Let me be frank.


This is an incredible intervention into the legal process.

I know not whether Kevin Spacey is guilty of the charges put against him.  In fact I do not exactly know what they are and I’,m not going to speculate here.

But isn’t this odd.  Prior to his trial(s?) he puts out this three minute film in the persona of the President Frank Underwood (House of Cards).

In it he questions justice and why he has been thrown out of office and impeached without a trial.  See what he’s doing there?

It’s either a stroke of genius or a worrying disregard for the legal process.  You decide.

Whichever it is, it’s awfully clever.

I imagine Donald Trump will be signing him up as an advisor.

The Passion of Harry Bingo. (Further dispatches from unreported Scotland) by Peter Ross: Book Review.


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Had it not been for my good friend Tim Maguire I would never have stumbled across this wonderful anthology of odd little stories from the underworld of Scotland.  By underworld I don’t mean seedy, just slightly off the beaten track.

The titular hero is a fan of Partick Thistle. (Glasgow’s third football team – the one that people who don’t support football support – actually you might argue that it’s the one that people who DO support football support, because ‘The Jags” don’t come with the baggage of the Old Firm.)

Harry Bingo is 97 and has supported The Jags since 1945 – his passion.

The stories are written in a peculiar style, impossible to replicate, the best I can describe them tonally is a like like a reverential Scottish Louis Theroux.  I like Theroux, but some of his documentaries are seriously taking the piss out of his oddball cast of characters.  Peter Ross has similarly collected together people that at times could be mocked for their unorthodoxy, but while Ross writes with a twinkle in his eye that never turns into a sneer.

We meet a Sikh Pipe Band, The Burry Man, a man that protects the River Clyde dragging the bodies of the dead ashore, a wall of death rider, a bunch of bitchy (butchy) drag queens, The Naked Rambler, The Clavie King and we visit circuses, poultry shows, sex shops, car boot sales ,The Barrowlands Ballroom and the World Crazy Golf Championships.

Each short story, 5 to 10 pages long, sets up an indelible image, some familiar – most not – of characters that care deeply about something in their life – it may even be their job.

In places it is laugh out loud, but never mockingly, we laugh WITH these wonderful people.  The people that make up the rich tapestry that is Scotland’s culture.

They were all commissioned by Scotland’s leading newspapers, mainly Scotland on Sunday but also The Guardian, The Big Issue, The Times and The Herald.

They are little nuggets of Scottish gold.

Go read.  I have a signed copy!

 

The Nolan Principles of public life. Are we seeing them in action in these difficult times?


I was listening to ‘Thought for the Day’ this morning and the Reverend who presented it brought up this model and asked whether this could be applied to politicians in modern day life.

Three obvious candidates sprung to mind for evaluation.  Theresa May, Donald Trump and, today at least, The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern.

Let’s have a look shall we?

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I am not particularly qualified to comment on Jacinda Ardern and her day to day political performance,  but I can comment on the news conference she convened to apologise unconditionally to the parents of graduate and backpacker Grace Millane with such emotion that she immediately crossed off leadership, honesty, selflessness, integrity, openness and accountability in one fell swoop.  I hope she is always like this because, today at least, she was a great ambassador for her country.

In case you haven’t seen it…

Now let’s apply these to Trump and May.

Trump first:

Accountability         Well, I think we will have to wait for his impeachment trial to assess.

Selflessness              The man is a criminal.  Crime is fundamentally selflish.  Not selfless.

Integrity                    The man is a criminal.

Objectivity                He fires nearly all of his advisors – if they disagree with him. So, no.

Leadership                He thinks he is a leader.  We all know he is a fool.  So, no.

Honesty                      The man is a criminal.

Openness                   Well, he passes on one of seven.  If Twitter counts.

Now May:

Accountability        Largely, so I’d say.  She is democratic.

Selflessness             I think yes, for sure.  On personal level look what she is going through.

Integrity                  I don’t think you can question that.

Objectivity              I’m afraid not.  She is too blinkered.  She is not a good listener.

Leadership              You can argue this both ways but I find her too intractable.  It’s a no.

Honesty                   Borderline.  (largely so) but she was forced to publish the Brexit legals.

Openness                Again borderline, for me.

Much more tolerable than Trump, for sure but she only clearly passes on 3/7 and borderline on another 3.

 

The 2018 best of my year playlist.


I know you have been waiting with baited breath for this.

BUT.  IT.  IS. HERE.  NOW.

This is the soundtrack of 2018.  Well, my 2018.

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My album of the year was Jon Hopkins Singularity.

and my gift of the year (at Primaverasound) was Jon Hopkins.  I will never forget being on the rail, stone cold sober going fucking apeshit at him.

A very close second, also on the rail a PV was IDLES.

What a musical machine IDLES is.

They feature of course.

Anyway, enjoy and tell me what you think is amazing/sucks.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs by The Coen Brothers: Movie review.


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Zoe Kazan as Anna Longabaugh in the best segment of a mixed bag of short wild west films.

Portmanteau (anthology) movies are hard to pull off effectively.  My favourites would be Amores Perros, Inaritu’s incredible debut that uses three dog stories to loosely draw together his take on the fragility of love, and The Argentinian classic, Wild Stories, written and directed by Damián Szifron, united by a common them of violence and vengeance.

Other directors who have tackled the ‘genre’ effectively are Hitchcock and the celebrated triumvirate of Coppola, Scorsese and Allen for New York Stories.  It’s most widely used as a structure in horror.

Here, The Coen Brothers continue, for me, their hit and miss career with a near miss, but a miss nonetheless.

It’s a six story Western. Part spoof, part serious drama.  But the mix of genres they employ means that the whole is less than the sum of its parts.  Some of the stories reach  a conclusion when the stories are barely developed, others could last longer to make them more engaging,

By far the highlights are the opening Buster Scruggs spoof which is laugh out loud hilarious and the endearing “The Gal Who Got Rattled” featuring a stand out performance from Zoe Kazan, ably supported by her love interest Bill Heck (playing Billy Knapp) and old timer Grainger Hines as Mr Arthur.

Tom Waits puts in a good turn as a prospector in All Gold Canyon.  But the story is daft.

The sixth and last, featuring Brendan Gleeson, is just not very good at all.

I’m not sure what’s to blame here.  Are the Coens just such royalty that they can’t be challenged?  Certainly a number of their films are just not very good at all but Fargo and No Country For Old Men are absolute classics.

I also felt the colourisation was overused and again variably effective.  At its best it created a richness and depth that was highly appealing.  At its worst (in the sixth segment) it just made everything murky.

I have higher expectations of Netflix’s other big bet, Roma, That screens from 15 December.  For now you’ll have to be content with this curate’s egg.

 

 

Wendy and Peter Pan at The Royal Lyceum Edinburgh: An appreciation.


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I suppose my expectations were neutral on this one.

It’s tried and it’s tested.  It’s Peter Pan.

But in my experience it has never been this good.

It’s the feminist retake on the Peter Pan story with Wendy taking the lead, although in my view it’s more ensemble than star vehicle.

It’s quite strongly marketed as the feminist side of the story but I didn’t feel in any way male-ostracised.

There are two stars.  Writer Ella Hickson (my God what a script) and designer Max Johns (my God what a set – and costumes).

The opening scene is jaw dropping with its colossally beautiful lace eternity set.  You could just bathe in it for hours.

And this truly is a joyous experience.  It’s adult (without being seedy).  The gags are hilarious and it’s a gift that keeps on giving with beautiful, funny wordplays throughout – thank you Ella.

Oh, and I asked some children in the audience if they enjoyed it and the overwhelming response was YES!

I’ve been to the last ten Lyceum Christmas shows and this is, IMHO, by a mile, the best.

Honestly, it’s a must see.

Particular shout outs for the ever-brilliant Sally Reid as a punky Think(erbell) and a lovely lead performance by Isobel McArthur as Wendy.

It’s interesting reading the biogs of the cast in that the (Royal Scottish) Conservatoire, The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama feature almost equally.  All three should be proud of this.

And as for Stephen Dunn and his contribution to the flying.

Well, it seals the deal.

It really is a 5 star show.