LIAM NEESON, IAN PAISLEY AND JIM ALLISTER’S MINTS

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There I was  wondering when our local icon , actor Liam Neeson was going to make a really good film…I know the man has  had a particularly bad run of luck , what with losing his beautiful wife in that freak skiing accident  a few years back and having a family to provide for…It’s just that he’s started reminding me of what the other iconic actor Michael Caine said when the film “JAWS..THE REVENGE” , which he starred in , was roundly panned and given the  Rotten Tomatoes Treatment…he was quoted as saying “I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it was terrible. However I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” He made a series of films simply to provide his home with a new wing or a swimming pool. You couldn’t fault the man .We’ve all had to do stuff we didn’t like or enjoy just to pay the bills.

The old saying “Needs must…” is appropriate , but it has to be said  that he has made some very odd choices of late …Cookie Cutter Cinema , you might call it ,where he does that whole “Liam Neeson , Irish, brooding schtick in a series of forgettable  mindless actioneer ,popcorn  movies.

Liam is a very good actor though. He made an excellent Otto Schindler in the big Speilberg  Jewish ,Holocaust drama . The whole Jewish Hollywood community were right behind him on this one , and rightly so . What happened to the Jews in Germany and Europe before and during Hitler and the Nazi’s reign was an abomination . There can be no question that only a very mean -spirited person could condone the deaths of those millions of Jews .It was a very effective re-telling of Thomas Kineally’s 1982,  Booker Prize winning,  excellent book “Schindler’s Ark” . I remember buying a hardback of it years before the film was made and I was very impressed with its translation to …celluloid …I suppose …it was just before digital film took over wasn’t it? Anyway, it’s possibly Liam Neeson’s best performance.

There was talk of him playing Ian Paisley in a projected life story of the Big Man but if he waits much longer , he’ll be playing him as a pensioner  with a bad  hair-dye job.Liam’s from the same part of the country  where Mr Paisley lived  and he’s the same age as myself, give or take a few days, so he’d have possibly the same memories of those times to draw on for his exposition of Mr. Paisley’s charms.All of us in Northern Ireland will have some small tenuous connections to the man which allows us to identify a little with him.

He was at Queen’s university in  Belfast at the same time I lived there in 1971/1972. He’d have seen all that commotion daily on our streets .He’d have seen the explosions, experienced the fear and paranoia .He’d have heard the local news and read the newspapers . He’d have seen the reporters and photographers tumbling out of the Europa Hotel. He’d have been searched every time he went into a shop in the city or watched the pub door, with the side of his eye, as he had a pint in the bar.  He probably had the odd three- course business lunch at the Chinese restaurant when finances stretched that far. They were the best value in town back then and we all thought it was a pretty exotic thing to do.I never bumped into him , of course.

He worked as  a fork-lift driver in the Guinness  brewery for a time .We were all prepared to take casual jobs  during holidays or after college..After art college I drove a fork-lift in  a warehouse just outside Leeds for a while myself.He attended teacher training college in Newcastle -upon- Tyne  where I visited some of my old girlfriends  who were similarly studying teaching  in that hilly town .Man …that was some uphill hike from the city centre to their flat..Later he lived with  Helen Mirren , his girlfriend during  the  wild, struggling  years .Helen was a bit of a wild one back then too. She could never keep her clothes on. They always fell off in every film.She seemed to enjoy that. .My only connection was that at that time I had a girlfriend  who looked not unlike Helen Mirren and was similarly uninhibited . I think they shared a similar Russian or Eastern European  background.Well …life’s a bit like that , isn’t it ….small connections everywhere.

Anyway ..there I was thinking about this when a story comes on the radio about Jim Allister “drilling down”  into the scandal of hospitality bills at Stormount. The expression “drilling down” was used several times in the reportage so my first impression was that he was  getting exercised by this “gas fracking” process.  He had been stretching his undoubted intellectual capabilities a week ago about the “free mints” being given out to Assembly members . He was very annoyed about that too. Well you’ve got to consider the expense to the public purse.We’re all paying for those mints after all. Now with “fracking” in the air , here he was doing his own kind of drilling into the misuse of finances in local government.Apparently £50,000.00 was spent on sandwiches and canapes to encourage  client investment. Mr Allister would prefer that guests should bring their own lunch apparently….possibly with their own little flasks of tea.Is he a Presbyterian or of Scottish ancestry ?

  Mr Allister had been on the radio only yesterday , being hung , drawn and quartered by George Galloway who bested him  in an embarrassingly destructive way  in a debate about Mr Galloway’s right as a Member of Parliament to voice his opinions throughout the land as long as he didn’t break the law..Well , it was entertainment for some of us, anyway. He was obviously on a mission to pump up his  public profile to some larger dimension . That particular contest did him no great service though. It is a curiosity though to see where Mr .Allister is shooting his barbs, when we all know where the greatest waste in our community lies.In recent times that money has been spent in policing costs .The spend goes into millions of pounds  to keep in check some of his more irate constituents and their obsessions such as flags and marching. There has never been a “drilling down ” on that issue and I suppose there won’t  be anytime soon.

He is , quite  transparently ,in  a process of trying to raise his game . He is on the lookout for that Big Feature that will put his name up in the Political Lights . Unfortunately the one “Big Spend” he cannot touch is the one we all want sorted out. Liam Neeson is currently  fruitlessly searching for the perfect film  vehicle that will bring in both that public support and the critical  acclaim . Mr. Allister is on a similar mission, but whereas Liam Neeson has a chance of fulfillment , I doubt if Mr. Allister will ever be able to   say the same.

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