The Salisbury Poisonings

Metro’s tv critic says of BBCtv’s The Salisbury Poisonings “… you can’t help but feel there’s something missing in its execution.”
I don’t think the authors worked the story out. The drama decided not to tell stories of the Russian victims, or the Russian perpetrators, relied heavily on news broadcasts to narrate a wider perspective and decided the story was of a small number of key players and their families.
But the dialogue involving the key players is not great, and should have done more to carry the story of what was happening overall, especially through those action conferences. I suspect poorly directed and edited too.
And a couple of pantomime portrayals – of a No. 10 advisor and of the public (wild and panicky apparently).

Meanwhile, a reflection on what actually happened.
Cos I couldn’t believe that the Russians would try to kill people in this way. So messy. So indeterminable. So many random side effects.
And why attack a nation of whom so many of our wealthy are inter-twined with the Russian wealthy?
The Guardian ran stories explaining that the nerve agent (declared as one of the most toxic substances, but how true is that?) was no longer produced by Russia and of a former diplomat saying it just wouldn’t be done.
Jezza was suspicious and so was I.

Others still are.
Novichok is declared the most deadly substance, yet the 2 targeted survive; contaminated at home it seems, but didn’t fall ill for a few hours, and then, despite their difference in ages, fall ill at the same time; and at a location where the first to attend then happened to be the Chief Nurse of the British Army (not mentioned on the BBCtv series; but probably very well equipped to identify and deal with poisoning by nerve agent); nobody else or no animal falls ill despite it being found at the restaurant and elsewhere; the Police Officer falls ill after visiting the Russians’ home, at which a significant part of the roof is later removed; when the couple fall ill some months later, they have to cut the wrapping away to access the “perfume” and it take the Police days to find the bottle in his hone, despite it being on the kitchen counter. Oh, and Porton Down, home of Britain’s research on these weapons, is only 7 miles away.
Problem is, such articles are wrapped in allegations about how you can’t trust others and peppered with remarks like being a credulous fool if you believe in coincidences.
And whilst you don’t have to believe either the British or the Russians, the Russians didn’t help by promoting lots of different stories about what happened. The interview of their 2 agents that was broadcast made them look ridiculous.
I am baffled by aspects of the tragedy, but know I don’t know enough to pronounce.

For all the political outrage at the time, the outrage never really stuck. Connections between the Conservatives and rich Russians should be more damaging to electoral prospects than they seem to be.

Animal Farm: the graphic novels

Animal Farm “featured at number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels.” Yep, and I’ve bought a graphic version of it.
One reviewer says it’s the first graphical version, but that’s not true – Ralph Steadman did a version in 1995.
Says something of the power of the book, that I remember bits that aren’t featured in this version – e.g. the return of religion through the crow.
The story remains unbearably sad, or depressing.

Mind you, could do with George Orwell now, to write about Trump and Johnson; or maybe the nature of financial markets.


I enjoyed ITV’s Quiz tv series very much.
Michael Sheen as Chris Tarrant is very entertaining.  
It is made clear that the Major’s brother-in-law tried to help the Major cheat, that the Major trained, and that the Major’s wife sought to enrol the help of one of the second night’s final 10.  
But the drama does suggest that the Major’s learning for the event was extensive and that he may have relied heavily on the audience’s reaction to help answer some of the questions.
And that the drive came from pride, wanting to do well for his wife and to offer relief to his debt-ridden brother-in-law.  
The show’s creators did present an edited tape and gained out of the subsequent coverage. Chris Tarrant says the Major was a “rotter” but the show sees his character ask the Major through the TV screen whether the had cheated.  
The drama does suggest that the guilty conviction was not safe.

The Man with the Iron Heart

Only 2 reviews from Google, but they sum the film up well.

An unpleasant film to watch cos it brings life to horrible atrocities by the Nazis in Eastern Europe during WWII.
The film is well made and well shot, but just horrible cos of what it shows. So it becomes a duty to watch.
A reminder at how the mass executions started through mass shootings.
I think the film didn’t go on general release cos another film on the same events came out just before it. Currently available on BBC i-player.


And Then We Danced

A movie that people tried to stop being shown in Georgia

Georgia. Georgian dancing. practised on worn out floors. Traditional, strict, paternalistic. Yet loved by these young people who want to go places with it.
Tbilisi. A family steeped in the dancing. Struggling. The lead, a second son. Kinda understood to be committed to his female partner. A coming of age movie. And a coming out movie.
A movie of youth. Excellent physiques and bright outlooks. And gossip of inconsequences from visits to London.
All good, (‘cept I’m not that keen on romance) until just about everything in the lead man’s life collapses in one night – pushing the credibility a tad. Otherwise a good movie and for the most part absorbing.
So go see, including for the dancing (surprisingly from me, cos I ain’t no Strictly fan).

But this is a movie that some in Georgia protested against, trying to stop being shown.
So also go see in solidarity for gay rights.

Wiki. Guardian (4 stars). Observer (4 stars)


A go-see fun-filled movie bringing back memories of the seventies and that BBC broadcast, whilst addressing themes of sexism & feminism, racism & internationalism and objectification & personal development.

Billed as a comedy-drama, the theatre showing I went to didn’t trigger laughs and I suspect this is because the movie chooses not to make enough fun of the men, chooses to show women miserably suffering at the hands of men, when I suspect the women would have had amusing things to say about those condescending interview boards, fellow history students, and television panels. (And look up the YouTube video of Bob Hope and his tasteless gags that night.)

My recollection of watching Miss World as a boy was that I joined in with the judging; and then when the women’s movement made their points, it was like, yeah, it’s obvious, even to a 9 year old. Yet fifty years on, Miss World continues, just not on BBC tv.

Wiki. Guardian review. Guardian comment.
P.S. note for Salop fans – this shows Grenada conquering the world.

True History of the Kelly Gang

The Director wants you to feel uncomfortable. He must do. And he succeeds. People are under threat from the off.
And maybe that is what the true history was. (Except significant parts of the story are not true.)
Did not enjoy the movie but that doesn’t mean don’t go see. Other quibble – too much of the dialogue is muttered.

Ned Kelly was real. But not illiterate – “Every man should be the author of his own history”. The injustice (that generates parallels with Robin Hood) here is different – fighting against “bent coppers”.
Wiki. Guardian.

Dark Waters

A public health failure, brought to a head by the actions of a reluctant lawyer.
Wiki. Guardian.

Kinda odd that there isn’t some kind of name for the scandal this film covers. DuPont see the commercial opportunity in coating pans and carpets using teflon, but don’t get to grips with the toxic and carcinogenic nature of the material whilst manufacturing it.
Teflon is made from perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA-C8) and that is allowed to leak into water sources, and then stored in badly managed steel drums and then moved into an insufficiently managed ground fill site.
People die and they end up paying out $671m after a prolonged legal campaign led by one lawyer, who’s specialised in corporate defence. The campaign, after an initial victory, included paying out $400 each to local residents for blood tests which yielded 69,000 samples, which in turn explains why it took so long for the scientists to declare their results.
All through this story, questions are begged –
– why didn’t vets report problems in animals?
– why didn’t doctors pick on on the increase of cancers and other issues, such a fertility problems?
– why didn’t dentists react to children and others having black teeth?
– why didn’t health services generally rect? or the government agency?
– why no response from the workers, or there representatives in the trade unions, or political representatives?
– why didn’t scientists tasing the blood, issue a warning based on the first thousand results, or offer better progress reports?
The conclusion appears to be that it’s individuals that have to do it – a kinda very liberal interpretation. Yes, DuPont may have had tremendous importance to the local communities and had a good deal of good will, but how come a wide range of other people and organisations not pick up on the problem?