Dunkirk

A war movie, without the distracting love stories and over poignant speeches.
A war movie that doesn’t worry about what Churchill is saying.
A war movie that doesn’t show an enemy face until the final seconds.
A war movie that doesn’t show blood or gore.
A war movie that shows Spitfire Mark 1s in 70mm IMAX.
A war movie that shows what it was like to try to return home and try to help the evacuation.
On land, on sea and in the air.
Compelling action. Bullets zinging. Bombs exploding. Torpedoes hitting. Ships sinking. Planes duelling. combattants bracing.
A war movie, not a survival movie, even if the Director says so.

So go see Dunkirk.

The surprise – what limited dialogue there is can’t be heard very cleary – a mistake not made since “The Patriot”.  Understandable maybe if the background is explosions, but when reading a newspaper article on a train back in Blighty?
Some of the storylines are a bit misjudged (the trawler, one event on the little ship) and there’s no celebration of French efforts.

The myths of Dunkirk

dunkirk movie german map leafletaaxxxxhPromotional interviews for the movie Dunkirk keep stressing how Churchill thought the operation to bring British and allied forces out of the trapped pocket might ony save 30,000 when 338,000 were to be relieved says more about our willingness to buy such stories rather than what was actually said by British senior officers.
And the story of the little ships being brought over by their owners was also something that took off after it was penned by an American author – they were mainly sailed by Royal Navy personnel.
Worst about it all is how the role of French soldiers in enabling the evacuation is underplayed.
Then ideas that Hitler was being kind to the British – more a judgment of a British army returning home was never going to come back and there were other objectives to meet.
Nor did the Luftwaffe particularly fail – they were asked to do too much from bases too far away.
And of course there are records of British servicemen poor discipline.
As it happens, the British were planning an evacuation a few days previous and a major operation after Dunkirk brought another 190,000 personnel to Britain.
The Allies were out thought and outmanoeuvred in the Battle of France.
And debacles were to follow elsewhere, notably in Singapore.

But enough already.
Cos the point is that even once we cut through the myths and hear more of the reality, the Dunkirk evacuation was still an extraordinary effort, including the French.  Something to be proud of and to draw inspiration from.

The Journey, a modern parable

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A terrific movie that rehearses the big arguments that we should appreciate as two sworn enemies brokered the St.Andrew’s Agreement in 2006.
The Journey” takes the trip Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness made for an urgent flight after the agreement was reached.
Here, critics appear to have a wobble. For one Northern Ireland correspondent, too much disregard for the facts; the characters not sufficiently captured. For one film critic, the dramatic device of the journey being monitored by all the other key participants not adding drama. Too harsh.
A parable has been created that entertains and illuminates, and reminds us well of just what a political journey these leaders took.

Their finest

A celebration of cinema and when Britain and its empire stood alone against the Nazis.
A reminder of the sexist nature of the world of work.
An entertainment.

And how the screenwriters must have enjoyed writing a screenplay where the screenwriter is the hero in a war film.
(No doubt learning from journalists who make themselves the hero in a political story.)
One bigger quibble – the female lead makes strides for women and without any real reason, falls for the boss at work (having fallen previously for an artist who didn’t champion her) without any kind of narratve to suggest there had been real warmth.  Surely the screenwriters should have spotted that.

James Baldwin and Jermaine Jenas

I am not your Negro” is a presentation of a 30 page draft by notable and nationally known American commentator and writer, James Baldwin, who was often an effective communicator of the oppression black people in America suffered, and was emphatic in expressing that problem as an American problem, and not a black problem.
He knew, and was despairingly affected by the murders of, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
Billed as a documentary, but more an illustrated editorial – and none the worse for it – the piece covered wider issues – disappointment that wealth had not brought happiness, and also brought a reluctance to hold serious views.

And then a post-screening debate.
Straight into damning mainstream education, talking up alternative schools, emphasising development of the individual and absence of any common vision or programme.
And *they*, they, expressed concern about the dominance of the right.

At some stage, some of the people present might put a documentary together about the history of Nottingham, though it seems likely any such production is likely to focus on 1958 and the race riots.
And could any such documentary do any worse than BBC 3 tv’s “Teenage Knife Crime” – first broadcast on 3 April and filmed last December.
Host is Jermaine Jenas, Nottingham born and bred.
Notts. Police refused to co-operate and when you watch the production, you get why.
Relative stats., not absolute; wild statements from Jermaine at the end like “thousands” with no justification; ordinary streets like Holgate Road filmed for an interview in the dark that makes it look like a sinister place; even silhouettes of weeds on a wall filmed at night to make Nottingham look sinister; no challenge to statements of teenagers being interviewed; allowing the notions of rivalries between neighbourhoods to go unchallenged; music to set your nerves on end.
No proper analysis of what is no longer done that might have mitigated problems and no mention of cuts to public services, although there was one moment that talked about “we” are letting the kids down.
You can’t watch a film made in your city and often in your ward without having some thoughts about what more to do.
But it would be nice if Jermaine Jenas could do the same.

Selma and Pentrich

I missed Selma on its release (and have only just seen it on BBC 2 tv).  The film brings some stunning moments from the past to life – of government spying & brutality, of racism, of fear, of defiance.
Some controversy over the portrayal of President Johnson’s politics and actions – a shame the film couldn’t be more positive about him.
Still the big story – people denied political rights, people putting themselves at some risk from government sides and brutality.
Similar to the Hampden clubs / Luddites of 200 years ago who started marches on London, including the one from the industrial villages in Derbyshire such as Pentrich, who marched 200 years ago this June.
There would have been the same discussions over the problems life presents, how they have no power to get things changed, and how the actions they might be taking will be dangerous.  Even discussions when they’d realised they were being spied upon.
There are limits to the parallels.  Unlike the Southern Christrian Leadership Confrence, the rebels from 200 years ago were not non-violent, although their weapons were basic and not significant enough to make them do anything but run when they saw government forces ahead.
There are books and plays on the movements of the day – but not films.  Just don’t give such a movie to Mel Gibson.

Negotiate internationally and survive

I don’t object to the re-publication of the “Protect and Survive” pamphlet as a reminder of what was once published but the curator behind it is wrong to say it shows how close we came to a nuclear war.
The pamphlet was about building up the idea that we could fight and survive a nuclear war.
The particular notion was of a tactical nuclear war – i.e. within Europe only (strategic was USA and USSR exchanging ICBM with multiple nuclear weapons).
Protest and Suvive 015567The pamphlet did backfire (a pamphlet called “Protest and Survive” was published; CND was renewed, a campaign against “tactical nuclear war – European Nuclear Disarmament – was started and based in Nottingham).
But there were still plenty of people in places like Top Valley saying they’d survive a bomb detonated over Nottingham city centre.
Lots of nonsense about this –
– so a BBC documentary that showed the impact of a single weapon was salutory;
– that a nuclear war could be constrained to Europe was inexplicable – just how were enemies supposed to know where bombs had been sent from? (The Russians would understand we were only taking out a bridge across the River Rhine? Disappointing to hear a Labour MP giving the notion of deficits in tactical nuclear weapons some credence in the last major Parliamentary debate.)
– we know that it wouldn’t take many explaosions to throw so much material in the atmosphere as to cause a nuclear winter – not seeing the sun again for many months; (Yeah, Top Valley might survive, but then starve.)
As a country, we got stranded choosing between unilateral and multilateral disarmament (hopeless) – so nice to see the UN giving multilateral nuclear disarmament another push today.

Square_legA reminder that an exercise, called “Square Leg“, run in the eigthies presumed 131 nuclear explosions in and over Britain, meaning – “Mortality was estimated at 29 million (53 percent of the population); serious injuries at 7 million (12 percent); short-term survivors at 19 million (35 percent).”
Map scanned from ‘Doomsday, Britain after Nuclear Attack’ by Stan Openshaw, Philip Steadman and Owen Greene Basil Blackwell, 1983 ISBN 0-631-13394-1