Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Darkest Hour (2017) vs Dunkirk (2017) & the Australian movie we need about the Abdication Crisis

Unlike Nolan’s Dunkirk, current Oscar bait Darkest Hour (2017) barely made a ripple in U.K. movie going conversation - I can see why. It's just embarrassing, and easily the worst film I’ve seen so far this year. This is awful Oscar bait by numbers, as many have said, and despite some good acting work makes Netflix's The Crown look like an edgy masterpiece of popular history.

Lets get the history out of the way first. I'm sure there is some detail in which this movie is very accurate. (I've read the book on which this screenplay appears to be based - Five Days in London, May 1940, by John Lukacs). Dates and timings appear to be spot on along with, some, of what was said.

Beyond that.. What will immediately annoy history buffs is the first scene in the House of Commons, which dumbs down and paraphrases one of the most dramatic and consequential debates in the entire 400 year history of the House of Commons; The Norway Debate.

An entire, brilliant movie could one day be made just covering this debate, as it results directly in the removal of Chamberlain, the final renunciation of appeasement and the installation of Churchill. But Darkest Hour really is only interested in Churchill, and as he is not present for this debate we a given a brief caricature of events. Clement Attlee would serve as the (first) Deputy Prime Minister throughout World War II and would defeat Churchill in the 1945 election. The film off-handledly admits in several places that Churchill is only considered at all for Prime Minister in 1940, against the ruling party, because of pressure from Attlee and the rest of the opposition. Attlee seen in the opening first few minutes of Darkest Hour and then barely mentioned later.

The Norwegians and the Norwegian Campaign which prompted this debate are barely featured, as it would confuse the Nazis-charging-through-the-collapsing-French narrative. Darkest Hour is not alone in disregarding the Norwegian Campaign and this is common to nearly every movie covering the period. Since a large portion of the German fleet ends up on the bottom of Norwegian fjords as a result of this campaign, making the subsequent sea invasion of Britain a virtual impossibility, you would think it would get more attention. The Norwegians have not forgotten it.

This paragraph below shows another another potentially brilliant scene dumbed down and pushed aside by this movie, in favour of a cut down paraphrased scene at an airport. Did they refuse permission to shoot in Paris? Christoper Nolan was allowed to use half the French Navy to shoot Dunkirk..

(From wiki)

Churchill flew to Paris on 16 May. He immediately recognised the gravity of the situation when he observed that the French government was already burning its archives and was preparing for an evacuation of the capital. In a sombre meeting with the French commanders, Churchill asked General Gamelin, "Où est la masse de manoeuvre?" ["Where is the strategic reserve?"] that had saved Paris in the First World War. 
"Aucune" ["There is none"] Gamelin replied. After the war, Gamelin claimed his response was "There is no longer any."
Churchill later described hearing this as the single most shocking moment in his life. Churchill asked Gamelin where and when the general proposed to launch a counterattack against the flanks of the German bulge. 
Gamelin simply replied "inferiority of numbers, inferiority of equipment, inferiority of methods".

There is vast tragedy in the nation which beat the Germans at Verdun succumbing to the Germans of 1940 but (as usual with this kind of movie) we only seem to get French resignation without any nuance beyond that. Similarly, the possibility of talks with Mussolini's Italian fascists looms large over the later stages of this movie, could it not drag itself out of Churchill's bunker for one scene showing an actual Italian?

My frustration here really comes down to missed potential. What a great conspiracy story could be made of this - instead we have an increasingly laughable human interest drama with a political dimension.

Again as usual for this kind of movie it makes no mention of Commonwealth and Empire forces  (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, British India - not inconsiderable) which declared war alongside the home country almost immediately without reservation.

I'm heavily into movie scores at the minute, still going back to Jerry Goldsmith's forgotten epic score to The Blue Max.  Dario Marianelli's score to Darkest Hour.. I wish I could say it's forgettable but it actually distractedly melodramatic; managing to overdramatise some of the most dramatic moments of the last century is really some feat. Try listening to this next to Hans Zimmer's incredible score for Nolan's Dunkirk. You'd struggle to believe they were written in the same century. Darkest Hour's soundtrack belongs in an Ealing Studios movie.

I am not by the way an unabashed worshiper of Dunkirk (2017), it has major major issues on a historical level as well but as just a movie event it makes Darkest Hour look quite laughable.

This is the first Joe Wright film I’ve seen and I’ll avoid the rest. Every flashy CGI camera moment and directorial flourish you can imagine and then some. Without wanting to be too harsh this is the nearest British equivalent I can think of  to Micheal Bay’s execrable Pearl Harbor. Darkest Hour  even has a similar CGI shot showing a bomb dropping off a plane and followed down to the target. Oh and for added fakeness, the glimpse of CGI Little Ships against the CGI White Cliffs of Dover  must have had Nolan's cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema absolutely rolling around with laughter.

Darkest Hour's now infamous Churchill on the tube scene is every bit as Disney-embarrassing-ridiculous as you’ve been led to expect. At a pivotal point in the movie the Grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough decides to take a tube train, alone, to get a Vox Pop of working class opinion. By far the most believable detail in this scene is the British Caribbean gent in the hat. That I can believe. Beyond him - Is that Dick Van Dyke's chimney sweep and Mary Poppins in the background?

There is no scene in Marvel’s Captain America : First Avenger less believable than Darkest Hour's tube scene, and for all the previous acting special effects the movie never recovers, simmering just above Comic Strip Presents : Operation Dynamo.   You certainly will get more of an idea of the real 1940s Britain watching Supersizers Go Wartime.

The positives :  The cast is obviously very good. I'm a massive fan of Gary Oldman, and just about everyone else  here, so writing this has not been easy. I’d rather watch a whole movie about Kristin Scott Thomas's Lady Churchill, or even Stephen Dillane's Halifax, than go into this subject matter again.
Ben Mendelsohn is fantastic again as George VI. With Guy Pearce's magnificent cameo as Edward VIII (and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue) in The King's Speech , can we hope the Australian film industry is just a step away from the movie about the pivotal Abdication Crisis that we deserve? They'll push Kate Blanchett or Naomi Watts as Wallace Simpson but give Margot Robbie a go - she deserves it. (I recently saw I, Tonya three times in the space of a week.)
Perhaps let Gary Oldman redeem himself as Stanley Baldwin.
For those not aware of the Abdication Crisis featured briefly in The King's Speech , Stanley Baldwin is the British Prime Minister who essentially sacks the Head of State when members of his family are found to be colluding with a hostile foreign power. I would say this is probably a more relevant story right now than yet another bloody movie about Winston Churchill.

As someone with an education, not living in an old people's home, I'm probably the wrong demographic for Darkest Hour. It's a cosy Xmas drawing room drama written for Hollywood grandparents and uncomplaining Baby Boomers,  and such it's an almost diametric opposite to Nolan's Dunkirk which for all its issues does at least put to put you on the beaches and challenges your conceptions of storytelling.

Nolan's movie is a trans-national, inspirational story about survival which notably includes the French and the Dutch and is so aware of war mongering nonsense since 1945 it only refers to the Germans as 'The Enemy'. By contrast Darkest Hour is a laughably told, inward looking hagiography of a great man (and forgotten internationalist) already unfairly idolised by some of the most ignorant, backward looking people on Earth.

I saw the incredible Russian anti-war film Come and See (1985) the same day I saw Darkest Hour, which seems to exist in a different universe. Come and See has some valuable lessons in how to dig up the past.

Friday, 23 February 2018


That moment, when reading a book from another era, when it seems more relevant than ever.

Personal highlights from a easy-to-read classic I should have read 20 years ago.

has not yet been made into a bad movie.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Is THE BLUE MAX (1966) Imperial Germany's LAWRENCE OF ARABIA?

The story of a morally conflicted, nonconformist WW1 antihero gets the full 1960s epic movie history treatment. But there is not a spec of sand in sight.

You know you are watching a 1960s epic movie when you get a blank screen and several minutes of gorgeous score before the movie has even started (The Overture). John Guillermin's 1962 WW1 air war epic is obviously a 'follow up' to David Lean's  1962 desert WW1 classic , how does it compare?

I am very much appreciating THE GREAT WAR on Youtube right now. It stands out on several levels:
  • Accessible, fun, history teaching that isn't dumbed down
  • It's honest, fair and doesn't necessarily follow accepted opinion
  • It is repeatedly anti-war at a time when a slow drum beat, particularly in the US and Russia, seems to be starting up
and perhaps most of all
  • It reminds us why the internet, and the interaction it creates, is a bonus for humanity and not a hate machine

I was so impressed with this free 200+ episode history show I sent them a list of my favourite WW1 movies. It contained the obvious ones such as Stanley Kubrick's Path's Of Glory (arguably the best Stanley Kubrick film), and not so obvious ones, such as Zeppelin (1971), the almost contemporary, The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands (1927) and a strange but fun movie about the war in Africa, starring Roger Moore and Lee Marvin, Shout At The Devil (1976)

The list also included John Guillermin's The Blue Max, prompting me to watch the movie again, for the second time in less than a year. It's an interesting movie for 1966, obviously in the shadow of its major influence, but heavily anticipating much more politically conscious and critical movies to come in subsequent decades.

Set in a tired and increasingly insane Germany in the climatic final year of World War One, the German air force is so desperate for pilots it is recruiting the Middle Class (horror!) straight out of the trenches. New recruit Bruno Stachel is certainly made of different stuff, with a flexible attitude to honour and a fanatical ambition to win the greatest military award, the Pur Le Merite, The Blue Max.

I mentioned the score at the top. This genre of movie throws up the soundtrack as a major highlight, with an opening Overture before the movie has even started, then a special soundtrack portion just for the Interval. You need some great music to carry this kind of thing off and in Lawrence of Arabia you have Maurice Jarre's masterful theme, which may be the best movie music of all time. The Blue Max has a score by Jerry Goldsmith. Personally I'm a huge fan of this composer, his incredibly effective theme to Ridley Scott's original Alien may be the most under-regarded uic soundtrack ever. Goldsmith's music for Blue Max is not one of his very best but does it's job with an air of doomed military funeral grandier.

But let's get the main issue with this movie out of the way early on - George Peppard really isn't any kind of Peter O'Toole. I've never been a fan of this actor. He has a sort of galling smugness that reminds me of a porky James Franciscus. He belonged in tv, and was destined for a semi-comic role n something like the A-team. Many scarred veteran watchers of The A-Team might find it difficult to take George Peppard seriously.
Yeah. I'm right with you.

That said, his character in the movie, Bruno Stachel, is an overly ambitious slimeball with a chip on his shoulder. He's meant to be even more of an anti-hero than O'Tool's Lawrence and, if you are expecting not to overly sympathise with him, Peppard plays this quite well.

Ursula Andress isn't really attempting any acting Olympics but remains Ursula Andress, a 60s movie star of the highest rank. She doesn't have to do a great deal but convinces as an aristocratic Kaiserine 'wife'who is more aware of what is going on in the real world than any of the men.

James Mason seems to excel in playing military Germans, at least for Brits. His character, Count von Klugermann, is a long way from the role as Erwin Rommel that he became famouse for in two movies in the 1950s. Klugermann is a real relic from the world before 1914 (on all sides), a military fanatic who only lives to promote the 'German Officer Corps'. Time he could be spending with Ursula Andress he actually spends playing tabletop war games with someone elses wife. There is no character in Lean's epic like this (Jack Hawkin's General Allenby is probably closest) but there probably should be, for all the magnificence of Lawrence of Arabia there is little discussion of why men are being sent to die and kill in Palestine and Iraq when the real enemy is in France.

The supporting players in Stachel's squadron, such as the Heidemann's and Corporal Rupp, are all sympathetic realistic human beings, and much like the opening sequence in Battle of Britain (1969) you wish the movie had spent more time on their banter.  One thing it does have in common with Battle of Britain is the advanced age of the pilots, who all seem at least one generation older than the boys who actually lived and died in these planes.
The generally woeful Red Baron (2008)at least got that right.

Flying sequences genuinely are epic, and the movie is impressive in its historical accuracy.
The charge into Aqaba is the big action set piece in Lawrence, and The Blue Max has it's own, when Stachel's squadron are sent into action against ground troops to try and stem the beginning of the Hundred Days, the giant Allied counter Offensive which would eventually prompt a cease fire. Previously we've seen the squadron celebrate what the German's hope desperately will be there war winning push, only for it to collapse in exhaustion near Amiens.

Stock footage, props and planes from this movie would be reused in inferior productions (such as Roger Corman's Von Richthofen and Brown (1971) for the next couple of decades.

For the serious aviation nerds, they obviously built one or two 'hero' planes to closely replicate the machines of 1918 and padded these out with lightly dressed up Tiger Moths. The SE5s and the Fokker Triplanes look spot on to me. Apparently Peter Jackson later acquired these for his aero museum. Allegedly he lists the film as one of the top six World War I movies.

Dublin stands in for Imperial Berlin. I've been to both places (though not in 1918) and I was fooled. The rural locations look suspiciously green and lumpy but they are hardly unpleasant to look at. Douglas Slocombe might look familiar in the credits. One of the great British cinematographers, Speilberg chose him to lense the first three initial Indiana Jones films.

In summation David Lean's Law is obviously a  much better movie, and this cash-in, and many others like it (55 Days at Peking, Kartoum) might never even have existed without Lawrence. For all it's merits though Lean's film is a complex biopic about a complex man which really fails to land any wider political point beyond "Don't trust the British and the French,  - even if you are British and French".

The Blue Max, for all it's issues, goes squarely at the class system, the change from chivalrous combat to Total War, and the insanity of the military industrial complex. Despite his glory hunting and insubordination, which often puts his own squadron at risk*, Stachel is quickly seized on as a propaganda asset to boost Germany's collapsing home front. There is a hint of this in Lawrence with the interview with the American reporter but in this movie it is the main plot thread, driving toward a climax of cynical political expediency.

You could make an argument to say none of these characters are bad beyond the main character himself. They are merely trapped in an insane machine grinding their society and the rest of Europe into dust. In this respect you can see the mid-1960s progression from Lawrence, much more of a biopic, made in 1962.

Much of the credit for this can probably be traced to the novel of the same name on which the film was based by Jack D. Hunter. The theme of the fanatical quest to receive a German medal at all costs might seem familiar as it is the central theme of the classic Eastern front WW2 movie Cross of Iron. Cross of Iron is itself apparently based on a a novel of 1955, The Willing Flesh So perhaps Hunters novel, published in 1966, got the inspiration here and swapped one medal and one war for another. I notice James Mason seems to be paying a very similar roles in both both The Blue Max and Cross of Iron.

1966 was still an era for jingoistic war movies, particularly concerning WW2. In picking an unfashionable war, an unfashionable side to that war and an unlikable main character Blue Max bridges the historical epic to the far more anti-war tone of films in the 70s and 80s.

* Stachel is such an idiotic threat to his own fellow pilots he reminds me of Poe Dameron in THE LAST JEDI. 
 The scene I would most like to see in a directors cut of Last Jedi;

 After his pointless and stupid “bombing run”. Poe Dameron marches onto Rebel cruiser and, after wiping out his own Air Force, he mouths off at the leader of the Resistance, General Leia (as per movie)
but instead of smiling Carrie Fisher calls him an insubordinate, incompetent prick and Force strangles him to death (like her father) in front of assorted nice people with purple hair

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Don't blame Trump, blame these people

Once upon a time, a woman was picking up firewood. She came upon a poisonous snake frozen in the snow. She took the snake home and nursed it back to health. One day the snake bit her on the cheek. As she lay dying, she asked the snake, "Why have you done this to me?" 
And the snake answered, "Look, bitch, you knew I was a snake."

How did  the worlds most famous liar, a man who brags about sleeping with the wives of his friends, and who is described by the Secretary of State he appointed as a 'Fucking Moron' end up as the most powerful man in Earth?

You can't hold Trump responsible for Trump. He's really not that special.
What fills people with disgust more than anything else is not his exceptional qualities but how familiar we are with his 'type'. The Scumbag Boss.  A grandiose low-life who preys on women, has all the empathy of a pile of dog excrement and is out for only himself. He got where he is on the work of other people and stays were he his by exploiting the people around him. We all work for the Scumbag Boss some day and wonder how Homo Sapiens ever crawled out of the cave and built civilisation with these parasites riding along on the back of the real achievers who co-operate successfully.

But, as Trump apologists know, and there are a surprising number of them even in my country, the planet is full of people bashing Donald Trump (for some reason). So what's the point here?

It occurs to me blaming an obviously incompetent, despicable piece of shit for becoming the President of the united States really is a waste of time. He sure wouldn't care, and I'm not 100% sure he's even responsible for his actions. Is Trump responsible for his own rise? If you were offered a run at the Presidency of the United States would you turn it down because you were unfit?

The blame for Trump rests with his enablers, the ones we can really hold responsible in a few years when we are sitting in an economic and perhaps literal radioactive warzone.

And they are not all Republicans.
But lets start with them anyway.

RESPONSIBLE FOR TRUMP : The Republican Party

A mystical organisation, able to materialise an army, The Tea Party, out of nothing to wreck bi-partisan attempts to deal with the last financial crisis, only then to have it dissolve like ghosts into nothing when the same issues appeared when they were in charge. (Dear media : where are all the Tea Party budget fanatics you gave such attention to in 2012?)

And they are in charge. President. Congress and Senate. And they rigged the Supreme Court. For all the lectures we used to have here in the UK on the superiority of the US constitution it seems to have become a One Party State with great ease. And that's even before Trump really gets to work.  I'll get to how this was allowed to happen when I get to The Party Whose Job It Is To Fail, but for the moment these are the people who directly enabled Trump's rise to control of the worlds largest nuclear arsenal and largest economy, and who should hold direct responsibility for it.

  • Mitch McConnell
  • Paul Ryan
  • Jeff Sessions
but also including lickspittle creeps such as Devin Nunes and Trey now-conveniently-retired-as-if-all this-never-happened Gowdy, who have been bending over to accommodate their new Leader with no thought for the future stability, security or integrity of the country they have sworn to uphold.

Don't blame Trump - THANK TRUMP - for at least now he gives us the spectacle of the Grand Old Party slowly morphing from history's most immoral opportunists to human history's most laughable political invertebrates.

RESPONSIBLE FOR TRUMP : Evangelical Christian voters

Centuries from now, when Religious Hypocrisy is mentioned, the Evangelical endorsement of Trump will surely be one of the first and finest examples of the type.
"everyone loves a sinner who has repented!" they whined in explanation, somehow able to apply this to three times wed serial adulterer, abuser, and seducer of married women but not to missing emails of Trumps opponent.

Evangelicals, know that in the short term you may have done Donald Trump a favour but in the long term you have done Richard Dawkins and the secularist movement a far bigger one. We all know that Hypocrisy and Religion go together like money and politics, but in this you've given us perfect example that will be remembered for all time.

Proverbs 1:32 “For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them."


US voters in Michigan watched the car industry slide into crisis during the last Republican induced financial collapse in 2008. The Republican stance then was - "Market Forces! Let it fail!" Those Michigan voters were jubilant when Obama bailed their industry out at great expense. Some of the overconfidence in the disastrously complacent Democratic campaign of 2016 was down to the belief that Michigan would definitely go Democrat, because of the auto bailout.

When it came to it though, they voted for Trump in droves. The loss of Michigan was crucial in the Republican electoral college win.

That bail out might have been a temporary reprieve though.

Who do car industry workers think will be stupid enough to bail them out the next time?

RESPONSIBLE FOR TRUMP :  American White Women voters

Next time you see a news item on the #METOO movement, remind yourself that most white women — 52 percent — voted for Trump.

I try and be sympathetic to the views of the Trump voters, particularly the older generations, but white women Trump voters seem to have a special level of utter spinelessness and transcendent airheaded stupidity that makes my jaw drop. 
They make masochism look bad.


“For what profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul”
What a strange tale this will be. Assange sets up an organisation which promotes the release of the truth, in Wikileaks. He then uses it as a weapon to strike back at an old foe in Hillary Clinton.
And by her defeat he puts the worlds most famous liar in the White House.

A year after Wikileaks started to expose the truth on the Clinton campaign, Trump's 'Fake News' has undermined the entire concept of  objective truth itself.


After turning UK political debate into an ignorant nationalistic carnival, the Dirty Digger took his show across the Atlantic with even greater success. Fox News has been instrumental in the political careers of Trump and the previous Republican president, who for most of the last decade was widely regarded as one of the worst presidents in history. Bush Jnr, lets not forget, entered the US into two unwinnable wars while cutting taxes on the super rich. And only a few years later the shameless idiots on Fox News were blaming the next guy in the White House for the skyrocketing budget deficit.

That quote at the top is from Oliver Stone's NATURAL BORN KILLERS. It's a movie which still gets a lot of flak but in Robert Downey Jnr's insane character
W A Y N E   G A  L E 
you'll rarely see a more honest and accurate depiction of the Australian-American news machine.

RESPONSIBLE FOR TRUMP  : Bernie Bros and Jill Stein voters

Thanks guys. You made me see the light. I will be voting Labour in the next UK even if they put Piers Morgan in as leader. I would never want to explain why I put a bunch of dangerous incompetents in charge of the worlds largest nuclear arsenal because I voted with my 'conscience'.


Putin, if there is any justice, will be blamed for turning the internet into a hate machine. The world wide communication tool which would bring us all together is hurtling us toward WW3. I can't see how that will be a positive for Russia.

RESPONSIBLE FOR TRUMP : Clinton campaign & the Democratic Party

Despite going into the 2016 election in a winning position, and outspending their opponents on the Trump campaign, who did not even 100% want or expect to win, the Democrats lost not only the Presidency but also both the Congress and Senate. I've been studying US politics since the mid 1980s and even I cannot fathom how this happened.

Trumps win, I can see now, is a long term consequence of the trauma of 9/11 and the crash of 2008. But.. "checks and balances" right? My A-Level history teacher drummed into us that the beauty of the system was that it could not be abused because one part could always hold the others in check. And if not that - you had the Electoral College as a final fail safe to prevent despotism.

This, I think, presumes that even when one party is not playing by the rules, the other one is at least doing it's job. I have no satisfactory explanation for 8 wasted years of fumbling attempts to do deals with people (like Mitch McConnell ) who patently didn't want to do anything but delay, or the rank incompetence of failing to appoint a Supreme Court judge when given the chance. What I do know is we can obviously see something seriously wrong with the Democratic Party merely by the fact that the people in charge of this historic ongoing display of incompetence are - amazingly - still there!

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, take a bow, you are almost as shameless as the reptiles in the party opposite. If you had an ounce of self awareness and responsibility you would have both resigned the morning of 09/11/16.


I worked on the Clinton campaign, No really. It was a fantastic experience with brilliant people, but I can't divorce myself from the outcome . Or the realisation that in four visits to the United States I've only been outside the coastal Blue states for one day, a trip to Reno.
I was as bought into the inevitability of Hillary's win as much as anyone, even when I had previously seen the serious possibility of a win for Leave in the Brexit vote.

I told worried friends in the UK that there was no way Trump would be elected as "Americans, really, honestly, are not that stupid". Elderly relatives were particularly worried but it was easier to reassure them as they remembered the country of Eisenhower and Kennedy still with enormous respect. Trump was to them frightening and surreal, like signs of dementia in one of their oldest and most reliable friends.

I told them all it would be OK.

I loved I,TONYA

THREE BILLBOARDS and BLACK PANTHER may be getting all the movie attention right now but you would be remiss to miss I, TONYA, which is much better than some of the reviews suggest in my opinion.

Told in whiplash,self referential style like a Winter Olympics version of 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, Margot Robbie is very sympathetic as the doomed skater with amazing support from Alison Janney (CJ* in the West Wing) and Sebastian Stan (the Winter Soldier himself)

I TONYA may be described as a comedy by some, and it is funny, but it is also brutal and realistic in showing the effects of poverty and the class divide, even in a sport as apparently genteel and civilised as ice skating. The world in which Tonya Harding is from is shown in unflinching detail  - it’s no surprise to find Harding’s abusive poor as hell husband and his cretinous friends are working on a Republican election campaign...

One of the highlight for me is Tonya appalling the nice skating judges by choosing to ice dance to ZZ TOP

This is before things all start to go wrong for her, and the famous plot to cripple her rival skater would be laughed of the screen if it wasn’t so tragically real.

I usually avoid looking at award nominations but I’m very relieved Robbie and Janney have both been nominated in the major acting categories.

I’m sad now and I’m going to watch Margot Robbie again in the fake Dundee trailer leading a chant of ‘FREE BEER!’ she bangs her empty pint glass and a machete in on outback bar.

*CJ  Cregg is still high on my list as a preferred voice for my personal Alexa/Siri, (if we can just have Sorkin write the snarky responses)

Monday, 11 December 2017

Bitcoin explained using Star Trek

is Bitcoin the best candidate for 'disruptive technology from the future' ever?

from script of STAR TREK XIII

KIRK : Now the Romulan time agents have elected Trump the future of humanity is doomed

McCOY : If we could just go back before those events and introduce something that would cancel out the effects of the rise of the alt-right on economics and society...

SPOCK : An earlier introduction of Distributed Ledger Technology might accomplish that. Using the basis of the Federation's economic model might strain the processing speeds of primitive AI technology, but by my calculations early 21st century computing could rise to the challenge, if given sufficient motivation. 

McCOY (dismissively) And how does your great Vulcan intellect propose to explain the relevance and significance of DLT to the ignorant, materialistic barbarians of the early 21st century? 

KIRK : Easy! We hide it in something they understand and will embrace immediately  - FREE MONEY!

Inspired by an email exchange which featured the realisation
"satoshi nakamoto as an alien is more believable than satoshi nakamoto as satoshi nakamoto"

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Branagh is a great Poirot but a bad Agatha Christie storyteller

​Murder on the Orient Express 2017..would leave you with a very warm feeling about a potential Poirot movie franchise
The classic 1974 version never existed
The first hour wasn’t so much better than the last hour

Like last years surprisingly watchable Magnificent Seven remake,this movie is crawling out from under a classic and though Branagh is a good director, he is no Sidney Lumet.

This is less of a problem in a dashing introductory first hour when (like the  Magnificent Seven remake) a smartly written take on the material and some sharp storytelling make this look like a new Sherlockian movie franchise in the making.

Branagh does a great job with Poirot breathing  real life into a character I had previously thought was a bit of a cold fish. You might say this reinvention is Robert Downey Jnrish without the martial arts. He manages to capture the difference between Holmes and Poirot - the |Belgian isn’t a deductive super computer but a sufferer of obsessive compulsive disorder who has turned it into a talent and a lifestyle.

As soon as it runs into Christie’s brilliant plot however (arguably THE whodunnit murder mystery, based on the most shocking crime of the 1930s) it falters. Lumets classic version in 1974 only barely holds the 6+ plot threads together but it does with hefty dopings of horror and tragedy.

Branagh, good as he is cannot do this level of juggling, resulting in a confused, rushed middle and then overstages the finale. Is this a common Kenneth Branagh as director thing? more interested in characters than plot? (based on this and the first Thor film you would have to say that's a yes).

In several earlier moments he has Poirot surveying crime scenes directly from above with the camera slowly descending from above into the room. It’s very subtle and effective - then we have a climax that looks right out of a bad DC superhero movie. Does it really need the Last Supper shot? That must be a hideous cliche by now. I loved it in Watchmen but please this material doesn’t need to play postmodern games with classic images - it should be classic images itself.

Performances are generally ok though some of the more senior cast seem to think they are playing alongside Peter Ustinov and Elizabeth Taylor.

It is definitely watchable and based on this I’d certainly watch the proposed Death On The Nile sequel but I would hope it has a different director. These books are from one of the premier female novelists of all time - so how about a female director - what is Patty Jenkins doing between Wonder Woman films?

One nitpick- if you can flawlessly create 1930s Istanbul and gorgeous mountain vistas with the wonder of CGI, could you not also add some cold breath effects to the actors supposedly standing around high up in a mountain range in huge piles of snow?

I saw this on a free screening with Searcys who have never served me a bad cocktail, and have always sent me away happy if not entirely sober.