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Though often implausible and with holes in the substance of the messages it was sending out, ‘Homeland’ was an expertly executed thriller with hints of classic US Cinema.

On the 11th September 2001 the pictures broadcast around the World understandably had an immediate effect on American art, with Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Rising’ the best example of a great album reflecting the bereavement New York City was recovering from, and both The Sopranos and The West Wing recognising the US’s new outlook on a lurking domestic threat that had taken on a new menace. Over ten years later it is the knock on effect of 9/11 that has now become a factor in contemporary drama, with Season Two of The Walking Dead giving us a clever parallel of a prisoner of war, and some the best drama from outside the US, The Killing II and The Bridge, incorporating their own angles on Terrorism and War.

Homeland is different though. It isn’t about subtle analogies that are part of a broader picture; 9/11, and the continuing War on Terror, are the centrepiece. Based loosely on an Israeli drama, Prisoners of War, Homeland is at times daft and annoyingly implausible, but it is compelling throughout. The messages it sends out are debatable, but it works because it is expertly executed as a Thriller. Continue reading…

Ally Clow’s April 2012 Film Round-up

If one is torn between the darkly lit cinemas of weekday afternoons but also likes to soak up any hint of the British sun, April’s weather made the choice of where to spend your days very easy indeed. The dreary weather meant the British Box Office was up against last year for three weeks out of four and many cinephiles took solace from the wet, dank atmosphere of the outside world in the dry (but sometimes equally dank) atmosphere of the local multiplex. I spent my April catching up with some classic docs, a couple of big budget affairs, some US indie and even a horror all-nighter. Continue reading…

Something Changed

Last week the Champions League semi final second legs threw up a couple of shocks that perhaps shouldn’t have been so surprising. Firstly, there was evidence last year that Barcelona didn’t have enough depth in a squad that showed signs of tiredness towards the end of the season, and sometimes struggled to break teams down that were intent on putting all their men behind the ball. An example of this was in their last 16 match against Arsenal, when despite dominating for the best part of 180 minutes, they were nearly knocked out by a team that didn’t have a shot on target in the second leg as Nicklas Bendtner found himself in a one-on-one in the dying minutes. Meanwhile, the second thing that took the football world aback was a £50m striker scoring a goal. Continue reading…

Short Term Parking

With news that Harry Redknapp seems to have been overlooked for the England job, Author and Tottenham fan Adam Powley looks at the positives and negatives of what always looked a short-term project at White Hart Lane.

It’s the fag end of the football season and once again Tottenham Hotspur appear to be at a crossroads. It is a situation as reliable as hosepipe bans in the middle of a monsoon. And yet again the full picture is hard to discern.

From a position of being the favourite side of neutrals and poised to genuinely threaten a title challenge, Spurs are stumbling towards the finish line, seemingly rudderless, bereft of form, and with the whiff of mutiny in the ranks. Judging by the deluge of comment online, blame lies entirely with the manager once destined for the England job but now seemingly out of the running. I’m not so sure it is all down to him, though. And precedent suggests the situation is more complex than to reduce it to the faults of one individual. Continue reading…

Guernica Anniversary, Filthy MacNasty’s (26 Apr)

Breaking off from his European Tour American singer-songwriter David Rovics rearranged a planned gig in Germany and flew into London to headline the Guernica 75th Anniversary Gala, as Philosophy Football and the International Brigades Memorial Trust took over Filthy MacNasty’s, off the busy Pentonville Road, for the night. Continue reading…

GB Football Team: Tug of War

In Tom Bodell’s latest piece on the GB Football Team he looks at the tug-of-war developing over the selection of players.

The Olympic Games are not far off now and suddenly the prospect of a Team GB competing in the football seems a lot more real. Yesterday, 24th April, saw Stuart Pearce & Hope Powell’s charges take a large step towards kick off with the respective groups being drawn. Last week saw Pearce whittle his pool of players down to 80, and in three weeks time we will know exactly who will be representing these Isles this summer. Continue reading…

Members Only

On Sunday evening the PFA handed out their annual awards, a ceremony that used to take place in the last weekend in March in London, the same weekend as the League Cup Final. The conclusion of the England’s second domestic cup competition is now a month earlier, but while the PFA’s night of recognition is now a few weeks later, some of the nominees and winners reflect only a partial part of the season, so early is the voting.

Like a cliché, this season has been one of two halves, and players that have come to the Premier League in January and flourished, notably Nikica Jelavic at Everton and Papiss Cisse at Newcastle, had no chance of getting a look in the Premier League team of the Season, although players that have faded since Christmas, like David Silva and Gareth Bale, do make the team. One player who has particularly found form since a move in January is Steven Pienaar, who back at Everton is trusted by his Manager, and is effectively using the space he has given, as notably demonstrated with a beautiful equalizing goal at Old Trafford on Sunday that may prove decisive in the title race.

And the PFA Awards themselves, though not as irrelevant as player ratings in newspapers that may well have been given by a hack who has probably spent most of the game tidying up a pre-written match report, or a man-of-the-match award that has been voted for by armchair fans who could have texted their choice before any significant incident had taken place, do often deliver results that produce some degree of bemusement. Continue reading…

Three Lions on a Shirt

England fan and academic Mark Perryman writes about how the England shirt could be the most appropriate national dress of an inclusive, progressive society and how a public holiday on St George’s Day, an English National Anthem and an England Football Team in the Olympics would all also be welcome.

Footballing Identity

‘Fuck off you racist, gypo cunts.’  Bulgaria vs England, 2 September 2011

It’s around the 70th minute in England’s well-deserved 3-0 victory over Bulgaria at Sofia’s Stadion Vasil Levski stadium. Tiresome and predictable, a bunch of the locals, wannabe hooligans, lose interest in their side going down to a heavyish defeat and resort instead to winding up our players. Not the catcalls and banter we’re more used to back home but richly offensive monkey grunts and gestures. In a split second the enjoyment of an England win turns to a collective fury at the way the likes of Ashley Young, Theo Walcott and debutant Chris Smalling are being singled out for abuse simply because of the colour of their skins.

This is an angry English, mainly white, mob, pumped up with Three Lions on our chest patriotism yet knowing precisely the nature of the offence being committed against our own is racism. Of course the contradictions in that anger matter: the anti-Roma prejudice, the sexism and the physical violence which would surely have erupted if the segregation between us and them hadn’t been maintained. But the reality of that anger directed at others’ racism should not be lightly discounted either. Continue reading…

Orbital, Royal Albert Hall (10 April 2012)

After a hiatus of eight years, dance veterans Orbital have returned with a new album and, to dust off the cobwebs, they’ve been back on the road with a short UK tour which closed with a Tuesday night rendezvous at the Royal Albert Hall. It isn’t your usual setting for throwing some shapes, and the various punters (many of whom appeared to be, shall we say, “of a certain age”) were probably as baffled as the uniformed staff – the former more used to being mashed in a field somewhere and the latter to rather more stately affairs. However, once things got going and the lights from the stage started strobing across the balconies of this venerable auditorium, it all kind of made sense. Continue reading…

Mervyn Peake

Hanging in the National Portrait Gallery, dated 1932, there is an oil painting of a young man with a distinctive shock of thick black hair, which seems to stand upright and undulate at the same time, like seaweed growing from the ocean bed. Surrounded by a dark, mysterious landscape of midnight blue skies and ominous mountains, he is wide-eyed, startled, leaning back fearfully from our gaze, his neat pencil moustache an almost comic contrast to his obvious eccentricity.

The subject and the painter of the portrait are the same man: Mervyn Peake. When he created this arresting self-portrait, he was twenty-one years old.

Those who have read Peake’s work might not be surprised by his own bizarre vision of himself. His most famous novels, Titus Groan and its sequel Gormenghast, could only ever been the work of the man in that portrait. Dream-like and melancholy, often sinister and full of bizarre characters – yet with a strong thread of humour running through them – the Gormenghast novels were ahead of their time when they were published in the 1940s. Frankly, they still are. Continue reading…

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