Darkest Hour

There was a time when I would repeatedly watch the repeat episodes of “World at War”, until I got fed up with the Allies’ failures.  Norway, France, Singapore, North Africa, Dieppe, Anzio.
The interview that stuck was from episode 2 by Jock Colville, a civil servant, who explained how Chamberlain, Halifax and Churchill met in the Cabinet Room and Chamberlain asked Churchill if he saw any reason why a Lord couldn’t be Prime Minister and Churchill just stared out of the window, cos he knew it was a trap.  Screenshot (816) ab0466h wiki Norway debate
In the same episode, Boothby explained the “Norway debate” and how in essence, many MPs had been frustrated with Chamberlain not wanting to take the war with the Nazis.  Labour played a key role in pushing the issue once the problems with the British operation in Norway had been grasped, despite Churchill putting up a big defence of his operation in the debate.  They pushed for a vote and too many Conservatives did not support Chamberlain.

darkest hour commons debatechurchill vchurchill with mps
So the dramatic start “Darkest Hour“, with Churchill not attending the “Norway debate” was annoying, and the film kept taking these kind of liberties.
Fighting over the leadership after Churchill had been made P.M., the military chiefs having no plan on the Dunkirk evacuation, the King giving Churchill the backbone to carry on refusing to make a deal with the Nazis, Churchill holding a focus group in a London Underground carriage, Churchill meeting with MPs in a large stairwell, Chamberlain wiping his forehead being taken for a signal..
Regarding the history, one example of the criticism – by The National Review.
I never doubted Gary Oldman as Churchill, or his interpretation of Churchill as a sparkier character than other clichéd portrayals of him as miserable.
But in this movie, politicians are quick to dispute, rather than talking things through.

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Molly’s Game

“Why are you in this on your own?”

A movie that shows gambling and gamblers, celebrities and specialist bankers, managers who abuse and parents who drive childen too hard, and mobsters in a bad light.
What’s not to like?
And Molly Bloom‘s story is extraordinary.
From national champion contender to waitress and PA, to game runner to counsel to gamblers and finance underwriter.
But the pressure becomes too much, she takes drugs so she can cover all the bases, she gives up on some of her standards and breaks the law to be able to finance the losses from defaulting gamblers.  Other standards she keeps – no pimping and no betrayals of the secrets she’s learnt.
All this is hung around her discussions with her lawyer as she faces prosecution from the FBI, who want her secrets as well as her conviction.
Aaron Sorkin – famous screenwriter, including of the witty dialogue of “The West Wing” – directs for the first time.
But with Molly doing so much of it on her own, the movie need lots of narration to explain what’s happening , including how financing poker games works.
Result: it’s quite hard work to take it all in.
(Although the Guardian doesn’t agree.)

The Death of Stalin

I could laugh at “In the Thick of it” cos having met Alastair Campbell, I could always see it as one step away from reality.
The trailer makes the “The Death of Stalin” look and sound like a great laugh, but the actual fully movie is not so jolly stuff cos it all looks and feels too real and the early scenes show people being taken away and show people being shot.
Not saying it shouldn’t have been made (unlike Peter Hitchens) or that the film is wrong; just saying it’s harder to laugh – not so much a black comedy as just black (or even bleak).
Now I’ve had to read up about what happened (and watched a 60’s American documentary on YouTube).  Yes, the story is different in significant parts from the actual history (takes place in a week instead of months), but it still felt real.
Maybe when I see it a second time, I’ll be able to laugh with the film more.

T. Rex was not what we were taught

Recommend “The Real T Rex with Chris Packham”, on BBC2 tv.
Main point – many dinosaurs were much more like birds that we’ve previously imagined.
He announced the making of this programme at the opening of the Chinasaurs exhibition (at Wollaton Hall in June), explaining that our popular perceptions of dinosaurs were wrong.

I must have remembered what he told me was wrong cos I’ve since being telling people the T. Rex was covered in feathers and only had a high-pitched squeak.
Perhaps they’ve learnt more since.
I told hom the public might not accept a new T. Rex.  He told me quite clearly – it was the truth!

The Vietnam War documentary

The Vietnam War poster lvscwej (2)
Telling the story of a war that figured so heavily in the news broadcasts of my childhood.
The war kinda feels other worldly in an era in which opposition forces are taken out by drones.

The TV documentary series by WETA-TV and Florintene Films is compelling.  You learn so much.  (Note, it cost $30 million to make.)
The piece on the memorial was just one of the special pieces.
Ditto, the napalm attack that caught innocent children.
The point blank execution on camera of a Viet Cong agent during the Tet offensive.
A reminder that the North Vietnamese communists could be cruel too.
John Kerry’s testimony on Capitol Hill.
(It’s possible that bits were missed out – e.g. peace initiatives in the early sixties.  Possbilby a tad harsh on the new regine given what they followed, and that they were to throw out the Khmer Rouge.)

So much to take in, but just one excerpt especially pertinent to today …
Episode 5 showed John McCain being interviewed by a French journalist having been shot down in Vietnam, ejected too low from a plane out of control, broken 3 limbs and having them reset without painkillers.
In the interview, his voice is trembling. He was interviewed because he was the son of a US General in charge of their military in Europe.
He was beaten up afterwards, because he had not been grateful enough to his captors on film.
Years later, he was to be ridiculed, told heroes don’t let themselves be captured and only recently, mocked cos of the physical symptoms he has as he is fighting cancer.
America, get a grip.