John Howard and the English language

Occasionally I get so distracted by the way someone writes that I can’t concentrate on what they’re saying. Here’s John Howard in today’s Financial Review:

To adopt Shakespeare, Meryl Streep came to bury Margaret Thatcher, not to praise her. This was attempted — in the film The Iron Lady — by the simple, but telling, device of retailing Thatcher’s story through a series of retrospectives of the retired prime minister, clearly afflicted by dementia.

Howard made some good points in his review, but I had the blue pencil out after the second word. There are only a couple of things I thought were outright errors. Most of the distraction came from Howard’s writing style.

Is it just me?

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c-sez
c-sez
9 years ago

You have to imagine him in vintage Kerry & John 730 interview mode – narrating this – where Howard would, Kerry, perpetually be breaking his, sentences inappropriately to, breathe and/or lick his lips. Then it makes – sense.

TimT
9 years ago

No it’s not just you, it is pretty bad. I suppose it could be said that Howard has probably never attempted film reviews or artistic criticism until this point. And when he gets into specifics of Thatcher’s career the quality gets a bit better.

I presume it was dictated, maybe there were flaws in the progress of speech to paper.

Oliver Townshend
Oliver Townshend
9 years ago

Yes

JB Cairns
JB Cairns
9 years ago

I don’t think he even watched the movie.

It wasn’t about Maggie the pollie it was about Maggie the person affected by dementia.

rog
rog
9 years ago

I thought it was me, isn’t the dudes name Spear shaker?

I’ll ask john, he can get on the blower to his good friend(s) in overseas countries and I am sure that at the end of the day the decision made will, under the circumstances, be the right decision and in the national interest.

TimT
9 years ago

It’s a Muphry, Don!

TimT
9 years ago

JB Cairns – I’d agree with you but quite a lot of people who clearly watched the movie seem to have walked away with the same criticism as Howard’s. But yes, the theme of the movie is dementia, not politics.

Yobbo
Yobbo
9 years ago

If the movie was just about dementia then it could have been about any old grandma. Get a grip Homer.

JB Cairns
JB Cairns
9 years ago

so she didn’t have dementia in the movie and she didn’t have flashbacks?

you would say black is white

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
9 years ago

Muphry’s Law – I like!

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
9 years ago

Thanks for the link Don.

John Howard’s response to the film is pretty much mine – though he’s aggrieved by the question of justice to Maggie and conservatism, whereas I would complain about the same things he does just from the perspective of making a good and absorbing bio pic.

It is sad that MT has Alzheimer’s. I have no great problem with making the film as flashbacks from her in her Alzheimic state if it assists in achieving any legitimate cinematic goals. But I can’t see how it does here.

We’re all watching the film because of the remarkable things that MT achieved – whether you think they were good or not. So if you want to show it from some ‘human’ angle, by all means cast it from her Alzheimic gaze, but if so, it should take up a scene or two in the movie. What on earth was the point of having about 1/3rd of the movie about her Alzheimic state? It really annoyed me.

I didn’t think the movie was particularly negative toward her, but one thing it did for me was to remind me of how painfully her public persona had been put together. I don’t say that as a criticism. She wasn’t an insincere politician. But she was remarkably lacking in charm (at least on our TV screens) or even eloquence. She’s known for a few on liners I guess (TINA, and this lady’s not for turning) but she had such conviction, and such a large historical role – one of the largest since Churchill I guess – and there are no great speeches.

Interesting.

Having just written the above, I have now finished JH’s review. It begins very awkwardly – as you imply Don. But the last two thirds of it are both well (simply) written and pretty on point. I think I agree with pretty much all of it.

There’s a particular penchant for our entire thespian community to dumb down their subjects and convert everything into costume drama. I was struck in the film with the simplistic way in which Thatcher was presented as a mono-maniac bent in all circumstances with getting her own way. She was a POLITICIAN. No politician gets far if that’s all they have in their repertoire.

On your Marx
On your Marx
9 years ago

Nicholas,

I watched the movie and it met my low expectations.

If I want to understand a politician then I will read about them. Biographies from different perspectives and of the history of the time, again from different perspectives.

The movie was never going to tell me much about Maggie I didn’t know already and was never going to do her justice in my opinion as She was definitely the most important figure in UK politics since the war and by far the most influential.

I think the most important point of her era was up to the election of 1983.
She clearly was not getting the kudos she should have from the electorate.
Until the Falklands some people thought it may be another one-term government.

After the Falklands, people started to recognise the improving economy and Foot imploded.

Don,
Both sentences are inaccurate. The film does not portray Thatcher in bad light at all.
There was one person and one person only which toppled the Soviet Union. His Name was Gorbachev. Nothing happened in North Korea or Cuba

whyisitso
whyisitso
9 years ago

Mark Antony: “I came to bury Caesar not to praise him.”

John Howard: “Meryl Streep came to bury Margaret Thatcher, not to praise her.”

What’s the quibble? Adopt is the correct word. To adapt implies changing something, as does paraphrase.

On your Marx
On your Marx
9 years ago

Whyisitso,

Merryl Streep is reading a script not writing it. Howard can’t even get that right.

Both Nicholas and I agree the film does not portray Maggie in a bad light.

Moreover Howard , as Don has shown, has either deliberately or ignorantly , used the quote in the wrong way. He thus has adapted not adopted!

By the way,

Tinker,Tailor, Soldier Spy is by far the best film of the year.
go watch that.

This film is not much chop.

rog
rog
9 years ago

I haven’t seen the film, partly because I think it might just be Meryl Streep doing Meryl Streep. I also wonder to what extent Thatcher played Thatcher, she was convincing (I think it is beyond dispute that Reagans portrayal of Reagan was his best performance).

But it now seems that JWH has jumped at the opportunity to run his own grab bag of cliched arguments up the flagpole, perhaps to elevate his own profile. In doing so he decidedly detracts from any artistic merit that the film might have had.

However st the end of the day it is the best caricature that gets the most applause.

rog
rog
9 years ago

For instance JWH tries to repudiate that Howe was snubbed by Thatcher when the reality was that Thatcher instigated moves to humiliate Howe leaving him with no real option but resignation.

And on it goes.

rog
rog
9 years ago

It’s now piqued my interest into seeing the film.

hammygar
hammygar
9 years ago

I saw this movie just yesterday. I thought it was reasonably good with reservations. Sure it showed MT up in pretty bad light, not without ample jutification. Her dementia really was a case of poetic justice in a way for a life ill spent. I felt a sense of schadenfreude. Her effect on the UK was extremely destructive, and the section on the Falklands perfectly illustrated her 19th century mindset, particularly in the irresponsible killing of innocent sailors on the Belgrano.

She virtually destroyed the North of England which hasn’t recovered to this day.

I thought Streep’s performance was baraly adequate, and to my mind she didn’t even begin to get inside the truly appalling nature of the MT persona. I’ve seen better impersonations of various people by stand-up TV impersonators.

jennifer
jennifer
9 years ago

I’m reading his auto-biography and yes , I find his style distracting. It is not what you’d call a thumping good read. The ideas sit uncomfortably in the prose and that sets me on edge.

I wonder if he does that with his friends and colleagues as well?

Also I don’t think he can adopt Shakespeare outright – but perhaps in a another time and place….

Peter Mariani
Peter Mariani
9 years ago

Alas poor John Winston Howard more stars under heaven than exist in your real earth think that Meryl bagged the real Thatcher. Oscar for her thin review for you… Apps to Bill Shakes

jtfsoon
jtfsoon
9 years ago

Homer
It is dishonest in the extreme for you to claim that the movie should only be judged by its depicition of dementia and not for its assessment of Thatcher’s political legacy, and then for you to verbal Yobbo as saying that there was no depicition of dementia in the movie when he was merely taking issue with this claim. But then that is your standard MO.

Sally
Sally
9 years ago

I think most people left and right would have preferred a film that portrayed memorable events like the miners’ strike and the Brixton and Toxteth riots that Thatcher’s policies incited rather than a bleak and in the end not very interesting portrayal of her in her dotage.

Sally
Sally
9 years ago

Margaret Thatcher had all the charm one would expect of a brutal far-right politician or advocate: hence Judith Sloan, Julie Bishop, Bronwyn Bishop, Sophie Mirabella, Janette Howard and so on ad infinitum.

C.L.
9 years ago

It’s something of a shame that a filmic treatment of the later FDR has never been undertaken. He was certainly ga-ga towards the end and one wonders what effect this had on his management of the war’s end – which was an epic debacle.

I think the Thatcher film is worth comparing with the recent mini-series on the Kennedys. The latter was blackballed by liberals and the Kennedy family in the United States. Why? Because they didn’t like Jack being accurately depicted as a sleazeball:

On January 7, 2011, History announced that it would not show The Kennedys in the United States, stating “this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand.”

Michael Prupas, president of Muse Entertainment and executive producer of the miniseries, issued a statement on January 10, in which he addressed the claims of inaccuracies: “The decision of the History Channel not to broadcast the show was made long after the executives of the Channel as well as the Channel’s resident historian (who is a Kennedy expert) had read and approved all of the scripts and viewed and approved all of the final cuts of all of the episodes. Furthermore, our Errors and Omissions Insurer’s attorneys reviewed all the scripts and edited episodes — and they have cleared all of the episodes for broadcast.”

Director Jon Cassar said at the January 2011 Television Critics Association gathering in Los Angeles that he believed the reason the miniseries would not be shown by History and other US broadcasters was because powerful people within the United States connected to the Kennedy family took exception to it and used their political and other influence to prevent the showing.

Joel Surnow, the series’ executive producer, attributed the cancellation to pressure exerted by the Kennedys on the board of History’s owners, A&E Television Networks and The Walt Disney Company. Surnow stated: “It happened at the board level. I don’t want to mention anyone by name. It’s very simple to say that certain board members are friends with the Kennedys.” Other reports pinpointed Kennedy family members Maria Shriver and Caroline Kennedy as the leaders of the campaign to stop the show, targeting Disney executive Anne Sweeney.

On January 12, Showtime passed on the US broadcasting rights for The Kennedys.[19] Two days later it was reported that DirecTV’s The 101 Network was considering acquiring the miniseries. Ten days later, on January 24, 2011, it was announced that The 101 Network also passed on airing the show. On February 1, 2011, ReelzChannel acquired US broadcast rights to The Kennedys and announced their intention to show the miniseries between April 3 and 10, 2011. Other US cable channels reported to have declined acquisition of the miniseries are FX and Starz.

Mediaweek reported that Hubbard Broadcasting, the owners of ReelzChannel, took a big risk in purchasing the rights to the miniseries by paying an estimated $7 million for the broadcast rights and spending an additional $10 million in advertising.

Similarly, an attempt by liberals was made to blackball The Path To 9/11 – beacuse it accurately depicted the bungling of Bill Clinton in relation to killing Osama bin Laden:

To date, ABC’s $40 million miniseries, which drew a combined audience of 25 million, has not been released on DVD. Writer and producer Cyrus Nowrasteh has said that a stalled release is not due to lack of interest but rather strong political pressure. He told the Los Angeles Times that “[P]owerful forces are out to protect Bill Clinton’s presidential legacy and shield Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) from any potential collateral damage in her bid for the White House”. Furthermore, Nowrasteh goes on to explain that he was told by a top executive at ABC Studios that “if Hillary weren’t running for president, this wouldn’t be a problem.” According to the LA Times, an ABC spokeswoman reached September 4, 2007 would say only that the company “has no release date at this time,” and she declined to comment further.

So when it comes to film biographies, the left always prefers censorship and lies. The right pretty much has to take whatever bilge is on offer.

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

ROFL at C.L.’s description of Kennedy and Clinton as ‘left’.

Sally
Sally
9 years ago

CL’s “blackball” is a term that neatly juxtaposes racism and sexism.

But what else would anyone expect from a 1950s era rightwing throwback who still refers to women as “birds”.

jtfsoon
jtfsoon
9 years ago

CL’s “blackball” is a term that neatly juxtaposes racism and sexism.

It’s a word in the English language, Jinmaro/Philomena.

Fyodor
9 years ago

Sophie Masson Clinton was worse!

JC
JC
9 years ago

Sure it showed MT up in pretty bad light, not without ample jutification. Her dementia really was a case of poetic justice in a way for a life ill spent.

Charming. Hammygar, has sticking needles in dolls ever worked for you alhought I’m guessing voodoo hasn’t been peer reviewed as yet.

Margaret Thatcher had all the charm one would expect of a brutal far-right politician or advocate:

The sheer horror.

CL’s “blackball” is a term that neatly juxtaposes racism and sexism.

Fish stew has the same connotation too. Whenever I see or hear the words fish stew it immediately congers up sexism and racism all justaposed like you said, phil.

Sally
Sally
9 years ago

congers? LOL. What a tool.

C.L.
9 years ago

ROFL at C.L.’s description of Kennedy and Clinton as ‘left’.

I described the people who blackballed the films as liberals and lefties.

I didn’t offer any description of Clinton or Kennedy in relation to their place on the ideological spectrum.

Fail.

We’ll see if Dan can interrupt his ROFLs to apologise.

JC
JC
9 years ago

Thanks Phil, it’s conjures. Damn Ipad autocheck is a bitch at times… (no not bitch in the way you think, like blackballed and fish stew)

Isn’t it time you mozzied on over to Birdie’s and do your usual schtick over there with the olive oil?

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

@C.L.:

Pff. Okay, so the point of your post was not to say that liberals/lefties protect their tribal heroes? In fact I’m pretty sure it was. If there was any other way to interpret it at all (lefties protecting someone else’s tribal heroes? no, that makes no sense) please enlighten me.

Further as goes enlightenment: maybe rather than ask for an apology for… something… maybe you could tell the class where you do think they sit on the ideological spectrum, and even better how certain events on their watch could be interpreted as left. I suppose the Bay of Pigs didn’t turn into a nuclear conflagration, so perhaps JFK was a little soft on the commies. (See? I just want to help.)

JB Cairns
JB Cairns
9 years ago

Soony,
I watched the film unfortunately and it is a film about a person who has dementia.
To deny that simply means you are asserting black is white but that is simply what Catallaxy do all the time.

It wasn’t a film about Maggie the pollie.

That is why flashbacks were so important.

At your next ESL class ask about what they are!

jtfsoon
jtfsoon
9 years ago

Homer
As Yobbo says, the film wasn’t ‘just’ about dementia.If it was ‘just’ about dementia they could have made it about you. Otherwise why choose such a high profile former politician as subject matter? And claiming that it isn’t ‘just’ about dementia isn’t the same as asserting that there was no depiction on dementia. An ESL course would be too late for you.

JB Cairns
JB Cairns
9 years ago

Soony maybe they didn’t explain this to you in Malaysia but people with dementia have had lives.

Why the flashbacks? Learnt about those yet?

If the film was merely about Maggie the pollie then it wouldn’t have any of those at all.

It was mainly about Dementia and Maggie is very much more interesting to make a film about in that area than most. They could have chosen Ronnie.

The ironic thing is for one-eyed people like yobbo and yourself is that the film does not portray Maggie in a bad light at all.

jtfsoon
jtfsoon
9 years ago

Paxto, how am I being one eyed?
I suspend judgement on the film as I haven’t seen it yet. However it is self evidently absurd to claim that a film about a political figure should not be judged on its depiction of political events as much as one whatever personal quirks are being highlighted.