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JUST AN OBSERVATION

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So after three and a half years of indecision, divisiveness, short-sightedness, bickering, hatred fuelled rhetoric and flickering glimmers of hope that it might never happen it would appear that today-January 31st 2020- Britain will leave the EU. Unlike previous leaving days- I’ve lost count but I think there have been three failed attempts thus far- it would appear that this time it is actually happening.

Personally I find the whole situation thoroughly disorientating, pointless and disheartening with a huge sense of loss. Apparently it is, according to those in power at least, the will of the people and 17.4 million people voted for this although it has never been clear what they voted for and why they voted to actually worsen their lives rather than improve them.I don’t think I can ever remember a campaign like the Leave campaign which was founded so much on xenophobia, outright lies and out and out racism to receive a result which had nothing to do with any of the aforementioned but everything to do with extreme powers and  tax evasion for the elite and the working classes so blinded by the media foolishly voted having had their heads turned by promises about extra cash for the NHS, immigration control and a return to a bucolic England that never actually existed; cream teas on the lawn and endless summer days intertwined with the cleansing powers of shedding trees and leaf filled autumnal walks followed by cosy winters wrapped up in the heritage of the nation to keep us warm.

By voting so underwhelmimgly for this- 37%, a great many of whom have since changed their minds- it is like those who are most likely to suffer have actually handed those in power the rock to actually hit them with. Workers rights, maternity/paternity leave, paid holidays, the NHS, increased food prices with less choices are just  a few of the things Brexit will impact. Never have so many been fooled by so few and whilst it is relatively easy to fool people it is less easy to convince them they have been fooled. Time will tell on that score. Ironically for something occuring in 2020 it is so lacking in vision.

Of course the three main instigators at the heart of this situation are Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and David Cameron all of whom are repugnant creatures used to bullying their way into getting what they want and two of them -Johnson and Farage- must be feeling particularly smug today whilst Cameron, the catalyst  of this mess, is rightfully shunning the limelight being the architect of the disaster that is about to unfold.

It is worth noting that no-one- aside from a few Tories- had a problem with the EU until they announced that they were going to look into offshore accounts and tax havens for the rich and then suddenly the EU were the enemy and the reason behind anything wrong in Britain so therefore leaving was the only way forward to free ourselves from their shackles. The whole thing has been so depressing and so disappointing. The fact that ‘What is the EU?’ was the most googled thing the day AFTER the referendum is so telling and indicative of the ignorance at play here.

So that is it then- three and a half years of uncertainty and although Big Ben will not Bong for Brexit-another ludicrous and pathetic suggestion- we will leave the EU at midnight tonight. Forty seven years of progress and free movement wiped out in a single moment with nothing solved and only uncertainty ahead. The irony is the so called United Kingdom has never been so dis-united and it looks as if Scotland will go for independence in a second referendum- if it has any sense it will- and Northern Ireland may also reconsider their position leaving England and Wales who both voted Leave to their own ends.

Brexit- what a farce!

 

Little Women/ Jojo Rabbit

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January: the month when the post festivities comedown looms large and refuge is sought in cinemas and art galleries which become sanctuaries and natural habitats where we can seek some form of therapy whilst on a quest to feed our cultural appetites after the over-indulgences of the extended party season which preceded it. Luckily it is also the time when some great films are released as opposed to the Christmas tat and blockbusters which inevitably fill the cinemas in the pre-Christmas sell.

So far this year- or technically last year as both films were released at the tail end- the big two claiming the most attention are a new adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott  literary classic female coming of age tale Little Women and the conceptually interesting Jojo Rabbit, the tale of a ten year old junior Nazi who has as his invisible friend none other than Adolf Hitler.

Looking first at Little Women directed by Greta Gerwig it is certainly an attractive movie with a cast boasting Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, James Norton and the impossibly handsome Louis Garrell how could it not be? Add the titanic strength and talents of Meryl Streep as the formidable Aunt March and Laura Dern as the long suffering mother of the four sisters into the mix and the film becomes a powerhouse of collected talents which rather than clashing and overshadowing each other work together and lend each other the necessary space for each character to grow and deliver their own narrative clearly.

However the film-much like the novel-  belongs to Jo March( Ronan) who being a writer is also its narrator but the competitive spirit and different ambitions that exist between her and younger sister Amy (Pugh)are what really drives this story and the chemisty between the two actors symbolises this quite explicitly.

Ronan, for her part, captures the boisterous and impetuous nature of Jo perfectly and lends the part something of the indefatigable character of Patti Smith, or more correctly how I imagine a young Patti Smith might have approached the role. Pugh is much more studied in her characterisation emitting a cool sense of both determination and insecurity.

The film works as a whole however and there are some unmistakeable modern touches which indicate female empowerment without ramming it down the audience’s throat as a feminist manifesto.

The other big film at the moment is Taiki Waitti’s Jojo Rabbit which attempts to introduce some arthouse humpur into the tale of a ten year old boy who as a member of the Hitler Youth programme  has as his invisible friend none other than Adolf Hitler.

Ever since Chaplin’s The Great Dictator filmmakers have attempted to portray the Fuhrer as some kind of blundering slapstick buffoon as if this lends his monstrous acts some misguided comedic effect- particularly poignant as the UK has just elected a dangerous man masquerading as all of the aforementioned in recent weeks . This film and its portrayal of Hitler- played by Waititi himself- is of that line of thinking although this Hitler comes across an an inept, overgrown schoolboy.

Roman Griffin Davis however is remarkable in the role of Jojo capturing the conflict of someone raised on Nazi ideology but befriending a girl his single mother Rosie-played with aplomb by Scarlett Johannson-who as part of the resistance  has hidden in her house. The girl , Elsa,  also happens to be one of the hated jews surrounded in a cloak of disinformation and banal mythology by ridiculous propaganda. At first fearful and wary of her their relationship develops into something more comprehensive as he realises how wrong his prejudices in fact are.

Sam Rockwell also turns in an admirable performance as drunken Captain Klenzendorf who is unfit for battle due to the loss of an eye and has been relegated to indoctrinating and preparing youth for their role in a Nazi Germany.

Not without merit and on the surface wholly enjoyable I feel the film is slightly uneven in many ways. It is nowhere as near as funny as it would like to be and the ‘feelgood’ aspect is something of a cop out in my opinion; it lessens the impact of what the real message is here. Also I am unsure how the jewish community will react to some of the insults and preposterous claims hurled their way in the name of comedy.

Despite these misgivings I did really enjoy the film and the moment David Bowie’s Helden kicks in did bring a lump to my throat and a slight tear to my eye so I guess it does deliver on some of its ambitions.

 

 

JUST AN OBSERVATION

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I think it is beyond all doubt that this election campaign has unleashed the true nature of the Tories with all its deceit, lies and disinformation. What has disturbed me though is how willing people are to turn a blind eye to their dishonourable behaviour and malicious intent or, more worryingly, don’t even see it.

The future they envision for this country benefits no one  aside from themselves and their ilk. What confuses me more is how people in deprived areas and on low incomes  will still vote for them because the media have blindsided them with anti-Corbyn propaganda and smears of anti-semitism; smears that can be dispelled with even the simplest of fact checking. However this seems beyond the ‘sheeple’ who choose to believe the bile and rhetoric attacking the Labour leader as the media has such a tight stranglehold over the majority of our population that they accept anything that suits their shaped preconceptions; the Tories agenda which will cripple the vast majority of their supporters is hiding in plain sight.

I would hasten to add I am no Corbynist as I feel he has had an open goal with each successive government over the last few years and failed to score even the slightest of victories due to his ineffectual nature and unwillingness to get down in the rough and grapple with the dishonour of his Tory opponents who savage him at every opportunity which he seemigly allows them to do.

And what a bunch of lowlifes they are!

Setting aside the evil intent that consumes Boris Johnson for a moment let us consider his henchmen Michael Gove, Dominic Rabb, Matt Hancock and Priti Patel. There surely should be a collective noun for such an assembly and personification of evil that these four in particular represent. Between them they have made it clear that they systematically want to destroy and dismantle the NHS, workers rights, gay rights, public services and almost anything good that any previous generation has fought for and earned.

Then there is their inglorious leader Boris Johnson who really is such a malignant character that you couldn’t make him up; racist, homophobic, blustering, cowardly and an out and out liar. Why would anyone vote for him? It really is beyond all comprehension and reason; even members of his own party including a former Prime Minister-John Major- are advising to vote against him.

This week alone he has hidden in a fridge, shied away from an Andrew Neil interview, and when confronted by a journalist with an image of a four year old on a hospital floor suffering from pneumonia  pocketed the phone of said journalist ignoring the plight of the suffering child and instead goes on with his scripted bluster about getting Brexit done- what a weak phrase that actually is and it gets weaker with each of its many repeatings- and ‘one nation conservatives’ until he is forced by the journalist to address the issue at hand. The message that came across is that he simply does not care.

And still people will vote for him.

At worrying times such as these I am so glad I live in Scotland where there is a viable alternative in the shape of the SNP who are at least a progressive party and offer Independence away from the outmoded and corrupt state of Westminster. Like Labour and Corbyn they receive very little in the way of good press coverage despite huge surges in the polls and the straight talking, persuasive nature of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who has won any debate she has appeared in hands down.

Where the SNP have scored over recent times is in the amount of work they have done on the ground. They involve themselves in local events and affairs and are highly visible. This is not remote politics and it annoys me when I hear people down south say that Independence is the only thing they have to offer. Whilst they have not succeeded on every level-education is one example- our NHS is in a far better state than its English counterpart and they seem to be trying to create a more benign and caring society in general.

Yesterday I was at the hospital which I attend on a regular basis and receive excellent treatments which I am extremely grateful for and I was waiting on my prescription being made up when I espied a copy of the Daily Mail on the table in front of me. I tried my best to avoid looking at it but the bold lettering of the headline decrying Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn as some sort of axis of evil to be avoided at all costs caught my eye and I weakened and succumbed to reading about three paragraphs feeling quite nauseous- more nauseous than a recent biopsy made me feel- as I realised that many people read this atrocious bile and actually are taken in by it. In under a minute I had picked it up and deposited it in a bin realising that kind of journalism  is a despicable virus that spreads as fast as any other life threatening disease, poisoning the minds of all who come into contact with it.

So I am away out to vote now and rest assured I will be voting for a fairer, kinder society that the SNP offer Scotland and hope upon hope that when I wake up tomorrow I am not confronted with the smug arrogance of Boris Johnson with a majority and a mandate to wreak havoc and despair. Vote with your conscience I say!

 

 

JUST AN OBSERVATION

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It’s hard to know where to begin with the tissue of lies, misinformation, disinformation, blustering and accusations which lie at the heart of this General Election. You’d think by now even the most ignorant would see the distraction of ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s an anti-semite’  rhetoric that the Tory media trundle out every time his popularity spikes slightly in the polls is exactly that; a distraction and not based on truth or with any evidence to back it up.

However the Labour leader does himself no favours whatsoever by refusing to defend himself convincingly and unfortunately this is mainly down to him being -and here Prince Andrew could maybe take some lessons- too honourable. In fact his refusal to engage in any convincing battle of words with the Tories and all things considered he has, as Leader of the Opposition, actually done very little opposing.

This is more distressing as over the last four years he has more or less had an open goal with the last three Prime Ministers who have been the most incoherent, shambling and corrupt of any in history and yet he has still not managed to score one convincing victory. Let’s face it if you can’t come out the victor against the charmless Theresa May or the bumbling bullyboy Boris Johnson then your approach leaves a lot to be desired; the melting ice sculptures Channel 4 used as replacements for Johnson and Farage at last night’s leaders debate  about Climate Change had more charisma , empathy and warmth than either of these two as well as any member of the current cabinet you choose to consider.

Today Channel 4 find themselves so threatened by this audacity of using ice sculptures they are being told their broadcasting rights may be inhibited and restricted by a furious Tory party if they get into power; just think about that for a second.

As we enter the final two weeks of campaigning and The Tories have a substantial lead in the polls and even more worryingly are allegedly on track to win with a majority the whole situation is both frustrating and wholly surreal. Who on earth is voting for them? It is totally beyond my comprehension how people are so led by the bias of right wing media when so much information is out there. There is not one policy by the Tories that sounds believable and withstands any scrutiny whilst Labour seem to more be on the right track they are only offering what the SNP has provided in Scotland for years.

Yes,  the other parties where are they in all this?

Every time Jo Swinson makes an appearance in the media the LibDems slip in the polls, mainly because apparently the more often people see Swinson the less they like her. Now that must be encouraging.

The third biggest party in the UK  the SNP look likely to gain on their 2017 showing and perhaps a near total takeover of the Scottish vote whilst Nicola Sturgeon comes across as the most adept and genuine politician in the country winning every debate, argument and challenge hands down. Plaid Cymru and The Greens look on course to at least maintain their support. As for the so called Brexit Party well….

To be honest I am a little weary of politics at the moment as it all feels rather futile but at the same time I recognise that weariness is no solution and the last thing needed is complacency. There is everything to fight for at the moment and let’s all just enjoy the fact that Johnson can mess this up in the next two weeks and at least we have not had to endure the smug arrogance of Jacob Rees Mogg who has been removed from the campaign as collateral damage. He’ll probably turn up having been hiding in a ventriloquists suitcase at some inopportune moment unfortunately.

Elsewhere this week there has been controversy surrounding the Rapman-aka Andrew Onwubolu– directed film Blue Story about postcode gang wars. After violence at a Birmingham screening the Vue chain removed it from their cinemas amongst an outcry that it promoted violence. I have seen this film and whilst violence and gang warfare are at its core in no way would I contend that it encourages these things. Quite the opposite, in fact the film shows the futility at the heart of such battles and there is a love story at its very heart- not just that of two lovers but also the love between two friends who find their relationship ripped apart by pointless violence and imagined grievances.

Why this film was removed from distribution is beyond me as I have seen far worse on TV -Top Boy which it shares a spiritual kinship with is just one example- and on streaming channels such as Netflix. There have been claims it is a race issue and this could hold up as if the protagonists were white we might not be discussing this issue but I fear it has just been a miscalculated over-reaction on the part of the cinema chain and one they are apparently reconsidering in the light of these accusations. Let us not dismiss the fact that racism and xenophobia are very much on the rise however so accusations of racism might not be completely unfounded and Vue are maybe running scared of being tied in with these claims.

It is a great film however and definitely worthwhile catching if you can. The characters are well executed and wholly convincing whilst the subject matter is crucial at a time when knife crime and gang violence is so rife and on the rise. The film acts as more of a warning rather than  offering encouragement or solutions and that is something requiring a wider audience rather than a restricted one.

For those out there who indulge in such things it would appear Black Friday is upon us- I avoid it like the plague or a Tory manifesto both of which are roughly the same thing-  although something of a traditionalist I still believe Black Friday to be the Friday before Christmas when the pubs were infltrated by amateurs out on the lash and making total arses of themselves. Either way  it means Christmas is looming on the horizon. Let’s just hope people use their vote wisely and remember the Turkeys voting for Christmas maxim.

 

 

 

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!