Thursday, 31 March 2011

Staten Island

I am beginning this week’s Mafia Fest with Staten Island, the film although it features Staten Island the place. The largest New York District in terms of area but the smallest with under half a million citizens. Paul Castellano – Gambino Crime Boss, lived in the Todt Hill, Staten Island Buried in Moravian Cemetery in unmarked grave. Sammy "The Bull" Gravano – mob turncoat also lived on Staten Island as did the Watergate White House Jeb Magruder:

This 2009 film was only released in New York before going to DVD. The story involves three residents of the state who interact. Staten Island Mafia crew boss Parmie played by Vincent D’Onofrio decides that he wants to expand and become boss of all Staten Island against the advice of his closest associates. He lives with his invalid mother.

Sully is a regular guy who clears septic tanks for a living and has been trying with his wife to have their first child. Test reveals that she has an internal problem where the right position should solve the problem but at the fertility clinic Sully learns of special facility which costs $50000 to produce a child which enhances genes to create an above average achiever and which uses artificial insemination. But how can he raise the money. He discusses the problem with his work partner who knows the right individual to carry out a theft on the home of the Mafia boss when he is not there and the alarm is not turned on. The mission is successful in that the take is over $100000 dollars except that the woman is shot in the shoulder. This results in Parmie’s work colleague being captured and tortured to death and Parmie going on the run but only after the procedure is successful and his wife has become pregnant.

The third resident is Jasper who manages a Deli where he makes his own sausages. He is a deaf mute who spends all his spare time keeping records on horse racing and the betting long odds accumulators unsuccessfully. He earns the money for his gambling by chopping up Parmie victims and where we are left to speculate that the remains and then used in the Deli! He dislikes Parmie intensely and when he wins big at the race track he used part of the money to hire an assassin to kill Parmie. Unfortunately Parmie is only grazed and although his car goes into a lake he survives because he has been training to break the world record for holding breadth under water.

When he recovers he finds himself in the midst of a large woodland area part of which is being cut down to make way for development and where a protestor has created a tree platform. He persuades a motorist to drive him back to restaurant bar he uses as an operational base only to discover his associates have joined forces with the main Mafia boss on the Island against him. He devises a plan to protect himself by changing into a white suit climbing onto the tree top platform and proclaiming to the authorities his conversion to saving the trees. The authorities decide on a media clamp down but after a while one journalist manages to interview with the help of the policeman on duty. The follow day the story is national news and he wakes to be greeted by hundreds of others attaching themselves to threatened trees. The Mayor and city authorities intervene and the woodland is saved. Parmie returns home believing that he is protected.

Jasper is then asked to do another slicing up job and this is Sully who Jasper has been friends with. Sully then sets out and successfully assassinates Parmie and a carload of associates and rivals. The films ends with Sully’s wife and walking age child visiting the new parkland which Jasper helped create. The child runs away from his mother falls over. Jasper helps him up and mother first criticises why he did not call out to her until he explains that he is deaf and dumb. The child immediately communicates using sign language to the amazement of his mother thus demonstrating that the gene enhancement programme worked. This therefore is a black comedy and at the level of intention I thought the film is successful although quickly forgotten

Wednesday, 30 March 2011


By luck and good programming the first of what I suspect will be a season of Dame Elizabeth’s films, Giant was on the television as her death was announced. Cleopatra is also available at the moment. Giant was an original Edna Faber novel about the development of Texas from a cattle ranching into the present day oil rich state of which Dallas the 1980’s series which is being resurrected with some of the survivors of the original cast. I watched the film with growing impatience disliking all the characters except Elizabeth.

Rick Hudson always looked good but who performances always appeared dry for me but his performance in Giant as a Neanderthal heterosexual male is effective give his homosexuality. He plays Jordan Bick Benedict who owns half of Texas cattle ranching with his sister who has James Dean working for her.

On a visit to Maryland to buy a stud horse Hudson sets on Elizabeth Taylor who is an educated socialite with enlightened parents who misguidedly falls for his charms without realising all he wants is a breeding machine to produce a son to inherit and carry on enlarging the empire.

His typical Texan mentality is that politics is not for women and that no one who is poor or a different race should enter his kingdom brutally stolen from the indigenous land holders. He is in every sense a nasty bit of work and nothing much changes throughout the film until he is forced by circumstances. Elizabeth quickly realises she had made a poor choice and escapes to her family only to return. She also crosses swords with the sister who is just as prejudiced against the Mexicans a her brother and her assistant James Dean.

The sister and Elizabeth hate each other but she dies from a horse riding accident and in her will leaves a comparatively small plot of land to Dean where he starts to drill for oil much to the horror of Hudson who tries all he can to get him off. Elizabeth is sympathetic to Dean and visits him alone after she has become a mother of twins, to be played by Dennis Hopper and Fran Bennett when they become adults. There is a third child played by Carol Baker who becomes the most silly and obnoxious of all the characters.

When he strikes oil Dean visits Hudson and boasts of how rich and important he going to be and cannot disguise his passion for Taylor and the two men fight and go their separate ways. Although wealthy from the oil on his land Dean and his advisers realise their horizon is limited so he establishes an oil prospecting and drilling company and when the Second World War breaks out he persuades Hudson to do his national duty and soon a forest of well cover the estate although is still possible to ranch cattle. The old house is replaced by a mansion with an outdoor swimming pool. To some extent the story is repeated in Dallas with the Ewing’s and Cliff Barnes.

As mentioned the son and heir is played by Dennis Hopper who made his name in Easy Rider and became and become a recognised major actor. As a child, under his mother‘s influence he shows no interest in ranching and under mother’s influence goes off to Harvard to study medicine and qualifies a medical doctor with a social conscious marrying a Mexican from the family estate. The twin sister wants to attend local ranching school and marry the head rancher who Hudson likes and which does against herm mother’s wish that she attends a finishing school in Switzerland. When the ranch hand returns from World War II service he and his wife reject the offer of inheriting the ranch for their own small places and making their way. I forget who suggests to Hudson that he might return the land to the indigenous Americans!

When Dean visits to persuade Hudson to exploit the oil, Carol Baker flirts with Dean, a man who is now more than twice her age. Dean then organises a self congratulatory gala in his own honour to mark his increasingly powerful role as Texas leading citizen and philanthropist

Mr Dean shot to International fame with two films released in 1955, Rebel without a Cause and East of Eden. He died in a car accident before Giant was completed in 1956. Dean was a product of the Actor’s studio and Method acting with Lee Strasbourg and while he seems to be continuing his Rebel, but with cause role in the early part of this film, the role requires him to become a ruthless, personally ambitious capitalist and racists to boot. In the film he invites Hudson and his family to the event and they misguidedly agree. They find that he has remained as vicious a racists as ever and his staff make a point of rejecting the daughter in law at every opportunity. While he had made Carol Baker Princess of the Carnival and she wants him he has not intention of marrying her and his sense of grievance continues with every wish to humiliate the family. He is able to knock Hudson out with the help of his personal security. Hudson then has a second confrontation over racism, this time with the manager of a diner who is only carrying out company policy in not serving any non white colours. He has reluctantly agree to serve his son in law‘s wife and her papoose because of who they are, but rejects a Mexican family who son died during the war and was buried with honour on the Benedict burial site on the estate. Elizabeth has meanwhile grown old gracefully. The film ends at this point

The films last three hours and 17 minutes was nominated for ten Oscars without success, made a lot of money and in 2005 was put in the Library of Congress being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


The pressures of a wife and child is a sub story in teh excellent Michael Balcon-Leslie Norman film of Dunkirk released in 1958 at a time when the second World War was still at the fore of most families whose men had served, survived or not and also experienced the Blitz themselves.

In this instance Richard Attenborough plays a garage owner who own a small boat, just under 30 feet and moored on the River Thames. he had a wife who finds it difficult to cope with her child and is terrified of being left on her own and by having to place the baby in the special gas mask which was provided for infants in addition to those for children which I remember mine and those for adults. As a garage owner he has greater access to petrol than everyone else and is making money from a small engineering business under contract with the government. His apparent self satisfaction with his position galls Bernard Lee who plays a journalist, who lives in the same community and belongs to the same boat club but which a much large craft. He is pessimistic about the situation and complacency at home during the phoney war.

When Attenborough takes a complacent view of the situation at the local Inn he is pulled up sharp by a Merchant Navy man who tries to educate him about the reality, the posses and that he had been wounded. When all the boats are commandeered and the owners told to take their boats down the Thames to Sheerness his first reaction is to place his craft in the hands of his 17 year old assistant but then decides to take the craft himself much to the horror of his wife.

Having delivered the craft they are told to go to the harbour office where they will get a receipt for the boat and a train warrant to return home. On their way they encounter some of troops being brought back, many wounded and most looking forlorn and exhausted. This affects the journalist who says he wants to take his boat across the channel, and other including Attenborough also support his move. They are told it will not be allowed a being too dangerous but they persist and after the admiralty is consulted it is agreed.

While is happening and the volunteers are told to sleep over and then travel with the dawn, in France we follow the experience of John Mills a Sergeant, left in charge of a small platoon after the officer is killed as they are making their way to find their unit having been on one flank and finding that the order to retreat had been given.

John was a reluctant Sergeant beforehand and he admits to finding the situation beyond his experience but the other men insist that he leads them and tells them what to do. The first challenge comes when they encounter refugees being attacked by the German airforce and John insists that they continue their mission rather than stay and help the wounded and bury the dead from the attack. They then come across a small British gun battery and are given food before being sent away as the senior office has been ordered to hold off he advance German artillery for as long a possible. As Mills and the remaining men make their way from the site it is obliterated by the German airforce. The men comment that the decision to order the battery to remain was akin to murder.

The unit find a deserted farmhouse where they are able to stay the night but then observe units of the German army approaching and they have to fight their way out during which one of the unit is badly injured and Mills takes the decision to leave him to the enemy to assist as they continue to make their way. One has concussion from an explosion and as he is helped across the road they encounter a British vehicle heading for the coast. He gives the unit a lift as far as the outskirts of the town where they are told to disable the vehicle and make their way to beach. Here there are hundreds of thousands of defenceless men waiting on the beaches systematically bombed and fired on by the German airforce.

The unit make their way as ordered as a column into the sea or it may have the Mole to board a British destroyer but this is bombed and sunk and the men escape into the water. Some are picked up by the small boats and taken to larger ships while others including Mills and the remainder of his unit make their way ashore back to where they had been before.

The craft owned by the Journalist is bomber and sunk but he survives and is picket up by Attenborough, but the colleague assisting him is killed. The trio attempt to take more men from the column waiting in the water but the vessel develops a fault and is beached just as Mills and his unit arrive to see if they can get passage. While Attenborough remains with one of Mill’s unit truing to repair the boat, the Journalist and the 17 year old go ashore and experience life on the dunes. The following morning, Sunday, they are again bombed while participating in a service and the Journalist is mortally wounded telling the 17 year old to tell Attenborough to tell his widow what happened. The boat is repaired and Mills and the unit take off but they encounter further engine troubles and drift back towards Calais which is the hands of enemy. Fortunately the decision has been taken by the admiralty to risk more naval warship and they encounter one and return home.

The evacuation of British, French and Belgium troops took place between May 26th and June 3rd 1940. While only 7000 were rescued on the first day a total of 338226 soldiers -198229 British 139997 French were rescued using 43 British Destroyers and 850 small civilian boats of various sizes, the smallest 4.6 meters called the Tamzine and now in pride of place in the Imperial War Museum. There were also a large number of Merchant Navy vessels utilised, Thames barges and 17 Lifeboats of the RNLVR Two. The 850 small boats rescued 22698 men with only the loss of seven boats. No one was left on the beaches but two French Division left to defend the retreated were captured.

However in total 200 craft were sunk including six British Destroyers and the three French. The Royal Navy claimed 35 German planes and the damaging of 21 others. The RAF made just under 5000 missions over the area losing 100 aircraft in the fighting and 177 overall from all fighting against 959 loses during May of which 477 were fighters. Most of he battles took places away from the beaches which led to the troops believing they were left unprotected. The RAF claimed to have destroyed 262 German planes. 2472 heavy guns were abandoned in France with 65000 vehicles and 20000 motorcycles, 377000 tons of stores 68000 of ammunition and 147000 of fuel.

Two French division stayed behind to defend the departure and were captured with their efforts enabling 100000 more men to depart over the 4 days they held out. Controversially about half the French forces who escaped quickly return to France to become prisoners of war. It is estimated that of the 400000 allied forces involve din the battle of Dunkirk only about 34000 were killed or wounded or declared missing at the time, against German forces of 800000 of which it is said 150000 were killed or wounded.

In addition to the 1958 film, the most moving fiction story is that of the Snow Goose by Paul Gallico about a lonely artist who participates in the evacuation and loses his life played by Richard Harris also featured Jenny Agutter. More recently Atonement included a four and a half minute segment of the evacuation shot on the beach at Redcar while in 2004 the BBC produced a television documentary drama.

Monday, 28 March 2011


I will mention a film possible two if I have the time. Brothers was released in 2009 and has authenticity from start to finish in what is a harrowing and tense drama thriller and which attracted my attention because the female lead was played by Natalie Portman. Her role is secondary to that of two brothers and their father, played by the excellent Sam Shepherd, a Vietnam Veteran who is proud that one son has become a career soldier with three terms served in Afghanistan and fourth to come.

In saying that Ms Portman’s character is secondary this is not to suggest that she does not have an important role, or does demonstrates her ability to get into character in a convincing way. She is the high school sweetheart wife and now mother of his two children who finds each departure more difficult to cope as do his two daughters. When his helicopter is show down and he is presumed dead her world and that of the family falls apart especially his father, particular because his other son has only recently been discharged from prisoner for armed robbery, drinks too much and generally carries the ship of knowing he failed to live up to his father’s expectations. After the death of his elder brother he attempts to play a more positive role in the family, although continues to have drink and money problems, but through a relationship with his brother’s widow and children he begins to rebuild his life, especially after organising the redesigning and redecorating of the kitchen as much to please his father who commented that it was one thing that bugged him about his other son. Then is one brief passionate kiss between brother and widow but they both instantly know it would both be right.

We the audience know that in fact the husband is not dead and that he and one other crew member survived and were captured and taken prisoner. In order to persuade the two men to make a video denouncing the War they try to get one man against the others and eventually offer the hero husband the choice killing his companion who is also married with a child or giving up his own life. He eventually gives in just before an USA army raiding party find the revels, killing them and find the husband still a prisoner. He returns the hero even more but an introverted man tormented by what he had to do to survive. His predicament becomes worse when the widow of the man he killed seeks information about what happened to her husband.

The man snaps destroying the kitchen which his brother had organised, in part because he believes the two were having a sexual relationship before he reappeared, and after he had been ceremonially buried. he then pulls a gin on himself when the police are called by his brother. He is admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he remains unable to communicate the cause of his pain. Earlier his father had mentioned that he too found it impossible to communicate with his family or anyone outside the military after his return from Vietnam. Natalie Portman visits her screen husband in the hospital and presses him to reveal the cause of his suffering, threatening to lave him and faced with this option he reveals that he had killed his friend rather than die himself in order to get back to her.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Red Dawn

The second film watched is Red Dawn, a throw back to the days of the cold war when there was only one enemy Russia and Communism. It was released in 1984. The subject is World War III which takes places with the successful invasion of the USA but a stalemate reached with the territory divided. The situation arises because the rest of NATO except for the UK reaches a compromise with the Soviet Union allowing them to invade the USA to take command of the Wheat belt because of the failure of the Russian harvest in the Ukraine. There is also communist revolution in Mexico which provides the America platform for the invasion.

The film opens with the aerial invasion on a small town in Colorado where half a dozen High School friends manage to get away including two brothers played by the youthful Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. They visit the general and field sports store owned by the father of one of their friends Robert and stock up with food drink, hunting riffles and ammunition, and then head for the mountains. The town is taken over and used as a base with KGB arresting and getting rid of potential rebels. Also in charge appears to be a Cuban revolutionary called Bella whose troops are also part of the occupation force. He tells the KGB to get holds of the records showing who owns firearms in the town. After surviving for several weeks the High School kids decide to make their way back to town to find out what has happened to their families. The town is being used as a re-education centre for likely dissidents where the two brothers find their father is being held .

On their way back to the nature reserve where they are hiding they visit a elderly couple who explain that they are 40 miles within occupied territory, which means they are comparatively close to what remains as free America. The couple provide them with a field radio to keep in touch with what is happening and ask them to take care of their two teenage grand daughters and protect them from the soldiers who have been raping the women.

A couple of officers and driver go on a site seeing tour and discover one of the party who are hiding close by. They are forced to kill the men to save themselves and this leads to a large number of the people in the town being executed. This turns the small band into an avenging group calling themselves the Wolverines after their school mascot. We are not shown how they are able to acquire the weaponry of guerrillas, including hand rocket launchers grenades, rapid fire guns and the skill to use the arms effectively. The retaliation continues including the execution of the brother’s father, with the father of Robert who supplied the hunting guns executed early on because of his actions. The two girls have also become active guerrillas and killers. The Cuban Major begins to question the approach being taken and their occupation of the town,

The group find a downed Free America pilot and he joins the group and becomes friendly with one of the girls. He advises that several cities were destroyed by nuclear attacks including Washington, Kansas, Omaha and Nebraska in the surprise attack because of sleepers and infiltrators from Mexico before being supported by armies from Cuba and Nicaragua and Russian special forces. Russian divisions and captured Alaska and then Canada, but a grouping forces had managed to keep the free area and since the Russians need the food production area of the USA and the USA did not want to destroy its own area they were fighting using conventional weapons hence the stalemate. With his help the group escalate their guerrilla activities with increasing success to the extent that they are regarded a meriting especial attention from the authorities who send a specialist officer to take charge and who abandons the retaliatory hostage taking and executions for a policy of hunting the group.

The success of the group without casualties cannot continue indefinitely and the pilot and one of the group die. Another member of the group goes into town on his own against explicit instructions is captured and ordered to swallow a homing device which leads an assault group to reach the guerrillas but their defence and firepower is such that they defeat the assault group and discover the tracking device and the betrayal. They kill the survivor who explains the tracking device and discovering the traitor, Swayze who is the leader, decides that they should kill him, but he finds it impossible to do this and the execution is carried out by one the girls.

Having survived this they fall into the next trap when they stop to enjoy some fresh fruit and other produce “accidentally” dropped at the roadside by a passing supply vehicles they were planning to ambush. This delay, and possibly more tracking devices result in the group being attacked by three powerful gunships one they managed to disable but the losses are heavy. There are only four left, the two brothers and one of the young men and one of the girls. These two are told to make their way to free America and tell people of the fight which group put up. The two brothers launch what they believe is going to be a last ditch battle attacking the command centre in their home town. They manage to kill the specialist brought in with the KGB man killed earlier. The younger brother, played by Sheen is mortally wounded and as he is being taken away by the older brother they are confronted with the Cuban Bella who cannot bring himself to kill them, however the conclusion of the film suggests that the older brother also died if not immediately then before the war ended.

The film then moves to the point where the fight back had commenced with the killing of the soldier at a tourist view point. Erica who has survived is there and we are shown the Plaque and Partisan Rock on which is inscribed the names of each of the group as they died. The plaque reads.. In the early days of World War III, guerrillas - mostly children placed the names of the lost upon this rock. They fought here alone and gave up their lives, so that this nation shall not perish from the earth.” I winced at this because in reality it was not about a nation as such but about issues such as talked about in that important House of Commons Debate of a week ago, in the city squares of North Africa and the Persian Gulf and at the time of writing in Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park London.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Barefoot Contessa

The Barefoot Contessa is also a balance between the reality of an ultra realist film writer and director, played by Humphrey Bogart and living in her dream a Spanish dancer, Maria Vargas played by Ava Gardiner. The film begins with Bogart a rain swept onlooker at the Funeral of an International film star who only made three films. The film comprises Bogart telling the story of the film star from when he accompanied a film tycoon and a studio publicist (Edmund O’Brien who won an Academy award as best supporting actor) on a trip from Hollywood to Spain to see the night club act of Gardiner which we do not see, but judge from the faces of the audience. The tycoon asks that she dances again and that she joins them both are refused and Bogart is sent to talk to her. She is interested but is out off by the tycoon and goes home. Bogart is told to find bring her before the plane leaves or his career in on the line. He traces her to the family home where he quickly finds she has a tempestuous relationship with her parents and leads a life within her head, searching for the ideal Prince Charming relationship as a Cinderella who likes to go about barefoot.

Bogart plays a man twice married, able to find new partners without difficulty, a writer‘s observer of people who knows from the outset he will not possess her as she needs him as a friend who will not penetrate the defence against reality she built around herself. She travels to Hollywood and becomes an International success which is reinforced by only two other films.

The studio tries to prevent Maria returning home when her father kills her mother after years of abuse. The publicist argues that any involvement with the scandal will finish her career she goes into court to speak for her father and he is acquitted and her standing enhanced.

At a Hollywood Party a notorious wealthy South American who admits his vices ( Marius Goring) makes a play for Gardiner who is tempted to go with him because the tycoon boss insists that she does not. The publicist makes a break with the tycoon after telling home truths and joined the South American

The relationship is short lived and when the South American critices Maria in public for ruining his luck gambling a stranger hits him across the faces and takes Maria away. This is Rossano Brazzi as the Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini.

She immediately falls in love having found the Prince Charming she has searched all her life. She meet up with Bogart who is happily married in Italy where he is filming and he is invited to meet the Count who live with his widowed sister on the family estate close to the sea. Bogart sees that she is love and warns the Count of the responsibility he is taking on. They are married, the impression is given by the Pope with Bogart giving her away.

Only a few weeks later Gardiner arrives where Bogart is staying late at night and reveals that on her wedding night she discovers that her husband lost his masculinity in the war. While he loves her he cannot function as a husband. During the time Bogart has known Gardiner in the film she has had a succession of sordid sexual relationships while unable to give herself to the men who courted her. This time she has gone a step further and set out to become pregnant so she can give her husband the heir he has longed for. Bogart is horrified with what she has done but is helpless to prevent what subsequently happens although he drives out tot he Count’s home when he realises that all her movements are being followed. He is too late as after telling the count what she has dome for him he kills her and the lover adn awaits for the police. He is allowed to attend the funeral before being taken back to prison. Among others in this film about the Hollywood glitterati are Elizabeth Sellers, Diana Decker, Bill Frazer and Valentina Cortessa.

The film is meant to be an intense psycho drama with literary pretension. Some allege that the relationship between Rita Hayworth and Prince Aly Khan inspired the film but Joseph Mankiewicz who Directed and wrote the screenplay said it was based on the actress Anne Chevalier who starred in a film in 1931 called Tabu. I was unable to verify that this was so other that she did feature in the film

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Superman III

I also watched again Superman III in HD. This was the last film made by Christopher Reeve before his horse riding accident. Robert Vaughan is unconvincing as the ambitious bad guy who lives in a roof top penthouse complete with a mini Ski run and real all round the year snow. His girl friend is the voluptuous Pamela Stephenson before she switched careers and trained to become a clinical psychologist. It is difficult to digest that the film was made three decades ago and released in 1983. All I remembered is that this was the film where the baddies discovered that Superman’s weakness is kryptonite.

Richard Pyror plays a comical computer genius who breaks into a major computer system to re-orientate space based laser beams to create adverse weather condition in Columbia to destroy the coffee crop so American will be forced to buy coffee manufactured by Vaughan, Before this Pryor arranges for hole in the wall machines to spew out bank notes and for individuals to be mailed bank statements revealing that their accounts have increased by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Vaughan sets out to destroy Superman because he intervenes stops the weather and dries out the coffee beans. Vaughan then commissions Pryor to duplicate Kryptonite and kill Superman and in return he promises build a giant computer with its own defence system. Clark has returned to Smallville and attends the birthday party of a young divorce, Pyror brings the Kryptonite as a present. He has worked out the ingredients except for a small percentage of unknown material which he replaces. The effects is that Superman is not killed and his personality is changed so that he ceases to be a good gut helping others and looks to his own interests. Eventually he recovers after doing battle with himself in the form of Clark Kent being the good guy and Superman the bad, Clark kills the bad personality and returns invigorated and after Vaughan and his group who have left their whereabouts for him to find.

While he manages to evades rockets launched in groups and larger flying bomb type rocket he is eventually caught up in a beam as the computer is able to work weaknesses and manufacture the required energy in the form of a laser beam, However Pryor has second thought and disabled the computer. The computer 2001 style refuses to close and uses energy from the national grid to begin a life of its own. Superman works out how disable using acid and kill the computer. However he is nearly caught into the machine which has already turn Vaughan’s sister into a Cyborg. Vaughan has been using the new computer to bring all the oil tankers afloat to a spot in the North Atlantic and then closed all the oil producing fields, pipelines and filling stations so he can take control and fix the price. Superman has holed the only Tanker which ignored the directive resulting in the oil spilling. After his recovery he puts the oil back and repairs the ship. He also makes the Tower of Pisa lean again after making it straight in a moment of wickedness. Lois Lane is absent for this film on an assignment and returns to find that Superman’s childhood sweetheart from Smallville has been given a job on the Daily Planet.

I will quickly forget this film which was the least successful of the three. It cost just under $40 million and made just under $60 million

Dear John

Having re-established my routine of getting up before six, swimming and sauna, breakfasting after any shopping required, playing a million points of Luxor Mahjong and five games of chess, finishing the writing of the previous day, watching recorded programmes or some film, luncheon, relaxing and perhaps a siesta, commencing writing again, researching or specific reading project or some project work, preparing for the evening meal, working, watching some TV, sport, film or drama series, a film or some sport continuing until between 9 pm and midnight and then bed, getting up going back to bed, once twice or thrice and then repeating etc i decide that i want to change in order write something more substantial and on going and or undertake more exercise to lose weight, and thus the wrestling of competing interests continues.

The news from Japan is grim and the optimism of the authorities that they had the damage to the nuclear power plant under control has been replaced by the reality of radiation leaks and an explosion which they say has not damaged he min reactor except that the evacuation of people has been extended for 20 kilometres.

The attempt by the UK and France to persuade other NATO countries to join in the demand for a no fly zone resulted with failure although there is a meeting fo the Arab countries to consider the same issue.

I enjoyed a bacon roll for breakfast and a baguette filled with prawns and pasta salad for lunch. I defrosted the bacon overnight together with breast of chicken which I will cook and make into a curry for this evening. There was no papers this morning with the pile stuck where it had been delivered and yesterdays available at the reception desk. I decided not to intervene, for once. It was pouring with rain but this eased by the time I returned home.
The computer was playing up so I watched a film called Dear John based on the book by Nicolas Sparks. The books sounds better than the film which was tailored to weekend teens and twenties weekend audience which the film trailer was designed to appeal. A special forces soldier spends his holiday on the beach. He lives with his father a recluse who finds meetings with strangers difficult. The film does explain if his mother left because of her husbands social difficulties. The boy grew up hoping his mother would return with his father unable to admit she would not be doing so. The boy has one magic memory of childhood he discovered a badly Minted coin which his father discovered was valuable, offered first $20 a second dealer explained it was worth $4000 and would rise over generations.

They commence together a an interest in coin collecting and visit the Mint. However as the boy reaches adolescence he resents that his father has become obsessed with the hobby which has taken over his life. The two have lost their only means of sharing and communicating with each other. He sees a girl on the pier with others. When she loses her purse into the water he dives in much to the chagrin of her male companion who has gone back to the entrance of the pier and into the water from the beach.

The two young people spend the rest of the available time, two weeks, together, during which they encounter a neighbour about a decade older than the girl who has an autistic son. The girl is sceptical about the relationship continuing as he has another year to serve in the forces and she is going college from High School. The two correspond and look forward to his returning home. However just beforehand 9/11 occurs and the unit collectively decide to re-enlist. He visit the family home during a 24 hours period of leave after which he has t make up his mind to re=enlist or keep his promise to the girl. At a party at her home to meet her family, he is shown admiration and respect for his role and the expectation that he will be at the forefront of action responding to what has happened to the country. The girl is torn between her feelings and wishes and recognition of however events have changed the position oft he young man. He serves in action in Afghanistan and then Iraq unable to communicate where and what he is involved with until he is advised by letter that she has found someone lese. It is the father of the autistic child. According to Wikipedia there is a fundamental difference between the nook ending and the film. In both he returns home following his father having a stroke and before the father dies the two are reconciled their previous differences. He takes the opportunity of the leave to visit his former love, but at a distance. He watches leave her home and stand looking at the moon and then hiding the moon with her thumb.

An act which he showed her after she commented that the full moon appeared to be of a different size at different times.. This act signals to him that she still thinks of him and their brief relationship. He returns to his unit. Thus the book is about the beauty and wonder of first young love and that the relationship remains fresh and a sense of regret at not having flourished but rather than remain locked in the past it is necessary to move on.

In the film he makes direct contact and only then finds she has married the neighbour who had become ill with cancer and wanted someone to care for his son. The young man sells his and his father coin collection with the exception of the special coin. He does to provide the girl and her husband with the funds to be cared for at home until his death, The two then meet up to live happy ever after. Hmmm

Friday, 11 March 2011


I acquired my copy of Protest, sub titled -The Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men, Edited by Gene Feldman and Max Gartenberg, Panther Books three shillings and six pence, when it was first published in paperback, June 1960. I remember staying up into the early hours reciting the poem Howl to at least two young women, possibly three, with only one understanding the what its author, Allen Ginsberg was seeking to communicate. (one I met through the local Young Socialists, one on a Youth CND match from Liverpool to Hull and the other via an advertisement in the New Statesmen which read Nihilist waiting for the bomb to drop seeks......).

The Panther book alleged that the writers of Protest collectively were rebels without cause which was nonsense because there are always causes for any form of rebellion even if the perpetrator is not able to articulate or do so with objective accuracy. The second claim was that the writers were shocked by nothing which was another nonsense statement because the majority were shocked by much of what they experienced in contemporary society and throughout their upbringing and educational experiences. They were also described as defying society and convention as if this was new and amazing when artists, philosophers and political thinkers have done this throughout human history, seeking attention and recognition by someone other than their own voice which they continuously strive to make original and unique

This morning March 10th 2011, after noting that the dawn approaching 6 am and enjoying a good swim of 50 lengths and a 15 minute sauna, reading the Daily Telegraph, enjoying a bacon roll after calling in at Asda, and then having a hair cut on the way to Metro station, and a second cup of coffee of the morning at the Tyneside Film Theatre, I was the first into the Electric screen theatre at 10 to 11 for the day’s performance of the film Howl. For a few minutes I thought I might comprise the entire audience but over the next five minutes I was joined by half a dozen men of varying ages, one group of two men and a women, and two couples, one female and one male and female. I was tempted to reach for a pen and notebook and rush around asking why they wanted to see this film.

In black and white the film recreates the first reading of the poem by Ginsberg at the Six Gallery on October 7th 1955, shortly after I left school at sixteen and commenced work in central London, soon attending traditional jazz clubs in Soho and drinking pints of brown and mild. Parts of the poem are interpreted through animated sequences, and also entwined with the examination of key witnesses for the prosecution and for the defence in the 1957 obscenity trial together with the summing up and the verdict. There are also scenes of experiences in the life of Ginsberg to that point, and film ends with notes on what happened to some of the characters referenced in the work and to Ginsberg himself. I noted the Wikipedia note that the one individual who was arrested for selling published copies of the work and went to prison is not mentioned in the film.

Ginsberg explains in one interview that the work was an emotional expression of his condition at the time of writing and that it was only subsequently that he fully understood some of its significance. It was not until 1960 that I intentionally opted out of my previous “conventional” life style, although in retrospect my whole life has been unconventional. I never described myself as a beatnik although sporting a beard and wearing a brown duffle coat other might well have done so.

At one level Howl can be viewed as an explicitly coming out by someone who with the help of a psychiatric therapist worked out that he wanted to spend his days in creative writing and making love to someone who happened to be of the same physical sexuality. Then as now I thought the poem was a statement of honest reality, of openness, of being free and of being true to oneself. Ginsberg never explained his choice of title for the work although in 2008 while the film was being prepared friend Peter Orovsky his life partner, speculated that it may have derived from the Hank Williams song Howling at the Moon which he had sang one night to Ginsberg.

The work is in three parts commencing with the familiar opening line I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterically naked.....

The Wikinotes are excellent for providing information on the content references which I was not aware at the time or subsequently until now but which were confirmed by Ginsberg before his death, for example “ who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan Angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated, was the result of Jack Kerouac telling Ginsberg about Philip Lamantia’s celestial adventure after reading the Qur’an. I mention this because today the fake right wing Senate investigation into Muslim fundamentalism in the USA begins potentially heralding another dose of American fascism against the concept of freedom to.

Another reference is to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass which the professional witness for the prosecution at the trial suggested was the sole basis for the form of the poem and therefore it could be dismissed because it lacked its own form originality, something which in fact it has. This witness was something else and his self exposure as a moronic academic was one the joys in this film.

The rhythm of Part one is created by commencing sentences with “who” and brings me to the third reference which appeals to me is that of “ eli eli lamma lamma sabachtani Oh God why have you forsaken me. The cry of all those with a powerful faith who are then tested and making Ginsberg’s move from agnosticism to exploration of his Jewish roots before moving on to Buddhism.

“ who rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the gold horn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America’s naked mind for love into eli eli lamma lamma sabachtani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio with absolute heart of the poem of life butchered of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.” and which brings to an end part one.

Other lines from part one which have remained with me are

“who poverty and tatters and hollowed eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz.

“ who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,”

In Part 2 the connecting link is Moloch representing the negative aspects of industrialization and a devilish monster.

“Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgement? Moloch the vast stone of War! Moloch the stunned governments.”

The third section is an address to someone he met in a psychiatric institution and where the link is “I am with you in Rockland” and where my favourite line is “I’m with you in Rockland where you must feel strange.”

My version does not include his footnote expression of pantheism that everything is Holy which I like because it encompasses the concept that everything that exists whether defined as good or evil, happy unhappy is contained with the concept of God and is therefore holy and not to be rejected.

The 1957 obscenity trial was not against the creator of the work but its City Lights publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union. The judge referred to the soul of the American constitution and the freedom to speak. He argued that the poem was written by someone using their language and that the prosecutor seemed to be wanting everyone to confirm one particular form of expression. He said the poem was of redeeming social importance and dismissed the case. The prosecution as with the publishers of Lady Chatterley’s Lover here in the UK revealed the inevitable divide which occurs within society when one group believes they possess the ultimate knowledge and enlightenment and attempt to impose on everyone else.

Allen Ginsberg born 1926 wrote the work in his late twenties and went on live longer than all his contemporaries such as Kerouac and Burroughs, dying aged 70 in 1997 and became as well known for his “ humanism and in a romantic and visionary ideal of harmony among men”, taking part in decades of non violent protest against” censorship, imperial politics, and the persecution of the powerless.”

He came to England in 1965 when I embraced social work and what I describe as my third way and together with poets from both sides of the Atlantic gave a recital which filled the Royal Albert Hall and attracted the media attention of the day with mixed feelings and viewpoints, Christopher Logue, Spike Hawkins, Ton McGragh were there with Harry Fanlight, Alexander Trocchi and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Where we parted company Ginsberg, as I did time and time again is with his failure to understand that the application of communism had created regimes as abhorrent as Fascism. I also disapproved the experimentation and sometimes addiction to drugs because it involves surrendering self control and fuelling criminal behaviour

The underlying expression of dissent against dictatorships being expressed in the Middle East of North Africa and he Arabian states has also brought forth important figures from my past experience.

Because of his work on the use of non violent people power which influenced me some fifty years ago, I was delighted to see that Gene Sharp was still alive and being interviewed on Al Jazeera about unfolding events in North Africa and the Arabian states. Gene was born in 1928 and became Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts and a Noble Prize Nominee. His work was influenced by Gandhi, Thoreau and others and he became the first writer of the use of civil resistance and non violent revolution during the last quarter of the 20th century. He was jailed for nine months after protesting the conscription of soldiers for the Korean War and in 1983 founded the Albert Einstein Institution as a body to promote the use of non violent action in conflicts worldwide. I break off from the writing to for a pamphlet of Gene I thought I had and realise that I have not sorted into order the three shelf unit of pamphlets and booklets since arrival here seven years ago.

Gene published Waging Non Violent Struggle 20th century practice and 21st Century potential in 2005 and contains information on how to plan non violent struggles so that they can become more effective. It is thought his writing had influence on some fo those who acted recently in Tunisia and Egypt.

The other figure who emerged recently, also on Al Jazeera was Ralf Schoenman, a self proclaimed Marxist revolutionary, the antithesis of the work of Sharp and whose behaviour was the reason why I resigned from the Committee 100. I will leave that part of my life to the next writing which includes the latest episodes of the Sopranos and the Boardwalk Empire.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Brideshead Revisisted, the film

In November of last year I spent a week rereading Brideshead Revisited and watching DVD’s of the original Television series after going to see the two hour film version. In several pieces I attempted to describe each of the three works and to the extent to which the film and the TV communicated the original novel by Evelyn Waugh. On Saturday while was I returning from the Carmen in 3D experience I recorded a showing of the film using my Sky Box and today seemed appropriate to view again the magic of life at Oxford University and my one short visit to Venice.

The film provides an overview of the story, dipping in and out, providing only glimpses of life as an undergraduate with no intent or ambitions for the academic life which I disapproved yet found fascinating. The story is that of Charles Ryder who lives with his father in a comfortable upper middle class house close to Paddington station. His father is of independent means with his own limited circle of friends while Charles appears to have acquired no circle from childhood and boarding school and cannot wait for any opportunity to escape from distant and meaningless communication with his father.

At Oxford his serious cousin warns against his allocation of a room in college in the front quadrangle on the ground floor and this is quickly borne out when Lord Sebastian Flyte is sick into his room from beyond a window having been out drinking with his aristocratic chums from Eton and a camp South American with a slight speech impediment who appears to have been the object of Sebastian’s attentions until he resolves to make amends to Charles by inviting him to an arranged luncheon in his college rooms and taking him up. The film is more blatant about the nature of the love which develops between Sebastian and Charles, something which is picked upon by those closest to Sebastian, particularly his devout Catholic and controlling mother, Lady Marchmain played in the film by the always excellent Emma Thompson.

She quickly sees Charles, for what he is, an ambitious social climber who falls in love first with the family country house and then the eldest daughter, Julia, whereas Sebastian torn between his love of life and Charles and the controlling Catholicism of his mother wants to keep Charles to himself and away from his family. Sebastian insists they drive immediately back to Oxford on the first visit Charles makes to Brideshead where he is introduced to Nanny and also the family chapel when he learns that Julia and her mother are also returning.

Having established a relationship over their first year, Charles is something at a loss when he returns home for the long summer vacation and jumps at the opportunity to visit and stay at Brideshead on receipt of a telegram from Sebastian saying he has been in an accident which proves to be only a damaged bone in his foot playing croquet. Julia is sent to collect Charles from the railway station before going off again on her social outings her mother has arranged after being presented at Court bur where suitor are carefully selected among Catholic families of devotion and wealth.

To understand Brideshead the book and the original TV series it is necessary to understand the perspective of the Marchmain’s aristocratic Catholicism, the gradations of class and the sexual norms and taboos of the era in which the book was written, between the two World Wars. Lady Marchmain’s puritanical religion has driven her life loving husband into the arms of a worldly Italian and the mist hedonistic of Italian cities, along with Rio and New Orleans, then Berlin as well as Paris. He is played by Michael Gambon whose performance is on a par with that of Olivier in the TV series.

Lady Marchmain initially sees Charles as a responsible young man devoted to her son, so she encourages the relationship recommending that he accompanies him and her eldest daughter when they want to accept the invitation from their father to holiday with him in Venice. She does this despite the insistence of Charles that he is an atheist and not an agnostic. In Venice two things happen, he learns from a conversation with Marchmain’s mistress of the difference between British Catholicism which was then alleviating and uncompromising while the Italians live as they wish and then confess their sins periodically, do the required penance and continue as before. He also wants Julia and mistakes a moment of passion during carnival as the start of an ongoing relationship leading to marriage. On return Lady Marchmain attempts to cut Charles from the lives of her children. This includes young Cordelia who is fascinated by the atheism of Charles and hopes to convert him. She is destined for a nunnery although the eldest son and heir is beyond influence, aware of his responsibilities, social position, need to maintain the estate which includes a London House. His faith is true and unshakeable. So as to reinforce the separation Lady Marchmain announces the engagement of Julia to an American of property, who converts to Catholicism while Sebastian embarrasses the party by expressing his grief at the betrayal of his love for Charles by Charles’s ambitions for his sister.

Charles is disappointed that Sebastian does not take up with him again when they return to Oxford, especially on finding that his friend is escaping more into alcohol to escape the attentions of a Catholic minder appointed by his mother.

After the separation Sebastian heads for Morocco no doubt via Gibraltar where he lives as a subject to a dominant, and Charles is sent by terminally ill Lady Marchmain to find her son and bring him home. Unfortunately he is also terminally ill and mother and son are not reconciled.

Charles becomes successful as a painter and is courted and then marries by the sister of one Sebastian’s aristocratic Eton and Oxford chums. He then travels alone to South America to live and paint for two years and his wife joins him on board the Atlantic crossing back from New York. She takes to her bed with sea sickness while Charles encounters Julia, who is estranged from her husband who has taken up control and residence at Brideshead having bailed out the financially struggling elder brother. The two become lovers and live together although this is a problem for the Catholicism of Julia, reinforced when they go to Brideshead to see her husband and seek his agreement for a divorce. He agrees for the price of two of Charles’s paintings, something which shocks Julia but more significantly is the attitude of her elder brother, who announces he is to marry a widow with children, someone who will not be able to accept Julia because of her adultery.

Her father returns to the family home when he becomes seriously ill and on his death bed, the lifelong disbeliever, regains his faith and accepts the last rites of his church. This has a profound affect on Julia who decides that she cannot marry or continue to live with Charles.

The films opens with Charles an Officer in the British Army in World War 2 awaiting to go to France as part of the D Day offensive. His regiment is stationed at Brideshead with the House the headquarters, and he visits the chapel where he was taken on his first visit and after the first meal with the family, Lady Marchmain insisting. Charles learns that the elder brother was killed in the Blitz and that Julia is alive and an army reservist. In the chapel he lights a candle after dipping his hands in Holy Water and anointing himself. He leaves the candle alight when he leaves after first moving to extinguish.

I was not surprised that the film failed to excite critics or the box office. After all it depicts a lifestyle which only has appeal to those decreasing few within British society who are aristocratic or are socially ambitious and having something to offer. He film is no more than a pictorial aide memoiré to the book and the TV series, although the photography is brilliant, the mood creating effective and the acting of high class. The film will lack appeal to the average weekend audience and will displease those who know the originals, but who cares, not I?

All three, the book, the TV series and the film remain important to me for several reasons. The relationship which I once had with a young woman from a wealthy and socially connected Jewess, whose mother counselled against a serious relationship with me. She was not the first to wisely do so. Secondly my own wrestles with Catholicism and relationship with my mother. But most of all because of my experience of being a student and then living and working In Oxford and Oxfordshire which commenced 50 years ago last autumn and that one brief visit to Venice as experiences of London life at all levels of society. It was a great day.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

2012 viewed on my 72nd birthday with a bottle of Spumante

I also watched two and three quarter films. The first was 2012 again. Another end of world experience which despite all the spectacular destruction and losses of life in their billions several hundred thousand human being survive representing about 50 nations, heads of state and their governments, security services, selected individuals who can contribute to the redevelopment of the human race plus those willing to purchase the continuation plus those able to contribute one billion euros a time. There was a time when I would have seen myself in the role of the President of the USA electing to stay with his people, trying to comfort as disaster upon disaster struck where as now it would be good to be like the ancient Tibetan man who was able to join the survival party through one of his sons.

The reason for the natural destruction of planet earth is that the rays of the sun, in this instance called neutrinos instead of providing warmth are also heating up the earth‘s core in microwave effect so that new volcanic activity on an unprecedented scale will occur, the planet will become unstable which substantial seismic activity shifting the continental masses as well as the North and South Poles coupled with devastating earthquakes and Tsunamis covering continental masses. When this is discovered the major nations unite in secret to devise a way of surviving which is not immediately disclosed to the audience, and then as a spacecraft, a solution which has been used in previous science fiction from the 1950’s. In this instance we then discover that giant ships with reinforced sides have been created, called Arks, with at one point helicopters transferring animals two by two.

The fundamental questions raised are who should be saved and when should everyone been told the truth? Do you tell someone they have an incurable disease and when? Who gets what in life and why. Age old questions retold in the latest most spectacular fashion. Of course the best way is to tell their story through the eyes of a small group of individuals especially children and the aged, pets and people we can identify with.

In this film we concentrate on two sets of individuals functioning at very different levels in society. Jackson Curtis(john Cusack) is a divorced science fiction writer with one published credit which only sold a few hundred copies and who earns his keep working as a limousine driver for a Russian oligarch with two sons and dumb blonde type mistress and pet dog as well as chief bodyguard. They are all to play leading roles later. He borrows the car to take his two children on a camping break leaving his former wife and her lover free for the weekend.

He takes them to his favourite spot in Yellowstone National Park only to find the area fenced off and the lake dried to a pond. He is collected by the military(Close encounters of the third Kind style) brought to the attention of Dr Adrian Helminsky the chief USA geological scientist whose Scientist friend in India is part of another team who forecasts what is likely to happen and the exponential speed of the changes and their consequences. Adrian has taken the information direct to the President’s Chief of Staff and now works direct to him and the President advising what is happening. The Yellowstone Park is over the St Andreas fault and become a hot spot, likely to be become a volcanic explosion of nuclear proportions and trigger everything else that happens.

By good fortune he is one of the few people who has read Jackson’s book, given to him by his father to read because it foresaw how nations would deal with the situation, in this instance the space craft solution. When off the camp site the family encounter a conspiracy fanatic with a radio internet site and online newsletter who is currently predicting what is happening and who shows Curtis his media cutting where a number of leading figures ranging from art experts to scientists have died. The art expert dies in the same spot and same way as Princess Diana.

Jackson and the two children are recalled home after their mother and lover are in a supermarket when a fault opens up separating them on each side of the divide along an aisle. Jackson after depositing the children is also recalled to take the Russian family to the airport and their private jet and as the nasty children depart one calls out that they will live while he will be among those who do not. Realising that what he has learnt adds up to a major catastrophe he hires a private plane and then rushes to the home of his ex wife and family and orders them to get in the car immediately with him. They think he has gone crazy as the Governor of California is telling everyone on TV the crisis is over and they are not to worry at the same point as the land all around the family home begins to break up. There is then the first of several fantastic journeys in which the family amazingly escape the spectacular horrors around them. When they get to the plane the pilot has been killed but fortunately the ex wife’s new partner had had a few flying lessons and is able to get the plane away with great skill and good fortune.

They go to Yellowstone Park where the conspiracy guru has a map showing where the ships, assumed to be space ships are located. When they arrive Jackson finds the guru is broadcasting from the top of a nearby peak and takes the camper van broadcasting and research centre to him and back with one of the children in another hair raising travel, and then finds the map before the plane takes off and this time the volcanic eruption is of nuclear proportions. The problem they now find is that the centre for the ships is in China Tibet and they need a larger plane. They make their way to the airport when they find the plane of the Russian oligarch stranded but he finds their is a cargo jet full of Russian cars attending a trade exhibition. The chief security man and partner of the ex wife somehow manage to get the plane off the ground as everything is destroyed around them. Their aim is to refuel in Hawaii but the state is now a mass of molten rock so they continue knowing they will only get to somewhere in the South China sea. However when they arrive in the area they find that the land mass has already shifted and the plane comes down close to the departure site. They are picked up by Chinese Military helicopters They take the oligarch and his children who has he correct boarding pass but leave his mistress together with the Jackson family. The Russian bodyguard has given up his life in getting the plane down on the ice. Fortunately the family encounter a worker at the site, his Buddhist brother and their parents.

It is now time to return to the macro scene. The Black President of the United States is portrayed as a kindly man who wife has died from cancer and whose daughter has been part of an organisation collecting the great artefacts from around the world, including the Mona Liza so they can be stored in safety from terrorists with replicas almost as good as the originals. When she hears of the death of the art expert in the Parisian road tunnel her father explains that she is to become one of a handful of individuals to know the truth about what is happening.

This raises the issue of the relatives of those involved who have tickets for the great escape. The father of geologist is a recovering alcoholic jazz musician on an cruise liner with a friend who has not had contact with his son who has married an Asian woman. The son is able to say goodbye to his father who has a drink and his friend is able to contact and speak to his grand daughter before disaster strikes and he is unable to speak to his son and daughter in law. The mother of the chief of staff has decided to stay home with her friends. The President decides to stay with his people as does the Italian head of state who stand with his family at the Vatican. Eventually an aircraft carrier swept in by a Tsunami flattens the White House, the Vatican is destroyed and the cruise liner is flipped over in an instant.

Earlier in the film we are privy to the evacuation of communities in Tibet and the enforced Labour of young men including the brother of the Buddhist monk who is separated from his aging parents. The reason for the disruption is the creation a new major dam project where the world leaders have arranged for the Arks to be built. My impression was that each would hold 400000 but the Wikipedia notes state that the overall total is 400000. Because the speeding up of the process not all the Arks are completed so that there are only four to take the final selection of survivors and one of the four is damaged leaving thousands stranded at the base.

In the film there is crisis upon crisis as the family make their way on an Ark which is also that with the geology scientist and the daughter of the USA President. The Russian Oligarch dies but manages to save his sons. The partner of the ex wife also dies. The husband nearly does not make it but manages to free the hydraulic system which enables the Ark to become water tight and use its engines and avoid being crushed against the remains of Mount Everest. The film ends as the three Arks stay afloat while the dramatic changes to surface of the earth planet take place. They find that what was South Africa becomes the place where they can begin a new society. They are able to open the hatches to breathe the air again naturally. There is hope for the individual we have come to know. The sci fi writer and his family, the scientist and the President’s daughter who reads the copy of the sci fi novel which the scientist has brought with him, never expecting to have seen the author and his children again.

There is also a different ending in the DVD version where the Ark is shipwrecked on a Island and before this the geologist who has advised the government finds that his father has survived on the cruise ship where he was a musician.

The film asks the question how do set about deciding who is saved and who is not? World leaders, religious leaders, bankers and business giants, medics and scientists, sportsmen, artists, entertainers and the media, together with their families? What of those who built the Arks and their families? What of the balance between old and young, the physically able and the disabled? Do you include convicts and drug addicts? Do you include the military and airforce instrumental in getting the chosen to the Arks and what abut the makers, the builders the cleaners, the cooks and bottle washers? Surely this is something all government will have decided long ago in their What/If scenario‘s?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A bell for Adano

A very different approach to the behaviour by military representatives of one power in relation to the civilian population of a conquered people is the subject of A Bell for Adano which involves the American appointed commander of a small Italian seaside town and port at the foot of Italy as the allies commenced their assault and the German machine had turned on its former allies and brotherly fascists. The position of the American officer is no different from that of the German counterpart in the Secret of Santa Vittoria in which the newly appointed German town commander of a previously allied Italian town is at heart an honourable, responsible and cultured man ordered by his superiors to undertake an assignment. In the Secret of Santa Vittoria the assignment is to secure and remove the town’s stock of wine for the Cinzano company while in the Bell for Adano, the order is given that the town has to use side roads and not the main road which has to be kept free for the transport of men and supplies to the front line.

Gene Tierney stars in this 1945 released film based on the book by John Hersey. The town presently comprises the women folk with the men held by the German army until released by the advancing allies and a few old men including the former fascist Mayor who has gone into hiding in the hills and the police man and other local officials all now anxious to show their pro allies allegiance and helpfulness. Their only ask is for a bell to replace that which hung over the town hall for 700 years and taken at the start of the war to be melted down for ammunitions.

In a for once rational action twist for the USA army, the officer in charge is American born but Italian speaking and of Italian family background. His main concern is to get the town functioning again as a pre fascist and post war democracy and this includes restarting the fishing fleet, getting a replacement bell and disobeying an unworkable general order preventing citizens using their carts or moving live stock along the main road. In this instance the main road uses the only bridge passing in and out of the town and which the local supplier of water brings in the daily need together with the transport of essential food and other basic supplies. Although the town is also a port and used and controlled by the Navy their role does not extend outside the port where they live in a civilised and hospitable way.

When the army Major explains his problem about the fishing fleet the Naval officer is willing to set aside the current order and fix it and the local fishing fleet leader is amazed when the Army officer does not require his cut of the catch as had been the situation under the fascists. It is also the Naval officer who arranges for a bell to be found, delivered and re hung for the town. The army officer has also endeared himself to the townswomen after he insists that the policeman joins the rest of the queue for bread as everyone else and does not got to the head of the line because of his official position.

The problem is that the army commander up the line refuses to listen to reasons why the order about the main road cannot be obeyed and who laughs at the notion that they go looking for a spare bell in the middle fo a war. The senior Military police officer, in not quite the same role as the Nazi Gestapo in Santa Vittoria, insists that a communication is sent up the line noting that the officer is not applying the order and ignoring the advice of the Military police that he should obey. The Major’s staff man sees to it that this communication is stuck at the bottom of the paper work tray until one day the Military Policeman sees the unattended pile of paper and deals with it, including the report about the disobedience.

Meanwhile in addition to securing the Bell, the release of the fishing fleet, abolishing corruption and rejecting the offer of the comforts offered by local women(he is married with a family) he finds out the whereabouts of the men folk and arranges for their release home. One of his admirers who initiated this action learns that her husband/ boyfriend did not survive an act of anti fascist heroism. To show their appreciation the townsfolk have arranged for a portrait of the Major to be hung in the space left in the main hall and his office where previously hung one of Mussolini. He attends the fiesta where he is guest of honour keeping from them the news that he has been releaved of his position because of the disobedience and he departs the following morning on his own. This contrasts with the departure of the German commander and his men in the Saint Vittoria when the whole town turns out to see them off before commencing their fiesta to celebrate the saving of their wine store.

The film is based on the real life experience of Frank Toscani who was appointed the military governor of the Sicilian town of Licato after the successful allied invasion. It is enjoyable in contrast to the Unthinkable.

Monday, 7 March 2011


I commenced to write this on a train journey south Saturday 5th March 2011 having watched the night before a most controversial and challenging film, where I agree with one reviewer that much of the depiction of violence was gratuitous but that the issue of means and ends was an important one to be raised.

The USA and British Governments treat the use of torture against civilians as a crime against humanity or as a crime in itself when used against the servants of another state and ideology, or against those believed to have committed criminal acts. It has been proven that the information obtained through the use of torture is frequently unreliable and that once the torture has been established it is unlikely that a court will accept the evidence obtained so the culprit will walk free however culpable they are of the particular offence. This aspect was covered in the first episode of the Blue Bloods, now showing on Sky Atlantic.

In Unthinkable, with Samuel L Jackson, the What If issue involves a Terrorist who before arranging to be captured on mainland USA had sent a video in which he shows the immediate location of three nuclear bombs set to explode in three different cities if his demands are not met within a matter of days. He has not made any demands prior to capture and the film is based on the premise that the government will not meet the demands or negotiate on them, regardless that it is established the bombs exist and collectively will kill and maim around 20 million men, women and children. The terrorist has also been trained with withstand the excess and prolonged application of pain.

The USA Presidential government(through Homeland Security) retains the services of Samuel L Jackson, a married man with two children for just such a situation who lives under 24 hour security surveillance but otherwise he and his family are able to lead a normal life. Although the CIA manage the holding of the prisoner they use the army to provide the secret environment and who themselves initially use some basic torture methods such as water boarding and asphyxiation before Jackson is involved.

For some unexplained reason the army commanders selected for the task appear unaware of what their work is likely to lead to and that it will reach points beyond which they are unwilling to go. This aspect makes does not make sense.

Nor does the involvement of the FBI who are brought in by the government in the interrogation and attempted finding of the locations and rendering harmless of the devices. This may be because of the statutory jurisdiction and inter state arrangements where the Federal FBI and CIA units as well as the army have defined and limited official roles but I was immediately struck by the inconsistency that if as a government you decide to break your own laws in the interests of the greater good why should worry about the niceties of national, state and agency responsibilities, risk dissent on the part of those given the responsibility to break the terrorist or indeed keep him the USA if torturing him on the mainland created a problem. Have they not heard of rendition to countries whose basic standards are different?

It is also not clear why he allowed himself to be caught and why he did not just explode the devices at the earliest opportunity, or how he was able to bring in the nuclear material from Russia where it originated and obtain all the relevant parts without the help of others, or why he did not ensure that his wife and children had left the USA prior to giving himself up.

The basic story is therefore fundamentally flawed and it was immediately evident to me that as soon as that the torturing of the man had no effect that the USA government, or any government in such a situation, would use his wife and then his children as hostages. It is after all a simple equation the life of one woman and two children against those of millions. It is not unthinkable but the simple mathematics and a basic moral calculation made by everyone who was involved in the invasion and occupation of Iraq and presently in Afghanistan where over the past days a group of children were unintentionally caught in the line of fire.

In Unthinkable the audience is subjected to prolonged scenes of violence in which the terrorist is castrated, has the tops of fingers sliced off, his teeth pulled and threatened with his eyes being gouged out as well as electric shocks before his wife is brought in and has her throat slashed and then his children secured and threatened with similar action towards them.

In the beginning it is the FBI lady who is used as the good cop/ bad cop form of interrogation but she too joins in the violence after the terrorist tricks them into detonating a comparatively small device in a shopping mall which kills 53 men women and children and injures hundreds of others. As an alternative to the torturing of the children the terrorist does reveal the location of the three devices, but Jackson like me had worked out that because the nuclear bomb making material that had gone missing in a decommissioning event in Russia had been between 15 and 18 pounds (in reality the amount would have been known precisely) and each of the three located bombs contained precisely three and a half pounds of material, there was a fourth bomb, and the film ends in silence with a view of the clock timer going from countdown to detonation time. The basic point of the film is therefore that there are some situations in which torture is justified but if you are going to do it you have been ensure that those selected to undertake the task are up to it and properly trained, and that there will be consequences for those authorizing the action as well as undertaking the action if the action fails, and possibly even if it is successful and becomes known. Winston Churchill took the decision to allow the bombing of Coventry without taking action to warn the population despite our knowledge of the raid because we needed to continue to ensure that the German enemy was not aware we had broken their use of coded communication to protect the date and location of the main invasion of mainland Europe and other strategic developments, and he again authorised the bombing of civilian Dresden as did the USA President the use of Atomic bombs on two Japanese cities in order to reduce the loss of life among the allies and bringing the war to a quicker end.

In the film Jackson himself is shown as a normal human being sitting with his wife communicating with his children over the lap top she had brought to him in a break from his work! The FBI lady queries how she can live with such man, and first the wife and then Jackson explain that his wife has been raped by three men in front of her parents during the recent ethnic cleansing wars in the Balkans and that she then had the opportunity which she had taken to kill them. When in relation to the two children of the terrorist he hesitates, the Presidential command link advises that they have taken his wife and children into protective custody for such an eventuality. Michael Sheen plays the terrorist. The film was not released into theatre but went straight to DVD on release in June 2010 and subsequently to TV.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Armageddon and the Apocalypse

The aspect of Blue Bloods which interested is the treatment of the motives of the bomber. This was personal, almost a family matter and designed encourage Americans to be opened minded about Muslim’s with the bomber being female and white while husband was portrayed as ethnic Muslim and peaceful. While the bomber talked about taking her husband and her son to a beautiful place there was explanation of why she was prepared to also kill and maim the large number of adults and children involved given the stated size of the car bomb which had been identified. Previously I have mentioned the Fox news Channel programme which stated that the Iranian leader believed that the Christian Apocalypse was similar to Muslim teachings about how heaven would be reached for all true believers after God has destroyed and sent to hell the non believers through the forces of famine, fire, water and plague.

I was therefore fascinated to suddenly find on Sky Anytime the appearance of three programmes, two documentaries and one film epic on the same subject. I only view one of the documentaries on the history channel which suggested that apparent build up of flooding around the world, the Asian Tsunami, New Orleans, Australia etc and the earthquakes, in Haiti and New Zealand for example were indications of a gathering momentum. The programme argued that there were 1 million deaths a year from Malaria and other Mosquito transmitted diseases and that along with famine humans were not concentrating enough attention and resources to prevent that which was preventable.

The documentary also explained that at some point the earth would be hit by a meteor of sufficient size to create a seismic explosion of such magnitude that the world could be destroyed. There was reference to such an explosion which is said to have devastated the evolving planet 65 millions year ago. I also said earlier that Melvin Bragg and his guests were this morning talking about the nature of the expanding universe and I mentioned the possibility of several such phenomena in space and what would happed if the accelerating forces at the end of two developments collided.

In therefore could not resist a showing of the extraordinary long (150m) film Armageddon, created for release in 1998 I suspect because of the approach of millennium. The film has four good actors. Bruce Willis is a rough neck driller, regarded as the rest in the world. Ben Affleck is his number two who he regards as a son and Liv Tyler is the daughter who has effectively been raised by Bruce and his team on oil rigs and gas drills over past two decades since her mother left him holding the baby. The one thing he did not wantwas his girl to get involved with a roughneck, yet she was expected to be with him wherever he went and in effect treated her emotionally in some ways more than most men and women couples trust and interact together. The fourth character is another member of the team, an unstable genius played by Billy Bob Thornton. He and part of his team are on an oil drill which strikes oil as some Asian entrepreneurs are visiting and when the USA government call comes to save the world from extinction. Before this a space shuttle is destroyed while it is being fixed and meteor showers of significant size blow up part of New York (i.e. before 9/11). Coinciding with NASA working out that the problem is a large chunk of space rock heading directly for earth, a lone observatory with an expensive and powerful telescope also identifies the situation and calls on the government to claim the right to name the new sighting.

The film opened within two and half months of Deep Impact with Morgan Freeman and while I have seen both films for some reason they are not listed among the 450 films mentioned in the film section of these writings. The solution worked out by NASA is to send two space shuttles when the 6 mile lump of rock is behind the moon and drill to a depths of 800 hundred feet/metres and then detonate a hydrogen bomb remotely controlled from earth, which will have the impact of splitting then rock in such a way that the trajectory of the pieces will take them out into space away from the earth planet and presumably the moon! I m told that the science in this film is considered dodgy.

Willis agrees to assemble two teams, the back up led by Affleck and arranges for some of the best men with whom he has previously worked to supplement his immediate team. One is a biker, another a gambler and others womanizers. It does not require imagination that the idea of training such individualists for a space flight and such an important mission does not fill the command structure at NASA with any enthusiasm after Willis has kicked out the astronauts who were being trained along with a space drilling equipment for an ongoing project to Mars.
His men only agree to participate in the mission, knowing that returning is unlikely, by making requests which vary from cancellation of parking tickets to not paying any government taxes on what they earn for the rest of their lives.

The stress of the training and the mission is such that despite the timetable he insists that everyone has an overnight break of ten hours so that they can indulge their fancies and let off steam. Affleck and Tyler make love and decide to marry much to the horror of Willis while one of the party gets permission to call on his ex wife and son he has not seen since babyhood because of the court restraining order he has taken, he calls to say sorry and to give his son a model of a space shuttle.

They set off and the President of the USA in tandem with other leaders announce to their people the seriousness of the situation for the first time and the once only attempt to prevent it happening. A larger than average bit of the rock lands in central Paris turning half the city into a crater while another lands in the Asian Pacific. Everyone who can goes into caves and underground shelters in the feint hope that there can be some survivors while others join in prayer and everyone sets out to be with their families.

The mission meets with initial disaster and communications failure. They need to refuel at a Russian space station which blows up because of a fault but fortunately both craft manage to get free with about 90% of the required fuel and to rescue two of drilling crew including Affleck who goes back to get a trapped comrade.

The shuttle in which the duplicate drill team led by Affleck crashes killing pilots and at least one of the team and then miraculous they find the drilling machine is intact and manage to get iy out of the ruined shuttle and then to power it in such a way that it manages to fly over a chasm and to get to where the others have landed, some 26 miles from where they should, and therefore creating problems for the drilling equipment on the mission. Then because of communication problems there are only a dozen minutes to complete the drilling and remote control detonation. When the first drilling runs into problems the Presidential order is given to remotely detonate the available bomb in the hope that it will reduce the impact if not change the overall trajectory. Bruce pleads for more time as does the NASA chief knowing that any premature detonation will be futile. Someone at NASA manages a communication override which stops the detonation but the order is given to proceed but before this can be enacted a secondary communications system comes on line so they have the full time available before the rock passes the point of no change.

There is further disaster when the drill strikes a gas pocket killing a team member and blowing up the drilling equipment. Willis advises NASA that they have failed and to prepared for the worst. Then the other team arrives and the drilling depth is achieved. However the surface begins to heat up and the remote trigger mechanism is damaged so someone must stay behind to press the manual trigger while the rest leaves. They draw lots and Affleck is the loser but Willis who goes to the surface to see him off does a switch so that he remains and Affleck returns to care for his daughter. They return to a hero’s welcome after the project is a success.

The film received a mixed reception with four technical Oscar nominations and Bruce Willis awarded the worst acting award, a Razzle.

I end with the question. How did the New Treatment Book, Revelations come to be included and who write It. No one seems to know.

Voices from a locked room

I did see a film full of psychological truths except it was not based on fact. Peter Warlock the contemporary British composer whose most famous work was a collection on songs called the Curlew. His real name was Philip Arnold Heseltine. He was born in 1894 and died in December 1930 either as a suicide or distracted leaving the gas fire on without lighting.

In the film Voices from a locked room Heseltine is the music Critic of the influential Journal and is a missionary against the work of Warlock, complaining about the derivative nature of his music, its lack of originality and vision. His editor has to insist he re writes his reviews because they are libellous. He attends the opening night of an American Chanteuse at a posh nightclub. While at the club she is told that he is known as the grim reaper and later in an adjoining phone booth she overhears Heseltine phone in the review of an earlier piece by Warlock thinking it refers to her and berates the man, When she arrives home in the early hours she finds Heseltine on her doorstep with a copy of the paper which also includes a positive review of her performance.

They become friends and lovers and she is introduced to his society friends who flock to he night club to see her based on his recommendation. She is also surprised when his supposed closest male friends warns her off a relationship. Because he is so obsessed with attacking Warlock claiming the he is threatening to sue and also making threats on his life and possession she goes to see the composer only to find that it also Heseltine leading another life and that the cause appears to be related to his childhood and relationship with his mother who refuses to encourage her son to obtain professional help.

The truth is that the man was brought up in Wales, the home of his mother and her second husband after, his father died when he was still a child. He was educated at Eton and then for a year at Oxford sand one term at University College London and without reading one fo the several works on his life I do not know what his studies were cut short. It is said in Wikipedia that he was a self taught musician and while his interest had been classical he was introduced to contemporary music by a master at Eton College. He married a an artist model whose nickname was Puma.

According to Wikipedia he was said to suffer from depression and to have an interest in the occult as testified by one authoress who claimed he had introduced her to the subject. He is also said to have enjoyed cannabis tincture, would compose obscene limericks and was interested in flagellation. None of this is in the film which is perhaps why the film does not appear to have been released until later. A second film, Peter Warlock, Some Little Joy was made in 2005 and several writers including D H Lawrence in Women in Love, Aldous Huxley in Antic Hay, Osbert Sitwell in Those were the Days and Anthony Powell in Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant all featured characters based on Heseltine. But for once I do not plan to investigate further although I am intrigued.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Oscars 2011

Overnight it was the 83rd Academy Awards and on the way for my swim I did not turn the radio as I prepared myself to go out or turn on the Telly as I drank coffee, or the car radio there or back. I took care turning on the computer to avoid looking at the Yahoo pop up screen. I decided to play the recording of the Red Carpet segment although it is excruciating awful as usual. Because of the USA advertising mania watchers in the UK are subjected to a studio presenter with guests who are all nonentities intended to appeal to the young people who it is presumed form the bulk of those who stay up to watch. The level of jokes and discussion is minus moronic. However I also want to write up the sport and TV watching weekend separately so I can turn off the sound or flip through this nonsense. I avoid the news as it will be difficult not learn of the success or disappointment for Colin Firth and the King’s speech. The opening sequence officially lasts one hour but fortunately I can I flip through in minutes. It was a good decision not to stay up

The next segment of hour has USA presenters cutting back to the UK studio during advertising bursts. The red carpet is 500 ft in length with stands built either side so punters can watch the comings in special ticket comfort. We are also given a shot of the specially created Green Room for the presenters during show time. I have twice been in a Green Room for a live TV regional news show and was kept on my own for about 15 mins before and for 20 minutes of the 30 minute show, in both instances I was the only studio guest. Once as the author of a Child Care Inquiry majority report where Sue Lawley did the interviewing from London and once re a row with the Shelter Homeless Charity. More on this hour later

My swim poses a challenge because of the target 50 lengths. I try and break down into 10 length sections and the second half is always better than first as the count down begins. This morning I reflected on what I was going to write, on the situation in the Middle East and how I would spend a large win on the Euro lottery, buying local domestic properties and shop front businesses, doing them up and then low cost renting out operating, my own property maintenance services, using local legal and financial services, all designed to stimulate the local economy, but also create a sustainable business to be managed as a charity foundation when I depart. It is a nice fully awake dream.

On the return journey I admired the banks of blue and white crocus along the roadside and by the pathway in North Marine Park. I have one yellow mini daffodil in a hanging basket outside this room. So to the main event.

Yes they did it. The King’s Speech took the Best Picture Oscar where traditionally the Producers collect the award, in this instance Ian canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin. They ensured that unsuccessful nominees Jeffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter went on stage with the other winners. The film which took less than £10 million to make has so far grossed over £140 million world wide including £40 million in the UK and is anticipated to make another 10 to 20% and everyone who has not yet seen it will go. The stars and other workers on the film will all be paid bonuses as a consequence with the latest estimate about £30 million for the production and actors and a similar amount to the financial backers.

Other films nominated included for the top and other awards were The Kids are alright which I have seen along with Alice in Wonderland. My hope to see in the future list is the Black Swan, the Social Network, Inception, Another Year, Winter’s Bone, Hereafter, Tron Legacy, Harry Potter and Deadly Hollows part 1, Salt and True Grit.

Colin Firth won an Oscar for his leading role in the King’s Speech. This is but one of some thirty awards his role in the film has gained and will guarantee his choice of high paid roles for the rest of his professional career. Jeff Bridges who won the Oscar last year against Colin’s role in A Single Man was also nominated this year for Tue Grit. The one role I missed and wish to see is Javier Bardem, the partner of Penelope Cruz whose film is Biutiful.

Tom Hooper won the award for Directing the King‘s Speech, an amazing achievement as this is only his second feature film, the first being the Story of Brian Clough. Before then his work was mainly in Television and stage productions at University. He read English at Oxford University and it was his mother, an academic, who after attending a reading of the play told her son that he should make the play into a film. For me the best award was that given to the writer of the screen play for King’s Speech, David Seidler.

David was born two years before me and proudly boasts now being the oldest recipient of the award. His grandparents were slaughtered by the Nazi’s and after the family home in London was bombed, the family decided to resettle in the USA. And one of three ships in their convoy with Italian prisoners of war was sunk. He developed a stammer at this time and his solution was keep quiet to avoid the reactions of others. He graduated from Cornell University but what happened to him after that until he arrived in Hollywood aged 40 is not known to me. He was responsible for the writing of several films spaced out over the past 30 years. Forty years ago he became interested in the idea of a work about the speech impediment of King George VI and he met a son of Lionel. Valentine, a brain surgeon, who agreed to show the records of his father in his possession, but insisted that permission be gained from the Queen mother regarding any production. The Palace for the Queen Mother indicated that she did not wish anything to be undertaken until after her death.
He agreed and reviewed the position in when she died in 2002. By that time he was suffering from throat cancer. His wife suggested that he try and create a play to concentrate on relationships which gives the film its strength. His cancer is in remission.

Not much else impressed or engaged me on the night. The set at the Kodak theatre was great as always and the most startling aspect was the appearance of stroke victim Kirk Douglas at the age of 94, flirting with a female star. His son Michael has followed in his Cinematic acting to great acclaim footsteps and is recovering from cancer, and was able to attend the investiture of his wife Catherine Zeta Jones at Buckingham Palace recently.

So what else happened? There was an even more tight control of acceptance speeches than before and the special award category and look back was held on another night with the recipients introduced. There was also the goodby segment in which Tony Curtis was perhaps the most well know departure. Today the death of Jane Russell was announced.

Natalie Portman as expected won Best Actor in a female role for the Black Swan and Melissa Leo as best supporting Actor in a female role in The fighter. Englishman Christian Bale received the award for Best supporting actor in a male role.

The Social network won awards for Social Network Original Musical score, Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing; Inception for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Cinematography; Alice in Wonderland for Art Direction and Costume Design. The Foreign Language film award was In a better world and also nominated were Incendies, Outside the law Dog Tooth and Biutiful.

I cannot end this review of Oscars 2001 without some memorable lines from the Red Carpet. Oh my God, Oh my God; you know you know; I am nervous, excited and so happy tonight to be here in a real party dress; you are a delight; You look ravishing tonight; this is huge (500 media reps on Red Carpet);How special it is; He is playing to the gallery; praying and hoping she does tonight; You must be proud of him; Hair like Medusa; Subliminal erotic tensions; Have an amazing time; you two have a great time; honour for me to meet you; for me I am excited; the brainy and the beautiful; what are you wearing you look gorgeous; risk taker fashion; I was thrilled to meet her; you make the carpet look even more beautiful; your dress is staggering; You look stunning, the most beautiful couple on the red carpet; we will score even if we go home empty handed; What are the nominees thinking- you will have to ask them! Forgot I have work to do tonight; what are you wearing, Armani; I feel good, really good; gorgeous, incredible colour; all a blessing, led to me to places like this; it has taken an hour to get along the red carpet; love to see everyone dressed up: slave to fashion; fashion interpretation of themselves; backstage buzzing.

Among those on the red carpet were Amy Adams, Annette Bening, Halle Berry, Kate Blanchette’, Robert Downey Jr and wife, Colin Firth Tom Hanks Jennifer Hudson, Scarlett Johansson, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, Mark Ruffulo, Russell Brand and wife Barbara, Jeffrey Rush, Kevin Spacey; Justine Timberlake and Reece Witherspoon. Sorry I missed the others and too lazy to watch the recording again.