The Men Who Stare at Goats, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, screenplay by Peter Straughan, adapted from a book by Jon Ronson, and directed by Grant Heslov.

In many ways this is George Clooney’s creation. He’s listed as one of the producers. Producers are the guys (and it is usually men) who get the money together to make a movie. Because he’s George Clooney he can do that kind of thing. Other people will fling money at him, because it’s a no-lose situation, a film starring George Clooney is bound to make money, and if it’s any good, it’ll make a lot of money, but the stars need to be aligned.

George Clooney stars with different haircuts and uniforms, but the same sugary smile he’s perfected over the years. His character Lyn Skip Cassady is ex-American army, and there are flashbacks to the time when the US military set up a shadowy organisation to create psychic warriors and conquer hearts and minds by making love, not war. Army maverick Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) led them to places they couldn’t have dreamed. Bridges re-jigs his role as The Dude, but in army military bases.  But The Men Who Stare at Goats is much more fun than The Big Lebowski. I laughed  aloud several times, and that doesn’t usually happen unless an old woman falls in front of a truck after jumping over a skipping rope.

We know all this because Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) tells us about his journey with Cassady on the road to enlightenment in an Iraq that is being liberated or conquered by American troops (depending on your point of view). There’s the realist tone Umberto Eco adopts in his masterpiece Foucault’s Pendulum with the ridiculous rubbing shoulders with reality. Cassady regrets, for example, under military orders letting his ego run wild, staring at a goat and stopping its heart. He admits that it might just have been coincidence, him staring and the bleating animal’s heart stopping, but he doesn’t believe in coincidences.

Cassady’s mission is so hush-hush, he’s not even sure what it is himself. He needs to find his former guru, The Dudeless Bill Django in a desert without road signs. The right road is often the wrong road as they are taken hostage by Islamic fundamentalists. But that’s a mere blip in Cassady’s inner radar, as Bob Wilton makes the inner journey from sceptic to true believer.

Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) is our Judas and nemesis of free-love and free-wheeling Django and Cassady in the military and world at large. (This was before Spacey was publically shamed, some would see that as proof of the dark side. Other examples being the large numbers of cast members that died in strange circumstance after making The Omen).

Whatever—this is a great and fun movie. George Clooney has never been better as George Clooney, Ewan McGregor even gets in on the act. Well worth watching for Dude-less fans. Try it.

Alan Warner (1995) Morvern Callar

morvern callar.jpg

In my smug way I thought I’d read  Morvern Caller before and been unimpressed. I vaguely remembered a film of Alan Warner’s book starring Ewan McGregor. I was reading an interview director Lynne Ramsay gave to The Observer. I had another look at the book and realised I hadn’t read it, there was no film with Ewan or any other McGregor and I loved it’s in your face style. It’s the kind of people I know. Quite simply, Morvern Caller talks like us.

She doesn’t say no, she says ‘nut’. And the opening it a cracker.

‘He’d cut his throat with a knife…’

‘He was bare and dead face down on the scullery lino with blood round. The Christmas tree lights were on then off. You could change the speed those ones flashed at…’

‘I started greeting on account of all those presents under our tree and Him dead. Useless little presents always made me sad.’

She’s not sad because her boyfriend has killed himself. Later we get the backstory. He was twenty-one, she was sixteen, but working in the local store since thirteen for a few extra bob. He bought her the biggest box of chocolates. We don’t find out his name. He’s left an unpublished novel and tells Morvern to send it away so he can be someone in the afterlife. Morvern is a smart girl, He’s got his own place and bit of cash. She sends it away but puts her own name on it as the novice novelist. It’s accepted and Morvern is to get an advance on the book. A more pressing matter for Morvern is what to do with the body. She doesn’t do anything. Steps around at and goes to work in the superstore, one of the few employers in the small Scottish town that’s not seasonal.

‘For the sake of something to do I tided away all the presents for Him, Red Hanna, Vanessa the Depresser and Lanna.’

Here’s the main characters. Listen to their names. It tells you everything you need to know. Red Hanna is Morvern’s stepdad and her girlfriend is Vanessa the Depresser. You don’t need to say who is she?  Her name tells you. Lanna is the one that Morvern is closest to, physically and emotionally. They’re about the same age, work in the superstore and after work go to dance together at The Mantrap, which is, you’ve guessed,  a local dive. All the guys fancy Morvern because she’s beautiful, like an angel, but Lanna isn’t bad either, although both plot their lives around working out how bad they can be and how far they can stretch their bodies in the little hole in which they live.   They get absolutely blitzed when the can and make the most of their life. But Morvern doesn’t tell Lanna about Him. She was going to, but never. Nut. She chops up his body and hides it on the surrounding hills.

There’s a cleave in Morvern and Lanna’s friendship. She’s also got a secret, but it’s just a wee thing compared to Morvern’s secret.

Studded throughout the book is track-listings compilation tapes of music that Morvern uses to pick her up and help her like booze does to get through the day and live a life. Morvern’s twenty-one and wants something from life, she’s just not sure what. I guess you could call it a coming of age novel, but who gives a fuck? It’s a brilliant first time book. All I can say is well done you.


Filth, Film4, 10.40pm (Jon S Baird 2013)

I didn’t watch this film all the way through. I got to the bit where Detective Sergeant, Bruce Robertson, (James McAvoy) of Lothian Police force looks in the mirror and sees the image of a pig.  Pig, filth, black comedy. Gettit? I turned the telly over and watched the end of the Liverpool game. That was exciting. The truth is I don’t know what truth is. But I don’t really need to see the end of the film to know what happens. Writers have a tendency to write the same thing over and over and over again. Some of them get rather good at it. They win prizes, they win awards, they become rich. Irvine Welsh is I guess a rich man (compared to me most men are rich, those that aren’t tend to shop at the foodbank). This film had four different blocks of producers flashing up on screen flinging money at the same old, same old shite.

Let’s go back to Trainspotting. ‘The sweat was lashing oafay Sick Boy; he was trembling…Ah tried to keep ma attention oan the Jean-Claude Van Damme video.’

Drug taking [tick]

Violence [tick]

Sex [tick]

Black comedy, what the fuck does that mean, yah stupid radge cunt? Just fuck off out of my face [visage] or I’ll stick the heid on yeh.

There was something gallus about Trainspotting. Irvine Welsh knows his music and he knows his drugs and he knows he’s slightly dyslexic and he knows he’ll not get published because nobody publishes shite in the common argot of arsehole from the lowest place on the planet, a junkies arse.

So Mark Renton/Rentboy has got his hit, but it’s not injectable form he’d hoped, but an opium suppsitory. Anyone that had seen the film knows what happens to Ewan MacGregor next. ‘Ah whip oaf my keks and sit on the wet porcelain shunky. An empty my guts, feeling as if everything; bowel, stomach, intestines, spleen, liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and fucking brains are aw falling through my arsehole intae the bowl.’

It’s not often that the film is better than the book. Ben Hur is an epic example of that. I’d guess Trainspotting the film is better because Irvine Welsh wasn’t the screenwriter. In Filth, there’s a little in-joke the Chief Inspector doesn’t do any police work because he’s too busy in his office writing screen plays. Gettit? Shite.

Trainspotting was a phenomena and cash cow.  Ewan McGregor got to fucking play with lightsabers in Star Wars and the force was with him and to a lesser extent Robbie Carlyle is Begbie and Kelly McDonald is Kelly McDonald. Peter Mullan was a bit part player in the film but no plastic bronze medal, Hollywood for him too. Closer to home Spud, Ewen Bremmer, got to play a cop in Line of Duty. Gail, Shirley Henderson, seems to be in every Irvine Welsh production since then. In Filth, she’s not so much an object of lust, but an object of dirty phone calls from Detective Sergeant Robinson that has been called into to deal with the dirty phone calls, and dear old Shirley Henderson, who plays the same slightly deranged character in each play/film/movie is called to revel in the lust and take the sting out of it by rolling in the dirty with the dirty cunt that’s phoning her and thereby unmanning the man. Gettit. Shite. I’ve not mentioned Sick Boy yet, Jonny Lee Miller. Sick Boy in Trainspotting ‘It seemed, for women, that fucking was just something you did wi Sick Boy, like talking of drinking tea wi other punters’. Sick Boy was played by Jonny Lee Miller. And as we all know his cast off, and former spouse was Angelina Jolie. What a brilliant piece of casting by Danny Boyle. But it was Trainspotting rather than the critically acclaimed Shallow Grave that made his reputation.

Now we’re getting a Trainspotting 2. Shite. Back to Filth. No, I’ll not bother. You watch it if you want. But if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.