Sunday, March 19, 2006

Repressed but remarkably dressed.

Week 1 in London. And I can see why Londoners queue up to purchase that coveted retreat in the countryside.

I had been to the capital hundreds of times before, and -granted- its chaos and frazzled pace are undoubtedly part of the charme. But to get used to the DAILY scrum catching the tube at rush-hour is an entirely different story. D-e-a-r g-o-d! Wherever it is you're going between 8 and 9am (or 5 and 7pm), by the time you reach work/home you are absolutely worn out. And scenes from Shaun of the Dead echo round your head.

Still I maintain, there is something about London that keeps it head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the country. Maybe love is blind, and well, it is.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Dictators with a belly and their grandaughters

It is often argued that there's more life in a sicknote than there is in UK politics, where commentators like Andrew Neil have to resort to imaginative ways of flogging a dead horse. Italian or continental politics may be regarded as a right mess, but no doubt they're more, so to speak, colourful. Any looks of interest though ground to a halt the other day when Benito Mussolini's grandaughter Alessandra, for years an MP in the Italian parliament, came up with a disgraceful comment during a television debate with a transvestite challenger.
As bare-faced as usual, she shot her mouth off live on national television by arguing that "it's better to be a fascist than a queer". As we all have a different degree of sensibility, someone should have asked her to start counting the number of people her fascist grandad sent to the deaths between 1921 and 1945 as against any potential victims caused by "queerdom". Italy has a proud history of trade-union and civil rights activism, but with shady pantomimes like Berlusconi and Mrs Mussolini at the helm, it's quite clear that they're in desperate need of a 'proper' conservative party.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Anonymous. Cherche le travail.

The celebrated Canadian author Douglas Copeland defines the notion of McJobs as a "crap underpaid job often seen as a great opportunity by people who've never held one". If that's what you're after, no doubt the UK is 'the' place. As much casual, minimum wage-strapped employment as you want, just take your pick. But in the age of decent jobs becoming an increasing commodity, France came up with an approach that seems nothing short of revolutionary. Yesterday, a White Paper was given the go-ahead by the French Senate, introducing a scheme based on anonymous application forms and CVs. Under the new legislation, people won't have to jot down their name, address, age and sex when they're looking for work as all that matters will be experience, education and skills. Photos also won't be required and the only contacts will be e-mail address and phone number.

In the UK, so-called equal opportunities is increasingly a formula, a rigid matter of form, more likely to increase recriminations based on dubious positive discrimination schemes. The French approach appears the fairest way forward. It nips prejudice in the bud as it's based on surveys confirming that a foreign name, certain physical traits (i.e. obesity, age or specific notions of attractiveness) or a person's place of living make your job search a serious uphill or downhill task according to circumstances. With the new legislation, French employers won't have a clue about your looks or ethnicity at least until the interview stage. Selection will be more likely to be based on merits. Perhaps the buffs in human resources may wish to take a peek south of the Channel?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Final Destination 3. A review.

Sequels are notoriously to be taken with a pinch of salt. For the first two instalments, the Final Destination formula had worked alright, teenagers dying gruesomely in succession and sadism aplenty. No wonder its third chapter is released already, promising to do exactly what is expected. Final Destination was never the most complex of horror tales to begin with, yet this time –seriously- not even one iota of imagination is in place. It doesn’t even take parts 1 or 2 an inch further, like most sequels instead are set to do.

As it’s exactly like the first two (except different cast and slightly different ways to die), it actually crosses your mind whether director James Wong just aimed at an exercise of the kind: alright guys, now let’s try it over again; Got your body mangled in a pile-up? Now try and get your cranium squeezed like a spot by a fork-lift truck, see which one works better. Did the lift-doors leave you decapitated? Now check out how many limbs you lose while at a fairground…

However, if you don’t set it in context with its predecessors, Final Destination 3 does its job and is honest enough. For a rollercoaster-phobic like myself, the initial scenes are absolutely terrifying, a 5-minutes gorefest that leaves your palms drenched in sweat... And would you believe it, this simple, unassuming movie even managed to stir some controversy in the US where the Los Angeles Daily News denounced “its vulgarity on its blood-caked sleeve” calling it “cynical enough to use 9/11 in its vapid story lane!”. Whoa whoa, guys, I’m not sure the sophistication of Final Destination 3 went quite that far…

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Syriana. A review.

Before castigating America, people should note what a multi-faceted society it is. A look at the last few months is a staggering demonstration of film after film (and we're not talking about little known 'indie' ones) carrying a strong critical and anti-White House message. In succession, Jarhead, Good Night and Good Luck, Flight 93, Syriana and others are kickstarting a welcome new-era of politicised Hollywood. They may not be quite as easy to follow as American Pie, yet those grey-matter-friendly movies should put in their place those who think the U.S. is merely an equation of bible-belt, rednecks and trailer trash.

With the fanfare surrounding it, an amazing cast (George Clooney at his best) and its Oscar nominations, Syriana has a huge potential to preach beyond the converted. Stephen Gaghan's film is extremely intelligent and valuable, as it points out how each single one of our informed choices as ordinary citizens is likely to be connected to some appalling policy carried out by the Government-backed oil industry in that ticking time-bomb that is the Middle East. The movie isn't political propaganda as such, yet the sheer fact that it isn't fiction is enough to convey an extremely brave message, especially when you consider that we're talking about Hollywood. If anything, it makes you wonder how the creators managed to find any producers to back it.

Nonetheless, you can't help but think that after penning the bulk of Syriana, its masterminds sat down to a cup of tea and discussed how to make it as muddled as possible for the viewers. The plot can get so disjointed that even the most attentive person struggles to keep up which, frankly, is a real shame as there was no need for that. The idea of having a web of subplots that will come intertwined at the end is an intriguing and admirable one, yet not all of the stories on display in Syriana are as relevant or interesting as others. Its merciless realism, though, is enough to make it recommendable. Unless, that is, it's Final Destination 3 you're after...then you have to consider whether a 2-hour snooze is worth £5.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Selling Yourself

There's a programme on Five that seems to bring a tiny bit of realism to the vacuum notion of reality TV. I was robotically prodding my remote control when I suddenly spotted a scene far too familiar with my recent existence: a desperate-to-impress twenty-something in front of a power-trip-fuelled interview panel. Although heavily edited, "Selling Yourself" is a household scenario for all of us, the generation of zombified debt-ridden graduates making up the hordes of delusional employees stuck in dead-end jobs. The noughts' equivalent of the early-80s "gissa job" flock.

In a kind of context not too dissimilar to the "X-Factor", five candidates take up a battery of nerve-racking tests and interrogations after which only one survivor will land their dream job. Granted the panel have been taking a tip or two from the world of routine cowellite nastiness, yet for once there's a programme that strikes a chord with what goes on in real life. And the process of applying for a job, as you volunteer to have your face, body language and mannerism judged by total strangers with their arse warm is, alas, cruel and real enough to make towards some dramatic reality television.

Now all it takes is some producer out there having the guts to come up with a "Call-centre Island" or "Temping Idol" and justice will be done. Reality TV will have finally found its purpose, away from the useless (and unentertaining, if anything) alice in wonderland gloss of "Celebrity Love Island" and the rest. "Selling Yourself" is the first step.