Battle of the Sexes: Movie review.


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Whilst Emma Stone puts down her marker for a possible third Oscar nomination the film as a whole left me slightly cold.  But then, when did you last see a GREAT tennis movie.  That’s right.  You didn’t.

But this potentially offered more because it appeared multi layered and could have been more nuanced than it is.

It tackles two themes simultaneously.  First, Billie Jean King’s lesbian relationship with her hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) that eventually ended in controversy as she was publicly outed by her lover when they split in 1981.  Throughout King remained married to her first love Larry (played sympathetically but a little limply by Austin Stowell).  This is handled very tastefully and, for me, was the better part of the whole.

Second, and the source of the title, the movie explores sexism in the women’s tennis game that led to her breaking away from the WTA and its sexist president, Jack Kramer (in an unconvincing performance by Bill Pullman), and taking on a challenge billed as THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES with 55 year old ex tennis champion and self proclaimed Male Chauvinist, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell).

I disliked Carell’s part greatly, not because he didn’t perform it well but that it is written to make him out to be a complete idiot (which no doubt he was).  He becomes a caricature of himself quickly and I neither liked nor disliked him (I was annoyed by him though).  It all makes for a strange mix of comedy, politics, sexuality and revolt.

And the revolt was all too gentlemanly for me – despite the subject matter and the ire it must have stirred nobody really ever loses the plot and so the film lacks edge and dramatic tension.

What’s more, it’s 30 minutes too long and the overwrought soundtrack (Nicholas Britell – it really is a shocker) is over-pervasive and just plain annoying.

Emma Stone rarely puts a foot wrong in my view and at times you really do think BJK is on screen.  That part, and the general 70’s styling of the movie, is excellent but it’s ponderously directed and although the final shoot out between BJK and Riggs has an element of tension we all know the outcome and Britell’s pomp and circumstance was gradually doing my nut in.

Just because you loved Little Miss Sunshine it does not follow that you will love this.

 

A new venture. Spotted by Locals; Edinburgh.


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Look out for my impending travel writing.  I’ve just been interviewed by Bart and Sanne who run Spotted by Locals.  A travel app and website, created in 2008 and reaching over 60 cities, that invites a small group of writers to share their insights into their HOME city.

It’s a great idea because you get insights into cities all over the world from a non commercial perspective and outside of the usual historical or just plain obvious sights.

Anyway there will be five Edinburgh writers when I start.  Looking forward to it.  If anyone has any interesting spots for me to check out do please let me know and I’ll go investigate.

A new word for the English language: Hibsed.


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Those of you who, like me, support Hibernian; Edinburgh’s most stylish football team and forefathers of the rather more successful Celtic FC, will be feeling that slightly sick feeling after once again victory was the more likely, more deserved and more bearable outcome on Sunday afternoon at ‘Scotland’s National Stadium.’

But we were Hisbsed.

We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Consequently, a petition has been set up by a Mr Rudolph Skakel on Change.com begging the Oxford English Dictionary to add ‘Hibsed’ to their content.

It has a smell of schadenfreude about it.

For the uninitiated, to be Hibsed means ‘to be ahead in your pursuit of something, only to mess it up before you cross the finish line’.

And we’ve been Hibsed many times.  On Sunday particularly so, and Liam Fontaine, arguably the man of the match, must feel especially Hibsed as it was he who teed up the winning goal for a team that could best be described as diddy.

I mean, you could fit the population of Dingwall, from where they bide, into the back of a camper van and still have room for a couple of tents.

Many have argued that we shouldn’t be so down on ourselves because it was only the diddy cup we Hibsed.  But we Hibsed it in 2004 against the mighty Ferranti Thistle playing under the pseudonym of Livingston (a town so small it has an Edinburgh postcode).

We Hibsed it every time in living memory that we played in Europe and we’ve Hibsed it so many times against the other team in Edinburgh that I’ve simply lost count.

By Thursday morning there’s every chance we’ll have Hibsed it against that other Highland League powerhouse, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, in the big cup (that we put that other team from Edinburgh out of a few weeks ago), and we’ve already Hibsed it in the Scottish Championship having been in a great position to overtake long term leaders Rangers just after Christmas.

So, go on, Mr Skakel.  have you schadenfreudey moment.  the awful truth is, you’re right.

 

 

The mark of a true man.


Yesterday was yet another nightmare for Hibs fans.  Despite being the better team we inexplicably lost the with of our last ten cup finals.  The 12th of 15 in my life so far.

Arguably the man of the match Liam Fontaine had this to say after the game when he was involved in the losing goal.

It’s a sign of greatness in my eyes.

Articulate.  Emotional.  Great.

GGTTH.

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Rush? Hmmm. Not sure you should.


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There’s much to admire in Ron Howard’s biopic of the battle between Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), not least both actors’ portrayals of the leads and Howard’s, at times, brilliant action sequences.

Sad to say though there’s a lot that simply doesn’t work.

Act 1 (the set up – early years) has moments of cringeworthy scripting and acting with little that engages (in fact I found myself wishing it was all over).

Act 2 (the action sequences when 1976 is dramatically recreated, race by race) is mostly enthralling and really brings together all that is good about this movie (Bruhl, Hemsworth and Howard’s direction).

Act 3 (the denouement) is a missed opportunity.  It’s desperately rushed – despite its two hour length.  I suspect an order from the studio to cut the timelength came into play with the consequence that it feels like an afterthought.

What makes Rush worth seeing is the most important aspect of the movie, the bitter rivalry between Lauda and Hunt.  Both actors uncannily capture the drivers’ individual personalities but the script by The Queen writer Peter Morgan sometimes leaves them with nowhere to go, at others it dazzles,  “You’re the only man that is better looking after skin grafts” quips Hunt to Lauda in Act 3; and Lauda’s repeated statement that a 20% risk of death in each race is all that’s acceptable is used well and resonates.

It’s the supporting actors that lets it down; an unconvincing Murray Walker, an unlikeable Lord Hesketh, Hunt’s wife – all fail to convince.  Only Alexandra Maria Lara, as Lauda’s wife, strikes a real chord.

At $38million this is a big budget movie for the UK.  Its ambitions are clear to see.  Just a shame the whole doesn’t amount to more than the sum of its variable parts.

Want to see a great motor racing movie?

(There’s very few of merit and despite my reservations  this one’s definitely among the elite.)

Watch Senna.

The greatest physical challenge of my life


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Yesterday I took part in the Kinross Sportiv Black run.  88 miles (my clock read 91) and 6561 feet of climbing (1.5 x the height of Ben Nevis).

See those red boxes?  They’re the hills and they are very cleverly spaced out so as to just about allow you to recover from one before you hit the next.

Of course some are worse than others.  Just like waterboarding is worse than the rack or having fingernails extracted.

But you think the ascents are bad?  Well, on three of them, having reached the peak you see this.

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And those signs are there for a reason.

I had ho’d and hummed a lot the night before about whether to put the new brake blocks I’d just bought onto my (not very) trusty Willier and eventually decided, after removing them and scraping them, that they’d suffice.

Well, they did.  Just.  But that was after recording my top speed, so far, on a bike (38mph) on a not dangerous descent.

Going down those bad ones was a test of nerve – and one that I abjectly failed because my arms ached at the bottom of each of them with the sheer effort of clamping those 2cm blocks of rubber to the rims of my wheels.  At times I simply had no idea if the brakes would last out.  Feathering them was rarely an option as the descents were so brutal, the second you let go the bike would just leap forward at horrendous speed.  Clamping was the key. So, the next time you watch a descent on the Tour de France consider the risks these guys are taking.

Towards the end of my six and a bit hours in the saddle (we had three stops for punctures and two for food on top of that) I was in a state of complete exhaustion.

Maybe it was the half pint of Guinness that we had in Dunning that did me in.  As the barmaid said “Oh, you’re the first cyclists we’ve had in three years that had a drink!”  But it certainly helped us up the 900ft climb, that is Dunning Common,  that we faced the second we got back on the bike.

As I sit at my computer at 9.30 the next day I feel fine.  Had I done an equivalent feat by running I’d have been in agony for at least three days.

So, vive le cycling.