Sunday, 24 July 2011

Someone to Watch over me

Someone to Watch over Me also contains a story of a man out of his depth with a beautiful and sophisticated out of his league woman but here the similarity ends. Tom Berenger is a police detective married to a former policewoman with a young son. The interest is that his wife is played by Lorraine Bracco who went onto achieve stardom as Dr Melfi in the Sopranos. Berenger is assigned to be one of three detectives allocated a round the clock watch on wealthy socialite Claire Gregory played by Mimi Roger after she is the witness to a horrific murder at a club where she has been taken by her socialite boyfriend. Berenger is allocated the evening night shift from eight pm until 4 am and of the three detectives he is the one who is most fascinated by the lifestyle and who Claire finds the most interesting after some initial standoffishness,

Berenger is taken out by Claire to a social function buying him a new tie on the way where he is a hit among the society ladies. However Claire is accosted in the powder room by the murderer who warns her not to pick him out of the line out. However she does this only find that the man is released on bail because of a technicality when he is arrested at the social function. Claire is terrified after this and Berenger stays the night with her regretting as soon as he returns to his wife who detects the relationship and gives him an ultimatum to leave and to return only if he wants her. The villain then kidnaps the wife and son, who because of her police training manages to shoot and kill him. Berenger returns to his family while Claire breaks off with her boyfriend and decides to travel in Europe to recover and get over the relationship with the detective. The film did not do well at the Box Office.

The Invention of Lying

I watched Ricky Gervais in the Comedy film The Invention of Lying and was surprised to find it intelligently funny. The film is set in a parallel universe in which everyone tells the truth including what they are thinking to each other day and night, on dates, in phone calls and at work. Gervais works at a film company which only creates films in the form of accurate and truthful lectures and given his allocated period, the 13 century and the Black Death his work is too depressing and he is given the sack.

Having lost his job he cannot pay the rent and is evicted and goes to the bank to draw his remaining funds to arrange for a van to collect his belongings only to find that the system is down so when the assistant asks how much he has he makes up the sum and even though the system comes back on line, she accepts his lie, because no one lies and gives him the funds which enables him to keep the apartment. He then makes up a story which convinces his employers to make a film which becomes an all time box office hit. He cheats at the Casino and makes a fortune. He visits his mother as she is dying and afraid and he makes a story of a man in sky and an after life in the land of reality without religion and then using two pizza cartons creates two tablets of ten truths, thus becoming the religious prophet and saviour.

Before all this happens he goes on a date with someone beautiful sophisticated and good family out of his league and who’s dominating mother want her to marry a rival played by The West Wing Bob Lowe and who works at the same film production business as Ricky. The couple appear ideal on paper having the right genetic background and social experience to produce the best possible children. This is where the film becomes like all others as in the end the bride leaves Rob at the alter to marry Ricky who live happily ever after with a son and another child on the way. It was good funny given the events of the past two weeks.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Knight and Day

The nonsense film Knight and Day has Tom Cruise as a USA secret agent James Bond with even more amazing skills and a gentlemanly approach to the ladies, in this instance Cameron Diaz who has booked onto a flight to attend the wedding of her sister in their home town. The back story is that Cruise is protecting a geek genius who has invented a nuclear type cell battery that never requires recharging thus solving the world’s energy crisis. Cruise has also discovered that his partner assigned to protect the inventor and invention has decided to sell the battery to the highest bidder and for someone reason the emphasis is on the single battery rather than the inventor and the research work.

Also unexplained is that everyone else on the flight, pilot, security, staff and passengers are all in the pay of the rogue agent and his boss who believes that Cruise is the double dealing rogue and so has provided the real villain with all the forces and intelligence that he needs. Cruise first slips the battery into the luggage of Diaz to pass through customs and then attempts to stop the girl getting on the flight as does the check in girl but somehow she manages not only to get on the flight but spend such time in the loo that she misses Cruise killing everyone else on board so he has to crash land the plane in middle of nowhere America. However he manages to not just drug the girl but get her to home in time for her wedding but without any memory of what happened except to warn her against getting into a car with the secret service and to run for her life if they start to use words like safe and secure.

This she totally ignores which leads to the by now customary unbelievable car chasing thrills which American and European weekend cinemas goers have come to adore and the more preposterous the better. In the next phase of the film she finds herself on the secret home of Cruise, a tropical island atoll from which she accepts a mobile phone call despite Cruise have removed her clothing and placed her in a bikini he has left the phone in her purse. They are attacked by an armed drone plane and escape in his helicopter. She then finds herself on a train in Austria meeting up with the genius and as kind of Jaws character who nearly does for them both.

When in Austria and Salzburg Cruise again plays the gentleman but with the unintended consequence that Diaz appears to yield up Cruise to the boss of the secret service who still believes he is the rogue and not her number two. They then all end up in Spain after Diaz having found out that Cruise appears to have a home in the states which she visits and finds that it is the home of his parents who believe that their amazing son of extraordinary abilities and achievements had died in Iraq serving his country. This makes her realise that he has cared for her all along in an empathetic way which immediately makes her want to drop her knickers. The next best thing is to pretend that she has the battery and is kidnapped by the Spain based rogues who are about to do a deal with the rogue government agent who has the geek inventor. As she know she will be rescued by Cruise who takes a bullet to save the life of the geek as the sea plane taking off with the battery explodes from its instability.

The secret services chief thanks cruise for cleaning up her act killing untold honest American serving men as well as untold villains in the process but say he has to abandon the idea of having a normal life with Diaz because of the national expenditure in his training and ongoing operational support.

This is where Diaz has the last word. Over the course of the film she finds that she has developed the ability to defend herself by a mixture of weapons and quick reactions. She now breaks Cruise out of the hospital. Her father had a souped up speedy roadsters which she had planned to pass on to her sister as a wedding present. But on learning this was to be sold to buy a house, she changes her mind and now uses the vehicle to head for the Cape of Good Hope in South America from where they send plane tickets to his parents. It is great fun nonsense.

Through all this time babies and children have been dying of starvation in Africa in greater quantities than usual.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The A Team

The seriousness of this film contrasted with the nonsense of the A Team Film although I thought the film better than the original TV series.

The A team comprises an elite four person maverick unit deployed in the first gulf war and other previous special missions. I was interested in seeing the film because of the association with my Henley Senior Management experience about which I am concentrating on writing and set making this week. I floundered during the first week and over the first weekend having gone to see Wimbledon play football I stopped at a garage where on display were A Team dinky types vehicles. My syndicate team was called A, the A Team which included more than one creative/would be creative. I then circulated the purchased vehicles to members of the Team on Monday thus establishing myself as a team member and uniter which condition approach in general subsequently.

The A team has a brave man of principal leader, a wacky expert pilot like no other, a huge black muscle man with a heart of gold and a ladies creative adventurer. The film opens with the group leader, Hannibal Smith Liam Neilson held captive in Mexico who after escaping helps the adventurer Templeton Faceman to escape a horrible death after meeting up with a fellow former Ranger BA and recruiting Mad Murdock from a psychiatric hospital ward.

The main plot centres on request directly made to the team the CIA to ensure that $1 billion dollars of authentic US Treasury bills made from authentic Treasury plates are taken out of the hands of Iraqi insurgents in a secret mission which is opposed for reason never stated by the former love of Faceman not to get involves as does their commanding officer. They nevertheless appear to successfully get hold of the vehicle with the money which then blows and the plates disappearing. With their General dead and the CIA denying involvement the four men are tried and sentence to 10 years to be served in separate high security prisons.

Six months after sentencing the CIA officer visits Hannibal in prison and tells him to break out to recover the printing plates and prove their innocence. After the breakout their hijack a military plane containing a tank which is shot down by pilotless aircraft, drones, although they use one to avoid death by acting a as a parachute for the tank which they are in and which eventually lands in a lake, They find that the their general in Iraq was not killed and been behind the ploy to steal the plates. They are nearly killed and general is, when the CIA launches an air assault. The plot becomes more complex leading to a spectacular conclusion in involving and exploding and sinking container ship as it reaches harbour prior to which the plates are got back before being resold involving action sequence in and outside a skyscraper, bluffs and counter bluffs and finally the plates being returned to the USA government, the CIA villain apprehended, Faceman’s lover convinced of his original innocence and regaining her own authority and position. The Team are arrested but the woman says she will do all she can to have them freed and exonerated. We are; left with the impression that they become independent soldiers of fortune as per the TV series.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Stone of Destiny

The main reason why I did no little work yesterday evening was the decision to view a recorded film about the theft and return of the Stone of Destiny by Ian Hamilton and his friends and associates.

Given the emergence of a Scottish Nationalist majority in the devolved Parliament for the time and which was so structured as to prevent the situation arising and with the prospect of a referendum on separateness during the life of the Parliament, a film about how it all can be said to have found public voice and support is more than of passing interest. The film was rubbished in the “English” press at the time of its release a couple of years ago for essentially political reasons as it is a good broadly historically accurate account of the removal of the Stone from its location in Westminster Abbey and its subsequent return and has a great twist.

Ian Hamilton was born in Paisley in 1925 and after National service in the British army attended the University of Glasgow where he became active in the University Union and the University Scottish Nationalist Association. The film centres on the decision by Ian with others to successfully remove the stone from its location in the Abbey overnight on Christmas Day 1950.

The stone is recorded to have been originally located at the Monastery of Scone in Perthshire and was used for the coronation of the Scottish Monarchs. It was captured in 1296 by the English army under Edward 1st and brought to Westminster and placed under a wooden chair used in the Coronation of subject British Monarchs. There are those who believe that the original stone never left Scotland and that it was secreted but has not been located and that handed over was a duplicate. An Attempt was made to blow up the coronation chair and stone in 1914 allegedly by the suffragettes because the explosive had been placed in a lady’s handbag but no one was charged and it could have been a stunt, official or otherwise to discredit the Suffragette movement.

The film suggests that the precipitating motive of Ian was the rejection of the Scottish Home Rule Bill as part of the general apathy about Scottishness within Scotland allegedly existing at the time. I did not find this to be so ten years later when a temporary field organiser for the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War I spent a month in Scotland making arrangements for action opposing the location the Polaris Submarine base at Holy Loch. There was resistance to the involvement of the English in what was regarded as a Scottish matter although I met genuine warmth and help from many individuals at various levels within the community at a personal level for what I was arranging for others to do.

Mr Hamilton has written two books about his life and political interests that should provide insight into what led him to have the confidence and determination to undertake an act which was likely to so infuriate Unionists as to arrange for his long term incarceration and subsequent persecution prevention him having any public or professional role in society. Yet as in my instance he went on to have a successful career and political involvement and in fact although arrested he was not prosecuted which suggests that officialdom at the highest levels intervened in a positive way.

The film suggests that Mr Hamilton went about the task is a considered manner visiting the Abbey and working out how the removal could be undertaken and then approaching a leading Nationalist politician John MacCormick (played in the film by Robert Carlyle) for funds, humorously recounted in that Ian asked for 50 which John interpreted as £50000 and initially rejected the request because he assessed that at that price it was no more than a student stunt for a trip to London. Ian subsequently was successfully in a campaign to have MacCormick elected Rector of the University.

According to the film his best friend (played by Lord of the Rings Billy Boyd) did not participate in actual removal having become engaged/married and realised the potential implication for his future and it was MacCormick who introduced him to fellow student activist Kay Matheson who in turn recommended Gavin Vernon who drank excessively but who had a car and was strongly built, essential to undertake the removal of the stone which weighed several hundred pounds (156 kilograms). Gavin brought along another sympathetic and willing participant because he had a more reliable car

The film reveals that despite the planning Ian was caught by the night watchman on the first attempting having secreted himself in the abbey with the intention of letting his the others. Kay then became ill with a temporary fever which led them to securing her an overnight bed on Christmas Eve in lodgings where the landlady became suspicious and called the police and they were lucky that they were not searched as fortunately they had papers showing ownership of the two vehicles. There was then further police involvement when a beat constable approached one of the cars just after Ian had taken the small part of the stone that had been separated from the rest following its removal from under the coronation chair.

The news that the stone had been removed was greeted throughout Scotland with wild celebrations with those responsible immediately regard as heroes. The greater part of the stone was hidden on a travellers site in Kent but according to the film was then taken to Scotland after being made aware that there was the risk of its destruction if left out in freezing weather over the rest of the winter. The smaller piece was also brought into Scotland where with students and graduates there was an overnight party on Ikley Moor. The two pieces were then professionally repaired together by Glasgow Stonemason Robert Gray. The custodians of the repaired stone then placed the stone on the altar of Arbroath Abbey on April 11th. The British authorities were informed and London Police retrieved the stone back to the Abbey, arresting all those then known to have been involved in the theft and safekeeping.

It was only 45 years later that a more enlightened British Conservative Government agreed that the stone for everyday purposes should be returned and put on display in Scotland and was officially handed over at the border on 15th November 1996 from whence it was taken to Edinburgh castle. The agreement is that the Stone will return temporarily to London for any future coronation.

Queen Elizabeth II recently opened the Scottish Parliament during which ceremony Alex Salmond indicated it would be possible for Scotland to achieve full independence but retain her Majesty as head of State. I was recently surprised at media attacks on the Public Expenditure of Prince Charles contrasting with the praise for the role of the Duchess of Cambridge on her visit with her husband to Canada and the United States. With an element of uncertainty over the succession public interest in maintaining the Union is negligible, something which politicians should take not of.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Sweetwater and Nancy Nevins

I have experienced one film Sweetwater based on the true story of the 1960’s band singer Nancy Nevins who followed Ritchie Havens on stage on the opening day of the Woodstock in 1969.

The band reflected the soft peace loving aspect of 1960’s music with the members of the band playing classical instruments such a flute and cello. The group appears with all the major bands of the era including Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Joe Cocker, Santana, the Who, Crosby Stills and Nash, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, and even Bing Crosby. They were among the first interracial bands to achieve national USA recognition. Tensions arose when the rest of the band expressed concern that they were being regarded as the backing group for Nancy and then disaster struck as Nancy was involved in a serious accident which left her in a coma and with a damaged vocal chord during operation to save her life.

Nansi stage name Nancy Nevins was born in Glendale California and a musical family although her amateur musician violinist father died when she was 18 months. She attended a Roman Catholic Grammar School where she learned to play classical piano but listened to the emerging rock and roll and wanted to be a singer from her childhood. She describes herself as becoming a juvenile delinquent smoking cigarettes, truanting and boyfriends before the age of sixteen years. She did not behave conventionally.

One evening the nucleus of Sweetwater, calling themselves Jay Walker and the Pedestrians was playing at a coffee house near Los Angeles City College at which other musicians and singers were free to join in. Nancy attended with her boyfriend and when the band started to play, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,” she grabbed the microphone to sing one of her favourite numbers. She was invited to sing on for the next half an hour and from that Sweetwater with Nancy was created a short time afterwards as Nancy reached her eighteenth birthday. They were an unusual group for the day with a white female singer, a Cuban Conga player, a Jewish drummer, an Italian on Keyboard and a Mexican bass player.

Understandably her mother was unhappy at the a situation where her just eighteen year old daughter was on the road with seven or eight musicians although Nancy recalls that they were protective behaving as older brothers, and in those early days they played on gigs with the Beach Boys and Canned Heat in addition to those already mentioned. In 1969 they played at the Miami festival which drew 50000 and the largest crowd at such an event and then in Los Angeles where the event attracted 250000, with Jimi Hendrix Big Brother and Jefferson Airplane on the bill, an event which is rarely mentioned because of what happened weeks later with Woodstock. The reason they played immediately after acoustic playing Ritchie Havens was that their instruments had been delivered to the site separately and they were able to get to the stage via a helicopter while other bands were caught up in the traffic jam as more and more people attempted to the site. They had no sound engineers and relied on those provided by the organisers.

Their appearance is believed to have contributed to invitation to appear on national television much to the delight of her mother who came to accept her daughter‘s chosen way of life and interests.

That she survived the near fatal vehicle accident was due to the presence of all the Southern Californian Neurologists holding their monthly meeting on the night of her admission. Nancy was in a coma for two weeks and the damage caused by the intravenous tubes on her vocal chords was irreversible. She was given no hope of recovering and also the last rites according to the Catholic Church. She overheard the doctors telling her mother that if she survived she would have permanent brain damage. She had six operations to try and reduce the damage to her vocal chord but aged only 20 years she was discharged from hospital feeling her life was over unable to continue the only things she felt destined to do.

Sweetwater attempted to continue having 18 months of bookings but the public wanted to hear the sound on the records that had been released.

According to the film Nancy refused to accept the situation and gradually regained her ability to sing with her voice having a deeper and richer sound. She made one record which failed and became an alcoholic cutting herself off from family and friends. Eventually she went into treatment about the same time as her mother contracted terminal cancer but in recovery she was reunited with her mother before her death. She disappeared from the music scene graduating with honours, gaining a Masters degree in English and American studies becoming a college English teacher in Orange County.

According to the film a TV journalist whose career had zoomed and fallen because of an addiction problem decided to try and find out what had happened to the band and eventually tracking Nancy after three of the surviving core members who did not know what happened to her. With two of the original members Nancy reformed the group, recorded and performed including the anniversary Woodstock festival, The Band and Nancy established have Internet sites including MySpace and Facebook. I found the story inspiring.