Gosford Park, the new film from director Robert Altman, is a whodunit-style murder mystery set in a stately home in Britain in the early 1930s. It has a cast list that reads like a who's who of top British actors. But Gosford Park is more than an Agatha Christie-ish murder mystery.
Alan Clark, the Tory MP who died in 1999, is often portrayed as an eccentric, lovable rogue. Everyone agrees he was lecherous, rude and arrogant. But the general view is that his diaries are tremendous achievements, and that he himself was cheeky but irresistible.
First it was the film Behind Enemy Lines, and then the studios hit us with with Black Hawk Down. If, like me, you are sick of the jingoistic, racist and chauvinistic films coming out of Hollywood at the moment then Tigerland is a breath of fresh air. Don't be surprised if you haven't heard of this film-it had a very limited release in UK cinemas.
The sudden attack of sickness I experienced since the day I was asked to attend the preview of Black Hawk Down has not yet dissipated. I was expecting to see images of the dead. I did not anticipate the depths of the film's cynical use of the pain of a nation to bolster an immoral purpose.
Black Hawk Down does not even attempt to explain why the vast majority of Somalis hated the US forces by October 1993. When the troops arrived they were welcomed and greeted as friends come to help. Within months their behaviour had alienated people who had cheered them. Once the US forces began clashing with Somalis, the US helicopters began what they called "rotor washing"-hovering above houses and markets so that the downdraft blew walls apart and tore off roofs.
OVER A million people tried to log on to the new 1901 census internet site. The History of Britain series presented by Simon Schama was a huge success. It was followed by the popular Timewatch and Blood of the Vikings series which showed the massive audience interested in historical events. Faced with the growing popularity of history, BBC2 has come up with the four part series Civil War to be screened on Mondays at 8.30pm.
THE BELIEVER is a difficult film to watch. It is centred on Daniel Balint, a character at war with himself. He is a Jew, but also a violent Nazi in modern day New York. Balint despises all Jews, saying that "the modern world is a Jewish disease".
AT FIRST sight The Death Ship by B Traven seems nothing more than a Boys' Own style story of adventure on the high seas. However, in the pages of this book you will find no glamour or heroism. Instead The Death Ship is a wonderful indictment of the absurdities of capitalist society, and a gritty description of life as the lowest of the low, full of burning anger, black humour and razor sharp wit.
WHITE RIOT is the new book by co-editor of the anti-fascist Searchlight magazine Nick Lowles. It tells the terrifyingly true story of the assorted racist psychopaths and crackpots who make up the Nazi terrorist group Combat 18. Combat 18 was formed in the early 1990s out of the gangs of thugs who guarded the meetings of the Nazi British National Party (BNP).
A selection of films for all moods that are worth catching, or setting the video for, over the Christmas break.
Baby Boy is the latest work from John Singleton -the maker of the film Boyz 'n the Hood, made in 1991. With an all black cast, the movie is aimed at a black audience. Singleton says Baby Boy is his version of "What's Goin' On". However, unlike the song by Marvin Gaye that challenged 1960s America, this movie is described by its maker as "like watching the soul of a black man on screen".
Alem is 14. He is both Eritrean and Ethiopian, and Eritrea and Ethiopia are at war. Alem's father finds that his family is unwelcome in either country. He brings Alem to Britain and leaves him there, where he thinks he will be safe. The book follows Alem as he gets to grips with England, the weather and the immigration system. He suffers many major setbacks.
Recent polls by Waterstones and other bookshops found that Lord of the Rings was the most popular book of the 20th century. The book (or three books) has stayed in print for almost 50 years and sold more than 50 million copies.
Top of the list of novels has to be The Constant Gardener by John Le Carré (£6.99). It is a gripping novel, which exposes the murderous activities of profit-hungry giant pharmaceutical companies. Le Carré's novels have got more political in recent years. Particularly relevant today is The Tailor of Panama (£6.99), which shows the viciousness of US imperialism.
Along with about 80,000 others, I will never forget the monster Rock Against Racism carnival in Victoria Park, east London, in 1978. "We are black, we are white-we are dynamite!" was the slogan of the day, as people rocked both to reggae band Steel Pulse and punk band The Clash – who leaned heavily on black music and struggle for their inspiration.
Rail privatisation gets the Ken Loach treatment with the TV showing of The Navigators on Sunday 2 December. Rob Dawber, socialist and ex rail worker, wrote the film. It follows the fortunes of a group of track workers as the privatisation of British Rail takes effect.
George W Bush apparently requested a special screening of this film. But don't let that put you off seeing Kandahar, by Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. His concern for the suffering of the people of Afghanistan goes back to at least 1987, with his film The Cyclist, which featured Afghan refugees in Iran.
J K Rowling's bestselling series of books based upon the adventures of an 11-year old wizard, Harry Potter, have become a worldwide phenomenon. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has sold over 100 million copies in over 46 languages.
The new film Gabriel and Me is set in Newcastle against the backdrop of derelict shipyards. The story revolves around Jimmy Spud and his family. Jimmy's ambition is to become an angel to "save people from the intolerable burdens society places on their shoulders".
A new video from the US called 9.11 produced by Indymedia is now available. It is an alternative insight into the immediate response of New Yorkers to the events of 11 September and to the threat of US military retaliation. It begins the very next day after the attack, where the people of New York gather in Union Square to share experiences.