Some Like It Hot

Shadows at Hotel del Coronado, San Diego by Vic Briggs

Just across from San Diego Bay, on the white sanded beaches of Coronado, rise the magnificent towers of Hotel del Coronado, otherwise known as simply The Del: one of the last surviving wooden Victorian beach resort hotels in America. When it first opened in 1888 it was the largest of its kind in the world.

The Del was home to many firsts in its time: it was the first ever hotel with electric lighting and the first to have an electrically-lighted outdoor Christmas tree, overseen by none other than Thomas Edison.

Legend has it that Edward The Prince of Wales had met Wallis Simpson – the American divorcee whose love would lead to a constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom and the Dominions and would ultimately result in his abdication from the British throne as King Edward VIII in December 1936 – at a grand banquet in the Crown Room of the hotel given in his honour when he visited Coronado in April 1920. Although this was established to be untrue, the royal seal of approval certainly made The Del the “in place” to stay.

The 1920s saw it become the Hollywood’s darling, with Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable amongst others making it their weekend party home during the Prohibition.

The Great Depression had wrecked havoc on the hotel’s brilliant history and for a while there was talk of demolishing it altogether. For those who had seen it at its height, it may have come as a surprise to find out that Billy Wilder, the director of Some Like It Hot starring Marilyn Monroe (1959) chose The Del as the setting for the fictitious “Seminole Ritz” for his comedy’s Florida segment in great part because it was very cheap to rent.

This timely addition of Hollywood glamour had the desirable side-effect of changing The Del’s fortunes and today, while maintaining its Victorian look, the hotel is as luxurious as any visitor may desire – although it is unlikely to ever regain its spot as one of the “Top 10 Resorts In The World” which it had boasted at its inception some one and a half centuries ago.

About this image: Shadows on Sand on the shores of Hotel del Coronado. Keepsake of a beautiful day spent with old friends and new under the California winter sun.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure

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Black Mirror | The Entire History of You

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As a writer I often draw on history. At times it is my own, at other times it is something I have inadvertently witnessed. Whenever an idea coaxes me into action, I find myself wishing that I could go back – if only as an observer – so that the experience could be fresh on my retina before my fingers take to the keyboard.

There is a dystopic aspect to this intrusion into the past that I had not considered until I came across Charlie Brooker’s Dark Mirror. The final episode of his first trilogy explored the drawbacks of technological advances that would allow us the power to record and play back every event we had ever witnessed through the aid of a chip or ‘Grain’ implanted under our skin.

It made for uncomfortable viewing. The story focused on the implosion of a marriage, fuelled by the jealous paranoia of a husband who invades his wife’s privacy in order to confirm his suspicions. The broader implications of this technological invasion – what one may read in-between the lines – were far more disturbing, touching on the theme of alienation: the detachment that technology has brought into our lives. Facebook snooping comes to mind.

If you could relive the best moments of your life, replay them in detailed sequence again and again, would you choose to do so? Would the other side of the coin make you weary of wielding such power: having every mistake, every disappointment and failure only one click away…

Daily Prompt: World’s Best Widget

Sadomasochistic Sex, this morning on BBC’s Breakfast Show

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

“Leonardo DiCaprio had to immerse himself in the world of glamour and greed,” said BBC Breakfast this morning in reference to the actor’s latest Golden Globe award for his performance in Jordan Belfort’s The Wolf of Wall Street screen adaptation.

In an interview for BBC1’s Breakfast show, DiCaprio said of Belfort’s book that it was written as a cautionary tale and that it reflects something within our very culture. He denied, when prompted by the interviewer, that his attitude to life is in any way comparable to that of his character, although he did allow that “the lifestyle is attractive.”

The film broke records for the amount of swearing in it, and has an 18 rating.  David Austin from the British Board of Film Classification was invited on the show to give some insight into the BBFC’s decision to update its guidelines to give “greater weight to the overall tone or theme” of a film.

In commenting on The Wolf of Wall Street’s record-breaking amount of swearing, BBFC’s David Austen claimed that: “In the classification of that film swearing is not the key issue. (…) There were several sex scenes which featured group sex and sadomasochistic sex, and the film also contains quite a lot of drug use as we just heard from Leonardo DiCaprio, including snorting cocaine from naked bodies. So those on their own put the film to 18.”

I have to admit that does not surprise me, although I was somewhat perplexed that this particular subject made it onto BBC screens at 9am in the morning. Presumably most children are expected to be in school by that time. Just hope that those who stayed behind with a cold were promptly redirected to CBBC.

How quaint too that in the context of discussing sadomasochistic sex, group sex and drug abuse, the guest was still aware of the no-swearing rule, as exemplified by the remainder of his comment: “There was a lot of use of the F-word, and there were three uses of even stronger language, including one directed from/by a man to a woman. So the language contributed to the 18 rating, but the 18 rating was already secured by sex and hard drug misuse.” 

Hard drug misuse? It made me wonder whether there are such circumstances when hard drugs are deemed to have been used appropriately. Perhaps if characters were satisfied to snort cocaine off mirrors, like any self-respecting celebrity, then it would cut the mustard with the BBFC’s expectations.

BBC BreakfastNo wonder the presenter, Susanna Reid, felt the need to apologise for the excess of information at such an early hour.

All I know is that I’ll have my “foul language” and “extreme sex” checklist at the ready for my next cinema stint.

The Wolf of Wall Street is due in cinemas across the UK on Thursday, the 16th of January.

That’s Elementary, my dear Watson. No. Wait. It’s Sherlock!

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with thedailygrime

“I’m not an uber Sherlock fan, so I didn’t bother watching the first episode of the new season until a few days after it had been aired. So I ended up reading the reviews before seeing the program for myself. The reviews were what is euphemistically called “mixed”, which is another way of saying that the first episode was universally panned.

The thing is though, even before watching the first episode, I didn’t understand what the reviewers were talking about.” The Game Is Afoot

Sherlock-dressed-as-French-waiter

The full title of thedailygrime‘s review is The Game Is Afoot – How The Critics Want To Sink Sherlock And Why I Think They Never Will, and if you’ve been keeping up with all things CumberVic on this blog, you will understand why I couldn’t help myself. Just had to read the review, and once read a reply begged to be written.

You see… my last Benedict Cumberbatch post inadvertently added me to the nameless hoard of critics who have met the Empty Hearse, first episode of Sherlock the Third, with a good old battering by the proverbial pan. I am ready to admit however, that an even greater disappointment than an underwhelming return of the show would be its cancellation. I certainly do not want for this series to end up being Sherlock’s Titanic, so I am glad to find that there are many out there who are enjoying Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat’s latest offering.

I enjoyed thedailygrime‘s style in taking on the reviewers and decided to examine the evidence in consulting detective fashion and add my own deductions to the mix.

Let the games begin!

I’m afraid there will be a few SPOILERS in what follows, so if you haven’t watched The Empty Hearse and want to hold on to that element of surprise, read at your own peril. I’ll do my best to keep them to a minimum, but can promise no more than that.

tdg: “They talked about far-fetched explanations for Sherlock’s faked death. I thought “surely everyone was expecting that?””

I’m with tdg on this one. Far-fetched explanations were not the problem. Dramatizing fandom’s theories as to what went down on that roof in The Reichenbach Fall finale was fun to watch, yes. However, it did feel like the writers were pandering to the fans instead of getting on with telling the story at hand.

I also rather enjoyed watching Scotland Yard’s former forensic expert Anderson’s guilt-ridden antics in this respect, with one exception. If you’ve seen the episode you will know which one was over-acted. Yep. That’s right. That oh-so-dramatic moment when Anderson latches onto the walls, ripping off those crazy notes he’d been wall-papering over the last two years. It was too much of a good (?) thing. And this brings us to the next point:

tdg: “They also said it was confusing. Well, it’s a fast paced detective program. It’s meant to be confusing, surely?”

An astute viewer, I dare say, will not be confused by any narrative, no matter how many twists it may have and however fast-paced it may be. They will be stumped however when the pieces of the puzzle do not fit together, even when they finally reach the end and have the big picture.

That last reference to Anderson was a clear example of that. It lacked finesse and it was somewhat confounding. Here we are with Holmes and Watson, in the deepest darkest bowels of the underground, attempting to disarm a bomb that is about to make mincemeat of all of Her Majesty’s Members of Parliament and the Houses themselves (admittedly, judging by the usual number of MP absentees, there might’ve been fewer victims than the wanna-be terror-plotters may have hoped for) and suddenly we a wrenched back into Anderson’s layer for an impromptu Sherlock confession on how he had faked his own death two years earlier.

Was this supposed to be Sherlock telling John about how he faked his death and why, via Anderson? Or… is this Sherlock’s memory of a former meeting with Anderson kicking in for some incomprehensible reason at a cliff-hanger moment? Or… did the director realise during the edit that he’s run out of places to plonk this into, and decided that it was as good a time as any for the big reveal? I’ll guess… the latter.

It did make for confusing viewing and, instead of increasing suspense, it only increased my levels of frustration. Several of the transitions from one scene to the next suffered from the same inexplicable disjointedness. They should’ve been handled better.

tdg: “And there was the question as to why Sherlock faked his own death anyway. Well, you could try asking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that. He invented that particular twist. You can’t blame Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat for that.”

It’s good to see that tdg and I are on the same page again. I did not require The Empty Hearse to understand why Sherlock had faked his death. Moriarty had destroyed his reputation and, to completely demolish his nemesis, he had all (well… almost all) of Sherlock’s associates at gunpoint. To save them, Sherlock had to die. Mystery solved.

It was the “how” that required additional attention and I felt that the episode gave sufficient scene time to the question. I only wish that final reveal had been better placed.

tdg: Why would Sherlock fake his death? Well, he’s a narcissistic psychopath.”

I beg to differ. Sherlock is not a narcissistic psychopath. He is a highly functioning sociopath 😉 Will not squabble re his narcissism. He does rather fancy himself, moustache or no moustache.

The final mystery: Why does thedailygrime think that critics are attempting to sink Sherlock and why won’t they manage it?

Well… I recommend that you read The Game Is Afoot to find out. I can’t speak for any of the other critics, but I beg to be absolved of the crime of which I stand accused.

Come to think of it, I wish I had delayed watching The Empty Hearse and read the onslaught of “mixed” reviews first. It may have tempered my expectations, and perhaps… I might’ve been put on the defensive and watched it afterwards determined to like it against all odds. Alas. I fear that since even my lingering obsession with the lead was unable to rob me of my critical prowess, I may have lamentably reached the same conclusion: Deduct again. Deduct better.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

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#Disappointed

It would appear that television and I are having a mild disagreement at present. I had abandoned the screen for quite a while last year. It bores me. That is not to say that good programming is inexistent, but it is a rarity. Plus. One has to be in the mood.

There was one particular show, however, that I hoped might resolve matters and make me fall in love with that dream-peddling box once again. Sherlock.

sherlock-series3-e_2779858b

You will not believe how much will power it took not to write about it after viewing The Empty Hearse. It drained me of the little energy that the holidays had left behind.

Why did I say nothing on the 1st of January? Because I have been told to keep quiet unless I have something nice to say. So… I have been trying to think of something nice to say. All that kept cropping into my mind were John’s words on discovering that Sherlock was still alive: F*** off, Sherlock.

It was too itsy-bitsy, too disjointed, too… everything other than what I had come to expect of Sherlock. I watched Cumberbatch on the wide screen, asking myself: Who are you and what have you done to Sherlock? Can’t anyone see that this is an impostor? Seriously. Sherlock would not do that. Would not say that. His behaviour – while not entirely predictable – would continue to be that of a sociopath, surely. What was he up to in those last two years? Went to clown school in deepest darkest Siberia, did he?

I thought I’d give it some time to sink in. There were many a witty scene after all. I had no squabble with the detail as much as I did with the overall effect, which left me with the distinct impression that the writers were conversing with the fandom (look out for all those fun inside jokes) instead of getting on with the job of bringing back to life not just the character, but another segment of Arthur Conan Doyle’s work.

Yes. Of course the relationship between John and Sherlock matters. But what matters far more is their work. There was always a balance struck in the past, which was sadly off third time around.

So I waited… I waited for today and the second episode in the series. Better by far, but it could not erase that bitter taste left by the first. I am underwhelmed and don’t quite know what to do with myself.

It’s as if an old friend came back after a long absence, invited himself over for dinner and after several attempts to reconnect somehow, I finally realise that it’s all too late. Our paths have irremediably split. We have nothing to talk about. Too much has happened in the interim so we just make small talk about redecorating the living-room, wondering… is it too soon to cut our losses short and call it a day?

I blame the hype as well as the extended wait. Two years is a long time for a build up. Perhaps I expected too much and was bound to be disappointed.

Legacy

Legacy-300x168It is not often that I feel strongly enough about a movie to write a review. The only reason why I am taking the time to write this one is simple enough: I’ve waisted ninety minutes of my life watching it. Perhaps I’ll save you the bother by keeping it simple:

A cold war spy yarn it may be, but a thriller it is certainly not.

The atmosphere at first reminded me of Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy – curtesy of the wardrobe and props department, but this is where the similarities between le Careé and Legacy came to an end. Even the protagonist’s name seemed like something out of a Dickensian do-over: Thoroughgood. He must be the “goody” then. Thoroughly so.

Such a pity too, because the premise was good: an MI6 trainee is charged with “turning” a former Oxford chum, now a KGB agent under cover as an embassy employee in London, and discovers instead that his own father may have been spying for the Soviets. There was a lot of potential there to go into the psychological innings that such a discovery would’ve prompted, but unfortunately Paula Milner’s adaptation seemed to have other priorities. Speeding through the plot without leaving any space for suspense to build up must’ve been one of them.

I’ve been going on and on about clichés last year and how writers ought to do all they possibly can to avoid them. Well. Film directors may do well to follow the advice too. Comedy Russian accent? Check. Dead prostitute? Check. Blonde love interest? Check. The list goes on, but truthfully, by the time they got around to the 70s fondue set I stopped counting.

Verdict? Don’t watch it. If you’re in the mood for a British spy movie, you’re better off re-watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or alternatively go modern and opt for Spooks. You’re in for a treat there.