All entries for April 2009

April 27, 2009

Shifty – dealing out some realism

Movie image
4 out of 5 stars

On Saturday I went to the late show of Shifty, and I’m so glad I did. It’s a performance-driven film, with outstanding turns by Daniel Mays, Nitin Ganatra and Riz Ahmed, who plays the title character. There’s something unsettlingly ordinary about the tone of the script, which essentially follows a pair of reunited friends who wander around a fictional London suburb as the drug-dealing Shifty goes about his daily business. For me, it really brought home the point that the use of illegal substances lives on all of our doorsteps. The unanswered question of why Chris left London four years previously gives an undercurrent for the story to travel on, and just as you get comfortable with the plodding pace of events, something comes in to take it up a notch without being excessive – an argument, a chase, a tidbit of information about the back-story.

Although I had figured out the final twist before the end, I still enjoyed this snapshot of a world that most of us would like to forget about. The impact as I left the cinema came from the simplicity of the message this film delivered in its matter-of-fact way: just one day in the life of a small-time drug-dealer, but so many broken lives and fractured relationships.

“24 hours to deal yourself out”, so says the film’s tagline – but this clever piece of cinema shows all too painfully how it’s never that easy.

V xx

April 16, 2009

Yes we can

There is only one thing to blog about today and that’s last night’s episode of The Speaker. This BBC2 series began last week, following on from a documentary about the art of oration. Has Barack Obama made public speaking ‘cool’ for a new generation? The Speaker is taking on this question by looking for promising orators aged 14 to 18.

I can’t explain the incredible tension I felt as the show began and I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat. As the hour went on I became more and more animated, shouting at the screen, laughing out loud, cringing in discomfort and at one point actually leaving the room from pure viewer embarrassment. It’s compelling television, and so refreshing to watch. In an age of ‘reality’ shows and sublebrities (to quote Luke Blackall from The London Paper) I love this group of teenagers who are putting themselves out there to do something that actually requires talent, and with no prize other than the prestige of being crowned ‘Britain’s Best Young Speaker’.

Earl Spencer was an interesting choice of mentor, (his eulogy at his sister’s funeral has become one of the most recognised speeches of the 20th Century), there was something very endearing about his attentiveness to the development of the young speakers. My current favourite, Haroon, had me worried at the beginning. It seemed that being in Althorp House unsettled him and he was toning down his style to accommodate the surroundings, which ironically disappointed the Earl. But apart from a timing issue, he completely redeemed himself with his stint as a tour guide, bringing back his originality and confidence. On the other end of the scale, I found Duncan almost unbearable to watch, verbally bouncing like an over-excited Duracell bunny. And (spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen it) I think the judges made the wrong decision in the end. Personally, I questioned whether Fahmida should have made it through over Stacey last week, but on the merit of yesterday’s episode she shouldn’t have been the one to go. Her problem (in my humble opinion) is elocution; the style and energy with which she speaks is great, and much nicer to listen to than Jordan, who was my tip to head home. It wasn’t just his grating style of speaking, it was his unbearable arrogance and lack of admission that he needs to learn and improve. All he could say, in the repetitive manner that’s becoming his trademark, was that “the judges got it very wrong” to even put him in the bottom three.

I am utterly hooked to this insightful and important show – roll on next week!

V xx

April 02, 2009

The bother of bad timing

Critically acclaimed and lauded by fans, The Wire has created such a buzz that its well-overdue transfer to terrestrial television has become one of the media events of the year so far. So why on earth has the BBC given it such a ridiculous scheduling spot?

11.20 p.m. is pretty late for newly-arrived cutting-edge drama by any standards, but particularly awkward when you consider it’s not available on iPlayer, and that an episode a day is being aired Mon-Fri, giving scarce little time to catch up even if you do have a recording device (which I currently don’t).

Grievances of timing aside, the three episodes I’ve seen on BBC2 tell me that I’ll probably be jumping on the bandwagon of praise very soon. Once you cut through the thick Baltimore accent (or just pop the subtitles on like I did tonight) it’s very well scripted, and I’m already starting to get involved with the characters and their motivations. I knew it was worth a watch when it shocked me, upset me and made me laugh out loud within the space of ten minutes. A warning for the sensitive though – it doesn’t wimp out on violence or bad language, so steel yourselves.

I’ve been staying up for it this week out of sheer stubborn determination, but I do hope BBC bosses see sense soon – maintaining a lifestyle that involves watching The Wire AND getting up at 6.30 a.m. may begin to prove hazardous to my health…

V xx

The Wire

April 2009

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