1222 Recommended to me by bookwormsarah, when I said that surely there ought to be a murder mystery set in a Norwegian mountain hotel. When the Oslo to Bergen train comes off the rails in the middle of a winter storm, the passengers find themselves stranded in the hotel. Inevitably next morning one of them is found dead. There is an element of Christie homage, as much as anything can be a Christie homage when the detective is an anti-social Norwegian lesbian ex-policewoman in a wheelchair as a result of being shot, though it isn’t really a puzzle mystery. There’s the usual Dark Underbelly of Scandinavian Society (TM) stuff, and a mysterious heavily guarded extra carriage on the train which proved that I have spent too much time on the internet, because I thought that it really ought to contain zombies, and one or two bits I wasn’t convinced about, but the detective and supporting cast are very enjoyable and it does a good job of revealing people’s personalities more as the book goes on.
Downton Abbey. A return to at least being vaguely coherent tosh, greatly enlivened by the fact that my youngest sister had never seen an episode, so we had to brief her in advance and explain things in the advert breaks. And, of course, by the large amounts of Dead Turk references, though the point where my father and I really lost it completely was when Robert Bathurst said that he couldn’t marry Sybil because he had a war wound... Even the pernicious political viewpoint (you can tell that Julian Fellowes has never had a real job if he thinks that the way most people get a pay rise is by just talking sensibly and unemotionally to the boss who has exploited them and done everything they can to avoid giving them any credit, and the boss will obviously recognise the justice of their words and agree, and anyone who suggests that taking your undoubted talents somewhere they will be recognised is evil) gave us excellent material for discussion during a hike the next day. The plotting remains ridiculous, and the Bates trial makes me suspect that Gosford Park was heavily edited by someone who knew a bit about how murder mysteries work. I have decided that Bates did it; the script certainly gives us no reason to believe otherwise, even if the entire prosecution case was based on information that Bates had apparently told them.
Great Expectations was fantastic. It actually made me want to read the books, and I can give a Dickens adaptation no higher accolade.
A Scandal in Belgravia, the latest Sherlock, was infinitely better than the second and third episodes of the first series, hung together pretty well dramatically, and was really good fun. I was a bit irritated by aspects of Adler’s presentation (I really hope the final scene was Sherlock’s fantasy), but I felt the handling of Sherlock’s sexuality was done with considerable sensitivity.
Meet Me in St Louis (in the cinema) despite having the worst hairstyles in any film, a love interest in a brown cardigan, and the women’s dresses apparently being entirely modelled on fringed lampshades, is really very good indeed, though the Garland/O’Brien song Under the Bamboo Tree understandably had the audience visibly cringing. Peter Bradshaw’s brief Grauniad review pointed out the importance of its being a war film, something I hadn’t previously realised. One would not at first glance associate it with the black-and-white Brief Encounter, but what is Have yourself a merry little Christmas about, if not the importance and cost of keeping a stiff upper lip? It’s tremendously camp, has completely random nuns at the end, and is a brilliant example of why you don’t have to spell out explicitly that something is Wrong. Leon Ames’ sympathetic, loving, humorous, kind, and absolutely autocratic father, prepared to uproot his whole family not simply from their present, but their futures, for the sake of his professional advancement (which we are explicitly told will bring in fact a lower standard of living for them, and is clearly signalled as affecting the women more than his son), finally understanding what he is doing to them and changing his mind is a much better illustration of how a patriarchy works (and incidentally Hurts Men Too) than someone coming onscreen to give him a lecture about how he is Wrong followed by political enlightenment.
Annie at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Very well staged, well-performed, full of energy, children excellent and non-nauseating, all in all a really strong production deservedly playing to a packed house and excellent reviews. Unfortunately, I can’t stand the play. But I am still humming the songs.