Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Coming at you with another Film review....

As yes, i do recognise with this being my second film review in almost as many days, i appear to be treading on some of my friends toes (a far better film critic writes here: My friends Blog and here: My friend's film review blog). Still, forgive me but i like having literally 1,500 worldwide hits within a year, i'm going to press on regardless of how many stolen ideas i regurgitate (technically my last blog was the "anniversary" blog as i first started posting seriously again in response to the 2011 budget).

Today i watched Starter for 10, for the University Challenge viewer, you will understand the reference, because indeed the films protagonist is a Student with a quest for knowledge (not unlike myself, i smiled when he mentioned his longing for reading Plato) who makes Bristol University's team for the University Challenge competition.

Not too much is made of how he gets on the team and how he gets on when competing, instead the storyline is drawn from his struggles surrounding being on the team, which result in impaired performance. While being a drama in genre, you still get the Rom-Com story line, the hurdle that is the misinformed love interest, the balls'd up attempt at choosing the right love interest and the falling out with the best mate.

Despite the "predictable" aspects of the films storyline, i was still rather engrossed by the main character, Brian (Played by James Macavoy) and his meandering life. As a whole the film is a loose (i say loose because it was the plot development had degrees of subtlety) transformation from working class lad to grown-up, smart in most sense adult.

At no point did was i ever on the edge of my seat, nor did i cry or wish the film went on for 30 more minutes. However, i did sit and watch very content in the knowledge that while the ending did strike me as a foregone conclusion, i did not mind the road we took to get there. Indeed, along the way there are certainly laughs thanks no doubt to the work of Macavoy and Bendedict Cumberbatch.

Set in the 80's, the film is also gifted with a terrific soundtrack, of pop and a lot of alternative rock such as the Smiths, which went down very nicely.

Its a BBC made film, so by all means keep an eye out for it in on the BBC one night as they try to fill up some air time. My all means worth the watch.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Parliament, Take Two.

Last week, on Wednesday 21st March I found myself in Parliament for the second time this academic year. The wider scope of the day was to basically smile and nod a lot as my perspective employers sized me up as whether or not I would be suitable to work at Westminster next year, my Placement year. However, these activities would not begin until 2pm, so i was free to do as i pleased until that time.

Oliver Cromwell, the catalyst of change that brought power back go Parliament
I turned up very early, being budget day and Prime Ministers Question's being on, i anticipated a lengthy wait to get in, queues all round the place. I was very wrong. After a 30 minute commute, it took me only 5 minutes to get from the Visitors entrance, through security and to the admissions office where i had to pick up my tickets for Prime Minister Questions.

I decided rather than to sit idly in the cafe for a few hours, i ventured up to one of the Committee Rooms and sat in on the Education Committee's evidence session on how best 15-19 year olds should be tested. Most if not all of the spiel was well over my head, however one exchange did prick my ears up. They were discussing how some courses such as module based GCSE courses offer "Easy Routes" to get good grades. What this means is of course a syllabus is set and it is up to the school to choose how to teach it. They want to change the "easy routes" course to make it more challenging, rather than getting "safe" marks and safe grades. Now up until this point, you may not have found this story that interesting, however, other than module based courses they also mentioned another GCSE that was offered too many easy routes. You can guess what is coming. Yes, Geography, the infamous "Colouring in" course, defended by those who take it and slammed by those who don't for being a weak subject. Well, i'm sorry, but it would appear it is official, Geography is just "colouring in".

I left the committee at about 11am, where more fun was to be had. Having just left the Committee Room, i was summoned back by one of the Committee Room attendants, where we had the following exchange:
State Opening of the Commons after the 2010 Election

Attendant: Are you Press?
Me: No.
Attendant: General Public?
Me: Yes.
Attendant: You think you can just help yourself to water?

Now, an brief explanation. When i entered the room i was ushered into a seat on the side of the room. The room was reasonably full, but not over flowing so i did not really think anything of being sat in a different position to all the other observers. In front of me, were glasses and a bottle of House of Commons branded water. Being a very old building made up of a lot of windows, it was quite hot, and i helped myself. Now, back to our exchange:

Me: Excuse me?
Attendant: You cant just help yourself to water, its meant for Press and official visitors. (This was said quite aggressively)
Me: Well, i was told to sit there and i saw everyone else helping themselves to it so i just assumed...
Attendant: Yes it was our mistake to sit you there, but water isn't for general public.

And that was that, he wandered off back into the room and i was left wholly perplexed. I didn't worry too much about it, my thirst was positively quenched.

I then made my way down to the Central Lobby. There all visitors loitered, waiting for the Chamber to be opened. Sure enough at 11:30 rumbling voices became hush as one of the Clerks shouted "SPEAKER" loudly down the corridor. The mass of people parted and the speaker, clerks and ceremonial mace walked through toward the Chamber at a slow pace, the speaker graciously smiling at the visitors.

Up the the gallery we went. A long queue meant i didnt get in until 5 to 12, at which point the Chamber was already buzzing, full the brim with MPs waiting for the Prime Minister to show up and answer questions.

While PMQs itself was not particularly spectacular, the atmosphere was still electric, a gladiatorial showdown between Left and Right. I would say the Conservative won the bout, Ed Milliband never really got into a stride because his questions were bi-partisan "Support of withdrawal of troops" rather than political attacks. David Cameron made a jibe about Ken Livingstone, which went down well with the Right and hence probably edged him to victory in the competition that is PMQs.

Then, the budget. Interestingly, the Speaker left the chamber, the reason because the Speaker and his Clerks are servants of the King or Queen. And as of the Glorious revolution of 1688, the King/Queen is no longer trusted with the money, so convention dictates they leave the chamber for the budget.

Osborne led with an hours discussion about the details of the Budget, which at times was met by cheers from the Tory backbenchers, waving their notes in the air as they did. At others, Labour jeered, indeed Ed Millibands quip about a Millionaires Budget went down grandly with the opposition.

The good bits where built up with an increase in his tempo and volume, with the occasional fist crashing against the dispatch box. Of course, when he retired down, withdrew himself and his body language, it was obvious he was revealing a measure of taxation that would not be popular. Overall however, his delivery was quite good.

Messer's Osborne and Alexander's work within the famous red box
Unfortunately however, i could not stay for long, as i had other business to attend to, which involved Q and A sessions with various MPs and dignitaries, including Baroness d'Souza and Robert Rogers, Clerk of the House of Commons (and author of How Parliament Works). It was a great day, and i would recommend a visit to anyone who has not been. It is of course a public building, paid for by the tax payer.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Cashing the cheques

Aha! Yes you were expecting a post about the budget (given i was in the Chamber for the budget on Wednesday 21st March i would not blame for expecting one!). However, i'm talking about Mr Cash. Mr J. R. "Johnny" Cash.

Yes it has been a busy week for me, travelling home for the Easter Vacation, a trip to Parliament to be in the chamber for Prime Ministers Questions (which as a comment was particularly tame) and then be in the chamber for part of the Budget. I then met with various MPs, Baroness D'Souza and Robert Rogers (Clerk of the House) for a discussions all things Parliament. On Friday i had an interview, which i tackled with ease, only really bamboozled by the notion that "If you work with us, Labour will be your party for life, expect hostility from any connections you make if you choose to defect." No, this post will be about a film i watched on Friday night, Walk the Line. Released in 2005, i am a little late to the party but this film was just that good i had to write about it.

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon play the roles of Cash and June Carter (the singer/love interest of Cash) with great personality, energy and intensity, which really made their relationship and performances connect with me. For those who do not know me, i am not particularly Film of Musically savvy, hence why my last sentence rather emphasises this films brilliance.

The merits of the film are reflected in its nominations at the Acadamy awards, Best Lead Actress of course was won by Witherspoon. Further, a not so modest budget of $28million reaped a handsome $187million at the box-office.

It wasn't a particularly moving film, which are the kind of films i tend to connect with, it was instead just a "good" film. The plot flowed nicely (as you would expect given its not a fictional script i suppose...). The music was good, both sung by Phoenix and Witherspoon very professionally as actor/actress rather than singer. The main positive of the film however is the chemistry between the lead roles, which has been described by film critics as "fiery" and "spine-tingling." I'll throw my hat into the ring and describe their ebb-and-flow relationship as: positively electrifying to the point of receiving second degree burns.

I would recommend watching this film to all. Rather like the richter-scale measures the magnitude of earthquakes, the "Alex Smith-Scale" for measuring films is the authority on motion pictures, and is given only one measurement criteria: does Alex get on with the film? If the answer is yes, then you will too. Walk the Line receives a solid Yes/Ja/Oui/Da/Affirmative.

As a post-script, i would note that this week mother analysed my history of girlfriends/celebrity crushes and has concluded my type is the brunette (she probably isn't wrong). Witherspoon in this film is Brunette as opposed to the usual blond, and i can confirm she looks F.L.Y. So fly, there is a picture below. Hands off, she is mine. Dibbs on Eva Green and Evangeline Lilly too.