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SORRY WE MISSED YOU

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With a General Election looming and the lies, misinformation and disinformation such an event engenders from so many political sides it is ironic that a work of fiction highlights the truth concerning the parlous state  the UK is in at its most divisive time in recent history.

That it is down to Ken Loach is no surprise especially as his last film  I, Daniel Blake took a damning swipe at the benefits system and how Tory Britain preys on its most vulnerable. What is surprising however is how Loach approaches his subject matter and shapes the mundane, desperate and hopelessness of a very real life situation into something so rivetting.

This time around Loach turns his attention to ‘zero hours contract’ culture- in this case especially the delivery driver industry- and focusses on how its insidiousness removes the promise of independence, workers rights, self respect and security despite offering all these things by unscrupulous bosses who are only interested in  profits and care more about the scanners they issue their staff with ‘on loan’.

From the outset the warning signs are there to see: the cost of a delivery van, no paid holidays, unreasonable targets and time frames are merely the beginning. However these are only the tip of the iceberg and as Ricky, the lead character, finds out to his cost there are a lot more disasters awaiting him below an already precarious surface.

Played with a stunning, unwavering conviction by Kris Hitchen, Ricky just wants to do his best for his family: wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood),  troubled teenage son Seb (Rhys Stone) and young daughter Liza Jane (Katie Proctor). A victim of the 2008 recession when he, like so many others, lost his job in construction his life has never really got back on track and the promise of being his own boss blindsides him and comes close to destroying the  very thing he wants more than anything to save: his family.

The idea of family is very much at the crux of this film and provides it with its beating heart. There are very few moments that stray away from the bleakness of the situation at hand- wife Abbie has her own work issues as a carer, teenage son Seb feels doomed by the failure of his parents and acts up accordingly while eleven year old Liza jane just wants things to return to how they used to be- but the bonding over a family Indian Curry takeaway provides a crack in the otherwise bleak grey skies and allows a little sunshine to pass through for a brief moment, permitting the viewer an insight as to why Ricky is willing to fight so hard for the thing he truly loves.

All in all Sorry We Missed You provides a damning indictment on 21st century Britain and how it chews up then spits out human beings almost at will or on a whim. Loach has managed again to provide more homespun truths into a 100 minute film than most politicians will in the next five weeks of campaigning. This is what he does best and this film could not be more relevant at this current moment in time.

 

Just an Observation

CS, UFS 22With it looking likelier and likelier that the lying, racist, bumbling and incoherent Boris Johnson is set to be the next Prime Minister of the shambles that is currently The United Kingdom- although it has never been more dis-united- it raises questions as to how it ever got to this dreadful state of affairs.

There was more than a general feeling of trepidation in 2010 when the Tories first entered Downing Street, with their pet puppies from the Lib-Dems supposedly giving them a human approach, but it wasn’t until 2015 when they gained a majority and David Cameron decided to play hard and loose with the countries future over a vanity project he smugly and arrogantly assumed he had no chance of losing-the EU Referendum- which he promptly lost, only to walk away and leave his successor to clear up his mess.

Of course the Successor was the beyond incompetent and uncharisamatic Theresa May, who had all the subtlety and tact of a buffalo with a pair of knitting needles and whose only success was to make Britain the laughing stock of the rest of the world.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson-who had not entered the leadership race in 2016- wisely waited in the wings as May royally fucked things up again and again so that he could swoop in like some superhero able to finish the job she was unable to even start; the nation dividing, totally unrealistic and delusional Brexit.

And now nine years later we are in a situiation where the probable next Prime Minister feels he is not accountable to answer questions on domestic abuse claims against himself and gives answers to journalists enquiring about how he spends his spare time with some incoherent babbling about model buses- omitting the part about lies about the NHS painted on the side- when the shorter more correct answer would have been ‘ Shafting the British Public whilst taking the piss even further by giving you answers which you won’t question as I am above reproach’.

This is an abbreviated version but it is how we have crash landed in the broken society that is 2019.

What a mess.

Integrity seems to have left the building and watching over recent weeks how Westminster reacts and responds to legitimate questions  and statements posed by the SNP- the third biggest party in parliament which seems to anger them no end- shows that as far as Scotland and its people are concerned they, especially The Tories, are no longer even pretending they don’t hate us anymore. In fact hostilities are so open it is almost as if they are declaring a war of sorts. Then again war is the general answer to most things that irritate the Tory party. It is their default setting.

Away from the doom and gloom any escape is rewarding so maybe try and catch a film at the Film Festival. As I haven’t been reviewing this year I can’t comment on the standard of films so far and the Festival certainly doesn’t seem to have the cachet it had had in previous years when events were littered with stars of a higher calibre than the last few years.

In fact many Edinburgh residents aren’t even aware that it is in progress as it is a much more low key event than it was when it was included in the official festival and ran alongside it. As a stand alone event it has never been the impressive beast it once was.

A couple of things worth catching this weekend are the Refugees Benefit at Leith Depot this evening(Friday 28th June) especially after the sad news that the venue will indeed close on October 1 this year. Shame on Drum Properties killing off such an important local venue loved by the community which, along with the closure of the Leith Walk Cafe in the next few weeks, will leave the site derelict and abandoned when month on month leases could have been offered simply to allow the businesses to continue until some resolve could be reached. Unfortunately this is not to be and I foresee an empty site which will remain unoccupied until at some point when it  will be hit by a ‘mysterious’ fire. Sad times indeed.

Also definitely worth catching is an exhibition of early works by American photographer Cindy Sherman at Stills Gallery Cockburn Street which runs until October 6. This is a must see.

Don’t forget the Fringe is just around the corner and although I haven’t even seem a programme yet I can feel the angst and tension starting to emanate from within.

Be Warned!

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Just An Observation

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Well it seems the end of May is approaching a little faster than any of us expected; I am not just talking about the month here but also the worst Prime Minister in living memory who will today meet with the Head of the 1922 committee where her departure date will eventually be settled.

Unfortunately with Boris Johnson waiting in the wings, like the scavenging vulture he is, her mantle of worst PM in memory is likely to be challenged almost immediately; the only thing the Tories can be relied upon is to provide a leader less competent and more dangerous than the previous one. It is still a daily frustration that people are prepared to vote and thus willingly hand over the future of their country to such incompetents who no longer even try to mask their true intentions which are downright evil  in most cases.

The European Elections- the ones Theresa May insisted we would not have to participate in-took place yesterday and it looks pretty inevitable that the Brexit Party, with no manifesto and no policies, looks set to romp home to a huge victory south of the border. In Scotland however some common sense prevails and it looks like remaining an SNP stronghold although early indications suggest that the aforementioned Brexit party has gained enough support to maybe take second place. It would seem that fascism is creeping in and on the rise everywhere and the only ones truly to blame for this catastrophe are the Tories – as puppets of billionaire media moguls- who have messed up every single thing they have put their grubby hands on since entering Downing Street nine years ago.

Of course there has been much made of the latest ‘trend’ of milkshaking fascists such as Farage and Tommy ‘Ten Names’ Robinson and I remain unconvinced of how effective this is and not sure how much good it is actually doing. The earlier cases seemed quite legitimate; the young Asian guy surrounded by Robinson and thugs obviously felt intimidated and cornered and thus lashed out in a way that most could comprehend. Conversely the guy who threw one over Farage the other day felt a little more opportunist and trying to make a name for himself-even anti-fascism is not averse to bandwagon jumpers it would seem. Despite this I must admit a little bit of a warm feeling inside met with a satisfied smirk on the outside every time I see either Farage or Robinson covered in the gooey mess that cuts short their campaigning for the day so it something I feel I maybe don’t whole heartedly condemn despite my misgivings.

On a less depressing note there are plenty of things out there to enjoy and this weekend sees two hotly anticipated and sold-out gigs by a reformed Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie at Edinburgh Liquid Rooms as the closing gigs on a  brief and highly successful tour. There is also an exhibition of artworks by three band members, Martin Metcalfe, Big John Duncan and Derek Kelly, going under the banner Global Weirding this Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th at Natami, 13 London Road.

Next Friday also sees The Raptors, the Honey Farm and Rocket Reducer play at the latest Refugee Benefit at Leith Depot in what will definitely be a great night with a very strong line up and all for a very worthy cause.

Also worth catching at the cinema at the moment is Beats which captures the rave scene of 1994 for two teenage boys desperate to find out what mysteries such an event is likely to hold for them. It is an extremely accurate portrayla of a scene which was dying around the time the action takes place but somehow it still manages to capture the exuberance and euphoria of the era. Certainly not a teenage movie it will appeal to anyone who was part of dance culture which swept the nation in the early nineties but it also captures the insidious violence and organised crime which crept in and worryingly lurked in the shadows as drug dealers and out and out capitalists grew bolder and thus more dangerous.

Enjoy the weekend and keep fighting fascism, with or without milkshakes; The Revolution will be Pasteurised is the slogan du jour!

 

 

Just an Observation

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At last it seems to be all quiet on the Brexit front but rest assured this is only a temporary respite and no doubt (ab)normal service will be resumed soon. Not that there hasn’t been enough news to catch up on aside from the UK government turning us into an international laughing-stock.

The tragic fire in the Notre Dame cathedral earlier this week reduced much of the world to a blubbering wreck, wringing their hands in grief and the destruction of such a beautifully constructed monument and building is a tragedy of epic proportions; the cathedral is wrapped up in so much history and personal memories for so many. However it is only a building and there was no loss of life and interestingly several billionaires stepped in within forty-eight hours offering upwards of 700 million for its reconstruction. It raises questions as to how if so much can be raised by so few for a building why could the same people not step into assuage poverty, homelessness and other problems inflicted on thus affecting the most  vulnerable in their society.

Certainly the destruction of several rain forests over the last few decades- which took even longer in their gestation than the much trumpeted two centuries of Notre Dame Cathedral- have past with little regret or grief on the scale of the French tragedy; ironically the forests that do still exist no longer grow trees tall enough to rebuild the internal wooden stucture. Whole cities in the middle east flattened in the name of unnecessary wars also remain pretty much unacknowledged.

Closer to home there was the Grenfell Towers tragedy where 72 lost their lives and hundreds lost their homes with many still waiting to be re-housed- despite Theresa May’s ‘promise’ they would all be re-housed within weeks but we all know how much her ‘promises’ are worth. I don’t recall any billionaires stepping forward to help out in that tragedy; possibly because there weren’t any. Whilst I acknowledge French billionaires are not responsible for British tragedies it emphasises again how broken our society is in comparison.

Edinburgh has been rocked by the sad news of Bradley Welsh’s horrific shooting on Wednesday night; a truly tragic event that is hard to understand at the best of times but even more upsetting when you actually know the person and remember them as kind, considerate, funny and a true gentleman. Inevitably in such extreme circumstances theories and stories will eventually emerge but I intend to ignore them and instead concentrate on the good Brad did for young disadvantaged people and his reaching out to help those without the advantages of a good or privileged start in life. Also this is the only Brad I actually ever knew; a bundle of unrestrained energy, witty bon-mots and a charming way of challenging preconceived notions.

At the end of the day the ultimate tragedy is that his daughter has been left without a father, a wife has lost her husband and a family are mourning the unnecessary loss of their brother. My thoughts go out to them and I will always remember Brad with a smile in my heart. Edinburgh has lost one of its true characters and personalities.

On a happier note I attended the Nightingales gig -along with Vic Godard and Subway Sect- at The Voodoo Rooms last night and I must say it was a phenomenal show; relentless, innovative, sweaty and downright streets ahead of anything else I have seen recently. The Nightingales must be among the best live bands gigging in this country just now and although this is only my opinion it was one that was shared by nearly everyone at the gig last night. I was also filmed interviewing drummer Fliss and singer Robert for a new Youtube channel coming soon so watch out for that!

Tonight Joe Malik’s show at the Voodoo Rooms is on my agenda and although totally different in every way from last night’s outing what I have heard has impressed me enough so am genuinely looking forward to it.

Also it is Good Friday and the beginning of Easter weekend so I intend to indulge my chocolate habit with no pangs of guilt-not that I really do guilt anyway- and I suggest you do the same!

 

Just an Observation

53838575_549703615519134_2850212169608331264_nSo here we are at last, Brexit day!

Or more correctly what should have been Brexit day!

Yes, the day Britain was to take back control, regain sovereignty, step into a bright new future away from the controlling auspices and ridiculous demands- I mean who really needs Human Rights, trading agreements and medical supplies?- of the European Union. Let’s not even start on immigrants who according to many- I will only mention the Farage name once as I feel to do it any more merely feeds the odious creature the oxygen of attention he requires to breathe- were the cause of this country’s problems rather than providing essential workskills and labour as well as cultural diversity which considering the drab grey Britain of my early years was something which was very welcome, much-needed and long overdue.

However in the way that the Tories have managed to mess everything up from the moment they entered Downing Street nine years ago they have monumentally fucked up when it comes to Brexit. It has been a farce of a shitshow from day one but the last few weeks have felt as if we are in some kind of parallel universe that any moment we will miraculously slip out of and find a sense of normalcy and calm.

Unfortunately that is merely wishful thinking and as Westminster descends into even further chaos- Parliament wresting control away from the demagogue like tantrums and empty soundbites of Teresa May has proved no solution at all as no-one can agree on anything so the infighting goes on and on and on with no end in sight- with little more than the self-servative putting their party and personal ambitions before what is good for the country.

On top of this the main opposition party, Labour, despite coming up against the most shambolic and divided government in history still trail behind them in the polls as they can’t even be bothered to oppose in any meaningful way. The kindest thing I can say about Jeremy Corbyn is that he is a failed experiment. I won’t even start on Teresa May as I feel it has mostly been said but one thing that is conclusive is that she will go down in history as the worst Prime Minister ever- with David Cameron snapping at her kitten heels not far behind her- and considering the contenders, Thatcher and Blair leap into view, that is possibly her one and only legacy.

Once again only Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP seem to offer up any solutions or opposition not that you would know it from the mainstream media who are mired into their standard SNP ‘bad’ narrative and that is not going to change anytime soon.

Anyway Brexit is postponed and now there is talk of a General Election and May leaving -she may or may not and it may or may not be in May- although as is typical with her there is no clarity of when.

I can see this saga playing out for sometime yet but one thing is clear and that is the country has never been divided in so many ways but really what else is to be expected as long as the Tories remain in power; May’s supposed replacements  include Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Amber Rudd…Jeez the nightmare just goes on and on and on. Just like Brexit.

Away from the political mayhem if you fancy a night out this weekend then get yourselves along to Lux Lives the yearly homage and tribute to the late, great Cramps frontman. The Edinburgh leg at Teviot on Saturday March 31st features such luminaries as Run Into The Night, Sterling Roswell and a cast of thousands. Full details can be found by clicking on the following link https://www.facebook.com/events/2146296995683549/.

Then next Friday The Trama Dolls return to the stage for a Spring outing alongside the afore mentioned Run Into The Night, Yur Mum and Powderkeg for two nights of glitter, leather and rock and roll mayhem again in Edinburgh and Glasgow.Details and tickets can be found by following the following links for both gigs.

Edinburgh Friday April 5th https://www.facebook.com/events/275382999811920/.

Glasgow Saturday April 6th https://www.facebook.com/events/1202224709954386/.

Sunday nights will be a definite night in for the next six weeks as Line Of Duty returns this weekend for what is rumoured to be its last run. Expect the unexpected with this one as Jed Mercurio’s plot twists infuriate, enthrall and raise expectation at every opportunity. I can’t wait!

I was saddened this week by the news of Scott Walker’s death.

A constant companion since my teenage years- my main introduction came when my mum returned from helping out at a jumble sale with a ‘Scott Walker sings Jacques Brel’  cassette and the immortal words ‘I thought you might like this’- and my  love of his music continues to this day. Interestingly I haven’t seen so much universal outpouring of grief on my social media timelines since the passing of David Bowie three years ago which is fitting as both men followed their own artistic endeavours and created their own unique spaces in our collective consciousness.

Walker’s music was-and is- a thing of true beauty and his lyrics touch on grim reality, dark places and transcendental moments, often at the same time. A true original and creative genius I hope he is happy in his great fire escape in the sky, where pavements of poets write that he dies in nine angels arms. Scott Walker you will be sorely missed but thanks for leaving us the music. That remains forever!

 

 

 

 

 

Just An Observation

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With less than three weeks to go until Brexit is supposedly upon us I think following the government’s lead in simply avoiding talking about the impending disaster  about to hit- anyone else noticed the suspicious rise in distractions on the news recently?- is perhaps the best ploy.

Or is it?

At this moment it doesn’t feel if it can possibly happen at the end of this month as planned, as there seems little or no preparation in place; this is despite having three years to implement such measures but something the Government has dismally failed in at huge cost to the integrity and economy of the country.

I mean who exactly would want to enter into any trade deals with the UK looking at the way they have mishandled all negotiations with the EU?; demands followed by tantrum throwing, inept deals followed by tantrum throwing, ridiculous suggestions rejected following by tantrum throwing, then cancelled votes on ridiculous suggestions followed by a pathetic stubbornness to shift on anything. Yes, it’s all going so well.

Since her time in office Teresa May has not managed to pass one solitary piece of legislation that has been of any advantage to any section of society- apart from a few specifically tailored for her privileged and elitist pals of course- and ultimately her legacy will be that of the Prime Minister who effectively destroyed what little credibility Britain had left on the world stage. Scotland having been ignored totally during this whole shambles can surely do better and it really is time that those who voted against independence five years ago looked at the overwhelming evidence in front of them as to how little regard the UK Government affords the nation it claimed so strenuously to respect and want to hold onto.

Away from this Brexshit nonsense- it really is a never-ending and wholly unsatisfying conundrum- it has been an interesting week in many other respects.

The ‘Leaving Neverland’ documentary on Channel 4 has made for uncomfortable viewing and Michael Jackson’s accusers have faced a barrage of hostility regarding their claims the singer sexually abused them from a seriously young age. Whilst aspersions are being cast upon the validity of their statements, not least because the two victims in the programme have previously denied any sexual abuse took place, it made for hard viewing and the sheer pain each revelation obviously brought back made a convincing argument that Jackson was a cruel, manipulative paedophile labouring under the delusion of an inflated ‘God’ complex.

The sheer terror these boys must have felt when they were being questioned and the secrets they felt they were duty bound to keep, harbour a deep and intense damage they will probably never recover from. The lack of comapsssion from Jackson’s devoted fans who are obviously complaining that it is all lies in a bid to discredit their idol reminds me somewhat of Tory followers who despite all the overwhelming evidence placed in front of them  remain in denial.

In other sad news this week I was deeply saddened by the news of TV Presenter. ‘Yoof’ Representative  and all round fabulous style icon Magenta Devine’s sad passing. A much-needed spokesperson for ‘cool’ in an era when cool people were in abundance and ruled the world- nowadays we’d be challenged to find ten cool people on the whole planet- she wore her status, not to mention her omnipresent dark glasses, as if it were a  couture outfit with style, grace and élan.

I remember meeting her at an early Sigue Sigue Sputnik gig when she invited me back to their after party at a swanky hotel where she tried to persuade me to join their touring entourage for the sheer hell of it. I remember being extremely flattered and even more so by the fact it came from someone so in touch with the moment we were living in: an indominitable spirit which touched me then and still arouses fond memories.

Now that Oscar fever has died down – I say fever although it was more of a damp squib with Bohemian Rhapsody and The Green Book entirely undeserving of their awards in my opinion- I can highly recommend Fighting with My Family about a female wrestler making her way to the top of her profession despite the many obstacles in her way. Don’t worry if wrestling is not your thing- it is sooo not mine- as the story at the heart of the film is touching, humorous and rewarding whilst the performances are captivating. If Beale Street Could Talk adapted from the James Baldwin novel is also a great film, beautiful and langurous  and kicks The Green Book into touch with its sensitivity regarding the injustices inherent in what it was like to be  African-American in a bygone era.

If all this is not enough then at least there is something to look forward to in the return of Line of Duty soon although  somehow it is still not soon enough! The next couple of weeks also sees the return of the legend that is Lee Scratch Perry at Summerhall- March 21st- and this time I have no intentions of missing him as I usually always seem to manage to do, much to my regret afterwards!

 

 

Can You Ever Forgive Me

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It is easy to forget in a world of blockbusters, big star names and an endless cycle of publicity hungry franchises that occasionally a film of real substance, human frailty and hopelessness can brak through and engender some real empathy even though its central character- the author- Lee Israel portrayed brilliantly by Melissa Mc Carthy- is wholly unsympathetic and pretty unlikable on nearly every level.

Alongside McCarthy’s compelling performance credit must also go to Marielle Heller’s direction and Nicole Holefcener and Jeff Whitty’s thoughtful and incisive screenplay which pulls no punches and makes little attempt to draw a veil over some of the less savoury aspects of Israel’s personality. Throw Richard E Grant into the mix with a performance, which just falls short of over the top, as her bitchy friend and eventual co-conspirator Jack Hock and the stage is set for  the makings of a great film.

With her  career having stalled after a commercial failure Lee Israel finds herself on the sidelines of the eighties literary circle where what see sees as lesser talents are commanding advances in the millions whilst she struggles to get a meeting with her agent who eventually tells her that there is no public appetite for her latest project on vaudeville star Fanny Brice.

Totally out of step with the times and lacking the social skills for survival in a new era of celebrity driven authors Israel stumbles upon some personal and intimate typed letters from Katherine Hepburn and hits upon the lucrative idea of forging letters from other notable figures- Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward are amongst those Israel attempts to impersonate- to fame hungry collectors and historians.

All is going well until someone notices some anomalies and a lack of discretion out of character with the person Israel is trying to emulate wherein she has her collar felt by the FBI and has to enrol the services of Jack as she has now been visibly identified, placing her on a watch list.

Of course as always in these situations everything unravels and Israel finds herself in extremely deep water.

It is amazing that a character  as abrasive and rude as Israel can arouse any support from her audience- this is a woman who makes distasteful jokes about her disabled friend after all- but somehow Mc Carthy’s performance manages to make you root for her even though you don’t ostensibly like her.

In essence the film details loneliness and frustration in an articulate way without ever articulating either of these things explicitly. This is its real substance  and what makes it so entertaining.