Peter Bradshaw’s brilliant review of Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts.

The trailer is dreadful.  This one star review ain’t though.

What. A. Load. Of. Fucking. Shit.

Sit, watch, groan. Yawn, fidget, stretch. Eat Snickers, pray for end of dire film about Julia Roberts‘s emotional growth, love the fact it can’t last for ever. Wince, daydream, frown. Resent script, resent acting, resent dinky tripartite structure. Grit teeth, clench fists, focus on plot. Troubled traveller Julia finds fulfilment through exotic foreign cuisine, exotic foreign religion, sex with exotic foreign Javier Bardem. Film patronises Italians, Indians, Indonesians. Julia finds spirituality, rejects rat race, gives Balinese therapist 16 grand to buy house. Balinese therapist is grateful, thankful, humble. Sigh, blink, sniff. Check watch, groan, slump.

Film continues, persists, drags on. Wonder about Julia Roberts’s hair, wonder about Julia Roberts’s teeth, wonder about permanence of Julia Roberts’s reported conversion to Hinduism. Click light-pen on, click light-pen off, click light-pen on. Eat crisps noisily, pray for more crisps, love crisps. Munch, munch, munch. Munch, munch, suddenly stop munching when fellow critic hisses “Sshhh!” Eat crisps by sucking them, pray that this will be quiet, love the salty tang. This, incidentally, makes me plump, heavy, fat. Yet Julia’s life-affirming pasta somehow makes her slim, slender, svelte. She is emoting, sobbing, empathising. She has encounters, meetings, learning-experiences. Meets wise old Texan, sweet Indian girl, dynamic Italian-speaking Swede who thinks “Vaffanculo” means “screw you”.

Roberts eats up the oxygen, preys on credulous cinemagoers, loves what she sees in the mirror. Julia shags Billy Crudup, James Franco, Javier Bardem. Ex-husband, rebound lover, true romance. Crudup is shallow’n’callow, Franco is goofy’n’flaky, Bardem is hunky’n’saintly. We hate Crudup, like Franco, love Bardem. Divorced Javier is gorgeous, sexy, emotionally giving. About his ex-wife we are indifferent, incurious, uninterested. She is absent, off the scene, unnamed. That’s how Julia likes it, needs it, prefers it.

Movie passes two-hour mark, unfinished, not over yet. Whimper, moan, grimace. Wriggle, writhe, squirm. Seethe, growl, rage. Eat own fist, pray for death, love the rushing sense of imminent darkness. Scream, topple forward, have to be carried out of cinema. Reach life crisis, form resolution, ask editor for paid year’s leave to go travelling. Editor stands up, shakes head, silently mouths the word: “No”. Nod, turn, return to work. Personal growth, spiritual journeys, emotional enrichment? Not as easy as 1-2-3.

1977 by David Peace

Two down. Two to go.

I have written often about David Peace in this blog.  About 1984 here.  About 1974 here. And about The Damned United here.

The fact is he is a really great writer.

I’ve just put down 1977, the second in the Red Riding Quadrilogy which is centred on a fictional backdrop of The Yorkshire Ripper killings in and around 1977 (but to be continued in the next in the series; 1980).

Although The Ripper enquiry is essentially the main plot device it’s really about police corruption which provides the main narrative flow.  It’s about guilt.  It’s about god.  Does he exist?  Can he forgive us our tresspasses (if we do not forgive others).  Reeking with religious symbolism it is a horrific read with murder, rape and brutality leaping out of almost every page.

But it is mesmeric in its structure and his quite unique use of language.

This is way beyond the ambitions of most crime novels.

This is art.

Winter’s bone

I was looking forward to this, big style, on the basis of the crits I’d read.

I expected it to be dark, brooding and very engaging.

It is dark. It is brooding. But it is not engaging.

It’s boring!

It is shot in a half light that is just plain dull and the performances, throughout, are at best subdued.

The plot is murky and very unclear. The dialogue is, at times, virtually impenetrable.

To be honest I can’t really be bothered reviewing this any more.

This is England 86

This is starting to confuse me.

Tonight’s episode was lampoonishly humorous. (But only funny in parts.)

And then horrifyingly depressing.

The rape was just awful.

The humour at times, likewise.

It may be the greatest combination of emotional manipulation ever.

But it might be the worst.

The jury is out.

Senior by Royskopp.

Sweet like!

I’ve been intermittently interested in Royskopp’s stuff (Alpha Male is a stunning song) but nothing has the depth and subtly of this wholly instrumental and kind of danceable outing.  It’s very retro and borrows strongly from Kraftwerk (more than any other band) but smacks too of early Simple Minds, Air, early Human League (Dignity of Labour is a little known masterpiece), Sigur Ros, Tangerine Dream, Orb etc.

It’s wonderful and is, I understand, a companion piece to its simultaneously recorded sibling, Junior, which came out last year.

The inbetweeners

Watched the first episode of the latest series tonight and whilst there were several laughs, they are all basically just fart gags and saying fuck or soapy tit wank on national tv. Whilst that has its merits it doesn’t redefine comedy the way some of our tv critics would have you believe.

Oh, and the acting is fundamentally pretty shit.

Oh, and the posh twit is basically David Mitchell in a time warp!

New season at the Lyceum edinburgh

Ahhh. The grand old dame!

It was the first board meeting of the new term today and I’m immensely proud of the season we are about to put out in the next 9 months. Shakespeare opens on Saturday with Romeo and Juliet, followed by The Importance of Being Earnest (a very rare 4 act performance) and then The Snow Queen for Christmas.

There after the season opens up with a mix of classics (another Miller – the last in John Dove’s immense series) and premieres.

And to end?

The RSC come to town with Dunsinane! Bring it on!

Have a heart Walter

Much as I admired Rangers’ desperately pragmatic grinding out of a result against Manchekster Utd last night I felt Walter Smith’s defence of his strategy lacked humility today.

In it he bemoaned the fact that he had to adopt those tactics to hold any chance of a result against the wealthier teams of the league. He pointed out that 85% of Premiership teams have no chance of winning that league and that The Champions League is much the same!


The only reason Rangers are even participating is because they benefit from precisely the same financial domination as those teams enjoy in their respective leagues. The difference is that I don’t see Man Utd or AC Milan pillaging the talent of their fellow league mates in an attempt to bury their ambitions.

Walter. Put a sock in it. Have a heart. Look in your back yard before you mouth off.

The big Google hit

Eddie the Eagle is the only person I know that would like this sort of chart.

I’m told that Google changed things a few weeks ago and that every blog in the universe took a pounding; mainly due to reduced volume of traffic through google images.  Certainly mine reached near death throes.  I was averaging 1,200 hits a day and that suddenly and remarkably dropped to about 300.

However, I was being lazy, posting too much shit to Facebook rather than taking the time to write it up properly here.  I took heed and invested in WP not FB and have been rewarded with a 200% uplift in traffic.

Stick with me folks.

I am penitent.

This is England ’86

Shane Meadows’ very poignant film set in 1983 was a cracker.

Even blacker than that is the follow up TV series which I was not expecting and has thus become a sudden and unexpected comedy delight.

Part Shameless (sorry, but it has to be said) part Boys from the Black Stuff.

It’s just harsh.

And it’s unforgiving.

Show any of the characters a chink of light and merciless slagging ensues and that makes it feel real. Because that’s the stuff of life is it not?  Ripping the piss out of your nearest and dearest.  Mercilessly.

The acting is bloody top notch.

It’s not easy looking shite on screen, but most of the cast carry it off with ease.

Special mention has to go to Vicky McLure so far in the Tomboy central love role.


This might turn out to be a classic.  It certainly has trapped well.

A spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Well.  If you were to look back fastidiously on my blog you’ld see that I’m in a spot of bother this year when it comes to staking my claim as a minor league book reviewer.

The harsh fact is that I have reviewed nowt, SFA, nada – and that’s because, until this weekend, my reading exploits showed not a pot washed.

Sure, I’ve been reading – but completion has been an issue.  So it was with relief that I closed the back cover of this fab wee find.

Those of you who know “The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night” will, like me, have no doubt assumed that this major opus would find a difficult second novel in its wake and not have bothered.  Like me, you might have picked it up for a pound or two in a charity shop and looked at it wasting away on the shelf.  Unread.  Unloved.  Frankly, destitute.

Well, my dear fellow reader YOU WILL HAVE BEEN AN IDIOT!

This is a hilarious romp.

It’s a satire.

It’s a farce.

It’s never gonna win the Booker.  But it is  a thing of minor wonderment.

Blacker than a Chilean Coal miner it rips along faster than an aggressive cancer, because that’s what it’s all about.  The fear of cancer.

And madness, and familial hell.

It’s got taboo written all over it – but never the word is mentioned.

It’s laugh out loud funny and yet it is terrifically sad.

The basic premise is based on a retired 50-something bloke discovering a previously unseen spot on his hip.  He takes it to be cancer and overreacts like Woody Allen on Cocaine.  It turns out to be Eczema but that doesn’t matter; the seed has been sown and what follows is an outrageous overreaction that has hilarious knock on effects.

His daughter’s wedding turns to shit; his homosexual son doesn’t know if he’s coming or going; his wife’s affair goes pear shaped.

Please take the time to enjoy this minor masterpiece.  You will not regret it.  I promise you.

Like this?  love Jonathon Coe.

The Pope’s sad and sorry visit to Scotland

Pope Benedict. He’ll need to rely on more than touching the cross.

I was stunned when my mother told me the other day that she would not be going to Bellahouston Park to see Pope Benedict strut his stuff.  Her reasoning being that she would not support a pontif who had swept child sex abuse under the carpet.

Now let’s put my astonishment in context here.  My mother is a 74 year old, card carrying, lifelong Catholic who practices her religion with devotion several times a week.

For her to ‘disown’ her spiritual leader is, in my book, brave, principled and deeply admirable.

And I am wholly (if you’ll excuse the pun) with her.

I too am a, rather flakier, card holder and I am rather less supportive in general terms of the Catholic church.  And, for me, the whole destabilisation of the organisation under Pope Benedict’s custodianship has increasingly looked like a religion losing control.

I strongly agree with this brave writer to The Guardian only last week

If the supreme pontiff wanted to restore the moral credibility of his church, he could do even better than that. He could, as Jesus did, take the sins of his brethren on himself. He could quit, whether personally responsible for the global cover-up that has put Roman Catholicism into an unprecedented crisis or not. That there is no precedent for a papal resignation would make it totally remarkable, even saintly. In secular terms, the holy father would, however, be doing no more than any CEO of an international corporation in a comparably disgraceful situation. He would be forced by his chairman to go. God has abdicated that kind of authority and left even a pope with free will.

There is, as it happens, a recent Protestant precedent. When the Lutheran bishop of Hamburg learned of a serious case of child abuse within her jurisdiction, though not directly responsible, she promptly resigned. Anything less, she said, would not suffice. Perhaps a woman’s moral sensibility is stronger. Were that, per impossibile, to happen at the Vatican, a successor would be set free to embark on the new reformation that would need to centre on vital issues of gender and sexuality.

Canon Paul Oestreicher

Brighton, East Sussex
Again, in the Guardian, on Monday, Madeleine Bunting made some interesting observations.

In her article she cited that his clumsiness (to put it mildly) in handling not just child sex abuse, but also female ordination and the church’s relationship with Islam has reignited anti Catholic feeling in the UK.  Quite rightly she points to the impact of the child sex abuse scandals in that it strikes at the core of our religion and totally undermines the authority of the clergy over the laity.  Deference to the clergy is in freefall.  How could it be any other way.  “What ye sew, so shall ye reap.”

And yet, and yet, despite collapsing confidence and church attendance all over Europe business is booming.

Africans and Asians are flocking to the church in their droves.

So what?  Business is bad in Europe?  We can just invest our marketing effort in new markets can’t we?

So what if the old guard lose faith; there plenty more we can get through missionary work.

I don’t want to sound totally cynical, but it’s hard not to.  The entire edifice of the Catholic Church is built on faith, blind faith critics argue, and faith is built on trust.

When a 74 year old blind faith follower votes with her feet the whole pack of cards looks in very great danger of falling down.

And it’s so easy to fix.

Zero tolerance needs to be adopted and the church should be utterly cleansed of these men once and for all.

Then, maybe then, Catholicism will find an Indian summer in Europe.

As for Bellahouston Park.  I hope it’s half empty.

I am almost overcome with excitement!

easy sugar

Michel Faber is a stunning writer and his 2002 novel, The Crimson Petal and The White, of which I have a first edition, is to be revealed to a much wider audience than the book ever reached when it is serialised in the Autumn on BBC2.
It is astoundingly brilliant as a book and will make a perfect BBC drama.
Here is what the BBC website has to say about it.
The Crimson Petal & The White is a four-part adaptation of Michel Faber’s international best-selling novel on BBC Two.

Adapted by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon and directed by Marc Munden, this intimate psychological thriller lifts the lid on the darker side of Victorian London revealing a world seething with vitality, sexuality, ambition and emotion.

This provocative and riveting tale tells the story of Sugar (Romola Garai), an alluring, intelligent young prostitute who yearns for a better life away from the brothel she is attached to – run by the contemptible Mrs Castaway (Gillian Anderson).

Highly sought after and sexually adept, Sugar finds her only comfort in the secret novel she is writing in which a murderous prostitute takes revenge on her clients. However, things change for her when she meets wealthy businessman William Rackham (Chris O’Dowd).

Sugar is a thrilling antidote to William’s life, saddled with a pious brother, Henry Rackham (Mark Gatiss), and fragile wife, Agnes Rackham (Amanda Hale). Agnes regularly endures visits from the invasive physician Doctor Curlew (Richard E Grant), leaving her unable to perform her wifely duties.

William ensconces Sugar as his mistress and she soon grows accustomed to her new life. Yet, unbeknownst to William, Sugar begins to hatch a plan which sets a series of events in motion that will change their lives for ever.

The supporting cast also includes Shirley Henderson, Tom Georgeson, Liz White, Blake Ritson and Bertie Carvel.

This riveting account of life in the world of Victorian prostitution is packed with detail and texture. An intelligent tale of love, lust, desire and revenge, it reveals the true sexual politics of Victorian life – in a way never seen before on screen. In the words of the heroine Sugar: “If you dare enter this world, you had better tread carefully.”