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DOMINION – Poem Sousse

Sousse

 

DOMINION

It is time, in all conscience
Human conscience
Not to pray. In God’s name deny
Next world promises
Man-made lethal lies
Of a Man-imagined paradise
Heaven’s rivers in spate with hate
run red with human blood

Murderous metaphysics multiply
Myriad-worded menus
Without a scrap of food
And blood for wine
Sustain Man’s brute addiction
To religious power, might, and death
Not in our names
Despairing, weeping Gods decry

Only in the form of absence
May we love unbound
For us the only absolute
Is life: this life, not some future lie
This wondrous, sacred gift of now
Fragile finite transient
Our sole duty to preserve
This end all means must serve

The gods are in despair today
jesus weeps: mohammad mourns
yahweh Job recalls
Their creation, Man, now loves hate
His hate of love ascends
women, givers of life He rapes unheard
What a piece of work is Man
Death His dominion now.

 

Jurassic World – email to BBFC 26th June 2015

Jurassic world

BBFC 12A

 

Email to British Board of Film Censors – 26th June 2015

JURASSIC WORLD  –  Colin Trevorrow

I have just watched a performance of this film in a crowded cinema at Cineworld Stevenage.

I see around 3/4 movies a week and have written over 400 reviews at my blog www.zettelfilmreviews.co.uk and posted to the writers’ website – www.writewords.org.uk.

I have a generally liberal attitude towards classification and absolutely no instinct for strengthening censorship.

However I was deeply disturbed to watch this very graphic, frightening film with a significant number of very young children present: at least one of whom was so small (and perhaps frightened) that he/she watched the whole film in its mother’s arms.

There were a very substantial number of very young children, albeit accompanied by adults, so small it is hard to believe they were not less than 10 years–old.  At least one was so tiny I would assess her age at around 7-8. (I am the father of 2 with a grandchild so I have some sense of age).

I know the 12A classification gives the cinema no authority to refuse admission at any age as long as accompanied by an adult.  I applaud the liberal sentiment behind this principle and as a parent accept that my wife and I should be the final arbiters of what our children are allowed to see.  Ours are now grown up but we have had moments of soul-searching over the years especially with highly publicized films pitched at a broad market to include children, often generating a very significant ‘peer pressure’ effect.

As JW is rapidly becoming one of the fastest and largest-grossing pictures of all time, this hyped and highly publicized sequel to a 20 year-old classic, generates all kinds of pressure on parents and children alike of the kind mentioned above.

As an adult I found the film exciting, tense, thrilling and at times very effectively scary and frightening – indeed at times terrifying. As an adult I did not find it unduly excessive in any particular respect. However my experience of the film was deeply disturbing, taking place within an audience including such a large number of very young people – some alarmingly young.  My adult experience of watching the film was seriously spoilt by my realization of the, in my view entirely inappropriate youthfulness of so many of the audience.

The terms of the excessively loosely defined ’12A’ certificate offers the cinema absolutely no authority to refuse admission to a child of any age, however young, as long as they are accompanied by an adult.

I would ask you to seriously consider the following complaints/observations.

1.    THREAT

The only reliable (commercially untainted) protection offered parents from taking children to such an entirely inappropriate film, are the guidelines from your BBFCinsight.  In my view you have let parents down badly and culpably, with your reasoning and classification of this film.

Your reasoning seriously glosses and understates the level, graphic-ness and dramatic threat the film delivers.  You describe the many violently graphic sequences in this film as follows:

“Several sequences of moderate threat include humans being chased by dinosaurs, or hiding when aggressive dinosaurs are nearby. Some children are shown being scared and upset, but they reassure each other and are not harmed.”

This is so culpably bland and understated it is virtually fatuous.  It totally fails to give a parent seeking advice any serious indication of the genuinely terrifying nature of many sequences: some of which would compare in dramatic shock and terror terms with scenes eg from Jaws!

2.    INJURY DETAIL – you say

“Occasional bloody moments feature, without any strong detail or clear focus on injuries.”

The Pterodactyl sequence alone makes these remarks shamefully complacent. Human beings, including at least 1 child, are grasped in talons and lifted into the sky.  In a terrifying extended sequence, very reminiscent of the very first shark attack in Jaws, the Park PA assigned to look after the 2 children is first clutched in talons and lifted to a great height; then as one Pterodactyl drops her, another ‘playfully’ catches her in mid-air – like cats ‘playing’ with a mouse.  Eventually she is dropped into the water, recaptured by the Pterodactyl which then flies with her, by now clearly knowing her horrible death is imminent, up straight towards the camera when the massive sea-dinosaur earlier presaged in a shocking anticipatory gobble of a large fish leaps from the depths.  Pterodactyl and female PA are then literally gobbled up by the massively-lethally-toothed creature.

Of course there’s no blood! This unfortunate woman is simply swallowed whole.  This is a fearsomely graphic sequence, indelibly projected into the mind and we cannot help but share the utter terror throughout the whole sequence of the victim’s total awareness of the horrific death she is about to suffer, indeed is suffering.  This makes your assessors’ comments shamefully inadequate. Precisely what works for adults, to terrify them, may very well be questionable for children.

3.    As an aside: both in the incident above and elsewhere throughout the film all, the many human ‘canapes’ ripped and wrenched to death before being swallowed whole; are all ‘unlikeable’, ‘alien’ or anonymous characters – they’re fat, unpleasant or non-caucasian.  Are we, are the children present, really supposed to be indifferent to these disposable human beings’ fates just because they aren’t likable or ‘like’ us?

4.    I am deeply suspicious of your facile classification of this film which at the very least should be a 12 not a 12A.  But then, even a 12 certificate would seriously reduce the box office wouldn’t it?  A 15 certification would probably as much as halve the box office.  In my view the makers of JW have with great precision and care, intentionally structured this profoundly manipulative product to slip it under your demonstrably weak surveillance, into a 12A certificate – precisely to maximize its box office.  The rather feeble attempts at creating a ‘jokey’ tone at various points may pander to your criteria but they are utterly, grotesquely out of synch with the horrific reality of the tone and action of the rest of what is being portrayed.

This film strikes me as a cynically pitched and carefully crafted product, subtly structured to maximize profits through the box-office gold of a 12A certificate.

I have for over 50 years, been a cinema-goer, movie-lover and devotee of film as the popular art form of at least the last century. I have occasionally differed from your view of classification but have always been able to see and to some extent accept the rationale for your certification decision. I have never been moved to write or protest before: but this one frankly stinks.  You should, as an organization, watch it again,  properly,  and if you can’t now change the classification, then publicize your serious concern at the number of very young children who appear to be seeing it thanks to the ignorance or ill-informed foolishness of their parents.

The 12A ‘fudge’ is in my view actively permitting potential real harm short and perhaps even long-term, to impressionable young minds thanks to the ignorance or plain daft indulgence of parents who ought to know better.  If, even subliminally, your classification has taken the easy, non-confrontational route because of actual or applied commercial, political pressure from an exceptionally well-organized Hollywood pressure group – then shame on you even more.  The public in general and parents in particular, need your integrity and objectivity to properly manage the queasily dubious 12A classification.

I would argue that any, sensible, liberal and open-minded adult watching Jurassic World (and I watched it in 2D – God help us if young children were in 3D and I-Max 3D showings) could not, in all conscience, want almost any under 12 to watch it; and to be literally horrified at the thought that the transparently weak 12A classification permits a child of any age to see it: they just need an adult who has taken leave of their moral, parental senses to go with them.

Mr Turner – Mike Leigh Over-rated, over-praised

turner

 

 

 

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Mr Turner – Mike Leigh

Probably the most over-praised, over-rated film of the year. Despite a languidly and tediously long-drawn out 150 minutes, Mike Leigh manages virtually no insights, no illumination of Turner the artist or his Art. A clunking, almost unplayably self-conscious ‘literary’ script serves a misconceived effort to ‘recreate’ with obsessional ‘authenticity’ the language and mores of the period. As a result poor Mr Spall (excellent actor though he is) is trapped into the conceit of ‘inhabiting’ (ie inventing) a Turner who becomes a grunting grotesque with nothing interesting, or convincing to say about himself or, unforgivably, his art.

William Goldman once observed that one should never try to be faithful to a book of which one makes a film: but that one must always be faithful to the spirit of the book. The same is true of the past: we know the facts of the 19th century setting of this film but knows what it was really like tolive it. Leigh’s film is inhabited by exaggerated Dickensian caricatures.

The past is infinitely more alien than another country. Mike Leigh seems to have settled for an obsessional, false, ‘verisimilitude’ at the expense of an artistic vision of the spirit of the man, his painting and his times. Turner’s art,  his iconic and iconoclastic innovative paintings are reduced in Leigh’s film to pretty window-dressing. We learn nothing about the passion that motivated them, the passion they reflected and the mind and sensibility that first conceived, then created them.

<strong>Not since Arnand Tucker’s execrable Hilary and Jackie (about Jacquleine Du Pre)assumed that the most interesting thing about one of the most gifted, mesmeric musicians of her time, was whether she had slept with her brother-in-law, has an artist been so ill-served by a film ostensibly made to celebrate great art. I see no reason to think, and Leigh certainly doesn’t provide one, that a graphic portrayal of a grunting, piggish brute with the sexual sensibility of a dog on heat, has anything at all to do with the creation of several of the most transcendent paintings of not just their time, but any time. And an oddly inappropriate atonal, distancing score doesn’t improve things one jot.

Such a disappointment: and a precious lost opportunity. And the usual unjustified ‘Britfilm’ hype won’t kid anyone for long.

Lord Melvyn Bragg – Q & A at Curzon for Sky Arts South Bank Originals

Bragg

 

5star1

 

Lord Melvyn Bragg – Q & A at Curzon for Sky Arts South Bank Originals

We are used to hearing Melvyn, Lord Bragg, interviewing others. Over the 50 years or more of his presence on our screens and airwaves he has informed, educated, entertained and at times enthralled us by sharing the results of his own passionate curiosity and down-to-earth, no-nonsense love of the Arts in all their forms.

For once a series of excellent questions from the audience freed him to expand on deep felt insights, affectionately telling and funny anecdotes from a lifetime of meeting and sharing ideas with an extraordinary range of supremely talented people: from Dolly Parton to Francis Bacon; Barushnikov to McCartney. His indomitable enthusiasm and searching curiosity renders even the esoteric and perplexing accessible to anyone with a willingly open mind and a desire to understand.

To use a much overused and often undeserved term: the Right Honourable The Lord Melvyn Bragg is a genuine National Treasure who carries his distinction lightly with a sublimely English self-deprecation which marks a genuine humility without a hint of what the Welsh call ‘side’.

Melvyn rocks!

The new series of South Bank Original on Sky Arts, although using 1000s of hours of peviously aired interviews etc is a completely new, re-examination of a particular subject or artist over many years. The two shown here on Dolly Parton and Mikhail  Baryshnikov were insightful, poignant and beautifully observed.

Poem – ‘I’

 

'I'

‘I’

 

‘I’

I am happy – and sad
sometimes good
and yes, sometimes bad

I am who I am
but have a duty
to he who I might be
I am tethered – yet free
I am me

I am loved – and love
know unrest – but am still blessed

I am curious – and perplexed
troubled, and at peace
my madness makes me sane
and my sanity makes me mad

I am father – and son
husband, lover, friend
endless possibilities
and yet all are one

I am blood, tissue, cell
body and brain
but consciousness as well
Somewhere in the hinterland
of synapse, nerve and cause
the person, the self – the ‘I’
thinks and feels, plans and acts – wills
bound but not determined
by careless Nature’s Laws

I am a million inchoate fragments
of feeling, sense and hope
ordered on memory’s fragile thread
contradictions side by side
resigned by Human Nature
to forget destination
and perhaps deserve the ride

I am sacred – and profane
driven by desire and will
terrified by freedom
and the duty to fulfil
to become all I can be
No one can lift the burden or the thrill
of a shared humanity
no prophets, Gods or masters
through obedience reward or fear
excuse my deeds but me
Rebellion not quiescence
dissent not conformity
pave the road the ‘I’ must travel
to reach its destiny

Another Spring – Poem

 

Cherry-Blossoms-6169

 

Another Spring

Age is like
a non-returning Spring
full of passion
that will not be satisfied
full of hope
that will not be fulfilled
full of love
that will not be returned
full of life
that will not be survived

And full of longing
for another Summer, Autumn, Winter
and yes, oh yes
another Spring

The Amazing Spiderman 2 – second rate computer game without the interactivity

 

amazing-spider-man-2-0v

 

2star1

 

The Amazing Spiderman 2 – Marc Webb

 

Dramatic tension, suspense depends on imperilment, uncertainty of outcomes. The flaw in the super-hero genre which this Spiderman suffers from more than most, is that because the impossible can be convincingly depicted, outcomes are either certain, therefore predictable; or unconvincingly plotted to tidy up a poorly conceived, lazily developed and badly written narrative.

The other essential component of suspense is cadence: dramatic sequences must build towards a climax with at least some element of uncertainty, doubt as to successful outcome. The action sequences in Spiderman are breathtaking in their technical expertise and utterly vapid in their contribution to narrative cadence or dramatic tension: one is gobsmacked at the frentic, one-speed (super-fast) pace. But gobsmacked fatigue soon sets in as the law of diminishing returns inexorably unwinds – very quickly.

This Spiderman is nothing more than a second rate video-game without the merit of interactivity. Zero chemistry between Stone and Garfield at least generates the right result.

A waste of time, money and hype.

Thoughts On A Son’s 30th Birthday

 

father-son-silhouette

 

Thoughts On A Son’s 30th Birthday

Our children are the best of us
as theirs one day will be too
their task is to surpass us
ours to love them when they do

Like sparks adrift in a darkling sky
we blaze, and burn, then glow
a flame of life and love eternal
to touch, to feel, to know

The thief of time beguiles us
with then, and now, and soon
shared life and love slip by
’til a finite midnight usurps an endless noon

But we can steal back precious moments
for passion is not bound by measured time
shared fragments of love eternal
a sense of life transcendent and sublime

These priceless, timeless moments of eternity
like the river’s rush, the oceans’ tides
although ever-flowing, ever-changing
are proof undoubting that love abides

Our children are the best of us
our love drives their dreams not ours
with truth and honour, like us, as their guide
their lives will not be measured in mere years, or months, or hours

Pete Seeger: 1919 – 2014 RIP

 

Seeger and Dylan

Seeger and Dylan

 

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger

 

If I had a hammer

Where Have all the flowers gone?

We Shall Overcome

 

Pete Seeger

A fine soul passed today
returning to the earth
he loved and graced
He hammered out freedom
He hammered out justice
no guns just roses
this gentle gentleman
embraced

We are the better
for his life
his melody lives on
champion of simple folk
of music and of song
we know where one flower has gone
as still his truth rings out loud
rings out long

(Pete Seeger: 1919 – 2014. RIP)

Buffy Sainte-Marie – January 2014 of Pete Seeger

“Justice and humanitarian issues, kindness, effectiveness and humility, all wrapped around a banjo. He was a real angel on earth”.

Philomena – Stephen Frears – Touching, moving – but where’s the anger?

Judi Dench/ Philomena Lee

Judi Dench/ Philomena Lee

 

 

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Philomena – Stephen Frears

The real Philomena Lee was in the audience with her family when I saw this at the wonderful Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted. She took part in a question and answer session after the showing. She revealed herself to be intelligent, articulate, perceptive and wise. These qualities perhaps developed by 30 years as a psychiatric nurse.

Given this unusual insight into the real people portrayed in the film the first, overwhelming question is why, in all that’s holy, Stephen Coogan’s script turns this extraordinary lady into a slightly dumb, somewhat submissive woman out of touch with the sophistications of modern life, more than a little patronisingly portrayed as very pre-occupied with taking advantage of anything she can get for free or on the cheap.

It takes Judi Dench, bless her, about half the film to invest Philomena with the authentic, real gravitas and intelligence denied her by Coogan’s well-meaning but deeply patronising script. Not for the first time, it takes Dench some time to rescue not just the movie but the richly layered, life-worn and life-enhancing character that is the real Philomena, from the patronising trivialising of Coogan’s writing. It emerged in the Q&A that Dench had refused to say one line “because it made me (Philomena) look too stupid.” Well good on yer Judi – but why was it even an issue?

That said, to be fair, both Philomena and her daughter professed themselves very satisfied with the movie. That is generous to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, Philomena is touching, very moving and the sheer cumulative weight of Dench’s artistic conviction, as ever, triumphs in investing a character with more depth and weight than a sometimes trite script conveys. As the British Film Industry gears itself up for one of its periodic chauvinistic excesses let’s be clear, not that it is what matters most, that the film has no chance of Oscars etc; though Dench certainly has every chance of picking up some well-deserved accolades.

How could the story of a naïve good Catholic teenager getting pregnant on her first foray into pubescence with a Sean-the-lad at the local carnival be unaffecting? When the overwhelming weight of Catholic, Social opprobrium descends upon her she is ‘forced’ by convention and custom into giving up her son for adoption at the sublimely inappropriate age of 3 years. We learn that this transaction was commonplace in Ireland at the time when Catholic-run institutions, inspired by a God-claimed obsession with sin and sinfulness, were not only piously instrumental in severing all contacts between children and birth-mothers, they also turned it into a nice little ecclesiastical earner by flogging the kids, often to well-heeled North Americans. Philomena’s ‘love-child’ Michael, whose very existence apparently represented the authentication of human sinfulness ended up in Canada and thence to the USA. We can only imagine the cumulative pressure; social, religious and emotional to which Philomena and the thousands of young women like her, were subjected to accede to not only signing away any rights to their own child but also any right to ever make any further future contact.

The inspirational quality of Philomena lies in the sheer human, maternal and filial drives that battled for years to find each other against the deception, institutional corruption and hypocritical piety of all who might have helped them. You will discover the bitter-sweet pathos of this process within the film – and it will make you cry.

But here is the fundamental flaw in the film: the anger is missing. Of course as human beings we should be tolerant: but equally as human beings we should not be tolerant of injustice. The trade in adopted babies like Philomena’s was systematically practiced by a Catholic institution that was at the same time exploiting the slave labour of thousands of ‘fallen’ young women in profitable Irish laundries – a scandal only just beginning to be properly aired. It is also by now a matter of mere empiricism, not prejudice, that notes the thousands of vulnerable young people of both genders systematically sexually abused for years by the very Priests in whom they placed their trust.

The real Philomena revealed that as a result of her experience she stopped for many years attending Mass – returning only in recent years but still eschewing Holy Communion. In the film her namesake is portrayed as restraining the less-than-convincing anger on her behalf expressed by Coogan’s Martin Sixsmith. Coogan plays the ex-BBC journalist advisor to Stephen Byers, Transport Minister in the Blair Government. Sixsmith’s notorious sacking was caused by his advice to Byers not to try to ‘bury’ bad political news on the day of Princess Margaret’s funeral; in view of the earlier debacle of cynically trying to use the US 9/11 bombings to hide other bad political news.

The responses in the film to the deliberated, planned, systematic emotional cruelty exercised by so-called Christians upon vulnerable young women, are far too muted; far too restrained. This was wickedness, pure and simple, enacted by an institution and its officers who above all others, not only should have known better but negated in action the very spirit of the faith they professed in thought and belief.

Truly, when good men and women are silent – evil prospers. If more sincere, good Catholics, lay and ordained, had been angrier and shouted that anger from the rooftops, over decades of systematic, known but concealed abuse, then thousands of lives would have been saved the traumas and destruction to which they were unspeakably subjected.

I’m not sure why Frears has allowed his film to be so fatally flawed by such a polite, submissive, utterly misplaced blandness of moral tone. I hate to say it but clearly, this implicitly ‘conciliatory’ tone will increase the potential market for the film in a way that a more trenchant, critical, outraged spirit might not. But this is popular appeal at the profound expense of artistic integrity. Jim Loach’s Oranges and Sunshine (2011) on an absolutely similar theme but within an Australian context (truly is Catholicism a world religion), was far more rigorous, far more critical, and thus far more impressive than Frears’ quasi-middle-class apologia. But then Oranges and Sunshine did modest box-office and wasn’t mentioned as a possible Oscar-winner.

Philomena was entirely successful in inducing in me a kind of comfortable, Middle-Class wistful sadness at Philomena’s story. Even the subject of the film herself seems to have been lulled into a submissive, resigned regret at how things turned out.

This passivity is subversive and corrosive. It really isn’t good enough. And no amount of Oscars and accolades will change that fundamental fact. These things didn’t ‘happen’ to Philomena Lee and the thousands like her – they were the conscious, planned, organised decisions and actions of individuals and the organisation which both generated, validated and eventually concealed the unspeakable treatment to which she was subjected. This was no act of God.

This quietly, subtly emotionally manipulative film is not enough – by a long, long way. The real Philomena Lee said that she eventually agreed to support the film because she hoped it might help others who suffered the same emotional and yes, spiritual, oppression. Well sheer publicity may grant her wish: but response to evil, reaction to cruelty and wickedness should be rigorous, committed and utterly unapologetic. Otherwise the truth will be distorted, sanitised and finally buried: and secret, shameful abuse will simply slither back to destroy more innocent, vulnerable lives. That is the truth that best reflects the Scriptural attitude of the very founder of the faith so vigorously professed but shamefully denied in action over many years.

All efforts to wring out of the current Irish Government and the Catholic Church full details of this shameful practice have so far failed. Such information should not be meekly requested on the back of a touching little movie and the embarrassment of publicity it may generate: full disclosure must be demanded and if refused, legislated for. Enough is enough. There is an outstanding debt to pay: and public recognition of the truth is its absolutely minimum requirement.