according to the 2021 census 30,000 (0.06%) identified as non-binary and 18,000 (0.04%) wrote in a different gender identity.

    So as a result of essentially doing something that is designed to benefit 0.10% of the population, around the equivalent of those living in Long Eaton, nobody out of the majority gender in the country is in the Artist of the Year category.

    Now even if it’s likely Harry Styles was going to win whether men or women were nominated, the fact that by trying to make the category inclusive as ended up making the category for this year exclusive just to men is cause for scrapping this pathetic attempt at making a tiddly amount of people feel included when all it does is make more people miss out.

    It’s too late to change things now but with talk of a u-turn by the organizers, it’s one that has to happen next year with the current category scrapped and the male and female solo awards bought back, whilst the do-gooders salvage some dignity, put their hands up and admit it was a failed experiment that breaks the first rule of a first-world democracy; never undermine a majority over a small minority.

    And if this fiasco has led to anything, it’s that it should be a serious lesson to awards organizers who are thinking of doing similar with their own.

    Take the Academy Awards. If gender roles were binned and actors and actresses were made to compete with each other for the role of performer, then instead of two people securing deserved Oscars, only one will. So that means for example, if this year copied the Brits, there is a chance Cate Blanchett would lose out on an Oscar if, say, Colin Farrell or Brendan Fraser won, and vice versa.

    By trying to pander to a minority, one person who otherwise would have been nominated in a category for their gender misses out on a victory and five people from one category, in this case women, miss out on competing for an award.

    If the organizers feel they want to include non-binary musicians, there are only two options. Either create a category especially for those that identify as such (meaning Sam Smith winning every year) or ask them to choose if they want to be listed as male, female or neither when submitting which category to be out forward for, knowing if they choose neither, they are therefore disqualified from competing.

    If the price of having male and female musicians return to having their own awards and their rightful share of glory is done at the expense of those who don’t conform to gender like the 99.90% of the UK does, so be it.

    Nobody should dispute people wanting to live non-binary as that is a choice that has to be up to them, but such behaviour should not get in the way of having an impact on the rest of society, especially when the margin is so enormous.

    By trying to make a minority heard, all it has served to do in this case is push women backwards and the structures that have been working perfectly fine must be restored before the integrity and reliability of the Brit Awards is further damaged.

    The fact that Mo Gilligan (or should that be No Gilligan) is hosting again this year is a mistake in itself but this is enough to make the Brits worth boycotting unless restorations are put in place, and any subsequent awards ceremony that threatens to do so. After all, if anything is going to be left out, it’s better a fragment than a chunk

  • This Week’s 20 Questions (19.01.23)

    You are cordially invited to participate in this game of fiendish trivia. No prizes as it’s just a bit of fun but the answers may come in handy one day. You just never know.

    1. What is the capital of Paraguay?
    2. Who directed the film Boyhood?
    3. In which year of the 2010s did the Peter Kay comedy Car Share first transmit?
    4. Anthony Doerr won a Pulitzer Prize for which novel?
    5. By metres, what is the second highest mountain in Australia?
    6. Portrayed by Gwen Taylor, what was the name of the eponymous character in the ITV comedy that ran from 1995 -2003.
    7. Michael Scott is the lead singer of which group?
    8. As a solo artist, what was Robbie Williams’s first UK number one single?
    9. Igor Tudor is the manager of which French football club?
    10. Igneous rocks based on their chemical composition can be divided into intermediate, mafic, ultramafic and what other category?
    11. What was the nationality of the individual who won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize?
    12. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was by which Greek sculpture?
    13. At the Oscars ceremony that took place in 1999, which film won Best Picture?
    14. How many countries does the Danube river pass through?
    15. Established in 1973, what does the I stand for in the British trade association AOI?
    16. What colour wine is Gaglioppo?
    17. In which decade was the Russian composer Prokofiev born?
    18. “3 May. Bistritz. Left Munich at 8.35pm” are the opening words to which novel?
    19. Which country won the UEFA European Championship in 1992?
    20. Think of Me is a song from which Andrew Lloyd Webber musical?
  • Jeremy Clarkson should not lose work, especially Millionaire, because of his Meghan article. It’s not even his worst hour.

    My PayPal link if anyone wants to donate to support the blog. Even a pound will do.

    There are few people in the public eye more synonymous with being opinionated than Jeremy Clarkson. Over the years, outside of lampooning cars, his motormouth has referenced truck drivers murdering prostitues, derogatory language about Indians, infamously calling the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown a one-eyed Scottish idiot, having striking public sector workers executed, filmed saying the N-word as part of an eeny meeny song to decide between which car to use and even getting physical by assaulting a producer which cost him his job at Top Gear, spawning endless references about not getting a steak.

    And yet, even after all that, people still watched his shows. He was welcomed back on the BBC mere months after his sacking with a brave presenting gig on Have I Got News For You and a year later, launched the smash hit series The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime. Even after all the controversy, Amazon were willing to stump up £160million so that he could get back to co-hosting a motoring programme. And people watched it.

    And then came part two of his successful TV comeback in 2018, taking on the role of presenting a seven-part nightly revival of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, proving that the show could survive without its original host Chris Tarrant, generating 5-6m viewers and critical appreciation for its new host.

    So with The Grand Tour, Millionaire, the columns in The Sun and The Sunday Times, Clarkson’s Farm, career wise, Clarkson had arguably been never more in demand, as if his controversies had been forgiven and forgotten.

    And then came December when an earth-shattering article highly critical of Meghan Markle as part of his Sun column saw him express a cellular hatred for her and describe a fantasy of her being treated in the degrading and humiliating way Lena Headey’s character endured in a scene from Game of Thrones.

    Criticism ranged everywhere from Prince Harry and Clarkson’s own daughter to the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the controller of ITV Kevin Lygo. Even brief talk of criminal charges being made were made, which were swiftly dismissed and rightly so. Clarkson made an apology, something he has done in the past, the article was deleted and even the Culture Secretary’s recent defence of him suggested it was water under the bridge.

    But today, two things have come to light that show the article scenario, which could prove his defining controversy, still hasn’t evaporated completely. First, Clarkson has admitted that he has emailed an apology, though to Prince Harry for the article, posting a detailed defence of his actions, claiming he forgot to reference the Game of Thrones comparison in the original article.

    Secondly it’s also been reported that the upcoming editions of The Grand Tour and Clarkson’s Farm, already in production for Amazon Prime will be the last editions produced. Now this may turn out to be false and it could be a case of misunderstanding, likely leaked by a source eager to deliver the “no publicity like bad publicity” viewpoint.

    You could also argue if true that it is a case of the former show having the expected shelf life that all TV shows go through, especially given that recent editions have been confined to one-off specials as opposed to the Top Gear-style tent format the first three series had. And one should also ask whether Clarkson’s Farm was always going to be one of those shows that ran on for longer than five years, which I suspect was not the initial game plan, irrespective of popularity.

    But even if it turns out those shows are indeed ending because Amazon feel they no longer want to work with Clarkson upon completion of what’s planned, purely because of the article, it is a case of idiocy that demonstrates how pathetic companies are at avoiding working with a famous individual for the supposed misdemeanour of saying….words. Words that were designed as ironic and satirical,not quite literally. After all, Clarkson is not anyway in the same league as this ‘police officer’ who just admitted to multiple rapes over a 20 year plus period.

    Clarkson strikes me as the sort of guy who if he spotted a woman being mistreated in the street, he would step in to intervene. So anyone who thinks he is a danger to women because of an article he wrote, which he has apologised for, is frankly nuts because the article was not even premeditated. It was an ironic response to a woman who does not come across as the completely clean-cut individual some see her as.

    There is no question that Meghan has been mistreated in some, not all, quarters of the press,with the baby bump rubbing contrast between her and Kate Middleton the first thing you think of as an example.

    But when Meghan asks for privacy and then sells her image acting as like what is on her mind is the top priority for people in a cost-of-living crisis and takes nearly two years to state the supposed ‘racism’ by a Royal about her son’s skin colour wasn’t of the sort, it’s difficult to see how anyone can view her as likeable and believable through and through.

    And Clarkson’s article being criticised the way it is wasn’t actually down to the fact it was criticising Meghan Markle. It was more because of the current landscape in which indeed every week we read a story of a man being jailed for murdering a woman and the sense that #ReclaimtheStreets still plays a genuine challenge for women.

    Clarkson did not express hatred for her because she was a woman; it was because of what she was doing. People need to look at the reasons why he expressed his thoughts in the first place, because Meghan is not worthy of a pass for avoiding criticism, as anyone else is. Everybody is subject to criticism if they do something perceived as unpopular and should be expected to receive the praise, as well as the negativity. It hurts but that’s how society is.

    After all, it is possible someone can have genuine repulsion and hatred for a serial killer of women and have an iota of hope that Harry and Meghan, or Boris Johnson, will one day go on that all expenses paid trip to Paris with Jonathan Rhys Meyers driving the Mercedes.

    And though it appears Amazon have dropped Clarkson because of the article, ITV would be the biggest fools if they followed Amazon and did the same with his gig of hosting Millionaire. After all, people don’t just watch the show because it’s perhaps one of the greatest, if not the greatest, quiz shows on telly but because they watch it because they want to see what Clarkson is going to say on it, a factor that likely drove up interest when he first got the show.

    It’s already been confirmed by Kevin Lygo that Clarkson will remain on the show as it’s a matter between The Sun who published the article and not ITV and absolutely right it should be. With new episodes being recorded next month, it would be too late to arrange it with a replacement host and crucially you have to look at why the show was axed in the first place in 2014.

    ITV axed it when Chris Tarrant declared he wanted to quit because on what turned out to be the final editions of the shows that civilians were playing, people were taking the money at £10,000 or £20,000 (based on the money ladder of the later run of Tarrant’s era) even when after using lifelines which left the answer screaming at them, instead of going for the bigger jackpots. Couple that with the predominant focus of occasional celebrity editions which by the end were using celebrities who had appeared multiple times before and Tarrant felt it was time to go after a decent 15-year run.

    It would have been a gamble for ITV to bring the show back in the first place because it would have to prove it could stay relevant and capable of getting millions to watch, and by hiring a TV heavyweight like Clarkson, doing so would have it given it the best chance of succeeding. As reason for watching it goes, it would have had the added combination of host as well as the game, which likely would not have been as anticipated if someone from the daytime roster like Ben Shepherd or, heaven forbid, one of the regulars from Loose Women hosted instead.

    Also, Millionaire celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and in that time only two hosts have presented it,so it would be a big deal for the channel to suddenly look for a replacement, given it would be a long process to find someone with the time and talent to make the show succeed,something largely down to its host.

    And Clarkson is brilliant at hosting the show. Between having the courage to say what viewers are thinking when an underperforming contestant loses £15,000 on a relatively easy question, he also clearly cares about the contestants. Look at how he reacted when a teacher won £1million in 2020 or how much you get the impression he wants the contestants to succeed when they approach the final question.

    If Clarkson was ever going to be cancelled, the reason should not have been because of what he said about Meghan Markle. The fact that he remained popular on television even after the comments he made about striking public sector workers or when he thumped a colleague shows the hypocrisy of the industry in hiring him after all that. In fact what he said about Meghan isn’t even the worst thing he’s said so why would should this be seen as the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

    ITV saw what happens when a critic of Meghan Markle loses their job hosting a popular show and the ratings sufferers a result. For a channel that needs as many eyes on its shows as possible to firmly compete in a landscape sprayed with streaming content, the best thing they can do is keep Clarkson for now, strip the next series as a piece of event-TV and hope someone makes it to a million pounds. If the ratings are good or see a noticeable decrease, then they can make a judgement based on the overall audience reaction, and not from a couple hundred people on Twitter who likely laugh at Ricky Gervais routines.

    If Clarkson lost his job on Millionaire, it could likely have an impact on the longevity of the show and crucially on the potential hopes and dreams of wannabe contestants, so why risk something that works because of one person’s opinion of another, especially when all it may do is make the public turn further against Meghan?

    Cancel culture doesn’t get anyone anyway and if this teaches anything, it’s let people express their opinion, reserve judgement until the wider world have their say and save anger for those that do things, not say them. It applies to Jeremy Clarkson as much as the next person

  • This Week’s 20 Questions (12.01.23)

    You are cordially invited to participate in this game of fiendish trivia. No prizes as it’s just a bit of fun but the answers may come in handy one day. You just never know.

    My PalPal link if anyone wishes to make a donation.

    1. Who won a Golden Globe this week for her role in the film Tar, which comes out in the UK tomorrow?
    2. What is the one-word title of Ian McEwen’s latest book, which was released last year?
    3. Hartford is the capital of which U.S. state?
    4. Alain Aspect, Anton Zeilinger and John Clauser were the 2022 recipients of which Nobel Prize category?
    5. Ailuropoda melanoleuca is the scientific name of which animal?
    6. Who is the presenter of the BBC show Bridge of Lies?
    7. How many UK number one singles has Madonna had to date?
    8. The 1972 film Sleuth starred Michael Caine in the role of Milo but who played that character alongside Caine in the 2007 remake?
    9. Known as Europe’s oldest city, which island is Knossos located?
    10. In which year was the footballer Kylian Mbappe born?
    11. My Aim is True was the debut studio album of which singer?
    12. From which county did Virgin Orbit unsuccessfully launch a rocket out of this week?
    13. Richard Newson is a character from which Thomas Hardy novel?
    14. Who was the French President in the same year that the film Amelie was released?
    15. How many different sunflowers appear on the painting Sunflowers by Van Gogh?
    16. Which scale is used to measure the hardness of minerals?
    17. What was the real surname of the outlaw known as Butch Cassidy?
    18. The Pearl Fishers was an opera by which composer?
    19. Which football team won the 2000 FA Cup Final?
    20. Reynolds Woodcock is the main character of which Daniel Day-Lewis film?
  • 10 paintings you must see when you visit the National Gallery

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    When it comes to art, there is arguably no place in the UK worth visiting more than the National Gallery, situated at Trafalgar Square in London. Britain’s answer to the Louvre or the Rijksmuseum, it is a must-see area that houses truly most impressive works of art from artists like Turner, Manet, Constable & Monet, amongst many others.

    It is a testament to how magnificent the Gallery is with its vast collection of paintings, so it was a job upon my visit on Saturday to find just 10 examples of what makes this place tick. Of course there are much more than 10 but this is designed to give you not just a flavour of what to expect if you’ve not been before, but what you should search for upon entering the doors of a place that makes for a most fascinating experience

    The Hay Wain – John Constable

    Dutch Boats in a Gale – J.M.W Turner

    The Drunkard, Zarauz – Joaquín Sorolla

    The Execution of Maximillian – Edouard Manet

    The Lower Fall of the Labrofoss – Johan Christian Dahl

    Perseus turning Phineas and his Followers to Stone – Luca Giordano

    The Execution of Lady Jane Grey – Paul Delaroche

    Equestrian Portrait of Charles I – Anthony Van Dyck

    A Regatta on the Grand Canal – Canaletto

    Men of the Docks – George Bellows

  • Every genuine film fan should watch this 1994 Hungarian 7-hour+ classic. And it’s ok if you love or hate the film.

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    If you’re a person who, when it comes to cinema, is only interested in Marvel and Bond blockbusters, some British films and the occasional Best Picture Oscar winner, the name Bela Tarr may come as a mystery. If on the other hand, you’re not into that but have a tendency to watch foreign and arthouse cinema quite often, chances are he may be familiar to you.

    He’s a 67-year old Hungarian director, retired from making feature films for over a decade and plays as one of the more distinctive auteurs in world cinema, with much of his later work comprising of mysterious dramas filmed in black-and-white comprising of long takes and an often desolate setting.

    From Damnation and The Man from London to Werckmeister Harmonies and The Turin Horse, his films do require intense patience and certainly offer something original yet challenging to viewers more accustomed to traditional Hollywood cinema. In fact, compared to a Marvel film, some could say that Tarr’s films are in essence the flip side of that coin.

    But whilst those aforementioned movies range from two to two and a half hours, his 1994 film Satantango had the distinction of lasting a runtime that upon discovery would leave casual individuals with their jaws dropping faster than a Bond villain falling off a tower.

    At just over seven hours long,it is mere minutes off double the length of Lawrence of Arabia, more than twice the length of Schindler’s List, two and a half times the length of Avatar and  more than the same time it would take to watch The Shawshank Redemption on three consecutive viewings.

    It tells the story of a group of villagers appearing to be the last  ones living on a farmland suffering from the effects of economic instability, their day to day existences interrupted by the return of an enigmatic former villager who presents them with an opportunity for a financially improved existence. Along the way, their routines are observed until a tragic event motivates them to leave their homeland for this supposed better life, with only one resident, the local alcoholic doctor, left in it as the film draws to its ambiguous yet chilling conclusion.

    Now to a few people, the length would be an issue but what is seen on-screen is nothing like what would be observed in a typical special-effects laden action adventure. In fact the opening scene alone consists of a group of cows on a farm as the camera slowly follows them,the shot lasting for ten minutes alone. Now the film does become slightly more eventful once humans begin conversing,a couple engaging in infidelity follows it, but the slow rhythm the opening plays in is designed to show this will be a film experience out of the ordinary.

    If there was a film dictionary that contained all feature films ever made, the description of Satantango would sound like the definition of slow cinema.

    As well as its pace, the presentation of its grainy and bleak landscape ties in with its storyline about the community’s dreary lifestyles, where infidelity and use of alcohol dominate the behaviour of certain characters.

    Many sequences are prolonged whether its monologues delivered in single take close-ups or the highlight of the film where the villagers drunkenly dance to the tune of an accordion-playing local in the local pub which appears to be their sole place for amusement.

    Animal viewers should be prepared for one sequence which has gained notoriety alongside those who have seen it when the mentally disabled youngster Estike taunts, wrestles and traps in a hanging sack her pet cat before poisoning it with rat poison. Tarr has insisted that a vet was on set during the filming of the uncomfortable scenes and no harm came to the cat in reality but in a film that brings its own challenges, it’s hard not to watch without your blood boiling.

    But cinema is peppered with scenes that are difficult to watch but remain bearable due to the fact that it’s actors pretending and gauging reaction comes with the art of telling a story. Such is Tarr’s presentation of landscape, character and story in an often claustrophobic setting, the film quickly moves on from that point where insight into the villagers’ lives remains primary and the subsequent pub dancing sequence things a degree of humour and variety as moments occur when several different things happen at once.

    Tarr claimed the actors were genuinely drunk filming the scenes which builds on the authenticity the film achieves with remarkable ease, punctuated with moments that put Tarr on level pegging with Tarkovsky and Malick for imagery-driven cinema that is often beautiful to look at.

    In the first hour, two characters are seen walking In a straight line up a road on a windy day where objects like leaves and boxes blow mercilessly upon them, their feet not stopping as the wind and sound intensifies, making this epic therapeutic to watch at times on top of rewarding.

    So why should everyone who claims to be a genuine film fan watch this film? Well for one it provides viewing that to put it mildly is different. Life can be boring for people indulging in the same old storytelling and putting one’s head above the paraphet to observe something they’ve not seen before is always worth a try.

    If one orders from a Chinese takeaway, instead of ordering the same chicken curry as before, they should recognise the many other dishes in the menu and try a king prawn in oyster sauce or a satay dish which may turn out to be better than the usual.

    Instead of going on a few days away in a city like Manchester or Liverpool one is used to visiting, branch out into different places and see what Edinburgh or Bristol is like before deciding one or two places is enough.

    The same applies with cinema and the ability to discover that there is more to cinema than just those from America and Britain, which can be fabulous at times, but leaves one missing out on other films that may be equally or more enjoyable.

    By not watching a film like Satantango, one will never know what it’s like to experience such a film that can test precisely what cinema they are keen to watch.

    If someone was to sit and watch this film, either in one sit or in parts like an hour here or there and treating it like a series, they could discover something they could either really hate and see it as a waste of just over seven hours or on the contrary, enjoy it enough that they will want to see other films like it. If their reaction was the former, that would be fine as at least they would have realised the thought of viewing a film of such length and style for good or bad was as they suspected.

    Ideally if one goes into the film expecting it be a dire experience and coming out of it thrilled that they watched it, they will obtain a feeling that often makes cinema an enthralling experience, the subversion of expectation that I personally have experienced many times, coming out discovering something wonderful that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

    Another key motive for recommending this particular film  is the idea of people’s concern with the idea of watching a longer than most. For anyone who found the likes of The Green Mile or Titanic a battle to engage throughout due to the three-hour runtime, even if they did enjoy it, watching Satantango with its seven-hour plus runtime will potentially extinguish the idea of avoiding appealing three hour films because of the length, knowing if they’ve gone through that, they can go through less than half that time with ease.

    Having seen several of Tarr’s works, I knew what to expect and over three days in early 2017, I watched the whole of it, coming out impressed by it and aware that in the future, I would rewatch it,likely enjoying it more.

    Over mid-late December I would watch the film again but in parts, like 45 minutes here, 30 minutes there until I was down to the last two and a half hours, a normal runtime of film, by which point I watched the rest in one sit. Not only was I proven right by my theory six years before that it would be enjoyed more but I was left eager to watch it a third time at a time likely less than the six years in between the first two viewings.

    Whoever I may watch it with could discover why its one of the more rewarding viewings a filmgoer can see. It does sound like a mammoth challenge to watch such a long film with the pace and structure it has but it honestly is not, so my advice is if anyone who apparently loves film means to discover what they are not used to seeing yet keep getting distracted by the lure of sticking with the familiar , now is the time to stop the distraction.

    Don’t go into Satantango expecting anything. Just watch what you see until you get to the ending which arrives quicker than you think and whatever your feelings towards it, at least you will know if you have watched something you either hated or possibly loved.