Monday, 14 February 2011

Of Egypt, Freedom and Déjà Vu

I've watched with the rest of the world as the people of Egypt stood up to Hosni Mubarak and won their freedom. However, I can't shake this feeling of Déjà Vu as I see the jubilant faces in Tahir square, and hear the promises of the military to hand over power to a democratically elected government at some point in the near future.

I've seen it all before.

Africa has a sad and recurrent political cycle which goes thus:
1. People feel/are oppressed
2. A hero rises and liberates the people
3. The liberator assumes leadership, amidst great celebrations
4. Said liberator overstays his welcome
5. The hero turned villain is deposed by the military, and there is dancing in the streets
6. New military leadership promises elections, but repeatedly break their promise
7. The people feel oppressed.

Rinse, and repeat.

Having grown up in Nigeria, I've seen this cycle repeat itself several times. Therefore, I'm highly skeptical of the military's plan to hand over power to an elected government anytime soon. I wish the people had allowed Mubarak to leave in a constitutional manner, after which they would have had the chance to elect a new leader. Now, I fear that Egypt is in danger of becoming a long-term military state. Time will tell if my fears are unfounded. I do hope I'm pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Movie Review: To Sir with Love (1967)

I continued my foray into old movies last week, this time choosing from the Sidney Poitier collection. To Sir With Love is a 1967 movie starring Sidney Poitier, Christian Roberts and Judy Geeson. It also features the singer Lulu, who performed the movie's theme song. The movie, which is a drama set in the east end of London, is based on the autobiographical novel of the same title written by E.R. Braithwaite and published in 1959.

To Sir with Love is about a young black out-of-work engineer, Mark Thackeray, who gets a job in an east end school and is put in charge of a notorious final form class. The class is rowdy, disrespectful, and mildly racist. Mr. Thackeray gets mixed support from his staff room colleagues; some give him helpful advice, others seem bent on emphasising the hopelessness of his situation. The movie follows his attempts to instil discipline and self-respect into his class, while constantly looking for a way out of the school.

The acting from Poitier is strong as usual, even aggressive. He clearly portrays the paradox of the well educated black migrant, who is not all he appears to be on the surface. The supporting cast varies in strength, the cockney accent letting one or two down. In some ways this movie appears dated, but once you get used to the setting and time of filming, you can get truly immersed in the drama.

The theme song by Lulu was not to my taste, but I must admit, it has been stuck in my head for the last three days! I later discovered that the song "To Sir with Love" was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967, for five weeks!

After a shaky start, I quite enjoyed this movie because of the interesting storyline, which emphasised the basic teacher/student dynamic over the more obvious racial angle. If you don't mind watching classic movies that have not been digitally restored, you have a good chance of enjoying this movie. Otherwise, you might find the picture quality to be a deterrent. Overall, I'd give this one a 6.5 out of 10.

To Sir, With Love

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Tron Legacy: Movie Review

I saw Tron: Legacy in 3D at the IMAX the other day.  Here is my review for the movie:

Tron Legacy picks up the story a few years after the end of the first movie.  We see the progress that Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has made in the company, and are given a sense that he has become obsessed with the digital world into which he entered in the original Tron (1982).  Kevin Flynn suddenly disappears one night, leaving behind a son and heir to his empire, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund).  Sam grows into a rebel, but one who retains a social conscience.  One day, he stumbles upon a golden opportunity to find out what really happened to his father, and there the story really kicks off.

Tron Legacy 3d is a visual feast, and a vast improvement on the original on many levels.  The visuals are better, the story is better and the music (by Daft Punk) is much better.  The animation of the young Jeff Bridge's face to play his digital alter ego, Clu, is not as good as I'd hoped it would be, but it definitely works in the picture.  Sections of this movie gave me goose bumps; the combination of fantastic mood-setting music, cutting edge visual effects, fantastic costume design/animation and a solid script all blended into what was certainly one of my most enjoyable Cinema outings in recent times.  I give Tron: Legacy an 8 out of 10.

While you will appreciate the drama and significance of certain events better if you see Tron (1982), this is not compulsory for the enjoyment of Tron: Legacy.  If you have the opportunity to see the original Tron first, do so - just remember to set your mind to 80's mode and forgive the dated elements.  If not, don't let that stop you.  This is a must-see for fans of science fiction everywhere.

Tron: Legacy (Amazon MP3 Exclusive Version) [+Digital Booklet]
Tron Legacy
Tron: Legacy (Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)
Tron (20th Anniversary Collector's Edition)

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Investing for the future

I've been reading a lot these days about investing for the future.  I'll be the first to admit that I've not been the best with my finances in the past.  I did pick up the odd credit card and I'm still facing the consequences of those wrong choices.  However, I'm slowly but surely breaking away from a spendthrift mentality into that of a structured saver.

Our society has gone mad on credit, and the tempting offers are everywhere.  We have been brought up on the promise of instant gratification, and in attempting to live that life, many of us have come unstuck along the way.  I'm learning now things I really should have imbibed a long time ago.  It's sort of like reading "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" all over again, but this time with a mind mature enough to take the necessary action.

I wish I'd paid attention to my father all those years ago, as he meticulously taught me and my brother to save.  Instead, I accepted the philosophy that money is for spending, not hoarding.  In attempting not to "lay up treasures on the earth" where the moth, rust and thieves can get at it, I fear I've become a poor steward of the little entrusted to me.

It's time to change.  I've started closing my credit accounts, one after another.  It will take a while, but soon I hope to be in a good position to start saving again.  From there, the master plan is to dive headlong into investing, with as diverse a portfolio as is possible.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Having joined again a few months ago, I'm revelling in the experience of watching many movies that I've been wanting to see for a while.  I haven't had much time for the cinema, so I have been able to satiate my love for movies with the excellent service from Lovefilm!

I watched 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" with my wife the other day.  It was a very well executed movie, based in 2nd World War Germany.  The story is told from the perspective of the child of a Nazi officer as he moves from a position of innocence to one of trying to make sense of the changes occurring in his world.  The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a moving tale, but not one filled with unnecessary cinematic unpleasantness.

Check out the movie trailer when you can as it will give you a good idea of whether or not this movie is for you. For me, I highly recommend it for the well developed story, believable rounded characters and undisguised message:  "Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Perfect Christmas

I've noticed a trend on British TV for things to be advertised using the phrase "the perfect..." as in "the perfect Christmas" or "the perfect kitchen".  You might think I'm overstating things, but the unnecessary raising of one's expectations in this way is more likely than not to result in disappointment.

How many of us, I wonder, had "the perfect Christmas?"  Indeed, what is the perfect Christmas?!  What makes a meal, or a birthday, or a fancy new kitchen installation "perfect"?  Are we not more used to that sensation of looking forward to something for weeks or months, only for the final event not to live up to the hype? Is this not a recurring phenomenon?  Why do we not learn to reset our expectations accordingly?

I guess that's the difference between optimism and realism.  The optimist is always looking on the bright side, regardless of the facts.  The realist hopes for the best but knows things could go otherwise.  The pessimist... well, let's leave him well alone.  I opt for the middle ground on this one.

Human beings are insatiable.  We will always want more, no matter how much we get.  I think it's important for us to understand that we live in a broken world, filled with both good and bad, and that it's unrealistic to expect things to go "perfectly" for any prolonged period of time.

So, Mr. Marketing Man, please stop trying to sell me "the perfect" anything.  I know you're just selling me a lie.