Monday 16 February 2015

Film reviews: from 'Selma' to 'Jupiter Ascending'

I've been lucky enough to have had space to watch a number of movies over the last few weeks, and I just wanted to recommend and review some of them.

Selma: This is the must see at the moment. The performances are great (there certainly should have been at least an Oscar nomination for David Oyelowo for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr) and the direction by Ava DuVernay tells the story of 'the voting rights marches' in a way that doesn't over romanticise the struggle for civil rights.

It is not perfect, and it doesn't delve deeply enough into Martin and Coretta's strained relationship, making the flow between them a little less credible. However, the main thrust of the story has to be about the march from Selma to Montgomery and the reasons for it. This is addressed clearly, and the importance of this struggle is made visible by this film.

It is an affirming film, that should make you weep, and should remind us all of the bravery needed to overcome injustice.

This brings me on to 'We Are The Giant' Greg Barker's documentary about the Arab Spring. It focuses on the lives of people caught up in the struggle for change in the Middle East, focusing on Libya, Bahrain and Syria.

It is difficult to watch (I watched it alongside several Syrian refugees, and it was very upsetting, they testified to the truthfulness of the horrific scenes we witnessed) but is probably the most powerful documentary I've seen on the subject. Primarily because it does not give any easy solutions. It shows the dilemmas faced by those who want to change injustices non-violently. In the official webpage for the film, we learn about those who died in the making of it, and the struggle to get the footage that was produced. All I can say is - watch this movie. It will change how you see the ongoing trauma in the Middle East and perhaps encourage you to support those who are suffering as a result.

Of the other films I've seen recently 'Ex-Machina' is recommended. It is beautiful to watch, and the tension builds perfectly. It uses the premise of 'AI' technology to explore much about the human condition. It looks at abuse, power and control from both a corporate and human perspective. I don't want to give away any of the plot twists, so just go and see the film and enjoy.

Finally - I went to see 'Jupiter Ascending', and couldn't believe that the makers of the brilliant 'Cloud Atlas' and the 'Matrix' could produce such a heap of steaming crap. So many fantastic effects, and it was crammed with excellent ideas - but the whole movie did not hold together well at all. Even the unsubtle homages to my favourite film 'Brazil' only went to demonstrate what a poor movie it was.

But three great movies out of four is a good enough success rate for me!

Sunday 15 February 2015

NHS Valentines weekend

A friend texted me with a very special message. She was so pleased to have taken part in the nation wide protest in support of the NHS on Valentines Day. Mostly because later that evening, her mum was taken ill and ended up in hospital.

The NHS saved her mum's life.

And that is how it is, most do not realise how important and incredible it is until we are faced with a crisis. For us, it was last year, when our daughter was diagnosed with Turner's Syndrome. We were in and out of hospital, and they were fantastic at the Children's Centre at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

But 1000's of nurses jobs have been lost over the last few years. The creeping privatisation of the NHS, hastened by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, has meant that £13 billion of our tax payers money has already been syphoned off into the hands of the private sector.

The Tories are set to be the big winners - with 24 ministers who voted for the act in 2012 being financially involved with 15 private health care companies who have benefited from the changes.

Slowly and by stealth, the NHS is being degraded and sold off in little chunks. Staff moral is low, and 76% of GPs are saying that health care rationing is already happening.

It is our NHS, and we are not prepared to lose it without a fight. In Sunderland, in Durham, in hundreds of towns and cities up and down the country we shouted 'Hands off our NHS!'

It belongs to the people, not to the privateers. Let us not be the first generation since 1948 to lose such a life giving institution. The NHS is not safe in this governments hands.

Sunderland V Bradford - a house divided!

Today is the big match in our family. My two children are born in Bradford and feel deeply for it. They have grown to love our new city of Sunderland, (we moved here just over 2 years ago) and normally support Sunderland AFC, but in the FA Cup match, they are rooting for Bradford.

Not so with their Dad, I've become a serious Sunderland supporter over the last few years, and I'm clear on who I support today. It's not that I don't still love the city where I served as City Centre Priest, Bradford will always hold a special part of my heart. It is the city where my faith developed, where I stood side by side with campaigners on hundreds of issues of peace and social justice - it is a city full of love and surprises.

But this is about football, and I have been to seen more matches in Sunderland in the last 2 years than I ever did in 23 years at Bradford. The atmosphere at the Stadium of Light is magical, it is the supporters as much as the players and managers who have won me over.

I'm proud that Bradford City humbled Chelsea, and if they win today by sheer hard work, then I'll wish them on to Wembley. But I want Sunderland to win - and I'll be gutted if we lose. A win may reinvigorate us after a poor league season, and help ensure we stay up this year.

You have to love where you live. It is where God has put you.