LA LA LAND directed by Damien Chazelle (USA, 2016)
Movies don’t exist in vacuums. La La Land is the ideal antidote to the ongoing carnage of Trump.
It presents a cloud cuckoo land where the American dream is alive and skipping with a populace ready to burst into song at the drop of a hat.
Here, a traffic jam on a Los Angeles freeway is an excuse for a spontaneous party.
Here is a glossy world where the chief concerns are the demise of traditional jazz and the difficulty of breaking into Hollywood.
A world in which romance is not dead, racism doesn’t exist and where gender roles are well-defined. For two hours, we can pretend that all is well with the world and can exit the auditorium gushing that they do, after all, still make ’em like they used to.
It’s a movie that forgets it is a musical half way through and remembers just in time to concoct a grande finale but, just to show its post modernist edge, denies us the satisfaction of seeing our hero and heroine dancing off into the stars hand in hand.
In short, the mega-hyped La La Land is plastic, superficial and dumb. The perfect entertainment package served up as opium for the masses. An escapist yarn with the flimsiest of plots that the critics and audiences, desperate for distraction in these desperate times, are gleefully lapping up in their droves.
Not me! I stand with the party poopers.
A strong leader stands in an un-drained swamp.
“It’s so easy to laugh,
It’s so easy to hate,
It takes guts to be gentle and kind”
Lyrics by Morrissey to ‘I Know It’s Over’ by The Smiths
A recent survey carried out by the newspaper La Repubblica found that 80% of Italians think the country needs to be run by “un uomo forte” (a strong man). In 2006, only 55% of the populace subscribed to this view while 60% held this belief in 2010.
This rising trend is worrying and depressing on many counts. It indicates that more and more voters are willing to be represented by leaders solely on the basis that they adopt strong opinions and maintain a posture of decisiveness.
On the surface this may seem logical and uncontroversial. After all, who would want a leader to be weak and indecisive? The problem lies with what exactly is meant by the word ‘strong’. Continue reading
Boardwalk Empire may have been set in the 1920s but what it has to say about megalomania and wheeler-dealing has strong resonances in today’s squalid political climate.
One of my favorite quotes (in Season 3) is when industrialist, banker and US ambassador Andrew W. Mellon (James Cromwell) takes the stand at a Senate hearing and is asked whether it’s gross incompetence or widespread corruption that’s making prohibition a legal joke. Mellon replies deadpan: “It is my experience that human nature leaves ample room for both.”
THE CROWN Season 1 – Netflix TV Series written and created by Peter Morgan (UK/USA, 2016)
If you ever get me on the subject of the Royal Family it won’t be too long before you hear words like ‘leeches’ and ‘parasites’ or me expressing the view that The Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save The Queen’ would make a better national anthem for the UK.
My wife and I therefore began watching season 1 of The Crown on Netflix more out of morbid curiosity than out of any real expectation of viewing pleasure.
I was waiting to see how many layers of superficial dross and gloss would be applied in order to present HRH in a positive light. But the opening scene of King George VI coughing up blood (red not blue!) signals that creator Peter Morgan has something else in mind. Continue reading
DENIAL directed by Mick Jackson (UK/USA, 2016)
It is something of a paradox that in our fact check dominated world, liars and cheats continue to flourish.
A quick Google search will expose the most blatant of falsehoods but, as the campaigns of Brexit and Trump have proven, you can win votes simply by repeating lies ad infinitum.
Holocaust denier and credited British historian David Irving was and is a pants on fire specialist but he has never wavered from his position as a Hitler apologist. This film gives a clue as to what motivates him and how he is a potent (and pungent) example of someone who redefines the ‘truth’ to justify his own ends.
The movie is adapted from David Hare’s stage play which was in turn based on Deborah E. Lipstadt’s book ‘History On Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier’.
At its centre is the Irving vs Penguin Books Ltd trial which took place in 2000 at the High Court of Justice in London and gave judgement on Irving’s claim that Lipstadt had made libellous statements against him in her 1993 book ‘Denying The Holocaust’. Continue reading