Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Movie review.


You couldn’t get more mid-American than Missouri.  You’d be forgiven for not knowing that the state capital is Jefferson City.  It’s an unremarkable state and Ebbing is an unremarkable town (made up it would seem); it’s not trailer trash, it’s not deep south.  It’s just a nondescript, middle-class, American provincial town frequented by the usual mish-mash of not quite Hillbillys, not quite racists.  They’d have voted for Trump in big numbers; if the place existed.

It’s here that Frances McDormand (just like in the unremarkable town of Fargo) stakes her claim for a place at the top table in the pantheon of greatest living actresses.

It’s here that Martin McDonagh cements his position as the greatest living comedy writer. (As if In Bruges wasn’t enough, he’s got his theatre canon of work to bolster those credentials – The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Lieutenant of Inishmore are both comedic masterpieces.)

And it’s here that both Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson put in career defining (and probable Oscar winning) performances.

To say that Frances McDormand has everything you need to be the complete actress is an understatement; she’s hilarious, brutal, droll, moving, sympathetic, antagonistic, bombastic, arrogant, crazy, vulnerable, arch, facetious and deadpan.  And that’s only in the first 20 minutes. This will unquestionably win her, her second Oscar.

And Martin McDonagh will pick up his second for best original screenplay (14 years after winning best short in 2004) and maybe even his third for best director.  He already has no fewer than four (yes 4) nominations at the BAFTA’s and I expect him to win at least half of them – because this is writing and direction of the very highest order.

He’s moved on since In Bruges.  Sure the C bomb is dropped very early in the first dialogue scene and turns up several times more.  But this is not the full pelt filth that Colin Farrell deployed to intense pleasure in the former.

This is a subtler, equally dark but even more brutal exposition.  Each word seems to have been crafted on a lathe.  I gasped several times at the sheer dexterity of his writing delivered by masters of their craft.

There’s a dwarf, yes.

There’s an idiot, yes.

But I ain’t telling you no more than that.  I saw it without spoilers so you deserve the same respect.

It has a breathtakingly bold finish, I’ll tell you that; spoiling nothing.

This is cinema at its absolute finest.  The best film I have seen this year by far (and I thought Dunkirk was truly outstanding).

Go Martin.


Where in the world are all the ‘Shitholes’?


Is the United States uniquely sparklingly clean?

Is the UK?

Is anywhere?

And conversely can nations as a whole be completely written off as Shitholes?

The Trumph seems to think so.

Various African nations, Haiti and El Salvador seem to be his notion of complete ‘shitholery’.  To brand a sweep of nations universally unworthy of admittance of their citizens to the snparkling cleanness of the USA has crossed even lines the idiot has yet to breach.

A quick trawl of Wikipedia reveals that Shithole Haiti has given us Franketienne a writer nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009 and Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada.  Wycliffe Jean (Grammy Winning hip hop artist also hails from those ‘shithole’ shores.

Ana Sol Gutierrez is a Salvadorian US politician and where would one start on the list of astonishing and influential Africans?

The outcry from the United Nations and consulates around the world is heartening.

Perhaps a slip of the tongue (a little racist Freudian moment) will accelerate the downfall of the most risible President in modern times, if not ever.



Get Out. Movie Review.


Once in a while a movie comes along that takes a genre by the scruff of the neck and vigorously shakes it into a new shape.

This is so with Get Out, a horror movie (so the marketing blurb says) that lobs a few horror tropes into a lean and mean 104 minute thriller.  But it is really a social observation on the insidiousness of racism.  It comes out the other end as a unique movie offering.

It borrows from Pacific Heights, Psycho, Michael Haneke’s astonishing Party Games and sub-horror-porn like Saw without ever being any of them.

Without resorting to spoilers its one gigantic twist from start to finish that realises the fears of a young black American guy on a trip to the country to meet his wealthy WASP girlfriend’s family on a celebration weekend.  Every sentence uttered by every character becomes a retrospective clue as to what the outcome will be.

Given it’s described as a ‘horror’ you can expect a deal of nasty stuff in a climactic ending.  What director and screenwriter Jordan Peele (amazingly a debut outing) most cleverly does is apply Hitchcockian tension so that 89 minutes of tension are realised in a mere 15 minutes of terror in such a way that the nasty bits don’t (as so often is the case) outstay their welcome.

Superb performances all round from the five principal actors, but especially boyfriend and girlfriend Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams (Girls).

It’s should be no surprise that this has been both BAFTA and Golden Globes nominated, but it is because this genre rarely reaches this level of critical acclaim.

It’ll get Oscar nods too.

Swing Time By Zadie Smith: Book Review.



Zadie Smith is one of my go-to authors. Of her five published novels I’ve read four of them (NW being the exception).

She captures a small class of striving and/or educated London black people (led by women) that must strongly appeal to sociologists and social workers alongside the creative ‘set’ that find favour in the modern day Labour party.  This particular novel straddles all of these groups with its focus on dancers and musicians as its central protagonists.

It’s a type.  she knows them well.  And, let’s face it, Smith’s work feels deeply autobiographical.

It’s a million miles from the Scottish, suburban, middle class, extremely white community that I live in; although my circle does have feet in Smith’s more creative circles.

I shouldn’t really connect with her work but, like many others from outside that ‘set’, I do, strongly.

And that’s because of the sheer quality of her writing.  Let’s face it, there’s a reason she has won more awards than Usain Bolt.

To define her writing would be to say she overlays great story writing with poetic largesse and great character studies.

They spellbind.


Swing Time, her latest, long listed for the Booker, somehow misses quite a few beats – despite its subject matter being music and dance.  Maybe I took too long to read it, but parts of it really did not connect with me at all.

Swing Time, the movie by George Stevens that inspired the book title.

It concerns the life of a young (pretty untalented) wannabe dancer who ends up as travelling PA to a global pop star phenomenon called Aimee (the choice of name is probably deliberate although Aimee is no Winehouse; more a cross between Adele and Madonna with some Angelique Jolie thrown in).

Ignored by her thrusting Labour politician mother, spurned by her childhood bestie (a low grade touring musical theatre dancer) and living a lie with her African lover our main (unnamed) protagonist recalls four decades of her life from lowly roots in London to the aforementioned glittering lifestyle that takes her to New York and Africa.

In parts its funny (not many) in parts poignant but, sadly, in most parts (particularly the African sections) it’s turgid, drawn out and uneventful.

I so wanted to like this exploration of humanity – it touches on many important emotions; most of all estrangement and lack of engagement with family and/or friends.  but it just couldn’t root in my brain.  I didn’t much care for the narrator.  I found the African sections boring and the whole a bit disjointed and the story?  Meh!  All a bit of a 21st century collection of tropes and news stories stitched together by a woman we don’t much care for.

Lacking in dramatic tension and not her best.  Start with White Teeth or On Beauty if you want great Smith.


Creeped out!

In an interesting twist of fate Radiohead are suing Lana Del Rey for copying Creep in her song Get Free.  I say interesting because The Hollies previously sued Radiohead for exactly the same reason, accusing them of copying ‘The Air that I Breathe” in creating Creep.

Have a listen for yourself.  I have to say, both have a point.