Sunday, November 26, 2006

World Trade Center - a review of a great film

World Trade Center (125 mins), Oliver Stone’s film of the events in New York on 11th of September, 2001 is a fitting memorial to everyone who lost their life that day. It would seem to fit into the disaster movie genre, filled previously by Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure and the more recent Pearl Harbour. The truth is that it is as unlike those films as it could be – it is in a class – a genre of its own. 9/11 as we have since come to call it was arguably America’s worst, blackest day since the Japanese attacked the US Naval Base in the Pacific. World Trade Centre goes further than Pearl Harbour ever did.

No single handed heroics, hair brained attempts at avenging the atrocity, no big name actor’s ego to caress and build up (Nicholas Cage spent most of the film speaking in pained single syllables under the wreckage of one of the buildings) – this was as near to the real thing as we are probably going to get from Hollywood, certainly the nearest to how it felt in the catastrophe, for most of us, hopefully..

Unlike Pearl Harbour, this film had no ridiculous sub plot to lead us in – only McLoughlin- Cage, getting ready to go out onto the streets of New York on duty as a PAPD (Port Authority Police Dept.) cop. Looking in on his four sleeping children was the only sub plot we needed – who could need more on such a fateful morning.

We quickly went through the morning’s briefings and then we were into it – a puzzling, loud thud of an explosion somewhere, and then streets full of paper – dumbfounded commuters looking up at the towers, and then we were in the building – and it felt real. The building collapsed and Cage and his men were plunged into the Hell created by those two aircraft.

We heard the appalling crashes, watched the surviving two keep each other alive talking, and the film took us from the bowels of the destruction to the families coping with the news that hit everybody that day. For them it was more than unbelievable images on TV, it was the end – or threatened to be.

Stone showed Bush say something to the US and the watching world – who could have done otherwise in a film dealing with such a national emergency – but nothing more of what was to follow – what has followed to this day. Stone let the story of survivors and the bereaved tell itself. He did what no other producer has ever done – he left out a contrived sub-plot and just went for the shock and horror of it all. This was no news report or documentary – this was the first of its kind; a film that left the movie industry out of it. This a great film, but it is not entertainment. If it leaves any message, it is that life is precious – we sometimes forget that!
Robert L. Fielding

Friday, November 17, 2006

Air and Angels

‘Air and Angels’: a musical serenade
Gabriele Malzahn – mezzosoprano
Camilla Hoitenga – flute
Stephen Aston - piano

Al Ain Rotana Hotel gardens
Thursday 16th November 2006

With a gentle breeze welcoming the large audience, a backdrop of palm trees and an occasional punctuation by builders working nearby, the musical evening began.

The flautist, Camilla Hoitenga, accompanied by our Stephen Aston on piano, started off with Jean-Marie Leclair’s Sonata in G Major. The persistent tappings, drillings and bangings from the construction site disturbed the ambience of the occasion somewhat but did nothing to diminish the beauty of the music.

The mezzosoprano, Gabriele Malzahn, came onto the platform to sing ‘Allerseelen’, a song Richard Strauss composed while only 20 years of age.

For many, the highlight of this first half must have been the entrancing solo for flute and voice, ‘Laconisme de l’aile’ by Kaija Saariaho. The flautist, Camilla Hoitenga gave a ‘tour de force’, combining aspiration, words and notes to haunt the air and mesmerize the audience.

Tea and coffee, served by liveried waiters, courtesy of the Rotana Hotel was welcomed, and the second half of the concert soon began, happily without the accompaniment of hammers and nails.

A lively caprice by Russell Webber settled the audience, before the soloist sang an example of Brahms’ ‘Lieder’, ‘Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer’, written, as the full programme notes informed us, when he was in his prime as a composer.

A rousing Shakespeare song came next; the well known ‘Hey, Ho, the Wind and the Rain’ set to music by Roger Quilter.

It was in the three traditional folk songs though, that the singer showed the range of her expertise; in the well known Irish folksongs, ‘The Salley Gardens’, ‘The foggy dew’, and then in W.B. Yeats’ ‘She moved through the fair’, Gabriela Malzahn moved from Hibernian trills to longer phrasing to keep the appreciative audience dazzled on this delightful evening of musical entertainment.

Finishing off with Charles Ives’ ‘Old Home Day’, and braving the stronger gusts of wind that constantly threatened to put their sheets to flight, the three performers gave us some more of what the evening had offered: precision accompaniment from Stephen, dexterity and flair from Camilla, and polish and virtuosity from Gabriele.

Let us hope the three can be prevailed upon again soon: to entertain us, and to give so many teachers the chance to dress up in their finery and enjoy an evening of fine music – while the glorious weather lasts!

Robert L. Fielding

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

When is ‘cool’ not so cool – speed kills

Young people always want to be cool – to be seen to be cool – thought of as being cool – acting cool. But what is ‘cool’? It used to be doing your own thing – being an individual – something else. Being cool was never doing what everybody else is doing – it is/was always about making your own mark on your bit of the world.

Something else about ‘cool’ – you grow out of being it; it’s a youth thing. Youngsters soon grow out of motorcycles, weird clothes, loud pop music, trying to impress the opposite sex all the time, and getting up their teachers’ noses.

Some things are different though – speed still attracts the young, and the not so young. Driving with your foot down and flashing past slower vehicles is still attractive. What is not quite so popular is the devastating consequence of speed when it all goes wrong.

Because make no mistake, speeding soon leads to losing control – and that leads to death and horrible injury – to sadness and devastation – to lives ruined.

As the needle travels around the arc on your speedometer, as you go faster and faster, the chances of having an accident also climb – faster than the needle on the dial.

The reaction time you are capable of stays the same, but the time on the ground diminishes to nothing. All you need is another car crossing your path, slowing down in front of you, or worse, a person – a child in front of you and that’s the end – for all.

For the people who get killed, it is literally the end of their life on this earth, for people horribly injured, it is the end of a normal life, for relatives and friends of the victims, it’s the end of friendships, families – life.

And for you, the person who caused the accident, but who escaped physically unhurt, it is also the end – what you have done – what you were responsible for – what you caused to happen through your carelessness, through wanting to be cool by driving too fast – surprise surprise – it’s the end of your life as an innocent person.

As we all know, we meet our fate no matter what. The Police let us off, but our minds will not.
And that’s the strange thing – that if you had behaved as an individual – had thought before acting and then behaved responsibly, you would really be cool – forever – in everyone’s eyes – you would have become a member of the human race – respected, beloved, revered in everyone’s eyes, and most importantly, in your own – now that IS cool!
Robert L. Fielding