Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Breakfast Club - time for that reunion

Do you remember the 'The Breakfast Club'? The epitome of teen movies from the 1980s? Well, I do and I don't think I'm the only one. It's 20 years since that movie hit the screens and the cast is being bought back together at MTV's upcoming awards.

Don't ask me why, but I got a little excited by this. I'm easily pleased, what can I say? Besides, I remember liking the film quite a lot. Okay, I'll admit it, I might even somewhere, in a box, own the Simple Minds theme tune 'Don't you forget about me'. No problem on that score, that Saturday detention movie is fresh (you know'ish in my brain) after all these years.

I haven't seen it for years and keep meaning to pick it up in one of those regular "waste twenty quid on three/four/five (delete as appropriate DVD shopping trips to Virgin or HMV, but I've never seen it. I've already bought its stable mate 'Pretty in Pink' and watched it again at least once in its slightly faded colour.

'Pretty in Pink' is good and endearing in many ways (the 80s Brit soundtrack of New Order and the Smiths et cetera) luckless Duckie and spoilt brat James Spader. Molly Ringwald had her moments as did spineless Andrew McCarthy's charter.

But still it does not compare to 'The Breakfast Club' and its cast of Emilio Estevez as Andrew, Andrew Clark, Molly Ringwald as Claire, Ally Sheedy as Allison, Anthony Michael Hall as Brian) and Judd Nelson as Bender.

Okay, I think I might have had a crush on Ally Sheedy's character. Weakness for Brunettes, what can I say. Sadly she never went on to do much of note although everyone says 'High Art' was pretty good, but I never did see that. I'll add it to the list.

There must be a 20th anniversary box set on the way. John Hughes must be planning it now, let's face it he hasn't had much else on his hands ('Maid in Manhattan', 'Home Alone 4', anyone?).

Maybe he could even do us all a favour and do it as a box set throwing in 'Sixteen Candles'," 'Weird Science', 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' and maybe even 'Some Kind of Wonderful', which was really just 'Pretty in Pink reworked'.

There are other movies out there some of which I probably own, but some I don't and I think, you know, really I should. 'Heathers' to mind, but there must be other forgotten teen gems. Anybody?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Letting them eat cake

Martin Kettle trumpets the success of neo-liberal economics, remarking that "the prospect that hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indian people will enjoy double or treble the prosperity that their parents knew is the single most wonderful possibility in the modern world."

Maybe so, but as for neo-lib Nirvana I can't but help remember the crowds of pensioners at Moscow Central Station in the early Nineties selling off their final belongings before presumably crawling off to die somewhere, nor the girls lining the airport road eight years later dealing in that ultimate unit of capital - their bodies.

"Freedom" is also a word much-bandied but little in evidence as we would understand it in much of the "liberalised" former communist bloc these days.

Chastened by Perestroika and Tianamen, the comrades in Beijing appear to have concluded the USSR collapsed not because of a yearning for "freedom" per se but because their people lusted for the wealth of the West.

Pressure for "democracy", therefore, was not so much about representation, as wanting a say over who got what slice of the cake. Their solution? Instead of providing that say, let them eat cake.

Judging by some of his recent statements, former-comrade Putin also appears to have adopted the same line of thinking (adopts a Russian accent): stuff their mouths with dollars....

So what! I hear you say, but if capitalist dicatorships in China and Russia are among the so-called successes of the post-Cold War settlement, have we really got so much to feel smug about?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Talking Star Wars

It's all over and I feel kind of hollow and empty. I'm kind of unsure what to do with all my childish anticipation. It's childhood's end. Yes, I'm talking about Star Wars.

I wasn't going to write anything about Star Wars, but I couldn't help myself. I honestly thought the wait was worth it. Sure there was lots wrong with 'Revenge of the Sith', biggest gripe being the whole romantic back drop between Natalie Portman's Padme and Hayden Christensen Anakin does not come off. They are just not convincing, no Han and Leia, but that's just a small drop in the galactic sweep and overall the final movie got a lot more right than it got wrong.

The film was all foregone conclusions: about power corrupting, about the decent to the dark side and about death. The funny thing was that even though I all knew it was a fait accompli, that the Jedi's would lose in the latest round of the long cyclical battle of good versus evil, I was willing it not to happen. Crazy stuff. Despite previous petulance, I found myself rooting for Anakin as his fellow Jedi Knights shunned him pushing him inevitably towards the clutches of evil and inadvertently being responsible for the demise Samuel L Jackson's Mace Windu - who gets my vote for the coolest Jedi yet to grace the screen.

Of course, it was senseless rooting as I already knew how it was going to end for him in a whirl of crappy dialogue (Harrison Ford's quip to George Lucas "George, you can type this shit, but you sure can't say it" is still true) and an awesome light sabre fight that was the final step on the road to the dark side for young Skywalker. Talk about legless.

This is the geekiest thing I have ever done, but I thought hey, I'm out (so to speak) and proud.

Top 10 Things that I liked rather about Star Wars

1. One of the best movie moments of all time: " Leia and Han in the 'The Empire Strikes Back':

Leia: "'I love you."
Han: "I know".

You just don't get to do that in real life.

2. Yoda, how cool is he? "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering". He gets most of the good lines.

3. Obi Wan Kenobi: "Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious" - he really wasn't underestimating the problem.

4. Hoth, it's cold there's no skiing or hot tubs just big evil Empire AT-AT walkers delivering one of the best cinematic battle scenes of all time.

5. Princess Leia as every nine year old had a crush on her - and I think I'm still a little short to be a Storm Trooper. Sniff.

6. Darth Vader - he's black and very very bad " Search your feelings you know it to be true".

7. Han Sol, he might be the owner of a piece of junk called the Millennium Falcon, but he floors it through asteroid belts. Haven't you always wanted to do that?

8. Jedi Knights -spiritualism, light sabres and rather cool looking robes and of course the force. How can you not love something that "binds the galaxy together" and lets you control the weak-minded.

9. Family ties, if you think about it, the plot reads like a day time soap. Luke and Leia are sisters, Darth is your father. If only they hadn't killed off the mother for a fun illegitimate child spin-off.

10. The Empire Strikes Back, is the best by far of the six films. It's dark, the bad guys win and at the end of it you feel like you've been through the mill. Okay, that's just me.

Favourite Star Wars moments anyone? You know you want to.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Could Euro vision mean nul points?

As Andrew Rawnsley writes, the French referendum on the EU Constitution is on a knife-edge and watching the Eurovision "song contest" last night I wondered if this seemingly harmless Euro love fest could have unexpected consequences...

While even the UK escaped nul points, there was La France languishing in the bottom four along with Les Rosbifs, Germany, and Spain. Actually, below Les Rosbifs and Spain. As Terry Wogan pointed out, we four were the largest contributors to Eurovision. He could have also added: and the EU.

Then there was the show itself, once scrupulously bi-lingual, now exclusively in English, along with all the actual entries apart from the Serbian, Spanish, and, um, French...

Now if I was a wavering French granny watching those nice young people banging their drums and breast implants, it would be hard not be reminded of the Non camp's remarks about the irresitable Anglo-Saxonisation of the European project; a project whatsmore in which the French, once pre-eminent, are becoming increasingly marginalised.

I might even be humming Chacun Pense à soi (Everybody Thinks Of Themselves) as I go to the polls...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Yasar Halim's DJ Bakery

Having slagged off the gentrification of the East End (18/05/05) I now read the fashionistas have finally discovered the intrinsic coolness of my own manor.

I wondered what the film crews were up to. Will Harringay become the next Hoxton? Will upper-crust types ditch the mockney and start sporting bushy moustaches? Japanese girls randomly highlight their hair, fit nail extentions and pull on electric pink boob tubes emblazoned with the number 69?

I can't see it myself. While the whole cockney thing had a kind of accessibility to it - the edgy working class cache middle class youth aspires to - I suspect the near-eastern culture of these parts would not prove quite as accessible.

Having said that, you could still get trendsetters attracted by the area's "Kurdish Cool" (did I just write that?)... and so house-prices climb, the first Cafe Nero opens, the grocery stores are gradually replaced by boutiques and specialist record shops, their merchandise displayed along the street in homage to the "Nouveau Souk" look that has become all the rage, until finally the legendary Yasar Halim himself hands over his keys to Marcus and mates with their plans to open "Yasar Halim's", a DJ Bakery...

Well, it could happen.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Oui mais non mais...

Valerie Giscard D'estang was singing the praises of the EU Constitution on the radio this morning and the first thing he reassured the listening public was that it begins with the principle that it is about "a union of states". What, I thought, you mean like the United States?

I've always been pro-EU and am actually planning to buy a place in Belgium (no less!) partly because I'm such a damn europhile, but I can't help sharing most Britons instinctive mistrust of the insitution.

If it even comes to a vote here I'll be faced with a government I don't believe, an opposition I don't believe and an EU I don't believe. Unlike most Britons, I've just had a peak at the actual proposal (see above). If you're not asleep by page two, you're a better person than me. Giscard D'estang is clearly no Benjamin Franklin.

This BBC Q&A provides a pretty good overview of the issues, specifically addressing my worries about our sovereignty being submerged in a form of USofA, and on the strength of this I would probably vote "oui".

Having said that most phobes would almost certainly dismiss the piece as pro-EU propoganda, which is ironic given that their so-called UK independence would almost certainly leave us with less freedom than the 51st State of the Union...

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Here is an excellent article in this week's Guardian on Dutch women's rights campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali whose challenge to Islamic extremism has left her under armed guard and led to the murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.

I have often wondered why it has been left to the likes of Ms Ali to speak out about the role of women in Islam, while the response of the Western left has been characterised by its silence, if not absurdity (Nick Cohen's comment that "Trots in burkas would be hilarious if it wasn't a symbol of the shambles on the left" just about sums it up).

And there's not only a tremendous amount of ignorance about Islam among Westerners. According to submission.org, which bills itself as "your best source for Islam on the internet", this also applies to many of those who follow the faith.

For example Ahmed Okla points out the Quran does not stipulate covering the head or face. The only part of the body it specifically states should be covered is the "bosom"...

Ahmed goes on to say that covering the head is purely traditional and those who believe adopting it as a symbol of "submission" to God are strictly speaking idolterers - just about the biggest crime under Islam. There is no room for interpretation, as he says:

"The Quran is detailed, and when God says He detailed His book it means FULLY detailed. God does not do half jobs."

So not only would Trots in burkas be hillarious, they would also be going straight to Hell. But they probably knew that anyway.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The strange death of the East End

Instead of turning right and taking the usual route along Regents Canal toward Camden, this weekend we went left and ended up walking through east London, ending up at Victoria Park.

What struck me most was the proliferation of identikit warehouse-style apartments along the route and a strange sense of, well... suffocation.

Let's face it: the east has been a shit-hole for decades, in fact it has never not been a shit-hole until recently, and maybe that's what troubled me...

If the City is London's money-spinning head, then the East End has traditionally been its dirty heart.

But the conquest of wannabees high on the upper-class Cockney fetish of the Lock, Stock brigade and associations with Tracey Emin et al, now appears almost complete. Trouble is, modern Hoxton is as close to the East End of Tracey, Damien and original pioneers Gilbert & George as Montmartre is to the days of Picasso and Verlaine.

Warehouses are become loft apartments, shoe shops bars, and pie and eel shops pie and eel... restaurants.

Nothing wrong with this of course. The rich have got their ertsatz East End, the locals have buggered off to the seaside and only impoverished scribblers like me without the wherewithal to buy my own slice of loft living are left to snipe on the sidelines.

But isn't London without East End-squalor like a crime-free New York, or a Parisian-free Paris? Nice idea, but not quite the real tabasco?

Irony of ironies, the one thing that might save London from becoming ossified by self-satisfaction is the one thing designed to destroy it.

The Blitz may have torn vast chunks out of our housing stock but as a consequence the city is dotted with housing estates that all but the most intrepid trustafarian would hesitate to inhabit, thereby safe-guarding the diversity the city needs to keep its edge.

So thank you, Luftwaffe.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Unholy alliance

This blog kicks off on the day of the Queens Speech, but the one thing they won't be legislating against will be speech against queens (sorry).

Speaking on Today this morning Charles Clarke said the Parliament Act would be used if the House of Lords sent back the Bill to Outlaw Incitement Religious Hatred for a third time.

Concerns about freedom of speech aside, why is the government working so hard to implement this particular bill when it rejected similar proposals to protect people on the grounds of their sexuality or disability?

While one likely outcome of the Bill will be to surpress much-needed dialogue around religion, it will remain perfectly ok to claim gays will burn in Hell, providing generations of queer-bashers with divine endorsement.

Truth is the Bill has little to do with "closing a gap" as the government claims and everything to do with buying back the Muslim vote.

This might work as a short-term fix, but aside from scaring a few news editors into spiking items on Islam, how long until a BNP supporter manages to goad the authorities into the prosecution - and publicity - they crave, thereby further stoking public paranoia around "the other"?

In fact the only people who are really likely to benefit from the Bill will be the extremists on either side who instinctively oppose freedom of speech and will be quick to capitalise on the PR possibilities the Bill provides.

My Labour-supporting friends slag off Respect for snuggling up to extremists, but their own party is also paying its obsequies.