Tag Archives: British Museum

Spam’s off: Viking set menu at the Great Court Restaurant

6 Mar

Further to my blog about how the metrosexual Vikings at the British Museum exhibition are at odds with their screen portrayals, I have further evidence. After my tour, I had lunch in the revamped Great Court Restaurant — new and quietly improved by the architects Softroom, with the previously echoing sound cleverly dampened by a canopy and mosaic floor. I found its Viking Set Menu quite at odds with what Hollywood encourages you to expect.

No flagons of mead; no gigantic drinking horns; no rending sheep limb from limb and chucking the bones in a heap. Instead, I had a starter of nettle soup, with chopped egg and chive; a main course of guinea fowl (rabbit was off) in a mead reduction; and for dessert, blossom honey cheesecake in a ligonberry compote.

I had no idea the Vikings feasted on blossom honey cheesecake in a ligonberry compote, but there it is in the British Museum, so it must be true. More plausible, perhaps, is the other dessert: roast plums and ice cream. Maybe not the ice cream part, but you can certainly imagine the Vikings roasting their enemies’ plums, which is precisely why I politely declined  that dish.

The final blow to the Vikings’ macho screen image was the assembled company. Directly behind me, Sir Richard Rogers (under Norman Foster’s roof!) was intently talking business with a table of architects. As a result of a certain television programme, I was expecting the restaurant to be full instead of men in horned helmets dining on, and singing about, spam, spam, spam, wonderful spam.

The British Museum’s metrosexual Vikings are no good for Hollywood

6 Mar

Swords and skeletons! Giant longships and hoards of coins! Sorcerers’ staffs and, er, chess pieces! Today is the opening of the Vikings: Life and Legend exhibition at the British Museum. I write about my guided tour from the curator in the International Business Times (click to read), as well as the cover feature in Where London magazine.

One of the sad things about getting better educated about the Vikings is what that does to the films I love. [There is a commendably obsessive website that reviews every Viking-related film ever made, right down to Roger Corman’s best-forgotten The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957). Try sticking that on a cinema marquee in huge type.] The Vikings weren’t all about warfare, despite their scarily filed teeth and weird hair (shaved at the back, long at the front). They were traders, settlers, explorers, farmers. And, worst of all, they were rather picky about their grooming.

Far from being the football hooligans and punk rockers of the Middle Ages, they were in fact the metrosexuals. Contemporaries disapproved of their excessive cleanliness in washing every Saturday. Archaeological digs keep unearthing combs, tweezers, and ear spoons for removing wax – there is a gold one in the exhibition. They even dyed their hair blond. Thor, on the other hand, had red hair, despite what Chris Hemsworth would have you believe, so bang goes the Marvel franchise.

Still, we can at least look forward to the TV miniseries of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which though no longer with HBO was picked up last month by FremantleMedia. The facts can’t argue with an out-and-out fantasy.

The book cleverly posits that the powers of gods are in direct proportion to the fervour of worship they receive. Thus Odin, having sailed across to America with the Viking explorers at the turn of the first millennium, finds himself in the present day with greatly diminished powers, performing magical parlour tricks, as he wanders the land with other forgotten gods from Egypt and elsewhere.

And as to whether the Vikings really sat around the table singing about spam, I also ate the Viking Set Menu at the Great Court Restaurant: see here.

From hot tubs to the British Museum: outdoor and out-there screenings in London

29 Aug
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Immerse yourself in movies: Hot Tub Cinema in Shoreditch

Growing up in Canada, I loved the drive-in. That’s where, at a tender age, I was shocked to the core when little Bonnie broke her neck in Gone With The Wind. That’s where I watched Laurence of Arabia hold his hand in the flame: “The ‘trick’, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.” The giant screens made these scenes even more indelible. Later, I realised what a mythology there was around the drive-in itself, how it inspired movie scenes such as Grease, or American Graffiti.

How sad that there are none in London.

But wait – there kind of are. They are just drive-ins without the car. Outdoor screenings have really taken off this summer, and in some of the most unusual places. And though the Bank Holiday Weekend has come and gone, the movie summer lasts until late September.

Nomad Cinema is one of the most interesting. They have just today announced a series of monthly boutique screenings at the Hox hotel, with 50 plush seats and a free cocktail and popcorn for your tenner. The first one, the brilliant Brit crime thriller Sexy Beast, is in a month’s time, September 29; at time of writing there were still tickets available, but they won’t be for long.

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Edward Scissorhands at Brompton Cemetery, in the Nomad Cinema season

But that’s indoors: Nomad’s signature is outdoor screenings – the drive-in without the drive – and their programming is superb. Fulham Palace hosts Woody Allen’s greatest film, Annie Hall, tonight (tickets still available), with When Harry Met Sally following next Thursday Sep 5. Ghostbusters plays at Roundwood Park on Fri Sep 6; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at Queen’s Park on Sat Sep 7; Edward Scissorhands in the suitably Gothic surrounds of Brompton Cemetery on Wed Sep 11 (Donnie Darko the previous evening is sold out); and at Hyde Park Lido, Wong Kar-Wai’s spellbinding In The Mood For Love on Fri Sep 20, and Godard’s game-changing masterpiece Breathless on Sun Sep 22.  

There’s way more! It gets wet ‘n’ wild at the Hot Tub Cinema on the roof of Rockwell House in Shoreditch, after a few too many cocktails. The programmers go for cheesy fun hits: September is mostly sold out, but there are still tickets for Team America (Sep 10), Top Gun (Sep 13), and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sep 15) – expect everyone in their tubs to be acting out the sexy “Don’t dream it, be it” pool scene at the end.

The Rooftop Film Club have too many films to mention, programmed throughout September at the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch; the Bussey Building in Peckham; Springbridge Car Park in Ealing Broadway and the Kensington Roof Gardens.

Pop Up Screens does what it says on the tin. Of the September films that haven’t yet sold out, V for Vendetta at Coram Fields (Aug 30) and Fight Club at Ravenscourt Park Hammersmith (Sep 13) are maybe too serious for the outdoor treatment. I’d go for The Blues Brothers (Sep 14) or The Wizard of Oz (Sep 15), both at Ravenscourt Park. Sing along.

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Luna Cinema at Brockwell Lido

Luna Cinema has some amazing venues. Leeds Castle shows Blues Brothers and Casablanca (Sep 6 and 7); Dulwich Park shows Django Unchained (Sep 5), Argo (Sep 8) and This Is Spinal Tap (Sep 19); Kew Gardens hosts Cinema Paradiso, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dirty Dancing and Ghostbusters (Sep 12-15); and I rather fancy The Breakfast Club at my local Brockwell Lido in Brixton (Sep 18).

Future Cinema, which is by the same team as Secret Cinema but just not so secret, presents Dirty Dancing in its usual lavish style this weekend, when Hackney Downs will be transformed into Kellerman’s Vacation Resort. Friday and Saturday are sold out, even at £35 a ticket, but you can still have the time of your lives on Sunday Sep 1.

The Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival is Sep 5-15, and includes a bike-powered Edward Scissorhands on Peckham Rye (Sep 7), Skyfall at the Employment Academy (Sep 8, free but bring a food donation for Southwark Foodbank), and the terrific music doc Searching for Sugar Man (Sep 10) outside Rye Books, with free wine and popcorn.

There’s also a more sedate rival, the More London Free Film Festival (Sep 11-27), held at the Scoop amphitheatre by City Hall with Tower Bridge looming to one side. The line-up is impressive, starting with Skyfall and ending with Grease, The Sound of Music or Rocky Horror – voted on by the public and announced on Sep 2.

Not outdoors, but still unusual and spectacular: this coming weekend the BFI programmes three vintage horror classics in the vast forecourt of the British Museum. Monster Weekend features Night of the Demon (sold out), Dracula and The Mummy (Aug 29-Sep 1).

Phew, that enough for you? 🙂 God, I love London. Now get booking!