I was intending my first post in a while – and the first for 2015 – to be something suitably uplifting and inspirational, as is befitting a new year. Sadly, it’s not to be. I’m on a beautiful, remote island in Thailand and was feeling refreshed and positive about the months ahead – until yesterday, when I checked twitter, (on behalf of a client – I wouldn’t've bothered if it was for me, to be honest..), and I saw the breaking news of the horrendous shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. Journalists, gunned down in cold blood while at work because people don’t like what they write or the satirical cartoons that they draw. (And it’s important to note that Charlie Hebdo magazine doesn’t just ridicule Muslims, it laughs at everyone – from English people, to the Pope.) So far, the death toll stands at nine journalists and two police officers.
I’m a member of the NUJ and I’m proud to say that at 12pm today, French time, UK journalists observed a minute’s silence in honour of their fallen French comrades and in defiance of the pure evil behind these murders. Some held ‘Je Suis Charlie’ signs, others held pencils and pens.
I might be on the other side of the world, previously daydreaming of how things will be in 2015 but, unfortunately, this has jolted me back to the reality of life. A sad reminder of the people who use religion as an excuse to murder.
Delighted to have found one of the Books About Town. There are 50 of these wonderful bench sculptures dotted around London, designed to look like open books, to celebrate London’s literary heritage and promote reading for enjoyment.
This bench is homage to The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde.
I feel like an intrepid hunter, having found it, and need to dedicate this post – and ‘my’ bench – to @OheMCeewho I know was looking forward to seeing one ‘in real life’ as much as I was.
As if I needed reminding of how much I love my home town.
Violence has a starring role in this film, as two generations of London gangsters go head-to-head.
Adam may be young but he works hard to maintain his reputation as the face to fear, on the South East London housing estate where he lives. Backed up, unquestionably, by his army of teenage foot soldiers, he terrorises his neighbours, steels from his fellow criminals and bullies his loyal minions.
The personification of an angry young man, Adam is driven to extreme violence by the inner demons and insecurities that manifest themselves in his need to be top dog. The only chink in his armour of bravado is his dedication to his little brother, who he shields from the realities of his life.
Mitch has been there, done that. Now well into his 40s, his nice family life is a million miles away from the old football hooligan days when his gang, The Guvnors, used to rule the terraces, as well as the streets, led by him.
They were very different times. Back then, disputes were resolved with the fist and even hooligans knew when to show respect. Nowadays, blades and bricks are the tools of the trade and fear has replaced respect as the currency used to gain power and keep control.
After a particularly nasty attack on a young girl, the local police round up Adam and his cohorts. Frustrated at their inability to prove what they know has happened, DC Meyler tells them that back in the day, The Guvnors would have put them straight.
That comment plays on Adam’s insecurities, to bloody effect and Mitch finds that no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape your past.
The Guvnors is a gripping, gritty and realistic script, full of great twists. It falls down slightly in a few places. In particular, more insight was needed into Adam’s absent mum, plus the biggest twist of the film generates little reaction from most of the characters, which really jarred for me. There’s also a fairly big oversight in the continuity – I’ll let you see if you can spot that yourselves. But, overall I really enjoyed the film. It’s another take on the generation of kids whose absent parents have led them to seek an alternative family in the worst possible places. As well as being an interesting – not often examined – look at what happens to ‘ex-nutters’, when they try to move away from that life.
Guvnors is driven by brilliant acting from Harley Sylvester – bizarrely, one half of the sugar sweet ‘hip hop’ duo, Rizzle Kicks (who I really like but would NEVER have imagined in the role of Adam) – as well as Doug Allen, who plays Mitch. Plus, a great supporting cast, including David Essex (!), as Mitch’s old boxing coach, Mickey, and Charley Palmer Merkell as Adam’s loyal sidekick, Trey.
Amazing that this is the first full feature of writer/director, Gabe Turner. He’s done a great job bringing this story to life.
[Watched at the Edinburgh International Film Festival - EIFF]
Known as the Godfather of House, Frankie Knuckles was a massive part of the soundtrack of my life. Really sad to hear of his passing last night, aged only 59. The music, memories and love that he leaves behind are immeasurable.
So many classic songs. But Your Love has to be the one (having problems embedding this properly, so click on the name link, above or below!):
Bold. Brash. Violent. Vulgar. Frightening. Funny. Jaw dropping. Gut wrenching.
Starred Up takes gritty realism to a whole other level. It had me cowering in my seat. Laughing out loud. Jumping from shock. And at one point not-so-silently praying that what I was witnessing wasn’t really about to happen.
Seen at the London Film Festival, back in October 2013 – and getting its general release in the UK today – this absolutely outstanding film totally topped ten days in which I’d seen some real corkers.
19 year old Eric Love is transferred from a juvenile detention centre to an adult prison – two years before he should really be sent. He’s ‘starred up’, meaning his file is marked, due to his violent behaviour. And from the moment he arrives it’s clear his card is marked as well. What happens next takes us on a roller coaster of emotions.
Jack O’Connell as Eric & Ben Mendelsohn as Nev
We were really lucky that both the director, David McKenzie, and the writer, Jonathan Asser were there to do a Q&A after our screening. Before seeing the film, I’d read that it had been based on Jonathan’s time as a prison councillor. After seeing the film, there are no words to express my admiration at his writing. He truly has turned his work experience into an amazing film experience for us all. He’s managed to combine humour with downright horror and, somehow, still leave a glimmer of hope – all whilst confronting us full-on with the very worst of what we imagine goes on in our institutions. It feels like it’s been written with truth and compassion. And despite the machismo, vulgarity and violence, it still manages to have real moments of tenderness.
Jack O’Connell is outstanding as Eric. Whilst Ben Mendelsohn as his dad, Nev, and Sam Spruell as Governor Hayes, are totally brilliant, too. In fact, it’s a great cast – and an extremely interesting one, as some of the parts are played by Jonathan Asser’s ex prison patients.
During the Q&A, someone asked McKenzie if he’d studied the film Scum in perpetration for directing Starred Up. The answer was no. And I was glad. Whilst it’s natural to make such comparisons, it would be too easy to dismiss this as just a modern day wannabe. That wouldn’t do it justice. Starred Up stands tall by itself.
I love Google’s current Doodle, reminding the world that the Olympic Charter states that ‘The practice of sport is a human right’ and using the colours of the rainbow flag. Perfectly timed, as the Winter Olympics kick off in Sochi – against the backdrop of Russia’s appalling anti-gay laws.