Thursday, 31 May 2012

TV Review: Panorama - Stadiums of Hate BBC1

With Euro 2012 starting in just over a week Panorama's timely expose on racism in football in Poland and Ukraine will certainly have put off a sizeable percentage of England fans pondering whether to make a last minute trip. That is unless they happen to be white supremacist skin heads who will think they have died and gone to Hitler heaven.

UEFA talks a good game claiming a "zero tolerance" policy but in reality despite the high minded rhetoric their weak history of paltry fines and sanctions have failed to change the deep rooted cultural values in some of Europe's less "enlightened" countries.

Reporter Chris Rogers hardly needed to go to Donald Macintyre levels of undercover reporting to expose blatant racism at the stadia. It is unavoidable and at every ground he attended.

In Lodz, the 3rd largest city in Poland, RTS Widzew Ultras have such a propensity for violence that at derby games away fans were banned. This didn't stop the violence kicking off as home supporters just start attacking police instead. Once inside the ground there is repeated anti-semitic chanting and huge banners reading

"Death To The Jewish Whore"

an insult directed and the Jewish founders of the opposition team.  There are huge murals in the town declaring the Jews should go to the gas chamber. The authorities don't seem to be in any hurry to cover them up.  I can imagine Lodz it is particularly difficult place to get a bagel.

Its not just opposition fans that suffer racist abuse. Widzew fans are so moronic they insult their own players. Rogers interviews two black Widzew players (who really need to sack their agents) Ugo Ukah and Prince Okachi who confirm they are repeatedly subjected to monkey chants during games

"I just try to ignore it as so many people do it"

Rogers sees similar anti-Semitic chanting and white power symbolism occurring in the Krakow stadium where rival supporters are separated by Plexiglas. Instead of attacking each other they lash out at stewards and police. At times it’s easy to forget its 2012 and not 1972.

If you thought Poland was bad in Ukraine things appear to be even worse. In Kiev a whole section of supporters is filmed barracking a couple of black players with monkey chants with small kids in the crowd joining in.

At the Metalist Stadium in Karkiv vast swathes of fans including a good few women shout "Zeig Heil" in unison and raise their arms in a Nazi salute. Rogers puts his concerns to the local police commissioner who flatly denies any claims of racism

"It's not a Nazi salute. They were just pointing in the direction of opposition fans"

It is clear from his laughable denial there is absolutely no appetite from the powers that be to stop this sort of behaviour.

Far right organisations have an insidious grip on Ukrainian society and see the terraces as a fertile recruitment ground. Rogers speaks to a leader of Patriots for Ukraine who is completely open and happy to be on camera explaining how they round up and beat people who they think are immigrants (i.e. any brown people) ready for deportation.  They are proud of their work to preserve

"One race, one nation, one Fatherland"

Rogers is also shown secret training camps where masked recruits are taken to the woods and taught how to fight and use weapons. It would probably be a good idea for any black or Asian England fans to brush up on their knife skills just in case as even the UK government advises they should take extra care in the Ukraine due to their volatile brand of racism.

The most shocking scenes occur back at the Metalist stadium. Rogers manages to get into the hardcore section of fans and bang on cue a fight occurs just behind him. Then cameras spot a group of Ultras making a beeline for some Asian supporters in their end who they then proceed to stamp on and punch repeatedly in the face. This all happens in front of police and stewards who do nothing.

Rogers catches up with them as there injuries are tended to and they confirm they are students studying in the Ukraine who thought they would be safe in the family end.

"We were supporting the home team!"

one of them exclaims disbelievingly and confirms

"the police we not helpful at all".

It has all kicked off since the airing of the programme with Sol Campbell's assertations that visiting England fans "will come back in a coffin" with predictably strong rebuttals from event director Markian Lubkivsky who describes Campbell’s comments as "insolent".

Mario Balotelli has wisely managed to calm things down with his measured contribution to the debate

"If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail because I will kill them"

I'm sure this will in no way see him targeted in a hail of Fyffes next time he steps on the pitch.

Despite this year’s unfortunate and idiotic blips by Suarez/Terry, in the UK the scenes are so shocking beacuse they are images of a bygone past which we have worked hard to eradicate. Watching these backward countries behave in this manner shows us how far we have come in the last 30 years. But let's not kid ourselves, even in supposedly developed countries with rich footballing histories such as Italy and Spain the spectre of racism is rife and the continuing empty gestures by UEFA will do little to change the status quo.

You can watch it here for the foreseeable future

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Live Music Review : James Vincent McMorrow - Brighton Dome

I'm a man who likes to think he has his finger on the musical pulse of the nation but I have to admit I'd never heard of this guy before a friend recommended him.  The rest of the Brighton Festival was its usual mix of pretentious guff and obscure "art" masquerading as "entertainment" so it was a nice attempt to inject a palatable bit of culture into the diet.

With his debt album Early In the Morning only released last year the only sign the beardy Dubliner's head had risen above the musical parapet was his cover of Steve Winwood's Higher Ground getting airplay on the Lovefilm adverts.

It seems I'm not the only one new to the McMorrow experience as judging by the empty seats booking the 1800 seater Dome for this show seemed to be a bit on the optimistic side.  Not just that but all seater gigs shouldn't work. It's like expecting people to wear black tie to a waterpark. It just feels wrong. Despite these pitfalls McMorrow turns out a performance of spine-tingling proportions that he described on Twitter as

"One of my favourite shows of all time"

McMorrow's harmonious melancholy enters the conciousness at the right time coming as it does in the wake of Fleet FoxesBon Iver, Noah and The Whale and Mumford and Sons who have created something of a Nu-folk scene in last couple of years.  It has be said that McMorrow inhabits the quieter side of the folk spectrum. 

His emotionally fragile songs have a quiet knack of reducing the crowd to an awed silence. During Follow Me Down To The Red Oak Tree,  Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft and Low and We Are Ghosts you can literally hear a pin drop in the audience.

Whilst a respectful silence pervades during the songs to the point where people don't even sing along for risk of disrupting the harmonies, McMorrow attracts a certain kind of devotee, one who wants to declare their undying love for him at every gap in the songs. One woman starts to have a personal conversation during the set is if McMorrow is playing alone to her in her front room.

She is determined to dance to his songs even though McMorrow warns her they are a bit downbeat and don't have much of a "tempo". In the end he offers her the diplomatic,

"Do as your heart desires"

before jokingly asking for security to escort her from the premises. You've got to love Brighton's resident posse of drug-addled nutcases.

He kicks off with the upbeat Sparrow and the Wolf whose rousing chorus could be a track off Mumford and Sons Sigh No More only substituting banjo for mandolin.

For fans of harmonies, McMorrow's set is a treat, during And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop the talented band engage in some beautiful four part harmonies with McMorrow's keening falsetto gilding the lily. And what an fantastic falsetto it is, recalling Prince, Neil Young and Sam Sparro its soulfulness offset by the predominantly folksy backdrop.

There are flavours of Nashville  with bar room piano on Breaking Hearts and slide guitar On if I Had A Boat  that recall dusty mining saloons of a bygone American wild west, the latter reaching a lung-busting crescendo.  McMorrow's atmospheric songs make perfect soundtrack fodder.

With a bandage on his finger McMorrow warns the crowd they may get an unexpected jazz version of Higher Love as he is may be a bit cack handed on the keyboard. He mentions Tyler James' cover on The Voice and jokingly not getting a name check even though the song was originally recorded by Steve Winwood. It is note perfect and gets the loudest cheer of the night.

If the pace had been somewhat sedate until this point McMorrow proves he can "do" tempo where he quickens pulses for an instant as he belows out a warning in the coda in From The Woods!! and then morphs the blue-eyed soul of We Don't Eat into an unexpected thumper with dual drum kits that betray McMorrows roots as a rock drummer.

For the encore Mcmorrow ditches the band and we get an unual choice of cover of Bloodbuzz Ohio which McMorrow

"just felt like playing"

by fellow beardies The National.  It is completely stripped down from the bombastic original and is the only misfire of the night.

He finishes off with Early in the morning. which to me sounds like a long lost school hymn with its multilayered harmonies and simple melody here performed by the entire band.  Truly beautiful.

The album on which McMorrow plays all instruments and recorded all vocals is a must listen and if there is any justice in the world when word gets out empty seats at his gigs will be a thing of the past.

Set List

Sparrow and the Wolf
And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop
Follow Me Down To The Red Oak Tree
Breaking hearts
Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft And Low
We Are Ghosts
Higher Love
Down The Burning Ropes
Red Dust
From the woods!!
We Don't Eat
This Old Dark Machine
If I Had Boat


Bloodbuzz Ohio
Early In The Morning

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Worst Spanish Movie Title Translations In The World…Ever

There is nothing like and extremely niche blog subject to guarantee no one ever will bother to read it.  Inspired by my travels around Latin America where I started to notice some very odd film titles on well known films I decided to put together a few of my favourites.

The reasons for these linguistic oddities are obvious.  Some titles just do not translate well, their subtly and double meaning lost in translation like Dandelion seeds on a gusty day. As a result distributors need to improvise and cater to movie tastes that may be less sophisticated than those in the established English speaking countries.  Hence much word based hilarity when the titles are translated back into their native English.  Those kraazeee latinos!

Film: Die Hard

Spanish Title: Jungla de Cristal

Translation: The Crystal Jungle

The movie poster promises forty floors of action and adventure. Not sure how much action occurred on floor 12 of the Nakatomi Plaza as the bulk of the action centred on the lobby "Do you think you really have a chance against us, Mr Cowboy?" and the roof " Figure we take out the terrorists. Lose twenty, twenty-five percent of the hostages, tops. I can live with that."

Not a completely off the wall translation as John McLane’s shimmying down elevator cables and treading barefoot on shattered windows does give the illusion of Willis racing around a steel and glass jungle.

Film: Ferris Beuller’s Day Off

Spanish Title: Todo En Un Dia (O Como Montarselo Bien)

Translation: Everything In A Day (Or How To Have A Good Time)

 I like this one.  There is something quite innocent and charming about this translation.  Ferris does indeed get up to a lot of mischief during his day playing hookey including stealing a Ferrari 250GT, watching a Cubs game and riding a parade float. 

When I bunked of school that one time the most I got up to was a kickabout in a local park.  We only all got caught because there was a fire alarm and a register was taken.  My Dad was surprisingly sanguine about he whole affair. But I digress.

Film High Plains Drifter

Spansih Title: Infierno de Cobardes

Translation: A Coward’s Hell

 Not such a odd translation as the dusty mining town of Lago is painted red and rechristened “Hell” at the behest of Eastwood’s mysterious stranger in this top notch Western. He takes advantage of its townsfolk who offer him anything he wants to protect them from a marauding gang of outlaws. 

They soon show themselves to be backstabbing, lily-livered varmints who crumble at the force of a few gunslingers as soon as Eastwood isn’t there to protect them.

Barber:"What did you say your name was again?"
Eastwood: "I didn't!"

Film: The Adjustment Bureau

Spanish Title: Destino Oculto

Translation: Hidden Destination

Based on the Philip K Dick short story The Adjustment Team about a shadowy Big Brother type organisation which “adjusts” peoples lives to fit a nebulous grand plan. Think Men in Black meets 1984, Matt Damon plays the put on David Norris who tries to take it to “The Man” with mixed results. The spanish strapline is

"They stole his future, Now he wants it back"

This is a piss poor translation as they barely seem to have bothered choosing anything relevant to the film.  Could the hidden destinations referto the secret doors the Bureau use to zip between locations?

They may as well have called it “You Are Nothing But Puppets!”

Film: Sideways

Spanish Title: Entre Copas

Translation: Inbetween Drinks

Paul Giamatti has a mid life crisis, gets depressed and drinks lots of wine in this whip-smart indie flick.  Seeing as he spends a lot of time visiting Santa Barbara’s vineyards this is quite an appropriate title and perhaps an allegory to the state of Giamatti’s life that is slipping by between glasses of Pinot Noir.

Film:True Grit

Spanish Title El Valor de Ley

Translation: The Benefit of Law

A rather bland but apt translation as Haillee Steinfeld gets both a US Marshall (the taciturn Jeff Bridges) and a Texas Ranger (arrogant Matt Damon) on her side as she tracks her father’s murderer in this better-than-the-original remake.

Seeing as the Cogburn saves her ass at the end, the benefit of law in this case is quite a considerable one. Spanish strapline:
"The punishment always arrives"

Film: Inception

Spanish Title: El Origen

Translation: The Origin

Your mind is the scene of the crime claims the poster. Interesting that the translator stays true to the cryptic nature of the film with another cryptic title obliquely referencing the fact that viewers will have trouble establishing which reality they are witnessing as DiCaprio’s travels deeper into his subconscious.

Film: Knocked Up

Spanish Title: Ligeramente Embarazada

Translation: Lightly Pregnant

Taking the joke that you can’t be a lapsed virgin or a casual suicide bomber to its logical conclusion this is a fairly decent effort and shows even Latinos have a sense of humour. Viewers are asked to be generous with their artistic licence and believe that afro-haired fat-body Seth Rogen realistically would have a cat in hells chance of impregnating the beautiful Katherine Heigl. 

Sadly the distributors opted not to go for  ”La Concepcion Improbable.”

Film: Get Him To The Greek

Spanish Title: Todo Sobre Mi Desmadre

Translation: All About My Mess

The “mess” in question refers to the wild ride of drug taking & groupie shagging partaken by egotistical rock star Aldous Huxley (played with unerring conviction by Russell Brand).  The “Greek” in the title refers to the theatre Huxley is playing in his comeback show.

Film-makers should follow this simple equation: Stupid title in English = bland title in Spanish

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Exploding Helicopter - Avengers Assemble

The geek shall inherit the earth; or so it seems, as these days every other cinematic release seems to be a comic book adaptation. The Avengers Assemble has got the fan-boys salivating due to it containing not one but six superheroes each fighting for the Oscar for “Best Use of Tights in a Movie”

The Avengers have been assembled from around the world as the Earth is threatened by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the Norse god of campness, who intent on world domination has stolen an energy cube of unlimited power called the Tesseract who he plans to give to the leader of a hostile alien race in exchange for a subservient army he can use to subjugate the citizens of the earth. MWA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAA!!! All complete cobblers of course but hey, what were you expecting? Schindler’s List?

At the start of the film Loki manages to steal the Tesseract from a remote research facility and as he makes his escape triggers a huge implosion that opens up the ground and swallows up the entire army base. Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) escapes the devastation in the nick of time and chases down the power crazed Loki and his brainwashed team in a military chopper.

He catches up with Loki who sends up a plasma shot from his sceptre that whacks into the helicopters tail causing into to lose altitude and spin. It goes down hard with rotors whipping into the mud as it skids to a halt. Despite plenty of flame and loose shrapnel the helicopter's chassis stays in one piece allowing Fury to scramble out looking a bit dustier then before. They obviously make helicopters a bit tougher these days.

Artistic merit

This is a terrible case of director Joss Whedon fluffing his lines by not giving the public what they want i.e a decent helicopter explosion. EHHQ are noticing a worrying trend of helicopters withstanding huge impacts without going up in flames. A salutary lesson that advances in technology do not always benefit us all.

Exploding helicopter innovation

None really, If I had a pound for every helicopter downed by alien hordes with plasma weapons I’d have £6.

Do passengers survive?

Yes, Nick Fury emerges dazed but resolutely alive. Rule 3 of exploding helicopter law. If a major character who is a “good guy” goes down in a chopper he will live to tell the tale.


Whilst I did not enjoy it as much as Iron Man (which stands alone as a cohesive and entertaining film irrespective of superhero fairy dust) The Avengers is a fun movie. With its smart dialogue and galaxy of A-listers it comes across as a comic book Oceans’ Eleven.

Robert Downey Jnr is his usual charismatic self and steals most of his scenes. Mark Ruffalo makes for a likeable and plausible Hulk and brings back the vulnerability and nuances that Ed Norton fought for in the superior sequel to The Hulk.

The action sequences are, as you would expect, retina-searingly superb and the climactic mega battle over the NYC skyline does feel like a high octane rollercoaster ride. Although converted in post production the film it is well worth forking out the extra £2 to watch in 3D.


Whilst a solid movie I felt Avengers Assemble, as is typical with Hollywood these days, was overlong and flabby in places. The story is the typical convoluted fantasy nonsense that you would expect when shoehorning all these great superhero characters into one story for teenage loners to jizz over. But it has got universally good reviews, so what the f*ck do I know.

Chris Hemsworth acting is as wooden as the handle on Thor’s hammer and Scarlett Johansen as Agent Natasha Romanov/Black Widow only special power, as far as I can tell, is the ability to look foxy in a cat suit. She doesn’t even bother with a Russian accent.

Speaking of accents why does Hollywood still insist on making all its sound English? The licence fee is being pretty well spent if Asgardians are able to receive BBC World Service in order to practice their diction before taking over the Earth.

Oh, and Loki is the gayest supervillain since Larry Grayson donned a turban and played Jafar, the evil Sorcerer, in the South Shields season of Aladdin in 1975.

Favorite Quote:

(Tony Stark to Bruce Banner on his ability to keep the Hulk under control):

“You really have got a lid on it, haven't you? What's your secret? Mellow jazz? Bongo drums? Huge bag of weed?”

Interesting Fact :

Ed Norton is known to be a “challenging” actor and it is common knowledge that he made director Louis Leterrier rewrite the script to The Incredible Hulk in order to reduce the action and focus on the emotional elements of the film. He was all set to reprise his role in The Avengers until Marvel got cold feet. Studio head Kevin Feige released this statement.

"We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in The Avengers. Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.”

Ouch. In effect what he is saying is that Norton is prima donna and they want to work with someone who is cheaper and less hassle. Norton being a class act has resisted the temptation to be dragged into a war of words but his agent came back saying Marvel’s statement was

“Unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory”.

The lesson here? Don’t p*ss off Ed Norton’s agent. You won’t like him when he’s angry.