Monday, 31 August 2015


Image result for leviathan movie 

 I finally caught up with Leviathan last week. Whenever it plays at the Tyneside, it’s completely booked out, the streets outside swirling with burly young Russian men. Where do they come from? Where do they live? Don’t they have girlfriends and wives? What do they do when they aren’t swirling outside the Tyneside Cinema? 

WikiLeaks published previously unavailable, confidential  diplomatic cables from the US Government  in 2014 which describe Russia as a virtual Mafia state. Not note, Moscow as a mafia city, the whole country as a Mafia state. Not that anyone with even a glancing acquaintance with current events doesn’t know what life is like in Vlad’s Russia. You don’t have to have read Luke Harding’s book to get the picture.

So, Leviathan is a grim and bleak film about life under the regime; as all the commentators say, it’s amazing it got made, let alone found a release in the West. It was up for an Oscar but didn’t win but it did receive the award for Best Foreign Film. It has five star reviews from all the usual film critics, the Guardian, the Independent which calls it Chekhovian and of course, the American site, Rotten Tomatoes. ‘The cool grey dawns and barren landscapes express Kolya’s despair and isolation’, according to Susan Tavernetti of the Palo Alto Weekly. Not sure where Palo Alto is but me? Not convinced. There is a plot but it is back of an envelope stuff; the Moscow lawyer has a folder but that is all we know. The pretty girl sleeps with him. Why? To provide conflict? Isn’t there enough? There is a long and uninteresting section that shows how real Russian men escape the realities of life by hunting, shooting and drinking until they cannot stand up. But we already know all that.

The subtitles are just terrible. It may well be that there is great literature in there but we aren’t going to hear it; the people responsible for releasing this should really have paid a lot more attention to sub-titling it. To be or not to be, that is the question is reduced to, ‘What am I gonna do now, Bro?’

I know, I know, moan, moan, moan and yes, I have read Roger Ebert’s rave review [here if anyone is interested]. It is beautifully filmed to take advantage of the wintry, bleakness of the landscape and pretty well acted but like everything else I seem to have reviewed recently, Amy, Childs Pose, Ida it shakes you by the shoulders, beats you around the head and just when you are shouting at the screen, ‘I get it, I get it’. It takes out its sledgehammer.

I want nuance, not melodrama Chekhovian or otherwise. I want Spring in a Small Town, Wolf Hall, King Charles 3, Olive Kitteridge, Under the Skin. 

 Save me.

Sunday, 23 August 2015


Image result for shell oil rig
Wednesday is derived in English from the Norse god Woden [Wodens-day]; the bringer of death and war.

Last Wednesday was a particularly bad day for the world. Khaled al-Asaad the 80-year old Syrian scholar and keeper of antiquities at Palmyra was beheaded by ISIS because he would not tell them where he had hidden the ancient treasures. They tied a placard to his corpse, accusing him of apostasy of all things. Apostasy? Converting to another religion? Why would anyone, anywhere want to be part of a religion that digs up ancient statues to sell on the black market; that sets landmines under Palmyra  which they threaten to destroy if ransom isn’t paid; rapes  girls as young as seven, marries off twelve-year old virgins to ‘fighters’; murders 

Can’t begin to describe how shocking this is. There was someone on the BBC the other day who called ISIS a Death Cult and suggesting the world treats them as such. What do think, Vlad? Just another pawn in your Great Game?

The day before and almost unreported here . . . couldn’t find a word about it in the Sun or the Daily Mail . . . [our readers aren’t interested in that kind of thing] they bulldozed the 5thC Monastery of St Eliane in Syria. According to The Guardian, they abducted 230 Christians both men and women and now no-one knows where they are or what happened to them. This must have been what it was like in Bohemia in 1940; no-one knows what happened to them. But we got this nice house and garden and have lived here ever since they left. No, I don’t think they are coming back.

And then, on the same day, Mr Barrack Obama agreed to sanction drilling for oil in the Arctic. Anyone know why?  Not me. This is a terrible signal to the world. China, Brazil, Indonesia  et al can go back to their polluting ways with complete impunity; the Japanese can hunt and kill every whale in the ocean; nothing, nothing that the US ever says about climate change will make the slightest impression upon them. Great Barrier Reef, destroyed. All free animals now facing certain extinction; carbon emissions through the roof. If America doesn’t care, why should we?

What a legacy, Mr President.

Saturday, 22 August 2015


This was where I was today.


Sue Kitchenside an Amazon 500 Reviewer gave me a terrific 4* Star review of Riccarton Junction on Amazon today. You can read it here.

AND Clare Diston of 50AYear read my draft manuscript of book 3, Parallel Lines and said she loved it!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015


Image result for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

Zero Dark Thirty finally made it to terrestrial TV on Sunday. They cut two scenes . . . maybe more. They cut the scene where the guy who was being tortured was stuffed in the airless box; they showed the box but in the original version we see him being shut inside and they didn’t show the scene of Osama’s body being buried at sea.

I thought it was tremendous but I was glad I had seen it first on the big multiplex cinema screen.
It seems that it is still controversial more so in the light of Seymour Hersh’s recent revelations and the allegation now is that far from having full cooperation from the CIA, Kathryn Bigelow, the Director was fed a line by the CIA. Not bothered meself, like. It’s the same with all war films; Black Hawk Down; Hurt Locker, even The Deer Hunter, they are what they are and you cannot take a liberal-left position and say it glorifies torture or glorifies the American war machine.  They are all nuanced. Bigelow compressed ten years and hundreds of low, mid and high-level CIA operatives into two and a half hours and Zero Dark Thirty was the outcome.  It was terrific. Never wavered from its close-to-the-ground point of view and kept the talky stuff down to the essentials.

They made the Bin Laden Compound from scratch and the US Army desert bases, which look incredibly authentic, hot, dusty and fly-ridden. And windy [I have been there]. 

Is there a moral case against torture? Absolutely. Does this film make it? I think it probably does; it shows that it is hit and miss and that the graft and application that the Jessica Chastain character sustains for ten years, led to the right result.   

Interesting little programme on BBC 4 on Monday about the cassette tapes they discovered in Bin Laden’s house in Kandahar [I have been there too] over 1500 of them. He seems to have been regarded as a joke at first by the likes of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar a Saudi Interloper prince with an ego but money talked and he bought himself into prominence and eventually leadership. One wonders how a ragged bunch of Afghan thieves and gangsters could even consider attacking the USA. If you have the money and the will and a few dedicated men and you want to show Hekmatyar and the others that your cock is bigger than theirs . . . its amazing what you can do.