Category Archives: Film

Boies & Olson – future hypothetical Oscar material

This week, America’s west coast experienced two major developments in the ongoing fight for same-sex marriage. In Olympia yesterday, lawmakers voted to make Washington the seventh state to allow gay marriage, with the governor likely to sign the bill into law at some stage next week.

In California on Tuesday, a federal court ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional thus effectively paving the way for the gay marriage case to move to the Supreme Court.

Ted Olson and David Boies are the two plaintiffs attorneys who fought in the case Perry v Schwarzenegger. Although now firm friends, the ultra-conservative Olson and the liberal Boies were once famous opponents in the legal battle to decide whether Al Gore or George W. Bush would become the next President of the United States in 2000. The two became friends after Olson’s wife Barbara was killed on Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

When they teamed up to defend the right for homosexuals to marry in 2009, they set tongues wagging on both sides of the political spectrum. Since then, they have both been named in the Time’s 100 Greatest Thinkers list for their work on the landmark case and in 2011, they were awarded the American Bar Association’s highest honour: the ABA Medal.

All said and done, the story is surefire Hollywood material, courage of conviction in the face of adversity mixed with setting aside political differences for the greater good. As well as this, it is a fantastic study in exactly why there’s little better than good law.

In this extract from a Fox News interview, Olsen calmly and thoughtfully takes apart all arguments thrown at him by a partisan conservative anchor who himself concludes at the end of the interview that he doesn’t see how Olsen could ever lose a case.

Coming soon to a cinema near you? I know I’d watch it.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Film, Politics

Drug awareness ads: the more offensive, the better

Darren Aronofsky is the director who brought us such films as The Wrestler and Black Swan. However, his first big hit was the 2000 film Requiem For A Dream, probably the most famous, dark and shocking anti-drug film of all time. I still advise people who have not seen it, only to watch it on a bright day, preferably in summertime.

Methamphetamine (aka crystal meth) is a drug which increases alertness, concentration, energy, and in high doses, may induce euphoria, enhance self-esteem and increase libido. Meth has high potential for abuse and addiction, activating the psychological reward system by triggering a cascading release of dopamine in the brain. The psychological harm caused by meth abuse is colossal, with a fifth of addicts experiencing psychosis resembling schizophrenia for longer than six months (which is medical speak for permanent). This doesn’t take into account those who experience psychosis for a shorter period of time and indeed all the other mental illnesses experienced by addicts.

It is fitting that Aronofsky was asked to direct four short ads for an American meth awareness campaign. They are dark, much like his films, and all are deeply shocking.

There have been complaints from some parent groups that the adverts are too graphic and inappropriate for young teenagers. This is folly. There is little more graphic or offensive than young people addicted to drugs like methamphetamine. Indeed, addiction to any substance, especially when it concerns the youth, is offensive. This was the view taken by French advertising authorities last year, when dealing with anti-smoking ads which directly related nicotine addiction to the powerlessness of sexual slavery. The case was dismissed and the ad campaign went ahead.

The tag line reads ‘To smoke is to be a slave to tobacco’.

Offensive they may be, but really now – would you want to light up anywhere near a billboard with that picture on it? The more offensive, the more effective, the better.

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Filed under Ad Campaigns, Drugs, Film

Films I look forward to seeing this Autumn

This is the best time of year for movies. Studios ditch the please-all Hollywood-style blockbusters which invariably fail in their efforts to please all and sundry, and instead focus on wowing the more cerebral audiences in the run-up to the Awards season.

Here are a couple I’ve already ear-marked for the Orange Wednesdays.

For anyone who, like me and my friend Rich, wants to marry Lady Sybil of Downton Abbey fame…

This one is of particular interest to me, because I’ve been a big fan of the odd-looking Eddie Redmayne (above) for years and he’s never properly ‘made it’, as it were. He walked past me as I was waiting for the bus on Sloane Square a couple of weeks ago. He went totally unnoticed.

I only want to see this after I’ve seen the stage version in the West End…

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Happy birthday, Vicki!

Reviews are one of those magical things that go by the ironic rule: The Worse, The Better. I much prefer AA Gill when he’s lambasting a restaurant for its waiters’ ineptitudes than when he is serenading it with praise.

Back in Aberdeen, a friend of mine’s house was decorated with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Taylor Lautner as Jake in the Twilight movies. It was disconcerting to say the least. The first time I encountered it, I was drunk and it was very dark. I didn’t get over the shock for about a week.

It would seem, however, that poor Taylor, although much-admired by the female population of Northern Scotland, is faring rather a lot worse in the following review of his new film.

It’s so bad, it’s fantastic. And I thought my friend Vicki would appreciate it, and it’s her birthday so here it goes…

Think of Abduction this way: There’s the Bourne Identity, then way below that is Mark Wahlberg’s Shooter. Then there’s 50,000 feet of crap. Underneath that is Liam Neeson’s Unknown. Dig another 100,000 feet until you hit a liquid-y orange-and-brown ooze and there you will find Abduction, a movie so bad it shouldn’t be allowed to call itself a movie. It should be called bad performance art for troglodytic, subhuman Caucasian bed-wetting females with a predisposition for shirtless, roundhouse-kicking dildos. Comparing Bourne Identity to Abduction is like comparing Beyonce’s ass to Danny Devito’s: Sure, they’re both big, but one you want to tap and the other you want to shave and disinfect before you feed to stray dogs.

Read the rest here.

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Filed under Aberdeen, Film, Laughs

Cultural moments that remind me of my father

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the end of Woodstock, the great 3-day rock extravaganza, regarded by many to be a pivotal ‘moment’ in the history of modern music. Co-incidentally, today I was walking home listening to one of my favourite songs, which was performed for the first time at Woodstock.

A cover of the original Beatles tune, Joe Cocker’s rendition of I’ll Get By (With A Little Help From My Friends) was always the first and last song to be played in the car with my father when we used to drive up and down, to and from, my boarding school when I was young.

It’s probably one of the best live performances of any song ever done.

I was actually speaking to my father earlier on today, mostly about ‘real life’ in London. I was moaning about the godawful cruelty of a 9-6 working day and he began explaining to me the fact that, while it takes some getting used to, eventually it becomes incredibly easy. So easy, in fact, that you forget it was ever difficult in the first place. He sounded a little bit like Michael Gambon in one of my favourite scenes from any movie.

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Filed under Culture, Film, Music

Volkswagen make music!

One of my favourite films growing up was Big with Tom Hanks. The movie contained one of my all time favourite scenes and probably one of Hanks’ most famous – the FAO Schwartz giant piano scene:

As you can imagine, it has since been a dream of mine to find one such giant piano and play on it. These are the kinds of dreams you rarely think about realising because, let’s face it, it’s just not going to happen. Then Volkswagen gets involved…

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Filed under Ad Campaigns, Film, Music

Money and Winnie the Pooh

Take a look at these statistical comparisons of the GDPs of states and provinces in the United States and China, respectively, in comparison with other nations around the world. They demonstrate rather effectively just how huge the economic might of these two countries is.

And now, to put into context the costs of some of the greatest international issues we’ve experienced over the past decade or so, here’s a short video by InformationIsBeautiful:

On a slightly cheerier note, the new Winnie the Pooh film is coming out this summer. My friend Brough is a huge fan and apparently cried real tears (of happiness, I hope) when she saw this:

The song (Somewhere Only We Know by Keane) goes perfectly with the visual and I think the ad has the desired effect: to make us wish we could be young again, just for a little while, and that seeing this film is the way to go about it.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Film, Life, Money

Howl: The poem and the film

I have always wondered whether I should have studied English at university. I read quite a lot and when I’m not reading, I feel guilty. Surely that’s a good start. I’m not particularly well versed in Shakespeare, but my spelling’s acceptable and if I don’t know all that much about a certain topic, I can usually blag (or blog – haw haw haw!) that I know a great deal more than I do.

Nonetheless, I expect people who study it to know more than I do, which is why I was so surprised that a friend of mine, now in her second year of studying English, had not heard of the Beat Generation.

I don’t know much about them, but a friend of mine at school was a huge fan of Kerouac’s On The Road and all associated literature. Thus I deduced that they were a bunch of writers post World War Two, who came to prominence in the 1950s along with a cultural phenomenon which they documented. They were known for their experimentation with drugs, sexuality and Eastern religions as well as a rejection of materialism which ran very much against super-consumerist American culture of the Eisenhower age.

In 1955, Howl and Other Poems by the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was published by City Lights Books. The poem was a three-part piece plus a footnote which described the world as Ginsberg saw it, beginning with the famous lines:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,


When Ginsberg first recited the poem at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, the performance was hailed as the ‘beginning of a new movement’.

Almost immediately after the poem was published, the owner of City Lights Books, Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested and charged for ‘disseminating obscene literature’. The trial which followed was won by Ferlinghetti and effectively ended censorship in American literature forever. The trial, along with various recorded interviews with Ginsberg and excerpts from Howl are what form the basis of the eponymous film, starring James Franco, which I went to see last week with my aforementioned friend in order to introduce her to the Beats.

Franco is going to have to win an Oscar some day soon. The man’s performance was outstanding, and the entire film was a celebration of an art form which, although it doesn’t appeal to me all that much, I appreciated all the more having seen the movie.

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Filed under Film, Poetry

Baby trashes bar in Las Palmas

I had seen this video by Johannes Nyholm a couple of months ago and forgotten to post it. Today I found out it’s started winning awards, real ones!

Have a watch – it’s embarrassing how much of a mess she is…

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Last night, I watched a film recommended to me by my friend Roddy. He insisted I would like it, though I couldn’t quite work out why since all I knew was that it was ‘about baseball’.

The story focuses on Miguel ‘Sugar’ Santos (played by Algenis Soto), a young man in the Dominican Republic playing professionally at a baseball academy. The film tracks his big break to play for minor leagues in the United States and the attached possibilities of pulling his family out of poverty.

Being European, I have very little experience of the Hispanic minority so prevalent in the United States. A film like Sugar gives a stunning portrayal of the struggle of an entire people stretching from the Southern Caribbean to New York. I imagine it will become something of a modern classic. Behold, the trailer:

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