Monday, 21 December 2015

Bill's 2015 Top Ten Lists - The Number 4's

The excitement is palpable as we get closer to the Number 1's. Hold your breath, we've still got a way to go. Today is time for the Number 4 selections. And here they are....


4. Far from the Madding Crowd  by Thomas Hardy - Number 4 is a classic, originally published in 1874, Thomas Hardy's 4th and first successful novel. I have been reading more classics the past few years and maybe it's my exceeding maturity (just kidding), but I'm finding that I've enjoyed them immensely for the most part. This was my review of Far from the Madding Crowd -

"I loved this classic. It's not normally my thing, but it was so well-written and there were such excellent characters, especially Gabriel Oake and Bathsheba Everdene. I was fully drawn into this story, basically the gist being that Bathsheba is an eligible single woman who has inherited her uncle's farm and now decides to run it herself (which must have been unique in those times). She is loved by Gabriel, who becomes her shepherd. Through an accident on her part, because of a small joke she plays, the rich farmer next door, a bachelor, Boldwood also falls in love with her and plights his suit to gain her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, Bathsheba doesn't really love him and this suit is rather one-sided. She falls for a cad (don't they all), Sgt Troy, who wants her only really for her money; he has already played a hand with serving girl, Fanny. So there you have it. The story describes their relationships and also life in Wessex; the running of a large farm, incidents that affect their lives. I had to find out how the story went and could not wait for the ending to see if it would end up the way I hoped. I don't often get this involved with the characters of a book, but this was a fascinating, totally engrossing story. Read it!!!"


4. Shine by Years & Years - Years & Years are an English electronica trio formed in London. I've added quite a few of their songs to my usb. Their music is thoughtful, the instrumentation excellent and lead singer Olly Alexander is well-suited to their songs. I found Shine on Jo Whiley's playlists from May 2015. It's from their 2015 album, Communion and reached Number 2 on the UK charts.


4. Home Fires - Home Fires is a British ITV series which debuted in May of this year. Jo discovered it in her wanderings through the Internet and this past Fall, PBS began to show season 1. It's a British period piece, one they do so well, about a local Woman's Institute and the lives of its members during WWII. The cast of actresses is fantastic; Samantha Bond, Ruth Gemmell, Claire Calbraith, Francesca Annis, etc. It's lovingly presented, with humour, drama, tension. I can't say enough about it. It was must-see Sunday night fare and we are now anxiously awaiting Season 2.


4. What We Did On Our Holiday - I will readily admit that this was not on my original list of Top Tens, the basic reason being that we didn't watch it until this past weekend. But it was so very enjoyable and it had to be added. And it does fit in perfectly to the Number 4 slot. It was released in late 2014 in the UK and in 2015 in the US. The movie stars Rosamund Pike, David Tennant and Billy Connolly and was directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin. It follows the best tradition of modern comedies. The basic premise is that David Tennant and Rosamund Pike, now separated, are taking their three children up to Scotland to celebrate Tennant's father's birthday. Because Connolly is not well, they don't want to upset him by announcing their separation, a secret the children have difficulty keeping. Of course, there are many secrets on this trip. The movie is loving, tender, laugh out loud funny and, at times, emotional. But, the nice thing is that it doesn't stoop to being maudlin, just a nice, very watchable movie that will leave you feeling good about life in general.


4. Jessica Chastain - I can honestly say that I would gladly watch this talented actress read the phone book. I've loved her in everything I've seen her in, and I know the missus would agree with this sentiment totally. We've enjoyed her in The Debt (2010), The Help (2011), Texas Killing Fields (2011), Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and then this past year in Interstellar. It's an amazing movie (I'll discuss that another day),with a fantastic cast and Chastain shines in her performance. She is intelligent, easy to watch and just brings something different to each role. I have yet to see The Martian but that is on my list. She is also starring in the upcoming The Huntsman: Winter's War and The Zookeeper's Wife. I can't wait.


4. Rory Kinnear - Rory Kinnear is an English actor, who you may remember in the role of Bill Tanner in the last three James Bond movies. Very versatile, you can find him on TV, in the movies and on stage. I've added Rory to my list for his role as the Creature in HBO's Penny Dreadful. He is truly fantastic in this role. He could just play it over the top, but he adds such quality to the role that you sympathise with this person, made from dead body parts by Victor Frankenstein. At times he can be quite terrifying; I'm particular thinking of when we see him first in season 1. He's made the role his own and deserves every credit for the quality he adds to the character.

So, phew, the Number 4's are done. The countdown to Number 1 begins. Tomorrow, the Number 3's. :)

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