The Real War on Women

Today is Malala Day as designated by Gordon Brown and the UN. There’s also a petition doing the rounds to get this inspirational woman nominated for the Nobel peace prize. Coming just days after a bitterly fought US election and just weeks after Malala Yusufzai was shot in the head (and two classmates injured) for simply wanting to go to school, it’s a timely reminder of just where the “real war on women” is taking place.

There is no better place in the world right now to be a woman than in a liberal western democracy. Ask any Iranian or Saudi female not married to an oil sheikh. So when  Sandra Fluke and others say there’s a US “war on women” and crazy right-wing maniacs are the enemy, she’s denigrating the unutterable bravery of teens like Malala who run the risk of Taliban retribution every time they open a textbook and start reading.

Ms Fluke you may recall is the 30-year-old “student” who campaigned earlier this year for her college health care scheme to include contraception. The issue — along with others — became an amorphous mass of stuff with which to beat certain politicians — mostly on the Republican side. Granted there were some awful comments during the campaign that I’d like to think Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock will want to forget (but which sadly I suspect they’re proud of), but to persist with the “war on women” rhetoric even as Malala was being given life-saving treatment is plain nuts.

It is of course always dangerous when middle-aged blokes start pontificating about women’s sex lives but I don’t think I’m sticking my neck out too far by contending that contraception is not a “right”. And for the record the same goes for the guys — many have commented how unfair it is that men in the US are permitted a vascectomy on the public dime therefore why shouldn’t women get free condoms? Both are bad and in a country $16 trillion in debt a ridiculous indulgence. So when the Sandra Flukes of the world describe having to pay for contraceptions as an “offensive, obsolete relic of our past” in the same week that a teenager gets shot for simply wanting to go to school it leaves an unpleasant taste in all our mouths. The obsolete offensive stuff is not happening in America — it’s happening right now in the Af-Pak region where the Taliban have quite literally declared war on women. And even if the loons on the Republican party had their way the worst that could happen is some states would ban abortion and America’s women would have to shell out some small change for a pack of Trojan Twisters.

And as for the peace prize I say seize the moment & do it now. If Mr Barroso and the other elites of the EU had any idea of the concept of symbolism they would all be on a plane to Birmingham, UK tonight headed to the ward where Malala is recovering. The EU’s prize, awarded just two days after Malala was shot, is the worst case of lazy Swedish thinking since Abba mangled the lyrics to Fernando. That gold medal belongs in Swat not Brussels.



Skyfall — worthy of an Oscar?

So John Logan wants a screenplay oscar for Skyfall . . . well it’s a good film to be sure although I thought Casino Royale pipped it for overall entertainment value. But is any Bond screenplay really worthy of academy attention?

From a dialogue point of view the early scenes in Skyfall are good. The usual terse exhanges setting up the initial plot point are great but later on they really start motoring with Bond’s word association psychological test which is a hoot and, I suspect, was great fun to write: the initial tightening of the tension as Bond and the boffin sqaure up followed by the bland word play itself seemingly leading nowhere until boom . . . the boffin says ‘Skyfall’ and Bond walks out (not a spoiler by the way). This scene is brilliantly conceived and a wonderful way of hooking us into the rest of the story. If, like me, you went into the film thinking its title was just another lame baddie’s lair or some dastardly evil weapon then you will be pleasantly surprised.

The biggest glitch however, comes in the scene where Bond is driving M up north in the old Aston Martin DB5 which was originally used in Goldfinger. M starts complaining about something and Bond reaches down and flips the cap of the gearstick to reveal an enticing red button . . . nuff said right there you would think but no, they go and ruin it with M’s response which made me groan out loud (“Go ahead eject me, see if I care”). I can almost picture the conversation: “Whoa . . . we gotta explain what that red button is for right?”, “Yeah might confuse some people”.  How much better would it have been for Bond to flick that cap, and let his thumb hover ominously over the button with a mock evil “be quiet or else” stare at M. Even if you haven’t seen Goldfinger, there can be few out there who aren’t familiar with Bond’s gadget-obsessed past and if you are one of the few then it was already explained to you earlier on in the film (in the scene where Q explains that flashy “exploding pens” are a thing of the past). Treat the audience like grown-ups and they’ll love you for it — the internal joy at getting subtle references pays out far more than short term exposition. Admittedly some films take this too far — anyone who says they got all of “Angel Heart” at first sitting is as full of BS as the folks who say they saw the twist in “Sixth Sense” coming a mile away.

In books the mantra is always more show and less tell (as the Query Shark never tires of explaining) although I’ve always maintained a teensy bit of tell on the page is ok now and again. In movies however, it’s unforgivable.  As a screenwriter you have an extra weapon at your disposal that novelists would die for: vision. So if you can’t get the message across with 80-feet of great big in-your-face visuals plus a smattering of chiselled prose then I’m afraid that writing Oscar must wait ’til next time.






Rediscovered track of the month: Nov ’12

Whitesnake with Steve Vai . . .

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