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The Journey

I was drawn to this film as it starred Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney, two incredible character actors whose work I’ve admired for many years.

The Journey is the fictional dramatisation of a true event, in 2006 the first initial talks of the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement were being held in St Andrew’s Scotland. An incredibly precarious intense meeting between the two highly charged staunch political figures and their associates. However Dr Ian Paisley needed to return to Northern Ireland to attend the celebration of his golden wedding anniversary, bad weather closed the local airport but when a proposal to use a different airport was put to Martin MaGuinness he cited the protocol that he and Paisley must travel together to prevent any attempted assassination plot, thus the two men were driven to the airport where a private jet awaited them both.

Unbeknown to these two figures MI5 had one of their operatives as the driver, and had bugged the car with microphones and mini camera to listen to what the two men might discusse in hope of getting useable intelligence to help the talks progress. Initially neither man can bear to look at the other, neither wanting to give in and look/speak first either. Both despising the history, the past actions, the beliefs and hopes for the future, it seems impossible to find any uncontroversial common ground.

Timothy Spall as The Reverend Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, is astounding, his mastering of mannerisms and instantly recognisable voice and vocal manner is remarkable, along with the craft of make up and wardrobe completing an incredible transformation.

Colm Meaney as Martin MaGuinness the republican politician for Sinn Fein and leader of the Provisional IRA is captivating. There is a true sense of battle weary, concern that the movement and ‘the troubles’ are breeding another generation of soldiers without fully understanding the cause and reasoning. Fighting an unwinable civil war.

Even though I grew up during this era and vividly remember the news reports of street warfare, the terrorist bombings and numerous attacks, the core fight was not really understood or known, other than Catholic versus Protestant. Listening as these two enemies eloquently spoke of their experience through life, their earnest beliefs,

Without giving too much away, gradually through this journey there are cracks in their iron resolve, there are moments where the human comes out instead of the political representative, even moments of mirth, and a couple of plot twists which question what one thinks of the other.

As they are about to board the plane the two men speak alone, perhaps this is the moment when they can acknowledge that while they fervently disagree with each other they can at least respect each other’s passion and commitment.

It’s a film I feel I need to watch again, to enjoy what I know is coming and perhaps catch a few nuances I missed first time around.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2022 in Films, In The News, people, Review

 

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The Founder

The Founder, currently available on Amazon Prime, is the biopic dramatisation of how Ray Kroc expanded and styled himself as the “founder of The McDonald’s Corporation”.

Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the conniving ruthless all American opportunistic entrepreneur of the mid 50’s through early 60’s is captivating, you grow to dislike the guy. Undoubtedly a hard worker, always looking for the next big thing that will bring him success and progress. His aspirations are genuine it’s his methods that you question.

McDonald’s was a small walk-up diner in San Bernardino operated by the brothers who through trial and carefully planned thought had devised the speedee kitchen system. John Carroll Lynch’s depiction of Maurice “Mac” McDonald is brilliantly calm and tight, you’d maybe wonder if in this modern age he’d possibly be on the Asperger’s/Autistic spectrum with his analytical accute senses and manners. An astute sense of principle, the ethics and ethos of McDonald’s, a small, clean, family friendly eatery that had somehow cornered what ever ‘it’ was that made a burger and fries something so delicious and satisfying. His meticulous attention to detail, that fries are fried at this temp not a degree less, the fries are this thin and that long, there’s always two pickle and burgers uniformly grilled each side. Nick Offerman plays Richard “Dick” McDonald the younger brother more easy going and trusting than his brother, often the trainer and front of house face.

Initially Ray was a travelling salesman trying to sell milkshake machines and when one restaurant ordered eight he was intrigued and drove to see why. He met the brothers, was shown their business and how it operated and he hit upon the idea of franchising. Initially the brothers were resistant as previous attempts had failed due to inconsistent practises, lack of menu control and the McD ethos. While trying to garner investors and potential managers Ray realised rather than big money men investing and immature managers, getting middle class married couple to invest and work maintained the work ethics and family friendly atmosphere. Pushing ahead with a sketch of a diner Mac had drawn that introduces the Golden Arches and bright clean all glass frontage, things begin to roll.

Mac had been meticulous in the contract drawn up between the brothers and Ray but it hampered the gung-ho race forward eagerness of Ray and they constantly argued and differed. Increasingly unhappy with his 1% franchise commission Ray attempts to renegotiate his contract and loosen the brothers grip but they won’t budge, a deal is a deal and they must maintain continuity and control. After a chance conversation with a financial advisor Ray sets up the Corporation to buy land that is then leased to the franchisees, who pay fees to be McDonalds. This was his golden ticket to making money and the start of circumventing the brothers control.

Things come to a head when Dick suffers a diabetic stress collapse and heart attack. The brothers concede to let Ray out of his contract by buying them out, maybe without realising the full ramifications of what that would bring.

Before long Ray forced the brothers to remove the McDonald’s name from their restaurant citing intellectual property rights, he deliberately built the 100th diner across the road from them essentially sealing their demise. At the negotiation of dissolving the contract Ray had persuaded the brothers to agree to a handshake deal on the 1% royalties from the franchise, Ray denied it happened and never paid out. Ray paid each brother just over $1million (about $26milliom in todays money but a fraction of the businesses value today).

Years later when Ray was interviewed he said he liked the name “McDonalds” so much nicer than Kroc, so much more wholesome American.

Today it’s said that on a daily basis McDonalds feeds 1% of the global population – now who’d like to go get me a Big Mac Meal please?

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2022 in Films, Review

 

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A Duvet Of Two Halves

After a summer of stuffy nights, adding into that the flush of menopause and age of the current downy duvet, it was time to replace the duvet, but what to get. Then by accidental browsing I came across this.

A double duvet with one half a summer cool 4.5tog and the other a toasty 10.5tog. I pondered as I read the (mostly) favourable reviews. I thought in the summer I can sleep under the lighter side, in the winter snuggle under the warmer side and if there’s an arctic blast fold the duvet for a toasty potential combined 13.5tog.

So, buttons were clicked, screens were tapped, and I waited for the man in the often white, sometimes grey or blue van to deliver. The new addition was encouragingly stuffed into a cover and waited for its first night time.

This was back in July, the light weight of the thin side was lovely, easy to kick off and claw back. As we head into December I’m still under the light side (thank you hot flushes). The purchase has worked well. With my feet often being the coldest part of me I considered turning the duvet (you do know double duvets are square) with the warmer side across the bottom and the lighter side at the top, but the weight hanging off the end of the bed will likely pull it off, leaving my top half exposed and cold.

I can see how a couple, one who is chilly at night, another whose hot stuff could find comfort beneath.

So fat so good 👍👍

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2021 in General, Review

 

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Sound Of Metal

The premise of this movie seems straightforward – Ruben is a metal drummer, he and his girlfriend drive around the States in their rv, gigging in numerous backstreet venues, scratching together a ramshackle living. But then in a short space of time he looses his hearing and all stability is lost.

However, after watching this film, which is cleverly put together, there are numerous tricks used that you don’t realise until afterwards, and then you notice that the film has much more deeper levels of philosophical notions.

When we have a sudden debilitating or life changing health issue we want to be fixed, to get back to our “normal”. Ruben wants cochlea implants so he can get back to drumming and life on the road with Lou, where he is comfortable in his known world and the demons and temptations of his pre-Lou life will not invade. But that’s impossible, the clarity of hearing with any aid is not the same as natural hearing, it brings with it difficulties of its own.

Once Ruben is told of his problem, you are taken through how much we rely on ambient sound, how simple things like telephone calls, a conversation with a friend, communicating with a stranger are stressful, frustrating. The initial denial that this new situation is not ‘forever’. Ruben is taken to a deaf community facility, where everyone signs, there are no phones, no use of computers, total submersion in silent life. Here the director uses a clever trick, the sign language is not subtitled, we the viewer like Ruben are unable to understand what is being said around him. But as he learns to use sign and communicate and read people around him, so we get subtitled and find we’ve become more involved, more emotionally invested in his journey.

It’s interesting too, to see the deaf community reaction to these implants. Many deaf communities call them a ‘cure’, a refusal to embrace deafness as a lifestyle and not a disability or something of shame, people with implants are often shunned from such communities. But isn’t a hearing aid/implant the same as a prosthetic to the amputee? A tool, an aid, to be used when needed! Hmm, interesting notion.

Ruben is determined to get the implants, to leave the community, despite the calmness, the inclusion and friendship, the place and purpose he discovers, and return to Lou and music. When he gets that chance, is it all that it is expected to be, that what’s best for the two of them, or does Ruben need to find that inner place of stillness.

My common niggle with films of this nature is how you get the notion of time, maybe I didn’t pick up on the changes of the seasons on the trees to get that sense that we are passing through the months. I don’t recall scenes with things like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, Graduation Day celebrations going on, being in the U.K. snow on the ground could be anytime, it’s snowed in June before now.

I recommend watching this film, it’s moving, telling, heart tugging, rarely amusing, but so insightful.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2021 in Films, Review

 

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Just Ignore Him – Alan Davies

It was with a degree of trepidation that I began this read, a curious reason to choose to read the book at all you may think. You see, I had read many glowing reviews and critics praise, so often I find them so over hyped and the opposite to my own conclusions, and also because I enjoy Alan’s skills and abilities as a comedian, panellist and actor across many years and I was intrigued and eager to hear about his history.

Thanks to his “As Yet Untitled” series on Dave and of course QI I had gleaned a few snippets of info, I know Australia featured strongly, that his Mum had died when he was very young, that he had a turbulent relationship with school and so forth, but not the core happenings, the fundamentals that form our foundations. His journey that took him from a child to adulthood, from innocent exploration to working family man.

This memoir is not a chronological diary of life, picking out those highlights or significant events that either helped or hindered his progress through life, interspersed with whimsical anecdotes. This is an honest, touching account from a survivor of life as a sexually abused child. It is phenomenally well written, at no time is Alan portrayed as the hapless, silent victim, but the confused child, struggling to comprehend weighty issues, in an environment of isolation, by which I mean alone within his own family as well as in a crowd.

Reading and understanding how his fathers behaviour towards him across many years affected his every moment through out life was incredibly enlightening. The conflicting emotions and signals, the ‘special secret’ versus being ignored or intentionally reprimanded. The feeling of displacement and disconnection around him. At the core there is this influential figure, a father, the person you have an instinctive affection towards, who is supposed to protect you and teach you about life. Realising the perversions of this authoritative presence and the extent of them and how they still prevailed in his dotage.

It has left scars, fractured the family somewhat, still rearing its ugliness on Alan to this day. Taking the brave step of reporting his father’s behaviour to the authorities must have been such an incredibly hard thing to balance in your own mind, the tugging to and fro with the pros and cons. He has my continued admiration.

It was powerful to read about his misbehaviour, the antics that some may say was attention seeking, maybe it was, maybe not having the nurturing, caring, maternal aspect at home he was seeking it from somewhere else, in some misguided fashion to fit in a place comfortably. All children have phases of tantrums and boundary pushing, it’s a process of learning and growing, but it can also be a red flag to something not being ‘right’ there is more to this behaviour than growing pains. As adults we are incredibly blind to spotting the subtle signals of difference.

I hope Alan has found calmness within himself as his adult life has progressed, getting the support and understanding from his wife, a fresh fun zest in life as his own children grow. That he knows he has value to other people.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2021 in Books, In The News, people, Review

 

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The Cecil Hotel, LA

Recently I binged the Netflix documentary series Crime Scene The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel, it was an interesting watch, if you’re into real life oddness.

It centres around the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, a 700-room hotel opened in the mid-1920’s just before the Great Depression, along with several grand hotels in the area it enjoyed a period of opulent prosperity and was aimed at the middle class traveller and business men. After World War II the area, also known as Skid Row, fell further into transience as fortunes changed, the stark increase in sex workers, drug dealing and users, along with those unable to afford rents and the increasing protocol to herd the homeless into a manageable area of the ever expanding City, increased criminal activity.

Curiously ever since the Hotel first opened it has been linked to suicides, mysteries and murders. The first documented suicide was January 22, 1927, when Percy Ormond Cook shot himself in the head while inside his hotel room after failing to reconcile with his wife and child. In 1967 “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood long-term resident, a retired telemarketer was found dead in her room, she had been raped, stabbed, beaten and her room ransacked. Her murder remains unsolved. The Press often linked the hotel to numerous serial killers. Frequently residents had died from drug overdoses or long term substance and/or alcohol abuse. There is even a Wikipedia page detailing some of them.

The documentary beds itself around the disappearance in February 2013 of young Canadian student Elisa Lam. She was an avid blogger and frequently documented her travels, fashion, life thoughts online garnering many regular followers. When away from home she called home everyday, after her parents hadn’t heard from her they called the LAPD and news started circulating about a missing person. As the Police struggled to piece together Elisa’s movements they released the elevator CCTV footage, it went viral and set in motion an interesting series of events.

An army of ‘web-sleuths’ scrutinised in meticulous details, frame by frame, the cctv sparking the beginnings of numerous conspiracy theories, many still perpetuate. Things like, why’s the time stamp jumping, the door isn’t closing, whose that shadow. Suddenly people across the globe were gathering in FaceBook groups to discuss minute anomalies, some visiting the hotel to re-enact and trace where she had been. What I found very telling as the documentary continued was how this congregation of unqualified amateurs ardently believed they could succeed where the professionals could not and that they believed every morsel of conjecture and hypothesis from a straightforward mugging gone wrong to the CIA using vanishing vaporise lasers. But there was more to come.

SPOILER ALERT :: if you don’t want to know the outcome I’d suggest ceasing here …. thank you for reading ….

……

….. Okay dear reader, I hope you’re not eating or drinking while you read on.

…….

About two to three weeks after Elisa’s vanishing a few hotel guests and residents started to complain that the water had an odd odour and taste and the water then started to change colour to a sludgy brown. A maintenance worker was sent to inspect the four roof top water tanks. Sadly one of them contained the floating bloating remains of a young girl, later identified as the missing traveller.

Now the merry band of web sleuths really had something to get overly involved with. From behind their screens and keyboards they pieced together bits of facts with leaps of notions, ignored some elements and fantasised others, to quite catastrophic levels.

Attention turned to how did Elisa get onto the roof. The access door was locked and alarmed, this meant that the hotel management had to be involved, a member of night staff had to have killed her. The design of the building meant that there was a metal fire escape on the outside, a series of stairs and platforms covering all fifteen floors, including the roof, accessed from a hallway window that was not alarmed, locked or monitored in anyway. Debris on the roof showed that it was frequently used by people to smoke, drink, take drugs, have parties etc.

The nature of her discovery caused a media frenzy as a police chief was leaving the hotel trying to get through the jostling crowd of reporters he was asked a question which he hastily replied “When Officers approached the water tank the hatch was closed”. The web brigade pounced on this to mean that she must have been dumped because no-one could close the hatch from the inside, so it must be murder. The officer was correct in his statement, because when the maintenance worker noticed the hatch was open and that’s when he discovered the grizzly contents and had closed the hatch from habit as he called for help.

Searches across the internet brought up ‘evidence’ of a Mexican death metal singer called Morbid, due to his chilling lyrics, which included a reference to a girl drowning and his dark videos addressing death (one was filmed at The Cecil), along with having stayed there, meant he must have lured her to the rooftop and killed her. He was hounded, trolled, and harassed over a period of months, received death threats and villanised as a murderer by the Court of Online Public Opinion. It caused him to suffer a breakdown and such depression that he attempted suicide. The ‘evidence’ grasped by the onliners was years old and at the time of Elisa vanishing Morbid was in Mexico but even still today eight years later he still get mail labelling him a murderer.

One aspect of Elisa’s life was, to some degree, suppressed until late on in the investigations and not readily available, she had been diagnosed as bi-polar and had a history of intentionally not taking the prescribed medication, which had caused her to experience strong psychotic episodes, along with hallucinations in the past. Armed with this knowledge, along with the Coroner’s report showing toxicology levels and there being no evidence of any assault or violence on her body, it was concluded that her death was accidental.

At the end, I felt sad that this young life had ended, that so many innocent people had been branded and abused because of tenuous links but mostly I was concerned, almost worried, about the mob mentality and power of online collectiveness. This ferocious hungry entity eagerly hurrying for instant information, affirmation and inconsequential action feels a little bit like Pandora’s box.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2021 in Films, In The News, people, Review

 

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Tim Minchin

It’s not very often that my ear worm chooses a whole artist but recently while lazing in bed or pootling on the iPad I suddenly get the urge to sing “……fuck I love boobs though…..”, maybe it’s just as well I am not out and about in public!

Tim Minchin describes himself as a musician, but this underplays his artistry, his creative skills and his often dark humour. How he analyses the things that make you think, how he dissects and interprets thoughts, ideas, philosophies and puts them into a song that hooks you in linguistically, musically, emotionally and mentally. But what is it about his creations that seem to appeal to me.

Maybe it is his acrobatic linguistics and agility, in songs like Prejudice or his piano whimsy of Rock & Roll Nerd, maybe it is the poignancy of I’ll Take Lonely Tonight or the deep thought of Not Perfect, perhaps it’s the pure risqué amusement of Inflatable You or the musicians amusement of F Sharp, he performs a couple of beat poems which take you on a journey so adroitly, especially Storm. It could be the absurdity that he sees meets with me.

Now I should add a warning here, he uses language some don’t care for and he has opinions that some would not agree with, especially on the controversial topics like religion, creationism. It is not a mocking attitude, more of an “I’ve read and listened but still don’t understand how people wholeheartedly believe ‘this'”.

I enjoy watching his live performances as his expressions and timings add another layer of language, there are few piano players that almost mesmerise me, Jools Holland is another, Tim seems to throw his hands (and sometimes feet) at the keys and they always hit the right notes, the right way at the right time, he cannot sit still as he plays (unless it’s a serious song). He tends to perform barefoot, a throwback to early experimental days where going barefoot helped him feel confident and quelled the stage nerves.

It took me a while to decide which song to link here, I make no apology if you find yourself merrily, absentmindedly singing “…..fuck I like boobs though….”

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2020 in Music, people, Review

 

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Tall Ship Chronicles

A FaceBook member of a sailing group posted that the first eight episodes of this series had been released on Amazon Prime. Hmm, might be interesting to watch life aboard another ship, curiosity had me tapping play.

The premise is Andrew Younghusband (a Canadian actor and broadcaster) joins the 3-masted barque Picton Castle as volunteer crew for the 19-month around the world voyage. Along with his film crew of one, they document life on board, their fellow crew and places visited on this sail training expedition. This series covers leaving Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, heading south to the Panama Canal, and across the South Pacific to Vanuatu.

Bearing in mind it was filmed in late 2000 and across 2001 I was prepared for it to feel a bit dated and the clarity of filming not crisp, but I was not prepared for the lack of informative content and blatant lack of continuity in editing. It had an amateurish feel to what was supposed to be a professional production. You would imagine the first episode or two would tell you about the ship, it’s routine, the watch routine, the victualling and feeding the crew, maybe an introduction to some of the equipment, methods of rope handling and knots and what a job title means (Bosun, lead mate, etc). Sadly all that was missing or skimmed over in a throw away comment.

Considering they left snowy Canada in November within minutes the crew were seen clad in t-shirts and shorts. There was no way to perceive the passage of time, not even a little ‘day ?’ type logo in the corner.

By episode three you begin to recognise characters and can see that after a significant number of weeks, personalities within this isolated, confined bubble are gelling, cliquing and romances are developing. People become comfortable with each other, whilst remaining comparative strangers, many not knowing whether their fellow crew member is married or single, their day job, or much about their past, but willingly share clothing, shampoo, hugs and thoughts.

There were also one or two surprise reactions, sailing is not a democracy and cannot be done by committee, there has to be a leader and that leader is always the Captain. Living on a vessel that is moving constantly, through weather that is ever changing, people’s action or inaction can have a dramatic consequence. As learning crew you will get corrected and criticised for things not done ‘the ship’s way’, laziness or apathy along with sassy sarcasm quickly becomes not tolerated. Some people became resentful of being told how to do something they felt they are doing correctly and begrudged what felt like working in a dictatorship, especially when you’ve paid a lot of money to be there. But that’s the nature of the beast.

It was interesting to see how they all pulled together, how actions became instinctive, the perilous become normalised and whether they all realised it or not, they were learning a lot about sailing, the world and getting along with people. It reminded me of my first voyage how the ship became our complete world.

I think I was looking to come away from the eight episodes entertained by things that happened, having learnt about areas of the globe, reminded of some of the sailing language I had forgotten, and intrigued by the characters. It felt like an opportunity missed with how the programme was edited together – still it was heaps better than things like Big Brother and TOWIE.

There is one thing that has left me hanging and will likely never know the answer to, there was a twelve year old onboard (without his parents too), I wonder what life was like for Sloan when he returned home and started high school, and how is life eighteen years on.

There are another eight episodes to complete the series but with no idea when or if Amazon Prime will drop them, I might have to see if YouTube has them.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2020 in Films, Review

 

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er, again

The joy of iPlayers, across the past five months, every night I have been watching two episodes of the hospital drama, er. All 331 of them, it became a nightly joy, to see the familiar faces.

Ask anyone who was/is a fan and they’ll remember Clooney as Doug Ross yet he left after season three and Julianna Margulies as Carol Hathaway who left end of season six. Both relatively short lived characters across the fifteen seasons. Noah Wyle appeared in the most as John Carter, closely followed by Laura Innes as Carrie Weaver.

There are countless storylines of the core characters that stay with the viewer after the credits have rolled, when the helicopter crashed on Robert ‘Rocket’ Romano, the incredibly moving illness and death of Mark Green, played by Anthony Edwards, the poem recited by Abbie Lockhart (Maura Tierney) when she married Luca Kovac (Goran Visnjic) I Carry Your Heart With Me by EE Cummings. Some of the more amusing scenes, the patient magnetised to the mri scanner because the students forgot to switch gurney, a Jerry the desk clerk and the new interns getting stoned by gifted brownies. Every corner of life seemed to cross the threshold after suffering some impact, it never shied from the hard hitting issues hiv/aids, dnr and assisted suicide, domestic/sexual abuse, the complexities of religion and families.

It felt so ordinary, by which I mean unstated, not falsely acted, and that’s a testament to the writing, the dedication of the actors and the whole crew, and the attention to detail. It did lose its way a little after Michael Crichton died but thankfully pulled it back for the last two/three series.

After so enjoying revisiting this delight, the first night after watching the final episode, I was at a loss what to watch, so ended up watching various things on YouTube and was left deeply unsatisfied.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2020 in General, Review

 

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The Professor And The MadMan

The film is about the professor, James Murray played by Mel Gibson, who in 1879 began compiling the first comprehensive edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, (aiming to find the first usage of, continued usage of, correct spelling and correct pronunciation of every single word) a task led the overseeing committee, and Doctor William Minor played by Sean Penn, a doctor who submitted over 10,000 entries while he was undergoing treatment at Broadmoor Criminal a Lunatic Asylum, London.

There was something very gripping about this based on true events film. We see the hidden power of women behind these men, as well as the blind patronising manner of those in authority. Not only the Overseeing Committee and it’s inner politics but also the medical officer at Broadmoor.

The story behind the story that brings these people (and so many others) together is the true glue. The kindness of the guards when the Doc helps one of them who is injured, saving his life. The anguish of the wife of the man Dr Minor shot dead accidentally one fateful night. The family support and strength of the Professor. The Committee members supporting and dropping allegiances at the drop of a hat.

The one thing above anything that spoilt this film, was not Mel Gibson’s Scottish accent, but the diction and clarity of Sean Penn’s American one. There were numerous times where due to his gravely tone and quiet manner it was almost impossible to hear what he was saying and I nearly resorted to subtitles.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2020 in Films, Review

 

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