Category Archives: UK

If Nick Griffin’s Appearance Told Us Anything…

If Nick Griffin’s cameo as the Villainous Glutton on BBC’s flagship political debatathon reminds us of anything, it’s that the right to free speech does not equate to complicit agreement of abhorrent ideologies.  There were many who feared that allowing Nick Griffin on the programme would provide the BNP with a platform to indoctrinate, in some vile Orwellian manner that has eluded the other parties (they would bloody well try if they could), the millions of viewers it would no doubt attract.  Such a fear was a gross overestimation of the BNP’s means.

Should anyone have stepped back from the hysteria, they would have noticed that the BNP is hardly privy to slick media  methods and totally in the dark about mind control techniques utilised by this man.  Indeed, earlier this year they were found out for using the image of a WWII spitfire flown by a Polish pilot in a campaign stressing the need for a pure, English society.  Their votes are gathered instead by rhetoric that creates false scapegoats out of greater social problems, and rhetoric that is delivered through the channels of the BNP’s own PR, and never open conjecture.

People seem to have underestimated their own voice in this debate.  There is no question that the BNP should be allowed into debates around the country.  They should, it’s their right as citizens and the BBC have made the correct decision in allowing Griffin on.  In fact, I’m surprised they took so long about it; surely an open debate would have exposed Griffin’s views long ago, and would also have given us a flavour of his character in ways the BNP’s PR could not control.  But the BNP’s idealogy roams in the fields far away from accepted public discourse of perception – we’ve all realised how jaded a reaction xenophobia is by now, surely – and the unified condemnation of Griffin is a welcome reminder that free speech does not mean people have to listen.

One wonders however, whether the occasion would have been better served, not with pantomime boos and classic put-downs (see this), but with a more sedate and meticulous scenario.  It’s a shame that the other political parties swept upon Question Time not to gain points with the public for their own policies, but simply to condemn a more hated fellow, but you almost felt them justified considering Griffin mentioning the wartime imprisonment of Jack Straw’s father.  Griffin certainly could have used a curtain to draw in front of his seat to curtail the jeering at times, but there is the sad realisation that he could utilise his poor reception to proclaim he was tried unfairly.  That isn’t so, but considering the BBC’s reputation wincing away under intense and absurd public scrutiny, such a claim could ensure that Griffin a small portent of contentment.

Revised Impressions of Heroes: Villains

It has been a while since I last had the time to post something on here, but now I have the time, I thought it would be apt to articulate my impressions of Heroes‘ third volume – Villains – thus far.  As this is being written, the last episode of this “arc” has yet to air, and if it were not for my willingless to experience a sub-par stream with bad sound synchronisation, I would have to wait another week.  However, I think, as we stand on the precipice of the volumes finale, we can garner some interesting observations on the series so far.

First off, I would like to congratulate myself for noting the haphazard pacing of the season opener, which in retrospect really was the taste of things to come.  Of course, of course, that has since become evident to everyone, but I feel due respect should be given in my case.  Forgetting vanity for a minute, I think it must be said, again, that the leverage of the “fans” really is noticeable on the show; the producers, writers and network seem to cave in to the speculation and wishes of die-hard fans without a fight.  I am not saying that those vocal fans are not accurate or inaccurate in their criticisms and suggestions, but the writers are writers for a reason, the production team working on Heroes for a reason and the network financing it for a reason.

I find following a show so susceptible to fan reactions to be a bit of a pain, especially when it results in often irrevocably dire plot lines and character arcs.  Consider the character of Sylar; a hit, memorable character who is the darling of superlatives the world over – yet because of his popularity with the fanbase, this dodgy fellow has been allowed both survive a sword through the heart (which ultimately undermines the entire first season) and recieve a humanising redemption from the pit of Hell in seasons 2 and 3.  It isn’t that Gabriel Gray (Zachary  Quinto) isn’t a bad villain – in fact, he’s generally played to great effect by the strange looking Quinto – but that Heroes is unable to tell the stories it wants because of the fans incessant whining.

The pace of the season has drfited between flat action sequences, rarely filmed with the kind of visceral verve invested in those of season one or two, and flat discourses between characters with some cringeworthy dialogue.  All in all, if  you had to pick and chose a list of shows in your weekly schedule of “self-time,” on paper, Heroes would not be up there.  However, I continually find an idea, or an enigma to look forward to in Heroes.  It does not matter whether Heroes provides or not – especially when some of the notions you pick up on are so unfounded – because neither do other big, ensemble dramas like Lost, which is driven by ideas, but ideas without explanation.

Heroes is often at its unwittingly strongest when it plays around with the ideas of lineage and misue of power; the whole mythology is more concrete than Lost and all the more fascinating for it.  Again, on paper, season 3 should have this in spades, but instead of the unravelling misdeeds of previous Generations in season 2, we instead find a rather flat character in Arthur Petrelli, the presumed dead patriarch of the Petrelli dynasty, played by Robert Foster.  Foster is a strange proposition; the potentially complex and memorable character of Arthur Petrelli is played with the kind of aplomb that should result in one, yet something feels off about his appearance, his delivery of dialogue and the fact that you can’t help but feel Foster is miscast in a role that would be much more effective if the the budget allowed for a bigger actor.

Foster is no bad actor however; his mincing of dialogue is great stuff, but the notion of respected lawyer and philanphropist does not suit an actor who would be more at home playing the local mob boss.  He just doesn’t have the gravitas to make the role convincing or even threatening enough for the series arch villain, especially one who has the powerful Austin Linderman (a superb Malcom McDowell) in his pocket.  Back to the events of the season itself and great news for those who thought Arthur was an odd fish; the penultimate episode Our Father (and one that got increasingly better as it went on) had Sylar telekinetically launch a bullet into the mans head, killing him instantly and destroying the cells that generate his abilities.  Arthur’s legacy is there, and it seems the wonderful Nathan Petrelli (a chisel-jawed politician with a paradox for a moral center) has taken up his fathers villainous mantle, which hopefully means the cluttered ensemble drama can keep with one clear goal for the next volume, entitled Fugitives.  Or mabye they’ll scrap that plottime when the fans vote in.

Perhaps it is the demographic that a show about normal people who gain superpowers inadvertently attracts that mean a standard ensemble drama is treated in ways not dissimilar from the realms of superhero conventions, pulp fiction and the comic book indstury.  In converse, one could say that Heroes is a superhero story that borrows from the realms of televised ensemble drama.  All in all, following a show in which characters, plot lines and even production staff can be voted off is not a show I want to follow.  I like Heroes, I like its ideas and I like the majority of its characters (and it has a great soundtrack atypical for your standard ensemble) and I hope that Duel, the last episode of Villains goes out on a high.  As a show, it isn’t immensely important as some will have you believe, and if it does go the way of Old Labour, Princess Di and Don La Fontaine, something will undoubtedly arrive in its place, but for what its worth, Heroes is good entertainment.

Update! Iron Man Review and Indy IV thoughts.

Hello My-Little-Place-On-The-Net-Devoid-Of-Life.

Been a while since I have taken the time to write or update this blog, but I have been busy enough to warrant an excuse. We’ve reached the point in British springtime when we can divulge whether this is going to be a nice summer or not, and considering the charmingly warm spring we have enjoyed so far, I think it is safe to say that we can look forward to a pretty grim summer. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can now take off our thoughtful borguois tricorns and leave that arthouse cinema with the pretentious plush red seats and the expensive bar and head on down to the Multiplex, mess with the proles and thoroughly enjoy the mound of ostensibly fun blockbusters that require no appreciation of the ‘fine arts’ other than how to grin at an explosion.

To try and make this a slightly productive summer for myself in some capacity, I am going to try and write a few reviews for the big films I have seen, and maybe the smaller ones I see in retrospect or simply add to my Dvvduh collection. For example, my Iron Man ‘review’ – I prefer to call it a reaction considering my credentials – is now posted in the Eat Me Critics sect and having seen Indy IV for the second time yesterday, perhaps it is ripe to write up my ‘review’ to that. My reaction however, it something of a casual fan glad to see that Indy’s heritage has not been trounced upon. Scathing Cannes reviews were expected of course, but most press reviews have since been positive, although fan reactions remain mixed.

I liked Indy IV. It was familiar territory, led by a familiar old soul, into more familiar MacGuffin territory, through some familiar experiences set in unfamiliar ground. Yes, it is familiar. I don’t care. It is Indiana Jones, and if you take ‘I don’t care, it’s Indy’ as a reason rather than a cop-out, then you will enjoy it. I read Roger Ebert’s review after seeing the film for the first time and am glad to see he liked it. His reviews on films are so-so to me – sometimes I just plain disagree with the bloke – but his writing makes for a fun read and I can hardly doubt his integrity. In his review, he remarked upon a line that a wisened Ford makes; “same old, same old.” He is right of course; it is the same old stuff, and I loved it.

Most of the criticisms I have seen for the film from casual schoolboy critics remark upon certain ‘stretchings of belief’ that I feel I am not at liberty to divulge in case of spoiling the film for you. I just do not admire criticism such as that, especially when Spielberg (who I must say was certainly on form during this shoot – it shows) offers an olive branch to bridge the gap between what is happening on screen and the audiences suspense of belief.

Other criticisms fall before the way side of course, because, like any self respecting audience member, I can abide the reason “Its Indiana Jones!” While it has always offered fun and enjoyment to a large slice of the audience, Indy has always been a treat for those who really enjoy film. It is packed so full of cinematic references that it almost runs like a tour through cinematic history. From the exotic adventure films of Errol Flyn and Charlton Heston (‘must say, sad that he is now deceased. I wasn’t a fan of his ideals, but he left a lot of friends and his integrity as an actor is undeniable) in Raiders of the Lost Ark, to the musical and James Bond homages (Temple of Doom), the rip-roaring chases and stunts that reminds us of Stagecoach, Ben-Hur et al (evident in all the films) and the appearance of the noir femme fatale in Elsa Schneider, Spielberg and Lucas have packed these films full of their own love of film as a medium and cultural palette. It just offers a lot more than, say, Star Wars in that sense, as well as being undeniably less geeky.

The new film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (the title has grown on me considerably sincd it was announced by the way) is no less choc-a-bloc in that sense. Dealing with a new era, although at first a tad disparaging for devoted fans of the 30s romps, allows for new intertextuality, in-jokes and homages. An American Graffitti reference, as well as a marvellous scene itself, was one of the highlights of the film itself for me. I’m glad that the script (although certainly not the best of the Jones scripts) allows for some cultural references worthy of a chuckle. 50s momism, the nuclear family and the suburban household are all given the nuclear treatment by Spielberg, being obliterated in the opening act with no mercy, as Indy wanders into a Nuclear test site filled with eerie plastic dolls posing as the 50s middle class. ‘I like Ike’ also shows its face with barbed wit from Ford and then as a motif during the nuclear explosion.

Of course, the Soviets rear their head as the pantomime-villains-of-the-era, partly to Spielberg’s admittance that there really is no one else with the villainous credentials. Obviously, this has angered members of Communist parties the world over, particuarly those in Russia, but again, to Spielberg’s defense, he lets us remind ourselves that he himself is of Russian descent. For me, the Soviet’s work to an extent in Crystal Skull. They seem to fit the mould of the Nazi replacement and Cate Blanchett, as usual, is amazing as the dangerous, sexless looking Soviet, Colonel Irena Spalko. But at the same time, I don’t feel the Soviet’s are half as threatening as the Nazi party. Perhaps it takes someone born on the eve of the Iron Curtain’s collapse to make that claim, but the Soviet’s fill the antagonising role in what I have always seen as a ‘grey area’ in history. Admittedly, David Koepp’s script certainly acknowledges this; even while pursued by the KGB on American soil, Dr.Jones, ‘even with his War record’ an investigator states, is under suspicion of treason by the FBI. A spectular chase sequence through the Dr.Jones’ University allows for protestors with signs such as ‘Red is Dead’ to run in terror as Dr.Jones’ (on motorbike) is pursued by KGB agents in cars.

Certainly, there is more to say for the film, its strengths and its flaws, but really, if you take ‘It’s Indiana Jones for god’s sake!’ as a reason, rather than an excuse, it won’t matter to you.

David Cameron you cheeky git!

‘Mend Broken Politics’ – words of a hypocrite.

Am I the only one who finds David Cameron utterly repulsive? The fact that the Tories have the ability to court younger generations of Politicians into their ranks is a scary thought by my book. The party is and always will harbour back to out-dated rhetoric and reactionary squabbling because the Conservative party is and always will be a bunch of moronic toffs jettisoning concern for others in light of “daddy’s” wishes.

But the resurgence of a yuppie culture, of younger politicians spouting the ideas of shabby old Oxford’ites is distressing, if anything because you can see it working. David Cameron is only one of many young Eton lads curbtailing it up the political ladder, as old hats fall off the chain and break down under allegation after allegation, but as leader of the second biggest party in Britain, and concerns over PM Brown’s last few months, it certainly isn’t nice to have him around.

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Just the other day, he attacked New Labour’s “systematic culture of spin,” a “culture” he has not only acknowledged here, but fully endorsed. The man’s a walking PR portfolio in him self. Not only in the giving of soundbites (in which he is exemplary), but also in his “getting down with the kids” attitude that, while utterly failing, certainly shows he has some in his PR team who actually know what kids are. That in itself is suprising. Shocking even.

Speaking at a conference on Wales, he even pulled the perfect opportunity dig at Labour; “top-down, centralising control.” Well, way to breach new ground Mr. Cameron. I don’t think I have heard that claim for a good few weeks. Of course, as a relatively close relation to the Royal Family, you can expect a slight strut in his step, but someone should remind “my honourable Cavalier” that he does not own the place.

Again, my dear Mr. Cameron please, please, please leave the political spectrum alone for a while and go and do something worthwhile for a few good years of your life. You can re-enter the Tory charade when you are the expected age.

Anglophobia!

Bond Is Gunning For Scottish Independence!

According to retired actor and former James Bond, “Sir” Sean Connery, “Schottlund” will have independence by the end of his lifetime. Let’s hope he has a terrific accident and is kept alive for a few thousand years via suspended animation or even if he merely gets lost on the way to his Tax-evasive villa in Bahamas. Connery has not even lived in his homeland for years, and suddenly he is jumping on the bandwagon for Scottish independence. It seems like a perfect way to cover his hypocritical backside.

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The 77 year old actor says Scotland is “within touching distance of independence,” according to BBCnews. Sir Sean Connery is one of the most high profile supporters of the Scottish National Party, whom many account with creating a distinct anti-Englishness sentiment (I had previously thought was simply a genetic trait within most of the Scottish population.) While many know that Anglo-Scottish relations can get a tad petty at times, especially with two Scottish MP’s registering their support to Germany via an online bid during the ’06 World Cup, even the SNP has been noted to be overly anglophobic by the general populace.

Connery is being incredibly cavalier about the situation however, being known to have made a few outspoken, unjustified and occasionally humurous quips in the past. These comments are also particuarly short sighted and impractical on his behalf, considering no other major parties in Scotland want independence or seperation. If the SNP winged it and managed to pass independence with a majority, they would shortly fall flat under the weight and pressure. The machine just isn’t ready to roll yet. While there is no problem with Scotland gaining equal representation, fully fledged independence is a tad ambitious on there behalf.

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Comedian Billy Connelly, an avid Scot himself has declared that “Scottish Parliment is a joke.” While he may not be no political mastermind/spindoctor, I’m willing to take his word on this one. Scottish Parliment have decided after many referendums that Billy Connelly was in fact, taking the piss out of the Parliment, and they will soon begin voting as to he is taking the piss out of specifically.

Blair lends Rwanda a helping hand!

Tony Blair is to dish out his pockets and help Rwanda find the private investment it needs to get the economy started!

Of late, Former-MP-Mr.Blair has become an unseen commodity while he takes a good rest from scandals and contreversy. His last few months in 10 Downing Street were a tad muted as the kefuffle with his Chanceoller and supreme-arch-nemesis took the pages of the Sensationalist Daily Mail by storm but his New Labour legacy lives on with the Tories forced to walk on the extreme right side of the road, the Lib Dems. vying for any poltical space at all and his own party taking the firm middle ground.

But not content with leaving a poltical legacy that I am sure I will look back on with fondness, he seems to be striving to make some difference elsewhere in the world, where it counts. Obviously having the Lord of Spin himself on your side is enough to strenghten any regime in Africa, but let us hope he does a good job.

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According to the ever persistent, yet ever in flux BBCnews:

“[Blair] has made his first visit to the central African country since offering himself as an unpaid adviser to its president, Paul Kagame.

Mr Blair will now use his international status to promote the opportunities on offer there to foreign investors.

Rwanda is trying to recover from the 1994 genocide, when some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Mr Blair told a press conference in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, that it was an “exciting” time to be engaged with the country’s development.”

He has had a number of meetings with Mr.Kagame since he left office, perhaps a few intrepid jamming sessions on his guitar too; think Dire Straits meets Earth, Wind and Fire. No doubt the Conservatives will feel the need to get one back at Golden Boy Blair, yet I don’t think we can expect old Jeffrey Archer to pack his bags and set off for Iraq anytime soon. We would sooner have David Cameron pitching a remake of Birth of a Nation to the BFI, or M&S for that fact, the daft git.

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In other news, not content with a fat check as it is, MP’s have been into the kitty again. Tory MP Derek Conway gave his student son £40,000 under the guise that he was a “Parlimentary Researcher.” Now, not that the Tories are in anyway hypocritical, of course not, but have they not complained that Students spend most of their Student Loans boozing around in what has strangely been called a boozing epidemic? And yet an MP off loads his son illegally with Forty grand? That’s alot of shots on student nights.

Hypocrisy, yes?