Friday, 28 January 2011


Cinema has widely explored the dark underbelly of the human existence. And we as the audience seem to be strangely mesmerised by the fanatic violence, deception, sociopathic behaviour, laissez-fare attitudes and the get-rich-or-die-tryin’ philosophy found in so many films. Most gangsters and criminals are portrayed as quite likable wisecracking types, with plenty of charisma, quick wit and peculiar moral codes.  Here are some of my favourite ones. So, just gimme the fookin money and let’s go.

10. The Departed. 2006.
 Dir.: Martin Scorsese.
With: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson.

This recent film is a remake of a Hong Kong movie called ‘Internal Affairs’. It is perhaps the most successful film out of Scorsese’s recent creations. The gangster-cop drama is all about finding your true identity and the troubled father-son relationships which can drive men to do radical things. ‘The Departed’ was critically acclaimed and has a 93% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty rare. It also boasts a star-studded cast.

9. Pulp Fiction. 1994.
Dir.: Quentin Tarantino.
With: Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis.

The film that truly established Quentin Tarantino as a major force to be reckoned with. Pulp Fiction has a prologue, three main storylines and an epilogue. Its soundtrack has been praised for its originality and eclecticism. The film has been watched and re-watched by millions of people and the quotes from it acquired a cult status. The dancing sequence with Uma Thurman and John Travolta is up there with the most famous scenes in movie history. It also caused a sensation at he Cannes Film Festival in 1994 at its midnight opening and went onto winning the Palme d’Or.

8. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. 1998.
Dir.: Guy Ritchie.
With: Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Statham.

The movie about gangsters from the old blighty also turned out to be a breakthrough for a young British director. The set up is pretty simple – a filthy geezer loses 500,000 pounds to a boss and decides to rob a gang to get the money. I remember watching it with subtitles for the first time because I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying.

7. Reservoir Dogs. 1992.
Dir.: Quentin Tarantino.
With: Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel.

The film that made Tarantino noticed. This is a perfect one-room drama; set in an empty garage, Reservoir Dogs is a heist movie with no actual heist in it. Each gang member comes back to the garage after a robbery that did not go as planned and tries to find out who the mole is. Suspenseful and nervous, this movie is a great character study. I remember that one particular scene caused a lot of controversy due to its violent nature when, in fact, nothing was shown on the screen but rather implied. I would quite like to watch this as a theatre play too.

6.  Casino. 1995.
 Dir.: Martin Scorsese.
With: Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci.

Somehow, the most underrated mafia movie ever. Casino is based on a true story of the Jewish head of a Las Vegas casino who was part of the mafia. Joe Pesci is the usual psychopathic and charming self and De Niro is his more intelligent, cold-blooded buddy. Sharon Stone gives a brilliant performance as the ultimate object of unrequited love – she is gorgeous, high off her face most of the time and in love with another man. It’s worth watching for many reasons; one of them is De Niro’s colourful wardrobe that would put any average pimp to shame.

5. Goodfellas. 1990.
Dir.: Martin Scorsese.
With.: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci.

A gangster movie that is almost a comedy. Despite its violence it had tonnes of laugh-out-loud moments and some really hilarious characters. It also stars half the cast from The Sopranos series in supporting roles. Joe Pesci and De Niro do their usual buddy shtick and Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco show what’s being married to a wise-guy is really like. It’s also quite fun to watch how the costumes, the furniture and the hairstyles change with time from 1950s to 1980s.

4. The Godfather Part II. 1974.
Dir.: Francis Ford Coppola.
With: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro.

I don’t think I could add anything new to this wonderful movie. Only that I’d rather they cut all the scenes with Robert De Niro as the young Vito Corleone and make them into a separate little film just for me. De Niro hardly speaks in this film and when he does it is in the Sicilian dialect. The other half is set in the 1958-9 and it follows Michael Corleone’s fully succumbing to his evil side.

3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 1969.
Dir.: George Roy Hill.
With: Robert Redford, Paul Newman.

Too much handsomeness for one screen! Robert Redford (who is strikingly similar to Brad Pitt in this film) is Sundance Kid and Paul Newman is Butch Cassidy, together they are the baddest gangsters in the whole Wild West. In my opinion, it is the best bromance film of all time. Both men have their strengths – Butch is a natural leader and the Kid is the best shot in town. They go through train robberies, gang mutiny, love for the same woman and persecution together. Neither will rest while the other is in danger. However, there are also tonnes of tongue-in-cheek jokes and awkward moments and it is just a very entertaining and enjoyable film.

2. The Godfather. 1972.
Dir.: Francis Ford Coppola.
With: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando.

The one and only. I personally think that The Godfather is akin to a modern Shakespearean tragedy - there is a protagonist who tries to escape from his fate at first but life decides its course for him. It is a story of familial duty, loyalty, betrayal and self-sacrifice. It is also a masterful rendition of an individual’s degradation into his worst form. Superbly directed and acted, The Godfather is a classic in many senses. It also exploits and, therefore, strengthens the stereotypes we have of the Italian-American mafia; many quotes like 'he is sleeping with the fishes' are sayings now.

1. The Sopranos. 1999-2007.
 Created by David Chase.
With: James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli.

Strictly speaking, this is not a film and cannot be in this list. However, I do think that it is one of the most encompassing stories ever told on screen  (doesn’t matter that it is the TV screen). The Sopranos is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed TV series of all time and I’ll tell you why. The core of the story is pure genius – a charismatic mob boss from New Jersey with a big house, an unhappy wife and two teenage kids goes into therapy because of his mother issues. It really humanises your standard ‘Vito Corleone’ type. Each episode is about 50 mins long and feels like a mini film in itself. The acting, the scripts and the storylines are great. There is humour provided by the mafia boys, tragedy in the case of Carmella, the mob wife, but most importantly, there are many wonderful character observations. Season after season the characters develop rather than stagnate in clich├ęs until they meet their natural end.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

REVIEW: Black Swan

Dir.: Darren Aronofsky
With: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel

Where to begin...Firstly, “Black Swan” has been so aggressively advertised that I don’t know anybody who hasn’t heard of it. Secondly, I have no idea why it came out so late in Europe in comparison to the States. As the result, many people have already watched it online, so for some of you this review is a bit of old news. Sorry about that, I waited for the official release date like a good citizen. Piracy is a crime, afterall : )

“Black Swan” starts off like any other respectable psychological thriller – there is a confused and troubled protagonist, Nina, a virginal ballerina with ambition, then there is the dodgy manipulative director (French, of course). There is also the mum, creepy and obsessive, projecting her own unfulfilled dreams onto Nina. And Lily – everything Nina wants to be – independent, free, sultry and black-clad (Nina herself favours the pastel/white colour range). Oh, and a washed-up prima ballerina played by Winona Ryder (very mean and symbolic bit of casting since Natalie Portman is the new gamine, Audrey Hepbern-esque actress on the block).  So far, so good.

As the film unfolds and as Nina becomes more and more paranoid, the more ridiculous the film becomes. Some scenes are so over the top, grotesque and unoriginal that I really had to laugh out loud and say ‘Really? You really had to do this?’ Some moments are so bonkers that they overshadow the good things in this film – like Natalie Portman’s acting (still, kind of over the top but understandably so).

As with any film about madness, it is sometimes hard to tell where reality ends and imagination begins, “Black Swan” presents no such problem – during the whole of the last half of the film we are subjected to Nina’s anxieties, visions and sexual yearnings. All in all, I would diagnose her as an infantilised woman with a split personality disorder, megalomania, bulimia, tendencies towards self-harm and frigidity.

I feel like I am being too negative; sure, it’s an inventive and entertaining piece of cinema with some gritty, claustrophobic camera work and fine performances, but I just don’t buy into the whole thing somehow. It’s too mad for a psychological thriller and way too commercial to be an art-house film. Maybe if they focused more on the real hardships of ballet dancers like eating disorders, vanity issues, prison-camp discipline, intrigues, injuries, etc., it would have been a little more believable and a little less “look at me everyone, I am a talented creative female and I am going crazy”.

Darren Aronofsky said in one of his interviews that he read a Dostoyevsky novel where the main character found that his doppelganger was slowly usurping his place. Then he watched Swan Lake and could not believe that the same dancer performed both the White and Black Swan parts. This is when the ideas started to rush into his head. I love Swan Lake (watched it at the Bolshoi, thank you very much, left the ballet with a face like o__o ) and, somehow, the drama of the real ballet seems to overshadow the unstable excitement of the film for me.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


Alfred Hitchcock. The great British director whose most famous films were created in the US, with American cast and crew. Sounds familiar? You could say that he is the Christopher Nolan of his heyday (although Batman of course features many British actors). Hitchcock’s movies always top various “best of” lists, Psycho is often cited as the greatest film ever made. His real contribution to the film industry is his pioneering suspense techniques used together with a moving camera, creating a sense of voyeurism. He was famous for casting beautiful blondes in his films and the rumours revolving around his relationships with them. He is also one of the first directors to include himself in his works: look carefully and you might spot his portly figure as “the man on the bus” or “the man on the telephone” in all his films.

I decided not to include films like Psycho, the Birds and Vertigo in this list because they are the best known ones, instead here are some films that are just as good and a little more obscure.

1.     Rebecca. 1940.
With: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine.

“Rebecca” is based on the acclaimed novel by Daphne du Maurier. It is also the first film that I saw Laurence Olivier in. I don’t know whether I’ve been affected by his reputation, but I thought his acting was perfect. He has the right balance of softness and rigidity in his character, Max de Winter, a widowed aristocrat with a dark secret. Joan Fontaine also makes a plausible protagonist - a young girl with no money or connections who falls deeply in love with Max and is then constantly haunted by his deceased wife, Rebecca. Not literally, of course, there are no actual ghosts here, but rather people’s memories and affections that seem to transcend death. The main villain, Mrs Denvers is beautifully portrayed as a strict, black-clad housekeeper. This is one of Hitchcock’s oldest films but it has a surprisingly bone-chilling atmosphere and great tension, an early signpost of his future title as the Master of Suspense.

2.     Dial M for Murder. 1954.
With: Grace Kelly, Ray Milland

This film is based on a play of the same name, which can be seen in its set-up: the whole story takes place in one room. The most interesting thing about this film is that it tells the story of a murder from the murderer’s perspective. We follow his logic as he plans his misdeed and we (at least I did) sympathise when things go out of hand. A well-acted and performed film, “Dial M for Murder” stars Grace Kelly as an unhappy adulteress, frolicking around in lacy dresses. A tiny bit predictable, it is, nevertheless, an entertaining film to watch if you want a bit of quality old-school action. 

3.     To Catch a Thief. 1955.
With: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly

This is such a delightful film! Not quite a thriller, not much suspense either but a lot of laughs and beautiful scenery of the French Riviera. Cary Grant is a one-time jewellery thief, “the Cat”, trying to catch a new thief who is emulating the Cat’s style. In the process, he meets a beautiful and rich American girl who decides that the whole thieving affair would make a rather exciting addition to her holiday. The best in this film are the dialogues between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. And her outfits. And his tartan swimming trunks. If you like films like The Thomas Crown Affair and Ocean’s 11, this might be something for you!

4.     North by Northwest. 1958.
With: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint.

I swear that Cary Grant’s character here was the prototype for Don Draper in Mad Men – both are dashing ad-men, who like their women and whiskey and are quick-witted. “North by Northwest” is a comedic thriller about a confused identity, spies and lies. This is where the famous scene with the attacking crop-duster takes place. It is full of great, tongue-in-cheek one-liners, much like the old James Bond films. I also found a funny trailer to it, Hitchcock himself is the narrator.

5.     Marnie. 1964.
With: Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery.

According to the trailer, also ironically narrated by Hitchcock, this film can be described in many ways: it is a sex story, a mystery, a detective story, a romance, a story of a thief, a love story and more. The film has many Freudian undertones in it: childhood memories that traumatised one of the characters; the sexual drive and the death drive are clearly at hand here. Sean Connery is supposed to be the saviour of the confused and mentally unstable Marnie, but he cannot overcome his own desires and the results are rather messy. You don’t really know who to sympathise with here, both central characters are deeply flawed and can be quite repulsive at times. This is one of Hitchcock’s later films, which can be seen in the increased dynamism of the story and a pretty liberal treatment of sex, in comparison to “Rebecca” for example. 

Sunday, 16 January 2011

REVIEW: The King's Speech.

Dir.: Tom Hooper
With: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham-Carter.

I must admit that when I went into the cinema, I was prepared to dislike The King’s Speech. Being spiteful as I am, I thought the fact that every critic seems to love this film is a bad sign, that it’s either sentimental or melodramatic. My friend and I were also two of the few non-bald or grey-haired people in the audience. The cinema was surprisingly full of pensioners. This tiny grey-haired and bespectacled lady next to me laughed in the most inappropriate moments and kept whispering comments into her husband’s ear. I am really not a fan of pensioners in the cinema I realised. They make the atmosphere rather solemn.

The film itself ticks all the right boxes of what you would expect from a period drama, it’s well acted and directed. Everything seems in place, there is a coherent story, each character has his own arc. It is nice to see Helena Bonham-Carter in a non-Tim Burton film, looking like a normal human being, which she does rather well. Colin Firth is obviously one of the strongest actors of his generation and he will probably be nominated for an Oscar, but I feel like he is always offered the same type of roles – an unhappy, uncomfortable Englishman with a stiff upper lip and repressed emotions. I was trying to think of a film where he is actually seen laughing, but I couldn’t. Recently he’s been in a small Italian film “Genoa”, “A Single Man” and now “The King’s Speech”; he played a depressed widower, a man who is about to commit suicide and a miserable stammerer. It would be quite diverting to see him in a slightly different role, a less furrowed brow and more twinkle in the eye would do him good I feel.

As for the historical accuracy of the film, who knows what really went down behind the scenes at the Buckingham Palace; the story is based on Lionel Logue’s (Geoffrey Rush’s character) diaries. One important part of history that was awkwardly omitted is the appeasement. The film jumps from George’s VI coronation to the declaration of war with Germany, ignoring the fact that the British government was trying to make deals with Hitler. This of course, makes the king seem as the “good guy”, an icon of the resistance who bravely overcame his personal problems. I don’t mean to belittle the problem of stammering. I had a childhood friend whose stammer was quite severe and everyone around him would pretend like everything is fine when he took absolute ages to formulate his thoughts and you could see the humiliation on his face when he spoke. It truly is a debilitating quality to have and what the film portrays accurately is that it is almost always caused by psychological trauma.

I don’t know if I would watch The King's Speech again, maybe if it’s on TV on a Sunday afternoon. Still, it is a top-quality drama, although a very predictable one.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

REVIEW: 127 Hours

Fun-bloody-tastic… I have never ever sympathised with a character in a movie as much as I did this time. Danny Boyle’s follow-up to Slumdog Millionaire could not have been more different from its predecessor. 127 Hours is almost like a documentary, mirroring real-life events that happened to Aron Ralston in 2003 in Utah. He is a mountain-climber who got himself trapped by a boulder inside a mountain crack. A little water, some crackers, a blunt knife, digital camera and rope is all he has. No-one knew where he went, no-one could help him. So, after hours of chipping away on the rock, delirium and prolonged conversations with the camera, he decided that 3.5 limbs are better than none.

The entrapment of the story means that James Franco’s face is the only thing you see for the most part of the film and he carries the film away with enviable ease. He is a bit of a modern Renaissance man – acting (after the Spiderman breakthrough more and more independent films), writing (just published a compilation of short stories), studying (at Columbia and NYU) and directing (he is going to make a Cormac McCarthy novel into a film). And easy on the eye too! And he is hosting the Oscars this year. He must have had a terrible childhood or was bullied in school or something, because I just don’t know how karma works otherwise! I hear the hordes of Francophiles growling at me…

So, anyway, the film is a wonderful psychological journey from feeling on top of the world to being reduced to an insect, to redemption and hope. However, if you are at all squeamish do not see this film. Or have a friend who will tell when it’s safe to open your eyes and ears again. Most surprisingly, 127 Hours is full of black humour – to ease the tension I suppose – and the breathtaking, almost Martian scenery of Utah.

Saturday, 8 January 2011


I’ve been inspired by my recent Italian trip to make up a list of the best Italian films I’ve seen. The last 50 years were very rich in terms of Italian cinematography and, so, I tried to include all the major directors in the list. These films represent all the stereotypes (in the best sense of the word) we love and hate about Italy: poverty and human struggle, impossible beauty, divine architecture, the scorching sun, the misogyny and chauvinism and the great, fun, laid-back people.

  1. La Strada. 1954.
Dir.: Federico Fellini.
With: Giulietta Masina, Anthony Quinn.

Fellini, who is most famous for his work dealing with the idle social classes, presents a film about a naive child-woman Gelsomina who is sold to a gypsy for his road show. She falls in love with him, however, his brutish nature stops him from showing any compassion to her. It is a tragic situation, Gelsomina is always willing to please him, yet he maintains his dominance over her by bullying and intimidation. There are many funny and warm moments in the film and one cannot help but really care about Gelsomina’s fate. There is also a constant feeling of hope that the man will finally show some kind of emotion. The story is told in an amazing way, the viewer is always left to second-guess the gypsy’s intentions. ‘La Strada’ also won an Oscar for the Best Foreign Film.

  1. La Dolce Vita. 1960.
Dir.: Federico Fellini.
With: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg.

This super famous work marks the transition between Fellini’s earlier neo-realist period (La Strada is an example of that) and his art films. Most people have probably heard of the film but not actually seen it. Also, most people must have seen the famous scene with Anita Ekberg at the Trevi Fountain. I, personally, don’t understand why it’s such an epic scene as there are so many much better ones out there. There is no proper story in the classical sense of the word; we follow a tabloid journalist played by the lovely Marcello Mastroianni, who is constantly searching for a more meaningful and fulfilling life. He is ALWAYS distracted by women on the way. The film is full of  symbolism: religious, emotional, social and political. It is a highly aesthetic film, on many an occasion did I simply admire the shots rather than concentrate on what was going on in the film. It is also very understated, there are many different shades to the film - at one point it is almost comical and then it becomes cynical or romantic. I think it is definitely worth watching, at least because it became so influential in world cinema and popular culture.

  1. L’Eclisse. 1962.
Dir.: Michelangelo Antonioni.  
With: Monica Vitti, Alain Delon.

This is probably one of my most favourite films ever. It is also the last part of a trilogy. ‘L’Eclisse’ tracks a short summer romance in Rome between a pensive literary translator and an energetic stockbroker. However, the film is much more than a romantic story; it is imbued with black and white symbolism and is very critical of modern day alienation and speedy lives. But, on top of all things, the two actors are extremely, unbelievably, jaw-droppingly and heart-stoppingly beautiful. Seriously. Check them out.

  1. The Leopard. 1963.
Dir.: Luchino Visconti.
With: Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale.

This is the Italian Gone With The Wind. It is based on one of Italy's bestselling novels and tells the story of Don Fabrizio, a Sicilian Prince. He is faced with a new order in Italy in the nineteenth century and is forced to witness the decline of aristocracy and must choose to either follow his traditions or compromise and stoop to the level of the nouveau riche. The film boasts an international cast with the American Burt Lancaster and the French Alain Delon. It is filmed on location in Sicily. It is a beautifully shot story of family tradition and human dignity with plenty of balls (as in where people dance) and drama.

  1. Marriage - Italian Style. 1964.
Dir.: Vittorio De Sica.  
With: Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni.

I never thought that Marcello Mastroianni could be so hateful! He plays Don Domenico, a selfish Neapolitan businessman who at one point picks up a young girl at a brothel and since then their lives are intertwined forever. Sophia Loren's portrayal of a tart is one of the most powerful and charismatic performances I have ever seen. She is so sly, innocent and strong at the same time. You could say that she was born to play this kind of roles. Her triumphant walk through the street, dressed in some horrible gaudy dress, with huge red hair and thick make-up is an absolute pleasure to watch. The story is a little silly, but the acting, the dialogues and the Southern passions are great.

  1. Cinema Paradiso. 1988.
Dir.: Giuseppe Tornatore.
With: Salvatore Cascio, Philippe Noiret.

This 1988 film should be watched in its original length, not the director's cut which is far too long and leaves the ending completely smudged. This is a very heartwarming film about a little Neapolitan boy Toto and his big love for cinema. In fact, the whole film is a giant tribute to the art of cinematography. I only wonder where they managed to find such a natural, charming and naughty boy! Toto's only desire in life is to watch films at the local cinema which is the cultural centre of his village. The story is a great reminiscence of childhood, it's fears and anxieties and friendships which often become forgotten. This film is full of warmth, humour and bitter-sweet nostalgia. I highly recommend it to all. It is also one of the few films that can make me cry ever so slightly.

  1. La Vita e Bella. 1997.
Dir.: Roberto Benigni.
With: Roberto Benigni, Giorgio Cantarini.

Gosh, another tear-jerker. This Oscar-winning film tackles the Holocaust horrors from a very unexpected angle. At first it is a full-on slapstick comedy and later it turns into great story of self-sacrifice. Roberto Benigni is a bit of a Dude for making this film. I remember watching it when I was 9 and I could not sleep for days afterwards, I kept imagining what would happen if I were the little Jewish boy. Brrrr.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Lights Out in Wonderland.

Finally, a book!!! And what a great book too! One of the Guardian’s best books of last year.

This 2010 novel by the Australian bad-boy writer DBC Pierre (DBC stands for ‘Dirty but Clean’) is a modern odyssey. However, unlike Odysseus, Gabriel Brockwell’s aim is not coming home but committing suicide. Once he realises that his 25 years of life were more than enough, he acquires a new confidence, decides to go out with a bang and it seems that the providence is guiding him on his path of self-destruction. Gabriel approaches his last days on earth with imagination. He travels from London to Tokyo to Berlin, high as a kite, collecting various tokens and engaging in some hedonistic activities on the way. Think fugu fish ovaries, escape from rehab, octopus intercourse, high-cuisine mafia, orgy at the SS headquarters. But, of course, the shock factor is but a minor treat for the reader.

I was completely enamoured with DBC’s writing style, it is so free and imaginative, full of truly funny metaphors and comparisons, the kind that make you chuckle to yourself in recognition. Many of his images and descriptions stay with you even after having finished the book; I, for one, will never be able to look at a British Rail train attendant without the thought of stabbing him. It also made my waiting around the Frankfurt airport beehive for the connecting flight a much more enjoyable experience.

The novel is really a satire on modern life, capitalist values and the notion of exclusivity. Gabriel’s observations are always well informed, fresh, and acute, sometimes they are cynical and angry, sometimes romantic and self-pitying. The decadence in the book reaches new heights with every chapter, finally culminating in a bizarre and abrupt ending.

My favourite part of the book is set in Berlin. The author clearly knows the city well and gives it a very accurate assessment; it was also nice to read of the places that I’ve been to and picture the characters in real settings. “Dirty but Clean” Pierre has captured our zeitgeist perfectly, for better or for worse. I couldn’t recommend it more!

A taster:
‘History has stalked Berlin.
She has nothing to learn from the Cologne bourgeoisie.
If you put aside three centuries over which she anchored a kingdom, a province, an empire, a republic, a fascist Reich and a Marxist-Leninist commune, and ignoring the fact that her streets gave birth to communism, modernist architecture, fascism, the theory of relativity and the atom bomb – in the space of twenty-five years alone, Berlin’s foyers went from hosting naked sex slaves with pet monkeys and jewellery full of cocaine, to Adolf Hitler’s command, a Russian mass rape, an American middle class, and a Soviet state that would shoot you for crossing the city.
Berlin has nothing to learn from anyone.
From all I’ve read and watched in the years since I was there, sniffing news like a puppy, this is what I sense of her position: that if today London is a drinker on the verge of losing her keys, Berlin is one just woken up to find herself still alive, and on a Sunday.’