In October I was granted the honour of interviewing Dame Helen Mirren on the red carpet at the European premiere of TRUMBO, directed by Jay Roach. Bryan Cranston gave a cracking performance as Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood screenwriter who was blacklisted after refusing to testify in the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947. Mirren is great in the role of Hedda Hopper, the infamous and nasty gossip columnist.
Being one of the reporters on the carpet is sort of mad; desperately trying to get the movie stars to notice you and answer your questions. More than half of these reporters go home empty handed. Before I knew it, I was telling Helen Mirren that it was the first time Icelandic TV had a reporter on the red carpet for a film event of that scale. Her attention was caught, and I asked her whether she thinks films can influence people and send dangerous messages.
In Iceland we don’t have just one Santa Claus with a nice beard, dressed in red. Nope, we have thirteen troll like creatures, Yule Lads. They are not the nicest chaps either, really mischievous and bear names like Window Peeper, Stubbs and Meet Hook.
However, kids wait eagerly for their visits this time a year. Each evening in the 13 days before Christmas, Icelandic children place their shoe in the window. If they’ve been good the Yule Lad of the day will put a small present or a candy in their shoe. But, if they’ve been naughty all they get is a raw and preferably rotten potato.
The British Film Institute National Archive is brilliant and it’s possible to watch quite a lot of old films online. I’ve watched many precious clips from British film history, like this kiss from 1899. It’s the earliest film kiss held by the BFI National Archive.
‘This story derives from a popular magic lantern slide show and shows a couple in a railway carriage, going into a dark, Freudian tunnel, taking the opportunity to steal a kiss. As the train emerges into the light the couple move apart in a guilty fashion, and although scarcely enough to make your Victorian grandmother blush, it gives the scene its slight frisson of naughtiness. (Bryony Dixon)’
At the moment I’m incredibly proud of being Icelandic. The reason is the same as often before, that matters regarding LGBTQI+ rights are quite progressive in Iceland. I’ve written about it before, here and here.
Last Sunday the longest running TV program for children, ‘Stundin okkar’, (Our hour) aired an episode in the afternoon, just like most Sundays during the wintertime for more than three decades. However, this episode was different. It featured the Pop artist Paul Oscar as the main guest, touching on the topic of being gay. The conversation was open, very natural and heartfelt. The fact that this was aired on RUV, The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, makes me very happy.
‘Some guys like other guys, some guys like girls. Some girls like guys, some girls like other girls. – You don’t decide what makes your heart beat, it just beats.’
This morning I had the pleasure of watching the film Suffragette by director Sarah Gavron, written by Abi Morgan.
Suffragette is a drama that tracks the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State. These women were not primarily from the genteel educated classes, they were working women who had seen peaceful protest achieve nothing. Radicalized and turning to violence as the only route to change, they were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality – their jobs, their homes, their children and their lives. Maud was one such foot soldier. The story of her fight for dignity is as gripping and visceral as any thriller, it is also heart-breaking and inspirational.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film and think it’s fantastic. The cast couldn’t be better; Carey Mulligan is captivating in the leading role of Maud Watts and all the other actors are brilliant. Suffragette is beautifully shot and the set design is perfect. I’ve read reviews by men saying they had difficulties connecting to the film emotionally. They claim that something is lacking in the storyline and the film is too feminist. I don’t understand those remarks and neither did three women I talked to after the press screening. We were all moved by the story and had tears in our eyes.
Meryl Streep plays the role of Emmeline Pankhurst and has been promoting the film, even though she only has one scene. At a press conference this morning she spoke about the need for more female movie critics, and it made me think it’s perhaps not strange how often I don’t agree on which films stand out, or should get more recognition. She said:
‘I went deep, deep, deep, deep into Rotten Tomatoes and I counted how many contributors there were, critics and bloggers and writers. And of those allowed to rate on the Tomatometer, there are 168 women. And I thought, ‘that’s absolutely fantastic.’ If there were 168 men, it would be balanced. If there were 268 men, it would unfair but I’d get used to it. If there were 368, 468, 568…. Actually there are 760 men who weight in on the Tomatometer.’
Meryl also went on the New York Film Critics’ website and found that there were 37 men and only two women.
‘The word isn’t ‘disheartening,’ it’s ‘infuriating.’ I submit to you that men and women are not the same. They like different things. Sometimes they like the same things, but their tastes diverge. If the Tomatometer is slided so completely to one set of tastes, that drives box office in the U.S., absolutely.’
Only a few miles from central London is this magical place called Hampstead Heath. It’s an ancient and historic London Park, covering almost 800 acres of woodland, meadows, grasslands and ponds. Hampstead Heath is an important refuge for wildlife and history nuggets are everywhere to be found. The captivating sights have been an inspiration for artists and several movies have been shot in the area. Even some of London’s most infamous crimes have been committed there. The Heath is also famous for being the perfect place for lovers. A stroll there is simply a delight and highly recommended for visitors and locals alike.
History is at every step in London. Tudor, Victorian and Edwardian architecture is everywhere and as are the stories of famous people who used to live in the buildings.
Guided history walks are really popular here in London. I’ve been on a few of them myself and have never been disappointed. On Saturday, I went to a ‘Historic Local Walk: South Hampstead’, held by Friends of St Mary’s, a charity supporting vulnerable young people.
We had an excellent guide, David Brown, who most definitely knew the art of mixing knowledge and entertainment. I had never heard about the Hampstead murders, nor had I ever heard about Martina Bergman Österberg, a pioneer in physical education for women and a suffragette. I was also introduced to a very different lady, Lillie Langtry, one of the many mistresses of Albert Edward the Prince of Wales.
The house Sean Connery lived in while filming James Bond.
The house where T.S. Eliot was a lodger when he met his first wife Vivienne.
If you are visiting London, I highly recommend going on one of these walks.
Congratulations to Queen Elizabeth II on becoming the UK’s longest-serving monarch!
Today, at 5.30PM, she has passed the record set by her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria.
Adored by so many and hated by others, this tiny woman has reigned for 63 years and seven months. Her Majesty has said that she doesn’t want a fuss to be made, but of course there are celebrations.
Since I moved to England I’ve thoroughly enjoyed observing the complicated relationship this nation has with its Royal Family. In a way, The British Monarchy is their Disneyland. I used to wonder why on earth a nation would spend so much money on something as trivial in modern times. The answer is quite simple, I’m told they cash in even more than they spend on it. It’s always about money, isn’t it?
It’s also about entertainment. Nothing has made me giggle more recently than the Queen’s fake twitter account.
I love people’s diversity. This would be one boring life if everyone was the same. There are Royal fans and there are super fans. Here are two videos that made me smile.
Last night was a night of celebration in Iceland. For the first time, the national team in men’s football has secured a spot at a major international tournament thanks to their point from a goalless draw with Kazakhstan. They are through to the UEFA Euro 2016, held in France next summer.
I’m happy for the men’s team to finally be able to celebrate what the Icelandic women’s football team has celebrated three times already, in 1995, 2009 and 2013.
There are so many hidden gems in London. When I decided to visit Kenwood House, a mansion from the 18th century, it was purely because I wanted to see the location of a scene from Notting Hill. For those who know the movie; I’m talking about the scene where Anna Scott is filming and William overhears her dismissing him to a fellow actor.
Little did I know that Kenwood House has a truly exceptional collection of paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Turner and Reynolds, not to mention the 112 acres of glorious parkland. It’s the perfect place to visit if you want to spend a day admiring art and be able to take a stroll in beautiful surroundings as well. It’s also interesting to walk around the house and explore the stories of it’s inhabitants and if you are hungry there’s a restaurant on the grounds, offering food that’s nice.
Kenwood House was built by Robert Adam for the 1st Earl of Mansfield and saved for the nation by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh.
I highly recommend a visit to Kenwood House if you’re traveling to London.
Mother of all selfies. Rembrandt van Rijn – Portrait of the Artist.