Monday, 30 September 2013

Raising the stakes (or a predictable Tory comeback)

So Miliband does something brave and makes a claim that got people excited. Energy freezes might be economically messy and environmentally disastrous but at least Labour were doing something slightly left wing again by offering a popularist policy.

The Conservative response being to assume that he is consciously lying and try to top it with a more outrageous economic lie. A budget surplus without raising taxes? Austerity is demonstrably not bringing prosperity while causing damage to our social policies and infrastructure that could take decades to heal. Forget about pie in the sky, Osborne, and give us economic stimulus, real growth and jobs instead.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Another Cold War near miss .....

Confirmation has arrived that a malfunctioning aircraft almost led the Americans to nuke their own country in 1961.

"There has been no official comment to the newly declassified details."

Well of course there hasn't. The American military complex doesn't have a great track record on accepting when it has done wrong, is still doing wrong or maybe should think about stopping doing wrong.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Peaky Blinders - Razors and Racketeering in Birmingham

So despite having a name that fails to roll off the tongue this one has wowed me.

Post-WW1 Birmingham makes a fantastic setting for a crime series and brings in a cluster of historical themes that don't get nearly enough airing - from the mental and financial struggles of veterans to the paranoia of the British government about strikes, communists and Fenians.

Cillian Murphy is impressive as usual and is ably supported by the rest of the cast. Like many British crime flicks I especially like the focus on the smaller bit characters and the underdogs. While American action heroes may be able to scythe their way through legions of enemies with little care for appearances or treating others as human beings, it is a stalwart of British drama that anybody who underestimates the underdogs tends to end up being buried by them.

Anyway two episodes in and I hope it can live up to a promising start!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Lib Dems our only hope?

Nick Clegg says that we need to vote for the Lib Dems at the next election to stop the other parties from messing the country up.

.... but after all the broken promises of the last election who can we rely on to stop you messing up Nick? It is a bit too late to portray yourselves as the best of a bad lot when you've already helped to endorse a disastrous Conservative government that lacked the votes to stand on its own.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Don't go near the mirrors - Black Swan

So my sister deliberately left this DVD at our house because she had given up on watching it. This probably should have given me an initial hint that Black Swan would not just be a slightly edgy drama about the stresses of life as a ballerina.

Instead it turned out to be as disturbing and bleak as mainstream films come. The focus on Nina's obsession with physical degeneration and the horror movie like use of creepy mirrors and hallucinations leaves the viewer unsure of what is reality and which scenes are conjured up by Nina's unstable mind. This rarely makes for pleasant viewing.

The film works on many levels and effortlessly brings together a combination of ugly themes. You could view it as a simple critique of the competitive commercial dance business and the predatory attitudes of certain male managers. One of the reasons for Nina's degeneration is unquestionably the stress of the lead role that she is given and Thomas' attempts to initiate an inappropriate relationship.

Part of the cover that Thomas uses for his advances is the idea that Nina cannot play the titular Black Swan when she is herself so innocent and controlled. The focus on the world famous Swan Lake may appear overdone and cliche to those with a greater familiarity with ballet. However, for those lacking such knowledge it makes things much easier that the film sticks so closely to a clear, well-explained narrative.

Overall I'd say that this was another triumph for Darren Aronofsky and that its apparent weaknesses are simply aspects of his distinctive style. He showed his skill in charting the confusion of a disordered mind in 'Pi' and 'The Fountain' and if that leads to slightly incomprehensible and disturbing films then the beauty of the spectacle and his adaptness in directing certainly compensates for it.