A belated view of 2013’s films

Given it is the eve of the Oscars 2014, I’ll have a look back at the film releases of 2013 (even if I watched almost none of the contenders), and a few small smatterings of what life was like at the time.

January 2013: Jack Reacher. I watched this in the Lake District, on a mini-break that was very wet and cold. It was a pretty diverting movie, shown in Zefirelli’s, a tiny cinema in Ambleside.  I’m not sure I really buy Tom Cruise in the role, but not having read the books, I wasn’t really too fussy. Nice action movie, satisfying ending where the goodies kind of win, and Werner Herzog made a pretty special baddie – so much so that I didn’t want him to die.

We didn’t have much luck with food in the Lakes over New Year. The best meal was probably in the really old-fashioned Prince of India in Windermere, complete with very bizarre alcoholic customer. We had our New Year’s Eve dinner in a place that looks as if it has since shut down, which would be a shame if they hadn’t had the worst, slowest service I’ve seen in a long time. We got quite drunk, had all sorts of conversations about the future, and made some far reaching decisions in a haze of red wine.

Later that month, a colleague of mine died of a blood clot after breaking his leg. He was my age; busy chatting away on a conference call on Friday, and dead on Monday. He used to work even longer hours than I did, and came by my desk most evenings for a catch-up. It is still so strange that he is gone. We went to Berlin that weekend, and a week later, we discovered we were expecting little Conrad, and went to Paris for the weekend. It wasn’t the best weekend. We wandered around the Louvre for ages, I got irritated about the huge toilet queues that I seemed to spend all my time in. We went shopping in Galeries Lafayette, and went for dinner in Le Square on Rue Casimir-Perier, which was as good as it was when I lived next door in 1999.  The doctor who confirmed our baby’s existence had the same birthday as me and was called Robert Palmer, which was mildly amusing.

February 2013: Didn’t go to see any movies. Was going to see To The Wonder, the latest Terence Malick, but I think we were both looking for something less lugubrious. It was also quite hard being pregnant and working 12 hours days, so I mostly went to bed at 9 pm.

Also, we got engaged, and I went to what seemed like loads of doctor’s appointments. My mother came to visit, and we went to the National Portrait Gallery restaurant. Neither she nor Richard had been before. It was delicious, but like most things these days, seemed a bit pricy. I think we also went up to Manchester to see the other set of very excited prospective grandparents, and I think that was the same visit where we wandered around Alderly Edge in the snow. It was so nice talking to his mother, seeing how very happy she was.

March 2013: Arbitrage. Not likely to become a classic or a cult movie any time soon. Richard Gere played his usual businessman schtick, in this case a corrupt one. He accidentally kills his mistress in a car crash, and all sorts of subterfuge ensues. There was a nice negotiation scene in a restaurant with Graydon Carter which seemed quite realistic, but ultimately it was too hard to care about the characters’ fate for it to be a good film. It was annoying that his wife, played by Susan Sarandon, was made to seem such an unlikeable, materialistic harridan that one was more inclined to root for the feckless husband. I thought she was going to provide the moral compass of the film, but I suppose it is more realistic for all involved to be as venal as each other, and the worm keeps turning.

We had our first scan on the 18th March, which was pretty special, although I was ridiculously nervous and entirely convinced that there was no baby. Turns out there was, and he was wriggling around quite happily. My contract finally came to an end, and we were planning on a weekend break in the New Forest, but the snow was so thick that we cancelled and went up to Edinburgh instead – slightly illogical decision but ironically the weather was good. Saw the jewels in the Castle for the first time, there was a beautiful pink diamond as far as I remember. I might be quite happy to go camping and skip a shower for a week, but I sure am a sucker for anything sparkly.

April 2013: Oblivion and Iron Man 3.  A rather disappointing Tom Cruise vehicle. Looked beautiful, quite good action sequences, but such a blatant rip-off of Moon, which was a much better film.

Iron Man 3 was pretty fantastic. No idea what happens in it, but all action, great characters, and Robert Downey Jr.

We started house hunting, and I spent a fair amount of time driving around to various properties in Buckinghamshire. Initially we were very keen on a small thatched house in Gibraltar, a tiny hamlet near Thame. It was next to a pub, and had a massive garden, but the house was a bit small. The estate agent said it was being sold as a result of divorce, which rather superstitiously put me off. I didn’t want to start our life together off the back of someone else’s ending. The thatch was also somewhat questionable.

May 2013: Star Trek Into Darkness. Yay. It was the highlight of my month. We probably went to see it at the Islington Vue, and probably walked home or got the bus part of the way.  I do so miss London sometimes, and I don’t really see why we can’t buy a nice two-storey, four bedroom house next to Highbury Fields. I’ve worked hard, paid my taxes, produced a taxpayer for the government to keep leeching. Why can’t they just hand over nice houses to the people that pay the most taxes for the longest amount of time? Could we have a policy that says if you’ve been paying higher rate taxes for twenty years continuously, have retained all your assets in the UK, have produced at least one child and maybe can prove that you do stuff for charity? The government could buy all the houses, charge a rent that is never more than 25% of the tenant’s earnings, and make the money back because, errr, people would be happier, therefore lead healthier lifestyles and cost the NHS less money. I can see that there are a few flaws here.

On the bank holiday, we went camping in the Peak District, in our usual North Lees site. It was lovely and hot. I climbed a few routes at Bamford, and particularly enjoyed a 5a slab route that none of the other assorted blokes was able to climb. They were desperately laybacking along a crack that went up one side, scraping their shins to pieces. I thought it looked like a face-on climb, and it was easy enough to balance. Perhaps the bump actually helped shift weight forwards. I got up it with no trouble at all, using the crack as a very reassuring hand jam. Needless to say, I was on a pretty tight top rope. The pregnant camping dilemma was solved with a double air mattress, which Richard was very sceptical about (highly inauthentic camping gear), but it was so comfortable I could have been in a B&B.

We also went for our twenty week scan, and found out we were expecting a boy. I was briefly disappointed. Finding parking at the Homerton was ridiculously hard, so we had to park several blocks away and literally run to the hospital, which probably looked quite amusing as I was trying to support the bump at the same time. Of course as a result he was wriggling away like crazy, and she couldn’t get a good picture of him.

We carried on viewing an endless succession of houses, and finally came to see this one, where I am currently sitting by the fire. It was so perfect the instant we walked through the door, that we were only trying to avoid looking too keen. We left at 4 pm, and put the offer in at 8 am the next morning. It was accepted that evening.

June 2013: Behind the Candelabra and World War Z. I was so disappointed by this. Great reviews, great actors, interesting story. Then all they do with it is camp up the costumes, film some gold bathrooms, and suggest that some people are quite shallow. I didn’t really feel like it added much to my understanding of Liberace, and it actually seemed quite a patronising view of gay relationships, as if they are so very different to straight ones that they have to be “explained” blow by blow (I couldn’t resist).

World War Z was altogether a different enterprise. I had read the completely damning account of filming in Vanity Fair, and had seen a substantial amount of the Glasgow filming when I was working there. It sounded like it was going to be the biggest flop in history, but was actually one of the most gripping movies I’ve seen in years. I also really appreciated the lack of gore – it’s not necessary to show all the blood and guts to make it frightening and exciting. Of course it was nowhere near as good as the book, but the book would have been almost too depressing to film.

Not much else happened that month. I was spending a fair amount of time starting to organise the move and talking to the interminably slow lawyers. Getting insurance was also quite a mission as almost no one seems to provide thatch insurance.

July 2013: Despicable Me 2. We went to see this a few days after we moved in. It was a lovely movie, even if not half as good as the first one.

It was the same day that our old landlady claimed she would not be giving us back our deposit, because of some spurious claim to do with the gas bill and a ridiculous idea that we should have steam cleaned the carpet, and/or that there were scuff marks on the walls. Eight months later, she has finally agreed to give us back the deposit after we got some lawyers onto her. It’s quite depressing to find that the world is so full of con artists; she apparently did the same thing to the previous tenants as well.

We moved on the hottest day of the year. After we packed everything up, we got in the car and drove over. Richard’s father was already waiting for us in the pub next door. The moving van took so long to arrive that we had hours to kill sitting around enjoying the barbecue chilli burgers the pub was serving. Obviously I didn’t have any, because I was so paranoid about food safety. We looked at our whole new garden with its fish pond; it was all perfectly idyllic, until we noticed the wild buzzing overhead, and saw a huge swarm of bees in the tree. Within a few minutes, they disappeared as suddenly as they had arrived.

August 2013: It was too hot to do anything. We didn’t go to the cinema. I mainly listened to the test match on the radio, entertained what sometimes felt like a vast caravan of visiting relatives, some of whom were enjoying all the spare rooms, and some who came to admire the bump.

September 2013: Rush. I absolutely loved this movie; it had the perfect story arc, and the perfect combination of flawed characters, pride and of course the obligatory journey of self-discovery. It reminded me quite a lot of Walk the Line, just with cars rather than guitars.

It was the last movie I watched without thinking I should be doing something else, and checking in every half hour that the baby was ok. Our little boy arrived after five long days of labour that started that evening in the cinema.

The rest of the year was a blur of new baby, wedding preparation, and confusion about this new life. The most fun bit was the drive up to Edinburgh. I had to go alone to pick up the marriage licence, and as usual I loved the solitude of the car and the freedom of the open road. Stopping at Tebay services and watching the ducks slip on the icy pond, while I fed my baby and read the papers was about as good as it got.

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