Jeremy Corbyn. How the mighty have fallen.


When Jeremy Corbyn scrambled into the Labour throne it was initially slightly comedic but quickly settled into something that most certainly became a breath of fresh air.

Love was in the air.  Something fresh, invigorating, and exciting was blowing through British politics.  It may have been populism, but it was GOOD populism,

For some time I wore this T Shirt to in a small way articulate my disappointment (hatred frankly) with Tony Blair’s New Labour (new Tory more like) neoliberal rhetoric.

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But all of a sudden, under Corbyn that T shirt became redundant.

Instead I opted for this one.  It garnered smiles, back slaps and an incredibly warm response.  Especially from young people who loved Corbyn’s attitude.

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Corbyn was the new face of democratic politics in the UK that almost moved me away from the solid social democracy of the excellent and consistent SNP.

But as Brexit has unfolded he has steadily unravelled and shown himself to be as conceited, party political, AT ALL COSTS, as his disgusting opposite number, Theresa May.  His handling of the anti-semitism accusations was laughable.

Now, imagine him running a whole goddam country.  It doesn’t bear thinking about.

His party is every bit as divided as the Tories and well he knows it.

But it has reached a zenith this week. In particular, his decision not to join May’s cross party ‘outreach’ discussions, that begin today, makes him both unelectable and dangerous.  He has lost the fucking plot.

Sure, May’s  ‘reaching out’ might be in name only – but you’ve got to be in it to win it – and Corbyn is sat sulking, like a stupid little schoolboy, in some corridor while the biggest decision in my political life is made without him.

The look on his face when his vote of no confidence lost was pathetic; a scowling, sulking brat.

Jeremy.  You blew it.

 

The Favourite: Film Review.


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I am a big, big fan of Yorgos Lanthimos whose two previous deadpan comedic features (The Killing of a Scared Deer and The Lobster) are outstanding movies.

The feature of both of these movies is Lanthimos’ extremely black humour delivered in a unique style.

However, for The Favourite Lanthimos has taken a big decision in abandoning the scriptwriting and handing the duties over to Deborah Davis (her debut) and Tony McNamara (lots of minor TV but no cinema history).  It’s  strange choice of writing team because they don’t bring any previous to the mix, and neither are fresh-faced youths.  But what they bring is an entirely different tonality to Lanthimos’ work and that leaves him to focus on direction, with cinematography provided by Robbie Ryan, who made a big contribution (in my view) to American Honey.  Indeed, the cinematography is a major talking point after the writing.  Gone is Lanthimos’ naturalistic, almost clinical, lighting of the Lobster and “Deer” instead, although we again go au natural, it’s through a gloom of candle and fire light that renders the screen largely black for a great deal of its 2+ hours.

His frequent choice of extreme wide angle (almost fish eye) lens to capture the scale of the huge palace rooms is highly unusual in cinema and is much more like stills photography. One scene, shot in a long corridor, makes it look like a u-bend when in fact it is completely straight – unlike the principal characters!

But the real meat here is this terrific all female star line-up.  In the #MeToo era this is a real vote of confidence in female actors with attitude and sheer quality.  Come March it is entirely possible that all of the leads; Olivia Coleman (national treasure that she is), Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone will be career Oscar winners because Coleman’s performance is quite brilliant.  The other two already hold this distinction and each has a good chance of adding to their trophy haul.

Although, As Queen Anne, Coleman (who gained 2.5 stone top play the gout-ridden Queen’s part) is the designated lead the film is essentially a three player ensemble with some ineffectual men put into bat to be made to look ridiculous and, oh, they do in Sandy Powell’s outrageous costumes and Beverley Binda’s even more outrageous hair and make up.  (“You look like a dead badger’ Weisz tells the Queen as she sets out on a royal engagement.)

The story echoes All About Eve as Queen Anne’s favourite lady in waiting, and lesbian lover, Lady Sarah Marlborough, The Wife of the Duke of Marlborough who is leading the war with France, is gradually pushed out of favouritism by one time lady and now servant girl, Abigail (Emma Stone).  Although she does not go without  fight.

This is where the scriptwriting team get the nod to create a bawdy and vicious rivalry set in a Draughtsman Contract-esque world.

Overindulgence, poisoning and illness leads to all three leads vomiting at least once each, reflecting this world of excess.

The music track is at times intrusive, but to my mind in a good way; it’s a sort of early 18th Century version of Atticus Rose and Trent Resnor’s soundtrack to The Social Network.

What everyone is talking about is the lead performances. Each is supremely talented and each is given so much scope to truly flex their acting muscles that what results is an acting master-class.  In the trailer it seems like a knockabout farce but in reality the movie is actually quite slow paced with moments of true hilarity and enough foul language to shock some of our more prurient audience members.  That said, my wife who abhors the C-word volunteered that it was used to great effect several times in this.

The lesbian relationships Queen Anne enjoyed are worthy of note. In a life that saw her lose 17 children (5 still born and many miscarried) her tipping of the velvet was, apart from a bulimic relationship with food, one of her few pleasures.  Both Lady Marlborough and Abigail are adept in their duty to pleasure their monarch.

Coleman comes steadily into her own as the movie progresses.  The first half belongs to Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone plays a beautifully judged and paced part in which she will do anything to get ahead but in the end it’s Coleman who wins the day with the last 20 minutes belonging to her as she suffers the vagaries of her life.  Her portrayal of Queen Anne as a stroke victim is as good a performance as you will see anywhere this year.

It’s a fascinating movie, although I’m not convinced it’s quite as good as its hype.  That said, for lovers of history and lovers of Olivia Coleman it has to be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

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.