A review of the 2019 film “21 Bridges”

February 13th, 2022 by Roger Darlington

The critics were quite hard on this movie but I found it entertaining enough. The plot centres on a New York Police Department detective on the hunt for two cop killers who persuades the authorities to close all the bridges from Manhattan for the night in order to track down the villains. Of course, there are complications along the way in an action-packed hour and a half or so.

What, I guess, elevates the film is the casting of Chadwick Boseman as the principled crusader. This was the last of Boseman’s work to be released before he died from cancer and reminds us what a really talented actor he was. Support roles are filled by Sienna Miller and J.K. Simmons adding to the film’s watchability.

In fact, while there are 21 connections in and out of Manhattan, only 17 of these are actually bridges, the remaining four being tunnels. Also, although there are some fine aerial shots of Manhattan, the film was shot on the streets of Philadelphia. 

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A review of the new Spanish film “Parallel Mothers”

February 11th, 2022 by Roger Darlington

I’ve seen a number of art house films recently which characteristically were very slow and very opaque. So it was a not-so-guilty pleasure to view “Parallel Mothers” which moves at pace and has a clear narrative. Of course, I would have expected nothing less from the Spanish master Pedro Almodóvar both wrote and directed this wonderful movie.

For the eight time, Almodóvar cast his favourite actor, the beautiful and ever so talented Penélope Cruz. She plays the lead role of Janis, a middle-aged woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and befriends a teenager Ana (the ingénue Milena Smit) who is having her baby in the same hospital at the same time.

It is a moving tale of love and loss, at both a very personal level of two first-time mothers facing emotional challenge and at a societal level of a country coming to terms with the horrors of a civil war still raw and recent. Except for the final sequences, the dialogue is constant so there are a lot of sub-titles but the viewer still needs to savour Almodóvar’s trademark use of vibrant colour.

This is a gay director who loves working with women and giving them strong roles and there is only one significant male character (Israel Elejalde), but he is kindly and has a significant part in both the personal and the political levels of the story.

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I hope the Russians love their children too

February 11th, 2022 by Roger Darlington

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A review of “The Other” by Ryszard Kapuściński (2008)

February 10th, 2022 by Roger Darlington

In so many disciplines – philosophy, anthropology, psychology, sociology, politics – there is a fundamental difference between the Self and the Other. This slim volume of just 80 pages of text on the Other brings together an English translation of six thoughtful and enlightened lectures and essays by the renowned Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński with an introduction by Scottish journalist Neal Ascherson.

There are many ways of distinguishing the Other and Kapuściński focuses on race, nationality and religion, while other ways would include gender, sexual orientation, and ableism.

Kapuściński (1932-2007) travelled extensively in Africa, Asia and Latin America and this book critiques the Western idea of the Other: the non-European and non-American idea that the Other is inferior and indeed dangerous. This Western-centric approach has been increasingly challenged as, in the second half of the 20th century, two-thirds of the world’s population was liberated from colonial dependency and as, since the advent of modern electronic communications, the word of nations has become a global village.

Kapuściński subscribed to the view that “there are no superior or inferior cultures – there are just different cultures which satisfy the needs and expectation of their members in different ways”.

Kapuściński underlines that fundamentally there are three possibilities when a man encounters the Other: “he could choose war, he could fence himself behind a war, or he could start up a dialogue”. He views it as a moral imperative to take the last of these three courses – to engage in dialogue wherever and whenever possible.

I am with Kapuściński on this which is why I love living in a city like London, travelling to other countries, and learning about other cultures. 

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So when will Boris Johnson actually leave 10 Downing Street?

February 10th, 2022 by Roger Darlington

For months now, almost every day has seen a new scandal associated with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Government. Surely his time is up?

Last weekend, I had a friendly bet with a good friend. My friend said that Johnson would be gone by Wednesday, but I thought that he wouldn’t. So it’s Thursday and Johnson is still in No 10.

I rarely make political predictions and, when I do, I’m usually wrong = but let me try …

I think that Johnson is going to survive the Metropolitical Police enquiries and the Sue Grey report, but that the killer blow will be the local government elections when Tory MPs will finally understand that Johnson is now a vote-loser big time.

So I venture to suggest that Boris will announce his departure some time over the weekend of 6-8 May. Let’s see …

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How did the Third World War begin?

February 9th, 2022 by Roger Darlington

The key event was the Moscow Conference of 2022.

After months of Russian troop build-ups on the borders of Ukraine, a conference to resolve the crisis was convened in Moscow. It was the proposal of the two western attendees: French President Emmanuel Macron, who was about to face a re-election battle, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was under heavy attack domestically for his flouting of covid rules. The eastern attendees were Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose massive military forces stood ready to invade Ukraine, and the Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was encouraged to be there by the French and British who thought that he would be a restraining influence on Putin.

Representatives of the Ukrainian Government were in a Moscow hotel but Ukraine was not represented at the conference. All the four attendees judged that having the Ukrainians there would make it harder to reach an agreement.

In fact, the Moscow Agreement was concluded quickly. It was determined that Russia would occupy the swath of Ukraine located between the Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, and the Donbas region, already occupied by Russian-backed insurgents. Putin insisted that this would be the limit of his territorial aspirations. Pressure from France, Britain, Germany and the USA forced the Ukrainians not to oppose this further occupation in the interests of world peace.

Less than a year later, however, Russian forces occupied the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv which was only a short distance from the Russian military and the whole country rapidly came under Russian control. NATO forces did not intervene on the grounds that Ukraine was not a member of NATO.

Another year later, Russia occupied the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and took over the eastern half of Poland including the capital Warsaw. These four countries were NATO members, but American public opinion – still substantially influenced by the failed invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – was overwhelmingly opposed to the United States entering a third European war and the US Congress and even President Joe Biden did not feel able to act against such opinion as they approached the elections of 2024.

Emboldened by Russia’s success, President Xi mobilised air, land, and sea forces to take the island of Taiwan which had been an integral part of China until the end of the Second World War. Both political and public opinion in the US viewed this Chinese threat as different from the Russian aggression. It was seen as a key move in China’s wish to replace the USA as the leading global power and as such it was to be opposed. The US Navy immediately deployed a large battle group close to Taiwan.

A crisis conference was convened in Washington DC between the Americans and the Chinese. Senior Chinese diplomats attended the event and insisted that President Xi wished to resolve the crisis peacefully. While the conference was still sitting, China launched a hypersonic missile attack on the US fleet which largely obliterated it. Next day, it launched an amphibious attack on Taiwan.

Over the next few days, China’s success was the green light for North Korea to invade South Korea and for Pakistan to invade India’s part of Kashmir.

And so the Third World War began …

This scenario is not a prediction. It is a warning.

If you know something about the outbreak of the Second World War, the scenario may bring to mind certain events from 1938-1941. It is meant to do so – for two reasons.

First, it should be a reminder that the Munich Agreement of 1938 should never have been instigated and signed by Britain and France. The Czechoslovaks should have been supported in resisting a Nazi invasion. The Agreement did not buy us time to re-arm as suggested by the new film “Munich: The Edge Of War”.

Second, it should be a reminder that, the sooner one stands up against a totalitarian regime intent on creating a ‘sphere of influence’ by military force, the better. We cannot change history; we can shape the future.

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A review of the new film “Munich: The Edge Of War”

February 9th, 2022 by Roger Darlington

Before I saw this film, I had read the novel by Robert Harris on which it is based [for review click here] and I had read (twice) a detailed examination of the Munich Agreement of September 1938 by Robert Kee [for review click here], so I was very familiar with the subject material. Nevertheless, I found it an entertainingly enough film which is very faithful to the novel (Harris was an executive producer) and near enough to the actual history. 

It posits a scenario in which British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain – an excellent performance by Jeremy Irons – might have been persuaded not to sign the Munich document through the concerted actions of two one-time university friends: Hugh Legat (George MacKay), a member of the British Diplomatic Service, and Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner), an official in the German Foreign Ministry.

It looks as if the film is pitched as much to the German/Austrian market as that of Britain & the USA, since this is an Anglo-German production in which all the German characters are played by German actors who actually speak German (so lots of sub-titles) and shooting was in Germany (Munich & Potsdam) as well as Britain (Liverpool).

This competent work has two flaws, one general to much of Harris’s work and one particular to this film. The general problem is that, in most of the historical novels by Harris, we know how it all ends so there is no real sense of excitement (the exception was “Fatherland” ). 

The particular objection is the statement at the end: “The extra time bought by the Munich Agreement enabled Britain and her Allies to prepare for war and ultimately led to Germany’s defeat”.

As Kee writes: “The argument often subsequently put forward in justification for Munich, to the effect that it gained time, was not immediately widely used and only really began to take shape retrospectively after Hitler’s entry into Prague and the eventual outbreak of war itself”.

If Munich gave Britain and France extra time to prepare for war, why was the Nazi blitzkrieg of 1940 so outstandingly successful?

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The 10 Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and my reviews of six of them

February 8th, 2022 by Roger Darlington

  • “The Power Of The Dog” – my review here
  • “West Side Story”
  • “Belfast” – my review here
  • “Dune” – my review here
  • “Licorice Pizza” – my review here
  • “King Richard” – my review here
  • “CODA”
  • “Don’t Look Up” – my review here
  • “Drive My Car”
  • “Nightmare Alley”

My main disappointment? Only one nomination for “House Of Gucci” – my review here.

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A review of the new film “The Power Of The Dog”

February 6th, 2022 by Roger Darlington

In a career of 30 odd years, New Zealander Jane Campion has only directed eight feature films and one of them was the wonderful “The Piano”. There has been a period of 12 years between “Bright Star” and “The Power Of The Dog”. This latest work, which she both wrote and directed, is a kind of western set in Montana in 1925 but it is really a tale of repressed sexuality based on a cult novel and therefore can be compared to “Brokeback Mountain”. 

The archetypal art house movie is one with slowness and opacity and this film is very slow (indeed glacial) and very opaque (starting with the title itself). Furthermore I found the the sudden transformation of the central wounded character unconvincing. However, the acting, most notably by the English Benedict Cumberbatch, is distinguished and the cinematography – it was actually shot in New Zealand – is wonderful. Whatever I think, the critics have lauded this film and it is set to win many awards. 

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Word of the day: diegesis

February 1st, 2022 by Roger Darlington

This is a narrative or plot, typically in a film.

The only place that I’ve heard the word is on my film course.

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