Tears, laughter, anger, redemption and poetry – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

At various moments I fought back tears, laughed out loud, wanted to punch a character, wanted to comfort a character, needed to repress my rage.

And it’s this last emotion which ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri’ is really about, although it takes a very long time for any of the screwed-up small-town individuals to understand what they are doing to each other and themselves.

What makes the script by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) so strong is the characterisation. People we see initially as bad guys turn out to be the opposite, or eventually achieve redemption; hero characters have feet of clay, a million miles from the unsullied Hollywood stereotype.

If that sounds a bit Shakespearian, it’s because that’s the impression I was left with; suspecting that the author must be very well acquainted with the Bard’s dark plays.

There are incidents of comic absurdity, extreme violence and even poetry (especially when the protagonist talks to a deer about her raped, burned and murdered teenage daughter), which don’t quite seem real. They’re not meant to. This is drama, not documentary; which is also like Shakespeare.

McDonagh’s edgy yet empathetic writing provides the cast with some extraordinary opportunities for truthful and convincing scenes of dialogue and soliloquy, and these are powerfully executed.

It might seem pretentious to imagine the town of Ebbings as a near-psychopathic metaphor for an entire country which has lost its way behind a red mist of hatred. However, there is a reference to Iraq near the end which suggests that might not be an entirely erroneous interpretation.

Patriot WordPress banner

		
Advertisements
Tears, laughter, anger, redemption and poetry – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

‘All the Money in the World’ – a cracking good suspense yarn and a dark study in miserliness

I went to see ‘All the Money in the World’, feeling a bit doubtful at first.

In the event, it turned out to be a cracking good suspense yarn, full of interesting characters amid a tortuous plot based on real events which I am ancient enough to remember.

Christopher Plummer’s depiction of the ultra-miserly J. Paul Getty is masterful, demonstrating how an actor of his calibre can step into the breach at short notice and build an in-depth, truthful character.

The editing-out of Kevin Spacey was thus consigned to irrelevance. It’s a long film, but doesn’t feel too long.

Oh, and by the way, about Getty’s billionaire fortune being packaged as a charity so as to avoid paying any tax back in 1973 …. plus ça change, quoi?

Patriot WordPress banner

‘All the Money in the World’ – a cracking good suspense yarn and a dark study in miserliness

Really engrossing read with good characters and a driving plot

New 5-star Review of ‘Murder of a British Patriot’ on Amazon

Albert Clack has found a voice with this engaging and engrossing story. His characters ring true throughout and he creates fascinating but entirely realistic situations in episodic fashion which spur on the narrative.

The device of running the story in two time periods can be tricky if not handled well, but it is. It’s also a history lesson for anyone not around in the 1980s and unfamiliar with the febrile political atmosphere of the time.

His Inspector Warren is a viable DI with a liberal background and sympathies but perfectly happy to use the authority of his rank and position to get what he wants. As a result suspects are kept in custody despite having viable alibis simply because he wants to make them sweat in the hope of breaking them. This is a man not flawed by drink or emotional incontinence, but by struggling to keep his liberal and authoritarian natures out of conflict with each other.

The development of the plot rattles along and rarely falls into the trap of telling instead of showing – an example: a reactionary detective sergeant is described as being at that rank for nine years, nothing more is said about her but we know from her subsequent actions that further advancement won’t happen..

This was a great read and one I found unable to put down easily and when I did I hastened to pick it up again.

Patriot WordPress banner
Really engrossing read with good characters and a driving plot

Whatever the reviewers say, I liked ‘Surburbicon’

I’ve just seen ‘Suburbicon’, which out-Hitchcocks Hitchcock for suspense, and out-butchers Titus Andronicus for gore.

In the first half I was tense over what the bad guys might do; in the second half, I enjoyed waiting to see which twisted, evil scumbag’s gonna get it next.

Plus I liked the simple metaphor at the very end about a new generation of Americans starting to bridge the racial divide at the end of the 1950s.

The professional reviewers seem to have almost universally hated this film; mostly, it appears, out of a grovelling subservience to political correctness, which they think demands that the plight of the black family next door shouldn’t be a mere sub-plot.

So how would that work? By making a totally different film about a totally different story involving totally different people?

Patriot WordPress banner

Whatever the reviewers say, I liked ‘Surburbicon’

A Taste of Colourblind England in a London Pub

Whatever racist bollocks gets bandied around on social media, or among isolated white ‘middle Englanders,’ or by UKIP and Britain First and EDL twats; I popped into a north London pub on my way home this evening, and there were white, black and brown blokes buying each other pints and calling each other mate; and that’s my England, the real England, the 2017 England that simply glides above the pathetic, bigoted crap, oblivious to it. Innit?

Patriot WordPress banner

A Taste of Colourblind England in a London Pub

‘Is Anything Happening?’ is an Erudite and Entertaining View of International Journalism

Robin Lustig entered international journalism as a graduate trainee at Reuters new agency in 1970, exactly a year after I had. Our early careers at Reuters followed similar paths: he with foreign postings in Madrid, Paris and Rome, while mine were Paris, Buenos Aires, Belgrade and Havana. After that, our professional itineraries diverged, with Robin going on to scale dizzy heights at The Observer and the BBC, while I plodded along in humbler positions at ITN and elsewhere.

So when this book appeared, I was eager to read how it had all worked out for another of my generation of ‘foreign news apprentices’ who began our privileged and exciting careers with those initial awe-inspiring months at Reuters famous headquarters, 85 Fleet Street, London.

Of course, any book sub-titled ‘My Life as a Newsman’ is likely to be of interest to all other serious journalists; but this one is written in a style which, being both erudite and amusing, succeeds in educating and entertaining sufficiently to make it attractive to the general reader having no personal connection to our journalistic trade.

The book is kept constantly lively by Robin’s real-life stories from the world’s trouble-spots; revelations about the haggling among powerful men for control of The Observer; tales from the BBC into the sometimes chaotic last-minute juggling of running-orders behind the scenes at The World Tonight while he maintained a tranquil facade; insights into the physical acrobatics involved in delivering live reports from awkward place abroad; and much more.

If you want to know what it was like getting the news out before the existence of the internet, smartphones, skype and all the rest of today’s cyber-paraphernalia, this is a good book from which to find out; but you will also enjoy plenty of revealing insights into human behaviour in a wide variety of situations along the way.

CLICK ON IMAGE TO BUY FROM AMAZON

is anything happening

‘Is Anything Happening?’ is an Erudite and Entertaining View of International Journalism

Listening to a radio play, I found myself back in a summer school in Moscow in August 1968

I’ve just been listening to a play on Radio 4 about some British teenagers at a Soviet summer beach camp in August 1968, when the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. Boy, did that bring back some powerful memories.

          I had spent half of my university year abroad in Czechoslovakia from September 1967 to January 1968. After the next term in France, I attended a summer school for Russian language in Moscow for three weeks, arriving home in Brighton on the fateful evening of August 20th.
          The next morning my father woke me up with a cup of tea and the words: “The Russians have invaded Czechoslovakia.” All I could think of at first was what might be happening to my erstwhile student friends. In that moment, and following the TV, radio and newspaper coverage during the following days and weeks, my naive youthful idealism was stripped away forever.
          The play, ‘May There Always Be Sunshine’, by Alan Pollock, resonated in so many ways at the level of temporary friendships and relationships. I wish I had kept a diary. There are so many details I cannot remember of what it was like being a 20/21-year-old English student ‘behind the iron curtain’ at the time when Dubcek was trying to liberalise Czechoslovakia.
          I cannot pretend to have understood what was going on at the top. My only real contact with the ‘Prague Spring’ was when I travelled alone from the small town of Presov in eastern Slovakia, where our group of 10 British students was staying, to the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, to visit a Slovak pen-friend whom I had acquired before this student exchange had been mooted. She took me into Bratislava University, which was plastered with pro-Western posters and seething with anti-Soviet agitation.
          The realisation of having been kept (or having kept myself) in the dark, and later seeing on TV the tanks rolling across a country I had come to like, undoubtedly contributed to my determination to become an international journalist after graduating. In future I would ask the hard questions, whatever the political colour of the government. In the end that got me into serious trouble in Cuba, and I was expelled by the Castro regime – but that’s another story.

Patriot WordPress banner

Listening to a radio play, I found myself back in a summer school in Moscow in August 1968