Jimmy’s Hall (2014)

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Ken Loach’s documenting of the story of Jimmy Gralton, who in 1933 was the last person deported from Ireland.

Jimmy had emigrated to America in 1909 and became a US citizen but he returned to Ireland to fight in the War for Independence in 1919. After the truce was declared in 1921, the pro-treaty forces won out, and Civil War then broke out among the Irish.

Jimmy returned to America after the war but returned in 1932 to look after his mother. This is where the movie begins.

Jimmy started working on the family farm. The local kids ask Jimmy to open a hall he used to have where the kids can meet, study, dance and talk. Jimmy and some of his friends begin work to get the building in shape. The Hall will have music, dance, art, Irish language instruction and boxing classes.

The local priests aren’t thrilled. With the creation of the Hall they will lose some of their control over the people.A priest comes to the Hall and tells Jimmy he can’t run classes without the Church’s permission. He calls Jimmy a Communist.

Jimmy gets involved with some local land disputes and runs in to trouble wit the local police. The police then come in to the Hall and kick everyone out. Jimmy decides he is going to have to head back to the States.

But Jimmy stays and then he introduces American jazz music to the Hall.

The priests begin to worry about Jimmy spreading Communist ideals. They feel that the Hall will start with the dancing and then start introducing dangerous books. The priests and their followers begin to write down the names of the people going to the Hall to dance.

The priest begins lecturing to the parishioners at Mass. He tells them that Cromwell tried to take away their culture, and now they are voluntarily letting another culture in to try to change their songs and dance. The priest says: “Jazz music. Rhythms from the darkest Africa that inflame the passions.” He says that Gralton and his crew are communists and atheists. He gives then a choice: “Is it Christ or is it Gralton?” He reads out the names of the people who attended the dance at the Hall the night before.

The world is going through a depression and there is great poverty in the country. people are being thrown off their land. Jimmy and his want to help the people but the landowners are allied with the Church.

Jimmy begins talking to crowds about the rights of the people. The next thing you know shots are fired at the Hall and then it is burned down.

The police come to arrest Jimmy and are going to deport him as as an illegal alien. But Jimmy escapes and hides out in the country.

The movie was well done and I think it tried to show both sides of the issue, even though we know where Ken Loach’s sympathies are. He didn’t resort to adding dramatic effect, but chose to portray things pretty straight. I think he goes out of his way to present the priest as a decent, intelligent man.

An interesting movie that will have some people agreeing with Jimmy, and some with the government, depending on the politics that they carry in to the theater with them.

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Route Irish (2010)

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In this movie Ken Loach sets his sights on the privatization of war. The title comes from the Baghdad Airport Road, known as “Route Irish”. Countries may be making believe they are not involved, but when mercenaries protecting business interests are allowed to operate with no constraints are put on them, bad things can and will happen.

Things aren’t great in Liverpool, so Fergus goes to Iraq because he needs the money. The work is dangerous but the pay is good. His best friend Frankie joins him. Fergus can’t make it back for a job because he gets in a fight and has some legal problems, and Frankie gets killed.

Frankie’s death seems suspicious so Fergus investigates and founds out the Frankie was protesting the death of some civilians, so it looks like the security company took him out. The company didn’t want bad publicity because they could lose millions so killing Frankie was the expedient thing to do.

A really good movie that makes you think of the new ways that countries are protecting their economic interests without officially getting involved. Loach alos looks, as he always does, at how the native populations are victimized when the economic interests are involved.


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McLibel (2005)

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The documentary starts with a scroll of names of powerful English companies that have apologized for statements that they have made about McDonalds. Then we meet a couple who refuse to apologize.

In 1998 Helen Steel belonged to a London Greenpeace group that protested against injustices. The group was protesting against McDonalds for its unhealthy food, advertising to children, cutting down the rain forests and animal cruelty.

Soon spies from McDonalds started infiltrating the group. The private eyes actually talked in the documentary. McDonalds files writ against Helen and her friend Dave Morris. McDonalds argued that the case was too complex for normal people so there shouldn’t be any jury. A judge agreed, and the case was to be argued before a judge.

McDonalds brought in some big lawyers. Helen and Dave have the burden of proof according to England’s law. Some of the world’s top experts volunteered to help Helen and Dave. Health experts testified how dangerous the McDonalds diet can be to a person’s health.

McDonalds spends 2 billion dollars a year on its image. McDonalds tried to convince people it was serving nutritious food. McDonalds also targeted kids in its advertising. To collect the whole set of toys that came with a happy meal you had to go back week after week.

The trial went on for years. McDonalds eventually wants to settle out of court, but Helen and David won’t settle.

The documentary goes on to point out all the bad things that McDonald is doing and the power they have to cover them up.

In 1997 judgement day in court came. Two ordinary people against one of the most powerful corporations in the world. For the issues in the pamphlet for cancer, heart disease, littering, rainforest destruction, firing pro-union workers, bad working conditions the judge came down on McDonalds side. For deceptive ads, exploiting children, low wages, anti-union, animal cruelty he came down on Helen and Dave’s side. Amounts of damages : to McDonalds 60,000 pounds. On appeal the court said working conditions were bad and eating mcDonalds could lead to heart disease. Damages were reduced to 40,000 pounds.

After the decision, McDonalds started losing money in some countries. McLibel hurt them.

In a European case, Helen and Dave won a legal victory against McDonald, and against English libel laws.


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The Angels’ Share (2012)

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The movie starts in Glasgow with the violent Robbie, who is about to become a father, and others being sentenced at court for a series of offences. Robbie is determined to straighten himself out. He reports to community payback (service) he meets his supervisor Harry. Harry takes Robbie to see his girlfriend Leonie when she is in labor, but her father and uncles beat him up and tell him to stay away.

Later Robbie and Leonie go to a group meeting where Robbie meets a boy he beat badly, and then went to prison for it. When the boy describes how he was beaten, Robbie just listens quietly. The boy’s mother tells Robbie how he ruined her son’s life.

Harry brings Robbie and the others on the community payback group to a whiskey distillery on their day off. The group is brought on a tour, and shown how the whiskey is made. The Angels’ Share is the 2% of the whiskey that evaporates from the cask every year. Robbie gets interested and starts reading up on whiskey.

When some of Robbie’s old enemies show up, Robbie runs away, and then Leonie’s father picks him up when he is cornered. Leonie’s father offers him 5 grand to leave Glasgow and go to London for a new start. He tells him that leonie and the baby would be better off without him.

Harry brings the crew over to Edinburgh for the weekend for a whiskey meeting. Robbie volunteers to take part in a tasting competition, and Robbie does very well.

Robbie hears that a valuable cask of whiskey, a Malt Mill, is going to be auctioned off, and the crew heads North, in quilts, to try to get it. Robbie has a plan to try to abscond with some of the whiskey. Robbie hides out in the warehouse and that night starts siphoning some of the whiskey from the cask in to some bottles. Robbie is able to sell his three bottles to the agent of one of the losers at the auction for 200,000.

But on the way back they break two of the bottles, but they still end up getting 100 grand, 25,000 each. Robbie also gets the promise of a job with the whiskey guy. The fourth bottle Robbie gives to Henry for giving him a chance.

A good movie, but not great, because Robbie does finally get ahead, but he does it by stealing. Nonetheless, a very good movie that works as both a drama and a comedy. I really like Whiskey Galore!, but to me, this is the best movie ever made about whiskey.


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Carla’s Song (1996)


It's 1987, and Glascow bus driver, George Leenox, meets Carla, a Nicaraguan exile who dances in the street for a living. living a precarious, profoundly sad life in Glasgow. After much coaxing and cajoling a reluctant Carla begins to get closer to George, but she is deeply scarred. He former boyfriend, Antonio, is back in Nicaragua, and Carla doesn't know if he is alive or dead.
George decides he has to bring her back home so she can get rid of the nightmares that plague her. Back home Carla finds some of her family and introduces George to her young daughter.
Somehow American aid worker, Bradley is tied to the missing Antonio but he won't help Carla find him. George has seen enough of the killing, and wants to return home and hopes Carla will come with him.
Bradley tells George how the CIA are the ones who are running the war. Bradley says the CIA rapes little children and tortures children and teachers and Bradley says he works with them. He explains how Carla saw Antonio get his tongue get cut out, his head smashed in with rifles and then acid poured on his face.
An interesting movie, with a really, really strong anti-US bias. It is really two movies in one – the romance set in Glasgow and the war drama set in Nicaragua. The results aren't smooth but Loach is never afraid to show what he thinks and there certainly aren't too many directors like him around today.


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Ladybird Ladybird (1994)

The movie was based on a true story. Maggie has had a tough life. Four children by four different men. She seems to pick losers to go out with. The latest one beats her and kicks her when she kept him waiting. The government place her and the children in a home, where they can be monitored. Maggie leaves the kids in a locked room to go to the bar, and the kids are burned in a fire. Social services take the children away, but Maggie keeps fighting to try to get them back.
Maggie finally meets a good man : Jorge a refugee from Paraguay and she gets pregnant again. She begins to turn her life around. But then Maggie sees an adoption advertisement in the paper with a picture of one of her children saying “I’ve never had much love, can you give me some now?”
A little while later, after a visit from a social worker, social services comes to take her new baby, and Maggie flips out.
Jorge tries to help Maggie with her anger. He knows that in order to get the baby back she must be clam and reasonable, but it doesn’t take much to set Maggie off, who in a rant reveals that she had been abused by her father when she was a child. At a hearing Maggie loses the baby. She then proceeds to try to drive Jorge away, because she thinks he will eventually leave any ways. But Jorge stays and believe it or not Maggie has another baby. Social services comes in again to take the baby.
The movie ends with the words “Maggie and Jorge had three more children whom they have been allowed to keep. They have been given no access to their first two daughters. Maggie says she thinks every day of all her lost children.”
This isn’t a happy movie, and it’s hard to feel sorry for Maggie because she seemed to bring on to herself most of the trouble she had. Although she loves her children, she really wasn’t that good of a mother. Unlike most of the other Loach movies, this one doesn’t have any comic relief. It is dark, dismal and real and it is also really good.


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My Name is Joe (1998)


Another great movie from Ken Loach, so unlike the movies that are made in Hollywood. The soccer in this movie is really used to lighten the tone of some very dark material.
Ken Loach again examines the lower working class and the criminal class in a rough area of Scotland. We see lives destroyed by drugs and alcohol.
Joe has been sober for ten months and has been going to AA. Joe hit rock bottom and decided to change his ways.
He coaches a soccer team that has trouble being competitive on the field. But Joe has taken one of the players, Liam, under his wing. Liam is a former drug dealer who is just out of prison, and his wife is a heroin addict. Joe has got his hands full trying to straighten out their lives.
Joe meets Health worker and falls in love, and it seems like everything is starting to finally go right for Joe, but it is like he is trapped in a noir film. There is no escape from the tragedy that awaits him.
Roger Ebert had a great comment on the film. He said “Often with a film like this you think you know how it has to end. The ending of My Name Is Joe left me stunned. I’ve rarely seen a film where the conclusion is so unexpected, and yet, in its own way, so logical, and so inevitable.”
A great, great film. Probably is my favorite movie by the great Ken Loach.


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