Reading and Viewing
One reason--beyond natural indolence--for some downtime on the blog is that I'm doing what might loosely be called research for Shadow Puppet, and generally catching up on some reading and the Sky+ box.
Having finished Stalingrad, which was most definitely research, I continued with two contrasting Spitfire pilot memoirs: First Light, by Geoffrey Wellum, and The Last Enemy, by Richard Hillary. Both were vivid and moving accounts of pilots' experiences, and humbling to read how these seemingly ordinary young men were able to endure the most horrific conditions--taking their planes into combat two or three times a day, with their colleagues killed around them. Both understandably take on a certain detachment under a devil-may-care exterior. Wellum survived the war, understanding even at the time that nothing in his life would match the intensity or significance of these early experiences; Hillary, terribly burned after being shot down, was then killed in a training crash. Sobering stuff.
Less emotionally engaging was the final series of The Tudors. This, by almost any standards, was a stinker: historical accuracy, competence of script, acting merit--all were wholly cast aside. Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) lapsed deeper and deeper into Irish as the series progressed, and the dream sequence in which he was visited by Death on a horse defined risibility. And yet--The Tudors was great fun. Taken on its own terms, it had pace, dynamism and an unpretentious--if wholly unwarranted--self-confidence. A guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.
It certainly compared favourably with Ridley Scott's bloated ragbag of cliche and stereotype, Robin Hood. This, from the man who directed Alien, Bladerunner and Gladiator, was a sad and sorry comedown. Scott apparently rejected more interesting earlier versions of the script (including Russell Crowe playing both Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham, and the Sheriff as "a CSI-style forensic investigator) to make a stolid retelling of an old tale. No worse, perhaps, than The Tudors, but with the unforgivable sin of being just plain boring.