Thursday, 10 May 2012

Bank Holiday Funday

God bless the British and their pig-headed insistance on clinging to holidays they aren't really entitled to!  It's been a funny spring really; a very warm March, a very cold and rainy April, but with May (fingers crossed) the weather appears to be sorting itself out.  Hopefully just in time for my birthday, which is in a few weeks.

This Bank Holiday weekend has been a very full one for me; despite being ill for the best part of the week and not up to planning much for myself, several little adventures have just fallen into my lap so I've been riding piggy-back on those until I'm back to firing on all cylinders.  So in no particular order...

Jubilee Wood
Gouache, 15 mins
The bluebells are out!  I've been keeping an eye open and this week I saw a few so I decided to chance the wet weather and go check out my old walks.  Just as I got here the skies cleared for an hour or so, and returned just as I was ready to leave.

A white bluebell?  Whoever heard of such a thing?

These are Spanish imposters!  See how the flowers grow all round the stem, and how they don't bow over?

Okay, so those last ones are dandelions, not bluebells, but they're awfully pretty.

Avengers Assemble
After coming down with my crummy cold (which, a week on, is still giving me the sniffles) I had to take a few days off work, so I used my time wisely and took my sniffly self to the cinema.  I watched Avengers Assemble, which was pretty awesome. It helps if you've seen some of the lead-up movies (Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor in particular) or know the old comics but even if not the characters are engaging, the plot is nice and clear so you can catch up pretty fast, there are some very funny moments and it's just a plain entertaining.  
The battle scenes (of which there are quite a few) never become impersonal and everything that Michael Bay got shockingly wrong with the third Transformers movie, Joss Whedon gets spot-on perfect.  You never lose track of the action, you know precisely where everything is and what they're doing and why, and each character is allowed to play to their strengths (Hulk vs. Loki is a firm favourite).  I saw in in 2D and I'd go and see it again if I hadn't got better and didn't have to go back to work!  Well worth watching.

Avenue Q
The musical came to Leicester so I got off work early and joined some of my friends in some last-minute-upgraded seats.  For those that don't know Avenue Q is ...well it's basically Sesame Street for adults, following the story of a new neighbour who has just graduated and wants to figure out what he's supposed to do with his life.

I've always held that arts like illustration, animation and, in this case, puppetry have the unique quality of being able to talk about things that would perhaps be very difficult with live action real human beings, and Avenue Q certainly makes the most of this fact and includes songs with titles like 'It Sucks to be Me', 'The Internet is for Porn' and 'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist'.  This is the show that pokes fun at everything.  At one or two points I didn't know whether to be shocked/embarassed or crack up laughing - I tended to go with the latter!  (I should also point out that it's vitally important you take the right friends if you go see this.  It makes all the difference.)
The puppetry itself is very clever, in that you can see all of the performers all of the time.  Puppet characters interact with 'real life' characters, one puppeteer might voice two puppets at once while one of them is being controlled by somebody else, and some puppets require two people at once to make them work, but somehow it all ties into this wonderfully kooky world where the only point of the show seems to be "We're all just as confused as you are." which is always very comforting thing to hear.

Bristol Folk Festival
I've posted on this already, because it needed its own post, so I'll just say it was a wonderful day and leave it at that.

War Horse
A friend of mine wanted to see this at Flix, Loughborough's Student cinema, so I went along more to see her than the movie.  I liked it well enough, and it's clear that Spielberg was going for 'epic', but I think that may be the problem.  It's trying too hard to be epic, and the result in places is something along the lines of "Oh the horse!  The magical horse!  Oh my feelings!"  Like when (SPOILER) Joey the horse, encouraged by his boy to just believe in himself (or something), manages to plough the unploughable field and the ploughshare cuts through a massive rock.  It. Cuts. Through. A Rock.  And there goes my suspension of disbelief.

There's some nice bits too though (on a purely superficial note, I have to admit that seeing Benedict Cumberbatch, on a horse, with a moustache, was a pleasant surprise).  They've trodden lightly around characterising the horse so that it is clearly a horse and not a human person in horsey disguise;  There's no talking animals or inner monologue.  You also really get into the stories of the people that Joey encounters as he travels on both sides of the war.  There's a nice variety from his family back home, to two young German deserters, to the British soldiers, to the French civilians.  All are differently and sympathetically portrayed.  You see the men getting really fond of their animals and it occurred to me that when you're about to go into battle and you can't express to your comrades how scared you are, to have another living creature alongside you must have been some comfort.  It also tracked the development of the technology nicely, beginning with the mounted cavalry charge of men on horseback weilding swords.  World War 1 drove the invention of some pretty horrific weaponry - the machine gun and the tank - and what the movie does do well is translate the shock of seeing these things, and their devastating effects, for the first time.

In a nutshell, I'd really love to see the stage show!

This is the free mini-festival that Loughborough University puts on every year, and this time round two groups of my friends had made it through the auditions and performed on the day.  I went along to support them all, and bumped into a friend (well I say friend, a really nice guy who took me on a date last autumn. So yes, a friend!) although I didn't recognise him at first since he has spent the time between then and now growing a rather distinguished little beard!

The weather was pretty bad -not that I minded, I had a raincoat!- but just as bad was the fact that the Union staff had foolishly not anticipated rain and failed to fully cover the stage.  Cables and puddles do not mix.  It took them over 2hrs to move everything indoors and then it took them ages to balance the sound, and even then it was too loud overall but the bands busted it out anyway.  Not all of it was my taste but I'm glad I was there to support Caerulean, especially after the disappointment of being told they couldn't perform and then being shunted about.  They were still tweaking speakers as the performance began, but after a few songs they seemed to hit their stride.

The other act I came to see was Jamie (who came with us to Bristol) and Tatyana (who came with me to Bradgate Park).  He played guitar and she sang, and while I knew she could sing, I didn't know she could sing like that!  They opened the acoustic stage, always a daunting place to be, but settled in quickly and gave a good solid performance.

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