Monday, March 28, 2011

Basement

"Face your deepest fears", says the tagline. That's right. You may have just wasted your money on the most useless film ever.

A few years ago my friends and I got into the habit of buying naff knockdown price DVDs for a laugh.

Two spring to mind, an American B-horror called The Dentist and an even worse one sporting the unbeatable title The Nosepicker. Proper cheap cheap cheap tacky dim-witted crap. We were pissing ourselves laughing at the crassness of the acting, the story, the soundtrack.

But it was great. There is something uniquely endearing about rubbish films.

In the unlikely event you may have heard of 2010's Basement, please be warned that it does not even make it into the above-described category. We are talking about something else here. Levels of nothingness that not even the most cynical of viewers could have anticipated.

Basement is the equivalent of being served a completely rancid dinner at a restaurant. Or the equivalent of buying a new suit only to discover that it's made of meat wrappers selotaped together.

What is unbelievable is the idea that someone, somewhere, thought that this thing could be knocked together, let alone produced, and that nobody along the way was honest enough to tell the director, the screenwriter, the producers or whoever that perhaps jacking it in would have been a more dignified move.

There's no danger of a spoiler because this film is about nothing. In theory the premises are interesting, not miles away from The Hole: a group of people are lost in the woods and end up in a dark and creepy basement. "Wow", you'd think, "Great!".

No it isn't. Because that's where it all ends. You wait and wait while the characters redraw the boundaries of the expression "dead end" and, within half hour, it's quite obvious that nowt's ever gonna happen.

The rest is some sort of tedious, repetititive, shallow, unengaging and inconsequential bilge. It goes nowhere. It says nothing. It's not even dumb. I guess it's the closest a film ever got to representing the concept of nothingness which, in a way, you could argue is actually an achievement.

Oh, and by the way, the acting is the worst ever. By far. Times ten.

"Basement" is like a Year-9 project carried out by a group of kids messing about with some recording equipment. Except worse.

Avoid.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lessons from Japan

They call it clean and efficient, but it takes one thing to go wrong for nuclear energy to cause apocalyptic damage.

This must be the first time in history a devastating natural disaster is made a million times worse by the added danger of an imminent nuclear one.

If the fifth largest earthquake since 1900 and a catastrophic mega-tsunami weren't enough, Japan is now having to deal with the worst threat of radiation leaks the world has known since Chernobyl.

And while the entire world population are wishing the excellent Japanese people to get through this terrible moment as soon as possible, it is also vital that we learn -and quick- from the events.

The point is. If a country as efficient as Japan, with the most advanced infrastructure and the most sophisticated earthquake engineering and seismic vibration control, can experience such levels of destruction and nuclear devastation, one is entitled to wonder if nuclear power is worth it at all.

For all the best state-of-the-art safety measures in the world, it can take one earthquake, hurricane, tsunami, human error, fire, terrorist attack, you name it, to completely fuck up and contaminate an entire country, its natural resources and tens of millions of people for decades.

They say that nuclear power is safe, but in my lifetime alone this is already the second time that nuclear devastation is taking place (please look at this).

Once again, it just needs to happen once to ensure absolute havoc for a very long time.

Germany's decision
this morning to shut down all their nuclear plants built before 1980 and to order an overhaul of all the others can only be saluted. Every single other country should follow suit.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why the West should intervene in Libya

The "Libya-has-oil" argument is at risk of becoming the first time people are penalised for sitting on natural resources.

With civil war escalating and Libyan rebel forces losing ground to Gaddafi's troops (see here), a number of people have called against Western military intervention against the Libyan regime (see for instance the excellent Daily Maybe).

In short, the case against stepping in consists of:

a) the painful legacy of the Iraq war (which this blog opposed consistently from the outset); b) the fact that stepping in would hand Gaddafi a powerful ideological card; c) cries of hypocrisy related to the West's continuing support of other dictators in the Middle East (ie Saudi Arabia); d) the certainty that "[intervention] in Libya has more to do with control of that country's oil resources than with support for Libya's people" (also see Noam Chomsky on the matter).

No doubt their case has some merits. If there's one thing the world should have learnt from the devastating legacy of the trigger-happy Blair/Bush years, that is that military might should only be deployed as a very last resort.

But here is the thing.

Gaddafi is winning. What is currently looking like a massacre will turn into genocide the moment the entire Libyan territory returns under his complete control. That is possibly the only thing we can be sure of. The man is a sanguinary madman and he's already promised "a bloodbath".

Imagine for a second that David Cameron turned from jumped-up Tory to sanguinary dictator overnight and started slaughtering, say, tens of thousands of people in those Northern areas where local councils are opposing his cuts. Imagine you were stuck there, witnessing reprisals, massacres and disappearances.

Your side has tried to resist for weeks, but the battle is looking increasingly desperate and the prospect of a total bloodbath nearer. How would you feel if the rest of the world expressed their support simply by "freezing assets abroad" or expressing "firm condemnation" via a UN-sponsored piece of paper?

Would you not welcome foreign troops to save the lives of those around you?

"Will [military intervention] do any good?" asks Jim Jepps. I ask him to simply consider what will happen the moment Gaddafi's troops bag their victory. What good will come from that is beyond me.

And the oil thing.

We're witnessing the paradox of penalising tens of thousands of innocent people just because their country happens to be oil-rich.

Would you idly stand by the Srebrenica massacre if you found out that Bosnia was sitting on huge oil resources, just in case accusations of predatory opportunism may be levied?

Can you honestly say to those people "sorry to hear your house got bombed, mate...I'd help you if your country didn't have oil resources but, seeing as it has, we'll let Gaddafi slaugher you otherwise it looks bad on us?".

How does that work? It would probably be the first time in history people were actually discriminated in reverse on the basis of oil.

And yes, the West is propping up some appalling regimes around. It is right that we point out the hypocrisy.

But, given the failure to stop genocide in both Rwanda and in Bosnia, wouldn't it actually be refreshing - for once - if Western governments showed that military might can be used to genuinely rescue people from mass slaughter instead of the usual display of botched-up ideological crusades a-la Iraq?

It's true. Western leaders (with Blair and Berlusconi at the forefront) were kissing Gaddafi's hands for years. They armed him and pampered him. But so what? Isn't making amends and reversing crap and unethical foreign policy something to welcome with open arms?

Also read: When America left Arab Rebels to the Slaugher.

Another Year

Mike Leigh's run of form continues.

Review by Claude Carpentieri

If there ever was an imaginary Award for Best Social Observation and another for Best Depiction of the Ordinary, Mike Leigh would probably make a clean sweep each time.

His new release Another Year follows in the footsteps of some of his best work - 2002's All or Nothing and 1995's Secrets And Lies to mention but two.

This, however, is probably the first time Leigh casts his lens solely on the middle classes.

Past criticism that most of his work is allegedly a patronising take on the working classes as downtrodden salt-of-the-earth types was always ingenerous. And, like in every other of his films, Another Year goes to show that dysfunctional interaction and social ineptitude, contentment and loneliness, delusion and caring alike have all little to do with class as they're just integral to humanity.

At the core of Another Year, a couple approaching retirement; husband Tom (Jim Broadbent - Slater from Only Fools and Horses), a geologist and wife Gerri (Ruth Sheen), a psychologist. Their house, a large and cosy one in a leafy London suburb. Their son, Joe (possibly separated at birth from Keane's lead singer), an affectionate, sensible young lawyer. Their relationship, an island of warmth, affection and security amidst a social cluster where all of their friends and extended family seem to struggle with solitude and assorted demons.

The film unravels over a year. Each season, a friend or family visits Tom and Gerri, initially proudly claiming that "all is fine" and that "they're happier than ever", only to gradually let on - generally courtesy of a few drinks - that the picture is a totally different one and that, actually, loneliness and ageing are corroding them from within.

Another Year works because of its contemplative, gentle pace and its minimalistic touches. It wouldn't be a Mike Leigh film if the camera work wasn't so subtly masterful and the depiction of the most precious details so intense.

But Another Year also works because it never wishes to lecture anybody on anything. It's just a take on the fact that sometimes companionship can serve as the best refuge against ageing, insecurity and depression.

An absolute masterpiece.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Mechanic

Two reviews for the price of one.

One.
The mere sight of big/fast cars makes you wet your bed. Films where burly geezers square each other up without flinching one bit give you a feeling of excitement which is only comparable to when you squash bugs or when you watch Jeremy Clarkson testing a new motor.

You probably think that smiling at someone in public makes you a wuss because you're a true man and any deeper than The Fast and the Furious makes it too hard to deal with emotionally.

If you ticked all of the above (and also if your parents used to lock you in the garage when you were a naughty child), then you'll probably find that The Mechanic is genius and you should watch it and spunk in your pants.

Two.
You just know from the start that the main bloke in the film (Jason Statham) will survive with barely a scratch. He takes no shit and he's built like a brick shithouse. The words predictable and boring start flashing in neon lights as the first five minutes unravel.

This is a geezer's equivalent of Sex & The City, the type of stuff that girlfriends only watch at the movies just to keep their manly boyfriend happy and to make up for when they forced him to watch Valentine's Day and, of course, Love Actually.

Oh...and Donald Sutherland has gone downhill and you just don't think that lots of guns, car chases, broken limbs and gravity defying jumps make for good entertainment, light or otherwise.

The retro-looking poster is great though. The gun even matches the colour of this blog.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Shoot yourself in the foot...

...but not if you're Ashley Cole.

Imagine an ordinary worker picking up the most powerful/borderline legal air rifle on the market and shooting a random bloke for fun. The victim would "bleed profusely" and require medical treatment.

How long do you think the shooter would last before being disciplined and/or fired? Five minutes? A day? Two tops?

Well. Not if you're a Premier League football player and certainly not if you're name is Ashley Cole.

He wasn't even suspended for one poxy game. Apparently he said the word "sorry", so all is ok.

As this may set a legal precedent, see if you want to try it yourself. Shoot someone on the arse. Just for a lark. If the rozzers get involved just say that you're "sorry" and that was enough for Ashley Cole to get away with it.

Your case will be watertight.