Can you ever forgive me? Movie review.


In which we discover, if proof were needed, that Richard E. Grant (it’s Esterhuysen in case you wondered) only really does Richard E. Grant.

The literary fraud story is spun out a little too long but does make for an excellent vehicle to show off the acting talents of Melissa McCarthy who is almost unrecognisable.  Not to quite the same extent as Patricia Arquette in Escape at Dannemora, but not far off.

The movie cracks along at a fair old pace in Acts I and II but sadly outstays its welcome towards the end.  It tells the story of failed writer and drunk, Lee Israel, who stumbles into a career of writing forged letters by the likes of Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward.  Indeed she writes better Dorothy Parker letters than Dorothy Parker.

There’s several laugh out loud lines in a movie that passed the time but, apart from McCarthy’s excellent turn will quickly be forgotten.




If Beale Street Could Talk: Movie Review.


Only 48 hours ago my wife and I belatedly watched the Oscar-winning Moonlight (a very odd choice for the best movie Oscar in my opinion), also written and Directed by Barry Jenkins.  Today we saw Jenkins’ follow up. Across the two movies it’s notable that Jenkins doesn’t do ‘action’,as both are glacially paced.  He also doesn’t do white actors.  There are none at all in Moonlight and only 3 or 4 in Beale Street.

Visually, Beale Street is stunning.  Jenkins is not left down by his cinematographer, James Paxton, who was also shot Moonlight.  This has moments of jaw-dropping beauty, and in Kiki Layne and Stephen James he has two faces that make for simply beautiful close ups.  In creating a love story Jenkins has certainly cast a couple that you truly believe are besotted with another, and that is both sweet and charming.

The movie also boasts am excellent soundtrack that has an epic central theme and a great deal of jazz to create mood where dialogue is in short supply.

But the movie is letdown by a pretty unengaging story, some very dense dialogue (it’s famine or feast in that respect) that is virtually indecipherable in places and central performances by the star struck lovers that are more lovely than moving.

The only performance that, for me, leapt off the screen was that of the mother of Kiki Layne, Regina King.  It is nuanced, engaging and powerful and she deserves the recognition she is getting.

This is a year of huge black movies: Black Panther, BlackkKlansman, Green Book and this, all of which have been heavily nominated at The Oscars and BAFTAs.  Of the four through it’s only Spike Lee’s terrific KKK movie that does it for me.

It’s slim pickings in the best movie department in 2019.  Roma is a terrible bore, The Favourite is excellent, but is Lanthimos’ third best feature.  For me the movie of the year is Cold War with The Favourite and A Star is Born close behind.  Not this, that’s for sure.

Liam Neeson’s getting a lot of good copy just now for admitting he wanted to “kill a black bastard.”


I don’t really know why Liam Neeson just ‘came out’ about his short term (was it?) lapse into racism on the back of a man raping a close friend.

He asked the victim if she knew him, and then what colour the rapist was.

That surely gives you some insight into his predisposition towards the outcome.

Why would you ask that?  Why wouldn’t you ask for a description of the perpetrator?   Clearly if “black” came out in that initial response that would narrow the field.

On hearing the answer (that he was predisposed to hear?) he then strode the streets of London with a cosh, waiting for a black man to put a foot wrong so that he could take his anger out on this token representative of a UK minority, and murder him.

Not beat him up.

Murder him.

“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could … kill him.”

OK.  nothing happened and we all have thoughts we’d rather not admit, but this went further than that.

I’m no Black Rights evangeliser, I’m too busy moaning about Brexit and Trump to make time for that.  It’s not an issue that in my daily life that I’m close to.  But when I was at university in Stirling I did have a closer relationship with it.

My three flatmates, in The Raploch, included a Sri Lankan called Ram.  He was hailed locally as “Hoy you ya black bastard’.

And once, when a human cycling chain of eight of us were pulled over by the local constabulary, drunk, for cycling with two lights between us. – one of my white pals on the front had the white light, Ram, bringing up the rear, had the red light.

In my mind that meant six of us were doomed and two of us had half a chance.

Of the eight, only Ram was issued a citation and eventually charged at Stirling Sherrif Court.  

Odd. Wouldn’t you say.

Anyway, returning to Neeson.

I’m not at all clear why he tried to lighten his guilt by admitting this to a journalist, (surely not to dramatise the selling of his latest movie Neeson was promoting his new film, Cold Pursuit, in which he plays a man avenging the murder of his son).

It doesn’t really wash with me.  He now has a cotton-wool-wrapped life, although the death of his wife cannot be dismissed lightly, so the daily trappings of ordinary people’s lives and a potential need to resort to violent retribution for extreme misdemeanors are probably pretty far from his likely day to day routine.  Even in-extremis.

So, this public confessional feels more to me about making himself look good, modern, cool, right-on, honest, in-touch, engaged, worthy.

I think he should just have kept his gob shut.

The Death of Grass by John Christopher: Book Review.

I finished this short Penguin Modern Classic (written in 1956) in the cafe of the National Library of Scotland and as I climbed the stairs to the reading room I spotted this incredibly apt advertisement for one of the Library’s WWI exhibitions.


It’s apt because the book is about a group of people seeking a ‘land of milk and honey’ in the aftermath of a global disaster wherein all of the grass on the planet (and therefore food for all the ruminants we eat) dies.

It’s a post-apocalyptic vision about environmentalism that is indeed, as the cover suggests, prescient.

It was written in the Cold War era where nuclear annihilation was a real and present danger and the future of civilisation genuinely threatened.  Indeed, one of the government’s strategies to deal with the loss of cereal crops is to drop ‘atom bombs’ on all of Britain’s cities in a bid to wipe out half the population and leave the rest, post-apocalypse, to live on fast-growing and nutritious potatoes, other root vegetables and pigs.  (The impact of nuclear fallout radiation was neatly overlooked as a potential flaw in this strategy.)

It’s a novella really, easily consumed in rapid order and although it suffers terribly from the rather proper vernacular of its time, it’s great.

It’s institutionally racist and terribly, terribly sexist, not to mention class-biased and awfully niaive.  You won’t find a single bally swear word in its entire 194 pages, although you will find murder, rape and underage sex.

Nonetheless, if you forgive its ‘product of its times’ flaws it is an undeniably clever book, a good yarn and a pretty scary (and strangely believable) vision.

It has precursors of Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road (it’s essentially a road trip from hell to heaven) and chimes with The Lord of The Flies as it speculates on who would take control in times of martial law and civilisation breaking down.

I have to say I galloped through it, chuckling at times at the dated language.  It’s even more of a museum piece in that respect than Dickens, but it’s a compelling read and I recommend it, flaws and all.