Tag Archives: drugs

Movie review – Moonlight

Did Moonlight really win this year’s Oscar for Best Picture?

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I’m sorry, but I really can’t understand why. I’m glad feel-good La La Land didn’t – despite the almighty cock-up that briefly put that movie’s hands on the gilded trophy – but I thought Manchester by the Sea was a more worthy winner. Or even Lion.

Moonlight tells the story of a young black boy growing up in a rough Miami ‘hood, with a crack-head mother, being bullied at school and slowly realising he’s gay. That’s an awful lot of politically correct boxes duly ticked, especially after the previous year’s Oscar furore at the lack of recognition for Black American and other non-white actors.

The film tracks the hard early life of Chiron in three stages: at school, as “Little”, as teenager Chiron; and – 10 years later, after imprisonment – as fully-fledged drug-dealer “Black”, relocated to Atlanta.

The boy’s mother is well played by Naomie Harris, who finally cleans up her act and asks Chiron for forgiveness.

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The only person who really recognises how Little is suffering in his early life is Juan, brilliantly acted by Mahershala Ali, and ironically the dealer who is supplying Little’s mother.

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The potential for some sort of happiness out of this troubled early life comes in the shape of Kevin, an old school friend of Chiron’s, but who also played a part in him being sent to juvenile prison.

The story is sensitively told, but for me the film was too slow, the language of the street too hard to understand, and – call me superficial – but this was a couple of hours of endurance, rather than entertainment.

 

 

 

Tennis – and drugs

I love tennis.

Watching a close match between two top professionals at one of the Grand Slams is like seeing a gunslinging shoot-out in Dodge City. Or gladiators standing toe-to-toe in the Colosseum, until the death.

It’s raw, almost primeval, entertainment.

Often a draining experience for spectators, for the players it must be as physically – and mentally – exhausting as running a marathon. Or being Boris Johnson’s barber.

In a Grand Slam tournament, spread over two weeks, you should get a free day before your next match. But for Davis Cup ties, and regular tournaments, you could well be out on court the day after a gruelling gun fight.

So the ability of your creaking body to recover becomes critical.

Meldonium is used to treat ischaemia, a lack of blood flow to parts of the body. Particularly in cases of angina or heart failure. It carries more oxygen to blood tissue. It increases exercise capacity for athletes, and improves their recovery time.

Unless you’ve been shacked up at a Nick Bollettieri training camp all week, you’ll know that Maria Sharapova came clean, as it were, on Monday that she had tested positive for Meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

As a result, she has been provisionally suspended from the sport and is likely to receive a potentially career-ending ban.

But in a bravura media performance – worthy of an early nomination for next year’s Oscars? – she pleaded her innocence:

  • It was prescribed to me by my family doctor, and I’ve been taking it for 10 years. Really, Maria? Was that for your lifelong heart problem? Oh no, perhaps it was the family diabetes history. My, you’ve done well in the circumstances…
  • I knew it as mildronate, not meldonium. Oh, come on. You have a highly paid team of medics, nutritionists, physios and sports scientists on your Kremlin-sized payroll. They must have known that WADA had pre-warned in September 2015 it would be added to the banned substance list from 1st January 2016

Excuse my cynicism. It is possible that this has all been a terrible, innocent oversight. But Maria Sharapova has been the world’s highest paid female athlete – not just tennis player – for 10 years. She has a PR team that would devour Donald Trump’s…and he’s on the verge of becoming leader of the free world. She controls every aspect of her sweet Sugarpova life. Monday’s performance smacked of damage limitation, from the sombre black outfit, to the subdued lighting, and the mea culpa before the tennis authority’s own outing of her transgression.

Tennis is under pressure. At the Australian Open this year, a report from the BBC and Buzzfeed alleged that widespread match-fixing has been taking place. And that the authorities have been covering it up.

In the wake of the Sharapova Meldonium scandal, Rafa Nadal has had to deny ever taking performance-enhancing drugs. And people have drawn attention to the genteel nature of the sport 20 years ago – all wooden rackets and gentle rallies – compared with the modern game’s full-on, snarling, physical brutality.

I’m afraid I doubt Maria’s innocence. She should – and will – receive a ban. 4 years for confirmed abuse, 2 years if the independent review believes her back-story.

The game will miss her.

The real question is how much wider is performance-enhancing drug abuse.

And how can we now really know if Novak Djokovic’s 5-set victory over Andy Murray at the 2016 US Open Final in September – saving 4 match points in the 4th set before winning in a gruelling, gladiatorial match lasting almost 5 hours – is clean, or substance-enhanced?

 

Movie review – Amy

No less a vocal luminary than Tony Bennett rated Amy Winehouse as good a jazz singer as Billie Holiday or Dinah Washington. This was after they had recorded a version of Body and Soul together in 2011 at the Abbey Road Studios in London, for Tony’s Duets album.

Four months later, she was dead.

Asif Kapadia’s movie Amy contains some heart-rending insights into the singer’s brilliant, short, troubled life.

 

Original and previously unseen video clips of her life and music show a girl with an incredible raw talent, but who never came to terms with her parents breaking up and who found it impossible to deal with subsequent stardom.

A combination of bulimia, drugs and alcohol led to her early, but tragically inevitable, death at the tender age of 27.

Alongside her hauntingly perfect jazz singer’s voice, trenchant lyrics scroll across the screen, telling the story of failed love affairs and a sad person.

This is not an easy film to watch. But it is a brilliant piece of documentary movie-making, from the same team as the award-winning Senna.