MY NAME IS MAURICE MICKLEWHITE, NOW THERE’S NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT KNOW THAT

Michael Caine

Every year the charity Lifeline has an event where they sell old books at the Brisbane Convention Centre. The Lifeline Bookfest “is the biggest fundraising event that supports the 24 hour Lifeline 13 11 14 Crisis Support Line. This life-saving service offers suicide prevention and bereavement support over the telephone as well as family and crisis support – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” (taken from their website) I went many years ago and snapped up a few bargains and promptly they went in a cupboard and then got tucked even further away. Never read.

I had picked up a Michael Caine autobiography What’s It All About? because I knew he had served in the Korean War and had flicked through the book and noted there was something about this in there. Earlier this year I was in the process of decluttering and I got rid of some books and found the books I had bought at the Lifeline Bookfest and decided to place them in my living room and start reading them. I am touched to find scribbled on the front page a message from a Mum giving the book as a Christmas gift to her daughter in 1992. Somehow this makes me feel more privileged to have come into the possession of it since it was bought with love at some point as a nice gift. I had just gotten back into book reading thanks to my own birthday gifts The War For Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy by Bill Carter and Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman (great books by the way).

I was just about to leave for London and found in the short time I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I took it with me on the flight over even though I only had carry on luggage and as a hardcover it took up some space. I have finished it now a while back not long after my return and thought I would share some thoughts since I believe it is one of the best books I ever read.

Related image

It was published in 1992 with Caine well into middle age and at a reflective point in his career and life. His mother had just passed away, his career was slowing down and his youngest daughter was coming of age. From the first page as Caine described his earliest memories I was hooked but I wondered if when we got to Hollywood would the book become boring? Details of a boy growing up during the Blitz or a struggling actor making court appearances would possibly prove more interesting than having lunch with John Wayne. I needn’t have worried because Caine as a veteran raconteur always looks for the human elements in his stories. His stories of Wayne are terribly moving. Hell even Margaret Thatcher just becomes an apron draped busy body hostess, memories of unemployed miners not even mentioned. Except well they are. Because while Caine now entertains royalty and owns Rolls Royces he remains a Cockney kid with a chip on his shoulder and an actor who was on the dole at various times for 10 years. He remembers having nothing to his name and it informs the things he imparts to us. While shooting The Man Who Would Be King in Morocco he had a local driver and at the end of the shoot the locals went to the continuity girl who back then shot with a polaroid. The locals would get pictures of themselves with their employers signed and would use these to get work on the next international production to roll through their town. I don’t think other stars would think to include this in their biography close to 20 years later but Caine does and such stories are part of the reason why this bio remains entrancing. I dare not spoil all the stories here but you really must read it for yourself.

Image result for michael caine 1960s

Caine comes off looking pretty good even with his delight in bedding several girls in the 1960s and then hypocritically insisting he does not go for the kind of girls Alfie went for because they had no self-respect. We see a survivor who endured an awful lot before his big break. An ingratiating personality full of jokes and self deprecation. At another point he tells a valuable lesson given to him by a director on a film set that those with egos simply couldn’t admit to. Most of all we see a family man first and foremost who would do anything for a true friend. As he relays his new lifestyle and how much he was being taxed we understand why he left London for L.A. and why he was always destined to return. Good films and bad films are similar in that they often require leaving home for months at a time, hours on set waiting for set-ups and hanging with others at craft services. A great film will get you excited about the role and process but it’s a job like any other. As much as Caine revels in great memories of great films he did like Zulu, Alfie, The Man Who Would Be King, Sleuth, Educating Rita he also relates fond memories from films long forgotten by the public whether it be an illustrious co-star, an interesting role or an exotic locale. He makes you understand why sometimes he took the money. He once said of the truly horrible Jaws: The Revenge “I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it was terrible. However I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” That makes sense and it makes even more sense when you read the book.

I actually wept a few times during the reading of this book as he relays deaths and close calls with loved ones. Caine effortlessly makes you laugh and makes you cry. You maybe surprised to find that Caine at one point lost his marriage, his child, his job and then his father as he approached 30 which in those days was a terrible old age to be living at home with your parents. Image result for michael caine parentsHe could not sink any lower as he stood in a hospital room watching his father die from cancer. He was handed his father’s personal effects which amounted to a few quid. His father served in the Army in the 1920s making Bombardier and being posted to India. He returned home and got a good job in the fish markets. During the war he served in Dunkirk, North Africa and Italy. He gambled though and so after a lifetime of work he had nothing to show for it. They didn’t even own the house. His son Maurice walked down the corridor out of the ward determined to make something of his life. Not everybody will be afforded his fairytale turn of events but I still think there is a lesson in this for us all and one I certainly find heartening in my current circumstances. Image result for michael caine being knightedWhen Michael Caine went to be knighted in 2000 he did so with his real name. He said at the time “I was named after my father and I was knighted in his name because I love my father. I always kept my real name – I’m a very private and family orientated person.” Maybe that is what it is all about. 

Related image

P.S. There is a follow up book from 2010 titled The Elephant to Hollywood, another great read due to his ongoing charm and wit but not nearly as well written as this one. The follow-up feels like a journal with a lot of recaps of events from the first book but this time with more a realistic remembrance rather than the evocative memories of the first book. Maybe literature had suffered in the 18 year period but they’re both good reads and the latter has interesting stories about the making of The Quiet American and Harry Brown. Trips to India and time in Miami. Old friends getting older and his take on Australians. Apparently we have a pretty straight forward way of looking at things, one night while shooting in Australia and enjoying some mud crabs for dinner he asked his Australian waiter why such a delicious meal was given such a basic name. The waiter paused for a second and then surmised “Well I reckon it’s because that is where they’re from and that is what they are.” You can’t argue with that logic.

-Lloyd Marken

Advertisements

ROCKET MAN – AN AUSTRALIAN IN LONDON

20180406_030810

Copyright Lloyd Marken

I awoke rather late in what would be last day in a foreign capital. I should have risen at dawn, I should have carried on throughout the night but I didn’t. My funds were limited and my mind was elsewhere. When I got back to the Premier Inn at Bexleyheath I took a bath and tried to clear my head. I awoke late on Thursday April 5th and walked towards the train station. Originally I had envisioned leaving the wedding to sit at the airport with my brother until our planes took off. But the flights booked included one out of Heathrow at 10:35pm so I was going sightseeing. I got to Bexleyheath station and hopped on a train that had been delayed. In 2002 I caught trains for 3 weeks without incident, now I was finding out why locals mocked the reliability of British rail.

20180405_213937

Copyright Lloyd Marken

We did eventually move as I studied my old maps from 2002, the line went into London finishing at Charing Cross. I was keen to see Hyde Park, Westminster, Tower Bridge and most importantly St Paul’s. So I figured I would change trains and head for St Paul’s but then I saw Charing Cross was at Trafalgar Square I decided I would just hop off there. Years ago I had gone on a tourist bus there and we had gone into a local pub for lunch surrounded by businessmen doing the same. Romantically I envisioned a similar destination this time with me taking the chance to try a warm beer for the first time. The journey was slow but slowly the houses gave way to apartment buildings and leafy parks to industrial areas. More and more buildings climbed higher into the sky and then started to become of older architecture. I didn’t need a map to tell me I was getting close and then when I hopped off my train I saw clearly the London Eye.

20180405_231512

Copyright Lloyd Marken

Coming out onto the main street on a sunny afternoon I looked around for a pub but soon decided I didn’t want to spend time or money on food. I saw a shop named Garfunkels that served British breakfast for about 10pound, I suspected it was a franchise and in I went to sit down with a nice window seat looking at Trafalgar. I settled in to do some people watching but instead ended up reading my Michael Caine biography What’s It All About? Reading about someone who came from London while in London also seemed appropriate and fulfilling.

20180405_233324

Copyright Lloyd Marken

Having chosen a rather boring meal to eat while in a foreign land I noticed with the sauces there was bottle of something I did not recognise – malt vinegar that the bottle said was to be poured over the chips. I could tell from its placement that this was as common in England as the other sauces and while not a huge vinegar fan I decided to have a go and found I quite liked it. Now I was truly cosmopolitan and eating something different.

I paid and walked over to Trafalgar Square. I was thrilled to be in old London town and such a place made the experience all so real and yet I was alone and with vaunted memories of 2002 that today couldn’t possibly measure up to. It was here in 2002 during a particular heat wave that Nadia and I joined others climbing into the world famous fountains to cool our feet. Now there were signs everywhere saying keep out of the water. Lions I had once bravely climbed towered above me out of reach. These were feelings I would often have throughout the day.

20180406_014219

An elderly gentleman kindly took this photo of me outside St Paul’s. Copyright Lloyd Marken

So I set off for the one place I wanted to go above all else – St Paul’s Cathedral and headed straight for Paul Mall.

20180406_005258

Copyright Lloyd Marken

I didn’t get too far before I righted myself and found if I stuck to The Strand it would take me there. Apologies to all Londoners who will be tearing their hair out at my lack of geographical mainstays. So off I went, the amazing thing about London is there is so much to see or do in such a small area. At one point I saw a black gothic building and stopped to take a picture as the battery on my phone gave out. I had a spare charger on me but needed the phone to last a while yet so I stuck to The Strand and headed for my destination. Along the way I saw police and a gentleman outside a Church that looked like some trouble brewing or blowing over.

20180406_013916

Copyright Lloyd Marken

When I got to St Paul’s there were bag inspections and dozens of people sitting down on the steps. I walked up and was asked to open my bags and I warned the gentlemen that one compartment had dirty clothes in it. Those around me were asked if I was going to the evening service but not me. The Church had closed to the general public in the last half hour or less but there were evening services. I will tell you about my love for St Paul’s another time but it was one of the highlights of my trip to London in 2002. Over the years when I ask people who have gone to London did they go and see it and they always helpfully reply that they’ve been to St Peter’s in Italy or there is really quite a nice cathedral in Kent. Having not gone to those places I will give them the benefit of the doubt but how you can dilly daddle around with Big Ben or Trafalgar Square when St Paul’s Cathedral is right there is really beyond me! Ahem but to each their own.

20180406_014909

Copyright Lloyd Marken

I walked and sat down on the pews waiting for the evening service and taking in the grand sight above me. There was something comforting in how it was just as beautiful and grand as I remembered her but soon my thoughts turned to how in less than six hours time my flight home was scheduled to take off. Could I afford to spend my time here taking in what I believed would a be a very special experience. Perhaps not. I got up and walked over to those who had welcome me and said “I’m terribly sorry but I’m going to have to leave.” As I stood there with a suitcase wrapped around me she replied “Maybe you can come back tomorrow.” And I smiled and I said “That would be lovely.” And it would be and maybe if not tomorrow then one day soon. On my way out I grabbed my loose change and put it in the donation boxes and hoped this squared me away with God who had been kind enough to get me here to see my favourite place in London and to support the staff who had kindly taken me in for the evening service I was now abandoning.

In 2002 one of the few well known tourist attractions we did not go to was The Monument so off I set to see that. My journey that day became a series of seeing the hint of famous landmarks in obscure and unexpected ways that let me know I was finally nearby. The Monument was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Dr Robert King and erected as a memorial to the Great Fire. Standing at 202 feet or 61 metres if laid down on its foundations the end of it would reach Pudding Lane where the fire was believed to have begun in 1666. I am getting worse with heights and more out of shape every year so I was glad I had been recently going to the gym when I entered the narrow spiral stone staircase of 311 steps leading to a viewing platform. I stopped as other came down past me. One gentleman hopefully said to me “That I would have left the suitcase at home.” Out of breath I fired back “There is no home.” So I told him. Heh. Ahead of me was a father taking his kids up the monument with their grandfather. Dad was struggling but with great pride noted aloud that his father in his 70s was shooting ahead. Age is just a number I guess.

20180406_021340

The view of Tower Bridge from The Monument. Copyright Lloyd Marken

When we got to the top I heard the father pointing out to his kids where Granddad had grown up. Not far from Michael Caine or Beetley Pete I thought. In fact Tower Bridge was in front of me and I did think of Pete knowing he did not grow up far from there. I struggled around a full lap of the viewing platform and took a selfie showing how far the ground was below.

20180406_021405

The selfie with the ground nearly 50 metres below. Copyright Lloyd Marken

I’ve abseiled off Kangaroo Point at 18 metres and off 20 metre towers. I’ve stood on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but it was just as well I did not know that I was 48.7 metres above the ground right at that moment.

20180406_021850

Copyright Lloyd Marken

The Copper Urn with flames gives the monument the extra 13 metres. To be truthful though with the wire fencing around to stop jumpers made me feel more safe and I felt pretty comfortable despite the height. As I went to leave I suggested to a couple at the door “You go first, you’ll be faster than me.”

 

20180406_024304

The Tower of London, Copyright Lloyd Marken

Now I made my way to the Tower of London which was understandably closed and then I walked across the beautiful and unique Tower Bridge. Years ago Nadia and I spent a day in London together where we went to Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, Globe Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, Convent Garden and yes Trafalgar Square.

Chockfull of peak hour traffic Tower Bridge was still enchanting but I was now strictly sighting tourist landmarks rather than experiencing them. Instead I experienced the hum of the city as workers left for the day and young people and tourists took to the river for entertainment or a meal. The day’s ending suited my own feelings of wistfulness and farewell but also that a new part of the day was starting.

I crossed the river 3 or 4 times I think finally crossing the Millennium Bridge which I had not done fifteen years ago. I was on the wrong side of the river when I went past the Globe Theatre which Nadia saw in 2002 while I was on HMS Belfast. Maybe next time.

20180406_032539

HMS Belfast infront of Tower Bridge. Copyright Lloyd Marken

Some things had changed and looked more touristy, some things remained the same. There were a lot of concrete structures on each bridge that looked like old worn down ticket turn stiles of a bygone era. But I did not remember them from last time.

20180406_042036

Copyright Lloyd Marken

The sun continued to lower and I looked to see The London Eye off in the distance not thinking it could be much further but it was. Finally I came to an area with a Merry Go Round around Southbank where a busker was playing a beautiful version of Rocket Man. I took note of his name at the time and gave him all my loose change but I cannot remember it for the life of me.

20180406_042041

If you look carefully in the background you can see the very talented busker. Copyright Lloyd Marken

The lights were coming on now and the song moved me as I strolled away. These kinds of moments are what make trips, of what makes life. I was impressed by how many performers were entertaining people along Southbank. There is a whole culture to buskers in London followed by bloggers with their own dedicated youtube sites. Some make a living, not great money but a living doing what they love and my hat off to their achievement of that, their talent and to what they bring to the river Thames every day.

I walked all afternoon covering at least 10 kilometres with 7 kilos are my back. I don’t know if Karen would’ve liked that but not for the first time did I think about her being there.

20180406_043024

Copyright Lloyd Marken

The London Eye came into view and I knew I was close. Big Ben was surrounded by scaffolding as I crossed Westminster Bridge.

20180406_043913

Copyright Lloyd Marken

It was where we essentially started our journey as London tourists in 2002, the tourist vendor on the corner I checked out to see if there were suitable gifts. This was where we first came in 2002, this was where that bastard attacked and killed people on 22 March, 2017 injuring 50 and killing five. I had thought about us on that bridge as a family fulfilling a lifelong dream on a weekday morning back in 2002 when that terrorist attack took place. As soon as I saw the concrete structures again on Westminster Bridge I knew what they were for and that they had not been there in 2002.

20180406_044043

Copyright Lloyd Marken

Less than a year after September 11, 2001 we travelled across the globe with new restrictions and laws and heightened security and at war. Now all these years later there had been even more terrorist attacks and more heightened security. Yet all around me were people out and about having a good time. That made me happy.

I saw up ahead Churchill’s statue and decided I would say hello before leaving. Photos of me with my siblings and Churchill were some of the first taken of as a family in London all those years ago. I was coming full circle almost by design but when I saw the Cenotaph I knew I had one more place to go. My face was red from wind blast, my steps were slow and deliberate due to blisters. In the beautiful blue twilight of a European autumn evening with golden shimmering lights and dropping temperatures I crossed the road and bowed my head in front of the war memorial.

When I descended down Westminster station I asked for directions. It was getting late and I had not the time nor energy to waste. A kind staff member sensed this and told me to catch the next train and switch at South Kensington. I swapped and waited anxiously for my train. I’ll admit that I had left in good time but if my train was delayed like earlier that day I was well and truly stranded. As a man who does not think of himself as brave I am it would seem casually reckless none the less. Next I had to swap trains again as I was going to Heathrow Terminal 4 and this train was only going to Heathrow Terminal 1, 2 or 3. One more anxious wait and my train came, soon I limped up to Terminal 4 to get my bag checked. I was asked where my boarding pass was and I helpfully replied “I thought I was getting that from you.” Thankfully again this good staff member showed me where to go where China Southern Airlines and I returned a few minutes later with my boarding pass. I had an hour to spare until take off but he told me with relief that I had just got in. Fair enough.

20180406_045748

Copyright Lloyd Marken

I now entered a gift shop having gotten things for some family members at The Monument, I now got a tote bag for Karen, a stuffed toy for my older sister, a tea towel for parents and a snow globe for some children. Plus magnets. A long term collector of spoons I didn’t get one. It did not seem long until we had boarded and were taking off from the tarmac. I had made it, I was on my way home. When I first booked the flights my imagination had gone to taking Karen to London in the near future. Now I was not so sure. It had been an eventful trip, it felt like a monkey was off my back in my long term longing for travelling overseas and yet also it seemed more possible now than ever. Seeing London again was wonderful but Karen’s absence also made me realise that there were other things more important. I don’t know what the future will bring, who does? The golden lights of a metropolitan city lay out before us outside the window. I looked desperately for a landmark and seconds passed as I failed to recognise anything. Then I saw what looked unmistakably like Tower Bridge and I smiled. In that moment for whatever reason I was struck by a feeling of farewell like I was seeing London for the last time and so I wished it well and thanked that beautiful grand old city of fond memories and my sister’s home. The wings tilted and the ground went out of view and I began my journey to Brisbane and my home.

-Lloyd Marken

ROCKET MAN – THE RETURN COMMUTE

20180407_064147

Sunrise onboard Flight CZ 0381, Airbus 330. Copyright Lloyd Marken

CZ 0304

We’ll skip ahead now gentle reader to the return commute as it won’t hold much interest in comparison to once you have read about my time in England. I was scheduled to leave Heathrow 22:35 local time CZ 0304 travelling 5911 miles in 11hours 10minutes to Guangzhou. I noticed this was a shorter flight than the one I took over and put it down to the aircraft now being a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The 787 is a newer aircraft but not the true successor to the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. Boeing instead designed this to replace their 767s with technologies that made the plane weight less and travel more efficiently. The Airbus A380 is the biggest passenger jet now as the Boeing 747 starts to be retired out of service and even it is in a battle to draw a profitability for Airbus. That makes me very sad. We used to build grand things, now we just build efficient ones but as a passenger who knows nothing I was happy to catch the 787 to get home faster but probably enjoyed being on the A330s more.

Upon boarding I noticed I was now on the right hand side facing the front and the side rows were 3 abreast and the seats had coverings that were more purplish than blue. Alas no Angry Birds. I was seated between two young men in the centre but they couldn’t have been nicer. We did fine accommodating each other but barely spoke. People don’t get names or make small talk anymore, if they ever did, everybody locks into their screens and politely gestures to each other and that’s about it. I had my meal which was lovely and then tried to sleep but I couldn’t, my legs were stiff and sore and I just couldn’t nod off. So I went to the bathroom and stood outside for half an hour stretching and generally just standing hoping I didn’t look weird. Eventually I returned and did manage some sleep, I think at some point Daddy’s Home 2 (I hadn’t even watched the original) and The Foreigner with Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan were watched and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Or maybe that was the last flight. The windows were tinted out blue rather than needing actual shades to be pulled down, the kind of technological breakthrough that amuses some and befuddles me.

20180406_142813

Copyright Lloyd Marken

I’m a strong believer routine makes new realities lived in very quickly and I was coming off the end of a long week where a large part of it I had been a passenger with Southern China Airlines and I was getting used to it. The ads you couldn’t skip that ran before each movie for Lexus in Chinese, the safety videos at the beginning of the flights and the terminals at Guangzhou. I was going to miss it you see.

20180406_190636

Dreamliner parked at Guangzhou. We exited the pictured ramp on a outside stairwell. Seeing ahead I got myself ready to take this shot at the bottom of  the stairs before racing for the bus otherwise there would be no good photo of the only 787 I’ve ever caught. I’m glad how it turned out. Copyright Lloyd Marken

We landed 16:45 local time and I promptly went to the toilet after clearing customs. Changing my socks and undies in a vain attempt to make up for a lack of shower facilities I charged my phone and read my Michael Caine biopic. I returned to the shops to pick gifts for loved ones, my only regret is that I had to limit myself due to carry on weight and money, Chinese pizza will have to wait for another time too. In my earlier trip I had noticed a smartly dressed Panda and fell in love with the idea of getting it for Karen. I have since discovered her name is Pia.

20180406_204833

Not the plane I caught, just a shot from the airport. Copyright Lloyd Marken

 

20180406_204906

No good shots of this spectacular main thoroughfare but hopefully you get the idea. Copyright Lloyd Marken

The airport made me think of a real cool idea for purgatory. I don’t mean it was unpleasant to be there, the place was sleek, modern, glass and steel with planes lifting off into the heavens outside. Brightly lit stores and eateries beckoned and small nooks of carpeted corners made me think of cool hiding places for kids. The smog outside and the unfamiliar surroundings were very atmospheric to me along with all the strangers that surrounded me. I was alone but there were clearly families and couples. What if there was a way station like this in heaven? There is a film from the 80s called Heavenly Kid which has a subway station as purgatory, why not an airport? Once again reading Michael Caine made me sleepy so I went for a walk but this time I was only in China for 4hours 45 minutes and they start boarding before then. To be quite honest it struck me that 5 hours was a perfect break for such commutes rather than racing to your next flight to save a couple of hours in transit. Again I recommend China Southern Airlines and the Canton Route although I was grateful I had not been there for a 17 hour stop over.

20180406_225233

CZ 0381 Copyright Lloyd Marken

CZ 0381

We were scheduled to fly out of Guangzhou at 21:20 in an Airbus A330 with CZ0381 to cover 4388 miles in 9 hours and 5 minutes. On my fifth and final flight I got the window seat with a young Asian woman sporting heavy make-up next to me. We didn’t talk much either but she didn’t get grumpy when I had to wake her to get past her. Before we left we were told there was a hold up due to some kind of activity around Hong Kong. I started to nod off and continued as we taxied but managed to be wide awake as we flew down the runway and up and away. The meals offered for dinner and breakfast are usually of a Western and Asian bent. I had tried them all and enjoyed them but decided to pick the Asian ones after getting a noodle soup for breakfast on the Dreamliner. I had previously been worried there would be too much liquid and was worried about spilling it but this wasn’t the case at all and it tasted fantastic. When I got the meals this time the flight crew member serving me smiled and said “You always go the Asian one.” approvingly which just tinkled me pink for some reason. Maybe that was unusual.

20180407_064132

Copyright Lloyd Marken

As the sun rose I took some photos and also as my homeland finally came into view making use of my window seat.

20180407_071651

Copyright Lloyd Marken

When we reached Australian shores a lot of the flight was still to come which gives you a sense of the distance you have to cover in Australia to get anywhere. 20180407_072312In an afternoon I had walked over 10kilometres, last year in a day I had driven over 900 kilometres and in my last plane flight I was covering 7061 kilometres in about the same amount of time as the driving to Newcastle took. 20180407_073845The Captain apologised for the delay getting us to Brisbane but these things happen and again I was very happy with their service.

20180407_082138

Not long before home and having to turn phones for the descent. As exciting as the landscapes of foreign lands thrilled me, there was something comforting in this sight. It can’t be the only landscape that looks like this but it felt like home. Copyright Lloyd Marken

During our descent at 4,000 feet we went past the airport and banked right the 240,000 odd kilogram passenger jet over Moreton Bay with me looking right out the window at a sea of water. I quite enjoyed that and then we came into land.

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning and I looked out the window to see aircraft personnel loading and emptying cargo in shorts and polos with bronzed arms and legs. How Australian I thought. There was something that felt very Chinese to me in Guangzhou, very Dutch to me in Amsterdam and very English to me in Heathrow too. How to describe it I don’t know but I find something comforting in how all of those airports and all those people were the same and yet through some kind of quirky thing different. It’s something we should celebrate too and one of the joys of travelling far and wide. But I was home now as I got into my car with Karen and drove to our apartment.

20180407_090922

Copyright Lloyd Marken

Total distance traversed within the week in planes was 20,607 miles or 33,163 kilometres. I had been in London just under 58 hours, my total commute time was easily over 32 hours on the way over and close to 25 hours on the way back or roughly I spent 57 hours travelling to London and 58 in it. I’m actually surprised by that, I was assured my commute would be longer than my hours in country so I’m embarrassed to have come up short. Still my brother in law was right; Nadia was in Australia from Friday morning to Monday morning. 3 days and 3 nights. I had been in London 3 days and 2 nights with a slightly longer commute. If she wants to take back the title for craziest commute she is more than welcome, I’m just glad we got to go to each other’s weddings. I’ll tell you more next time about Bexleyheath, an Australian in London and one of said weddings.

-Lloyd Marken

MINOR ROLES THAT HAD A MAJOR IMPACT – LUCY FROM GOING IN STYLE

Image result for ANNABELLE CHOW GOING IN STYLE

 

Going in Style is a pretty much average film overall, helped mainly by the charisma of its 3 venerable stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin. The film tells the tale of 3 retired workers who have lost their pensions due to nefarious corporate wheeling and dealing. Eventually they get around to making a decision to rob a bank, the same bank responsible for the deal that took away their pensions. As the heist kicks in the film does get a boost of energy with director Zach Braff capturing the action in some interesting ways but the film never really takes off.

SPOILER ALERT!

Image result for ANNABELLE CHOW GOING IN STYLE

During the heist Freeman’s character Willie becomes distracted by a little Asian girl and speaks to her while suffering an attack due to his ill health. It is the kind of cringe inducing narrative choices that infuriate me. Why would his character do this at that moment? They have got to get in and out of the bank quickly. You know narratively there has to be a payoff but you’re insulted by the lack of character motivation and sheer stupidity by people you’re supposed to be rooting for. Yet there is a payoff and against my better judgement I couldn’t help but approve.

Annabelle Chow plays the little Asian girl named Lucy who is there at the bank during the heist with her mother. The pay off is in a later scene she can identify Morgan Freeman’s character by his watch. Matt Dillion suspects our three heroes and hauls them in front of Lucy to have her identify them from the line-up. During his interactions with Lucy, Willie mentioned he had a granddaughter. Chow comes in as Lucy, stares down all the suspects and then is adamant that nobody present were the bank robbers.

Image result for ANNABELLE CHOW GOING IN STYLE

On her way out of the police station she walks past Morgan Freeman’s daughter played by Ashley Aufderheide. The camera goes into slow motion and as the two little girls walk past each other, Annabelle clutching a doll gives the most gangster nod to Ashley. Cheesy as fuck, predictable for a few but in that moment I tipped my hat to young Ms Chow. From the bank heist to her poker face during the line-up and then that simple gesture on her way out she gives a great performance. It’s pretty simple I admit but there’s something touching about the morality of a child. They are known to have sixth sense and something in her during the heist had seen that this man was not a threat and surrounded by adults suspecting she was lying and talking about the importance of the law she had come to a simple choice – this man has a granddaughter like me and I’m not taking her grandfather away from her. With that simple choice by Lucy perfectly conveyed by Ms Chow the sentiment of it all touched me. One of the most annoying things about a film had been redeemed. Sure they could have found another way to set it up better but thanks to Annabelle Chow I was happy enough. As a minor character she seals the fate of the main characters and their families and highlights some of the central values of the film. Not bad for what was a probably a couple of day’s work. Well done Annabelle.

-Lloyd Marken

Related image

SOME STATS FROM 2016

This is just a quick stocktake for the second quarter of the year to see where we stand heading into the last third of the year. Think of it as less a self-congratulatory pat on the back and more a shameless plug for previous posts.

Image result for united kingdomConsistently most of my views come from the USA ( who overtook the top spot from Australian readers early this year and don’t look like handing it back anytime soon), Australia, the UK, Canada and then Spain. Early this year Brazil powered ahead to No.5 but Spain has shot back in the past couple of weeks. Near the end of August Great Britain had the most views for the month but then the world turned, the East Coast woke up and America took out the No.1 spot just like they did in the Olympics. I wonder if the U.K. could take out a month though in the future.

Top 5 Most Views by Country 2016

  1. United States 1,209 Views
  2. Australia 922 Views
  3. United Kingdom 811 Views
  4. Canada 220 Views
  5. Spain 122 Views

Top 10 Most Viewed Posts 2016

  1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army 129 Views
  2. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 77 Views
  3. The Heroes of Kibeho 76 Views
  4. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton Falls and Back Again 66 Views
  5. South Vietnamese General Ngo Quang Truong’s War 56 Views
  6. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part V: Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls 55 Likes
  7. Youth is Wasted on the Old 54 Views
  8. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will to Live 52 Views
  9. Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds 45 Views
  10. Stars Wars Has Return to our Screen and Our Hearts 45 Views

Top 15 Most Liked Posts

15. A Couple of Nice Guys to Spend Time and A Brave New World with New Ghostbusters

Rounding out the Top 15 are the last two film reviews with 10 Likes equally. On paper one is a old school masculine driven film and the other a revived franchise that re-casts women as the central heroes. Both have similarities though, in The Nice Guys a young daughter is usually the most sensible and smartest person in the room despite the guys loudly throwing punches and shooting guns, she maybe the one who makes the biggest difference. Both are also about people having to face overwhelming challenges to find out who they really are and take up that mantle. In one two damaged but good men discover they can do the right thing and in the other women surrounded by naysayers prove they maybe the only ones who can save us from Ghosts. Sadly I found The Nice Guys a delight despite a third act finale that didn’t quite take off for me but Ghostbusters was another example of a tired old regular reboot blockbuster. Not bad by any stretch but lacking the laughs and confident subversion of Paul Feig’s previous films.

14. Hail, Caesar! A Lovely Film For Those Who Loves Films 10 Likes

As a film buff, Hail, Caesar! may speak to me more than the average cinema goer. There’s the usual clever Coen dialogue to be found here and even a lot of depth underneath the surface. I doubt it will go down as one of their classics, it feels very much like an inbetweener (yes I know this isn’t a real word) for them but I liked it quite a bit and you can’t deny what the heart wants – the heart wants.

13. Lance Corporal Michelle Norris MC 11 Likes

Those who may say women can’t serve in combat may want to look up Cpl Norris. A 19 year old medic when deployed to Iraq she became the first female soldier ever to be awarded the Military Cross. Subsequently 3 other female soldiers have earned the Gallantry Award.

 

 

 

 

 

12. 10 Pics form the Sticks Part V: Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls 11 Likes

1711Part of an ongoing series of blogs about hikes I’ve been on, I gained confidence from the excellent Cindy Bruchman’s series Five Shots to post these and they seem to have gone down well. When my sister came over from England with her Canadian partner I decided they would enjoy the spectacular views of The Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. That day was even  more enjoyable for the opportunity to get acquainted with them. A wonderful memory.

11. South Vietnam General Ngo Quang Truong’s War 11 Likes

It may surprise some to find out that the South Vietnamese military had one particularly good leader who was respected by all sides and would eventually turn back a North Vietnamese invasion in 1962 when mass American ground troops had left South East Asia. He lost the war he fought and his country but he never stopped rising to every occasion including re-settling in America with his family and making a new life.

 

10. The Year of Blogging Dangerously 11 Likes

Well this is awkward, this was a similarly themed post from April and includes shouts outs to reviews from previous years like my love for About Time, Craig Ferguson and David Letterman.

 

 

9. Birth Days 11 Likes

A little short story I wrote for university that played with narrative structure. Essentially relating birth moments throughout a lifetime with certain patterns emerging again and again over the years. It means a great deal to me all the positive feedback I’ve received for it.

8. Alice Going Through the Looking Glass and the Sequel Motions 12 Likes

Not a particularly good film or good review but it’s nice to have fans.

 

 

 

 

7. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes 13 Likes

Image result for love and friendship movieWhat I like to call a clean review. Fairly concise, not too boring to read hopefully and sums up what is good about a pretty decent movie. The number of likes probably reflects an interest in the film itself which has been getting good notices.

 

 

6. Central Intelligence – There’s Worse Films Out There 13 Likes

I felt inspired writing this review to touch upon this guy I knew in high school who became a bit of a success story. The film itself didn’t bowl me over but there were funny moments to be had and The Rock and Kevin Hart are two very likeable star personalities who played well off each other.

5. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will To Live 14 Likes

Image result for amy adams vanity fairThe film depicts the character of Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller and Deadshot very well. I’m intrigued to see a better film with these performers playing off the dynamics of their core relationships. That unfortunately is not what this film was and a rant and Amy Adams Vanity Fairs photo shoots ensured. People seemed to enjoy reading which is a relief because it was one of my longer rants of late.

4. Star Trek: Beyond Covers Familiar Ground 14 Likes

star trek star review trek beyondStar Trek: Beyond has been well received by most critics and fans so pay to attention to my opinion but here it is for those that are interested and it seems to have intrigued some.

3. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns up a New Zealand Gem 20 Likes

Out of the 2016 films I’ve reviewed so far the best ones have been Eye in the Sky and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Those that have seen the film seem to have been enchanted by it and that good will meant people were just happy to share their joy of the film here on this post as well. It really is a gem, be sure to check it out.

2. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton Falls and Back Again 20 Likes

1619Karen and I went hiking one day up at the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walks and came across an echidna in the wild which was a real treat. I also touch upon a trip we took with her grandfather to the same area not long before he passed away.

1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army 51 Likes

Blame GP Cox and his amazing blog which started about retelling the experiences of his father as a Paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II and now is just a fine source of history from that period. When GP posts something within 24 hours he receives 100 Likes, goodness knows how many views. He’s built this following up over time with fine consistent work and consistent supportive interest in the blogs of his followers. As soon as he reblogged on his site my post about the first known Aboriginal to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army – the stats on that post shot up. Captain Reg Saunders was a war hero who endured much upon his return home and always overcame the racial indignities of his time with humour and resilience. We could learn a lot from his example.

 

For Your Consideration

I don’t think of myself as a particularly good writer but nonetheless sometimes I’m excited by what I come up with. Other times I can’t help but feel it is a bit messy and has nothing of interest to add. My review for Captain America: Civil War for example lacks any real hook. I list a few things I like and what narrative threads may have consequences throughout the franchise but it’s a joyless review for a film that was quite joyful. Suicide Squad an imperfect frustrating film on the other hand led to a funny review (an attempt at being funny anyway) and one that was relatively painless to write. Here are the posts that I’ve enjoyed compiling and seeing reactions to that you may have missed.

Cpl Bryan Budd VC

Published March 29 3 Likes

article-1216591-025CB87C000004B0-562_470x423[1]The closing paragraph I’m particularly proud of but at the end of the day this soldier’s story tells of extraordinary courage and sacrifice and should never be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

Eye in the Sky Is Pure Perfection

Published March 29 8 Likes

The first great film of 2016 has a lot to say without clamping down on one agenda either way. It will spark debate, discussion and thoughts about many aspects of modern warfare but in the end it is a poignant tale about one girl selling bread on a street corner and whether she will survive to see tomorrow.

 

Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 6 Likes

Brooklyn maybe my favourite film of last year, maybe not the best I’m quite happy Spotlight won the Oscar, but my heart literally swells right now thinking about Brooklyn. I felt like I went to three different funerals while watching it. It’s about falling in love, chasing dreams and planting your feet about who you and where you’re headed in life. It made me think a great deal about my little sister and how much I love her.

Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 6 Likes 

I went for broke trying to be funny here and I’m quite happy with the results. It’s the first time I got to write about Jennifer Garner and I hold no shame in that. People have gone cold on the film already saying it’s not that original and the marketing sold it. Fuck them. Any idiot could say the filmmakers edited around a standard origin story but there’s wit here that you just don’t get in many blockbusters anymore and it punches above its weight in terms of budget and action sequences. In a summer of disappointments Deadpool stands tall against all odds as the little blockbuster that could AND DID.

Youth Is Wasted on the Old

Published January 10 3 Likes

Youth didn’t light up the box office or feature much in the end of year award shows. For me though Youth stays in the mind for a long time after. Michael Caine gives another stellar performance as an ageing composer facing up to what he’ll do with the time he has left and what he has lost along the way.

Thanks again to all those reading and have a great weekend.

-Lloyd Marken

The Year of Blogging Dangerously

002I studied in the Creative Industries and like a lot who do it is not now where I work. A few years ago my sister who blogs suggested I should too. I guess to have a creative outlet and maybe to practice my craft and build a portfolio. Sadly I don’t think I’ve really become a better writer but I have become a happier person. I popped my blogging cherry in November 2013 writing about my favourite film of that year – About Time.

Nighy is an actor so beloved that when he shows up in a movie you can’t help but smile. His first line had me grinning even though he wasn’t saying anything funny. I was just so happy to see and hear him. Such an effect from an actor makes him perfect casting for the role of the father. The world loves Nighy and that love will give the film absolute weight later on when he tells Tim what he used the gift of time travel to do with his life. Because if you’re a father and you can travel through time that is exactly what you would do. This is one of the year’s best.

There were no pictures and I didn’t check stats, there were errors galore and it all went on a bit too long but I had expressed something inside myself and enjoyed the process. It was only a matter of time but eventually I blogged again when Craig Ferguson and David Letterman left their late night programs.

When Craig Ferguson’s last show aired in the middle of the night I stood up alone in my living room in my boxers as Craig finished singing and the audience applauded. I smiled sheepishly knowing how stupid I was behaving but wanting to feel connected in some way.
No doubt I’ll be on my feet again this Thursday. Because that’s what you do when legends retire. You stand up and you applaud.

At that point I headed back to university for a short course and had more time on my hands. Being back around creative people with creative pursuits was terribly rejuvenating even if I regret not making the most of my time in the course. My fifth post was about The Martian and within 24 hours I saw these little cubes pop up on my post. busyk AntVicino cinetactic

 

A film about a stranded astronaut rife with 70s tracks demands a track from Bowie to be used and The Martian answers the call better than I could have hoped. The choice of Major Tom would have been welcome if too on the nose. Instead Starman begins right where it needs to in arguably the best moments of the film. The crew who left Watney behind circle around Earth to pick up supplies and sling shot back towards him. This enables the crew to communicate with families hundreds of miles away from them but as close as they have been in months before returning to rescue their stranded crew member. It is a heroic gesture full of sacrifice but the film plays the scene as one of unbridled joy. “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

I had a couple of followers before and my sister always shared my posts on Facebook but this was something new. Somebody was communicating with me specifically, 3 people in fact from AntVicino from Oakland, Cinetactic from the Philippines and Busy K from New York City. Another milestone. Next I wrote about the James Bond series and little boxes appeared again. I started to wonder if it was possible to always get one like when I posted. I also checked out the likers and followers and started following people myself which made the reader take on a new importance. Views and visitors though always fascinated me proving no matter how small the response people were seeing my work. I don’t particularly need validation, I’m still at heart just somebody writing About Time because I love it so much and have to express it, but it is very enjoyable to have feedback and to have interest in your blog.

As the year closed I wondered if a lot of views were garnered by me reading my posts when I was logged out. In any event it’s been a year since I started seriously blogging and in that time my followers, likes and comments have grown. In March when Cindy Bruchman announced I would be co-hosting her Lucky 13 Film Club in April it doubled my interaction with the blogging community. I was very lucky to be involved in something so well liked and with a blogger so well respected that my likes, comments and followers probably doubled in that time but so did the blogs I follow and the blogs I comment on or like. It’s been a very enjoyable experience to feel more a sense of community than ever. Having branched out from film reviews to posts about hikes I’ve taken and military biographies I wrote for an old newsletter, I finally bit the bullet and put forward a short story to read for that community. When you write a film review, the focus tends to be on your opinion and whether it’s shared by others. When you write a story though it becomes a bit more personal. People are focusing on you now. I’m touched to say that my fellow bloggers have been kind and it is a huge relief that they seemed to enjoy the story. So as I celebrate one year of regularly blogging I thought I’d reflect on some interesting stats and which posts seem to have struck a nerve from 2016 so far. Think of it as a shamelessly greatest hits plug if you will and less so a chest thumping celebration from someone who really has a very small blog. May I just say to my regular viewers, followers, likers and commenters. Thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart and keep it coming.

 

You know I’m big in Brazil.

Last year the vast majority of my views came from Australia (over 1,500 which I assume includes mostly from me) with 51 from the U.K. and 39 from the U.S., 8 from Spain, 6 from Canada, 3 from Switzerland, 2 from Denmark, and 1 from France. Interestingly none from the Phillippines?

In 2016 so far it’s 516 Australian views (I don’t think those are mine), 366 American, 314 British, 78 Canadian, 59 Spanish and chomping at the bit to get into the Top 5 Brazil has 52 views.

Most Likes

  1. Birth Days                                                                                                                   9 Likes
  2. A Reblog of Jeff Bridges: The Lucky 13 Film Club April 13                            8 Likes
  3. Hail Caesar! A Lovely Film for those Who Love Films                                  8 Likes
  4. Ex Machina                                                                                                                  7 Likes
  5. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part III: Lake Baroon to Delicia Road                     7 Likes
  6. Eddie the Eagles Soars Enough to Qualify                                                         7 Likes
  7. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection                                                                          6 Likes
  8. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant           6 Likes
  9. The Huntsman: An Unnecessary Sequel That Is Not Necessarily Bad      6 Likes
  10. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                 6 Likes

Most Viewed in 2016 So Far

 

10. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant

Published April 1 – 30 Views                                                                                                                                                            Less a film review than a full blooded rant. “Kicking off where that film ended with Bruce Wayne on the ground during the Metropolis battle trying desperately to reach his people in a Wayne Enterprises building in the best sequence of the whole film. The music and sound pounding in an Extreme Screen cinema has to be experienced as Bruce a highly capable mortal man commutes by helicopter then car then foot through the mayhem. His skills keep him alive getting out of the way of destruction repeatedly at the last second but his figure remains powerless in the face of such super beings. Bruce Wayne is also with the victims that we never really saw with Superman in the finale of the last film. It’s an inspired way to address criticism of the last film and set up the central beef Wayne has with Superman in this movie. It also well and truly proves that audiences can now see movies that fully evoke the horror and helplessness of September 11, 2001. Take that Al Qaeda!

9. Birth Days

Published April 24  – 30 Views

The Short Story I wrote, it is trying to communicate something about the randomness, cyclical nature and inevitability of life with spare sporadic writing. There’s a lot of jumping in and out of moments where you have to pick up hints of resolutions along the way. Once again I am very grateful for its reception. A week old and the only post I haven’t shared on Facebook, the number of views, likes and comments is really encouraging.

8. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                                         

Published January 19 – 31 Views  

Arguably the funniest of the award season darlings last year. ” This is the film’s greatest conceit; it’s inversion of what happened. The majority of Americans got ripped off and screwed over by the Global Financial Crisis! Then it spread to the rest of the world too! The Big Short doesn’t follow suckers or losers though, it follows winners, people smart and brave enough to see what was going down and the film makes us feel included in their wisdom and plight when we weren’t. I don’t say this cynically, I think this is the best movie ever made about the Global Financial Crisis and it will reach the broadest audience and make them feel the most about it as a result of this approach. The film is never preachy but there are few lines sprinkled throughout that hit home not just about the financial sector but maybe even our society at large. There are montages of photos to remind us of current events and major pop culture distractions at the time. One great sequence shows many characters leaving a hotel and their current wealth defined by the car they leave in.

7. Ex Machina: A Small Film with Big Ideas 

Published January 27 – 31 Views 

My first post to get over five likes which I means I have to click on the word bloggers to have them all appear. Sadly such things give me a thrill. A real gem of a movie that not everybody has seen yet. “How each audience member reacts to each character may say as much about themselves as it does about the characters and certainly one of the pleasures of the film is seeing these very different creatures bounce off each other. The movie enjoys playing with the ideas of who is being tested, is anybody else maybe a robot, who is sympathetic or being dishonest and just where this all may lead? I wouldn’t dare spoil it, it is nice to not be sure of a film’s outcome and yet also at the end be satisfied with it.

6. Deadpool: Finally A Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 – 31 Views

Since the film revelled in meta humour I had a go at trying something different with this review. It was a lot of fun.” A few years ago Deadpool would have been subverting a genre the average movie goer didn’t know inside and out. It turns out my ex-wife was right, timing is everything although I think she was talking about foreplay rather than motion picture releases and box office success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 – 32 Views

It’s always  nice when a piece of your writing that you particularly like seems to go down well with others. Of the film reviews that have done particularly well there often seems to be a correlation to how much I put my own personal thoughts, opinions and experiences into it. Not always but often. 🙂 I was thinking about my little sister when I wrote this. ” That seat at the table never stops feeling empty but the person missing is sitting at another table across the seas and they are loved.. and they are home there too. This is a great movie.

4. Star Wars Has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                                            

Published January 13 – 42 Views

Again more a spoiler filled rant than a review to the biggest film of last year. The film’s popularity may have something to do with this. ” Han Solo to me is still roguish in this one but with age and a son has come vulnerability and real stakes for the smuggler. I’ve seen the film four times and every time Leia says “Luke is a Jedi…you’re his father.” I tear up. There has been a lot of talk about how Han Solo should have died in an epic way taking on many bad guys or sacrificing himself to save someone’s life. That’s the thing though he does die in an epic way to save someone’s life…to save Ben…to save his son’s.

3. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 

Published March 29 – 43 Views

The first great film of 2016 is certainly garnering a lot of attention. “Missiles hovering high in the sky waiting for civilians at trade deals to come and answer their phones. Boys selling cheap plastic buckets to act as a cover story for an agent while he operates multi-million dollar miniature drones to fly inside a safe house. Bread in a wood fired oven potentially being a death sentence. Gavin Hood’s film powerfully conveys a brave new world with the same old truths of human nature. We want to raise our children in peace, go to work, come home and see them playing in our yards. But war has always existed and people die in wars.

2. Youth Is Wasted on the Old                                                                                                 

Published January 10 – 48 Views

 

Again another film that I really enjoyed and a review that I really enjoyed writing. It is a pleasure to have it be one of the most viewed posts. “ The whole cast is uniformly exemplary but Sir Michael Caine is here once again taking on the lead role and giving one of his best performances ever-worthy of an Oscar as anything else I’ve seen this year. Even at this stage of life Fred Ballinger has a character arc and grows. He learns there are things to be done, there is still strength in these arms and there is not a moment to lose. The firemen are coming. This is one of the year’s best.

1. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                                

Published January 10 – 51 Views

Originally one of those pieces I wrote for my newsletter and then revamped for uni last year. There are no words to do justice to what was endured by all those who were there at Kibeho in April 1995. All I can say is I acknowledge them, I am proud of them and I wish them peace. If there is a highlight of doing this blog, it may just be to have had Terry Pickard comment on this post. When I told my Mum that Terry Pickard had commented on my Kibeho post she enquired “Is he a blogger?”. I replied “No Mum…he was there.”

-Lloyd Marken

YOUTH IS WASTED ON THE OLD

Roger Ebert once wrote “That the firemen are going to come looking for all of us one of these days, sooner or later.” in reference to mortality in the film Amour. Within 3 months he was dead after fighting on without his voice and limited mobility for years. He did not go quietly into the night but the firemen had come. The giants of my adolescence as eclectic as Ebert and Tom Clancy are disappearing from my life. Youth shows me that Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel remain as strong as ever but here are playing characters well aware that there are a handful of years left in their lives. You can’t help but marvel at the passage of time.

Keitel and Caine share a lot of similarities in their personas and histories. Both served in the military as young men overseas, Caine as a Royal Fusilier in Korea and Keitel as a U.S. Marine in Lebanon, both rode film renaissances of their eras on either side of the Atlantic, both are identified with rough neighbourhoods of their youth Caine a Cockney from London and Keitel a Jew from Brooklyn, both got some big breaks in films playing criminals and both have been re-discovered by hip young filmmakers who revitalised their careers. Michael Caine is 82 and Harvey Keitel is 76, these are not ages where you believe you have all the time in the world left but they thankfully still enjoy working and we are the more fortunate for it.

Michael Caine stars as retired composer Fred Ballinger who is vacationing in the Swiss Alps at a health resort. His oldest friend, director Mick Boyle is also staying there brainstorming his new film with some young screenwriters. Also present is Rachel Weisz playing Lena Ballinger, Fred’s daughter and assistant who is married to Mick’s son. There is an overweight retired soccer star, the latest Miss Universe shows up and Paul Dano as a young film star who wants to do a good picture rather than be remembered playing a robot in a broad comedy. Jane Fonda essentially has one scene where she shows up as Boyle’s former star and muse Brenda Morel to be asked to headline his new ‘legacy’ film.

The film has its own leisurely pace observing each day one by one as Boyle fusses over his film, Ballinger is hounded to return to perform for the Queen and Lena deals with the aftermath of her marriage imploding. A key scene for revealing Fred’s current state is the only weak moment in the film because the Queen’s emissary appears remarkably ignorant and insistent. A great fallacy that comes naturally to us is that the old must somehow be wise but Youth shows clearly that both Fred and Mick still have questions they can’t answer even if they understand how fleeting and poignant it all is. It is a pleasure to watch these two performers bounce off each other. Caine as far back as The Ipcress File knew the power of a silent gaze and Keitel who has remained physically in shape all his life appears with still the exuberant energy of a boy ready to take on life. Your oldest friends bring out the child in you; there is something special when you see peers interact with each other. Many years ago in a hospital ward I finally saw my grandfather wasn’t just a grandfather but a brother and a young man somewhere inside bubbling to the surface. Notice how Caine plays a scene with Keitel compared to Dano or a young boy.

The film (relatively low budget) looks fantastic, the retreat itself surrounded by beautiful pine forest mountainsides has a courtyard where hip young bands play on a lit stage at night. In the morning rows upon rows of guests of various ages move through pools, saunas and massage tables in various states of undress. There is a celebration of flesh in all its forms in this film which reflects the earthy quality of Europeans when it comes to sex. Americans get excited by the garter underneath a skirt. Europeans count all the freckles and wrinkles on a bare thigh before devouring it lustfully no matter what the number. After all the firemen are coming. Even Madalina Diana Ghenea as Miss Universe displayed on the film’s marketing for a famous titillating descent naked into a pool is introduced as a human being before being celebrated as a goddess.

Director Paolo Sorrentino is a compelling visual artist engaging in both full blown dream sequences and one compelling close up shot of Weisz as she speaks about much that has been left unsaid for far too long. After that confrontation not much else is said between father and daughter for a bit and then it is. It can go like that sometimes with family. Lena worries about Fred and Fred worries about Lena but in the end they will find their solutions to their life crises themselves. It is nice to be loved though. The whole cast is uniformly exemplary but Sir Michael Caine is here once again taking on the lead role and giving one of his best performances ever-worthy of an Oscar as anything else I’ve seen this year. Even at this stage of life Fred Ballinger has a character arc and grows. He learns there are things to be done, there is still strength in these arms and there is not a moment to lose. The firemen are coming. This is one of the year’s best.

-Lloyd Marken