Paddy Milner @ The Corn Exchange

•August 21, 2010 • 1 Comment

Once every two or three years I go to see a band and they so seriously impress me that I wax lyrical for a few months afterwards.

Last night I saw the fabulous Paddy Milner and his big sounds. The concert was in memory of his mother who passed away not so long ago, and part of the charity concerts going on all weekend known as the Warm Festival.

Dorchester seems awash with things going on during the summer, so they all tend to blend in, but last night was definitely different. The corn exchange was filled to the brim with people wanting to see local boy done well, and they were definitely not disappointed.

If you don’t know much about Paddy Milner, then join the club. My musical friends have known about him for ages, but I have never taken the time to see him before, and boy was I missing out. Born in Edinburgh, Paddy’s family moved down to sunny Dorset when he was young. Despite learning classical music at first, he soon turned to Blues and Jazz where he showed a remarkable talent. After graduation he signed for Bronze records and eventually released the album Walking on Eggshells, which reached no.1 in France’s Jazz/Blues charts. His current album Based on a True Story, has a cracking version of the Violent Femmes song “Blister in the sun”.

His next album recorded in Paris is due for release in a couple of months.

If you are still not sure who he is, check out the recent Joss Stone album, Colour Me free, which has our Paddy tinkling the ivories alongside.

Although watching him now, I couldn’t figure out what surprised me the most, how good he and his fantastic band were, or the fact that his father used to teach me Economics! To be honest, when I spoke to some of the other musical guys, they told me they still can’t stop calling his father Mr Milner despite the fact they have known him for years and have all left school ages ago.

From the very first bars of “Rolling and Rolling”, you could tell you were in for something special. A fantastic mix of Jamie Cullum style Jazz, leading to a cacophony of good old Rhythm and Blues,  meant a smooth start with a fantastic New Orleans style finish, that got all the 200 strong crowd throwing their chairs back and dancing with abandon.

He was well supported too with Marcus Bofanti whacking out a fair few great tunes in his very deep almost guttural voice grinding through tracks like a young Cab Calloway.

Having satisfied the crowd for 90 minutes they climaxed the unbelievable show by coming down from the stage into the audience, whilst still playing their instruments, to have a big ol’ dance with their family, friends and fans.

I can honestly say I have never seen a gig in Dorchester so good.

101 Love or Hate Films? “Star Wars”

•July 7, 2010 • 2 Comments

Oh dear. This may take a while.

I should start off by saying I love Sci-Fi. I should also say that nothing splits sci-fi fans more that Star Wars.

You can argue that the arrogance and self-adoring attitude of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where the first half hour appears to be shot from the outside showing off the vessel from every angle, or some of it’s later outings where Spock turns into Jesus, reborn, spiritual and pure, can cause the biggest bust-ups in your local Forbidden Planet Shop, but nothing compares to Star Wars when it comes to brawling  with your local sci-fi geeks. Action figures have been broken! Trading Cards Lost and any number of light sabres destroyed.

The magic of Star Wars is that none of us have ever experienced a world so deeply immersing. Right from the first bars of John Williams memorable theme tune, we sink into another place, filled with crazy adventure, strange languages, quirky religions, and one of the most bizarre menage-a-trois ever committed to film.

So why does it get so much discussion and why is it featured here, in the love or hate movies?

It’s not the special effects. This staple of any good sci-fi movie is done flawlessly by George Lucas’ people. Giving us a high degree of bang for what must have been a pretty healthy amount of buck. From the crazy sea-creatures in Naboo to the AT-AT Walkers on Hoth, you cant help but be impressed by their variety and quality.

It’s not the acting, which stays persistently bad throughout the entire series. Acting in Sci-fi movies is understandably one of the hardest things to do. The language isn’t what they are used to, most of it is shot in green screen and characters are replaced by heads on sticks. It’s not too much of a surprise to see Mark Hamill shoot his gun like the toy it really is, or Liam Neeson miss his mark when leaping forwards to attack enemy droids. Having said that, Hayden Christensen does reach a new level of terrible acting.

It’s not the characters themselves although they do run hot and cold. The creation of Darth Maul is simply genius. I wish he had survived to form some part in Attack of the Clones. General Grevious too dies without reaching his full potential. R2D2 runs throughout all 6 movies and he is instantly likable and exciting. But in comparison Mace Windu could have easily been left out for all he did, and I can’t think of a romance so badly conceived as the one between Amadala and Anekin. I disliked Rose and Jack in Titanic, but at least Cameron tried.

It’s not the direction. Despite George Lucas doing his best to mess it up, by micro-directing and sucking the last breath of life out of the characters, the films struggle through, and it is notable that critics consider The Empire Strikes Back, directed by Irvin Kershner, to be the best of the six by far.

The problem and heated debate, surrounds George Lucas’ script itself. It is both magnificently awful and potentially perfect. It has bags of political resonance, but shy’s away from this, like a meerkat when a hawk is overhead. It almost says so much about who we are, but chooses instead to become pulp-fiction. It is heartbreakingly close to being perfect. If only Lucas had the courage, the imagination or the humility to see what he was writing.

Have no doubt. Whether Lucas intended to write a story about religious extremism or not, the Star Wars movies are about exactly that. The grand story is of a virgin birth and a messiah who brings order to the world. In 1-3, our hero is plucked from slavery to become the greatest exponent of Jediism, a mystical art that provides great power, In his craving for more, he becomes the very thing he has always despised. Finally it is about how his son, “The Chosen One”, who eventually kills his father and rebalances the universe.

Bearing in mind that the corruption of power and religion is at the very core of this story, the most fascinating and relevant tale is that of Anekin Skywalker’s turn from Jediism to the dark side. This is exactly the same story we see around us every day with the religious abuses that lead devout family men to commit acts of terrorism. This is one of our central tenets, without which the rest of the story collapses. It is contemporary, appropriate and allows us a mirror on our own society. But this is the one glaring area that Lucas so completely fails to confront.

The gradual breakdown of Anekin Skywalker on-screen is neither convincing nor compelling. Despite an interesting albeit flawed first chapter, the themes of abandonment and failure, are dealt with by large chunky plot devices, such as his rage following the death of his mother, or the rejection of Princess Amadala. On paper these ideas should be more than enough to work with, but they are directed so clumsily that you dont believe them. A classic example of this is the failed attempts of romance between Anekin and the princess in Attack of the Clones. Here we have two characters, one duty bound to be a princess, with responsibilities to her people and the republic, the other a clumsy impetuous young man with great potential. At first we can see little reason why these two can’t fall in love, except for one, there is absolutely no chemistry between them, and secondly Anekin appears to be the most boring romantic on the planet. Where is the cocky brashness we expect in teenagers? She is older than him and clearly more mature, it’s not hard to see why he falls for her, but can someone please explain why anyone would fall for him? A stolen kiss? no? The most contrived roll on the grass in movie history. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. This relationship is central to the story of Anekin’s fall into the dark side, and it simply is not convincing enough.

The petulant traits of young Anekin must show throughout everything in his life, and not be bolt on like Amadala’s hair.

Another large area of plot failure involves the devious political intrigue. Once again, despite a strong start, life gets confusing by the end of the second movie. With bounty hunter Jango Fett, the genetic seed of the clone army, built in secret on behalf of the Jedi, also acting as Jedi enemy Count Dooku’s bodyguard. The confusion is so great that at one point Dooku even asks “Where did the Jedi’s get an army so quickly?”.

The Master works both sides, using his connections with the trade federations and rogue Jedi’s to cause dissention amongst the Republic, but also advancing his position in the council until he becomes supreme leader with the clone army at his disposal. This a truly cunning and masterly stroke from Lucas, but in an effort to polarize each character, Lucas doesn’t take advantage of yet another contemporary theme. The idea that heroes and villains are much the same, but on different sides. Count Dooku’s speech to Obiwan, where he tells the Jedi of the sith lord controlling the federation should have made Obiwan question either his loyalty to the council or the arrogance of the Jedi Knights. His loyalty simply doesn’t make sense, especially since he had just learnt of the clone army being commissioned by a Jedi. At the very least he should think there is a rogue element influencing the Jedi.

The final conclusion and inevitable fight between Jedi Knights, and Dooku’s federation alliance puts Master commissioned Stormtroopers, against Master controlled Federation droids. It is politically speaking a totally insane battle, that fails to benefit him in any way. You could argue that Yoda’s quick thinking turned the storm troopers to their advantage, but at no stage does the master suggest he is disappointed or that there was a failure.

These are not minor gripes. I am not complaining that the technology seems to go backwards, or that some piece of equipment has a well-known fatal flaw, although time and time again this happens. These are serious complaints about what the films really say, or don’t say.

With Star Wars, we had a chance to really explore one of the great issues of our time. A chance to highlight both the benefits and failures of religious piousness. A discussion of what drives a man to do so much damage to society. An opportunity for the world to understand why someone would fly a plane into a building. And instead we got a cartoon.

Film 1 is passable, although repetition of the same undersea scenarion “there’s always a bigger fish” is irritating, and Ja-Ja grates after a while. Ewan McGreggor’s accent is odd. I almost wish he didnt try at all. As always the effects and visualisation is fantastic. In this regard Lucas has never been faulted.

Film 2 should be a romance movie and it isn’t. If ever there was an opportunity to get in a script writer this was it. Anekin’s conflict of the love for his childhood sweetheart, and his devotion to the Jedi cause should have been the most important thing in this film, but it is condenses to a few very weak scenes involving rolling in the hay and saying listlessly “we shouldn’t”. This is not the teenage love I remember. Having said that, the special effects are flawless and take us through the strained plot.

Film 3 should be the best film by far. A real character piece that takes the viewer quite literally into the heart of darkness, instead it just doesnt have the right gravitas, and Anekin doesnt appear to go through the great emotional conflict. Palpatine tells Anekin about the story of the very wise Sith Lord who has the power over life and death. He tantalises Anekin with the idea of saving Amadala from the terrible dreams he has been having. It would be tempting for this young tempestuous naive lad, scared of losing his new wife, but where is the folklore? Where is the myth? Where is the zeal? Surely this wise lord could have been overrun by requests, and so took to being a recluse and only came out at night in an attempt to stop people asking him to bring people back to life, hence why this “more powerful” magic is known as the dark side. I thought of that in two minutes.

One of the enduring theme amongst fantasy fiction writers is that there are heroes on both sides, and all of them believe they are following the right cause. Politically Anekin touches on this, but not with any true thought. It would have been very appropriate for Anekin to have a heated discussion with a senator, perhaps with Jimmy Smits character, where the senator shows his superior knowledge of politics, making the great powerful Anekin feel small and useless. It would explain his dislike for politicians, and his naivity when Padme asks if they are on the wrong side.

And after allowing Darth Sidius to kill Samuel L Jackson, Anekin seems to collapse and say, ok. I’m a sith now. Want me to kills kids, no problem. What about his ethical dilemas, i mean surely there should at least be a conversation. Anekin should be still easily influenced, so perhaps Sidius explains he has no choice as the Jedi will hunt him down, anything is better than a dull aquiescence.

Anekin even says he doesn’t know whats happening to him, and how he wants more. Come on. He is no longer a ten year old. He may want more power, but surely he is not ready to join the dark side so easily, what harm is one scene explaining how Sidius is controlling his thoughts and dreams, and how Anekin’s close contact with Sidius has meant the youg Jedi has no choice but to comply. I’m not even really spending any time on it and I have come up with a few plot points to build character into this flacid script.

It is truly frustrating to see in how many ways the script could have been vastly improved without giving much up. To make his descent a genuine character piece instead of the spoon-fed thoughtless blundering monster it is. I cannot express this enough though. The special effects, the ideas behind his beautiful worlds, the vehicles and characters are breathtaking. Which is why no sci-fi fan, no matter how much they feel frustrated at the script, cannot own the entire set.

Film 4 is good, although I really do hate the “fatal flaw” idea, so often used in sci-fi movies. In this case the Death Star exploding if we can just get one shot in there. This movie is beautifully paced, and quite rightly should be slower to the previous chapter. This is act 2, having created the worst scenario possible, act 2 is about showing how it gets resolved, whilst making it even more difficult to do so. A New Hope does it perfectly. And just look at those effects.

Film 5 is near perfect. Exciting, bulding up to a fantastic epic ending and leaving you with Star Wars’ greatest line. The Empire Strikes Back is simply brilliant.

Film 6, fatal flaw again and also the world is populated by talking gerbils. Really not sure about that.

I cannot help but enjoy these movies, I also cannot help but feel the greatest regret when I watch them. This is the very epitome of a Love or Hate film.

Barbara Harris Interview and Project Prevention Update

•June 15, 2010 • 17 Comments

It took me a while to realise quite why my previous blog about Project Prevention following the BBC Radio 4 interview had received so much attention recently.

Some of the opposers to my comments have been there for a while, but others have come recently to join the party. This is a good thing because more respectful discussion is always helpful.

I wondered why it had been brought to peoples attention though, and looked through the newspapers til I found an answer. Sure enough, my old friend the Daily Mail/Daily Record came to the rescue.

Mum’s fury after being approached in the street and offered £200 to get sterilised

Campaigner demand ban on ‘Nazi’ U.S group offering sterilisation cash offers

BARBARA DAVIES: Should drug addicts be paid to be sterilised?

The story even reached the BBC

Woman offered ‘£200 to be sterilised’

All pretty shocking stuff and bound to cause a reaction. In the BBC report they say they asked the group for an interview but there was no one available for comment.

Really?

It took me about 20 minutes to chase up an email address for Barbara Harris and get a direct quote. I asked her about the incident.

“We did go up to her but before we could get out five words she walked away saying F this F you etc. She had no child with her and lied about everything but cussing us out. The daily mail should be ashamed for printing such crap missleading there readers.”

Over a series of e-mails, I asked her if she felt sorry for the addicts.

“I agree the addicts are victims as well which is why we don’t want them to conceive children that will only be taken from them. That just leads them deeper into their addiction trying to numb the pain of losing another child.

These women don’t want to continue giving birth to children only to lose them. I have spoken to hundreds of these women over the years and they fully support our work.

“Those who oppose our work aren’t adopting any of these children, so how dare they campaign for the addicts right to continue getting pregnant. Just like the US, free birth control is available, but addicts here and there don’t take the time out of their pursuit of drugs to go get it. Offering the incentive gets their attention and they follow through because of the money. If paying someone £200 prevents child abuse there is no better way to spend that money”

So my understanding is that the lady who came out of the hospital was not approached by any of your team, and that the Daily Mail didn’t ask your office for comment.

“No, The Daily Mail did not speak to me until after they ran there trashy story”

Finally I asked her about Chris Brand. Click on the picture of Mr Brand to see what wikipedia think of him. I have been having an interesting and productive discussion with Stuart Sorenson, a mental health nurse and director of a care training and consultancy company.

Stuart has mentioned Chris Brand to me a couple of times, as a “eugenicist and scientific racist” who “advised the project”. He went on to say “It’s little wonder that the Project Prevention focus is essentially black neighbourhoods.”

I cant deny, knowing nothing about Chris Brand, I was concerned, and the media I flicked through didnt look good, so since I had the opportunity, I asked Barbara Harris directly.

“I was just reading something Chris Brand wrote about me which is so untrue. According to him I’m married to a black millionaire ! I don’t know him nor have I ever spoken to him.”

She went on to write

“The Daily Mail in Glasgow printed a story recently that was full of lies. A woman accused us of walking up to her on the streets and offering her money if she got sterilized! I was so angry when I read her lies because I knew many would believe them and judge what we do. First of all in 12 years of doing this we have NEVER walked up to ANYONE even assuming they are addicts which rules out her story right off the bat. We tell people about our work and ask if they know anyone who uses drugs/alcohol that may get pregnant. Then we give them a card to pass along to anyone they may know. The only truth in her story was that she cussed like a truck driver! She had no child with her and was not at the Health Dept. She was talking to a woman who was an obvious addict. The Daily Mail printed her story without talking to us and that was so irresponsible to me. Once trash like that is printed it can never be taken back they should be ashamed, but I’m sure they are not!”

There is a reason why all celebrities and organisations alike have a problem with the british media.

This is what the Guardian said about it following Barbara Harris’ TV appearance on “This Morning”.

For a link to Barbara Harris’ controversial interview with the team from ITV’s This Morning. Click on the ad below

Project Prevention appears to have had some considerably difficult problems launching their campaign. It looks like sponsors wanting to promote Project Prevention in the UK have had concerns about adverse publicity, and so they have dropped the idea of sterilisation from their UK program, but are still offering very long term contraception. As far as I can see this watered-down version of the original project should receive much less criticism, and could well be considerably more appropriate for the UK market.

I am happy for this move. It is a considerate compromise to a country that already does try to support drug addicts out of their addiction and back into society via the NHS, social care, social security payments, housing benefits, and a variety of other benefits. They are victims of our sick society, and offering them long term contraception will allow them time to come to terms with their problems whilst easing the burden on society. If there is an argument here, perhaps it should be that this form of contraception should be encouraged by the NHS itself instead of via a private organisation.

There is still a question as to whether an addict is really able to decide if he or she should have long term contraception. I’m a little fed up with this argument. For one, the addict decided to try the drugs in the first place. Millions pf people decided not to try them, not to get hooked, not to abuse their society by commiting petty and sometimes serious crime.

And for two, arguing if someone is mentally capable of doing or not doing something has to be fraught with danger. I used to smoke, was I mentally incapable of potentially getting cancer? Should the state force me to give up via ridiculously high taxation? Should my free health care be withdrawn because I smoke? If an addict is NOT mentally capable to make a choice to get long term contraception then how is he/she mentally capable of looking after a small baby? At some point we have to say that our mental health is no longer a factor. That we have to act in the interests of society rather than the interests of one initially selfish individual.

The campaign against Barbara Harris however, has been personal, misinformed and dismissive. Her ideas may well be different and a little scary, but I have read a lot of very unjust arguments against her, by campaigners who simply don’t understand her motivations or even the extent of her plans.

What has happened to this country where we can be so unfairly abusive? What right do the newspapers have to make up lies and trash people’s reputation just for the benefit of selling a few thousand copies? And what kind of people are we to buy and read and believe the rubbish they say?


7 reasons why I believe Football’s World Cup is important?

•May 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In just two short weeks the world turns to South Africa to celebrate a festival of colour, music and the grestest team sport in the world. Played on every continent by the richest lords to the poorest children, with just a ball and a couple of jumpers for goalposts football is the worlds most loved sport. From Japan to Australia, Peru to Afghanistan you will find kids kicking a ball around.

Just the other day though I heard someone ask whats the point of it all. So here goes. My 7 reasons why Football is important

We are in the middle of a world recession, with poverty, crime and inequality running riot. Most of us are struggling so hard to keep afloat that we almost forget why we are bothering. But every four years we get a new set of heroes. These individuals or teams strike back at the hated authorities, the status quo, and show us we can change the world.

1. Football is inspirational.

The only time in my life when I thought I can handle England losing, Cameroon’s world cup run was so inspirational that the whole world wanted them to win. This wonderful african team that most said never had a chance before the tournament, grew in confidence and lifted all our spirits . I even learnt 38yr old Roger Milla’s dance

2. Anything is possible.

Another case of the underdog winning, the 1950 final between hosts Brazil and Uruguay was a foregone conclusion. In Brazil, football is a religion. Nobody doubts Brazil is the greatest footballing nation in the world, but no-one told the Uruguayans in this classic David and Goliath final.

3. Take your chances when they come.

In the 1974 world cup between Brazil and Congo, defender Ilunga Mwepu saw an opportunity to alleviate a dangerous position, but all he ended doing was getting a yellow card, and entering world cup history. He may not have gotten away with this audatious effort, but you have to applaud his grabbing the chance when he saw it. This is one of the most popular world cup clips, and it’s simply genius. And as someone who has used Mwepu’s trick more than once, I can tell you it is deeply satisfying.

4. Money can’t buy you love

The score is 3-1 to France, and things arent looking so good for wealthy oil producing Kuwait. So when someone in the crowd whistles for offside making the kuwaiti defenders stop in their tracks , only to see Bernard Giresse stick it in the back of the net , Sheikh Fahid Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the president of the Kuwait football association had had enough. Knowing that he was destined to lose his job and perhaps even his head if he didn’t do something, Al-Sabah threatened to take his team off the pitch if the goal was not discounted.

Unbelievably the russian referee eventually caved, but despite all their money and power, the Kuwaiti’s went home empty-handed after losing 4-1.

I want my ball back!

5. We all lose it sometimes.

Football is not just a game of skill and energy, it is a game of spirit and passion. Sometimes though that passion can go a little too far, and get us into trouble. It’s only right that the little man in black should tell us to cool off in the locker room. Here’s a celebration of the dreaded red card. And yes, Ray Wilkins is even more proof that football has it’s fair share of big girls blouses. Oh and yes, Messing is from Cameroon… even their red cards were inspirational.

6. Fight the power

We always have to remember that rules are important, but we should always question them. The world is a tricky place, and there is always someone looking to take advantage of us when we are not expecting it. My world cup moment here is Siminic for Croatia vs heavy underdog Australia. All Australia needed was a draw, all english referee Graham Poll needed was to learn how to count.

7. There is no I in TEAM

This is the beautiful game. And goals don’t get more beautiful than this.

Have a great world cup, and COME ON ENGLAND!!!

101 Love or Hate films? “Antichrist”

•May 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

If anyone hasn’t seen “Antichrist” and is keen on watching this movie, please bear in mind it is not your average horror film. It is graphic and occasionally pornographic. It has blood and gore, and some scenes that even a well versed horror fan like myself had to turn away, but there are no idiotic teenagers going down into the cellar, or vampiric spirits trying to break in through the front door.

You will not see the son of the devil here, although you will see some pretty horrific stuff. Lars Von Trier’s multi-award winning film owes much more to the Takashi Miike film “Audition” than it does to The Omen.

The film is split into six segments, but in effect there are two parts. The first part is slow and cumbersome, quite and dull. It reminded me of the opening 40 minutes of “The Exorcist”, and just as in William Friedkin’s classic, the calm slow pace sets you up for the truly shocking scenes later.

The plot is about a couple who’s toddler dies tragically, and how they try to deal with the loss. Charlotte Gainsborough feels a deep-rooted guilt to

wards the loss of her son, whereas psychologist and lover Willem Defoe, an actor who really does run hot and cold with me, uses all the tricks in the book to bring her out of it. They decide to stay in their log cabin out in the wood in an effort to face her fears.

This lays out one of the many symbolic themes of the film. Both actors are playing unnamed characters, she and he. They go to the woods to a place they call Eden. We discover that she had come here with their son before. She had been researching Gynocide, or the murder of women and came to the conclusion that all women are inherently evil. This is likely to be a connection with the tree of knowledge.

As he begins to discover the true madness she has hidden for so long, he realises how out of depth his simple methods are, but it is the defining moment half an hour before the end when a fox he encounters tells him “Chaos Reigns”, that the whole film descends into hell.

This is a perfect turning point in the movie, as significant as everyone in the bar turning into vampires in From Dusk Til Dawn. From that point we move into surrealism with hands coming out of the trees as they make love, and hundreds of blurred faced spirits closing in on him as he tries to leave. It is also the point where people either love it or hate it.

This is not a movie for the feint-hearted, and even the most die-hard horror fans will wince once or twice, but it is also not for the high-octane teenage market. This is a serious plunge into insanity with more symbology than you can shake a proverbial silver ankh at. Take the weather for example. Willem Defoe is continuously concerned for the weather, but is always under cover and safe. He is wary of the weather in these unfamiliar grounds, just as he is wary of her state of mind. This connects to her research on witches where it is shows connections between witches and hailstorms. After the fox, however, for the first time we see him getting soaked outside the cabin. This shows that the madness has finally breached his defenses and he no longer has protection.

Sex too is used symbolically, showing us the nature of the relationship. He begins the film as a partner, taking a full roll, but as the film progresses, she finds herself becoming more empowered and demanding. In truth there is guilt behind her clear need for sex, and anger when he begins to refuse her increasingly masochistic demands.

Even the term Antichrist doesn’t relate to the new testament idea of the son of the devil, but of the old testament belief that we all are the son of god, that christ lives within us, and the anti-christ is our obsession with this material world. She says at one point “Nature is the Satan’s Church” presenting a stark contrast of Eden, inside the home, and hell outside.  This is strengthened by the ticks he finds on his hand that had been draped out the window over night, her claims of burning feet she walks through the woods and the crumbling trees and uncontrolled growth outside.

I am not going to tell you about the conclusions of this film in the hope that you are encouraged to find out for yourself. To be honest, just as in Audition I am not sure I have the strength to recall it, but if you are a fan of mature horror, then this film, with its imagery, subtlety and patience has punches at the end are of a kind that hollywood could never produce.

Even the first 10 minutes of this film are worth the admission price alone. Beautifully shot, truly engrossing and frighteningly real, this opening scene will stay with you for a very long time.

This is not everyone’s cup of tea, and I have much sympathy with those who hate this movie. I would like to say that the defining fox scene could have been cut, but then, it just wouldn’t be a Lars Von Trier film. This is a ground-breaking Danish director that is changing the way movies are envisaged.

For an alternative view, try http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/292997/antichrist_review.html

Antichrist is a classic, owing lots to Donnie Darko and Audition. It is thoughtful and disturbing, but it is not a film for the “Saw” generation. It is far from perfect, but it has many moments of brilliance, and is a film that will not be forgotten easily.

101 Love or Hate Films? “Revolver”

•May 20, 2010 • 4 Comments

I was flicking through IMDB the other day.  I had just watched the very good “Sherlock Holmes”, and started flicking through Guy Richie’s other films.  I remember thinking “Revolver” was a turkey, but the score of 6.2 from 29k voters  seemed a bit high, so I decided to check out the reviews.  To my absolute surprise, the reviews were excellent. So I figured I would give it another look.

Now remember what Mark Kermode said about Revolver;

“Watching Guy Ritchie’s Revolver will make you want to pour petrol on your head and set fire to yourself. It’s not that Revolver is just bad – it’s that it’s so mind-buggeringly, intestine-stranglingly hideous that you actually start to worry about the mental state of its creator. Honestly, if I was a doctor and somebody walked into my surgery and pitched Revolver, I would reach for the medicine cabinet forthwith.”

Anyhow, I wont be quite so rude or so funny I suspect, but I hope to be a little fairer than Mr Kermode.

The film involves Jason Statham coming out of prison after a 7 years stretch in solitary confinement. He claims to have learned a secret involving a simple set of rules, that should produce a favourable outcome to any game. There is no definition to the word game, but it doesn’t matter.

We are led to presume he has been quite successful, but following an episode where he faints on the stairs, an attempt on his life and the introduction of two “friends”, we learn he wants revenge on the man (Ray Liotta) who put him in prison.

The rest of the movie is about him achieving revenge by working out he doesn’t need revenge.

Confused? Lets see if I can help a little.

The two friends who save his life and give his money away turn out to be Jason Statham’s neighbouring cell mates. One claiming to be a master game player, the other a master con artist leading you to believe you are in a game or a con. Statham learns all the secrets by being in the middle cell of these two thinking giants. Well I say they are cell mates, but in actual fact they are not his cell mates at all, but are instead fragments of his deranged mind which you can only assume is what happens after 7 years of solitary confinement.

They tell him that he needs to let go of everything to see the true enemy, and bit by bit they make him give everything away including all his pride and confidence. He gets to a point in his despair that he fractures once and for all and finally finds his true enemy, himself, or rather specifically his ego.

Ray Liotta’s character in comparison starts off wealthy and in control until he takes a job from the kingpin Mr Gold. Bit by bit he finds himself in more and more trouble but as opposed to Statham’s character who finds enlightenment by freeing himself  from his ego, Liottas gets more and more bogged down, blaming Statham for his failure.

Now if you are still confused, then you have a right to be because this is a confusing idea. There is nothing wrong with a confusing idea. The trouble with this film is that having decided on a confusing idea, it is vital you take your audience through the process. In this regard Guy Richie’s film fails miserably.

For a start not enough time is given into establishing the hold the two friends have over Statham. He is told he has only 3 days to live, and the only way he will survive is to hand over his money and do whatever the friends tell him to do. Later however he is told that he has miraculously recovered from the fatal illness but he still continues to work for his friends, even though they continue to give away his money, and continue to behave in a manner he finds unacceptable.

Secondly you have the character of Jake Green (Statham), you have Green’s inner-monologue (Statham), you have the chess player Avi (Benjamin) and you have the con artist Zach (Pastore) all of which are actually Jake Green. He spends the entire movie talking to himself, and yet no-one notices or says anything. And just to add insult to injury in the final conclusion Macha (Liotta), starts having inner-monologue as well.

Thirdly you have a series of bizarre situations that simply could never happen. Green sneaks into Macha’s bedroom and apologizes for taking up his time. If you’re really confronting your ego, you don’t need to do it in your arch-enemy’s bedroom whilst he’s sleeping. And if you do, then I very much doubt your arch enemy is going to let you walk away when he has tried to kill you twice already.

As the final scene begins and all bets are off as to what will happen. We finally see that Liotta will self destruct by committing suicide, whereas Statham walks away with the girl, in this case his young niece. This is symbolic of course showing that if you defeat your real enemy (your ego) then you will succeed in everything. Herein lies another gaping problem. You don’t. If you fight your ego, you don’t suddenly get wealth and happiness, there is always someone ready to take what you have,someone there to take advantage.

So, even though these are major glitches in the plot there is a much much bigger problem. There are many complicated movies around with important themes, some well executed some not so much. The bad ones tend to lose the audience, the good ones drag their audience along. Revolver loses its audience in the first 20 minutes and never bothers to get them back. You don’t feel invested in the movie, which is odd because that is one of the rules it suggests to play the game.

I have heard it said by many people on-line that you need to really think for this movie, and that’s a good thing. I disagree. I like thinking, I do it a lot. I like films that require me to think too, but this film requires you to not only think about what the plot means, but also to un-weave its bad direction. And as for all those people who thought the movie is a classic because they got it first time, think about your own egos.

Surely if there is one clear surefire way that this movie fails it is that its central message is to fight your ego’s but figuring out the message actually boosts it.

It’s not badly shot, it’s not badly lit, it’s not even badly acted. It’s badly written and it’s badly directed. It doesn’t care if you follow the story or not which is why is rightly deserves the criticism of being self-centred and egotistical.

I hate this film for the lack of fulfillment of its potential.

For an alternative opinion, check out what Faraz has to say on the subject

http://usefulthought-s.blogspot.com/2008/05/explanation-of-movie-revolver.html

Stavros the Greek Fisherman and the Nasty Greedy Banker

•May 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This blog is inspired by the following. Once you’ve read mine, go check Webeneezers out.

http://webeneezerscrooge.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/the-matrix-meets-greece-2-stock-market-update/?blogsub=confirmed#subscribe-blog

Meet Stavros….

Stavros is a Greek Fisherman. He is sad.

He is sad because the restaurants won’t buy his fish.

They won’t buy the fish, because they don’t have any customers. They don’t have any customers because Greece doesn’t have any tourists.

So what happened to the tourists?

Once upon a time everything was good. People were good, jobs were good, it was all good. Everyone was happy.

Then one day a rich millionaire bank owner said,

“You know we are all making loads-of-money… well lets make even more loads of money!”

“How can we make even more loads of money?”, said the other rich millionaire bankers.

“Well,” said the first “We have banks for the little people for safe keeping, and we have banks for the big people for the casino. We dont make much on the safekeeping, but we make loads-of-money at the casino!  Why don’t we take the little peoples money and spend that on the casino! Then we can make LOADS-of-money!”

“Great idea!” said the other rich bank owners, all except for one. This rich bank owner didnt have any big people money, just little people money. He couldn’t make all the loads-of-money. “But I dont have any big people money and I dont want to risk the little peoples money on the casino. It’s naughty and we will get told off”

“So what!” the others said as they went outside and had a party.

Now the banks made loads-of-money with the little peoples money, and things were great, the people were great, and the jobs were great.

But the banks all wanted to make EVEN MORE loads-of-money so, because they had made so much money already they offered the little people even cheaper loans so they could take the little peoples money and make even more loads-of-money.

But the rich banker millionaire with only little people money said “Hey, if I don’t win on the casino then the little people will lose their money and then everyone will know what we have done with the little peoples money”

“So what!” the others said as they went outside and had a party.

Then one day, the  rich banker billionaire with only little people money lost.

“NOOOO!”, The others said “Now we will all get found out! If we buy the little peoples debts then no one will know!”, so they bought the little peoples debts.

The trouble was that he wasn’t the only rich banker millionaire that had been losing. They all had been losing, and now the only ones left were the really really rich banker millionaires, and they had all the little peoples debts.

And then one day the little people found out, and they were so worried that they went to the banks and asked for their keepsake money back.

The rich banker millionaires didn’t have enough, so they asked the government for money. And the government provided it through taxing the little people.

The end…

Except it wasn’t the end. Thousands of “little” people lost their jobs, and then their houses. And they couldn’t go on holiday anymore to Greece.

You see the little people wanted a home of their own. So they went to the bank. They’re Great!

And the bank said just fill in the “we want to borrow lots of money” form, but don’t put in the real figure of your income because you won’t get a mortgage.

So they did, and they got the mortgage, and then the banks went bust, and then the people lost their houses, and then people stopped going on holiday to Greece, and they stopped going into restaurants, and finally the restaurants stopped buying fish from Stavros.

So the President of Greece said we dont have any tax money. But we have to pay for the police and the hospitals. Lets talk to a big bank. Lets talk to Goldman Sachs. They’re great!

Goldman Sachs told them to fill in the “we want to borrow money” form, but don’t put your real income down, because you wont get it.

So they did, and they got the loans, but still nobody came to restaurants to buy the fish, and Stavros got poorer and poorer.

Until one day Greece said “if you dont help us, we will be bankrupt” and everyone went NOOOOO! Because if a country like Greece goes bankrupt then a country like Spain can go bankrupt and then the UK and then the US!!!

Then the whole world will be bankrupt. All except the rich banker millionaire who has all the money in the world.

So Stavros got angry and he went to Athens and told Greece

“Why have you done this”, and Greece said

“Because the banker told me.” And Stavros said,

“But he told everyone else bad advice too”.

And Greece said “I know, he is a Nasty Greedy Banker Man!”

And Stavros was very angry, but he could do nothing because the rich banker millionaire with all the money in the world is very rich and very powerful and owns everything.

So Stavros marched on the banker building to complain, and on his way he was joined by Carlos from Spain, Miguel from Portugal and Paddy from Ireland, and then more people joined, and more still until everyone went to the door of the Nasty Greedy Banker Man to complain.

And the Nasty Greedy Banker Man was scared. As he should have been because he was too greedy and people are hungry.

So he decided to give all the loads-of-money to all the people waiting outside his door. He shared it equally and promised never to be so greedy again.

Stavros is happy now.

The End.

Can you tell it’s a fairytale?

8 Funny Politicians

•May 8, 2010 • 1 Comment

There have been some very serious politicians, and there have been some not so serious politicians.

Inspired by the disappointing defeat of number one on my list, here is a list of a few of my favourites in no particular order. If you have any to add, let me know and I will add them to the list.

1. Lembit Opik

Elected in 1997 for Montgomeryshire, he held on to his seat til just yesterday. Only to turn up today laughing at himself on comedy news-quiz show Have I Got News For You.

He has appeared on Who wants to be a millionaire and The Apprentice for charity. He was romantically attached to Gabriela Irimia, one of the cheeky girls. In the national expenses scandal he was noticeably admonished for a variety of indiscrepancies one of which was claiming a £40 summons for non-payment of Council Tax.

Best Quotes;

“It does sound like a science fiction story and I may sound like one of these guys who walks up and down with a sandwich board saying the end of the world is nigh, but the end is nigh…”

“It’s like giving a convicted man on trial the verdict and then saying ‘are you happy with that?’ “

2. Boris Johnson

Ex MP for Henley-On-Thames, ex-editor of The Spectator and Bullington Boy Boris is the current Mayor of London, and our host for the 2012 Olympics (God help us).

In 2003 Boris wrote in his Telegraph column that had stolen a cigar case from Tariq Aziz, a known associate of Saddam Hussain, who was in prison. Boris wrote that Aziz could have it back if he just asks.

He is often on TV appearing on shows as diverse as Top Gear to Eastenders. He has said that Liverpudlian were wallowing in victimhood, Papua New Guinea was an orgy of cannibalism and chief killing, and that Portsmouth was “one of the most depressed towns in Southern England.

Johnson rides his bike to work despite having his bike stolen several times. He has said he would like to plant decoy bikes around the city with nearby navy seals ready to catch the thieves.

Best Quotes;

“Try as I might, I could not look at an overhead projection of a growth profit matrix, and stay conscious.”

“Ok, I said to myself as I sighted the bird down the end of the gun. This time, my fine feathered friend, there is no escape.”

“No one obeys the speed limit except a motorised rickshaw”

3. George W. Bush

The 43rd President of the United States left office in 2009. Having taken the US into a “War on Terrorism”, he later ordered an invasion of Afghanistan and two years later Iraq.

Despite his declaring a state of emergency two days before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, both the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA failed to act in time. It took Bush 4 days before he authorised troops to enter the city and help.

Best quotes; (Literally there are hundreds of fun quotes for him)

“You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”

“The thing that’s wrong with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.”

“Most imports are from outside of the country”

“It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.”


4. Baghdad Bob/Comical Ali

Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf, later dubbed Baghdad Bob by the american newspapers and Comical Ali by the british press was known for his daily briefings during the Iraq War.

Whilst American tanks were patrolling the streets just a few hundred meters away, Al-Sahhaf told the world press there were no americans in Baghdad.

Best Quotes;

“We will push those crooks, those mercenaries back into the swamp”

“What they say about a breakthrough is completely an illusion. They are sending their warplanes to fly very low in order to have vibrations on these sacred places . . . they are trying to crack the buildings by flying low over them.”

“Everything is just fine.”


5. Bob Dole

Bob Dole ran for election as President in 1996 against Bill Clinton, but despite failing he still holds he record for the longest-serving United States Senate Majority Leader.

Since his retirement he has become a commercial spokesman for Dunkin’ Donuts, Pepsi-Cola (with Britney Spears) and Viagra, as well as doing The Daily Show, and sitcom Suddenly Susan.

Best Quotes;

“Our intent will not be to create gridlock. Oh, except maybe from time to time.”

“The internet is a great way to get on the net.”

“If you’re hanging around with nothing to do and the zoo is closed, come over to the Senate. You’ll get the same kind of feeling and you won’t have to pay”



6. Sarah Palin

In Sarah Palin’s first term of office as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska she famously kept a jar with the names of Wasilla residents on her desk. Once a week, she pulled a name from it and picked up the phone; she would ask: “How’s the city doing?”

When Republican presidential hopeful John McCain plucked her into the american limelight in the 2009 election, no-one knew who this young brash Alaskan was, but just a couple of nationwide interviews later, including the famous “As for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?”, and the whole world was aware that the republicans had a new kid on the block.

Best Quotes;

“They are also building schools for the Afghan children so that there is hope and opportunity in our neighboring country of Afghanistan.”

“I’m the mayor, I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can’t.”

“Nucular”


7. Winston Churchill

Prime Minister during World War II, great orator and leader, Winston Churchill was also a fabulous wit. His many conversations with Lady Astor, the first woman MP in the House of Commons.

In a classic encounter between the two of them Lady Astor announced “You sir, are drunk!”, to which he replied

“You madam are ugly, but in the morning I will be sober.”

Best Quotes;

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

“Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed.”

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

“The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whiskey. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.”



8. Silvio Berlusconi

The current Italian Prime Minister has held the role 3 times. He has an extensive record of criminal allegations, including mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges, but as yet has not been convicted for any of them. Following the G8 conference in 2008 he said, “I’m the universal record-holder for the number of trials in the entire history of man – and also of other creatures who live on other planets.”

In 2002, Berlusconi, made a vulgar gesture  behind the head of the Spanish foreign minister, intimating he was a cuckold during an official photo shoot.

In 2005, said they should have the European Food Safety Authority in Italy rather than Finland because “the finnish didn’t know what prosciutto is.” And later that year when trying to justify American investment in Italy he said “we have the most beautiful secretaries in the world”.

In 2006 he refuted that he had said Communists used to eat children, by saying, “they did not eat children, but had them boiled to fertilise the fields”.

Best Quotes;

“If I, taking care of everyone’s interests, also take care of my own, you can’t talk about a conflict of interest.”

“I’m not a traditional politician, and I have a sense of humor. I’ll try to soften it and become boring, maybe even very boring, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to.”

•April 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

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War, Collateral Murder and WikiLeaks

•April 8, 2010 • 2 Comments

If you haven’t seen this footage, I strongly recommend you do. It is shocking however, so please bear that in mind.

There is a huge amount to say about this and I will try to be careful with my words.

Firstly, I want to say that I am not nor have I ever been in any of the armed forces, and I do accept that soldiers have a very hard job in terribly dangerous conditions.

Secondly, I believe that WikiLeaks.com, a website that I found to be very reliable has given this video a bias by not fully explaining any contributing factors such as what had happened before or by explaining proper procedure throughout the video. Perhaps they haven’t been given the entire story, but they spend a fair amount of time setting up the footage, even an apology highlighting the limits of their understanding would have been beneficial.

To properly review the film, it is probably wise to mention this blog by a military man, who dissects it much better than I ever could.

http://blog.ajmartinez.com/2010/04/05/wikileaks-collateral-murder/

This next link is to Yahoo, one of the few places you will find this story reported in the UK. It is a report on the direct response to the film.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100406/ts_nm/us_iraq_usa_journalists

Ok, so that’s as much background as I’m going to give you.

I want to say that war is terrible, and it makes animals out of men. There are always reports of soldiers getting over-zealous during intense combat situations. When there is a possibility of you or the man next to you dying, it is bound to make you a little crazy. It is probably part of a normal human defense mechanism to react badly, zealously or aggressively at these times. A professional soldier has to overcome some of these emotions and utilise other parts. They need to be brave in the face of intense danger, and always remember what they are doing. Procedures are there for their safety in the long run, and they need to stick to their training if they want to survive a situation which is scarier than anything I will ever face in my life.

That aside, it is clear that at certain times during this footage, the soldiers either followed a procedure which involved shooting a stationary car, which showed no signs of weaponry or any form of retaliation, or they simply got it wrong. The footage, or WikiLeaks’ take on the footage, is that they got it badly wrong. Having only seen the footage and read some commentaries on it, I am inclined to agree.

I have no idea why they chose to shoot the van. I cannot understand what would have made them shoot the van. Why not just follow the van. Back up troops were not far behind and could easily have dealt with the situation. Shooting the van seemed beyond reason. The only thing I can possibly imagine is that they got a little gun-crazy. Even if that is the case, then why were they authorised? The great concern is, that it appears all along the chain of command, fully trained soldiers made life or death decisions, and they all got it wrong.

The soldiers in the helicopter appeared to be young and perhaps naive. To be honest they appeared to be as if they were playing a video game, begging for permission to finish the group off, praying for the injured man to reach for a gun, and finally laughing as they mercilessly shoot the van and just miss the children inside. A few bloggers have mentioned the idea of the children being used as a shield. Maybe this is so, certainly leaving your kids at home seems like a good idea before entering a hot zone like this one, but I am also inclined to think if I were using children as protection, I wouldn’t put them in a place where no-one can see them. These are some of the people who we ask to protect our peace. It is scary, because on the basis of this video, I would feel uncomfortable about them looking after children in a playground. They were exhibiting the same kind of immature bullying and childish naivety that you see in every school in the country. You can almost hear local children down your street crying:

“Come on, let us shoot!”

They are soldiers and should act like professional soldiers regardless of their age or maturity.

Now I am being generous here, because I didn’t see anyone firing at the helicopter before it fired upon them. In fact even after the firing it seemed like the group of men were too stunned to react quickly. They didn’t appear worried about the chopper before the attack, like I imagine armed insurgents would be. I am being generous because as I have said, WikiLeaks has not provided us with enough background on the situation, and I do not know the tactical intricacies involved.

The video aside however and I feel its important to ask a different set of questions. Why would this or any of this kind of footage (taken 3 years ago) be kept from the general population? Why did it have to be leaked? and what would happen if it were released by the army?

I simply don’t understand. For a start, any footage that shows us more clearly about what war really means, has to be a good thing. Our enemies don’t hide their actions. If anything, when a car bomb goes off destroying buildings and killing countless innocent lives, they broadcast it from the highest rooftops. They show off, not just because they are proud, but also to show others of the difference they have made in fighting the infidel, us. In fact even the US Army release some more flattering films, showing them blowing up enemy barracks and tanks from time to time. I believe it is much wiser to face the truth, instead of pretending we have the kind of army where no-one gets hurt and all the bad guys die.

I don’t understand why they think we can’t take it. For my part, understanding what is involved in the terribly hard decision to go to war, and also what our enemies have done to us to provoke such action is extremely important. The war isn’t real if we don’t feel it, which means we need to see it in all its sadistic intricate detail. And it’s all very well saying we have never shown this kind of exposure previously, but we have much larger populations today, and there are less casualties, injured and returning soldiers than in previous wars. Less of us know someone who has been “out there”, and so there is a detachment from the war, which can turn swiftly into apathy and acquiescence.

As far as I can make out, there is no benefit for the Army to keep this or any other footage of old conflict under wraps. Obviously if there is an issue that releasing the footage will put soldiers lives in danger, then I would understand, but I cannot see how anyone wishing to fight against us will benefit from seeing this, except perhaps in not showing his gun off to his mates. Which has to be a good thing too. If I were a member of the insurgency, watching this video would make me think all the american soldiers are crazy, and perhaps there are easier battles to fight. It might also remind me of my own mortality and perhaps my cause isn’t so passionate after all. Having said that, I also accept that just as I dont know what a soldier has to go through, I also cannot comprehend what would drive someone to strap on a bomb and walk into a building or a plane, knowing I would kill hundreds of people.

The only way the insurgence gets a benefit is by not showing these films. That way, when they are leaked like this, our enemies can claim the support for the war is weakening and the americans are politically fighting amongst themselves.

I am not a big fan of the “free” press, since it appears to me that it’s not particularly free in any way, but I am a fan of the kind of freedom the internet has shown us.

It has not surprised me that not a single newspaper or news channel has picked up on this story in the UK. We have just had a general election announced, and so I hoped it would appear in the middle pages of The Times, or as second or third story on the BBC, but it failed to reach a headline anywhere in the UK. I am pleased that it has been reported on the internet, and that it continues to rumble along in the blogosphere.

I hope, if you read this, you too will keep the rumble of this footage going, and air your views on the matter. In just one day on YouTube, the footage was seen by 1.5m people. Lets keep that going.

Finally, on a different subject. I feel a lot of sympathy for the BA workers currently discussing the possibility of more strike action against what appears to be a suicidal management team. I am afraid though that to complain about your work conditions and pay at a time when soldiers are coming home dead and injured, shows a complete lack of empathy and judgement. I do not blame you, I totally blame the leaders of your Union, Unite, which appears to be making a mess of your union, your firm, and the upcoming election.