All posts by jonsmalldon

Film Review: Your Name

I’m out of my depth here. I have no frame of reference. Your Name is the first animated Japanese film I’ve seen, an absolutely shameful admission but there we go. Or it could be that I’ve seen many hundreds of them before but the strands of time have twisted and now I can no longer remember. Such things are possible in the world of Your Name. A rather beautiful, definitely cool and altogether wonderful world to visit.

Mitsuha is bored in her provincial world, namely the village of Itomori. Her wish to live her next life as a handsome boy from Tokyo is half-granted when she and Taki (a handsome boy from Tokyo) begin to experience mind swaps, each living a period of time in the other’s body. The kicker being that neither can then remember anything about how their actual lives went. This being the 21st century they begin to leave each other messages in their smartphone diaries and in notebooks and, occasionally, on their bodies.

So far so … simple? A lot more is dealt with in Your Name‘s quick moving hundred or so minutes. We have a spiritual grandmother as keeper of a shrine, a lot of teenage angst and awkwardness, and the small matter of a comet that may or may not be about to wipe out significant numbers of people. There are times where none of this makes any sense. Partly, that’s because plots like this shouldn’t be thought about too much, sometimes it’s because the cultural shift between Japan and my house renders everything otherworldly, and occasionally it’s because the white subtitles with no backing are impossible to read.

There’s an impressive soundtrack by Japanese band Radwimps which is an intregal part of the whole piece (and worth listening to in its own right as well) and the animation and direction by Makoto Shinkai is clever, deft and, mostly, wonderful.

Your Name has done phenomenally well in Japan and around the world. It hardly needs me to add my name to the list of fans. But, I’m going to. It’s an absolute joy from start to finish and now that it’s currently available for £0 at Amazon Prime there’s no excuse not to partake of its pleasures.


At the match: Hastings United v Molesey

Sam Adams scores a Hastings penalty – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2018, All rights reserved

The drizzle turned to rain and the grey skies only got darker. The lights were on from the start. The stage wasn’t set for greatness and the game matched the stage. Just over 400 were at the Pilot Field and the game they say went the way the table said it should: a relatively straightforward win for Hastings United over a Moseley team whose effort was solid throughout but who didn’t produce much to suggest their lowly position is an oversight to be corrected.

It finished 3-0 and could have been more. Craig Bradshaw in the Molesey goal was a busy man. An excellent shot-stopper and a commanding presence he was only beaten in the end by two penalties and a close-in scramble; other shots hit the post and were cleared off the line. Without his hard work Hastings could have had a hatful, with him there it had begun to look like Molesey might get out of Dodge with a point. A goalless first half was carrying on in much the same vein – all Hastings attacks but without a killer punch – until those two spot kicks either side of the hour mark, both put away by Sam Adams and the latter leading to a straight red for Taylor Roles. After that, nothing was in any doubt but still Bradshaw kept the home side at bay until the dying seconds.

Molesey remain in the relegation spots with only one win from fifteen attempts on their travels; Hastings lie in ninth but are a whopping thirteen points off the final play-off spot. They seem to be going through another period of transition so will no doubt settle for good performances and decent wins in front of high-for-the-division crowds. For now. The new ground may have stalled but there is still a belief that the division above, at least, is where Hastings belong. The locals may well become restless again if this transition fizzles into another one and then another …

I did have my camera with me but also two children and a lot of rain. So the handful of shots are here.

I wrote a thing about the President’s Club fiasco

It was an odd sense of timing. Neither of us had seen the FT report on the President’s Club dinner but, this morning, a colleague and I were talking about odd or uncomfortable things we’d had to do to stay onside with bosses.

And she told me that about twenty years ago her boss had treated her, and several other women, to a visit to a lap dancing club. There were a few men taken as well. Thousands of pounds must have been spent (we worked it out). The women knew they had to go and everyone knew they couldn’t complain. My colleague had a coffee, got bored and waited to be able to leave.

Needless to say my own stories of nodding along to catastrophically stupid ways of thinking didn’t have quite the same level of pep.

The one thing we agreed on though was that pretty much any man who has been on a stag do, and quite a lot of men who haven’t, will have been to similar clubs. It’s not exactly a badge of honour. But should the urge take you to unwind in the company of women who will take your cash to show you their boobs and give you some friction burns then such places exist. For everyone else there’s the internet.

Now, maybe those things shouldn’t exist. But, for now, they do.

What nobody should do to get their rocks off or ‘relax’ after a hard day’s doing whatever it is that businessmen do to justify their wealth is go all gropy at a dinner and then claim it’s all okay because they’ve bunged Great Ormond Street a few quid.

I mean you fucking what?

I’m sure in the plot of some deeply satisfying porno you once watched on company expenses in a hotel bedroom the girl says yes when the middle aged man asks her to fuck but, y’know, I’m not sure it’s the look you want to be aiming for in real life. It’s Bullingdon Club morality to say I’ve paid for this so I can treat anyone and anything in my way however I please and my money will make it right. And it stinks.

It shouldn’t even need saying. Of course it stinks to get some young women on minimum wage to dress up in tight black dresses (with appropriate underwear) and high heels so you can get all nudge nudge in your gratuitously affluent men only room. And, yes, it would stink if there was an equivalent for women to dribble their unwanted lust onto toned male bodies whilst washing away the guilt with cash for causes. I’m just not aware that such things exist beyond the strutting fury of keyboard warriors yelling CHIPPENDALES. And, as for whether hen nights, of all things, justify the President’s Club then I refer the honourable reader to my comment about stag dos above.

So we now have the tedious sight of certain of the right getting all high and mighty, saying this is yet another example of the destruction of men or the supremacy of the wrong kind of women. As if treating people with dignity and respect, and giving to charity because you mean it, were somehow indicative of the failings of modern society. We really are assailed on all sides by morons.

Stopping events like this horrible, horrible evening will not mean that men are no longer allowed to find women attractive or chat up a girl in the right way. Dumping this shitshow in the bin will not mean that charities have no ways of raising money or that the ill children at Great Ormond Street will have their machines turned off. In the scheme of things it won’t make much difference at all.

Except this.

It will make a statement that you can go off and be an arsehole all you want, or you can go to places where the women dress (or undress) in ways that give you a semi, or whatever. It’s just, these days, you don’t do it on the company clock and you don’t get to justify it by throwing a tiny fraction of your massive wealth to a kids charity.

It’s 2018. None of this should need saying. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end of having to.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Eastbourne Ladies

The bench, well wrapped, look on … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2018, all rights reserved

Switched from the Polegrove to the 3G pitch at Bexhill College, this was not a match for the faint hearted. The rain didn’t stop falling, the mercury never seemed to rise and the gloom was typical January. On the pitch, no quarter was asked or given as two local rivals went at it and, in the end, were split only by a single goal.

My abiding memory though is an entirely selfish one. It was trying to wrap the lens and camera in Sainsbury’s bag. There’s no cover at Bexhill College and did I mention the rain? The upshot was that I was able to take plenty of photos throughout (some even in focus) but that a few had an orange tinge redolent of the sort of lens flare that would get you a sticker from Boots in days of film processing.

But, enough of me, back to the game. A tight contest which never sparked into greatness but which was close enough and hard enough to always maintain the interest. Chances were very few and far between despite good midfield play from both sides. Solid defences kept their shape and soaked up whatever was thrown at them. The only goal came in the second half from a Bexhill corner – somehow the scramble led to a goal and that settled matters. A shot moments after rattled the post but 1-0, rather than 2-0, kept it interesting to the very end.

A draw might have been a fairer result but sometimes football isn’t particularly fair. Hopefully both these teams are doing enough to stay in the same division as each other into next season. I’d certainly welcome the chance to see them go toe to toe again. Although possibly somewhere drier next time. And maybe a tea bar. I like my creature comforts.

I brought my camera. Some photos are here.

On the radio: Life on Egg

A prison built in a giant prehistoric egg that is now far off land in the Atlantic Ocean is the setting for Daniel Maier’s Life on Egg. What was that about radio having the best pictures?

Using the fifteen minute, late-night format perfectly, this was wonderful radio. Harry Hill as the Governor, all chuckling observation and attempted control; Karen Bartke and Marek Larwood providing varying levels of confused support. And Gyles Brandreth.

Of course the stories were silly. Have you seen the setting? But the narratives were smart and there were plenty of laugh out loud lines and moments – the short-lived visit of a Hollywood star doing research was absolute genius. I also enjoyed the meta moments of the “thank you for that bit of exposition” used in dialogue kind.

I’m sure I will now get bored of it as it gets a dozen or more reruns on Radio 4 Extra in the slot after the extended News Quiz but if there are more whimsical, surreal and occasionally violent visits to the Egg then I will definitely want to hear those.

On the radio: The Wolf in the Water

Not being particularly knowledgeable about The Merchant of Venice, I gave The Wolf in the Water a miss when it was first broadcast last year. This was an error. Thankfully, the need for a decent length distraction on tedious car journey meant I downloaded the repeat broadcast and I’m glad I did. This was smart drama that posed a lot of uneasy questions, provided more than a few smiles, and ultimately left you feeling very satisfied.

Naomi Alderman, author of The Power, imagines what became of Jessica, Shylock’s daughter. She has married Lorenzo, converted to Christianity and, together, they are comforable in their life in the upper echelons of Venetian society. But things go awry. A priest’s body is discovered in the Jewish ghetto. Jessica becomes involved and, as a result, her faith is called into doubt as the Inquisition hove into view and her husband’s debts need the help of those further up the food chain to resolve.

The Wolf in the Water was very nicely put together. The ‘recreations’ of the murder were genuinely funny.  Pippa Bennett-Warner as Jessica had the right combination of naivety and steel, and Tracy-Ann Oberman as the Doge’s mother was suitably terrifying. The interplay between Jessica and her troubled friend Anna beautifully explored the boundary between tenderness, anger, mistrust and understanding. The musings on the closeness of tragedy and comedy weren’t original but they were fascinatingly done and tied up very neatly in the closing scene.

Sometimes Drama on 3 can be a victim of its own cleverness. This was not one of those times. I enjoyed this one a lot.


At the match: Eastbourne Ladies v Crawley Wasps Reserves

Eastbourne in possession fairly late in the game – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2018, All rights reserved

“Excuse me, but … where actually is the football pitch?” Thus was your correspondent momentarily confused upon his arrival at Eastbourne Sports Park. Such is life. Thankfully, the match I then saw was more than worth the vague embarrassment of being a man in need of directions.

Sport needs to be competitive to be enjoyable and this was certainly competitive. Both sides are skillful and well drilled – but I suspect it will be Crawley would view the eventual draw more as two points lost rather than one won.  Eastbourne took the lead early and added to it just after the break; two goals in quick succession pulled it level before a lot of Crawley pressing made it more likely they would score but both sides had opportunities. A very good game indeed.

This, bizarrely, is the third time I’ve seen Crawley Wasps this season. Twice for the reserves in this division and once for the first team in the league above. Eastbourne Ladies beat Eastbourne Town in the Sussex Cup a week ago and their reward will be a visit from Crawley’s first team. Who knows I may even make it four views this year.

I brought the camera. Some photos are here.