Posted in books

Robert Harris

English novelist Robert Harris was born 7 March 1957 in Nottingham. Harris spent his childhood in a small rented house on a Nottingham council estate. His ambition to become a writer arose at an early age, from visits to the local printing plant where his father worked. Harris went to Belvoir High School in Bottesford, and then King Edward VII School, Melton Mowbray, where a hall was named after him. There he wrote plays and edited the school magazine. Harris read English literature at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he was president of the Union and editor of the student newspaper Varsity. After leaving Cambridge, Harris joined the BBC as a Journalist and television reporter working on news and current affairs programmes such as Panorama and Newsnight. In 1987, at the age of thirty, he became political editor of The Observer. He later wrote regular columns for the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph.

Harris’s first book appeared in 1982. A Higher Form of Killing, a study of chemical and biological warfare, was written with fellow BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman. Other non-fiction works followed: Gotcha, the Media, the Government and the Falklands Crisis (1983), The Making of Neil Kinnock (1984), Selling Hitler (1986), an investigation of the Hitler Diaries scandal, and Good and Faithful Servant (1990), a study of Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary. Although he began his career in non-fiction, he has written many works of historical fiction. Beginning with the best-selling novel Fatherland, Harris’s million-selling alternative-history. This has as its setting a world where Germany has won the Second World War and asks what would happen if Germany had won the Second World War? Publication enabled Harris to become a full-time novelist. HBO made a film based on the novel in 1994. In 1995 Harris published His second novel Enigma which portrayed the breaking of the German Enigma code during the Second World War at Bletchley Park. It too became a film, with Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet starring and with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard. In 1998 Harris published the novel Archangel which became another international best seller and follows a British historian in contemporary Russia as he hunts for a secret notebook, believed to be Stalin’s diary. In 2005 the BBC made it into a mini-series starring Daniel Craig.

In 2003 Harris turned his attention to ancient Rome with his acclaimed Pompeii. The novel is about a Roman aqueduct engineer, working near the city of Pompeii just before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. As the aqueducts begin to malfunction, he investigates and realises the volcano is shifting the ground and damaging the system and is near eruption. Meanwhile, he falls in love with the young daughter of a powerful local businessman who was illicitly dealing with his predecessor to divert municipal water for his own uses, and will do anything to keep that deal going. He followed Pompeii in 2006 with the novel Imperium, the first novel in a trilogy centered on the life of the great Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero.

In 2007 Harris wrote The Ghost after former British Prime Minister Tony Blair resigned. Harris had been an enthusiastic Labour supporter and doner until the Gulf War in Iraq. The novel’s title refers both to a professional ghostwriter, whose lengthy memorandum forms the novel, and to his immediate predecessor who, as the action opens, has just drowned in gruesome and mysterious circumstances. The dead man has been ghosting the autobiography of a recently unseated British prime minister called Adam Lang, a thinly veiled version of Blair. The fictional counterpart of Cherie Blair is depicted as a sinister manipulator of her husband. Harris said in a US National Public Radio interview that politicians like Lang and Blair, particularly when they have been in office for a long time, become divorced from everyday reality, read little and end up with a pretty limited overall outlook. When it comes to writing their memoirs, they therefore tend to have all the more need of a ghostwriter.

In 2009 Harris published Lustrum The second novel in the Cicero trilogy, Lustrum takes place Rome, 63 BC. And sees Rome on the brink of acquiring a vast empire. Set against this background seven men are locked in a deadly struggle for power. Cicero is consul, Caesar his ruthless young rival, Pompey the republic’s greatest general, Crassus its richest man, Cato a political fanatic, Catilina a psychopath, Clodius an ambitious playboy. The novel tells The stories of these real historical figures – their alliances and betrayals, their cruelties and seductions, their brilliance and their crimes – are all interleaved to form this epic novel. Its narrator is Tiro, a slave who serves as confidential secretary to the wily, humane, complex Cicero. He knows all his master’s secrets which proves to be a dangerous position to be in.

In 2011 Robert Harris published The Fear Index which focussed on the 2010 Flash Crash. It follows an American expat hedge fund operator living in Geneva who activates a new system of computer algorithms that he names VIXAL-4, which is designed to operate faster than human beings, which unfortunately becomes uncontrollable. In 2013 Robert Harris published An Officer and a Spy. This is the story of French officer Georges Picquart, a historical character, who is promoted in 1895 to run France’s Statistical Section, its secret intelligence division. He gradually realises that Alfred Dreyfus has been unjustly imprisoned for acts of espionage committed by another man who is still free and still spying for the Germans. He risks his career and his life to expose the truth.

In 2015 Robert Harris published Dictator, the long-promised conclusion to the Cicero trilogy. This takes place Shortly after Cicero’s prevention of the Catiline Conspiracy and tracks the alarmingly rapid disintegration of the Roman Republic. Mob factions of this or that scurrilous politician are terrorizing Rome and making it increasingly unsafe to vote, to think, and allowing demagogues and dictators to rewrite the discourse of 500 years of Roman history. Meanwhile Pompey is murdered, Julius Caesar is assasinated, and Marc Antony and the teenage autocrat ruthlessly becomes Caesar Augustus. Cicero becomes a tragic bystander, helpless to get out of the way of the tumultuous forces tearing the Republic apart, and losing his family in the process. Only Tiro, his faithful ex-slave (and the trilogy’s narrator) survives to help his friend

One of Robert Harris’ most recent novel, Conclave, was published in 2016. The novel is “set over 72 hours in the Vatican” and follows “the election of a fictional Pope.” Following the death of a previous Pope. The dean of the Cardinals, is the Cardinal charged with making sure the Conclave runs smoothly, and that all 118 cardinals from all over the world, adhere to the strict measures set within. Just like our political system, where each side represents different positions, there are factions with varying opinions on the future of the church. So the jockeying begins, votes are taken and the intrigue begins. Some Cardinals are even hiding revelations which would keep them out of the running and will do almost anything to make sure that they remain hidden.

Posted in films & DVD, Humour, music, Television

Rik Mayall

English comedian, writer and Actor Richard Michael “Rik” Mayall Was born 7 March 1958 Mayall attended The King’s School, Worcester, After which went to the University of Manchester in 1976 to study drama, where he befriended his future comedy partner Ade Edmondson. There he also met Ben Elton, a fellow student, and Lise Mayer, with whom he later co-wrote The Young Ones. His comedy partnership with Adrian Edmondson, and over-the-top, energetic “post-punk” portrayal of characters, made him a pioneer of alternative comedy in the early 1980s. He appeared in numerous cult classic sitcoms, including The Young Ones, Blackadder, The New Statesman and Bottom, and on the big screen in the comedy films Drop Dead Fred and Guest House Paradiso.

Edmondson and Mayall gained their reputation at the Comedy Store, from 1980. Apart from performing in their double act, 20th Century Coyote, Mayall developed solo routines, using characters such as Kevin Turvey and a pompous anarchist poet named Rick. This led to Edmondson and Mayall, along with Comedy Store compere Alexei Sayle and other upcoming comedians, including Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, French and Saunders, Arnold Brown and Pete Richens, setting up their own comedy club called “The Comic Strip”. Mayall’s Kevin Turvey character gained a regular slot in A Kick Up the Eighties, first broadcast in 1981. He appeared as “Rest Home” Ricky in Richard O’Brien’s Shock Treatment, a sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He played Dentonvale’s resident attendant as the love interest to Nell Campbell’s Nurse Ansalong. There was also a mockumentary based on the character entitled Kevin Turvey – The Man Behind The Green Door, broadcast in 1982. He also appeared in a bit role in An American Werewolf in London. His stage partnership with Edmondson continued in”The Dangerous Brothers”, hapless daredevils whose hyper-violent antics foreshadowed their characters in Bottom. Channel 4 offered the Comic Strip group six short films, which became The Comic Strip Presents…, which became known for its anti-establishment humour and parodies suchas Bad News on Tour, a spoof “rockumentary” starring Mayall, Richardson, Edmondson and Planer as a heavy metal band.

The Young Ones, was a sitcom written by Mayall and then-girlfriend Lise Mayer, in the same anarchic vein as Comic Strip. Ben Elton joined the writers. In it Mayall played Rik, a pompous sociology student and Cliff Richard devotee. Despite the sitcom format, Mayall maintained his double-act with Edmondson, who starred as violent punk Vyvyan. Nigel Planer (as hippie Neil) and Christopher Ryan (as “Mike the cool person”) with additional material written and performed by Alexei Sayle. The show owed a comic debt to Spike Milligan. In 1986 Rik Mayall played the Detective in the video of “Peter Gunn” by Art Of Noise featuring Duane Eddy.

Mayall returned to stand-up comedy, performing on Saturday Live—a British version of the American Saturday Night Live—first broadcast in 1985. He and Edmondson had a regular section as “The Dangerous Brothers”, and in 1985, Mayall debuted another comic creation -Lord Flashheart in the Blackadder II episode entitled “Bells”. A descendant of this character, Squadron Commander Flashheart, was also in the Blackadder Goes Forth episode “Private Plane” in which he was reunited with Edmondson, who played German flying ace Baron von Richthofen the “Red Baron”, Mayall also appeared in Blackadder: Back & Forth as Robin Hood. In 1986, Mayall joined Planer, Edmondson and Elton to star as Richie Rich in Filthy Rich & Catflap, which highlighted the “has been” status of light entertainment. 1987 saw Mayall co-star with Edmondson in the ITV sitcom Hardwicke House and score a number one hit when he and his co-stars from The Young Ones teamed with Cliff Richard to record “Living Doll” for the inaugural Comic Relief campaign. Mayall played Rick one last time in the stage-show and supported the Comic Relief and also gave a memorably crazed portrayal in Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine.

In 1987, Mayall played fictional Conservative MP Alan Beresford B’Stard in the sitcom The New Statesman and, in 1989 Mayall starred in a series of bit shows for ITV called Grim Tales, in which he narrated Grimm Brothers fairy tales while puppets acted the stories. In 1991, Edmondson and Mayall co-starred in the West End production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, with Mayall playing Vladimir, Edmondson as Estragon and Christopher Ryan as Lucky. This inspired Bottom, which they said was a cruder cousin to Waiting for Godot and featured slapstick violence taken to new extremes. In 1993, following the second series, Mayall and Edmondson decided to take a stage-show version of the series on a national tour, Bottom: Live.

In 1991 Mayall starred alongside Phoebe Cates in Drop Dead Fred as a troublesome imaginary friend who reappears from a woman’s childhood. He also appeared in Carry On Columbus (1992) with other alternative comedians and provided the voice of the character Froglip, the leader of the goblins, in the 1992 animated film adaption of the 1872 children’s tale The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. In 1993, he appeared in Rik Mayall Presents, for which he won a Best Comedy Performer award at that year’s British Comedy Awards, He also provided the voice for Little Sod in Simon Brett’s How to Be a Little Sod. In the early 1990s, he auditioned for the roles of Banzai, Zazu and Timon in The Lion King (1994); but the role of Zazu finally went to Rowan Atkinson.

In 1995, Mayall featured in a production of the play Cell Mates alongside Stephen Fry. Not long into the run, Fry had a nervous breakdown and fled to Belgium, Edmondson later poked fun at the event during the stage tours. Bottom Live: The Big Number Two Tour, And Bottom Live 2003: Weapons Grade Y-Fronts Tour. From 1999, Mayall was the voice of the black-headed seagull Kehaar, in the first and second series of the animated television programme, Watership Down.In 2000, Mayall lent his voice to the PlayStation and Windows PC video game Hogs of War and appeared in the video production of Jesus Christ Superstar as King Herod. In 2001 Mayall gave an excellent dramatic performance as Lt Daniel Blaney in the episode “The White Knight Stratagem” from the series “Murder Rooms: The Mysteries of the Real Sherlock Holmes.” In 2002, Mayall starred as Professor Adonis Cnut in the ITV sitcom, Believe Nothing. Following 2003’s Bottom: Live tour, Bottom 5: Weapons Grade Y-Fronts, Edmondson told the Daily Mail that he no longer wished to work on Bottom claiming they were “too old” to continue portraying the characters. Edmondson added that since Mayall had recovered from his coma, he was slower on the uptake and it had become more difficult to work with him, citing as well that due to taking medication Mayall had been advised to stop drinking alcohol. However, Edmondson said that the pair remained very close friends.

Mayall voiced Edwin in the BBC show Shoebox Zoo. In September 2005, he starred in a new series for ITV, All About George. In 2006, Mayall reprised the role of Alan B’Stard in the play The New Statesman 2006: Blair B’stard Project, In which B’Stard leaves the floundering Conservatives and become a Labour MP. In 2007, following a successful two-month run in London’s West End at the Trafalgar Studios, a heavily re-written version toured theatres nationwide, However, Mayall succumbed to chronic fatigue and flu in May 2007 and withdrew from the show. Alan B’Stard was played by his understudy, Mike Sherman during his hiatus.

Mayall was cast as the poltergeist Peeves in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone And Played Winston the Butler in the film Evil Calls: The Raven (2008). Mayall also provided the voice of the Andrex puppy in the UK Andrex TV commercials and narrated the UK Domestos adverts. He performed the voice of King Arthur in the children’s television cartoon series, King Arthur’s Disasters, alongside Matt Lucas from Little Britain who plays Merlin. In September 2009, Mayall played a supporting role in the British television programme Midsomer Murders, In April 2010, Motivation Records released Mayall’s England Football anthem “Noble England” for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which features an adapted speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. In September 2010 he narrated an audio book, Cutey and the Sofaguard written by Christ Wade and In November 2010, Mayall provided narrative for five different characters for CDs accompanying children’s books published by Clickety Books. Then On 5 March 2011, Mayall appeared with Ade Edmonson on Let’s Dance For Comic Relief then In April 2011, Mayall again revived the character of Alan B’Stard to make an appearance in a satirical television advertisement for the No2AV campaign prior to the 2011 voting reform referendum in the UK. On 23 August 2012 the BBC announced that Edmondson and Mayall’s characters of Richie and Eddie returned in 2013 in Hooligan’s Island. In September 2012 Mayall starred in The Last Hurrah, and In November 2012, Mayall narrated several children’s books on the Me Books app, such as The Getaway and Banana! by children’s illustrator and author Ed Vere. In October 2013 he also appeared in Channel 4 sitcom Man Down, Unfortunately “Rik” Mayall sadly died on 9 June 2014. He was described as a truly brilliant comedian with a unique stage presence whose “Fireball Comedy” and comic approach to sitcom had inspired a generation.

Posted in films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

Stanley Kubrick

American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor, and photographer Stanley Kubrick sadly died March 7, 1999. He was born July 26, 1928 at Lying-In Hospital at 307 Second Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, to a Jewish family. Kubrick began schooling in Public School 3 in the Bronx, and moved to Public School 90 in June 1938. He was interested in literature from a young age, and began reading Greek and Roman myths and the fables of the Grimm brothers which “instilled in him a lifelong affinity with Europe”He spent most Saturdays during the summer watching the New York Yankees. When Kubrick was 12, his father Jack taught him chess. The game remained a lifelong interest of Kubrick’s and he became a member of the United States Chess Federation, explained that chess helped him develop “patience and discipline” in making decisions, At the age of 13, Kubrick’s father bought him a Graflex camera, triggering a fascination with still photography. He befriended a neighbor, Marvin Traub, who shared his passion for photography and had his own darkroom, where the young Kubrick and he would spend many hours perusing photographs and watching the chemicals “magically make images on photographic paper”. They searched for interesting subjects to capture, and spent time in local cinemas studying films. Freelance photographer Weegee (Arthur Fellig) had a considerable influence on Kubrick’s development as a photographer. Kubrick was also interested in jazz, and briefly attempted a career as a drummer.

Between 1941 and 1945 Kubrick attended William Howard Taft High School where he joined the school’s photographic club, which permitted him to photograph the school’s events in their magazine. Kubrick often skipped school to watch double-feature films. While still in high school, Kubrick was chosen as an official school photographer for a year. In the mid-1940s, since he was not able to gain admission to day session classes at colleges, he briefly attended evening classes at the City College of New York Eventually, he sold a photographic series to Look magazine, Which was printed in 1945. Kubrick also supplemented his income by playing chess “for quarters” in Washington Square Park and various Manhattan chess clubs. He graduated in 1945. In 1946, he became an apprentice photographer for Look and later a full-time staff photographer. alongside G. Warren Schloat, Jr., another new photographer. Kubrick became known for his story-telling in photographs. His first, was entitled “A Short Story from a Movie Balcony” and staged a fracas between a man and a woman, during which the man is slapped in the face, caught genuinely by surprise. In another assignment, 18 pictures were taken of various people waiting in a dental office.

In1948, he was sent to Portugal to document a travel piece, and covered the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, Florida Kubrick, a boxing enthusiast, eventually began photographing boxing matches for the magazine. His earliest, “Prizefighter”, was published in 1949, and featured Walter Cartier. he also published a photo essay, named “Chicago-City of Extremes” in Look, which displayed his talent early on for creating atmosphere with imagery. including a photograph taken above a congested Chicago street at night. In 1950 the magazine published his photo essay, “Working Debutante – Betsy von Furstenberg”, which featured a Pablo Picasso portrait of Angel F. de Soto in the background. Kubrick was also assigned to photograph numerous musicians, including Frank Sinatra , Erroll Garner, George Lewis, Eddie Condon, Phil Napoleon, Papa Celestin, Alphonse Picou, Muggsy Spanier, Sharkey Bonano, and others.

In 1948 Kubrick married his high-school sweetheart Toba Metz on MaThey lived together in a small apartment at 36 West 16th Street, off 6th Avenue, north of Greenwich Village. Kubrick began frequenting film screenings at the Museum of Modern Art and the cinemas of New York City. He was inspired by the complex, fluid camerawork of the directors Max Ophüls and Elia Kazan. Kubrick became fascinated with the art of filmmaking. He also spent many hours reading books on film theory and writing down notes. Sergei Eisenstein’s theoretical writings had a profound impact on Kubrick, and he took a great number of notes from books in the library of Arthur Rothstein, the photographic technical director of Look magazine. Kubrick shared a love of film with his school friend Alexander Singer, who Intended to direct a film version of Homer’s The Iliad. However Kubrick discovered that it would be prohibitively expensive, although he did manage to produce a few short Documentaries encouraged by Singer. Kubrick also made a short film documentary about boxer Walter Cartier, He rented a camera and produced a 16-minute black-and-white documentary, “Day of the Fight”. He considered asking Montgomery Clift to narrate it, whom he had met during a photographic session for Look, but settled on CBS news veteran Douglas Edwards and a score was added by Singer’s friend Gerald Fried.

The film was “remarkably accomplished for a first film”, and was notable for using the reverse tracking shot to film a scene in which the brothers walk towards the camera. Inspired by this early success, Kubrick quit his job at Look and visited professional filmmakers in New York City, to Study the technical aspects of film-making and gained confidence to become a filmmaker. In 1951 He began making Flying Padre, which documents Reverend Fred Stadtmueller, who travels some 4,000 miles to visit his 11 churches. The film was originally going to be called “Sky Pilot”, during the film the priest performs a burial service, confronts a boy bullying a girl, and makes an emergency flight to aid a sick mother and baby into an ambulance. Flying Padre was followed by The Seafarers (1953), Kubrick’s first color film, which was shot for the Seafarers International Union in June 1953. Kubrick also began making his first feature film, Fear and Desire which was filmed in the San Gabriel Mountains in California and concerns a team of soldiers who survive a plane crash and are caught behind enemy lines in a war. During the course of the film, one of the soldiers becomes infatuated with an attractive girl.

He also assisted producer Richard de Rochemont On a five-part television series about Abraham Lincoln shoton location in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Following Fear and Desire, Kubrick began working on ideas for a new boxing film. The subsequent film Originally entitled Kiss Me, Kill Me, and then The Nymph and the Maniac, Killer’s Kiss (1955) is a 67-minute film noir about a young heavyweight boxer’s involvement with a woman being abused by her criminal boss. Kubrick began shooting footage in Times Square, and frequently explored during the filming process, experimenting with cinematography and considering the use of unconventional angles and imagery. Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail (1929) directly influenced the film with the painting laughing at a character, Martin Scorsese also cited Kubrick’s innovative shooting angles and atmospheric shots in Killer’s Kiss as an influence on Raging Bull.

While playing chess in Washington Square, Kubrick met producer James B. Harris and the two formed the Harris-Kubrick Pictures Corporation in 1955. They purchased the rights to Lionel White’s novel Clean Break and hired film noir novelist Jim Thompson to write the dialog the subsequent film the Killing, was about a meticulously planned racetrack robbery gone wrong and starred Sterling Hayden, and was Kubrick’s first full-length feature film shot with a professional cast and crew including veteran cinematographer Lucien Ballard, However He clashed with Ballard during the shooting. Despite this The Killing has had a major influence on many directors, including Quentin Tarantino.

Kubrick’s next film Paths of Glory, was set during World War I, and is based on Humphrey Cobb’s 1935 antiwar novel, which Kubrick had read while waiting in his father’s office. However MGM would not finance another war picture, given their backing of the anti-war film The Red Badge of Courage. Kubrick and Harris persuaded Kirk Douglas to portray Colonel Dax. The film, shot in Munich, concerns a French army unit ordered on an impossible mission, and follows with a war trial of Colonel Dax and his men for misconduct. For the battle scene, Kubrick meticulously lined up six cameras one after the other along the boundary of no-man’s land, with each camera capturing a specific area. Paths of Glory established Kubrick’s reputation With its unsentimental, spare, and unvarnished combat scenes and its raw, black-and-white cinematography. However The film was banned in France until 1974 for its “unflattering” depiction of the French military, and was censored by the Swiss Army until 1970. Marlon Brando then contacted Kubrick, asking him to direct a film adaptation of the Charles Neider western novel, The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones, featuring Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

Stanley Kubrick and Marlon Brando then Worked on a script begun by Sam Peckinpah for the film One-Eyed Jacks. In 1959, Kubrick received a phone call from Kirk Douglas asking him to direct Spartacus (1960), based on the true life story of Spartacus and the events of the Third Servile War. Kirk Douglas had acquired the rights to the novel by Howard Fast and starred as rebellious slave Spartacus, with Laurence Olivier as his foe, the Roman general and politician Marcus Licinius Crassus. This was Kubrick’s largest film and was at the time the most expensive film ever made in America, and Kubrick became the youngest director in Hollywood history to helm an epic. Kubrick filmed Spartacus using the anamorphic 35mm horizontal Super Technirama process to achieve ultra-high definition, allowing him to film vast panoramic scenes. However Kubrick and Douglas fell out, despite this The film established Kubrick as a major director, receiving six Academy Award nominations and winning four.

Kubrick’s first attempt at black comedy, was an adaptation of the controversial novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, the story of a middle-aged college professor becoming infatuated with a 12-year-old girl. starring Peter Sellers, James Mason, Shelley Winters, and Sue Lyon. Lolita was shot over 88 days at Elstree Studios, During which Kubrick often clashed with Shelley Winters. Due to its of its provocative story, Lolita was Kubrick’s first film to generate controversy and he was forced to remove much of the erotic element of the relationship between Mason’s Humbert and Lyon’s Lolita.

Kubrick’s next film was another satirical black comedy “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964). During the 1950’s Kubrick had became preoccupied with the the Cold War fearing that New York City might be a likely target for the Russians. He studied over 40 military and political research books on the subject. Kubrick Bought the rights to the novel Red Alert, and collaborated with its author, Peter George. Doctor Strangelove was originally written as a serious political thriller, but Kubrick decided that a “serious treatment” of the subject would not be believable and thought the salient points were rather absurd. So Kubrick decided to make the film as “an outrageous black comedy” and reworked the script as a black-comedy, loaded with sexual innuendo. Peter Sellars ended up playing three different roles in the film. Critics were divided some calling it a “Sick, juvenile” satire. However It was voted the 39th-greatest American film and third-greatest comedy film of all time by the American Film Institute.


Kubrick read Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction novel Childhood’s End, about a superior race of alien beings who assist mankind in eliminating their old selves. after meeting Clarke in New York City in April 1964, Kubrick suggested he make the 1948 short story The Sentinel, about a tetrahedron which is found on the Moon which alerts aliens of mankind. So Clarke began writing the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, with a screenplay written by Kubrick and Clarke. The film’s theme, the birthing of one intelligence by another, is developed in two parallel intersecting stories One depicts transitions between various stages of man, from ape to “star child”, as man is reborn into a new existence the other concerns an enigmatic alien intelligence who built a series of eons-old black monoliths as signposts. The enemy is a supercomputer known as HAL who runs the spaceship. Filming commenced in 1965, with the excavation of the monolith on the moon, footage was also shot in Namib Desert in early 1967. Kubrick also observed the spacecraft in the Ranger 9 mission for accuracy. 2001: A Space Odyssey was described as a Cinematic spectacle, giving the viewer a “dazzling mix of imagination and science” through ground-breaking effects, which earned Kubrick his only personal Oscar, an Academy Award for Visual Effects. At the time it had mixed reviews but Today, it is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential films ever made, and is a staple on All Time Top 10 lists. Inspiring Directors including Steven Spielberg who referred to it as “the big bang of his film making generation”.

After completing 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick decided to film Anthony Burgess’ controversial novel A Clockwork Orange, which he had read while filming Doctor Strangelove, although he had Initially rejected it on the grounds that the slang Nadsat, was too difficult to comprehend. A Clockwork Orange is an exploration of violence and experimental rehabilitation by law enforcement authorities, based around a young thug Alex (portrayed by Malcolm McDowell) and his gang who go round committing vicious crimes and sadistic violence. The film heavily features “pop erotica” which gives it a “slightly futuristic” look. Because of its depiction of teenage violence, A Clockwork Orange became one of the most controversial films of the decade, and stirred up a debate about the glorification of violence in cinema and it received an X-rated certificate upon release, though many critics saw much of the violence depicted in the film as satirical. However Kubrick pulled the film from release in the United Kingdom after receiving death threats following a series of copycat crimes based on the film. Consequently it was not re-released in the UK until 2000. Although John Trevelyan, the censor of the film, thought that it presented an “intellectual argument rather than a sadistic spectacle” in its depiction of violence. A Clockwork Orange received four Academy Award nominations, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Editing, and was named by the New York Film Critics Circle as the Best Film of 1971. Although William Friedkin won Best Director for The French Connection in 1971 he thought Stanley Kubrick was the best American film-maker period”.

Stanley Kubrick’s next film Barry Lyndon (1975) was an adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Luck of Barry Lyndon (also known as Barry Lyndon), a picaresque novel about the adventures of an 18th-century Irish rogue and social climber. The film was shot on location. in Ardmore, County Waterford, Ireland, however After Kubrick received death threats from the IRA in 1974 he fled Ireland with his family on a ferry from Dún Laoghaire and filming resumed in England. Barry Lyndon solidified Kubrick’s reputation for being a perfectionist and paying scrupulous attention to detail. The cinematography and lighting techniques that Kubrick and cinematographer John Alcott used in Barry Lyndon were highly innovative, interior scenes were shot with a specially adapted high-speed f/0.7 Zeiss camera lens originally developed for NASA to be used in satellite photography this allowed many scenes to be lit only with candlelight, creating two-dimensional, diffused-light images reminiscent of 18th-century paintings which were also meticulously replicated from works of the great masters for the film. Many of the fight scenes were shot with a hand-held camera to produce a “sense of documentary realism and immediacy”. Barry Lyndon was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Musical Score. Barry Lyndon is now considered to be one of his best, particularly among filmmakers and critics. Numerous polls, such as The Village Voice (1999), Sight & Sound (2002), and Time (2005), have rated it as one of the greatest films ever made also it has as 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 52 reviews.

Stanley Kubrick’s next film The Shining, was released in 1980, and was adapted from The Shining by bestselling horror writer Stephen King. The film stars Jack Nicholson as a writer who takes a job as a winter caretaker of a large and isolated Overlook hotel in the Rocky Mountains with his wife, played by Shelley Duvall, and their young son, who displays paranormal abilities. However the hotels isolation gradually sends Jack mad and there are supernatural horrors lurking in the hotel. The aerial shots of the Overlook Hotel were shot at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon, while the interiors of the hotel were shot at Elstree Studios in England. Kubrick gave his actors freedom to improvise, including the scene when Nicholson says ‘Here’s Johnny!’ The filming schedule was incredibly grueling with Kubrick, ever the perfectionist, insisting on up to 70 or 80 retakes of the same scene. Kubrick also intentionally argued with and isolated Duvall to produce extreme stress, she was also forced to perform the baseball bat scene 127 times”. The bar scene with the ghostly bartender was shot 36 times, while the kitchen scene between the characters of Danny (Danny Lloyd) and Halloran (Scatman Crothers) ran to 148 takes. The film was released in 1980, after which Kubrick ordered the deletion of a final scene, in which the hotel manager Ullman (Barry Nelson) visits Wendy (Shelley Duvall) in hospital. Despite being a commercial success The critical response to The Shining was mixed, King himself detested the film and disliked Kubrick. Although The Shining is now considered to be a horror classic, and the American Film Institute has ranked it as the 27th greatest thriller film of all time.

In 1980 Kubrick met author Michael Herr through mutual friend David Cornwell (novelist John le Carré) in 1980, and became interested in his book Dispatches, about the Vietnam War Herr had recently written Martin Sheen’s narration for Apocalypse Now (1979). Kubrick was also intrigued by Gustav Hasford’s Vietnam War novel The Short-Timers. With the vision in mind to shoot what would become Full Metal Jacket (1987), Kubrick began working with both Herr and Hasford separately on a script. He eventually found Hasford’s novel to be “brutally honest” and decided to shoot a film which closely follows the nov All of the film was shot at a cost of $17 million within a 30-mile radius of his house between August 1985 and September 1986, later than scheduled as Kubrick shut down production for five months following a near-fatal accident with a jeep involving Lee Erm A

derelict gasworks in Beckton in the London Docklands area posed as the ruined city of Huế, which makes the film visually very different from other Vietnam War films. Around 200 palm trees were imported via 40-foot trailers by road from North Africa, at a cost of £1000 a tree, and thousands of plastic plants were ordered from Hong Kong to provide foliage for the film. Kubrick explained he made the film look realistic by using natural light, and achieved a “newsreel effect” by making the Steadicam shots less steady, which reviewers and commentators thought contributed to the bleakness and seriousness of the film, the film contained some of Kubrick’s trademark characteristics, such as his selection of ironic music, portrayals of men being dehumanized, and attention to extreme detail to achieve realism. In a later scene, United States Marines patrol the ruins of an abandoned and destroyed city singing the theme song to the Mickey Mouse Club as a sardonic counterpoint. Despite being successful it was overshadowed by the success of Oliver Stone’s Platoon, released a year earlier.

Kubrick’s final film was the erotic thriller Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Which explores the sexual ambivalence of a happy marriage and tries to equate the importance of sexual dreams and might-have-beens with reality. It stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a Manhattan couple on a sexual odyssey. Tom Cruise portrays a doctor who witnesses a bizarre masked quasireligious orgiastic ritual at a country mansion, a discovery which later threatens his life. The story is based on Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 Freudian novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story in English), which Kubrick relocated from turn-of-the-century Vienna to New York City in the 1990s. Eyes Wide Shut, like Lolita and A Clockwork Orange before it, faced censorship before release. Kubrick sent an unfinished preview copy to the stars and producers a few months before release, but his sudden death on March 7, 1999, came a few days after he finished editing. Today, critical opinion of the film is mixed, and it is viewed less favorably than most of Kubrick’s films. Some consider it ‘like an erotic daydream about chances missed and opportunities avoided”, and thought that Kubrick’s use of lighting at Christmas made the film “all a little garish, like an urban sideshow.” While others disliked it calling it sad rather than erotic and noting that it feels creaky, ancient, hopelessly out of touch, infatuated with the hot taboos of his youth and unable to connect with that twisty thing contemporary sexuality has become.

Posted in Art

Piet Mondrian

Dutch Painter Pieter Cornelis “Piet” Mondriaan, was born March 7, 1872. in Amersfoort, Netherlands. He moved to Winterswijk when his father, Pieter Cornelius Mondriaan, was appointed Head Teacher at a local primary school. Mondrian was introduced to art from a very early age: his father was a qualified drawing teacher; and, with his uncle, Fritz Mondriaan. Piet often painted and drew along the river Gein. In 1892, Mondrian entered the Academy for Fine Art in Amsterdam. He already was qualified as a teacher. He began his career as a teacher in Primary Education, but he also practiced painting. Most of his work from this period is Naturalistic or Impressionistic, consisting largely of landscapes, depicting windmills, fields, and rivers, initially in the Dutch Impressionist manner of the Hague School and then in a variety of styles and techniques. These paintings illustrate the influence various artistic movements had on Mondrian, including Pointillism and the vivid colors of Fauvism. On display in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague are a number of paintings from this period, including The Red Mill and Trees in Moonrise. Another painting, Evening (Avond) (1908), a scene of haystacks in a field at dusk, uses a palette consisting almost entirely of red, yellow, and blue And is the earliest of Mondrian’s works to emphasize the primary colors. The earliest paintings that show an inkling of the abstraction to come are a series of canvases from 1905 to 1908, which depict dim scenes of indistinct trees and houses with reflections in still water. In 1908, he became interested in the theosophical movement launched by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.

Mondrian’s later work were influenced by the 1911 Moderne Kunstkring exhibition of Cubism in Amsterdam. His search for simplification is shown in two versions of Still Life with Ginger Pot (Stilleven met Gemberpot). The 1911 version is Cubist; in, the 1912 version, it is reduced to a round shape with triangles and rectangles. In 1911, Mondrian moved to Paris and changed his name (dropping an ‘a’ from Mondriaan., in 1913, Mondrian began combining his art and his theosophical studies into a theory that signaled his final break from representational painting. While Mondrian was visiting home in 1914, World War I began, forcing him to remain in The Netherlands for the duration of the conflict. During this period, he stayed at the Laren artist’s colony, there meeting Bart van der Leck and Theo van Doesburg. Van der Leck’s use of only primary colors in his art greatly influenced Mondrian. Mondrian published “De Nieuwe Beelding in de schilderkunst” (“The New Plastic in Painting”) in twelve installments during 1917 and 1918. This was his first major attempt to express his artistic theory in writing.

In 1918, Mondrian returned to France and he flourished in the atmosphere of intellectual freedom and artistic innovation. In 1919 Mondrian began producing grid-based paintings and in 1920, the style for which he came to be renowned began to appear. In the early paintings of this style the lines delineating the rectangular forms are relatively thin, and they are gray, not black. The forms themselves, are smaller and more numerous than in later paintings, are filled with primary colors, black, or gray, and nearly all of them are colored; only a few are left white. Around 1920 Mondrian’s started painting thick black lines separating larger forms, which Were fewer in number, with more Spaces being left white. the rectangular forms remain mostly colored. such as in the “lozenge” works that Mondrian began producing with regularity in the mid-1920s. The “lozenge” paintings are square canvases tilted 45 degrees, so that they hang in a diamond shape. Typical of these is Schilderij No. 1: Lozenge With Two Lines and Blue (1926), also known as Composition With Blue and Composition in White and Blue, which is currently on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. One of the most minimal of Mondrian’s canvases, this painting consists only of two black, perpendicular lines and a small triangular form, colored blue. As the years progressed, lines began to take precedence over forms in his painting. In the 1930s, he began to use thinner lines and double lines more frequently, punctuated with a few small colored forms, if any at all.

In September 1938, Mondrian left Paris in the face of advancing fascism and moved to London. After the Netherlands were invaded and Paris fell in 1940, he left London for Manhattan, where he would remain until his death. works from this later period demonstrate an unprecedented business, however, with more lines than any of his work since the 1920s, placed in an overlapping arrangement that is almost cartographical in appearance. Mondrian produced Lozenge Composition With Four Yellow Lines (1933), a simple painting that included thick, coloured lines instead of black ones, as well as Composition (1938) and Place de la Concorde (1943). The new canvases that Mondrian began in Manhattan are even more startling. New York City (1942) is a complex lattice of red, blue, and yellow lines, occasionally interlacing to create a greater sense of depth than his previous works. His painting Broadway Boogie-Woogie (1942–43) was highly influential in the school of abstract geometric painting. The piece is made up of a number of shimmering squares of bright color that leap from the canvas, then appear to shimmer, drawing the viewer into those neon lights. Mondrian replaced former solid lines with lines created from small adjoining rectangles of color, created in part by using small pieces of paper tape in various colors. Larger unbounded rectangles of color punctuate the design, some with smaller concentric rectangles inside them. While Mondrian’s works of the 1920s and 1930s have an almost scientific austerity about them, these are bright, lively paintings, reflecting the upbeat music that inspired them and the city in which they were made.

Piet Mondrian returned to Paris in 1919, and set about making his studio a nurturing environment for paintings which expressed Neo-Plasticism. In 1943, Mondrian moved into his second and final Manhattan studio but Tragically died in February 1944 after contracting pneumonia.  He is interred in the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.On February 2, 1944, a memorial, attended by nearly 200, was held for Mondrian, at the Universal Chapel on Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in Manhattan.