JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday 3rd February

 

February arrived with a blast of icy chill and the disconcerting news that two of my favourite haunts in Edinburgh- Cabaret Voltaire and Axolotl Gallery- are to be no more in the very near future. Thankfully in Axolotl’s case it is a matter of relocating rather than closing down but unfortunately it seems as if Cab Vol is leaving us and no matter how many cries of ‘one more tune’ permeate its interiors the doors will close permanently soon .This is sad news not only for me personally but for Edinburgh in general as both venues although poles apart in what they showcased shared a spirit of independence and vive la difference which is essential in establishing the city its own identity. What both represented was an independent wave of relentless individuality in a sea of corporate blandness and thus fulfilled a need as part of the city’s cultural landscape.

Further to this they are both helmed by incredibly strong, indefatigable women that, as coincidence would have it, both answer to the name Sarah-David (Cab Vol) and Wilson (Axolotl) –whose input to the success of these two venues has been inestimable. Within the next couple of weeks I will hopefully be doing feature articles on both of them and discussing the achievements and successes they attained during their tenure. Both venues are also departing with more of a bang than a whimper- I wouldn’t expect anything less- with Axolotl hosting a closing down sale with amazing artworks at discount prices with all proceeds going to Cancer Research and the Cab has a closing night pencilled in for sometime in February – I need to confirm this- so February may be holding some memorable events as I have been ably assisted from both places after evenings of excessive hedonism in the past.

It is rumoured that the Cab is to be replaced by one of those dens of bad taste which pander to the cultural blight that is Stag and Hen Parties. Great! Just what Edinburgh inhabitants need yet another reason to stay in on a Saturday night? At least it will keep the understaffed, cleansing department busy whilst also providing ample opportunity to sneak a first glimpse at what will be available on the singles market in the near future describing themselves as divorcees. Oh well perhaps the youth will get up off their lazy arses and create a scene of their own for the first time in decades.

Elsewhere this week I caught a documentary on BBC2 on Tuesday called My Child The Rioter concerning the London riots in August which gave an interesting insight into parenting in this day and age. Whilst I was in some agreement with the original premise behind the riots- dissatisfied youth with no future being led by a hastily assembled government no-one voted for- it seemed to spiral into opportunism and simply became retail rioting with flat screen TV’s and a new pair of trainers being the solution for many. Whilst I do not want to disparage those who felt they had an axe to grind I do not feel setting fire to local businesses already struggling in the recession and terrorising locals then clearing out Dixons and Foot Locker assisted their cause in anyway.

Things became a little clearer however during this documentary as the parents who agreed to be interviewed alongside their errant offspring seemed even less remorseful than the children they were supposed to be instilling a moral code into. One of the interviewees Lei admitted he heard about the riots and then nipped out and stole two pairs of trainers then made home simply to dump them in a pile of stuff already cluttering up his room. Hardly the actions of someone desperate and doing without is it?  Likewise the army recruit Ian who tried to sell a stolen guitar worth Two Thousand pounds he claimed he bought unsuspectingly for twenty had his mother protesting his innocence saying he simply was not like that at all. Sorry love, but opens your eyes and you might discover that he was caught red handed so he is indeed very much like that. On and on it went with every parent defending their child’s actions the very liberal David merely tut tutted when his son Fabian admitted arson and seemed more alarmed when he revealed he didn’t even know what arson meant until he was charged with it.

The most worrying case however involved a girl who accidentally caught up in the action was wrongly identified as being involved in theft valued at over a hundred thousand pounds, when all she had done, as CCTV footage attested, was lift two odd trainers which she promptly discarded, received a custodial sentence whilst the arsonist received a suspended sentence.  Somehow she still received a custodial sentence whilst the arsonist received a suspended sentence. It showed how unfair the situation which sparked the riots had become as the arsonist from his comfy middle class background was treated more leniently than the working class girl who stole nothing and didn’t destroy someone else’s property.

Perhaps people should be more appreciative of what they have and realise that sometimes the best things in life are free.

You wouldn’t know this however by an experiment carried out in Washington this week wherein internationally renowned violinist Joshua Bell performed six Bach concertos in the subway and remained virtually ignored. This despite two days earlier performing the same pieces at a Boston theatre with seats averaging a $100 apiece which only confirms how self obsessed and unappreciative our culture is becoming. Passers by were probably too busy checking their iphones constantly to remind themselves of how important they think they are- one of my personal pet hates are people who text and read their phones whilst half heartedly engaging in conversation as if to state their importance and diminish yours- or else plugged into the bubble of their ipod. The most attention he received was from a three year old child  promptly dragged away by his impatient mother, so perhaps the future, without the interference of their parents, does lie in the hands of the young after all.

Several good films out this weekend and after the disappointing and lacklustre The Descendants, for which George Clooney has been nominated for an Oscar but was competently out-acted by his Hawaiian shirt and old English Sheepdog grey locks I am looking to be impressed. The first up is Martha Marcy May Marlene (God-awful title) which is already being acclaimed as a cult classic even before its UK Release, followed by the new Polanski offering, Carnage, and Charlize Theron’s latest Young Adult. It looks therefore like a weekend spent in darkened rooms ahead for me though many might add this is nothing new, but they would indeed be wrong.

The Black Keys- a current favourite their album El Camino, all glam stomp, crunchy guitars and euphoric almost disco hook-lines, has been soundtracking my days recently- are on at the Corn Exchange tomorrow so this will replace the Danish drama Borgen as my Saturday night entertainment. Similar to Eddy in the Ab Fab Xmas special I  think I am now fluent in Danish and find myself mumbling unintelligibly at the screen at inopportune moments by way of offering an opinion or insight.. Thank God then for catch up TV and iplayer otherwise I would be having a dilemma worthy of a drama all in its own category, whilst giving an award winning performance of sorts.

Oh, and if anyone is interested someone has exhumed Steve Strange and he is making a one off appearance at The Citrus club tonight where you will probably see him quite literally fade to grey. Nope, didn’t think so but thought I’d mention it anyway. As a remembrance of his heady heyday and a record which helped to ignite a national club scene here is the original video of Fade to Grey from 1981.

 

THE DESCENDANTS

The Descendants

 

So The Descendants is the film directed by Alexander Payne which allegedly coaxes what could be an Oscar winning performance out of George Clooney, but does the film-and just as importantly his performance- justify the garlands being hurled at it and live up to the pre-release hype? The answer would have to be both yes and no as the film and Clooney seem to amble along at a hazy, leisurely pace that is in sync with the acoustic soundtrack and the supposed laidback Hawaiian lifestyle it sets out to depict. However neither the film or Clooney are deserving of the Oscar-though the fact he hasn’t won previously this may be his last chance before old age catches up with him will probably ensure he take the prize- but this should not detract from the fact the film is still worth checking out as it still has a lot to recommend it.

Clooney plays Matt King a wealthy business man in Hawaii whose wife is in a coma after a boating accident and he now finds himself the lone parent to two girls who previously had little to do with. Matters are complicated when he discovers, through the elder of his daughters, the wayward 17 year old Alexandra, that his wife was having an affair and at the time of her accident considering leaving him. He then embarks on a mission to find his rival who, as misfortune would have it, also stands to gain millions of dollars in a business deal Matt is in the middle of negotiating. The issues and decisions Matt then has to make raise conflicting emotions and unparalleled deep rooted fears concerning his integrity and will impact on both his immediate family and more distant relatives as well as the surrounding nenvironment and heritage.

The developing relationship between Matt and his daughters is the strongest aspect of this film and in this he is more than ably assisted by Shallene Woodley (Alexandra) and Amara Miller as unpredictable ten year old Scottie. The introduction of Alexandra’s goofy friend Sid (Nick Krause) is unnecessary, underdeveloped and clumsy, seemingly there to provide a bit of low rent humour. There are some real tender moments between the central trio tinged with both humour and sadness-the lachrymose ending is lazy and a little too crowd pleasing though- which detail the conflicting emotions of a family which has been thrown into crisis. Without this central premise the film would have little substance as the narrative these relationships support hardly enthrals or creates any other kind of tension.

This lack of tension does not render the film boring however it simply never raises its pace unnecessarily and this is an admirable quality in an age when an audience demands constant distraction usually consisting of fast paced pyrotechnics or CGI saturated cleverness. What unravels instead is an emotional, heartfelt understanding of the basics of human nature and what drives us all in our search for integrity. Clooney’s performance may lack the emotional intensity of , say , Ryan Gosling in Drive or Michael Fassbender  in Shame- both cruelly ignored in the Oscar nominations- but he handles his role adequately whilst subtly through nuance shows the inner machinations of a man going through many life changing and unfamiliar emotions.

NEU REEKIE

Neu  Reekie

 

Billing itself as a double header celebrating Robert Burns and local raconteur and agent provocateur Paul Reekie this evening was one in a series of bi-monthly events pulling together various strands of Edinburgh’s burgeoning underground arts community whilst providing it with  a much needed platform. Some idea of the area it occupies could be found in the opening film the landmark short by Kenneth Anger Invocation of My Demon Brother featuring weirdly synthesized electronic loops alongside images of black magic rituals spliced with self styled Lucifer Mick Jagger on stage at the Stones’ Brian Jones commemorative gig in Hyde Park. Getting the evening off to a dark start things moved seamlessly onto celebrating the poetry of Scottish bard Robert Burns  recited  by one of the Neu Reekie founders, Kevin Williamson.

Opening with ‘Address of Beelzebub’ the delivery was pitched perfectly and the contemporary visuals exquisitely synchronized capturing the poignancy of the lines whilst affording them contemporary relevance and gravitas. Five poems were delivered in all including ‘Lines on a Bank Note’-where the punchline was delivered alongside a bank note featuring the instantly recognisable Burns visage- and the ‘Tree of Liberty’ accompanied by images of Nelson Mandela, a Hitler led Nazi rally  and the lone figure bravely standing up to the tanks in Tiananmen Square. The poems may be more than two hundred years old but housed in this setting their currency has not devalued one iota in the interim and the images chosen to highlight this were well selected and sharply perceptive.

The second part of the evening was dedicated to the memory of Paul Reekie who, had he lived, would have been celebrating being fifty this week. Celebration is a good word to describe Paul Reekie who always played the part of the idiot savant  meets raconteur with a hefty amount of irony, skill, humour insight, and unbelievable chutzpah creating ,in the process, a highly admired local legend which only a city like Edinburgh could produce. The films shown to highlight this were skilful in that they covered all these aspects including karaoke versions of ‘Satellite of Love’, a radio interview wherein he baffled fellow interviewees as well as the interviewer, clips of him in front of a home grown marijuana jungle soundtracked by ‘The Green, Green Grass of Home’ as well as thought provoking claims that chill out zones were merely boot camps of interaction.

The last part of the evening was dedicated to musical performance and here another local legend Robert King-of the Scars- provided the goods and delivered a set which was emotional without being overwrought or sentimental. It was a fitting finish to an evening which delivered on several different levels and left most of its attendees salivating at the prospect of the next one.

 

The next Neu Reekie event is on February 24th at the Scottish Book Trust, 55 High Street . Doors open at 7pm.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday January 27th

Someone tweeted me this week-an unfortunate side effect brought about by the necessary but reluctant joining of the twittering classes- informing me I should watch Celebrity Big Brother as it was probably one of the best episodes ever, which in hindsight is not much of a recommendation at all. Initially my first thought was to unplug every television but eventually I succumbed and tuned in. What I was then ‘treated’ to was an hour of drunken women behaving like the hen parties that populate Edinburgh streets every Saturday night and have encouraged me to stay in at the weekend and watch television. Therefore the paradox of staying in on a week night and watching these same antics was ironic at best and excruciating at worst. The worst offender in this band of shrieking, hysterical was Denise Welch-the self styled cougar who is an insult to the term and provides the best reason yet for the re-introduction of blood sports- who is a one woman hen party at the best of times and her behaviour here was pitiful and desperate. Not that she was the only offender. I am not sure who the others were but later discovered that a glamour model and two twins who were Playboy models were involved.

The furore started when Welch pulled down the pyjama bottoms of one of the twins during an all girls together party whilst dancing to ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ –oh the irony- before it escalated into a full scale screeching battle about the violation of rights and privacy with the ‘victim’ claiming she was going to sue if the scenes were broadcast. Whilst I agree Welch was foolish and impetuous I do not believe her actions were malicious but instead the actions of a past it, haggard woman who wanted to show she was still able to get down with the kids and messed up big time in the process. Also no-one has the right to pull at another person’s clothes in an attempt to expose them even if they do take their clothes off for a living. The point being if someone chooses to expose their body to make money that is their choice and their choice alone not someone else’s no matter how funny they think they are being.

The most offensive thing about the whole debacle however was the nonentity that is something called a Frankie Cocozza stood up for Welch –and in many eyes older women in general- thus revealing him as some sort of hero. This is annoying as an X- Factor reject with no discernible talent he should have disappeared from our screens forever but now it appears he might win the whole CBB experience therefore cluttering up our screens indefinitely. Apart from this after an hour of watching I could not believe anyone thought watching a bunch of drunken women arguing made good television-the argument was not insightful or intelligent but simply pointless and dull- and concluded that the reality genre has reached a new low.

Much more amusing was the BBC4 drama We’ll Take Manhattan about David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton’s iconic photo shoot in New  York in the early sixties which, if the script was to be believed, shaped the whole of the following decade. Whilst these claims are grandiose and inaccurate Bailey was an influential figure alongside such luminaries as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dylan and Warhol in recognising the upswing in youthful activity and the necessary changing of the guard. The whole drama was played out as a comedy although I am not sure whether this was the intention. Throughout the battle lines were drawn out in an exaggerated fashion to detail the different attitudes between the warring generations and Bailey was portrayed as a caricature East End boy all ‘Cor Blimey Guvnor’ and ‘Alright Cock’ ‘s which reduced his status as an intelligent influence and rendered him a belligerent thug. The performances by Karen Gillan and Aneurin Barnard were excellent though and they were nearly as gorgeous as their real life counterparts were in their heyday.

The Oscar nominations were announced this week and as I predicted before there are some glaring omissions including Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton. George Clooney and Meryl Streep look dead certs in their categories and The Artist looks like it will have the same sweep of the board The Kings Speech did last year. It seems films which have the feel good factor seem to win the Academy’s vote during times of recession and I hope this does not mean we are going to be inundated with pointless rehashes and homages in the next few years in the hope of being nominated. As for the omissions I can only assume the inclusion of Clooney and Pitt in the male category is more down to their ages rather than their performances and this may be their last chance at taking home an award before their appeal fades and they are reduced-like most of the older generation in Hollywood- to supporting roles. I have not seen Clooney’s film as yet- it is on my agenda for the coming weekend- so will not pass judgment until I have.

Also on this weekend –tonight- is the Neu Reekie double celebration for Robert Burns and the late Paul Reekie. With a heady mix of poetry, music, animation and film-including some rare previously unseen footage of Reekie- this looks like it will be a busy night showcasing a lot of local talent which definitely deserves supporting. Reekie was a local legend and to see him recognised alongside the greatness of Burns is an act he would have appreciated.

Talking of local legends the indefatigable Roxy is hosting one of his legendary parties on Sunday night at the Speak Easy in Cabaret Voltaire from eleven onwards. His bashes are always a hoot – and his party there last summer was one of the best and most talked about in Edinburgh all year not sure what the occasion is this time- unless like our less regal Queen he is now having two birthdays a year although it has often felt that way in the past or alternatively it could be some sort of jubilee- but it doesn’t really matter as it is definitely worth investigating if only as a perfect antidote in banishing the January blues.

For those of a more gentle persuasion-or wanting a relaxed afternoon warm up- Gavin Evans is holding another of his successful ambient Electric Cafe afternoons at the Institute in Roseneath Street Marchmont on Sunday from 2pm onwards. These are an excellent way to unwind after  a heady weekend or even as a chill out on a lazy Sunday for a bit of gentle socializing with an interesting arty crowd mixing in a way they usually don’t. It is an interesting cocktail-like Neu Reekie – of the arts and allows the different factions to bind together and exchange thoughts and ideas.

Much controversy has surrounded Lana Del Rey- her hotly anticipated debut is released on Monday- and whether she has reinvented herself in order to attain success. I am not sure how this constitutes a bad thing however as re-invention is stock in trade in the music industry. Imagine if David Bowie had stayed a long haired hippy with crooked teeth and a wonky eye crooning ‘Kooks’ or, even worse, remained  an Anthony Newley sound-alike churning out the likes of The Laughing Gnome instead of refashioning himself as a spiky haired androgynous intergalactic rock star who changed the face of rock music forever. Likewise what if Iggy Pop had remained behind the drum kit of his local Detroit band  thus  depriving us of one of the greatest frontmen ever? Similarly the Beatles could have continued with simplistic pop and Dylan stuck with folkie protest instead of changing and challenging not only the public’s expectations but their capabilities also.

Onward and upward into the weekend then-snow predicted apparently- and talking of re-invention still no time to see the expert in this department, Madonna’s latest celluloid effort which is not being universally trashed as her excursions into this field usually are. Apparently she is going on tour soon to promote her latest album the desperate sounding MDNA- perhaps she has been consulting with Denise Welch on how to get it wrong and how to dress dead carcass up as mutton- claiming she needs to tour to pay the rent. I am not sure whether her latest Latino toyboy appreciates being referred to by that term-it is becoming harder to differentiate between who she is dating and who she has adopted- but perhaps it is easier than trying to remember their names.

MISS DIXIEBELLE

Miss DixieBelle

                                                                                   

 

Fast approaching its second birthday Miss DixieBelle has managed to brighten up the previous dreary landscape of Bruntsfield during its brief tenure with a cornucopia of vintage delights alongside various styling routines and accessories guaranteed to inspire and excite. Dealing exclusively in nostalgia Miss DixieBelle doesn’t just unimaginatively retread old fashions and peddle them as fancy dress or novelty but instead garners them a new lease of life imbuing them with an inherent sense of the contemporary and elegant relevance. Entering into the shop immediately instils a sense of warmth wrapped up in the warmth of familiarity whilst never slipping into the murky waters of predictability or costume style banality  Providing the necessary hairstyles, manicures, lingerie and accessories that complete the looks-several decades are more than covered and catered for- it is possible to leave this exotic bijoux boutique looking as if you have stepped out on the set of Pearl Harbour or are about to guest star in an episode of Mad Men.

The effect is definitely more bombshell than bombsite and this return to an age where women felt the need to be glamorous from head to toe-neglecting nothing in between- is a welcome relief from the Saturday night ‘Look at me I’m a whore’ outfits which have proliferated over the last few years where the vertiginous heels have reached ridiculous heights and the hemlines are even higher. The emphasis is on ladylike with no sacrifice of sensuality instead giving it both simplicity and sophistication which makes women feel better and men appreciate them even more. This new band of women however are not dressing merely to please their men-folk but instead they are very much doing it for themselves and celebrating their femininity by rewarding themselves with an indulgent pampering experience.

At the very heart of making this experience so worthwhile is Emma Dixon who not only runs the shop but is very hands on in her approach to maintaining its high standards as well as being the prime advocate of its own available designs. Available onsite are a hair salon complete with nail technician and make up artists to complete the look to accompany the dresses thus ensuring everything is adequately co-ordinated. Special event nights are also frequent and extremely popular. There is even a photo-shoot service available wherein a guest photographer-along with Miss Dixie Belle’s accomplished styling team can help you create the portrait of your celluloid dreams. So being a Marilyn, Liz, Ava, Jane Russell or even a Betty Grable for even a photographic moment is within the realms of possibility.

A wedding service is also available turning that special big day into something totally memorable as well as original. The look is not all about retro and flamboyance however as many of the dresses are suitable work wear for women who are required to dress smart in the work place but do not want to go down the more traditional suit and blouse road quashing their femininity on the way.  It has certainly come a long way from its humble burlesque beginnings-now that the bottom, figuratively speaking, has fallen out of that trend- and has diversified into something more grown up and sophisticated whilst retaining some of their initial premise of harking back to a more glamorous age.

The designers stocked in this veritable fantasia of a boutique include What Katie Did and La Belle Epoque but Dixon also seeks out and promotes local talent such as Darn It. Although Miss DixieBelle is the ultimate in self indulgence it also sells gift vouchers which allow you to indulge your friends and introduce them to the wonders of the stylistic treats and pampering service on offer. Although the experience is part of the package- I was more than ably assisted by the lovely, effervescent Kirsty looking for all the world like Grease’s head Pink Lady, Rizzo (a look all buttoned up cardigan, stretchy tailored cigarette pants and flats) but paraphrasing that characters signature tune ‘There are Worse Things You Could Do’- there is also an online service available. This would be ideal not only  for those who do not live in Edinburgh but still want to indulge themselves in a treat but also to those whose location or schedule does not allow them to visit the shop in person. Go on give it a twirl- many of the dresses are ideal for such an elaborate movement- and treat yourself to the Miss DixieBelle experience. What Miss DixieBelle celebrates is embracing this very femininity and giving it a treat and an outing all in one go.

Photos by FourthEye photography

 

Miss Dixie Belle can be located at 19 Bruntsfied Place Edinburgh EH10 4HN and is open Monday to Saturday 11am-5.30pm

Telephone- 0131 629 7783

 Email- info@missdixiebelle.co.uk

The next date for a vintage styling event is Thursday 2nd February

 Click on the link below for full details and information about Miss Dixiebelle and to enter the online boutique.

www.missdixiebelle.co.uk

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday January 20th

 

After the Golden Globes on Sunday it is now time to assimilate the amazing fact Madonna actually won an award at a film bash. Not exactly admired by the film industry- Desperately Seeking Susan where she more or less played herself was a career highlight although she put in a respectable turn in Evita even if her portrayal of a fifteen year old virginal Eva Peron was hard to swallow even with a heavily vaselined lens- this will garner her latest turkey, unfortunately a month late for the Xmas audience, W.E. with some much needed credibility. Though she does not actually appear in the film-the amazingly talented Andrea Riseborough and James D’Arcy have that misfortune,-the trailers and clips confirm it is in dire need of any boost it can gather.  Actually Madonna herself gave her most convincing performance in years on the Graham Norton show last week where she did a more than passable imitation of a decent human being. The whole thing may have been scripted to within an inch of its life but at least she seemed to possess a little of the sassiness of her former incarnation- even if she could not walk in her heels or sit in her skirt- and she was certainly less irritating than her host who raised obsequiousness and low grade camp to a new low. Unfortunately however this did not in any way entice me to actually go and see the film which despite picking up an award for its title song-how?-  will do little to further her royal Madgesty’s reputation with filmgoers. I am not sure why she even bothered why she bothered making a document of the lowly royal family when her reputation as a modern day deity far exceeds their reputation in our celebrity saturated and obsessed culture. Mind you at least she is not Kerry Katona who is apparently bankrupt again which means she will be all over the media trying to boost her profile and bank balance. Just how many chances does this creation actually need. I am not actually sure what a Kerry Katona is but I do wish someone would hurry up and formulate a cream which would clear it up and make it go away once and for all.

Mind you Madonna’s many screen disasters have more credibility than the claims by Francesco Schettino- captain of the Costa Concordia- that he slipped and fell into a lifeboat, abandoning both his sinking ship and the passengers under his responsibility, during the tragedy off the coast of Giglio last week. It is a sad indictment of our times when someone in such a position can abandon his duties when the going gets tough ostensibly leaving others to perish. Although nothing has yet been proved –innocent until proven otherwise- it seems unlikely that Schettino’s claims will gather any credence over time.

Further evidence of self motivated acts of self preservation can be found in the new film Margin Call detailing the financial crash of 2008 which has impacted globallyand affects each and every one of us on a daily basis. The film a first time effort by newcomer J.C. Chardor takes place in an unnamed firm who after over extending themselves find they are slipping into a financial abyss and the only way to save themselves is by selling off all their assets-all worth the grand total of nothing- to unsuspecting traders. The behaviour of those selling off these worthless assets is totally unscrupulous and without integrity on any level-one scene sees an unsuspecting trader buying up 130 million dollars worth of stock which will put his firm out of business and him out of a job- and will not discourage anyone from calling for the stripping of Fred Godwin’s knighthood which has also been in the news this week. Margin Call is a well made, highly watchable film however and does feature a high octane cast including Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey , Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Paul Bettany’s weird accent and Demi Moore who, like Madonna, also can’t walk in her heels. Perhaps they are Kabbalah heels and  are not meant to be  walked in  but donate them ten percent of your earnings instead. A full review of Margin Call can be found here.

Much has also been made of the twenty four hour Wikipedia blackouts this week. Instigated by the attempts of Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa) to prevent freedom of speech on the internet and allow the Justice Department and content owners to seek court orders which would allow search engines to block results associated with piracy. This could include an independent site or blog from using quotes or information already out there on the web. It is such a sketchy issue at the moment but the long term ramifications are huge with implications for many online businesses. Wikipedia took the stance and although I find the site invaluable at times I am also aware it is often under researched and not always wholly accurate but then again what is? Like much of what is on the internet it would be unwise to accept it totally and it is always worthwhile searching out different opinions and information servers-many of my friends have actually named me Google as I seem to know so much …well actually they haven’t but perhaps they might after reading this-as just because something is on the internet does not necessarily make it true. A return to the days of censored media is not something I wish for but neither is a media which resorts to phone hacking peoples private messages in search of a story. The internet provides a forum for many, who previously had no outlet to do so, to have their own voice and express their opinions quite freely and as one of the initial criteria for its success this should be allowed to continue. Some form of monitoring is necessary however but neither censorship nor control ever lead to anything healthy as has been proven throughout history- provided you believe in history (whatever happened to herstory?) and don’t consider it written by the winners of wars- to detrimental effect. Let’s hope freedom of speech can continue on the internet as there is still so much I personally want to say. Then again a little self censorship wouldn’t go amiss but honestly I am trying! Well a little bit anyway.

MARGIN CALL

Margin Call

 

Featuring a high class ensemble cast –Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Penn Badgley, and Stanley Tucci all put in an appearance- Margin Call attempts to tell the events of 2008 resulting in the global financial crisis from an insider business trader’s point of view. Needless to say not many will leave the cinema feeling any more sympathy towards the financial bigwigs playing fast and loose with the financial structure many rely on, providing they had any sympathy in the first place. The first time writer and director J.C. Chandor manages to coax solid performances out of his impressive cast even if Paul Bettany’s accent whilst playing trading desk manager Will Emerson falters as precariously as the unnamed company’s finances and on occasion is downright weird. Despite this Chandor does manage to capture the reptilian nature of the self serving ethics of high powered business and its total lack of integrity when it comes to saving its own skin and although the film is reliably conventional in both its narrative drive and construction it still manages to maintain a high level of tension even if we are aware how it will pan out from the very beginning.

The film gets underway with multiple lay offs in the risk department of a trading firm and following the departure of the  department head  Eric Dale- Tucci- who has realised something is amiss in the company’s figures he hands his junior team member Peter Sullivan-Quinto-,a former rocket scientist, a disc with his recent unfinished findings. Sullivan wastes no time in finding what Dale had been missing and realises the company is on the brink of financial ruin. The only way to prevent this is by selling off all the assets they have in their possession even though they are worth absolutely nothing. A moral dilemma then ensues as this means they are ruining other businesses in the process alongside their own firm’s reputation as no-one will ever trust them again. The dilemma is short-lived however as self preservation rises to the fore and deals and compromises are waged in a misguided attempt at solidarity. A sacrificial lamb in the form of Sharon Robertson-Demi Moore- head of the risk department, who had warned company heads of the dangers ahead a year previously, is offered in a vain attempt to keep the wolves at bay when looking for someone to blame. It is symbolic that the character sacrificed is female as the big guns all seem to occupy some form of archaic gentlemen’s club with bright young spark Sullivan gaining not just a promotion but a shortcut to its exclusive membership thanks to his discoveries. It is also worth observing that she is the only character referred to throughout by the derogatory term ‘c***’ even though it could be applied to many other characters more deserving of the title, Therefore the gender divide in big business still obviously exists though some may argue that her character managed to turn up to a hastily called late night meeting in five inch f*** me heels so perhaps she got what she wanted as she was well and truly f***ed by her male contemporaries.  Meanwhile all traders are out to save their own skins by selling off the worthless stocks ruining businesses and lives whilst themselves receiving seven figure bonuses as a reward for doing so.  The end result is the financial crisis which has impacted globally over the last three years and shows no signs of abating.

Margin Call is an impressive film with a high powered cast which ensures a good looking board room. It does fall short on innovation and suspense however as we are aware of the outcome even before the film begins. Chandor does capture some of the nastiness and lack of integrity which lay at the core of this situation and tries to lay out a different perspective in a scene when Emerson claims the traders have been doing us a favour all these years by providing us with a fantasy lifestyle. It fails to convince as even at the films conclusion those who lead us to the brink and then some are still being financially rewarded for their mistakes-think Fred Godwin of RBS- whilst those they have ruined and put out of work are still struggling. What the film does do cleverly by having such a recognisable cast is instil some sense of familiarity- where previously anonymity reigned supreme-regarding those who placed us in our current financial plight, Proving yet again by Hollywood standards if you are going to blame anyone then they might as well be good looking.