Borostounness Episode 5: The Articulate one.


OK.  As we settle into lockdown Helen and Rab have one small advantage.  Their pals Jeanie and Bill have already had the virus so they can come and go as they please.

They’ve popped round to cheer Helen and Rab up with a friendly game of Articulate.  (The Game in which you have to describe the words you see on cards under the category that your playing piece is on.)

It can be a little frustrating.

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Education is power


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Read Amy’s blog post via Education is power

My daughter Amy has set out in life as a nutrition coach.  It is exactly the measured thought process you find in this blog that makes her advice hugely valuable.  My wife and I have been following her coaching strategy and in three months we have lost 57lbs between is.  If that isn’t proof of the pudding I don’t know what is.  message me if you’d like details or follow up through her blog.

True History of the Kelly Gang: Movie Review


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Some 20 or so years ago I lay by a pool in the Algarve, Portugal, and read Peter Carey’s source book of the same name for this movie.  It had just won the Booker Prize and, if I’m honest, it didn’t blow me away. In fact, judging from the last page corner fold (p266 0f 408) I didn’t even finish it.

I wasn’t exactly blown away by the trailers for the movie either so I approached with extreme caution, not least because IMDB’s reviews were, at best, lukewarm and, at worst, damning.

I’m not even sure why I shelled out – not just for me but for my wife and daughter too.

Anyway, suffice to say, it was a good choice because this is a great movie in the tradition of modern ‘Westerns’ that include the 2007 masterpiece, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.  

The trivia link?  Nick Cave. His son Earl Cave features in this Australian outback ‘western’ and Cave contributed the soundtrack to ‘Jesse James.’

The main damning criticism of the movie is, in fact, one of its strengths.  It’s languid.  Many say slow. No s-l-o-o-o-o-o-w.

For me, its pace allows it to breathe.  It allows the deep psychological distress, that has shaped Ned Kelly’s life and informed his young adult behaviour, to gestate.

The story concerns Australia’s most notorious outlaw’s life and times.  He and his gang assume personas as devotees of a secret society known as the Sons of Sieve, who disguise themselves through cross-dressing in reverence to legendary bushranger Steve Hart.

Their attire of dresses, charcoal face makeup and metal bucket masks, fashioned out of old ploughs, is entirely discombobulating as they are ruthless killers. It makes for an exciting visual impact.

Justin Kurzel (a director new to me) and his sidekick lighting cameraman Adam Arkapaw have conjured up a work of art.  And that’s why so many cinema-goers have loathed this film, expecting instead a blood and gore shoot out.  These come, but they are limited.

One such scene, towards the end of the movie, when a team of armed police advance on the Kelly Gang at the infamous Glenrowan siege, is electrifying and dazzlingly conceived.  Set to discordant music (Jed Kurzel, the director’s brother) the long line of the law are shot, at night, in rain, dressed in long rubber capes that, through a combination of stroboscopic lighting and some sort of weird white light, make them appear as a line of luminous KKK-like ghosts foretelling Kelly’s ultimate demise (at the age of 25).  It’s a searingly spectacular scene that literally took my breath away and is worth the admission fee for this alone.

George Mackay, who carries the year’s best movie (1917) almost singlehandedly, performs another excellent, but much more collaborative role here with a bunch of outstanding supporting players, notably his mother (Ellen Kelly) and his would be nemesis Nicholas Hoult (will he ever play a likeable character) as Constable Fitzpatrick. Russell Crowe astounds in my favourite performance of his career, albeit not much more than a cameo, as his early and wholly evil mentor.

This does have blood and guts, but its 18 (R) rating feels unjustified.  It’s a beautiful evocative celebration of early Irish immigrant exclusion, prejudice and societal revenge.  It’s a portrait of some sort of descent into mental chaos (although more subtly rendered than Joaquin Pheonix’s tour de force in Joker). But mainly, it’s just a damn fine movie.

 

Taking BIG steps in the ‘right’ direction


This is my daughter’s amazing post. Be inspired folks.

I left my job 27 years ago and have never had a job since. This one was in nappies.

Hitting the ground running

Sometimes we stay in, let’s say non ideal, situations for too long. Not because we want to, and not because we don’t want to get out, but because sometimes it is the only thing we really know and it can be hard to break out of that pattern until we find the right thing to go to.

It can be easy to look at a situation objectively and tell someone else what to do. It’s really, really hard to look at your own life, acknowledge a problem and do something about it.

I’ve been in a non ideal situation for a while now. At one point it was the combination of a toxic relationship, combined with a toxic job, and breathing toxic city air. This is just what I thought life was. Of course, I mean this flippantly. I have always understood and appreciated that I am in a privileged…

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Parasite: Movie review.


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I am going to be unpopular here because it’s unfashionable to do anything other than laud Parasite from the rooftops.

Let’s get a couple of things straight before the off.

  • I have no issue with the ‘One inch barriers” to universal film appreciation that director Bong Joon Ho describes subtitles as.  I have seen thousands of subtitled movies and Scandi Noirs.
  • I have no, unlike Mr Trump, political bias against (sorry, not bias, prejudice in Trump’s case) South Korean cinema.  Indeed I recently reviewed Chan Wook-Park’s The Handmaiden as 10 stars on IMDB. (Oldboy is a classic from Park, too.) I also loved Ho’s Okja and The Host, although I thought his English-speaking Snowpiercer was truly awful.

So this is not the problem, and just because I’m not raving about this doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, I did.  I just feel the praise that’s being lavished upon it is greater than my appreciation.

I read one review on IMDB by ‘mysticfall’ that suggested anyone who didn’t love this was a moron and clearly didn’t understand it.

I had no issue with understanding it.

It’s essentially a movie about class and privilege in which Ho brings together South Korea’s richest and poorest in one household, with the poorest as servants, and sets up a scenario where he does not judge either for their caste.

Except he does.

As the film progresses it’s clear that the master of the house has an ingrained prejudice against the poor that manifests itself in his inability to understand or articulate that it’s their ‘smell’ that reeks of poverty, and is therefore undesirable.

Variously described as a comedy and horror it leans far more to the former with some extremely funny lines and a pretty strong dose of slapstick – as seen in Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s excellent Inside Number 9 episode – A Quiet Night In in which two cat-burglars attempt to steal paintings from an occupied house without a word of dialogue.

Almost all of Act 2 of Parasite was essentially this episode.

The horror that we are promised is actually gore, and is reserved for Act 3.  It’s very much in the school of Tarantino, and, of course, Tarantino himself is heavily influenced by Asian film-making, so a certain circle is squared.

The  performances are universally excellent but I feel that, on occasion, Ho strays into slightly heavy-handed territory – much in evidence in his direction of Snowpiercer.  It’s not enough to spoil anything, but it clashes with the adulatory reviews I’ve read.

The cinematography is simply beautiful.

It’s a fine movie, but in my view 1917 was a more immersive cinematic experience and consequently deserved the Best Picture Academy Award.

Call me what you like, but I’m saying what I’m seeing.

 

 

 

American Factory: Documentary review


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I didn’t think I’d see a better documentary than For Sama this year, and having viewed Netflix’s American Factory last night, the Oscar winner in the documentary category, I stand by that view.

However, this is a fine piece of work.

It tells the story of a Chinese windscreen-manufacturer reseeding the site of a massive General Motors factory in Dayton Ohio some three years after its closure.

The main premise of the film is that this is a meeting of two cultures, both business and anthropological, and how the rise in Chinese commercial enterprise, even deep in rust-belt, Republican USA, is a success that won’t go away.

But the Chinese drive a hard bargain: much lower wages, poorer health and safety ideology, an intolerance of unions and a hard work ethic (in China overtime is compulsory, not optional).

The filmmakers – Stephen Bognar and Julia Rheichert  – are seasoned pros and have an interesting technique that makes this such an agreeable watch.  It’s not controversial, there’s little humour and there are no pyrotechnics.  It’s just a laconic stroll through the lives of the people on both sides of this cultural ravine, gradually exposing what it’s like for each of them.

They take no sides, they critique no-one, but clearly there is stuff in here that could enrage a very large percentage of its viewers, no matter their cultural persuasion.

That’s what makes it work.  That and a good soundtrack and a pleasing use of cinematography.

It’s not doc of the year, for me, but it IS an intelligent piece of documentary film-making that is as far from the Michael Moore one-sided tidal-wave of opinion and argument as one could get, and, for that, it is to be admired.

The Lighthouse: Movie Review


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Steptoe and Son, on a rock.

It’s marketed as a horror, but I’m not sure that would be my proposition given that it’s not very scary, but what it is, is interesting.

It’s arthouse.  Very arthouse.  So, if the word ‘pretentious’ leaves you cold leave The Lighthouse by the only exit, downstairs centre.

Robert Pattinson (an increasingly accomplished actor) and Willem Dafoe ( a criminally underrated performer) perform two-man psychological warfare as they set sail, in the fog, to the 19th century eponymous structure.

Silent and brooding, the two take a good 15 minutes to utter a word to each other and even then only grudgingly.  Dafoe, the old hand and the extremely domineering boss, and Pattinson, the new charge on his first tour of duty, play a curmudgeonly duo (think Steptoe and Son, but without the laughs) that only gradually begin to come to terms with one another when their hooch starts to flow.

Pattinson has a secret to hide, Dafoe is just a bullying old git that gets his rocks off on the rock by exposing himself to the lighthouse lens deep into the night.  Meanwhile, Pattinson fantasises about mermaids.

Gradually it unravels as the hooch takes hold and it becomes a battle of wits and strength between the two, the prize unknown and the purpose unclear.

As a vicious storm takes hold it’s uncertain as to whether they will ever leave the rock, let alone alive.

Shot in gorgeous black and white in an interesting square format (think Son of Saul and Grand Budapest Hotel) it’s a beautiful experience, albeit pretty grim.

It’s clearly not going to be of universal interest and I felt it outstayed its welcome a little, but it’s an interesting cinematic (not TV) experience and I’d recommend it with strong caveats.