THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri

Even though we are not even half way through January this extremely black comedy-blackest of black at some points- written and directed by Martin McDonagh will continue to stand out as one of the best films of 2018.
With Frances McDormand, giving a career high performance-only in Fargo has she been THIS good- in a career that is full of highs, as Mildred Hayes a grieving mother frustrated at the local police department’s investigation into her daughter’s rape and subsequent murder who rents out three huge billboards at the edge of the town venting her frustration at the lack of progress and especially directs her vitriol at local police chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).
Willoughby has his own personal problems at this time, not least pancreatic cancer but also trying to manage his openly racist and hostile colleague Jason Dixon –brilliantly played by Sam Rockwell-who at times is more of a hindrance than a help in any situation.
Despite their differences and her relentless hectoring some sort of mutual respect exists between Mildred and Bill Willoughby and just how much becomes clear as the film charters its unpredictable terrain.
So many emotive angles are covered in this film including grief, loss, anger, frustration and yet set off with the most rapacious dark humour which only perpetuates the intensity and intelligence at this film’s core.
As for McDormand she excels as Hayes, which must have been a dream role to play, battered and emotionally bruised clad in an outfit of distressed work gear often adding a bandana into the mix, giving her an extra edge of meanness and a don’t-fuck-with-me attitude. To be precise she behaves and says things the rest of us probably want to whenever our frustrations get the better of us but an impossible veneer of politeness usually prevents us from doing so.
No-one is safe from her vitriolic honesty whether it be the Catholic Church, her neighbours, friends and even her own family. Even the local ‘midget’ (Peter Dinklage) who is nothing but kind towards her finds his kindness met with a searing putdown.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is definitely not a film to be missed. Outstanding performances from all involved alongside thought-provoking and witty dialogue conspire to make a Molotov Cocktail more lethal than the one Mildred lobs into the local Police Station at one of the films many high-points.
See this film!

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JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

Well 2018 has got off to quite an unassuming start so far although that is no gauge as to things remaining that way. Across the Atlantic we still have Trump boasting about the size of his nuclear button via Twitter rants and telling blatant lies on a daily basis but this no longer surprises nor shocks us –it does still infuriate however. Over on this side of the water we still have Theresa May providing us with her daily set of lies-apparently the NHS is in crisis because of a particularly virulent strain of flu- and her vision of a strong and stable government consists of her Cabinet Ministers refusing to allow her to dismiss or demote them and announcing the wrong party chairman proving yet gain just how much she is in control, i.e. not at all.
How such bullshit being peddled to us on almost daily basis has become an accepted part of our lives is probably the most worrying aspect of all this as it in some way normalizes it all and reduces it to an almost humorous status, even though it is far from funny on any level.
Are we seriously expected to believe that flu is the major cause of the problems the NHS is suffering and not the cuts and attempts at privatisation the government is imposing. Surely the seasonal habit of excessive drinking must carry some of the burden that the NHS is suffering as by all accounts A&E departments on weekend nights are full of people with alcohol related ‘illnessses’ and accidents, This must put a strain on services and as people drink far more excessively over the Christmas and New Year period then this also must have a knock on effect. In the past I have had nothing but amazing treatment by the NHS and I do remember being rushed to A&E twice in the same week and the difference between being there during the week and then at the weekend was staggering and it was totally down to the ‘altered’ states of the patients which put not only the resources and staff under pressure but also the other patients.
Admittedly things seem much worse down south than they are in Scotland but it is only a matter of time before things start to slide here as well if things don’t change soon.
As an aside I find it hard to take anything seriously that Theresa May says when the woman seems to have a set of anal love-beads permanently draped around her neck. I know where I would love to shove them then watch how long it would take the overstretched NHS to remove them. She’d probably just call it flu anyway!
As usual this time of year goes on a little too long for my liking; was Christmas really only two and a half weeks ago?
Time to stock up on reading books, binge watch Netflix shows and discover new and old music to listen to; far too cold and miserable to go out of an evening. If going out is on the cards then January is always good for new cinema releases.
This year is no exception and top picks are Ridley Scott’s ‘All the Money on the World’ about Paul Getty’s kidnapping in the early seventies which resulted in the brutal removal of his ear after his Grandfather-the then richest man in the history of the world- refused to pay the ransom. Outstanding performances especially by Christopher Plummer who was a very last-minute replacement for Kevin Spacey after the recent Hollywood sex scandals and taut drama make this film a worthwhile viewing experience. Also Three Billboards Outside Hebbing Missouri starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson looks excellent. Apparently a black comedy of the highest and most twisted calibre only increases this film’s appeal to me. Hope to catch it today so a review will follow shortly.
Anyway it’s almost the middle of the month already so only February to get out the way and we can start thinking of Spring again. Here’s hoping!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation


Well with Christmas only a few days away and just over a week until the end of the year it was inevitable that after the tumultuous events of 2016 that this year was never going to be a settled one.
In many ways the impact of 2016 has only really hit home this year as Brexit negotiations remain in deadlock moving backwards and sideways rather than forward- basically this is all Brexit can ever be- and Trump edges us closer to the next World War seemingly on a daily basis.
Nothing and no-one is secure.
Not that 2017 hasn’t had its own trials and tribulations and everything from the Weinstein sex scandals in Hollywood, Catalonia’s bid for independence-a snap election there only yesterday indicates this is still far from resolved-, Theresa May’s ever imploding government and Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the recognized capital of Israel are only several festering wounds sure to erupt come 2018.
Meanwhile homelessness and poverty increase while the nation ‘celebrates’ and pays for a royal wedding and makeover for Buckingham Palace to the tune of £350 million when mere months ago seventy-one people died in the Grenfell Tower tragedy because the local Borough of Kensington Council couldn’t ‘afford’ the five grand for cladding which could have saved many of those lives.
There is something very rotten at the core of our existence and it needs rooted out.
Unfortunately despite all this and the fact that the cost of living grows noticeably daily people will still vote for those who are implementing these decisions. It is almost as if people have forgotten that the Tory Party is one long vanity project after another; first the EU Referendum then May’s snap election in June where she lost her majority but found £1Billion to prop up her loss by slipping into bed with the DUP in a desperate bid to cling onto power. Party before country seems to be the Tory mantra. It always was though.
Away from politics and doom and gloom though and 2017 has been a more satisfying year in other quarters.
Although the Edinburgh Fringe was as tired and unimpressive as it has been over the last few years other areas of art, music and literature have all had a good year.
At the cinema Call Me By Your Name, T2 Trainspotting and Bladerunner 2049 were all impressive contenders, even if two of those mentioned were sequels to established classics.
The music front has been even more impressive with great albums from LCD Soundsystem, Lorde, –Bowie was right to proclaim her the future of music- Mark Lanegan, Chrysta Bell, Blondie, Fever Ray, Gorillaz and Moonlandingz just to name a few.
On the local Edinburgh scene too things are hotting up in a way I haven’t seen for years. Loving the new sounds emanating from Voicex the band led by ex-Scar Paul Mackie alongside several other legends of the local scene and their debut single Never is already out and available to buy on iTunes.
Boots for Dancing meanwhile keep the funk flag flying high while The Trama Dolls having augmented a couple of great new members are looking and sounding better than ever; better than they could ever have imagined previously to be honest. More on this early next year.
So things are looking up on Edinburgh music front for the first time in a long time so at least that is one thing to look forward to in 2018.
On the live music subject tonight –Dec 22nd-is the last Syrian Refugee benefit of the year at great venue Leith Depot. Not only does it feature the great Fay Fife’s Countess of Fife project but it also has the added bonus of a raffle featuring amazing prizes from several impressive local businesses. Other bands on the line up are Temple of the Dead Moth and Irresistible Urges. Doors open at 7.30 and it is advisable to get there early as Countess of Fife is on at 8pm as she has then to hot-foot it to Dundee for a gig with The Rezillos; what a super trouper!
So that is it for 2017 and it has been yet another year of change, indecision and good times mixed with bad. Christmas is a time to reflect and although I am not its biggest fan I must admit to feeling certain warmth, comfort and inner resolve at this time of year. For that I am always grateful as I realise I am one of the lucky ones!
The Trama Dolls artwork by Bernie Reid.

THE FILTHY TONGUES: LIQUID ROOMS, EDINBURGH

The Filthy Tongues: Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh December 2nd 2017

A swirling cape alternating blue and red light bathes the stage while the audience in encircled by a heavy fog of dry ice- the Edinburgh outdoors is one of the few cities which appears just as beautiful in a swirling mist although I am not sure that this atmospheric translates itself so readily to the already darkened Liquid Rooms- as The Filthy Tongues languidly take their places in preparation for a show which takes its audience on a deep and mystical journey.
Paving the way for a very lyrical set the band launched into a rousing instrumental before drawing heavily on last year’s dynamic Jacob’s Ladder opus.
First out the traps is Children of the Filthy rapidly followed by Crew Cut, Long Time Dead and the aforementioned album’s title track before they are joined onstage by the glamorous Stacey Chavis aka Isa Tongue for a brief interlude wherein the band change dynamic and take on a more Velvet Underground vibe as they run through Jim’s Killer and Normal Boy. Just as quickly they shift tack again and are straight into Holy Brothers.
Being able to diversify as seemingly as effortlessly as this simply shows the musical chops this band has at their disposal without ever losing their identity as a band.
Next up is Green Turns Red before finishing the set proper with the much loved Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie number ‘The Rattler.
The encore numbers were the brooding Bowhead Saint before the show concluded with the perennial crowd favourite Goodwill City.
Definitely a powerful gig the Filthy Tongues are still going from strength to strength and although their sound is very much informed by Nick Cave they are no mere copyists or imitators; there is enough originality and musical strength for them to carve out a niche territory of their own.
Dark, brooding, mystical and uplifting the Filthy Tongues are definitely one of the hottest bands in Scotland at the moment!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

So this week the news was announced that there is a Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and American Actress Meghan Markle next spring which will distract us from the sheer shambolic state of the country, the abject poverty, the ever increasing problem of homelessness or even the fact that the country is perilously close to driving itself over a cliff with the ongoing Brexit catastrophe.
Or not!
I really think the last thing this country needs at the moment is a Royal Wedding as a means of distraction and an extra expense. I have nothing personally against either Harry –both he and his brother William seem relatively grounded and aware that they are privileged and do seem like a new generation of royals even if William has somehow morphed into his grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh in recent sightings- or Meghan but the truth is they both have enough money at their disposal to pay for their own wedding.
It just isn’t appropriate that with the state of this country at the moment that it should be expected to pick up the bill especially as they are already funding the renovation of Buckingham Palace to the tune of £350 million.
Also you would have thought there was no other news on Tuesday the day it was announced with it taking up sixty-five percent of news coverage-conservative estimate- whilst the Government’s benefit freeze didn’t warrant a solitary mention. Instead there was a five minute analysis of how relaxed Meghan Markle was in her interview with the media and how natural she seemed in front of the cameras; meanwhile I was screaming at my television ‘She’s a fucking actress it’s her job!’
Moving onto the other impending disaster, Brexit, it would seem that there has been an amazing breakthrough this week with the Government confirming that it has struck a deal and reached a financial agreement for the ‘divorce’ settlement.
Yes, it seems that paying £50 Billion for a lesser deal than the one we already have is what the last eighteen months of negotiations have been all about and now we can move forward. Or backwards whichever way you look at it. In fact it is backwards every way you look at it. When is someone going to actually pull the brakes on this charade before we crash land with little chance of recovery?
By this point Donald Trump will probably have ignited even more racial hatred as he is allowed to incite xenophobia and support the far right hate group Britain First unchecked on Twitter.
I would like to think this is as low as he can get but every week he debunks that myth by slipping even further into his very own snake pit. Wonder if he will get an invite to the Royal Wedding as it looks like the State Visit may be on hold for the foreseeable future.
It may be an idea to make as much as you can of this Christmas as who knows what will have happened by this time next year. That is if you can afford the Christmas dinner of course as even the price of that has increased significantly since last year.
At least we have music.
There are a couple of unmissable gigs in Edinburgh coming up over the next week.
First up is the excellent Filthy Tongues at the Liquid Rooms on Saturday 2nd December. If last years show was anything to go by you really wouldn’t want to miss this one.
Also on Wednesday the 6th December Kid Congo Powers- ex Gun Club. The Cramps and Bad Seed- and the Pink Monkey Birds are at Opium in the Cowgate, This too looks like being a gig not to be missed as this band never fails to deliver.
Think of it as Christmas come early as two gigs of this calibre in a week is a very beautiful thing.
There have been quite few musical stirrings in the capital of late and it feels as if a few musical projects bubbling away in the background are about to rise up to the surface. More details on this to follow but 2018 looks like being quite an interesting year for Edinburgh musically and it is not before time.
Let us also not forget that today is also World Aids Day and spare a thought for so many people lost along the way. It is refreshing that so much of the stigma surrounding this disease has dissipated over the years along with the ignorance and misinformation; this week even saw First Minister Nicola Sturgeon take a very public HIV test as a means of removing the stigma even further.
Whilst it still remains a problem at least things have moved on from the early horror stories we were fed by the media in the nascent stages of the disease where confusion was outranked by fuelled terror. So glad we have moved on from that initial situation and would like to think that some of the positivity,empathy and kindness which removed the stigma can be applied to the mess we find ourselves in today.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

There has been much debate and discussion this week over the implementation of the minimum pricing of alcohol by the Scottish Government in a bid to curb the very serious and growing abuse of alcohol in Scotland.
Certainly I recognise that Scotland has a very serious problem with alcohol and that it is inbred within our culture but targeting the lower end of the class spectrum is only one part of the problem. While the raising pf prices on cheap alcohol is a step forward in combating said problem I am curious as to who will benefit from this the most; the public or the retailers?
Alcohol is a very big problem in Scotland and as already mentioned it is almost inbred. Several factors contribute to this and amongst them are the lack of other activities at affordable prices-something I feel the government should also look into- which combined with exceptionally long, dark and miserable winters only fuel the problem.
The unpredictability of the so-called summer months doesn’t help either and the occasion of a rare sunny day usually results in celebration by having a drink outside. Alcohol seems to be part of every social occasion and has been for as long as I can remember.
This is why I don’t understand why the problem only tackles the lower classes with less money at their disposal to buy alcohol. Let’s be clear, I think that trying to tackle the alcohol issue is a necessary thing and possibly long overdue but it will not affect those who can afford it nor the middle classes and in my view there is as much of a problem there with alcohol as there is out in the more deprived areas.
They just hide it better because they can afford to. Also they are unlikely to purchase anything of such inferior branding as it would reveal them as déclassé therefore this does not solve their problem.
In the last two weeks alone I have been in the company of educated, literate and successful people and on three separate occasions I have witnessed at least one person in my own company become aggressive, argumentative and unreasonable as they became more strident in their behaviour and each and every time it has been fuelled by alcohol and their inability to control either their intake or objectionable stances.
Often the next day they have no recollection of their behaviour- or else they just shrug it off with a ‘Well I was drunk’ statement as if that excuses everything- and it is all forgotten about until the next time. And there will be a next time because the one sure thing about alcohol is that people repeat themselves; again and again and again and again…and every time a little bit louder than the time before.
I cannot think of one solitary person I prefer when they are drunk and I include myself in this1
Therefore whilst I see that minimum pricing of alcohol will be some help in the future-which is a crucial part of this initiative- it doesn’t tackle the current one and it certainly doesn’t cover the whole spectrum. It is a start however and a necessary one but I would be happier if someone other than retailers were to benefit.
On the subject of retailers I surely cannot be the only one who has noticed a very sharp, substantial and almost underhand increase in supermarket prices in the last six months. It began when I noticed an increase of ten or twenty pence on everyday-not luxury- items and then the last time I was buying butter I realised the same block I paid 79 pence for six months ago was now £1.40. That is one hell of an increase on an everyday item with no explanation and certainly no warning and it is not an isolated case; everything has gone up substantially. This is before Brexit has even happened and I am wondering whether those who voted Leave actually realised the consequences to their weakly budget when they made their choice. Again it is those on the lower end of the spectrum who will be most affected and again those who are financially comfortable or well off are able to absorb the extra costs.
It is hard to understand how low paid families are expected to cope with such huge price hikes especially considering their income hasn’t increased to accommodate it.
Hopefully this shambolic Government will implode before Brexit actually happens and judging by the infighting and backstabbing that feels like it could happen very soon. Wishful thinking I know.
At least Peaky Blinders is back though and the opening episode on Wednesday night was a master class on how to make a comeback. The conclusion left me completely dumbfounded and I hope that Michael Gray was merely wounded in the hail of bullets as along with Tommy Shelby and his Mother Polly he is the most compelling and promising character as to where the story can actually go. Then again as it is a show which likes to take risks then it is maybe wise to fear the worst. I only have to wait until next Wednesday to find out!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

Sex, sex, sex and more sex seems to be everywhere at the moment.
Or more correctly sexual harassment is.
Hot on the tails of the Harvey Weinstein furore in Hollywood, which I predicted was only the tip of the iceberg, comes news that Westminster- that supposed bastion of upstanding morality and totally non-corrupt individuals or so they would have us believe- is riddled with sexual harassment also; not that this comes as any surprise to anyone with more than a time-share on a brain cell.
To simply add fire to already troubled waters Kevin Spacey has used accusations of predatory behaviour on a minor to eventually come out as gay-again no surprise- to deflect from his despicable behaviour thus forever equating paedophilia and homosexuality as inseparable in the minds of misinformed and ignorant bigots who have never had much trouble in lumping the two together. Believe me that is a lot more people than I can ever be comfortable with especially as being gay is a totally separate thing from paedophilia and one in no way relates to the other; the former is a natural state of being whilst the latter is a perverted deviance that has proven statistics of being more prevalent in heterosexuals but is disgusting in any form as it is a form of manipulation of trust and ultimately abuse.
Whatever Spacey thought he was doing in trying to deflect from his misdemeanours he was seriously misguided and has opened up a can of worms that will be hard to put a lid on no matter how powerful he is in Hollywood. It was an infuriating statement that has probably done more harm to the gay community and set their cause back a good twenty or thirty years; especially in an America which is already in the grip of the most bigoted and hateful backlash for decades.
He did however apologise for his behaviour but that was immediately superseded by claims of drunkenness and not being able to remember the event due to his intoxication, as if that in some way excuses him and strips him of any responsibility
Netflix were quick to cancel his series House of Cards- based on a corrupt and power-hungry President- but that was inevitable but in my opinion it should have been cancelled the minute Trump was elected as there was no way the fiction of drama could match the fiction of reality; a fictionally corrupt President is no match for a real life bigoted, sexually predatory and racist one.
Trump this week however has limited himself to trying to step up his already ‘extreme’ vetting immigration programme following the tragic terror attack in New York which saw eight people killed.
The fact that this attack was committed by a non-white person has escalated his fury in a way the Las Vegas attack-which left 58 dead and 546 injured- didn’t. Supposedly because the Las Vegas attack wasn’t viewed as terrorism as it was committed by a white man, a ‘loner’ as the press referred to him. Also interesting to note that despite the gravity of the Vegas attack there was not one new policy implemented, no gun law restriction introduced, in fact there were no changes whatsoever made to prevent such an atrocity ever happening again.
Closer to home and back to the Westminster which is in disarray and a state of panic-yet again- over sexual harassment claims which I suspect is an issue that is going to run and run. Certainly Michael Fallon resigning as Minister of Defence for allegedly inappropriate behaviour towards a younger woman feels yet again like the mere tip of a very large iceberg. The fact there are rumours that his replacement Gavin Williamson has simply appointed himself to his new role indicates-yet again-that Theresa May has lost control of the situation and is totally unfit for office herself. Then again it was losing a whole load of files naming the Westminster paedophile ring which helped get her elected in the first place so I wouldn’t bet that she will allow a triviality like mere sexual abuse to dislodge her now that she has got this far.
We really have no right to sneer at the state of American politics when British politics are in such a shocking state.
I can’t imagine that anyone is surprised at the sexual harassment claims that are coming to light and the ‘Me Too’ campaign which took flight on social media a few weeks back shows how ingrained this problem is in all walks of our society. I know many will claim that it is not just women that are affected by this but I do feel that they have suffered it longer and far more extensively than men ever have or ever will.
As an example the male actor who accused Kevin Spacey was taken very seriously and immediate action was taken in suspending Spacey’s network show. I wonder how seriously the allegations would be taken and how swiftly they would be acted upon if it had been a female making the accusations against a powerful Hollywood figure and how much her own reputation would be questioned and possibly tarnished in the aftermath.
Certainly until women are taken seriously and afforded equal respect this kind of sexual harassment and inequality is always going to exist and this makes me very sad. Very sad indeed!