Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sir Terry Wogan...

Goodnight, Terry.

I'm afraid, while I could sympathise with and feel the collective sense of loss that people felt when it came to David Bowie and Alan Rickman, neither of them had an especially deep, personal connection to my own life. Although they were always sort of there, and I was aware of them, and enjoyed their music (in Bowie's case) or performances (with both of them), I didn't exactly grow up with them.

Sir Terry Wogan was different.

When I think of Terry Wogan, I'm back in my Mum and Dad's old kitchen at home. I'm ten years old, sat at the kitchen table, eating my cereal, in my Sellincourt Primary School uniform, getting ready for the day ahead. I'm listening to this gentle Irishman's voice. Warm, good-humoured, witty, helping us all  (all 8 million of his listeners) to wake up in the morning.

I'm hearing him read Janet and John, and while not really understanding why him, everyone else in the studio, and Mum and Dad, are laughing so much, being amused and bemused by their enjoyment and laughter.

I'm sat watching the Eurovision song contest as he gently pokes fun at all of the acts on show.

I'm watching him host the Children In Need telethon, having a laugh and a joke, struggling to cope with and understand some of the newer elements such as texting, tweeting, using Facebook, etc., but carrying on like a trooper.

I'm sitting at the computer, watching old clips of him hosting Children In Need in his heyday, or doing his chat show - his segments interviewing the stars of Doctor Who, past and present (as well as that one brilliant clip of him interviewing Baldrick while Blackadder supervises).

I don't think that it would be unfair to say that Terry Wogan was a bit past his prime by the end. While there was something so lovely about his commitment to Children In Need, which I think said a lot about him, in the last few years I could see him struggling a bit with the trials and tribulations of such live broadcasting, and I didn't consider it to be a great loss last year when he had to give it a miss on that occasion because of ill health (though naturally I didn't wish him to be in ill health). I remember thinking that, despite being a few years his junior, Terry seemed a fair bit more frail and less able to cope with presenting demands towards the end than his peer, Sir Bruce Forsyth, is currently.

But I, as I'm sure so many others will, will remember Sir Terry Wogan in his prime. Whenever they consider that to be, and in whatever medium. Blankety Blank, The Wogan talk show, Children In Need, Eurovision, Radio 2. Everyone has their own special little memories of Terry Wogan.

When I woke up this morning and saw people paying tributes to Wogan, I couldn't believe it. I was in shock. Terry Wogan, gone?

I remember distinctly listening to the last breakfast show link, as it went out. Of course, Wogan would go on to host a live show on Sunday mornings a few months later, but it was never quite as good, or had the same charm, of Wake Up To Wogan.

At the time, watching interviews with people as they heaped praise on Wogan as his time on the breakfast show was coming to an end, and listening to the final show, I got a sense of the enormous love and affection for this man, and I knew I was going to miss his morning show, but I couldn't fully grasp it all, even knowing that he'd been such a big figure in broadcasting for so many decades before. And I wasn't that worried, as I knew I'd still see him on Children In Need.
But now, looking back, thinking about him today, I get it.

When I sat and listened to this last breakfast show link again, I felt this great sense of nostalgia, and loss, knowing that Terry Wogan has passed away, and I burst into tears. I find if difficult to stop crying for very long even now. Every time I listen to the clip, I well up.
If you can bear to, I recommend you listen to this. Over half a decade later, it now feels like an even more fitting goodbye from the man himself, who we all felt we knew in some way, all considered like a friend, an uncle or Granddad, even if we'd never met him face-to-face.

The moment that really gets to me is when Terry says "you, my listener". Doesn't that just sum him up? This man had over 40 years of experience, he had an audience on Wake Up To Wogan of over 8 million people...and yet his last, parting remark, as hiis show always was, was not to address it as if he was talking to millions, not as if he was in front of some huge crowd...

But to one person. An intimate style of speaking just to one person - and yet, he spoke to everyone.

Farewell Terry. Goodnight, Mr Wogan.

“Hang on: there’s 60 million people in the country – what are the other 52 million listening to?” – Terry Wogan, on hearing his radio show audience had passed 8 million....

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Snoopy & Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie

On the 9th January, 2016, 3 generations of Mendozas saw The Peanuts Movie - based on the popular comic strips and cartoons by Charles M Schulz.

Dad had always been a huge fan of Snoopy as a child, and this had carried through into adulthood. To this day, we still have the odd Snoopy visible around the house from his extensive collection, and there's at least a few at my paternal Granny's house, too.

Through Dad's love of Snoopy/Peanuts as a child, his parents ended up loving it, and through my awareness of this, I took an interest too. I remember we had a video copy of Snoopy, "Flash Beagle" that I watched a lot as a kid, and at my grandparents house we had a copy of the film "Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown." I also watched many of the other films and Christmas Specials over the years, with either Granny and Grandpa or Dad.

When we first heard that Blue Sky Studios were making a feature-length film, we were apprehensive, to say the least. Would it do the original series/films justice? Or would they go too far in trying to modernise it for a Hollywood audience? It could very easily be another Magic Roundabout - which, while I enjoy immensely as a good film in its own right, Dad is right that CGI animated film didn't retain nearly the same level of charm as the original series.

And then, we saw this trailer:

Suddenly, we were at ease. The opening moments, using the 2001: Space Odyssey music, lead you down one line of thinking, especially as the earth morphs into Charlie Brown's CGI head, but then....

That moment where that music stops, Snoopy appears, and the original Peanuts music begins, all worries are dispelled. As Dad said, it was as if those producing the film were quietly saying to the fans, "Don't worry - this is safe in our hands." Even in what is just a 60-second teaser, you can feel the charm and sense of humour that was so present in the original cartoons. Even the style of 3D animation was great - you weren't being given a full 360-degree view of the environment and characters, so it still had a two-dimensional feel to it.

Nevertheless, the use of pop music in some subsequent trailers had made me, at least, a bit more nervous - love pop music though I do, mainstream sounding pop music was never a staple of the Peanuts cartoons and it wouldn't have been great if the film was just filled with an entirely pop-based soundtrack.

So, while quietly confident that I wouldn't be disappointed, I sat down in the cinema with Mum, Dad, my younger brother George, and younger sister Ruby, to see the film. After a few too many trailers, and an Ice Age short featuring 'Scrat' which, while enjoyable, made me feel the Ice Age shark had most certainly been jumped, the film began.

The film was absolutely beautifully done. A true labour of love.

The music, the mood, the sense of humour, all of it felt so faithful to the original cartoon. (Warning: some slight spoilers ahead in the rest of the paragraph): There was no massive, overarching one-off storyline that took the characters to a different place, no grand, Hollywood-style adventure, it felt very much like a compiled mini-series of stories that would be right at home in the original cartoons (albeit with an overrarching narrative running through). Even scenes of Snoopy flying his kennel like a proper plane, seen in the original series but could never have been achieved on the same scale in hand-drawn animation, felt totally faithful to the humour, heart and mood of the cartoons.

Without saying exactly why, I wept at the end. It was the one thing that I felt deviated ever so slightly from lots of the tropes of the old comics and books, but it did so with such class, feeling and narrative reasoning that it felt completely right and justified.

While I'm not sure it would have nearly the same resonance for those who didn't watch Snoopy cartoons or read the Peanuts strips as a child, I do think the film is good enough in its own right to enjoy as a family whether you're familiar with the characters or not.

But if you are, then Snoopy and Charlie Brown will feel extra special. In many ways, it feels like a love letter to the fans, and all those that used to watch it, with lovely easter eggs scattered throughout, lots of laughs, and a good story.

Especially if you have ever enjoyed watching or reading Snoopy/Charlie Brown/Peanuts, go and see this film.

I think I can say, with reasonable certainty - it doesn't disappoint ;)