My Week in Film.

In the past week I’ve journeyed twice to my local independent cinema, the outstanding Tyneside cinema. Firstly, if you live in Newcastle I’d implore you to start going to this venue more often. If the wonderful decor, deep, cushioned seats and charming staff aren’t enough to persuade you, the adjoining Tyneside Caf√©’s array of delicious food should.
The kind of experience you get here leaves you questioning why you ever set foot into a generic, sticky-floored multiplex of doom that dot our high streets.
That’s my plug over.

So anyway in the past week I’ve been to see two of the films that are battling it out for Oscars this season. Based on the performances that I saw, I understand why. Thought provoking and engrossing, these films left me pondering some profound questions.

The first film was Wild. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and starring Reese Witherspoon in perhaps the performance of a career. Vallée was the director of the Oscar winning film Dallas Buyers Club, which as we know started Matthew McConnaughey Рwe know how his career has gone since that.

I don’t want to spoil any of the plot, but Wild is about grief, redemption and the anger that the loss of a loved one can cause. Witherspoon’s portrayal of Cheryl Strayed – whose memoir this film is based upon – is one of a woman completely lost. I think one of the best things a film can elicit from a person is when it makes you contemplate your own emotions and fears. As the credits rolled I was forced to contemplate the inevitable feelings I am going to have to face when my parents die. Needless to say I walked away quite upset.

Hopefully you can go and see this terrific film, if anything to see Reese Witherspoon’s fantastic performance, or at least to enjoy the beautifully shot landscapes and hear the memorable soundtrack.

The second film I saw was Whiplash. First of all, wow. It’s a punishing film to sit through. The very tight style in which this film is shot, and the throbbing nature of the soundtrack trap you into the very intense experience that viewing this film is. I happened to see this in the smallest screen (Roxy) the Tyneside has to offer, which only increased the atmosphere.

J.K. Simmons seems a dead cert for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar – surely deserved. His performance is a brutal one. As a teacher he is more Gunnery Sergeant Hartman than anything. Some of the expletive filled (and brilliant I might add) rants that pepper his performance both induce laughter and horror.

It won’t matter if you are a fan or not of jazz or drumming in particular as this isn’t a film about either. It’s a film about how far one is willing to push, and be pushed in the pursuit of ‘greatness’. It makes you wonder at what point does the end stop justifying the means.

There are some exceptional films on release at the moment, it’s amazing that we’re only one month into the new year.

In the next week I’d like to try and see the much hyped Inherent Vice, A Most Violent Year and perhaps Birdman. Fingers crossed.

Happy watching!


Change of Theme

I’ve decided for a fresh coat of paint on my blog. Perhaps that is a misleading phrase, as to my mind that implies colour. You can see, my newer design is completely lacking that. I’m sorry for lying, please forgive me.

But I feel that better fits my personal taste – I’d comfortably say 80% of the tops that I own are either black or white. Also, on top of looking nice and clean [read: I HATE MESS], I feel that it leads you to focus more on what I want to put across – that’s why I started writing this blog in the first place.


Anyway, just a little explanation as to the change. I knew that unless I did this, my millions of followers would be up in arms, threatening to burn something or other down as an expression of their grief. 




One of the reasons I’ve loved history all my life, is that it is a way for me to understand my past, personally, and collectively as a member of the human race. Today, the 6th of June, is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. One of the defining moments of the Second World War, and of the 20th Century. Today I find myself thinking of the men that took part on this ‘Day of Days’.

I just cannot imagine how this feat was achieved. The feat of human endeavour, courage, and determination staggers me, and I’m sure it will for the rest of my days. My personal connection to the war, like many others, is through my grandpa. He served from the beginning to the end of the War, serving in France, North Africa, Italy and Germany. While he did not take part in the Normandy landings (being in Italy at the time), 4 years previously, he was on the beaches of France, waiting to be evacuated from Dunkirk, along with tens of thousands of others.

He was 19 when he went over to fight, and 70 years ago, he would have been the same age as me – 23. This is one of the things that I struggle to comprehend. He gave his youth to fight for his country, and I will be forever grateful for his sacrifice, and the sacrifice of millions of others.

My Grandpa, David Rees, around 1941

My Grandpa, David Rees, around 1941

We owe it to the memory of the men and women who fought and died in this conflict.

Watch Band of Brothers – one of the finest pieces of television ever created. It has been universally praised for its realistic depiction of what the men who fought truly went through. After Saving Private Ryan, it was one of the best pieces of mass media that communicated what the war was about, to a generation of people who otherwise may not have known.

Try and read some of the encyclopaedic canon of literature devoted to the war.

Listen to podcasts, listen to the radio, go and visit a museum, go and visit the battle grounds that now lie still.

Most of all, remember them.


I find it very difficult to put into words how sad the world makes me feel sometimes. I fail to understand that in the year 2014, girls cannot go to school without the danger of being kidnapped. Women in Pakistan cannot marry whom they choose without risking their life at the hands of enraged relatives. The rhetoric of racism, intolerance and hate has once again found a foothold in European countries – is our collective memory so short that we cannot remember what happened the last time this occurred?

For so many wonderful things I have experienced and loved, the darkness of reality always looms in my thoughts. But I have to remind myself that the world will change. It was not 50 years ago that Jim Crow Laws segregated America, and now an African American is the most powerful person in the world. That’s right, Beyonc√©. (Sorry Barrack).

Apartheid divided a nation, the Berlin Wall divided a continent, but these things changed. The evil of men passed, and that is what I hold on to.

A lot of you will have heard Paolo Nutini’s most recent (and superb) album, ‘Caustic Love.’ The lead track, and perhaps the song of the year IMO, ‘Iron Sky’, features one of the most moving pieces of oratory I have ever heard.

Around 3 minutes 20 seconds, we hear an excerpt from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator.’ In this film, Chaplin’s character becomes mistaken for the Dictator of a country styled as Nazi Germany. In front of a crowd, he is pushed on stage to speak to his people. What, under the real Dictator would have been a rhetoric of hatred, of exclusion, of fear, is instead turned into one of hope by Chaplin…

“Greed has poisoned men‚Äôs souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….”


That is but a small part from the speech, which as I have mentioned, in an incredibly moving piece. What is so poignant, and also terrifying is how relevant his words are today. This film was a parody of Naziism, one of the darkest movements ever to have existed. Yet, his words to me ring true about a great many things today. The greed of men. The lack of trust. The fear we feel. The distance between us in a world in which we are connected more than ever.

We can educate ourselves. We can educate others. We can choose not to give in to fear and ignorance and hate. We just need to remember that, and we’ll be ok.

Here’s the link to the video of the speech. Give it a watch, and have a think on it.


Five reasons why the UK is basically Westeros.

Winter is still coming. Last night we were treated to the trailer for the 4th season of Game of Thrones. Until the season premier on the 7th of April, we will just have to wonder what is in store for Westeros, (unless you’ve read the books of course..) Until that glorious day, here’s a list of ways in which we in the UK are basically living in Westeros.

1. Our Kingdom is ruled by a baby-faced, tyrannical overlord.


David Cameron                                                                         Joffrey Baratheon

2. Our northernmost border is protected by a great wall, thousands of years old made by long-past civilisations.


Hadrian’s Wall ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†The Wall

3. Beyond the wall, there are savage wildlings, who know no fear, clad only in furs.


Scottish People                                                                      Wildlings

4. They are led by a man who wants to watch the world that exists, burn, and will stop at nothing to achieve it.


Alex Salmond                                                              Mance Rayder

5. And finally, both our Kingdoms face a great danger from the South-East, in the form of a silver-haired child of destiny.


Boris Johnson                                                           Daenerys Targaryen

There you have it. Conclusive proof that we are actually residents of Westeros.

Let’s pray to the Old Gods, the New Gods and the Lord of Light that April comes to us quickly.

Winter is coming.

2013: My review.

I’ve quite enjoyed 2013. On a personal level mind you, as a member of the human race, it’s left me even more annoyed, disheartened, pissed off and ready to simply stop breathing out of sheer frustration than 2012 did. BUT this is New Year’s Eve, and a time for celebration, making promises you never intend to keep and looking to the future. Basically, you are getting into a relationship with 2014. You say you’ll stay (or get into) shape, embrace life more and do all the things on your bucket list, but two weeks in you’re bloated from too much festive food, cursing the man who invented sambuca, and suffering from the early stages of gout.

Here is my run down of what has been great for me in 2012, what has sucked, what music has blown my mind hole and other tidbits that have left an impression on me this year.

The best thing to happen to me this year was my trip to South-East Asia. Travelling with my BFF, Peter, we started off in Bangkok (a God-awful city) and pretty much when where we wanted for the following 6 weeks. It was an eye-opening experience, not only for the stunning sights and sounds, but for the disparity in how other human beings live their life. Obviously I understand how gut-wrenchingly unfair the world is, but that doesn’t make seeing deformed people beg on the streets, or the sexual exploitation of women any easier. In spite of this, what struck me most of all is how even in awful situations, the kindness of other human beings shone through. A homeless Cambodian girl and her brothers and sisters giving me jewellery and toys woven out of grass and plastic straws was one of the most touching experiences of my life.

My grass grasshopper

My grass grasshopper

I met some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met: Janelle, Emily, James, Ralf, Finja and Corinne to name but a few! They made my experiences better than I thought possible.


This was a bloody fantastic year for music. 2012 fell a bit flat for me. No new bands really captured my imagination, and the festival circuit. However this year I discovered a lot of new bands, giving me hope that poplar music isn’t quite ready to evolve into some screaming One Direction/Beiber hybrid, farting out Simon Cowell penned nonsense for the remainder of my life.

London Grammar, HAIM, The 1975, Disclosure, A$AP Rocky to name a small number of artists, have really impressed me this year. I’m aware that a number of these artists have been going for many years, but they’re in this list because this is the year they ‘made it big.’ The 1975 are a band that I’m most pleased to see getting wide recognition and acclaim. I’ve followed them for a number of years, making me one of those wankers who proudly cry “I KNEW ABOUT THEM FIRST!”. You know what, it felt good and I don’t care! They produced a brilliant debut album after teasing us for a year with 4 EPs.

A band that similarly to The 1975 managed to write a self-titled album full of brilliant, 1980s twinged pop songs was HAIM. For me their debut, ‘Days Are Gone’ was the album of the year.

Two bands that have a Bowie-esque skill in reinvention are Arctic Monkeys and Foals. Arctics continue to become even more massive than they were the previous year, with ‘AM’, Alex Turner is continuing to cement his position as one of the songwriters of his generation.

Foals’ third album ‘Holy Fire’ was a stark departure from their previous work. After their first math-rock oriented album came ‘Total Life Forever’, a sombre and atmospheric work that grows on you with each listen. If ‘TLF’ was Foals’ smoking quietly in front of the house, then ‘Holy Fire’ was them kicking the front door in. ‘Inhaler’ was one of the standout tracks of the year.

London Grammar produced a beautifully minimalist album ‘If You Wait’. Guitars reminiscent of The XX, only more cheerful, blend perfectly with Hannah Reid’s haunting vocals. This is one album I’m going to have on repeat for much of 2014.

Special mention to Mastodon. They’ve been around since the early 00s, but I only discovered them this year. A truly outstanding metal band, I eagerly await their new album in 2014.


Who doesn’t love Idris Elba? And I haven’t seen him in The Wire (OK I HAVEN’T SEEN THE WIRE LET’S MOVE ON). One of the best characters on TV at the moment is DI John Luther. Luther has managed not to descend into sillyness, as many BBC crime shows seem to do (I’m looking at YOU Spooks), hopefully the gritty realism can remain for many years to come, just so we can see Ruth Wilson portray the completely brilliant, if slightly sociopathic Alice Morgan.

The BBC continue to impress me (as much as they disappoint me). The White Queen was a delightful surprise for a history nerd like myself. I’d grown accustomed to the often hammy, poorly written period dramas the BBC were once so good at, and didn’t expect much. BUT, I was very much impressed. The story din’t stray into cliche, but at least to me, tried its best to portray the myriad intrigues and deceptions of 15th century England. Bloody loved it!

Breaking Bad. Don’t really need to say much. It’s one of the best TV shows I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston deserve the highest praise for not only creating a character with such depth, but also how they developed him over the course of 5 seasons. Exceptional. Watch it. Also, Aaron Paul is just awesome, BITCH!

Finally, The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin has the ability to create the type of world I yearn to belong in. I don’t care if his TV panders to the left, surely it’s better than pandering to the right, the same political leaning that is the reason that gay people can’t get married, stem cells cannot be used, and allows Rush Limbaugh a platform. For fans of the West Wing, this is the TV they have been waiting for.

So that’s my round up, there are so many great things that have happened this year I’d need a book to catalogue all of them. Needless to say there have been bad times, but I have great friends and a great family so FUCK YOU BAD THINGS.

In 2014 I’d like to see less of: Justin Beiber, One Direction, The X Factor, the Conservative party, Richard Dawkins being racist, less TOWIE (BUT MORE MADE IN CHELSEA) and on a serious note, I want to see the crisis in Syria end. It’s heartbreaking and something CAN be done, but just isn’t. Go to Save the Children to see how you can help. (Little speech over.)

Thank you to everyone who read my blog in 2013, even though in the past month I’ve neglected it so..but! I’m going to blame that on finally getting a proper job, with a salary and EVERYTHING!!

Have a great New Year!


Ramblings on Remembrance

Today is a day that many spend in remembrance. We remember those who’ve lost their lives in all conflicts, but before that, it was a day of remembrance for those who fell in the First World War. Today marked the 95th anniversary of the day that the war finally drew to a close on the Western Front.

‚ÄúHumanity is mad. It must be mad to do what it is doing.¬†What a massacre! What scenes of horror and carnage! I cannot find words to translate my impressions. Hell cannot be so terrible.‚ÄĚ – Unknown, Verdun, May 1916.

I’ve always been fascinated with this conflict in particular. From a very young age I was very interested in history, and I believe that watching the brilliant programme ‘War Walks’, presented by the sadly late Professor Richard Holmes, had a huge influence on my later interest in World War One. I can’t pin down exactly what it was, but he managed to capture my young imagination with his tales. A truly passionate historian his representation of the Battles of¬†Mons, Le Cateau¬†and¬†The Somme¬†stood out especially for me. He helped communicated perhaps the most important thing about the war – what the men who fought it went through. I think the horror of the conflict was an aspect of why I’ve always harboured an interest for it. The sheer scale of death and carnage is still hard for me, and many others to comprehend. It defies comprehension how men and in many cases, boys, mustered the strength to climb ‘over the top’. We will never be able to truly understand the gut-wrenching terror they experience. Photographs, however stark they may be, can only portray half of the story. Since June of 2011 I’ve been listening to a podcast produced by the Imperial War Museum called ‘Voices of the First World War.’ It has been an incredibly informative documentary of the many varied aspects of the war, told by the men and women that experienced them. I highly recommend listening to them. Each episode is roughly 20 minutes long, they really bring across what the war meant to those who fought it –¬† I really hope that you listen to this – the First World War had such an impact on the rest of the 20th century, it is important that it’s legacy continues to be explained.

As much as I have a passion for the First World War, I try not to get caught up in the now ritual of Remembrance Sunday. I spend two minutes in silence to remember the abject horror of what men and women far braver than I willingly went through. I think of my Grandpa, who left for France in 1939. He spent three days on the beach at Dunkirk, not knowing if he was going to be rescued, or killed by a German shell or Stuka dive-bomber. I remember how lucky I was to have briefly known him before he sadly died. He made it through the Evacuation of France, the campaign in North African, and Italy. He came back and married my Grandma, had my Dad and here I am today. This is what I do in the 11th of November.

Usually I would buy a poppy but I’m no longer comfortable with how Remembrance Day is, at least in my eyes, becoming increasingly jingoistic. Words such as pride, honour and glory are bandied about with abandon, but I don’t believe there is a need to take pride in war. I don’t believe that there is any honour or glory to be gained from conflict. Perhaps, once, capturing a Spanish galleon was an honour, and the Duke of Wellington’s Peninsular Campaign was glorious. But not any more.

Heaviness aside, I thought I’d share some songs that are fitting today.

A song performed by folk artist Eric Bogle, ‘And the band played Waltzing Matilda’ is a song about a young Australian man that signs up to fight in the First World War and is sent to fight at Gallipoli. A beautiful song, it has since become the unofficial national anthem of Australia.

Boston band, Dropkick Murphys covered an Eric Bogle song ‘The Green Fiends of France’, also known as ‘No Mans Land.’ It tells the sombre tale of the men that went to France and never made it back, lamenting over the futility of war.

The opening credits of Band of Brothers never fails to give me goosebumps. A beautifully scored piece of music by Michael Kamen, it fits perfectly with the heroic, yet incredibly sad themes found within the series.

In the gym today, the radio went silent for 2 minutes at 11 o’clock. The song that was played afterwards was Sting’s ‘Fields of Gold.’ I thought this was a great choice, as what song do you open with after spending 2 minutes remembering the dead? I though that it was fitting that now, the battlefields that men fought and died upon are now fields of wheat, barley and poppies blowing in the wind.

Here are the links for the WWI episodes from Richard Holmes’ ‘War Walks’. I hope you give them a watch.

Mons and Le Cateau –¬†

The Somme –¬†