Category: politics


SPOTLIGHT directed by Tom McCarthy (USA, 2015)

 oscarometro2016spotlightHoly shit! Never has this exclamation carried more significance.

Based on actual events (isn’t everything?), the shit uncovered by the Spotlight team of fearless reporters of the Boston Globe at the turn of the Millennium indeed had the holiest of stenches.

The Roman Catholic priests in Boston who molested and abused young boys and girls turned out the be the tip of a dung heap of global proportions. As the credits roll, the printed list of subsequent cases found in parishes around the world is enough to make Jesus and the rest of us mere mortals weep.

Anything which widens the scope of the negative publicity against the hypocritical church establishment is welcome but I doubt that the Pope is quaking in his satin slippers after seeing this lackluster movie. In toning down the sensationalist elements of the story, it becomes more of a celebration of investigative journalism than a full-blooded indictment of this holy disorder. Continue reading

BRIDGE OF SPIES directed by Steven Spielberg (USA; 2015)

220px-bridge_of_spies_posterAs a self-confessed movie nerd I can’t get enough of the ironic post-modernism to be found in directors like David Lynch, Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch. I identify strongly with the cynical and often surreal gaze they direct towards the modern world.

In my book, The Coen Brothers fit squarely into this category so it comes as something of shock to find Ethan and Joel’s names (alongside British playwright Matt Charman) on the screenwriting credits for Spielberg’s very conventional drama. Apparently, their remit was to add some zip to a story which, with shades of Fargo, is “inspired by real events”.

Lawyer James B. Donovan played by Tom Hanks is the decent, upstanding all American family man appointed to defend the devious Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) in what is initially conceived as little more than a show trial.

I suspect it is the Coens who came up with the best line in the movie when, in response to Donovan’s comment that Abel never seems to worry, the spy asks “Would it help?” This is funny the first time around, but when he poses the same question on two further occasions, it loses its novelty value. Otherwise, the script is tight and workmanlike although has none of the wisecracks or lively verbal exchanges you come to expect in Coen Brothers movies. Continue reading

IF I DIE IN A COMBAT ZONE by Tim O’Brien (First published 1973)

Nowadays, few are prepared to defend America’s invasion of Vietnam in the 1960s but, at the time, anyone who opposed the draft were seen at best as naive beatniks, at worst as traitors.

In times of conflict, propaganda machines of the state and media go into overdrive. Dissenting voices are ridiculed or silenced. Lip service is paid to alternative perspectives but killing continues to be routinely sanctioned in the bogus name of patriotism and justice.

Tim O’Brien’s first book was written, or begun, while serving in the combat zone of Vietnam then completed at graduate school when the war was over. The short sentences and plain language are reminiscent of Hemingway but this is no celebration of machismo.

On the contrary, O’Brien’s first instinct was to escape to Canada or Sweden. He ended up signing up; not because he believed in the cause but out of “a fear of society’s censure…..fear of weakness, afraid that to avoid war is to avoid manhood”. Continue reading

Today the cities were full of people marching to demand action to prevent global warming. A good thing of course. It prompted TV news stations to dust off their stock footage of ‘natural’ disasters and smog-filled cities.

As individuals we can save water, ride bikes and use energy-saving lightbulbs but even if everyone diligently did all these things the problem would not go away.

Animal agriculture is the number one cause of climate change, a fact that governments and businesses have kept quiet for obvious reasons. To make matters worse, Al Gore, Greenpeace, Naomi Klein and other campaigners have also all but ignored this issue. Continue reading

parisIn the wake of the horrific acts of terrorism in Paris, the hierarchy of Bologna University today instructed teachers to devote at least an hour’s time in the classroom to discuss the implications of and possible responses to this violence. The thinking behind this is well-intentioned but the practicalities are more than a little problematic.

Of course, in the long-term, we need to do more than change our profile picture on Facebook and light candles for the victims.

But what exactly are the parameters to such proposed discussions? What should be the responses to hate speak (e.g. All Muslims are scum) or apocalyptic solutions (e.g. Nuke Syria).

Such extreme reactions are understandable but should not be endorsed or legitimized.  The role of informed, calm-headed facilitator in any such debate is therefore crucial, but who moderates the moderators?

Teachers may be trained to impart facts about their specialist subjects but this does not automatically mean they have pearls of wisdom to offer to students on such political hot potatoes.

They may be older but this not necessarily make them wiser.

Talking is better than rushing to revenge but when wounds are still raw initiating an open-ended discussion could open up a can of worms that is hard to seal.

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