The world needs a full on Beatles biopic, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, there have been some great Beatles biopics. 1994’s Backbeat and 2009’s Nowhere Boy are both excellent in their own way, albeit narrow in scope. With the success of the full biopic in recent years, following Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, is it now time for a full on Beatles biopic?

BACKBEAT

Backbeat follows the story of the early Beatles in Hamburg from around 1960 to 1962. The emergence of The Beatles and their music is the backdrop to the film, rather than it’s main focus. The film looks primarily at the interaction of John Lennon and his friend Stuart Sutcliffe. Stuart becomes less and less interested in music and more interested in art, which was probably no bad thing because he was not the most gifted of musicians, so his stint in the band caused friction with other band members.

There is a lot here for Beatles fans. Klaus Voormann appears in the film when he comes to see The Beatles play and he also brings his girlfriend Astrid Kerchherr. As Beatles fans will know, both of these characters go on to play a role in The Beatles’ development. Astrid gets together with Stuart. She is a gifted photographer and her photos of The Beatles from this time remain iconic. She is also credited with developing the Beatles style and fashion, including the so called mop top haircuts. Klaus Voormann obviously didn’t hold too much of a grudge about a Beatle taking away his girlfriend as many years later he went on to design the cover of the Revolver album. He also became a musician in his own right as bassist with Manfred Mann. The most powerful aspect of the film however is when Stuart dies of a brain haemorrhage , aged just 21. The impact of this death on Lennon in particular was significant and played a part in the development of his musical works.

NOWHERE BOY

Nowhere Boy is set even earlier in time than Backbeat. Here we see John Lennon as an adolescent from 1955 to 1960 living with his aunt Mimi. He gets on better with his Uncle George than he does with the somewhat austere Mimi, but George dies early in the film. John gets to know his mother, Julia, after a friend tips him off that she only lives nearby. Although Julia seems somewhat unstable and ill suited to bringing up children, their relationship flourishes and she is credited with introducing him to music by teaching him how to play the Banjo and encouraging his independent spirit. Towards the end of the film we even see that Julia and Mimi appear to heal their rift. However, once again things take a turn for the worse when Julia is knocked over and killed by a car.

Again, despite it’s relatively narrow scope, there is much here for the Beatles fan. One of the most talked about events in the Beatles story, namely the 1st meeting of John and Paul, is depicted. John is playing his 1st gig with his band, The Quarrymen, at Woolton Village Fete. After the show, John meets Paul, who auditions for the band by playing a version of ‘Twenty Flight Rock’. We also see George introduced to the band via Paul and George gains entry by playing the song ‘Raunchy’ in his audition.

As good as they are neither of these films could be described as a full on biopic, along the lines of the more recent Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody films. They both look at a specific aspects of the fledgling Beatles story and both films end before The Beatles achieve any real success. There is no real focus on their musical and songwriting development, other than the implication that John’s more introspective style was influenced by the tragedies that befell him in his youth.

Why do we need a full Beatles biopic?

The Beatles original success was in part due to Europe’s baby boomers needing some post war joy. Rationing dragged on into the mid 1950’s in the UK and the production and availability of many things remained depressed for several more years. The 1960’s was when the baby boomers reached their teenage years and early 20’s and they were more than ready to let their hair down. The USA joined the party a little later needing a lift after Kennedy was shot. Surely, a post Coronavirus world needs this lift just as much!

One obstacle will be the rights issues as Apple are notoriously protective of the rights to Beatles songs……have you ever noticed The Beatles do not feature on 60s compilations?

Another issue is the sheer size of the subject. In Backbeat and Nowhere Boy you have 2 full length films and they still do not reach the point in the narrative where the Beatles start to have real success.

There is also the fact that there is currently a virtual standstill in the film industry with many projects shelved due to filming restrictions and many cinemas around the world closed down.

They do say however that necessity is the mother of invention and it is certainly the case that a post coronavirus world will need an injection of joy just as earlier generations needed one to overcome the vicissitudes of life they faced. A 2012 NME article listed the 50 most uplifting songs, with number one being The Beatles Here Comes The Sun. The NME were quoted as saying that “George Harrison’s song bottles the feeling of the first days of spring. Just listening to it puts a spring in your step”. A full on Beatles biopic could be just what the world needs!

Here Comes the Sun Poster ~ Peanutoak Print | The beatles, Beatles songs,  Words

A matter of perspective

A Planet Size Comparison - AstroCamp School

As somebody once said, if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. There is surely a lesson here for all of us during these strange times.

It could be said that a similar change of perspective can be gleaned from looking at some of the major issues facing our world today. None of this is to suggest of course that the world does not face very real problems or that we ought to stand by and watch without doing anything to help.

Population-do the living outnumber the dead? It has been claimed in the context of the population crisis that there are more people alive today than have ever died. In fact there are currently around 7.8 billion people alive and the Population Reference Bureau in Washington estimates that around 107 billion people have ever lived. This means that we are nowhere near having more people alive than dead. In reality there are around 14 dead people for every living person.

Backwards Population Explosion - Galileo Educational Network

Space-are we running out? According to current estimates the observable universe is thought to be 93 billion (93 thousand million) light years in diameter. A light year is the distance that light travels in a year. Light travels at approx 186,000 miles per second. That means 1 light year is equivalent to around 5.88 trillion (5.88 million million) miles. The Sun belongs to a galaxy called The Milky Way. Astronomers estimate that there are around 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone. A 2016 study found that there are an estimated 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe. This means there probably are more stars in the Universe than grains of sand on all the beaches on earth, or put another way…….there is plenty of space!

Which Is Greater, The Number Of Sand Grains On Earth Or Stars In The Sky? :  Krulwich Wonders... : NPR

Life expectancy

The current global pandemic aside there has been an inexorable upward trend in life expectancy over the last 200 years or so. Males born in 1841 could expect to live to only 40.2 years and females 42.2 years, mainly due to high death rates in childhood. There have been massive improvements in nutrition, hygiene, housing, sanitation and believe it or not the control of infectious diseases. By 1920 life expectancy had increased to 55 years for males and 59 years for females.

The 20th century oversaw even more significant improvements in a whole raft of areas including the introduction of universal healthcare and advanced medical treatments for cancers and heart disease as well as lifestyle changes such as the popularity of running and other forms of exercise and the decline of smoking. As a result by 2019 life expectancy in England had increased to 79.9 years for males and 83.6 years for females.

The CDC Reports a Drop in U.S. Life Expectancy | Everyday Health

Poverty

We regularly hear on the news appalling accounts of poverty across the world. Whilst any poverty is unwanted and the accounts we see can be harrowing, the sheer availability of these images in the modern media world makes it paradoxically difficult to judge whether the problem is actually getting better or worse. To this end it is interesting to note that the percentage of the world population living in absolute poverty fell from over 80 per cent in 1800 to 20 per cent by 2015. According to United Nations estimates, in 2015 roughly 734 million people remained under those conditions. The number had previously been measured as 1.9 billion in 1990 and 1.2 billion in 2008. Anecdotally it is said that good news does not sell newspapers and it may be that this explains why in public opinion surveys around the world, people tend to think that the problem of extreme poverty has not improved. It has.

Extreme poverty - Wikipedia

Famine

In recent decades the presence of major life-taking famines has diminished significantly and abruptly as compared to earlier eras. This is not in any way to underplay the very real risk facing the people living with food insecurity and therefore requiring urgent action. Nevertheless, the parts of the world that continue to be at risk of famine represent a much more limited geographical area than in previous eras, and those famines that have occurred recently have typically been far less deadly . We have been assisted by a dramatic increase in food production over time which has been largely down to technological advances.

BBC News 10/23/84' ☮ Michael Buerk (Highest Quality) - YouTube

War

Any regular viewer of the world news will get the sense that war is as prevalent as ever. Indeed it is true that the total number of conflicts has been rising but the number of battle-related deaths (expressed as the rate of people killed / 100,000 / year) has decreased. This tells us that, contrary to what we might think as weapon technology advances, violent conflicts are resulting in fewer battle deaths. While there are more civil conflicts around the globe, these tend to be less catastrophic than wars between major powers.

Fortunately, the wars between major states have been on the decline — even including the entire 20th century — and show no signs of reversal. There has been a clear decline in the percentage of years in which the major powers fought with one another since at least 1600.

Tower of London remembers | Tower of London | Historic Royal Palaces

Pandemics

Although to us the current Covid 19 pandemic is a strange occurrence, these events are actually not rare at all from an historical perspective. You may remember learning about The Black Death in history lessons. Occurring between 1346 and 1353 The Black Death caused havoc on arrival in Europe. Some estimates suggest that it may have wiped out over half of Europe’s population. It was caused by a strain of the bacterium Yersinia Pestis and spread by fleas on infected rats. The bodies of victims were buried in mass graves. It was the most fatal pandemic in human history, resulting in deaths of between 75 and 200 million depending on which source you believe. It took until 1500 for European populations to return to the levels seen in 1300. By comparison the havoc wrought by COVID 19 is small. Bearing in mind there were no real vaccines before 1796* it is no surprise that we are better placed to deal with these issues now than we have ever been.

*The practice of immunisation dates back hundreds of years. For example Buddhist monks drank snake venom to obtain immunity to snake bites. However, Edward Jenner is considered the inventor of vaccines in the West. In 1796 he inoculated a young boy with cowpox and demonstrated immunity to smallpox. In 1798 the first smallpox vaccine was developed.

We are small

Astronauts looking down on the pale blue dot we call our home planet have often reported feeling some kind of epiphany known as the overview effect. From space, the sort of troubles and preoccupations that once seemed important evaporate in a wider context. It may be that COVID 19 will have a similar impact. With people prevented from seeing friends and family for many months and with their freedoms restricted it is likely they will have a renewed sense of perspective and see what is really important to them when the world finally overcomes COVID, which it most definitely will.

A small earth globe - The world in our hands

There’s no place like home (or why we love a movie quotation)

welcome mat

We are living in strange times indeed.  The current COVID-19 pandemic is really going to test the adage “There’s no place like home” to breaking point, as we are all encouraged to stay at home as much as possible at the moment in order to maximise so-called ‘social distancing’ and banish the world of the scourge of Coronavirus.  The adage however, famously used in the movie ‘The Wizard of OZ’, allows us to segue into the topic of watching great films. Many of us will be finding more time to watch films at the moment, whether with our families or on our own.  There are some great quotations from famous films and many blogs about them but not many have stopped to consider why we like them so much.

For what it’s worth my top 10 movie quotations, in no particular order, are:

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off”  The Italian Job, 1969

“How do you like them apples?”  Good Will Hunting, 1997

“Oh I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?”  Pulp Fiction, 1994

Concentration

“I mean, funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you?”  Goodfellas, 1990

“Roads ? Where we’re going we don’t need roads”  Back to the Future, 1985

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”  Jaws,  1975

“I see dead people”  The Sixth Sense,  1999

“I’ll be back”  The Terminator,  1984

“Houston, we have a problem”  Apollo 13,  1995

Houston

“Here’s Johnny !”  The Shining,  1980

“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys.”  Dead Poets Society,  1989

The more observant among you will have noticed that I have listed 11! But that’s the point, most of us have so many we can’t easily limit them. But why do we love a great line from a film ?

Well, why do we quote anything? Oxford University Press has for many years compiled a dictionary of quotations.  These are not limited to films but draw on novels, plays, poems, essays, speeches, films, radio and television broadcasts, songs, advertisements, and even book titles. It can sometimes be difficult to draw a distinction between quotations and similar sayings like proverbs, catch-phrases and idioms.  A catchphrase is a phrase that is often repeated by and therefore becomes connected with a particular organisation or person, especially someone famous such as a TV entertainer.  It tends to be his or her ‘calling card’.  A quotation is a phrase or short piece of writing often taken from a longer work of literature , poetry, etc or what someone else has said.  Those of us who watched the original version of the TV game show ‘Catchphrase’ may have said to ourselves “Hey, that isn’t a catchphrase” when Roy Walker occasionally gave a disappointing answer after letting the hapless contestant down gently with the line “it’s good, but its not right”…..that’s a catchphrase by the way, not a quotation!

So much for identifying quotations, but what is the point of them?  In reality they perform many different functions for different people in different contexts.  They often lend authority to an argument by drawing on some past heavyweight.  You may find your kids lost for words if you quote Mark Twain at them e.g. “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything”!   I suspect in most cases quoting from films isn’t used in this way but rather it is used as a feel good exercise and it is a short cut to remembering the film itself and it brings the film to life with the escapism that usually entails.  Often repeating lines from films in exchanges between friends and family leads to bonding, like the repeating of an inside joke.  Sometimes we are able to pull a line from a staged situation into a real life situation and apply it appropriately.

Only a few things can bring people together. Aspects of life such as food, music, books, and films are the most universal parts of contemporary pop culture. Movie quotes unify people, now more than ever. So the next time you say “You talkin’ to me?”  or “I am serious.  And don’t call me Shirley” , you’re keeping alive the trend of quoting iconic movies. Everyday lines like these are becoming increasingly immersed into our culture.  After this lockdown is over we may need them more than ever, so get viewing those films now!

 

 

3 weeks, 8 seconds: a review

This is the story of the epic 1989 Tour de France. 30 years have passed since these events took place. I thought I remembered them all but Nige Tassel’s fascinating memoir of the race proved me wrong. There were so many twists and turns I had forgotten and which this book allowed me to recall and relive.

I remember watching the highlights coverage of this race on TV first time around. Back then Phil Liggett was heading up the coverage on Channel 4 and the daily episodes were introduced by the iconic Tour De France theme tune penned by Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks fame (see below link). The exciting climax to the race is the reason why I still follow it every year even now. This book tells the story of the epic duel between Greg Lemond and Laurent Fignon, but it also covers so much more of the forgotten history.

In the years since 1989, cycling has grown ever more popular as a sport in the U.K. Certainly us Brits took a bit more notice in the 1990s when Chris Boardman won a gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics and then won a few stages of the Tour De France. Since then British cycling has seen unprecedented success both on the track and on the road. There was no British winner for the first 109 years of the Tour De France. Subsequently we have seen an embarrassment of riches, with wins from 3 different British riders starting with Bradley Wiggings in 2012, through 4 Chris Froome wins and a very popular Geraint Thomas win in 2018. Back in 1989 such success for British riders in the biggest bike race in the world was only a pipe dream. The French however were regular winners and they fully expected this to continue. Their journey has been equally surprising as they have failed to win their own famous race since 1985. This only heightens the importance of the events which took place in 1989.

For the uninitiated the headline is that Greg Lemond won the 1989 Tour De France by 8 seconds. As ever the devil is in the detail. This is a 3 week long grand tour cycle race covering 3,285 kilometres or 2,041 miles. There were 198 riders on the starting line, made up of 22 teams of 9 riders. In this context 8 seconds is a vanishingly small winning margin and indeed it remains the smallest by some distance.

Pedro Delgado was the pre race favourite as he was the defending champion. His must be one of the least successful title defences in the history of any major sporting event. He turned up almost 3 minutes late for his start time in the prologue individual time trial and rendered victory almost impossible on day 1. As for Lemond it was amazing that he even made the start line. Whilst he had won the Tour in 1986 he had missed the next 2 after being shot and almost killed in a hunting accident in 1987 and having to undergo 2 lots of surgery. He was not expected to climb back to the pinnacle of professional cycling. Laurent Fignon on the other hand was supremely confident of victory. Indeed it may well have been his over confidence that was ultimately his downfall. He was 50 seconds ahead of Lemond going into the final day individual time trial. As that stage was only 15.2 miles long, Lemond was not expected to make up the deficit. Lemond however was an early adopter of technological advancements including aerodynamic handlebars and carbon fibre frames. On the other hand all Fignon had to accompany him on his ride into tour history was a Gallic shrug and that famous pony tail. In the event Lemond completed the fastest individual time trial in tour history up to that point and even with the benefit of going out last Fignon was 58 seconds slower, costing him victory and allowing Lemond to win by the titular 8 seconds over 3 weeks of racing.

In the end it is difficult to sum up the key message of Tassell’s book any better than he does himself by borrowing from The Bard. The book quotes Henry V in stating “Tis best to weigh the enemy more mighty than he seems”. If the French are to turn round their now decades long decline in cycling performances they will do well to heed this advice. On the evidence of this book however, Nige Tassell has nothing to worry about, as his writing goes from strength to strength.

The Jaws of Victory

The Netflix documentary, The Jaws of Victory, is a must watch for all football fans. The episode forms part of the series entitled “Losers”, although any Torquay fan would question that since it does not portray the team losing. The programme tells the story of how Torquay Utd came to avoid automatic relegation out of the football league on the last day of the season in 1987. Along the way we are treated to a programme replete with classic quotes and some musings on the nature of winning and losing.

The Jaws of Victory boasts an impressive dramatis personae. Netflix has gathered together many of the original players as well as other protagonists. We hear from Kenny Allen (Goalkeeper), Jim McNichol (Right Back, Captain) and Paul Dobson (Striker) on the playing front. There is also time for Dave Thomas of The Herald Express, Stuart Morgan (Former Manager), a humble fan, John Harris (Former Police Constable) and of course Bryn the Police dog.

The scene is set with Torquay Utd painted as a humble small town club. Long time followers of the club will have marvelled over the years at how many words the media manage to find to describe such clubs. Many times we have read about minnows, strugglers, battlers etc. Dave Thomas tries in vain to talk up Torquay by reference to the English Riviera and to nameless individuals reputed to have compared it favourably with its cousin the French Riviera. The downtrodden fan however, brings us back to earth with a bump, saying “Anybody who goes to a football match expecting Torquay to win is an idiot I think…you must hope for the best and fear for the worst when you follow Torquay”. Perhaps the most profound comment however, returning to our theme of the nature of winning and losing, is when it is said that there have been more downs than ups, but in a way that makes the ups feel all the better.

So the scene is set. It is the last day of the season in 1987. The team that finishes bottom will be relegated. At the time that could well mean the end of a club. Torquay were playing Crewe who were considered a good team and who were already safe. Torquay would need to get something from the game. Conditions were not very conducive however with the pitch described as bone hard, just like a desert and the temperature boiling hot. Despite what you may read in the travel guides these are not the usual climatic conditions on the English Riviera.

The match did not start well for Torquay and they found themselves 2-0 down by half time. They pulled 1 goal back in the 2nd half to give themselves some semblance of hope. With 8 or 9 minutes to play Captain Jim McNichol chased the ball down as it ran out of play and approached at 90 degrees to Police Constable Harris and Bryn the police dog. They were standing on the sidelines as the Plainmoor crowd got increasingly restless and fearful of relegation. The titular Jaws of Victory belonged to Bryn and soon clamped on to the right back’s thigh causing a nasty gash and ultimately a requirement for 17 stitches. In the heat of battle however, and bearing in mind Torquay had already used their then regulation 1 substitute, Jim had to play on once he was bandaged up. The 4 minute delay whilst these events played out allowed the Gulls to be clear as to exactly what was required of them as Lincoln lost and Torquay knew for sure that a draw would be sufficient to save them. The game re-started and as we entered the 3rd of the extra 4 minutes Paul Dobson struck to equalise and shortly thereafter the final whistle blew and all hell broke loose.

In the aftermath of the game we heard from Dave Thomas that a miracle had been delivered and the players and fans alike partied. The club Chairman met Bryn the dog and his handler and gave him a bone as a reward and a Gulls scarf to help him understand what team he should be supporting! It was generally accepted that the dog had helped Torquay stay up, rather than Paul Dobson. Torquay had survived “by the skin of their teeth” and so started a theme of Torquay as football’s great escape artists that would see further episodes, although to date no repeats starring canine protagonists. We heard from Kenny Allen that if you are a follower of a big football club you need to get real and learn a bit about football history. It certainly seems that the day on which Torquay were saved by a police dog went down in football folklore and this Netflix instalment can only help to cement its position.

Ultimately this was a feel good story. Maybe it was feel good like Lassie or The Littlest Hobo in days gone by, the dogs that saved the day and made everyone feel good about themselves when there was a happy ending every week. I suspect however that it is something more than that. If winning was the be all and end all then everyone would support Manchester City or Utd, and many do of course. But why support a battling club like Torquay? It has often been said that you don’t learn anything from winning but you learn from losing. You go back to the drawing board again and again until you can compete and ultimately win. The victory of the person who knows what it is to fail is perhaps all the sweeter. It is not taken for granted and it is hard fought. This documentary is timely then in 2019 as Torquay Utd team look to have turned a corner with current Manager Gary Johnson weeks away from possibly achieving promotion back to the 5th tier of English football. Torquay fans are dreaming then of a return to the football league. When you survive there is always the chance of doing better next year. Torquay survived in 1987 and they have done well this year..so bring on next season!

Escape from Alcatraz ..or something

In a curious echo of Christmases past I watched Escape from Alcatraz this Christmas. The echo was down to the fact that the prison escape and prison literature (prison lit) genre has featured pretty heavily in previous Christmases, albeit largely in the form of The Great Escape. I am not entirely sure what the attraction of the genre is, but it seems to exert a gravitational pull of sorts. In fact now I come to think about it I have also been listening to Folsom Untold, which is an Audible documentary-style account of the Johnny Cash album recorded live at a prison gig. I have also always been a fan of The Shawshank Redemption; another prison break film, based on the Stephen King short story. My recent renewed interest is due to upcoming plans to visit San Francisco and hopefully Alcatraz. Again, rather strangely, on my last visit to the U.S.A I read the Stephen King short story collection which included the story which provided the inspiration for Shawshank. This all gives rise to many questions including what is the attraction of prison lit, why is it American dominated and why indulge at Christmas? Before briefly considering all of this I will endeavour to summarise the titular film for the uninitiated.

Escape from Alcatraz is the true story of 3 inmates who attempt to escape from what was considered the most secure prison in the world. Clint Eastwood (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; Dirty Harry) plays Frank Morris, the leader of the group and Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner) plays the vindictive prison warden. The real life escape in 1962 precipitated the closure of the facility in 1963. The film depicts Morris and his cohorts plotting and preparing their escape. They dig through their cell walls, using a canteen-acquired spoon adapted into a mini shovel. As they explore the possible exit route beyond their cell walls they leave behind papier-mache dummies to make it look like they remain fast asleep, like well behaved prisoners. One of the most memorable scenes occurs when it looks as if their plan is going to be rumbled as a prison officer is looking long and hard at Morris’ papier-mache alter ego as if he has worked out it is not real. In a dramatic scene, which nevertheless requires you to willingly suspend disbelief, we see the officer enter the cell and shake Morris only to find the real Morris has now returned to his cell and he innocently asks what’s up in a bleary eyed manner. The denouement shows Morris et al decide to proceed with their escape plan a little early due to the unwanted attentions of another prisoner who’s threats to kill Morris risk derailing the whole plan. In the event 1 of the escape party does not have the heart for it on the night but the other 3 seemingly make good their escape through the hole in the cell wall, onto the roof, down the side of the building, over a barbed wire fence and into the treacherous waters with the aid of a makeshift raft.

The next morning a massive manhunt ensues. No bodies are found but McGoohan is keen not to be the Warden in post when Alcatraz loses its reputation for never having any succesful escapees. To this end he insists the men must have drowned. The film suggests otherwise however, and in a moment of poetic licence we see the Warden picking up a chrysanthem from the water’s edge on nearby Angel Island, after being told the plant is not indigenous to the island. This is significant as Morris had befriended a character in Alcatraz called Doc who was an artist with an interest in growing chrysanthemums. The clear implication is that the escapees had made it to Angel Island. In reality no conclusive evidence ever surfaced to indicate whether Morris and co survived or not. In 1979 an FBI report concluded that the men were likely to have drowned in the freezing waters of San Francisco Bay. The film hints at the suggestion that that would be a self serving finding for the authorities keen to maintain the perfect reputation of the correctional facility. The fact that Alcatraz was shut down in 1963, 1 year after the escape, is less suggestive of confidence in the prison.

Although they did not watch this film with me, I suspect I may have planted a seed so that my kids are also in danger of catching the prison lit bug. I mentioned to them that Alcatraz must surely have been the inspiration for their hero J K Rowling’s Azkaban. Come to mention it it is probably not their first foray into the field either as I have also subjected them to Porrridge re runs.

As for why prison lit has an eduring attraction I suspect it comes down to (excuse the pun) escapism. Most of us have not experienced incarceration and so it offers an incite into a different world. I am not sure if the genre is any more American dominated than any other aspect of media. Certainly mainstream movies remain American dominated. In my case I have probably been more interested in the American incarnations of prison lit but this is really just a specific expression of a generalised interest in all things Americana. Why indulge at Christmas? The cynics among us might suggest a link to escaping relatives with whom we may otherwise be drawn into seasonal disharmony. I would suggest however that Christmas is itself the ultimate in escapism in that it takes us away from the humdrum elements that may lurk in our everyday lives. Seen in this light watching a prison flick at Christmas makes perfect sense!

Until the next time, I’ll be off to find the river.