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Best films of the year by A Long chalk

December 29th, 2014 Comments off

Everyone’s doing it, ’tis the season to be listing, cinephiles abounding – so here’s my pick of the flicks for the year that lies expiring.

The rider is that I haven’t seen either Mr Turner or The Imitation Game, which I suspect might have made the AL-List. The controversy is that I HATED Calvary, sorry to be disloyal to the Irish industry but it was a soggy pudding of cliches with the cherry of Brendan Gleeson’s ever-reliable performance skill on top. And you won’t see much-hailed Boyhood here, either. It was nice. But nice is not great, and the film’s main distinction seemed to be that it took 12 years to make.

So, taking it from first place…

  1. Jake Gyllenhaal brilliant, creepy, unsettling. Director Dan Gilroy.

  2. Under The Skin. Scarlett drives around Glasgow picking up men who end up in ooze (spoiler alert). Genuine art.
  3. Locke. Tom Hardy in a car. Yet you are riveted for 85 minutes. Respect for writer/director Stephen Knight.
  4. Two Days One Night. Belgian everyday excellence.
  5. Maps to the Stars. Julianne Moore sticks in the memory most from Cronenberg’s latest.
  6. What We Do In the Shadows. Silly, perhaps, but very funny. You expect that from Jemaine Clement, but the main vampire, Taika Waititi, was new to me and utterly enchanting.
  7. Frank. Not as mad about it as some, but it was different and well-done.
  8. Mystery Road. This Aussie movie starring Aaron Pedersen was perhaps not as widely seen as it deserved.
  9. Grand Budapest Hotel. Enjoyable whimsy from Wes Anderson with fine performance from Ralph Fiennes.
  10. My 10 was going to be Despues de Lucia, a Mexican film about bullying among teenagers – but although I saw it this year it came out in 2012. Highly recommended. Don’t be put off by what sounds like an unoriginal idea, for it’s masterly execution by Michel Franco.
  11. A substitute 10 would be Her, Spike Jonze’s movie about a man who falls in love with Scarlett Johansson’s voice. The Irish Times has it on its list, but does it qualify as a 2014 film?

Read more…

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On Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat – the ‘asocial media’ emerge

November 21st, 2014 Comments off

It’s good to see the Irish authorities have reached the stage of public consultation on fine-tuning changes to existing laws so they cover bad behaviour on digital platforms.

But why not a whole new law, even a suite of laws? As netizens [ugh], or rather people who overwhelmingly both work and play via the internet, we should have controls that refer specifically to this environment. It’s no longer possible to pretend that the wonderful freedom and openness of the web can be a highway without road-signs and restrictions.

More and more, the unlovely side of the internet comes into view. And that’s without discussing the Dark Web, hard-core porn and its trade, ditto for drugs and weapons.

Up in the sunny, noisy, hillsides of ‘social media’ it’s becoming ever more clear, to anyone with sensitivity and clear sight, that the term ‘social’ denoting a big open party is a misnomer. Even the implication that social implies a concern and regard for one another is often inaccurate.

More often it should be ‘asocial media’. ‘Asocial’ means ‘without society’. And individuals such as those who threatened athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill with sexual violence after she stated she would not support the re-employment of a convicted rapist at Sheffield football club should not be welcome in any society. They have no regard from others, except for those who confront them in the flesh. Read more…

Why aren’t there more women in the digital business world?

November 6th, 2014 Comments off

As I write these words on November 6 2014 [there’s a classic intro for you], the Web Summit in Dublin is about to hear a talk about the topic of the scarcity of women at such gatherings, and in the world of digital technology in general.

Coincidentally, I’m watching a webinar from the US, sponsored by the Knight Foundation, on open data and ‘the next big thing’. There’s a lot of talk about open data and emerging platforms, and the first panel featured four men and one woman.

In the second session, a woman did give the presentation, but, to the relief of the stereotype-seekers, she was dressed in shapeless jeans, shirt and jumper and messed up hair. Just like a male geek (the term will not give offence, I hope, for it is so short and handy).

I’ve been to so many conferences and hackathons, so many meetings on digital issues of interest, such as open data, and yes, females are in the minority. At a BBC-sponsored hackathon in Dublin earlier this year I handcounted the crowd of around 120, and put it at about eight to one. But why the hand-wringing? Why oh why aren’t there more women in this field?

I’ll tell you why. Read more…

Media of all kinds needs clear ethics

August 26th, 2014 Comments off

Because it can: death, respect and distasteful coverage 

WE all know why a dog licks its testicles: because it can.

That inelegant intro is the key to the recent furores over media behaviour in the wake of two tragedies – the death of Robin Williams on August 11, and the execution of James Foley on August 19.

Both incidents unleashed torrents of coverage on both professional and social media, and came to raise issues of contemporary importance for both streams. The events also highlighted the difference in ethical attitudes between the two streams – the old, legacy, sclerotic media, as some would depict it, compared to the swift, chatty, pervasive digital-only style.

Both men died violently: all streams of media have had an evolving relationship with handling death. Death, as I’ve often argued in lectures, is the fulcrum for all current affairs news. Death is what we all fear, so when it happens to others it is a cause of horrified fascination. Anything that might hasten our own deaths, whether it be an excess of alcohol, road traffic, a meteor colliding with earth or radon gas under the ground, is also riveting because of its possible implications. Read more…

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Israel is not fighting a just war

July 29th, 2014 Comments off

Obvious, really – with a thousand dead on one side, including many non-combatants, and only one civilian on the other side, and 45 military men.

But the argument is becoming so muddied with claim and counter-claim, with allegations that Hamas routinely and callously hides its rocket launchers in schools and hospitals, that an examination of the basics of just war theory should be made.

A just war is a proportional war: if one boy steals another boy’s pocket money, then he should be punished. But not beaten to a pulp by a gang of six men, we would all agree.

If a member of a diplomatic mission is found to be a spy, it is fair enough for him or her to be expelled – but not for the home country to sit a tank outside the offending embassy and fire short-range missiles into it.

Israel has a grievance and legitimate security concerns. But the answer to its problem is not to wipe the Palestinian people off the face of the earth, no matter how much many of its political leaders and supporters would like this to happen. Read more…

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