Archive for April, 2011



What is the point of first past the post? It doesn’t represent the public. It serves only to represent a single political group as the winner rarely gains a majority worthy to represent its constituency and insures safe seats for politicians. This allows them to feel free to use public money to fund anything from pornography to duck houses.

The arguments from the No2AV campaign have relied on an advert portraying people being too stupid to understand a format requiring the writing of numbers in order: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-obZ9OG_XKA

And a poster showing a boxer being knocked out by an opponent and still winning despite this being impossible under AV as boxing is a one on one situation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVRtL20Ue54&feature=player_embedded

But the argument that winning a foot race, even by a nose, is justifiable as being fully representative seems to be doing enough to win with the ‘No’ campaign in the lead by anything from 5 to 10 percentage points depending on the poll.

Why?

The King is born!!! Oh, the King is dead....already

The public have no appetite for change. People will complain about politicians and the press will get delirious with rage at expenses scandals but it means nothing come election time. We’ve become an old country set in its ways. We alternate our governments between labour and conservative as their main competition has been over who can be closer to the political centre ground. We have a monarchy that trudges on despite holding no influence over the country and its subjects anymore. The economy is lurching in the face of competition from China, India and Brazil. Our place as a ‘former’ world power is at last truly dawning and there doesn’t seem to be any enthusiasm to snap the country back into life.

We’ve had two by-elections recently in Barnsley and Oldham East after the previous Labour MPs were imprisoned. You would have thought that criminally pissing away voters’ money would deter the people from entrusting your party again, at least for the foreseeable future. But Labour not only held onto the seats but actually increased their share of the vote by over 10 per cent in each district.

The voters trundled into the booths and collectively put a cross in the box next to Labour because that’s what they’re supposed to do. “We’re from the north. We vote labour. We don’t want Thatcher’s Britain.” The same happens in the south with middle England as staunchly conservative as ever only to be riled out of their dozy middle class lifestyles if there is a perceived threat to…..trees.

AV won’t win because the politicians don’t want it to. The Tories like their safe seats. They represent the moderate right against the left wing. If the voting system represented a straight fight between the right and the left, then labour and lib dem votes would be intertwined possibly decimating the Tories in a number of their close seats.

Labour are split over the issue because they realise the above, but they also don’t like the idea of losing votes to the lib dems who are often the common mans’ second favourite party and could do well under AV.

It could all have been so different……

For real reform it takes a leader who can win the support of the public and develop enough energy to encourage people to act in the name of progression. Think Martin Luther King, Emmeline Pankhurst or Vladimir Lenin. Nick Clegg could have been that man. For a while he was the knight in shining armour destined to lead the country to greener pastures. He fearlessly strode into the field of conflict (TV leadership debate) and after a ferocious battle where much blood was spilt (some verbals and polite disagreements) the gallant knight emerged heroic and victorious (1% gain in vote).

But then it went wrong.

Mel Gibson ain't no English Bitch

I don’t remember Mel Gibson signing an agreement at the end of Braveheart saying: “Fair cop mate, your English boys won. It was a good fight (but never really that close). Do us a favour sport (King Edward), I’ll be your deputy if you fancy?” It wouldn’t have gone down well with the Scots and would probably have confused the film critics. But that’s what Clegg did because he hadn’t seen Braveheart. He fucking hates Mel Gibson films.

Since then he’s had to choke on tuition fee increases that decimated his strong student support and battle his own party about Andrew Lansley’s proposals for reforms to the NHS. Clegg’s Merry Men aren’t happy. Vince Cable (Friar Tuck) is getting into arguments with David Cameron about immigration speeches. Danny Alexander (the ginger merry man) is falling out with George Osborne about ‘dirty tricks’ in the AV campaign. All the while the liberal democrat Godfathers Emperor Ming Campbell and Charles Kennedy are hardly thrilled about the whole coalition deal.

Clegg could have pushed through electoral form. He could have ridden the crest of a liberal wave that refused to elect the Tories outright despite knowing labour were not so much a dead horse but long decayed. His victory is that there is a referendum on electoral form. He has taken it this far but to ensure this he had to sign his political life away. Now Ed Miliband won’t even share a platform with him during the YES2AV campaign. It’s a sad state of affairs for a man who sacrificed his party to gain power and attempt to make real change to the country. If AV wins it will now be Miliband’s victory. If it doesn’t then Clegg’s surely done as a political force. Tuition Fees increased, Trident will be replaced rather than scrapped and electoral reform has slipped away.


Just in case you didn’t know – IMDb (Internal Movie Database) is a hugely popular website that encourages the public to rate films out of 10 and subsequently calculates the average rating of each film.

I love IMDb. It reflects the point of view of the film going public that could previously only be gauged by Box Office takings. If you wanted to learn about the quality of a film you would have to rely on the opinions of critics, but with IMDb came an opportunity for film fans to contribute to a truly reflective audience reaction.  

Unfortunately sometimes the website gets things terribly wrong. For instance, whilst I’m very fond of its top 250 list, there are some glaring mistakes that reflect the problem of relying on the common man rather than professional film buffs.  Here are my examples of IMDb madness

Into the Wild: 8.2/10

This is the tale of an idiot. Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, Emile Hirsch plays the role of a young man disillusioned with society who gives up all his earthly goods to truly experience nature. It culminates in his death in Alaska when he realises that he can’t feed himself. It’s of course tragic that McCandless died but there’s also no doubt that he was an idiot. Unfortunately, Sean Penn directs this as an anti capitalism story of the freedom of the human soul and in support of the man who wasted life in such a reckless way. A tale of lack of preparation is told as a story of inspiration. It’s tragically stupid, but still it’s better than Trainspotting, Scarface and Gone with the wind…….apparently.

 

Spot the difference......Oh there isn't any

Avatar: 8.2/10

Just over 300,000 people have contributed to this rating. It makes it the 164th best film of all time. One position ahead of Life of Brian, a few places clear of the Terminator. It may be a clichéd complaint but Avatar is a rip off of the Pocahontas story. It’s a boring rehash of the old evil invading army vs the natural world done 30 years ago in Return of the Jedi. Stephen Lang’s role as Colonel Miles Quaritch is modelled on the ultimate armed forces bad-guy…….‘Chip Hazard’ from Small Soldiers. And it’s just another excuse for director James Cameron to spend lots of money on special effects and sacrifice writing, performance and plot.

Avatar is the ultimate dull blockbuster. But somehow it confused people with pretty 3D jellyfish floating and plenty of flying around. So this is apparently enough to place it above Life of Brian, often considered the culmination of Monty Python’s genius.

Leon: 8.6/10

This is rated as the 34th best film ever edging out Kubrick’s dark comedy classic Dr Strangelove, Francis Ford Coppola’s intense masterpiece Apocalypse Now and Orson Welles’ powerful portrayal of a media giant Citizen Kane. Of course it isn’t better than any of these films. It’s not even that good. It’s a rip off of the Terminator 2 relationship between an unfeeling killing machine and a kid whose life is threatened with some misguided symbolism of a plant pot and milk thrown in. I hope that doesn’t sell it as it’s really not worth seeing. Director ‘Luc Besson’ is now associated with the Transporter and Arthur trilogies. Not really a body of work to unseat Kubrick, Coppola or Welles in the history books.

So what’s the solution? IMDb is still a good guide and I discovered a number of films through its ratings. For instance it champions much of the late Sidney Lumet’s great work with the likes of 12 Angry Men and Dog Day Afternoon rated highly. But if you want a more reliable guide then the critics are still the best. In particular the website “rottentomatoes” which amalgamates scores in a similar way to IMDb but only allows contributions from film critics.  But as always when in doubt follow the good Doctor Mark Kermode and he will show you the light.

Limitless: A film review


 
 

Limitless a.k.a Bradley Cooper promotion vehicle

An action-thriller starring Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro that is not just limited but morally confused.

The story follows Eddie Morra (Cooper) a struggling writer devoid of inspiration whose life is going wrong. To really emphasise this image of destitution Eddie has long hair and a dirty flat. This ingenious idea manages to perfectly capture the essence of the difference between him and men who have short hair and tidy living rooms. Hollywood long ago decided that these are the characteristics required for a male to truly obtain inner peace. To enhance the image of Eddie as a character worthy of following in what is essentially a tale of self improvement; early on his girlfriend Lindy, played by Abbie Cornish, breaks up with him. The reasoning is confused but at this stage that is irrelevant. The picture is complete. Eddie’s world is now definitely a mess and something is needed in order to reinvigorate him and give him purpose. Unusually for a mainstream Hollywood film the pick-me-up comes in the form of…. drugs. A chance encounter between Eddie and the brother of his ex-wife; Vernon, played by Johnny Whitworth, sees Eddie introduced to NZT.

NZT serves as the main thought provoking element to this film. Apparently humans only use 20 per cent of their brains and this drug allows a person to access the extra 80 per cent. Through a set of circumstances I won’t ‘spoil’ Eddie gets hold of a large amount of NZT pills with which he embarks on an extended montage of self improvement. With his mental capacity brimming he bashes out an apparently fantastic novel in no time, cleans his flat, gets his hair cut, learns multiple languages and makes millions on the stock market. There is more that happens and I haven’t even introduced DeNiro’s character but that isn’t what I want to talk about and in truth barely matters in a film whose entire purpose is to plug Bradley Cooper in light of the approaching ‘Hangover’ sequel.

To an extent this film shares a vision with Darren Aranofsky’s Requiem for a dream. Requiem’s central characters embark on a journey to make enough money to afford pure heroin which lacks the side effects of the scag available on the street. Inevitably the good times on the drug bring about side effects. Eddie experiences headaches and vomiting when he begins to run out of NZT so he pays a lab technician to develop a purer form of the drug he needs to keep him working at optimum level. However unlike ‘Requiem’ where Jared Leto ends up with an arm amputation and Jennifer Connelly performs horrendous sexual acts to feed her addiction, in ‘Limitless’ we are supposed to support Eddie in his quest to gain the drug. There is even a scene at the end where he desperately searches for one last pill in order heighten his senses and be able to escape a life threatening situation. It’s literally the same as Popeye using spinach. But instead of encouraging children to eat their greens this film advocates the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Whilst not spoiling the ending the conclusion appears to be that drugs are ok as long as you get rich and successful and there aren’t any side effects. Fine, but why then does Lindy leave Eddie when she discovers that his self improvement is the result of drug influence. Is she wrong to leave a man with a drug dependence that has completely altered his personality? It appears so because inexplicably she gets back together with him by the end despite his continued use of NZT.

Aside from the confused approach to addressing drugs, it takes some serious liberties in assuming what a hyper-intelligent being would want to achieve. In this story Eddie goes from wanting to be a writer to wanting to make huge amounts of money, enter the corporate world, dominate the stock market and eventually make a run for President. Interestingly Leo Tolstoy began as a writer and when he became successful and incredibly rich he turned away from the establishment and the political class and began working like a peasant in search of fulfilment. Other super intelligent men like Che Guevara went from a doctor to a revolutionary communist. But this is a capitalist film in line with the American dream. This is hardly outside-of-the-box thinking and it’s really no wonder that a film with such limited philosophy completely fails to deal with the issue of drugs.

If you ignore these irritating questions then it’s a standard thriller. DeNiro’s good in the 10 minutes you actually see him whilst Bradley Cooper’s fine if you like him or irritating with a giant Cheshire grin if you don’t.

Rating: Meh 5/10