Y’know, 2020 wasn’t all bad….

Saw yet another strand of tinsel as I downward dogged this morning, that’ll be the twelfth since my last blog post! It lay there glinting mockingly at me, bold as brass it was, well not any more. Oh, and we didn’t get the promised snow, so I closed the curtain again and went back to bed. There has been more snow outside of Edinburgh but nothing in the city, just freezing temperatures.

Listening to the news, it’s sounding like we’ll be lucky if we can do anything at Easter nevermind Mothering Sunday here in the UK. That’ll be another of my annual trips to the old country cancelled, I’ll have forgotten the way down soon! Yeah, 2021 isn’t looking that much better than 2020 so far. How depressing! So, to brighten the mood I decided to look back through 2020 and find my highlights, surely there were some?!

First off, Esther – our wee beastie o’the loch. I reckon she’ll be a highlight for a few Edinburgh folks grateful for the distraction. It’s been so good to watch this beautiful wild creature so close by. Hopefully she’ll be okay after all the recent weather, Dunsapie Loch has been frozen over a fair bit this last month. From otters to rabbits….

Way back last January I went to Jojo Rabbit three times at the cinema. Those were days, open cinemas, me with my unlimited card going to see two films in one evening, Nando’s chicken wings in between (will Cineworld reopen at all now?). Jojo Rabbit is such an outstanding film and a proper cinema film too. God, I miss going to the cinema, that sense of occasion (as a young moose a trip to the cinema was an event, that feeling has never quite left). The whole cast of Jojo were brilliant and Taika Waititi cemented his place as my favourite director and all-round amazing film person.

Thinking about it, I guess all that time spent in Holyrood Park, walking around, lying in sunny nooks reading, that was pretty special. We did have long spells of great weather in 2020, I did most of my reading outdoors. Highlights bookwise, finally reading Errol Flynn’s autobiography (an amazing glimpse at another time and place) and John Robertson’s The Little Town of Marrowville, I expected it to be good and darkly humorous but wow, it exceeded all my expectations! Yes it’s a kid’s book, but it’s a damn fine one.

Not Eurovision 2020 was a day of Eurovision treats for the fans on radio and tv. In the evening Graham Norton guided us through the main Not Eurovision Show, which just felt like one big love-in around the world (as Australia is now in it, yes I make that around the world). I thoroughly enjoyed a day of reminiscing, music, dancing, oh, and prosecco with pear juice.

2020, a shorter but sweetest year yet for Strictly Come Dancing. Bill Bailey with Oti was a worthy winner, confounding the initial assumptions of so many viewers with his capacity to learn and ability to dance. Their routine to Rapper’s Delight will go down in Strictly history. I learnt you could video chat on WhatsApp in November – yeah, Strictly brings out that need to share!

Fringey goodness was found online. April and May saw the magnificent Will Seaward online re-telling his Spooky Ghost Stories sometimes with live accompaniment courtesy of Jam With Humans. Yes, it was back in the early lockdown days, things went a bit wonky, not always online just somewhere in the vicinity, but no matter, it was great to see the maestro weaving his wondrous tales again.

The nearing of the NonFringe saw me checking to see what the Sleeping Trees were up to, if anything. Oh bugger! I’d missed getting to see MAFIA? by about ten days! Joys, I did get see SCI-FI? again. So is there a recording of WESTERN? somewhere? I’d love to see that again. Pretty please?! I could read MAFIA? by purchasing a copy the recently published Sleeping Trees at The Movies – Blueprints for Devised Comedy, but it just wouldn’t be the same as seeing it. But the best was yet to come – a Christmas Living Room Adventure! Oh yay, The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington was the highlight of my Christmas, yes, even above my Christmas Lunch Roll! That first sighting of the great white whale will stay with me forever.

Anything else, Brucie? Well, there was the small matter of Logan’s Close at the Caves for the release of their latest opus Lost In You at the end of February, like, a truly epic night! Best I’ve seen them yet; there was a gig planned for the end of this month but it has, of course, been cancelled. Lead guitarist and singer Carl Marah took to singing Bob Dylan to his washing machine in April, strange behaviour but captivatingly beautiful.

My top highlight of 2020? The Close’s Lockdown Cover of Fantastic Man by William Onyeabor. Having since put the original on one of my Spotify playlists, I love what the lads did with it even more; they’ve taken the best parts, condensed and Closified it into a summer classic of their own. Their video is rather fine too, and usually if I leave YouTube running afterwards it goes to a film of roller dancers skating to the original with some seriously cool moves (yes, I’ve watched both plenty of times after I’ve done online exercises – hey, its good cool down music).

So, wow, 2020 wasn’t all bad, and I did two seasons of Preacher and three of Lucifer, plus my uke playing is slowly coming on. Dear reader, I hope you too can look back and recognise your own highlights of 2020, to paraphrase Aidan Goatley, What made you happy in 2020?

Toodle pip!

Have you seen Jojo Rabbit? I have.

Goodness, I have been remiss in my blogging, nearly two weeks, where does the time go?! Umm, well some went by in the cinema. I did go see the latest Jumanji film, loved it; not quite as much as the last one, but adding grumpy old blokes into the mix was fun and I thought the avatars were great portraying the various players. I do hope they stick at that one though – I suspect another outing would jump the shark.

I’ve also been to see Jojo Rabbit, three times, yeah, I like it, a lot. Taika Waititi has such vision and humanity, I love all his stuff (ok, maybe not Eagle vs Shark, that’s an oddball but everyone’s gotta start somewhere). There’s so much about this film that’s brilliant, I decided I should see it a third time to before sharing with you and how good was that idea? Wow, last night I picked up on the cinematography more, seeing bits I hadn’t noticed before. Well worth multiple viewings, my friends.

WARNING, A FEW SPOILERS AND RANDOM THOUGHTS FLUNG OUT WILLYNILLY.

Johannes Betzler is a good little german boy who wants to be the best Nazi he can be; the film starts with him and his best friend Yorki attending a Hitler youth camp, both ready to serve the Fuhrer. Oh dear, straight away he is spotted by the camp bullies as a target for their malevolence (from the moment I saw the older youth look down at him my heart sank), this film does not shirk away from showing how nasty and weak humans can be; when Jojo is ordered to kill a rabbit the other kids join in the “kill, kill” chant, some from the thrill, others would be protecting themselves, glad it wasn’t them, too scared to do otherwise. Poor Jojo runs off into the woods where he is comforted and advised by his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (a ten year old boy’s version of what he thinks Hitler is like, remember this) to “be the rabbit”. Much later towards the end of the film Jojo is out collecting wood and sees a rabbit, the shot lingers, the poignancy of the moment is beautiful.

A lot of the film’s humour comes from showing how scary but ridiculous things can be at the same time (one review I read called it an “absurdist dramedy” which sums it up well), Rebel Wilson’s Fraulein Rahm is a great example, we laugh at her but the reality of such a person, umm. Fraulein Rahm is pure Mel Brooks to me, I can’t be the only one who thought this. The “Heil Hilter” scene with the Gestapo officers is another Brooks/Python moment. Stephen Merchant’s Gestapo agent Deertz is absurd and sinister in equal measure, a jumped-up little man who relishes the fear he can instill.

Against these types we have Rosie Betzler, Jojo’s mother, a lioness protecting her cub. Scarlett Johansson is brilliant, as all her award nominations will attest. Rosie is smart, sassy, stylish, fearless and ever hopeful; she is distributing “Free Germany” messages and harbouring a Jewish girl, Elsa. Elsa is living behind the panelling in Jojo’s deceased sister’s bedroom (Elsa and Inge had been friends). Elsa has a calm, stoic quality and she isn’t afraid of a little boy spouting Nazi dogma. She sees through Jojo’s bravado and recognises it as naivity, when he angrily blusters,  “I like swastikas!” she retorts, “You’re not a Nazi, Jojo. You’re a ten year old kid who likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club.”

Then we have Captain Klenzendorf (Capt K from here on in), a German soldier in charge of the Hilter Youth camp (embittered that he was taken off the front line after he lost an eye), later demoted to office duties after an incident at the Camp involving Jojo and a hand grenade. Capt K knows the war is all but over, he knows Germany won’t win, he admires Rosie, recognises her as a good person. The captain and his second in command turn up at Jojo’s house shortly after the Gestapo have arrived; part of my third visit was to watch this bit more closely. I surmise that either he knew that Rosie was in trouble or he recognised the Gestapo car parked outside. Either way he was trying to protect Jojo and showed us his true colours by aiding Jojo and Elsa in their deception.

Sam Rockwell is always great but Capt K is a great creation, it reminded me very much of Hugo Weaving’s Sergeant Farrar in The Dressmaker. The two are gay men with a flair for flamboyant design but have to hide in plain sight, only revealing more when they know it’s over; Farrer as resplendent in his matador’s outfit, Capt K in his “accessorized” uniform. In The Dressmaker Farrer implicates himself as the hashcake supplier to save Tilly; Capt K pulls the army jacket off Jojo and lashes out calling him a filthy Jew, the captain’s expression as they drag him away says it all.

Jojo Rabbit and his friend Yorki are brilliantly played Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates. Roman’s performance will move you to damp eyes at the very least, and Archie gets some of the best lines in the film. It struck me that the pair would be great as Ralph and Piggy if someone were to remake Lord of the Flies just now.

Anyways, I’ve rabbited on quite enough. There’s loads more I can say about his mum, Hitler, Jojo’s desperate lie to hold on to Elsa, the music, the dancing, bathing suits, amongst other things. It’s a beautiful, funny, tender, irreverent, life-affirming, thought-provoking film. If you haven’t already, go see it!!!

It also reminded me of my favourite German word.

Tschüss  💛