“Unbroken”, Oscars, Egos, Presidents and Things

US President Barack Obama Visits The UK - Day One

What a competitive world. At one level Al Qaeda battling ISIS for popularity and exposure and, going from nightmare horror to the ridiculous, shows like Keeping Up With The Joneses – uh, that Kardashian ‘show’, if you can call it that; Idols, the X Factor, America’s Got Talent, outpicturing of Simon Cowell’s massive ego. Shows that have drawn furious criticism from greats like Elton John who said Cowell has destroyed the integrity of the music industry and who refused to be a judge on Idols because he wouldn’t descend to slagging performers.

Shows that have convinced musicians the world over that if you don’t win, your life and your [potential] performing career are over. Elton John said of Cowell’s empire that it’s “become boring… ***-paralysingly brain crippling.”

Man, people go to extreme lengths to compete. Politicians slaughtering each other in broad daylight at election time for, in too many cases, the coveted positions of not representing those they’re supposed to represent. The altered universe of brain washing aka advertising, making it impossible to go anywhere without some message, if not a gazillion of them, coming at you saying we’re better, we’re the best.

What about Angelina Jolie noticeably abandoning sexy outfits and power dressing [down] conservatively as she campaigns for the Oscars for her movie Unbroken and does her best to try and convince Hollywood, the Queen of England and the world that she’s not a drama queen but a serious filmmaker as in writer, director and producer and that Unbroken is a work of genius that didn’t deserve to be passed over for Golden Globe and Screen Actors’ Guild awards. Well, it did get a SAG nomination for its stunt ensemble and it opened on Christmas Day and grossed $15.6 million, which is the 3rd highest ever Christmas Day opening figure – if you don’t adjust for inflation, which no doubt Unbroken’s producers would rather we didn’t.

But that’s just good marketing, the big names the Cohen Brothers and Angeline Jolie (who, ironically, has always seduced the world with her sensuality) and a fantastic trailer. It was brilliantly executed; moving, exciting, inspiring. Enough so to convince the world that a great opus was about to be unleashed.

I wondered, though, whether they hadn’t just extracted the only worthy scenes in the whole film and strung them together cleverly. As it happens, Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 50% rating, down from 51% a week or so ago, the main criticism being that the film crawls and somehow never quite comes to life. Blame it partly on the script, I say. The famous and mightily well paid Cohen brothers adapted it from the [alleged] 300 page monstrosity that was written from the book by William Nicholson and Richard LaGravenese. It just goes to show something or other. My green-eyed monster jealousy more than anything else, probably. I’m sure they’re great guys, really…

I digress. Your own bitchiness will do that to you. My point is that it’s hard to get away from competitiveness at all levels of life. Leaving Al Qaeda and ISIS out of the story, I actually the like the spirit of it; the rough and tumble of engaging in life, aiming for the stars and doing everything you can to get as far as possible. Hey, competitiveness can drive you to overcome fear. Nothing bad about that so long as you’re not on a suicide bombing mission. So, good for Jolie for being smart enough to know what an effect her fashion statement makes on the world and for holding her head up high and going for gold despite the awards snubs.

Still, that rough and tumble tends to make the world one of chaos and din so it’s beautiful when somebody who has every reason to be driven by competitiveness and to have an inflated ego just isn’t (in his job; he is when he plays basketball) and doesn’t. But does have a great sense of humor. Enough to engage in a game of ping-pong with David Cameron against school kids and have a lot of fun.

American Presidents also love to play golf. If they’re any good at it, they let everybody know their scores. If they’re not so good, like Clinton, they claim Presidential Pardons for mulligans and gimmes, all in good fun of course. But Barack Obama sticks to the rules. He’s a pretty lousy golfer, which he readily and laughingly admits. Retired basketball great Michael Jordan, who’s crazy about golf, quipped that he wouldn’t choose Obama for his ideal foursome because “he’s a hack, man. It’d be all day playing with him.” Obama was quick to quip back. He’ll do it with a straight face so you can’t tell if he’s joking or not. Until he breaks out into that million dollar smile.

He isn’t a good golfer; he’s got lousy posture, for one, but he loves the game, so he plays. With a sense of humor about himself. There’s a whole lot of dignity in that and I’m sure it makes him fun to be around. And he is getting better, so that’s something.

Another golfer said of him that the way he plays gives the measure of him as a President. He’s honest, he keeps his cool through rank adversity, he smiles and he doesn’t give up. I raise my glass to that. And to Angelina Jolie, good luck with the Oscars. She has spirit in spades, that woman. As for the Coen Brothers, guys, you need me, I know what went wrong with your script… Hey, a girl can dream.

David Cameron Declares War on Crony Capitalism and Crook CEO’s

English: Prime Minister David Cameron takes qu...

Image via Wikipedia

There are some things I like about David Cameron.  He’s such a passionate bloke, articulate as hell, quick on his feet, and he doesn’t give in to bullies.  Nothing stiff upper lip about him.  He looks as if he’s having a ball being Prime Minister.  And he wears white shirts.  Now he’s declared war on crony capitalism.

He wants to introduce greater shareholder controls which will effectively put a stop to company executives sitting on each other’s boards and approving increases and bonuses which are outrageous in themselves, and are also unjustified.  This kind of old boys club rubber-stamping is bringing economies to their knees.

I think it’s interesting that while the middle classes were still alive and thriving Prime Ministers and Presidents turned a blind eye to crony capitalism.  Has David Cameron woken up to the fact that a wounded animal is a dangerous one, and the middle class, what’s left of it, is just that?  Weak and gasping, in desperate straits, debilitated almost beyond endurance and pushed to the limit.

And no wonder.  Look at these statistics from The Institute for Public Policy Research: in 2010-2011, 87 of the FTSE 100 companies, chief executives earned 200 times what the average worker did.  The execs got an average of £5.1million – that’s in basic pay, share incentives, pension contributions, bonuses.  And this after they had four pay increases between 1998 and 2010.  But it gets worse.  Their pay increased by 33%, even though the average increase in company value was only 24%.

And for the crowning glory of this, on average bank bosses got an astonishingly audacious increase of 81% even though on average, company value rose by 19%.  Out of 18 industries, one – Computing and Technology – had CEO average pay rises that were lower (at 13%) than the average increase in company value, which was 55%.  But with all the rest, those CEO’s are taking whatever they want.

And people point fingers at Middle East dictatorships?  At the moment, UK shareholders are totally impotent, since they have an advisory capacity only.  Cameron’s suggestion is that they get to vote on salary packages and payoffs, and there’s a chance of corporate negligence becoming a punishable offence.  Send those bastards to jail.  Seize their assets.  Introduce the word accountability back into the English language.

The argument in favor of letting these greedy pigs who are hopeless at their jobs get away with  fortunes they don’t deserve – and that are in any case taken from the coffers of shareholders – has been that if you try to curb them they’ll go elsewhere.  It’s an old, tired, fatuous and empty argument.  Let them go.  They can destroy somebody else’s economy.  Better still, put them on an island.  They can eat each other alive.

Naturally company bosses are feeling a little squeamish.  Their argument – against giving shareholders a vote – is that they might have agendas!  They can say this with a straight face?  Well, tit for tat, and it’s time the fat cats got a dose of their own medicine.  Don’t any of these guys read history?  It’s humanly impossible to abuse masses of people without them eventually saying Hey! Stop that!

They always go down with bad grace.