This lunchtime I went and posted letters to several members of the House of Lords asking them to support the marriage bill. As it has it’s second reading in the Lords on Monday, it couldn’t be more important than now to write to some Lords and encourage them to support the bill.
You can easily contact members of the Lords via WriteToThem, and for some inspiration I’ve included my own missive below:
Dear Lord X,
I wanted to take the opportunity to write and ask you to support the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. I could make a deeply personal and emotive appeal to you – marriage equality would mean a great deal to my partner and I – but I’d like to focus instead on the benefit to society.
This debate has demonstrated how important marriage is to society. The commitment that marriage entails doesn’t just strengthen individual relationships, but society more broadly. It fosters stability and is a public demonstration of love and commitment. As marriage makes society stronger, it follows that allowing all couples to marry, regardless of their gender, will make it stronger still.
By backing the bill with such a sizeable majority, the House of Commons sent a signal to LGBT men and women that they are valued and accepted. This message matters. Attitudes towards homosexuality have undoubtedly progressed enormously, but the effect of the prejudice that remains is severe: gay and bisexual men are 7.5 times more likely to attempt suicide for example.
This untold tragedy is the consequence of a society where homophobic language is endemic in schools and LGBT men and women are implicitly told that they are lesser. This bill triumphantly declares that this is untrue. By legally recognising that same- and opposite-sex relationships are equally valid, we will open the door to visible, committed same-sex marriages that reinforce this message.
I can’t ignore the topic of religion; it’s clearly important to respect religious belief. The Church of England has said the so-called quadruple locks ‘do what they are intended to’, i.e. protect religious groups from being forced to marry same-sex couples. But it also allows groups who wish to marry same-sex couples to do so.
The voices of religious group in support of marriage equality have been drowned out by a very vocal minority; we cannot allow the religious freedom of one group to trump another’s. I use the term minority advisedly. Polling consistently shows that a majority support marriage equality; YouGov’s most recent poll shows 54% support and 37% opposition. This support rises as high as 74% among 18-24 year olds.
Opponents of marriage equality argue that we shouldn’t redefine marriage. In reality, marriage is an institution that has always evolved to reflect society. Polling shows that society’s definition has and continues to expand to include same-sex couples. The time is right for our legal definition of marriage to reflect that.
I urge you to support the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading on Monday 3 June.
The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker was first released in 2008, but won the award for 2009.
- April: outbreak of a new strain of the H1N1 influenza virus, commonly known as Swine Flu, in Mexico
- June: Michael Jackson dies after suffering a cardiac arrest
- December: The Lisbon Treaty comes into effect in the European Union
The Hurt Locker is the lowest grossing best picture when adjusted for inflation ($14 million)
With The Hurt Locker, the Academy returns once more to its preoccupation with war. This is admittedly a very different type and view of warfare portrayed, the bomb disposal squad at the film’s heart being thrilled by it. This is carefully, if somewhat predictably, juxtaposed by the death around them and the effect it has on them. In this way The Hurt Locker takes us too on a roller coaster ride, from adrenaline filled intensity to the shock of sudden and brutal death. In the end though, The Hurt Locker felt overlong to me, primarily because it is too repetitive. This holds it back from excellence for me.
The Hurt Locker is an impressive film that details the workings and interactions of a small group of bomb disposal experts in the US Army. The clever use of close, frenzied camera shots and movements and unbearable tension amongst the characters gives the film a claustrophobic feel that very few war films manage. The film does a brilliant job of ensuring that the brutality and sheer danger of war is conveyed, and I particularly enjoyed the bits that explored the motivations of the main characters and the impact the war has had on them. In the end the film falls down a little by becoming a little predictable and obvious towards the end; the random and slightly disjointed feel of the beginning felt more realistic and – frankly – more interesting; but it’s a very impressive film.
Combined rating: 7/10
- April: President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirms that Iran has successfully produced a few grams of low-grade enriched uranium
- July: Twitter is launched
- December: Saddam Hussein is executed
The Departed is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film, Internal Affairs; it is the only remake to win best picture.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, and with a cast to die for, it’s inevitable that The Departed is sure to satisfy. It is a very enjoyable thriller, but there is a lot of interest going on beneath this. Not least among this is the impact that living under a false identity has, with the effectively mirrored roles played by Leonardo di Caprio and Matt Damon leading to the same destruction of the body to reflect the destruction of the self. This is highly effective and is one example of how The Departed is elevated beyond pure thriller.
I really enjoyed The Departed, a tense thriller with great performances and good twists and turns. It helped that I knew nothing about it before we watched it, so I was able to enjoy it free of any prior knowledge. I must confess this is the kind of film I’d go and see at the cinema, so my rating is probably a little high, but I think it is one of the best of what is a pretty extensive genre. Plus it has Leo in it, which always gets a bonus mark.
Combined rating: 8/10
- May: Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister after Labour wins the general election with a parliamentary majority of 179
- July: UK hands sovereignty of Hong Kong to China
- August: Diana, Princess of Wales dies following a car accident in Paris
Titanic is the only film to be both most nominated (14 nominations alongside 1950′s All About Eve) and most awarded (11 wins alongside 1959′s Ben-Hur and 2003′s The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King) at the Academy Awards.
I’ve always felt that Titanic was film to be endured, and watching it again certainly hasn’t changed. It’s flaws are manifold. Among them are the god-awful MacGuffin – the Heart of the Ocean – which brings with it a narrative framing device that entirely unnecessarily and unforgivable extends the film’s length by more than half an hour. Add to this the truly awful romantic plot, an obsession with making this a story about class tension and an awful script – to name but a few – and you have a truly sub-par experience. It only merits the points it does because of a handful of touching moments (inevitably where none of the main characters are involved). Not only is this not best picture material, it’s not even the best film about the Titanic. That honour, in my humble opinion, belongs to the vastly superior A Night to Remember.
I thought I had a soft spot for Titanic. I originally saw it when on a cruise ship in the middle of Hurricane whilst sea sick, and I can only presume I had also taken leave of my senses as it is not anywhere near as good as I remembered.
It is a very annoying film; all that guff at the beginning with the scavenger hunters and the old lady; it takes an hour and forty minutes for the bloody ship to get struck. The Titanic story is very interesting on its own; the man vs nature, the instinctive fear of drowning, the limits of design, the poor safety on board, the sheer tragedy of so many losing their lives; it is undoubtedly one of the bits of history that most people remember. It takes a certain kind of arrogance to make a film about one of the most tragic moments in engineering history, pretty much ignore the important bits and place a fairly awkward love story in its place.
There are bits of Titanic I like. I thought they did a good job with the emotions of the Captain and ship designer, and I thought a lot of the ship breaking scenes were well done. But they get lost in what is a poorly written plod-a-long movie. Will mentioned a review before we watched it commenting on how many times Jack and Rose refer to each other by name and – once noticed – it is painfully hard not to notice. At least I know the soft spot is gone.
Combined rating: 3/10
All the King’s Men
- February: Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is first performed
- June: The South African Citizenship Act imposes a ban on interracial marriage
- October: Chairman Mao proclaims the People’s Republic of China
Unusually, no one in the cast had a script, they were allowed to read it once and then it was taken away from them.
All the King’s Men makes a good stab at exploring the rise of Willie Stark to the position of governor and his subsequent corruption and assassination. Ultimately though it seems clumsy. The consequences of Stark’s actions lack subtlety and nuance, and the film instead adopts a sledgehammer approach. With such a lack of subtlety, my disbelief can’t help but be stretched to the point of incredulity.
The corruption of power is a timeless subject for the arts, and ATKM does a particularly impressive job of bringing it to the big screen. Being a resident of Tower Hamlets, in a country recently governed by Gordon Brown, this film felt fairly timeless and thought provoking. I particularly liked the way it took you on a journey from the calm and enviable plucky outsider who is rejected by the political establishment through to a hysterical and out of control character desperate to cling on to power through any means necessary. Strong performances all round make this a must watch.
Combined rating: 6.75/10
Out of Africa
- March: Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of the USSR
- July: Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia raise over £50 million for famine relief in Ethiopia
- September: Mark is born
Based on the memoir of Karen Blixen, filming took place in one of the actual houses she lived in Kenya.
The best thing about Out of Africa, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Meryl Streep. In her performance as Karen Blixen she manages to be driven and determined, but vulnerable and tender. As she strives to fit into a man’s world she manages to encapsulate both masculinity and femininity. However, the film does drag at times, and I struggled to really connect beyond Streep. Out of Africa is able to get away with this because it has such a strong central performance, but it does mean that for me it can only rank as good, not great.
Usually this is the type of film I don’t like; full of landscapes and pretty slow. Yet Out of Africa is absolutely beautiful; every shot feels well used and whilst not a lot happens, I remained captivated by the sad and moving story. Meryl is – unsurprisingly – rather good, but the real winner here is how authentically beautiful the film feels and looks (I commented to Will on how pretty the place they shot it is during the film, to which we discovered it was shot in the original locations). A great demonstration of how beautiful film cam be.
Combined rating: 7.25/10
- April: Martin Luther King, Jr is shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee
- July: The semi processor company Intel is founded
- November: Richard M. Nixon is elected President of the United States
Oliver! is the only G-rated film (the American equivalent of a U) to win best picture.
Oliver! is a distinctly mixed bag. Some of the songs are great and a couple of the performances are exceptional, but the title character – and most of the rest of the children – are downright annoying. Without a doubt, the high water mark comes in the form of Shani Wallis as Nancy. Her performance of “As Long As He Needs Me” is superb; every note is filled with the anguish of a woman who loves an abusive man. Ron Moody is brilliant too as Fagin, although – inevitably – the tacit anti-semitism of the material is uncomfortable. Ultimately though, Oliver! is let down by its big song and dance numbers. The choreography is oftentimes laughable, and the child actors – the Artful Dodger perhaps excepted – are too irritating for words. A couple of stand out performances and some good songs can only go so far towards redeeming this film.
A film that is entirely saved by two good performances by Fagan and Nancy. The boy cast as Oliver may look angelic and cute, but his inability to act, sing (his role was actually sang by a girl in the recording) or, in fact, do anything but a slight squint at every moment when he’s meant to react, makes this a fairly awkward film. Oliver! has some very familiar songs (more than I realised), some of which are actually quite good; but they don’t save the film from feeling very ‘ITV TV movie’ ish. I share the world’s scepticism about child actors; unfortunately with Oliver!, it is pretty difficult to get away from them, and most of them are – to put it bluntly – rubbish. Fagan gets 2 marks for a great performance, Nancy gets one and the songs another.