Just An Observation

Just An Observation

As the results filter in from the English local elections there are no great surprises as the Tories manage to hold onto vulnerable seats and make gains in others whilst Labour-in the wake of anti-Semitism smears and unfounded Russian collusion sympathies- struggled somewhat not making the progress many expected and hoped for. Then again we are living in an abstract reality created by a power-hungry media who seem to be driving the feeling of the country further and further to the right; which is so very , very wrong.
Admittedly I have given up any hope in expecting any truth from the mainstream media and have totally abandoned any belief in the BBC news which seems to be feeding propaganda with such a clear intention that I am amazed how many- and it is a growing number judging by these latest results- are actually taken in by it. I suppose however that people only believe what they want to and if they are comfortably off then they adapt the rhetoric to what they want to be hearing rather than what is actually being said.
It used to be that a week in politics was a long time now it seems that opinions are changed on a daily basis as has been proven yet again this week after Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary –actually to claim she was a human shield and sacrifice for the hugely incompetent and cowardly Theresa may would be closer to the truth- to be replaced by Sajid Javid in the wake of the Windrush scandal.
After adopting the Tory meets Blackadder power stance, in an unfortunate but highly amusing photo shoot which saw the window behind him clearly feature the word ‘asshole’, Javid declared after accepting the role to get to the bottom of the debacle which has seen many long-time UK citizens deported from their home country and hold those responsible accountable.However only forty-eight hours later, in a total volte-face, he voted against any of the details of the enquiry into the scandal being made public. It would seem it is now completely acceptable to blatantly lie and get away with it. And still people vote for them!
Meanwhile over in Trump’s America the ridiculous Kanye West is claiming that slavery must have been a lifestyle choice.
Seriously?
His reckoning that as it went on for over four hundred years must mean that people went into it voluntarily beggars belief but what is really amazing is that this overpaid, pampered musician- married to a reality star who actually has fat injected into her arse to make it bigger- and is obviously on the lowest end of the intelligence scale is given a platform to spout this nonsense. It is insulting beyond almost anything I have heard in recent times and an indictment of just exactly is wrong with our world today.
Closer to home it would seem things are no better with the release this week of the plans showing the monstrosity that is planned for Stead’s Place in Leith Walk thereby seeing the demolition of Leith Depot, Punjabi Junction and several other essential local businesses as well as replacing the aesthetically pleasing existing frontage. The plans when they were revealed were totally incongruous and far worse than anyone could actually have imagined. Totally hideous!
If any locals haven’t already signed the Save Leith Walk petition or attended any meetings then I urge you do so as this is more than just the loss of local businesses, community and a much needed live music venue it is the destruction of Leith’s history.
It is not all doom and gloom on the capital however as May 17th sees the return of the fantastic The Trama Dolls to live performance at a gig presented by exciting new music company Fresh Produce aiming to showcase new bands in a double bill line up. The first Fresh Produce production sees The Trama Dolls alongside Glasgow two piece Run Into The Night. Anyone who has seen The Trama Dolls in the past is no doubt aware they were always an exciting proposition but having undergone some personnel changes they are looking forward to an even brighter future. Certainly not a gig to be missed and tickets are already selling fast. Looks like Sneaky Pete’s is the place to be come May 17th.
As if this wasn’t enough on the Edinburgh musical front the following evening- May 18TH- the intriguing Voicex led by ex-Scar Paul Mackie make their debut at The Voodoo Rooms.
Two great gigs on two successive nights:
Edinburgh what are you thinking?
Edinburgh get off your arses and get out there!

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WESTWOOD;PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST/ HERE TO BE HEARD:THE STORY OF THE SLITS

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist/
Here to be Heard: The Story of the Slits

In the year which celebrates a 100 years of women having the right to vote it is fitting that two very different tales-with some connecting threads- of how women gained a strength then took that acquired power and used it as a means of expressing this recently found freedom through fashion and music. Athough the stories of Westwood and The Slits are very different and have vastly opposing outcomes in terms of financial success- Westwood has a global business generating millions whilst The Slits have still to recoup the advance on their nearly 40-year-old debut album- they do have a shared and significant starting point: Punk!
Technically Westwood had moderate success before punk but it is her association with Malcolm McLaren and The Sex Pistols –whom McLaren managed- that she first became widely recognised and forever associated with.
Not that this is something that she wants to discuss in the documentary by Lorna Tucker. In fact it would seem that Westwood is reluctant to discuss anything of this era or any other in this documentary by Lorna Tucker as she appears curmudgeon like, awkward, brusque and downright rude whether she is aware she is being filmed or not.
Often the viewer is left wondering why she agreed to participate in this film at all as she waives most questions with a haughty air, rarely even making eye contact with the camera at all. Having since distanced herself from the film it is easy to see why as she is painted in a very unflattering light although this is no fault of Tucker who continually tries to draw out Westwood’s more pleasant side. Despite this car crash quality-or maybe because of it- it is still extremely watch-able whilst the clothes are never anything less than exquisite and her influence can never be underestimated.
Perhaps Tucker should have made the film about Westwood’s husband Andreas Kronthaler as he makes for fascinating subject matter, more than willing to discuss anything even if he is like a comic creation of Sacha Baron Cohen; a figure of ridicule who takes himself so very, very seriously.
The only time Westwood’s icy demeanour melts a little is, ironically enough, when she is discussing climate change. One is left with the feeling that this is a subject she would happily talk about for hours and hours on end.
By comparison Tessa Pollitt and the former Palmolive of The Slits seem more than happy to recount their glory days as members of all girl band The Slits as it at last focussing on their side of the story as previously the media focussed on the perspectives of the late Ari Up- who sadly passed away in 2010- and Viv Albertine. Like Westwood, The Slits have a great legacy and were hugely influential in the punk and post punk era.

Their debut album ‘Cut’ is a classic which transcends the era that bore it due to it sounding nothing like anything else either then or even now (by default they were the first band I ever saw live in my early teens as they supported The Clash on 1977’s White Riot tour and being the opening band therefore makes them my first live music experience). The fact that it was produced by young women with a fierce attitude and a blinding vision was a revelation at the time is this is simply not how women were supposed to behave or look; at least in the nineteen seventies male dominated patriarchal society. Patti Smith may have opened the door for them but The Slits booted it in, and then used that same door as a weapon thus making sure it would never close again.
Albertine makes an appearance and is always a worthy contributor but her side of the story was more than ably told in her 2014 book Clothes, Music, Boys and one feels this is more Pollitt’s and to a lesser extent Palmolive’s film.
Although the overall feel of the film is occasionally disjointed there is some very fascinating early footage captured by Don Letts which raises the interest quotient somewhat. When it does begin to drag around the time of the reunion tour another dimension still remains as some of the last ever clips of Ari Up not too long before she dies give the whole thing a sentimental twist one doesn’t normally associate with The Slits.
Now that the 40th anniversary of punk in 2016 has passed both of these films can stand alone in their re-telling of an era which forever changed the landscape of the country; with things in even more disarray now than they were then perhaps neither are films of sentiment or history but a lesson in how to drag a sexist,racist, backward, bigoted country with delusions of grandeur out of the quagmire it has entrenched itself in.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just An Observation

This week the British Government decided to partake in a Carry On style Bond film giving rise to the fact that perhaps Ken Dodd had scripted it before his death last Sunday. ‘To Russia with a Yah, Boo, Sucks’ has a slightly implausible plot wherein a Russian double agent was poisoned by a highly traceable nerve agent that could have been administered by anyone but, according to that ever reliable source of truth Theresa May, was apparently the doing of the Kremlin.
Rushing to put the super power in its place was her weedy Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, obviously taking diplomacy lessons under the tutelage of Boris Johnson, who stated ‘Russia should go away and should shut up’ despite having the look of a man who finds it hard to fight sleep never mind the Russians.
The whole situation seems to be embedded in a tissue of lies, mis-truths and clouded facts that seem to point anywhere other than Russia and this comes from one who has little sympathy for the nation which houses gay concentration camps where homosexuals are beaten, tortured and even killed for their sexual orientation.
It would seem that the only person who seemed to offer up any reason in the face of all these claims and accusations was Jeremy Corbyn and for simply demanding proof and clarification was branded ‘Putin’s Puppet –courtesy that bastion of truth and righteousness The Sun although the Daily Hail also attacked him- despite merely asking that some evidence should be shown before action was taken.
Of course by this point Theresa May, sick of being called weak and unstable, had ordered the removal of Russian diplomats from the UK opening up the possibility of further unrest; probably following her Thatcher rulebook she has decided that what she needs to rescue her plummeting popularity is a war of somewhat and we all know how the Tories love a war especially if it distracts from their own incompetence.
As a sub plot in this far-fetched movie we have the aforementioned Theresa May removing free school meals from the most impoverished children in England and Wales-not Northern Ireland funnily enough as the DUP were required a sweetener in order to secure their support in this abominable action- but at least the rise in food banks her government has kindly necessitated means they may not actually starve completely.
Seriously I ask myself what sort of country is the UK becoming and why does what feels like being in a bad movie turn out to be real life?
All the while we laugh and sneer at the US and their bumbling buffoon of a President- I feel the Russian situation is in someway a point scoring exercise with him- while our own country lurches towards perilous disaster on a daily basis.
On a more local matter I was saddened this week that it seems that Leith Depot and its surrounding businesses on Leith Walk is now more than likely to close down within the next year and a half to make way for student accommodation. Of course the prerequisite Starbucks and Sainsbury’s will appear soon after as students can’t possibly be expected to survive without these two essentials and they especially need to be housed right next to each other otherwise disorientation sets in.
I personally will be sad to see Leith Depot go as it provides the necessary community requirement of live music- alongside great atmosphere and fantastic food- in an area which is starved of it. Unfortunately Edinburgh Council seems only interested in students and tourists whilst its residents and their requirements always seem to come pretty far down the list of priorities. I see it no small coincidence that talk of the trams being extended is suddenly news again; I mean after all what more pleasant way is there to starting your day than picking up your meal deal, popping next door for a skinny soy latte then taking a tram into town up to the university.
Meanwhile the locals lose an array of local small businesses in an area which until recently has been resistant to the gentrification which the student population automatically engenders. Leith has been a student free zone until the last few years and one of the reasons I left Marchmont to move here was that Marchmont was essentially a student area and I know what living amidst that entails. By the way I have nothing against students it is just that I don’t feel Leith needs to be populated by them.
Anyway I wonder what the next week will bring in the worst scripted Bond movie of all time: perhaps Theresa May will reveal spiked poison tips in her leopard print kitten heels a la Rosa Klebb or we will discover Boris Johnson is in fact Ernst Stavros Blofeld with his worst ever makeover. Who Knows? As long as it doesn’t involve any of its players emerging from the sea in a pair of tight blue Speedos as that is box office poison by anyone’s standards. Fantasy seems to have overtaken reality anyway but unfortunately that is nowhere as good as it seemed when it remained a mere concept.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

In a time when so much of the news is disheartening, depressing or downright tragic I admit to feeling slightly warmed by the sight of hundreds of teenagers lying down outside The White House earlier this week in protest at the Trump administration doing nothing to curb gun laws in the light of last week’s tragic mass shooting at a school in Florida.
In spite of the tragic circumstances which prompted this impromptu ‘lie in’ it is encouraging to see youngsters actually considering their future- and the fact they are still lucky enough to have one as several of their contemporaries have been so harshly robbed of theirs- and taking some action to draw attention to their plight and their very serious concerns.
This brief feeling of hope was eradicated almost instantly by their President’s response that perhaps the solution is to start arming teachers and to actually award the armed teachers with some kind of financial bonus. It is almost as if he misses the point entirely; I am aware he generally does but this time he has veered even further into ridiculous terrain even for him. The fact that he is already thinking about the next time rather than trying to find a solution to prevent a next time shows a fundamental flaw in his reasoning. The attitude that it will take a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun- another ridiculous statement form the orange cretin- does not recognise the problem at all never mind trying to solve it. More guns never lead to less death. Fact!
If I hear one more statement from those claiming that it is about honouring the second amendment then I must admit that I will be tempted to go against all my natural beliefs and instincts and purchase a gun to take out these buffoons myself. The second amendment was drafted before the invention of the electric light-bulb or the motor car so its relevance in today’s society should be drawn into question to begin with.
It seems this issue will never be resolved as long as the NRA has the support of the government and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.
Good on these kids who are actually taking a stance as it is their future that is being dictated to and put at risk. They are also the voters of the future so it would be an unwise President who chooses to ignore them. Enough said really!
Over here in the not so United Kingdom it looks as is Brexit is still on its collision course so no change there although it still baffles me how incompetent Theresa May is and how she can get out of bed or even gaze in a mirror without knowing that every day she will face another round of humiliation. It does however amuse me to some extent but that is soon replaced with the reality of the disaster that lies ahead that she is doing nothing to avert.
How we arrived at her and Trump is a question I frequently ask. Surely neither country deserves either of these two as their leaders.
I was interested to observe this week that there is some concern that we are rapidly becoming a nation of mobile phone addicts; Texts, Messenger, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are apparently taking over our lives and we are forgetting how to interact on a one to one basis.
This is no news to me personally as I have witnessed this worrying behaviour for some time now. May times I have felt irritation as I arrive to meet a friend and they immediately take their phone and place it in front of them, then generally refer to it continuously and more attentively than they do the person sitting opposite them. In my opinion it is beyond rude and reminds me of the oft quoted Princess Di line about their being three people in her marriage. Conversations are cut short and interrupted to answer a call or text or upload a photo so that everyone they are not spending any actual real time with knows exactly what they are up to.
The art of conversation leading to healthy debate has also been decimated as Google is drawn into the conversation and revered as if it were some kind of God; I find nothing more annoying than talking to someone as they type into Google to check what I am saying is correct. It is as if they are forgetting that it is not always the being right that matters it is the conversation and differing opinions and ideologies which keep a conversation alive and sparkling. This idea that Google is God just infuriates me and I would rather spend time with someone who is factually incorrect but able to put up a convincing and arresting argument in their defence rather than someone who types into Google and repeats their findings in a smug and diffident manner.
It seems as if the winter is in respite at the moment, longer days and even a bit of sunshine has emerged over the last week and although it is very welcome it also seems very overdue. It is only February however and apparently there is still a bit of wintry weather ahead in the next few weeks but if nothing else the break from what must be the longest winter in history has provided a little hope and if nothing else that is very welcome at the moment.

THE SHAPE OF WATER

The Shape of Water

The latest film by Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water, is a fantastical dive into the realms of fairy tales wherein Beauty and the Beast is updated to an early sixties time-zone in Baltimore and the complexities of good versus evil and whether an amphibian creature is any more or less of a monster than a human whose views are coloured with bigotry, hatred, greed and self-serving cruelty.
Visually stunning and excellently cast- Sally Hawkins as mute domestic cleaner Elisa in a military research centre gives a stand out performance- the film encapsulates and absorbs from the outset but despite this seems to still remain outside of itself; as if it is in fact as much of an observer as the audience.
The drama revolves around the discovery of an amphibian creature brought over from Brazil for sinister experimentation, research and eventual execution. Fascinated by the creature Elisa plays it Benny Goodman records and feeds it hard boiled eggs and in the process makes headway into the understanding of the creature far more effectively than her scientific and military colleagues ever do.
An unlikely relationship spilling over into romantic and eventual sexual territory ensues and with the aid of those around her, including her exuberantly brash cleaner colleague Zelda (Octavia Spencer), gay but closeted neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins) and a scientist with Russian connections Dr. Hofstettler (Michael Stuhlbarg), kidnaps the amphibian she has grown so emotionally attached to when she learns of its planned extinction.
Up against this trio of righteousness and understanding is the brutal, bigoted and totally inflexible Strickland, a well cast Michael Shannon, whose determination and belief that killing the creature is the best means of learning more about it reveals him to be not only the real villain of the piece but also the true monster at the heart of the story despite his appealing exterior and perceived conventionality; a slight subtext as to the horror that lies at the heart of convention and normality.
Del Toro creates a visual piece-de-resistance from the deserted cinema below Elisa’s apartment to Strickland’s streamlined top of the range ‘teale’ Cadillac and the period details of the early sixties-possibly 1962- are beyond reproach while the scene when the amphibian stretches himself too full height revealing his powerful beauty is breathtaking but something in the film doesn’t quite engage as much as it should and remains somewhat detached; possibly the approach is maybe just a little too clever-clever at times. It is sumptuous though and the sequence when Elisa finds her voice and slips into an old-fashioned Busby Berkeley Hollywood musical routine is seamlessly perfect.
The Shape of Water draws you in from its very beginning and manages to engage and mesmerize throughout. It is definitely the best of Del Toro’s efforts so far- I always found Pan’s Labyrinth stunning but a little too cloying for my personal taste, it was a film to be admired rather than loved- and is as consistent and entertaining as any other you might see this year.

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!

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!

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