Thursday, 19 April 2018

RIP Dale Winton

Really sad to hear down the pub last night that Dale Winton had passed away at the age of 62. Being a teen in the '90s ostensibly revising for GCSE's and occasionally bunking off from school, his morning game show Supermarket Sweep became cult viewing so much so that he even appeared in the supermarket-set video for Sleeper's Inbetweener 

It's important to remember just how much of a well known and well loved figure Winton was in the '90s, fronting many entertainment shows and quizzes on TV. In later years he wasn't on TV as much (seemingly he preferred the radio, hosting Pick of the Pops on Radio 2 for a number of years - though changing tastes may also have had something to do with it) but when he was, such as hosting the National Lottery quiz In It To Win It for example, you were instantly reminded just how much of a safe pair of hands he was. His talent and likeable screen presence will be much missed.


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Out On Blue Six: Oasis

I love this song and I love this video - mixing Oasis with Lowry was genius...and the animator nailed Liam's Simian stroll!

End Transmission

Monday, 16 April 2018

Esther McVey - Heartless Twunt.

The odious Esther McVey proved once again what a heartless sociopath she is today appearing before Scottish parliament.

She showed how immune she is to the human effects of the Tory's brutal welfare cuts and claimed that the notorious rape clause was a good thing because it helped women to open up about their ordeal.

Take a look here and here. Is it any wonder that the public gallery became so incensed by the noxious shit she was spouting that it had to be cleared twice by officials? 

How this woman was ever allowed back into parliament is beyond me. Oh no wait, they parachuted into her into Tatton, an extremely safe Tory seat vacated by George 'Pencils' Osborne. Good luck trying to get this heartless twunt out now.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Out On Blue Six: Lisa Loeb

End Transmission

Jess Phillips Uses Anti-Semitism As a Means to Stab Corbyn In the Front

Jess Phillips, the Blairite Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley who once vowed she'd stab Corbyn in the front not the back, has been at it again. Taking to Twitter, she deliberately misconstrued the argument Ken Loach made at a Bristol rally for de-selecting MP's who routinely disagree with their leader as an example of Loach being anti-Semitic. 

On the 11th April, Jess tweeted; "Dear Ken, this month I've helped 30+ people have disability benefit reinstated because I have a specialist surgery to help tribunals. I save Daniel Blake's, but yeah because I hate racism I'm the problem. Get rid of me if you want, like some entitled dude who makes demands"

Here's the truth though;

1. Loach wasn't saying that protesting anti-Semitism was wrong. He was saying that using it to attack a leader you have never agreed with is wrong. But this was not adequately reported by the right wing press. Loach subsequently took to Twitter to clarify his position; "re-selecting an MP should not be based on individual incidents but reflect the MP's principles, actions and behaviour over a long period. Being an MP is not a job for life. Candidates should be selected for every election and party members should be able to make a democratic choice"   

2. Loach is being unfairly labelled an anti-Semite when again, like so many this argument is pointing towards, he is actually anti-Israel. I find it laughable that the row surrounding Perdition, the Jim Allen play he was meant to be directing for the Royal Court back in the 80s, has reared its ugly head again. Again, to be anti-Israel does not mean you are anti-Semitic.

3. If politicians like Jess actually got behind their leader perhaps they wouldn't now be having to save these 30+ Daniel Blakes in the first place. If you want the Tories out and the chance to create a better society, stop the in-fighting.

4. Jess Phillips voted for the Tory Welfare Bill that has created these Daniel Blakes in the first place.

5. The protest itself was in breach of party rules and was organised by the opposition ie the Tories. It's worth mentioning though that Corbyn graciously conceded the members right to protest as he rightfully acknowledged anti-Semitism to be abhorrent. 

6. Using this row to score points against the leader devalues the issue, presumes that Corbyn himself is racist or anti-Semitic (when even the protest acknowledged that wasn't the case), and is simply a Trojan horse to try and topple him from power. I'd have more respect for you if I suspected you really did give a toss about racism. Equally, I notice that she couldn't resist the dig about Loach being 'some entitled dude'; Phillips devaluing the gender issue there too. Men who disagree with you aren't chauvinist examples of the patriarchy. They're just people with a different opinion to your own.

7. Jess has taken to twitter to essentially say she's done her job! A true Blairite there, spinning to make herself sound as if she's going the extra mile when she's simply doing what she's paid to do - to serve her constituency. Now, of only she'd do the other stuff she's paid to do, like support the leader and fight for greater equality all round.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Ghost Stories (2017)

Warning: This Post Contains...

I had a kind of unfinished business with Ghost Stories. Back in 2010, when I was dating a girl down south she suggested we go and see the stage play which she had already seen and was enthusing about like mad, claiming she'd never be able to look at a child in a bed in the same way again. What with one thing and another, we didn't go. So I was intrigued and pleased to see that Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman had adapted their play for the big screen.

Does it stand up?

Sadly no, not really.

Dyson and Nyman recreate the portmanteau horrors of old rather well (look out for a tin of pet food bearing the legend 'Tigon') but watching it, I couldn't help but feel a recreation of such a genre was rather redundant. When the original thing is out there,created by such greats as MR James, why bother with something like this - with its added jump scares to appeal to younger audiences? Oh God, there are so many jump scares in this. I imagine they worked really well in the theatre, but in the cinema it just makes it feel like any other hoary old American teen horror. Crucially, Ghost Stories isn't particularly original or particularly scary (though it did impress me by leaving quite a bit to the imagination - the old Nigel Kneale trick) and - given Dyson and Nyman's comedic background - it isn't particularly funny either.

The film also suffered from having a twist that I spotted immediately thanks to a very recognisable actor being unable to immerse himself beneath the latex mask or hide his voice behind a couple of accents accurately enough. Once I'd got that, I started looking out for the clues Dyson and Nyman were laying throughout the film and found them all really easy to spot each time they popped up. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but I just felt the audience was being signposted a bit too clearly, rather than this being an example of filmmakers confident enough in their audience to allow them to find things for themselves.

On the positive side, this is a really fine cast. Andy Nyman is a sympathetic lead investigating the inexplicable events of that have terrorised his co-stars; Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman. With his role in the excellent The Death of Stalin and now this, it's really nice to see Whitehouse finally breaking out into the movies and proving what Johnny Depp perhaps said all along, that he's a genuinely good actor. Meanwhile Lawther once again proves that he's a young talent to watch with a very affecting turn, and yes there's  Freeman to bring the audiences in - the film's valuable big name for the US market. It's just a shame the vignettes they're involves in are not on a par with their talents.

There's a great sight gag regarding some classic puppets that will be familiar to anyone in the UK, especially those of us of a certain age. I think that may have been one of the highpoints actually in  this otherwise rather unoriginal ho hum affair that promises far more than it actually delivers.

Hanging on the Telephone

Annette Andre as Jeannie Hopkirk in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)

RIP Miloš Forman

Very sad to hear that Miloš Forman died yesterday at the age of 86 following a short illness.

For many, the Czech filmmaker will be rightly remembered as a great purely for the classic 1975 movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest or for 1984's lavish Amadeus, both films which won him an Oscar for Best Director. But I personally also really loved his early works in his native Czechoslovakia, Loves of a Blonde and The Fireman's Ball, or his incredibly ambitious near-miss Ragtime from 1981, or the inventive Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon from 1999.

He really was a true great of cinema.


Friday, 13 April 2018

Spice World (1997)

If you ever want to see Geri Halliwell and Emma Bunton do their best Brenda Blethyn in Secrets and Lies impression to a bemused Claire Rushbrook, then stick around for the end credits of Spice World. It genuinely happens.

I really miss the '90s and, though I'm aware that in saying that what I may actually mean is I miss my youth (midlife crisis on the horizon and I'm going to crash into that like a motherfucker haha), I do still maintain that there was something special about the '90s. I genuinely don't think a phenomenon (there is no other word) like the Spice Girls could exist now: a group that transcends their target audience to become part of the zeitgeist. Even your granny knew who the Spice Girls were, thanks to Top of the Pops and tabloids. I can't really imagine anyone's granny knowing who Little Mix are. The '90s was the last time that sort of pan appeal could occur and so, with such cultural cache and multi-platform merchandising potential, it was only right that the girl (power) group got their own movie in 1997.

Except calling Spice World a movie is an act of kindness. Taking A Hard Day's Night as it's cue, but without its charm or inventiveness, Spice World is a series of sketches really and they all more or less fall flat on their face. In fact there's only one I laughed at and it was the one that saw a teenage boy come round from his coma at the prospect of Geri getting her tits out. In contrast, the absolute worst is seeing Michael Barrymore (ask your mum and dad) stealing Victor Spinetti's Sergeant Major routine from The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour to zero comedy effect. Which reminds me, watching this a staggering twenty-one years later, it's surprising just how many people involved ended up in scandal: Barrymore, the Spice Girls rendition of Leader of the Gang (I Am) by oft-convicted paedophile Gary Glitter, and Andy Coulson, then a music writer with The S*n, who has since done time for his part in News International's disgusting phone hacking practices.  

Now I'm not about to fall into the usual trap of many a misanthropic bloke and say that the Spice Girls were crap and I didn't see their appeal. Their music wasn't for me, but I could tell a good polished tune when I heard one (2 Become 1 has some great classy production on it, and Too Much which opens the film is another one I'm partial too) and could see why they were a success: they were fresh and eye-catching, they were good at what they did and the deliberate individual characteristics they presented meant that they each appealed to someone in their audience - and no doubt these characters and looks appealed on another level to some of the many blokes who weren't necessarily fans of the music*.  

But the fact remains that Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Posh were singers, not actors and it shows.  Sure they could get by doing a bit of chat and having a laugh on kids TV or steal the limelight in front of the press at some function or other, but a film is a stretch for them and it appears that the filmmakers were wholly aware of this fact. Latching onto the aforementioned sense of character appeal, the script plays safe by adhering to the very same stereotypes it goes on to complain about in a rather meta way, so Victoria is a fashion obsessed pain in the arse, Mel C can only talk about football, Emma is childish, Geri is a boring know-all and Mel B is...well, Mel B. This ensures that the girls are never stretched beyond their limited capabilities, and leaves the real work of pushing the story along to Richard E Grant, who sports some magnificent sideburns as their harassed manager Clifton, and the aforementioned Rushbrook as their PA. Naoko Mori pops up as their old friend and mum-to-be Nicola to suggest that there was some life for our heroines before the demands of the big time and, along the same lines, there's even a sweet flashback sequence involving Bill Patterson, but strangely it goes absolutely nowhere in the context of the movie. Also helping to spin this gossamer thread out is the glut of blink and you'll miss 'em cameos that bouy things genially along. Some are great (Elvis Costello, Cathy 'Duffy off Casualty' Shipton as a nurse, Jennifer Saunders playing a slightly milder version of Edina Monsoon, Stephen Fry) and some aren't, but let's thank our stars that Frank Bruno was axed from the role of Dennis the bus driver and the casting coup of the century occurred: Mr Loaf himself, Meat to his mates. But best of all perhaps is the chance to watch Roger Moore bop along to Spice Up Your Life in the film's finale!  

Not a great film by any means and quite cringeworthy at times, but it's harmless inoffensive fun that achieves everything it no doubt set out to do and entertained fans, so in that regard it's surely a success. Besides, cringeworthy, harmless, inoffensive and fun are words that could sum the Spice Girls up, and watching Spice World now is almost like travelling back in time to the '90s - and who wouldn't want to do that?

*if anyone's wondering, I personally saw the appeal of Ginger Spice the most at the time. I know, I know.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

RIP Alex Beckett

Very shocked and saddened to hear that the actor Alex Beckett, Perfect Curve's hopeless hipster Barney in Twenty Twelve and W1A, has died suddenly at the age of 35.


Tonight's Tele Tip: Law & Order (1978) BBC4, 10pm

Do yourself a favour tonight and tune into BBC4 at 10pm for one of the most groundbreaking and controversial TV dramas ever to appear on British television. Law & Order, written by G.F. Newman, produced by Tony Garnett and directed by Les Blair, makes The Sweeney look like Play Away.

Groundbreaking is a word that often gets bandied about when discussing film or TV, but when discussing the 1978 quartet of BBC films entitled Law & Order (not to be confused with the later US show, and its UK based ITV spin-off) there can be no question of using that word in a cliched or lazy way. 

Law & Order truly was groundbreaking; a radical, polemical and shockingly brutal, warts and all depiction of institutionalised corruption within every corner of the UK's law enforcement, judicial and penal system. It's broadcast in 1978 shocked and appalled thenation, causing an uproar which led to questions in the House, an unofficial but clearly obvious embargo on repeating or broadcasting the production in any shape or form for 31 years, and a suggestion that its writer G.F. Newman be charged for crimes against the state. But equally it created a much needed and radical reform of an institution riddled with malpractice and better safeguarding of those in society who come under police suspicion.

The story spans four films each told from the perspective of the police (Derek Martin as the bent DI Fred Pyle) the brief (Ken Campbell as Alex Gladwell) and the criminal, and ultimately, the prisoner (Peter Dean as Jack Lynn) It's a compelling all encompassing approach that hasn't dated; indeed the BBC cribbed it again for their 2013 dramatisation of The Great Train Robbery, splitting the film into two parts to show the villains and the police's viewpoint. 

The trio of writer G.F. Newman, director Les Blair and producer Tony Garnett successfully commented on what was wrong in this aspect society in a gloriously authentic, quasi-documentary style, casting actors who were both unknown or had relatively little experience. And it really works; I defy anyone not to be utterly transfixed by each film's careful pacing, tight naturalistic script and pared down realism. It's often bleak, cynical and despondent viewing, but there's more than a ring of truth to it that makes it vitally important. Even Michael Mann is a big fan and the rumour is he would routinely screen it in the Miami Vice studios in the 1980s as he tried to get his own remake off the ground, but to no avail.

Out On Blue Six: Sleeper

End Transmission

Molly Ringwald, the Breakfast Club and #MeToo

Last week, Molly Ringwald wrote a really thought provoking article in The New Yorker about John Hughes and her experiences of not only making the films The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink with him, but of revisiting them today as a parent. This article manages to remind us how Hughes really spoke for the teen generation when popular culture refused to acknowledge them as three dimensional characters, but at the same time it points out an alarming blind spot Hughes had about the characters he was so adept at presenting - a blind spot that is all the more visible in the present day.

It reminded me of a previous story that had come to light about the making of The Breakfast Club, and I guess the thing we should take from it is that Hughes was open to others poitning out when he'd overstepped the mark. It's a fascinating opinion piece by Ringwald and you can read it here

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Out On Blue Six: Tori Amos

....Or you'll never believe what this song's about #3

Even now, so many people presume Cornflake Girl is just about the divisions and betrayals in friendship that many teenage girls may feel in their school days or something like that. So it's often a surprise for such people to learn that Amos wrote the song about FGM (female genital mutilation). The song is still about betrayal, but it is the betrayal victims of FGM feel when they realise it is a close female family member who has put them through such an ordeal. Here's Amos herself discussing the song's meaning and inspiration...

End Transmission

Girls With Guns

Linda Marlowe in Big Zapper

Thursday, 5 April 2018

H3 (2001)

The 2001 film H3 is a moving and effective dramatic account of the 1981 hunger strike within the notorious H blocks at the Maze prison. We see these events ostensibly through the eyes of a handful of inmates from the titular block, most notably Sean Scullion (Brendan Mackey) a fictional IRA officer commanding whose job it was to find volunteers for the strike, and his young cellmate, 19 year old Declan (Aidan Campbell). 

Directed by Les Blair, the film focuses primarily on the solidarity and protest of its fictional inmates, as opposed to any political agitprop. The aim here seems to be to get audiences to empathise with the demands of the characters to be seen as political prisoners, rather than to sympathise with the actions of the IRA. The script is from two former Maze prisoners, Brian Campbell and surviving hunger striker Leslie McKeown, who managed a staggering 70 days on the strike, and so although it is only natural that it is told completely from the prisoners perspective,  you don't feel like you're ever being rallied to any particular cause or beaten over the head with the political context.

Although Bobby Sands does appear (played by Mark O'Holloran) his appearances are kept to a minimum, making him a peripheral yet essential player. The real stars here are the aforementioned Mackey, and Campbell who, as a newcomer, becomes the audience's guide to this punishing world and its incredibly resilient spirit. There's also a very good role for British actor Dean Lennox Kelly as Ciarán, Seamus' friend and a vulnerable inmate, handling the Irish accent rather well.

Blair's direction imbues his film with the necessary claustrophobia and misery and doesn't spare audiences from the unpalatable truths of the dirty protest. But I have to say we are spared some of the more graphic realities of this and the prisoners day to day lives. Anyone who has watched the Bobby Sands documentary 66 Days will agree that it iss fair to say that these cells are quite hygienic compared to the excreta smeared walls that truly existed. These walls were more or less clean even though the film shows us Declan smearing the wall at one point! What the film does do is remind us that the 1981 hunger strike wasn't just about Sands or indeed the other 9 who gave their lives. There were over 100 volunteers for the strike and there was of course the writer McKeown himself.

Ultimately, H3 was overshadowed by Steve McQueen's film Hunger as evinced by the fact that over on Letterboxd, there are just nine people who have marked it as watched. It's a shame really as this is a good film in its own right and one which deserves a wider audience.

Monday, 2 April 2018

RIP Steven Bochco

Utterly gutted to hear that the man responsible for some of my favourite TV, Steven Bochco, has died at the age of 74 following a long battle with leukaemia.

I really haven't much to say about this sad news, beyond...


Saturday, 31 March 2018

Theme Time: Amanda Palmer - Drifters

Sometimes, I have to admit I get things wrong.

In 2013, I watched the first two episodes of the E4 sitcom Drifters and hated it so much I posted a scathing review on here.

However, a friend whose opinion I value, recommended I give it another try and I'm currently halfway through the second series and I'm struggling to see why I found it so objectionable after all. Certainly the first two episodes - indeed much of series one overall - aren't exceptionally good, but I do feel that Drifters slowly finds its feet and it is quite endearing and funny thanks to the performances of the central trio Jessica Knappett (who created and wrote the series), Lydia Rose Bewley and Lauren O'Rourke.

So this post is by way of an apology for my earlier criticism and a chance to share the theme tune, the ramshackle glory of Amanda Palmer's Leeds United

Out On Blue Six: Robert Wyatt

Robert Wyatt with one of the best covers of all time. Knocks spots of the original by The Monkees, let's face it.

Just last month I read the very excellent David Cavanagh book Good Night and Good Riddance, which looks at how thirty five years of John Peel at Radio 1 helped shape modern life as we know it. Writing about Peel's Sounds of the Seventies show from 10th October 1974 - which featured Wyatt in session - Cavanagh relates a story I'd never heard before and which left me quite shocked. It concerns Wyatt's performance of this on Top of the Pops. On seeing Wyatt arrive in his wheelchair ahead of the performance, the show's producer, Robin Nash asked him if he could possibly sit in an ordinary chair when singing as Top of the Pops is 'a family show' (!) When that request was refused, Nash -according to Wyatt's guitarist Fred Frith - asked if they would 'cover the wheelchair completely' because he thought it 'was in bad taste and might upset viewers' (!!) 

Robin 'Mr Equality' Nash

Wyatt stuck to his guns and refused, earning a 'you'll never work in this town again' style comment from Nash (a ban from the show was effectively lifted by the time Wyatt troubled the charts again with Shipbuilding almost a decade later). The performance went out, but Nash ensured the camera operators kept wide shots to a minimum. 

Cavanagh concludes this chapter remarking that Britain was clearly and thankfully a very different place in 1974 than it is now, but adding that "It's a curious thing that a disabled singer was frowned upon and a spinal injury taboo, but it was perfectly acceptable to feign psychopathy as long as you looked like Hitler" as in the case of Sparks' Ron Mael. I'd also add that it was perfectly acceptable for Top of the Pops presenters to grope young girls live on air and for cameramen to get as many upskirt shots of said girls as possible too.

Strange days indeed. It goes without saying that Cavanagh's book is heartily, emphatically recommended. 

End Transmission

RIP Bill Maynard

Veteran comic actor and TV legend Bill Maynard has died aged 89.

In a career that spanned eight decades, Maynard could be found in several Carry On films as well as their naughtier rivals, the Confessions movies, In Sickness and in Health and Worzel Gummidge. He had the starring role in two successful TV sitcoms in the '70s and '80s, Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt! and The Gaffer, and he took more dramatic roles in the likes of The Sweeney, Colin Welland's Play for Today, Kisses at Fifty, and the Andrew Davies Screen One drama Filipina Dreamgirls. Away from acting he tried his hand at singing, coming second in the 1957 Eurovision Song Contest, and - far less successfully - at politics, standing against Labour's Tony Benn as an independent candidate in the 1984 Chesterfield election and losing his deposit (hahaha) as a result. He even had his own radio show on BBC Radio Leicester from 2003 to 2008. But it will be his role as the scruffy old reprobate Claude Jeremiah Greengrass in the long running series Heartbeat and its crossover The Royal from 1992 to 2003 that Maynard will perhaps be best remembered for. 

Ill health and a series of strokes had plagued Maynard in recent years but he returned to our TV screens last year for a brief, two-line cameo in The Moorside, the drama about the real life case of the Shannon Matthews hoax kidnapping, just to prove to audiences that he wasn't dead yet!

Sadly, following a fall from his mobility scooter that broke his hip, Maynard passed away in hospital in Leicestershire.


Thursday, 29 March 2018

Out On Blue Six: The Blow Monkeys

....Or you'll never believe what this song's about #2

This is another good song whose meaning often goes unnoticed. Written by lead singer Dr. Robert, the song discusses its protagonist's anxieties and tragic self disgust at being a gay man during the HIV and AIDS crisis of the 1980s. The constant refrain of "Tell me why is it I'm digging your scene?" is the most soulful, poppy way of storytelling someone clearly challenging his own orientation, whilst the follow up line "I know I'll die, baby" is deeply fatalistic, but again the music almost belies it. The rest of the song acknowledges lingering death bed scenes in hostels ("They put you in a home to fill in, But I would not call that living" and "So sad to see you fade away") the homophobia and 'Christian' reaction to the growing epidemic ("It'll get you in the end,
It's God's Revenge"), hiding your sexuality or your ill health from both yourself and others ("Oh I know I should come clean, But I prefer to deceive") and the identity crisis the protagonist has regarding his sexuality in the wake of seeing his friends die and realising he may be next ("I know it's wrong, I KNOW it's wrong" and "I'd like to think I was just MYSELF again")

End Transmission

Playing Away (1987)

Horace Ové's 1987 comic film Playing Away tells a culture clash tale of inner city, urban contemporary black Britain with rural picture postcard village olde (and exclusively white) England through the game of cricket.

The fictional Suffolk village of Sneddington is our location, where the charity minded, ultra conservative residents have been staging a Third World Aid week. To round the event off, the village team have invited the Brixton Conquistadores to a 'friendly' game of cricket which quickly proves to be anything but friendly.

Screenwriter Caryl Phillips claimed that his aim with the film was purely to entertain rather than address any deeply ingrained social issues, however I think he's being too modest. There's a really sound commentary going on here that shows the divisions not just between the Sneddington hosts and the visiting black community of Brixton, but also the divisions that occur in each group: it's clear that there's a line drawn between the middle aged Conquistadores such as team captain Willie Boy (Norman Beaton) and his deputy Robbo (Joseph Marcel) who arrived in the UK some twenty odd years earlier and their younger counterparts like Gary Beadle's pugnacious Londoner Errol. Willie Boy and Robbo are now at an age where they've realised their hopes and ambitions for a modern life in 'the mother country' have come to nothing. They're now considering making the move back to the West Indies, whereas Errol, who is undoubtedly a product of Brixton, represent the contrast and conflict between generations defining himself as he does as Black British. Likewise, there's a class division to be found in Sneddington, as best exemplified by the fact that the village has two pubs; one for the well-to-do captain Jeff (Nicholas Farrell) and one for the imposing ruddy faced real ale drinking farmer Fredrick (Bruce Purchase) and the local mullet-headed, disenfranchised youth who have seemingly just heard about punk some ten years too late, as represented by a pre-fame Neil Morrissey and Ross Kemp.

What's interesting to watch is just how quickly the friendly veneer falls away, largely through a fug of alcohol as resentments and racial prejudices come to the surface. The local yokel boys, incensed by the sight of Errol getting friendly with a busty young blonde they've clearly long since set their own sights upon, pick up Willie Boy's daughter Yvette (Suzette Llewellyn) in their Starsky & Hutch white-striped cherry red Ford Cortina and drive her to a secluded spot with the vague intention of raping her. It's a jarring moment for a film whose main aim is - as Phillips stressed -  to amuse and entertain, but it feels palpably real. Mercifully nothing comes of it, but it says a lot about the impotent frustrations of  such young men and the bitterness they feel towards outsiders. Meanwhile Willie Boy himself strays drunkenly into the 'better class of' pub and is soon given short shrift. Only the somewhat aloof and dreamy Godfrey (Robert Urquhart) proves to be an ally to Willie Boy and the visiting team, thanks to his time spent in, and lifelong appreciation for, Africa and the West Indies.

My favourite scene has to be the moment in the vicar's garden party where Errol, having watched a rather humble looking villager waiting on and handing out sandwiches, goes up to him and rather glibly asks "Can't you see they're oppressing you?", "What's oppression?" comes his suitably bemused reply.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Out On Blue Six: The Undertones

....Or You'll Never Believe What This Song's Actually About #1

I love songs whose meanings can take you completely by surprise. Believe it or not, this 1981 single from The Undertones has a very deep meaning; Bobby Sands and the Maze prison hunger strikes. 

Written by the band's lead guitarist Damian O'Neill and bassist Michael Bradley, the song was conceived (primarily by O'Neill, Bradley made the song's meaning more vague and acceptable to pop audiences) as a protest at Margaret Thatcher's refusal to meet the hunger striking IRA prisoners demands and grant them political prisoner status. The thing that was going to 'happen all the time, 'till you change your mind' was death.

It's perhaps these lyrics where such inspiration is at its most clear;

"Watching your friends passing by
Going to sleep without blinking a blue eye
Too slow to notice what's wrong
Two faced to you when you're taking them on"


"Everything goes when you're dead
Everything empties from what was in your hand
No point in waiting today
Stupid revenge is what's making you stay"

Despite the song's meaning, no one in the band could have predicted that the day they were called to appear on Top of the Pops to perform the single, 5th May 1981, would be the day Bobby Sands would die from his hunger strike. To mark the occasion, O'Neill performed wearing a black armband.

End Transmission

Monday, 26 March 2018

Tories Love To Smear Labour as Anti-Semitic, But They Should Look at Their Own Party

This brouhaha over alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (conveniently raised ahead of May's local election to discredit Corbyn and dint his support) has, unsurprisingly, been a boon to the Tory Party who once again are trying to paint themselves as the nice guys and the Left as the real 'Nasty Party'

But if the Tories really are serious about being nice and finding the notion of anti-Semitism and racist prejudice so abhorrent then why do they insist on keeping so many homophobic, racist, sexist and Sectarian councillors and MP's in their party?

How's this for a rogue's gallery?

It's Corbyn Bashing Season - Must Be An Election On The Horizon

In recent weeks we've seen Jeremy Corbyn denounced as an agent for a Czech spy in the 1980s, and we've seen his stance of advising caution in the wake of the Skripal poisoning attacked, with the BBC depicting him as a Soviet stooge on Newsnight with a conveniently distorted hat and a red hue to his image against the background of the Kremlin. Just this weekend alone we've seen Owen Smith whinge about being sacked from the cabinet because of his views on the EU do not correspond with the leadership, and now we've got the old cries of anti-Semitism ringing out again. Why, anyone would think there's an election on the horizon. Oh there is!

Let's take these attacks individually shall we? The first, the Czech spy scandal held no weight whatsoever, and resulted in the odious Pub Landlord lookalike Tory MP Ben Bradley being forced to publically apologise and cough up for a slanderous tweet defaming Corbyn when he swallowed the rumour hook, like and sinker.

No matter how much they spin it, the oh so impartial BBC did mock up a graphic to make Corbyn look rather Soviet in an edition of Newsnight. OK, they used the same backdrop for Tory MP Gavin Williamson (he of the intelligent 'Russia should go away and shut up' comment) but, as Channel 4 News' FactCheck points out, unlike with Corbyn, they didn't shade Williamson's image in a deep red and the hat was distorted and made to look taller thanks to the curved screen.

Now onto Owen Smith. This Blairite is happy to spin the lie that Labour's stance on Brexit is as clear as mud when in reality it is absolutely crystal clear. Jeremy Corbyn has adopted a compromise position, one which respects the EU vote but remains adamant that the final deal must pass Keir Starmer's six tests. Put simply, if the Tories negotiation proves disastrous (as it almost certainly will) Labour will oppose it.

Let's not forget that Labour sought to defeat the hard right Brexit-mongers who wanted to rip up workers rights, food standards and consumer protection by adding amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill. They were left with no option but to vote against said Bill because the Tories refused to comply with these amendments. Weirdly, this vote has seen them dismissed by many in the press as colluding with the Tory government?!

Smith refused to agree with Starmer's six tests and official Labour policy and wanted to push his own bespoke Brexit policy. Why? Did he do this because he genuinely wants a second EU referendum as he claims or has he broke ranks to create as much confusion, furore and mud slinging as possible? My guess is the latter. And it's funny how we now live in a world where a strong leadership display from Corbyn is criticised whilst Theresa May's outright refusal to keep order amongst her own ministers, including Boris Johnson's outright dangerous lies, is somehow seen as exemplary.  

Much like Smith's disastrous, laughable and lamentable leadership challenge, his bid to put a spoke in the wheel of his own party clearly hasn't worked as well as he and his fellow plotters had hoped. Which is why we are now seeing the anti-Semitic stuff rearing its ugly head again, with John Mann (of course) making ominous and damaging statements from within the party that Labour is set to be destroyed over this issue. 

It's worth noting that this time around the anti-Semitic slur isn't being laid at Corbyn's door. This is because they cannot make this mud stick against him personally. It's very hard to call someone a racist when they have a long history of fighting racism, when they hold the Sean MacBride Peace Award, and when, as Benjamin Zephaniah pointed out on Question Time the last time this was in the news, Corbyn shared a police cell with him once for standing up to the racist Apartheid!

So no, this time around they're claiming that the Labour Party is riddled with an ingrained culture of anti-Semitism, and that Corbyn's crime is to not act quickly enough to stamp it out and to allow these people to get too close to him. Inevitably, many of these critics are pointing to Momentum arguing that the predominantly young, left wing intake that grass roots movement has brought about are pro-Palestine - views that Corbyn himself shares and has never made secret of. And this is the rub for me; to be pro-Palestine, to be anti-Israel, does not mean in any way that you hate the Jewish people. It is not anti-Semetic to disagree with Israel politics. 

All this is to try and dissuade voters from supporting Labour in May because the establishment are running scared of further gains for Corbyn's party.

Once again, don't believe the lies and smears of the Tories, the Blairites and their propaganda arm within the MSM. Dig deeper, question what you're told and make your own mind up.

Out On Blue Six: Red Lipstique

Heard this on Radcliffe and Maconie last week. Very quirky, and I was very taken with it. Goth disco? Surprised I hadn't come across it before to be honest.

End Transmission

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Bridgend (2015)

From 2007 to 2012 there were some 79 recorded instances of suicide among young people in Bridgend, South Wales. The similarities between each tragic case were striking - the teenagers had hung themselves, they knew one another, they went to the same school, they visited the same social networking sites and online chat rooms - but their reasons confounded the authorities, the community and the wider world. I well remember these curious, tragic cases and know that no answer has ever been given.

It takes a brave or frankly crass director to tackle a dramatic interpretation of these events and thankfully, Danish documentary filmmaker Jeppe Rønde is wise and sensitive enough to know that offering audiences his own imagined answer for this spate of suicides just wouldn't work. To do so, really would have been crass and presumptive. As such, anyone expecting to find a coherent narrative and answers in his film, Bridgend, will be far from happy, but frankly such criticisms aren't valid in my point of view. To come to this film expecting a reason for what happened, for it all to be tied up in a bow, is just stupid.

That's not to say that Rønde doesn't make some elliptical, vague suggestions though and I'm sure many of them have already crossed  the minds of anyone who, like me, has been fascinated by this case - does rural isolation and alienation play a part, or is it simply the lack of opportunity to be found in such small, disenfranchised and rather hermetic former mining communities? Is there something strange and secretive going on via the online community, or is it just a way for the victims to hit back at their parents who simply cannot comprehend their lives and have failed them all in some way? 

The one criticism I can appreciate however is that this is 'too soon'. There are people still suffering, still grieving and still mourning these inexplicable deaths that, to fictionalise them, is bound to prove offensive for some. It's surprising that Rønde, a documentary filmmaker, didn't make a documentary about this strange saga really as I am sure that a) there would be a market for that, and b) it would be more palatable for those left behind.

As a narrative piece Rønde draws on not only the Nordic Noir of his Scandinavian roots, but also the rich seam of similarly themed Welsh Noir that started with the Philip Madoc series A Mind To Kill back in the 1990s and continues to this day with bleak and compelling Hinterland. As such what we get is a hauntingly shot movie that makes great use of natural light to capture the leaden, drizzly skies of the economically neglected, raw and rugged Welsh valleys. The atmosphere is bleak and portentous - sometimes verging on the folk horror territory in fact - and it wouldn't be incorrect to say that Rønde's film explores the baffling, mass hysterical nature of what occurred in Bridgend in a similar manner to Carol Morley's The Falling, Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock and Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides. Despite these likely inspirations and the inherent eerie strangeness, Rønde still manages to ground his film with a very real sense of what that kind of an isolated and isolating town may represent or feel like for someone approaching adulthood, with all the mixed up feelings that stage in life can inspire, and captures a fine and sympathetic performance from his leading lady Hannah Murray and an intriguing one from God's Own Country star Josh O'Connor.