Nick Grant

The Transformation Problem

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Review of 'Life is a Miracle', director Emir Kusturica

Bosnia, 1992. Luka, a Serbian engineer from Belgrade, lives in a mountain village with his opera-singing wife, Jadranka, and their soccer-mad son, Milos.

Luka is preparing to build a railroad that will transform the region into a tourist paradise but remains deaf to the persistent rumblings of war. When conflict explodes, Jadranka disappears on the arm of a musician and Milos is called up to fight.

The Serbian army appoints Luka guardian of a Muslim hostage, Sabaha. Before long Luka has fallen in love with her but she has to be exchanged for a Serbian captive - his son.

Education: A Vision for True Innovation

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'Another School Is Possible', or so believes Milwaukee-based teacher Bob Peterson from the Rethinking Schools collective who led both a seminar and workshop at October's European Social Forum on this theme. This has already spawned some promising initiatives.

Hackney NUT president Jane Basset spoke on behalf of the Anti-Sats Alliance to a 250-strong conference in Genoa, Italy, on 27 November. Left educationalists are meeting in Paris on 11 December to consider the feasibility of a European day of action on education in 2005.

Mind Games Revisited

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Review of 'The Manchurian Candidate', director Jonathan Demme

The First Gulf War, 1991. An armoured vehicle on night patrol in Kuwait. Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) is knocked unconscious in a sudden fox-fight. Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), it appears, saves his and the platoon's lives, for which he is commended.

Some years later Marco is struggling to come to terms with recurrent nightmares of treacherous murder, which it seems other veterans share. Shaw, on the other hand, has built a blossoming political career. Or rather his mother has. Senator Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep) dominates both her party and her son.

The Beat to Beat Bush With

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'As concerned mothers, women and most importantly concerned Americans, we are compelled to do what we can to inspire other voters to get involved in this year's election. We hope our participation in the Vote for Change Tour will be a catalyst for positive change.'

This is The Dixie Chicks explaining why they are gigging with James Taylor in the swing states during October. Headlined by Bruce Springsteen, REM, Pearl Jam and Jackson Browne, and coordinated by MoveOn.org, big name line-ups will play several areas simultaneously where the votes really count.

Republicans mounted a news offensive after this tour was announced on 4 August, claiming that Springsteen had grown very rich from the American way. This only recruited more acts.

Picture Imperfect

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Review of 'Photographing the Holocaust', Janina Struk, I B Tauris £13.95

It's not so much that every picture tells a story, more a case that any picture tells many stories. The simple point that most of our familiarly atrocious Holocaust images were gathered by Nazis hoping to celebrate the success of Hitler's 'Final Solution' in a Prague Museum coldly subverts their predominance in thousands of school history room displays, textbooks and TV documentaries ever since.

No Big Brand

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Review of 'Goodbye Swingtime', Matthew Herbert Big Band, Accidental Records £13.99

Being any kind of conscious artist under 21st century imperialism is fraught with contradictory tensions. Aesthetics v politics? Art v propaganda? Individual v the masses? Local v global? Innovation v tradition? Particular v genre?

Not a Force for Good

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I fear for the sanity of Joseph Choonara when he sees 'sheer beauty' in an 'extremely violent film' like Matrix Reloaded (June SR).

Such dumbing-down of aesthetic sensibility is a triumph for the corporate sledgehammer that has so bedazzled him.

For all the technical, genre-bending promise of The Matrix, Reloaded marks a regression, especially in its production design.

Myth or Reality

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Review of 'Shooting People', Sam Brenton and Reuben Cohen, Verso £12

I'm a socialist ...get me out of here!' was the 'Guardian' TV critic's verdict on 13 May, writing about Clare Short's resignation performance in the House of Commons. In the self consuming world of print and electronic media this was the umpteenth pun on the title of LWT's latest variant of the 'reality TV' strain. It became a toss up as to which was more infuriating; the 'I'm A Celebrity ...' show itself, or the lazy journalism which sought to bathe, pathetically, in its referential glory.

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