Journalist/author Bjarne Rostaing reviews a recent film with political implications
starring the venerable Helen Mirren, one of a select group of performers
to achieve the so-called ‘Triple Crown of Acting’ 

“Eye in the Sky” is a British thriller starring Helen Mirren.

      “Eye in the Sky” is a 2015 British thriller starring Helen Mirren.


A sexy bitch on wheels

By Bjarne Rostaing
By now everyone knows who Helen Mirren is. She’s won all the awards, she’s convincing as a cop or a queen, and she’s always been hot.

Her exotic roots — Russian nobility and Romani gypsy on one side, solid English working class on the other — produced a reliably excellent presence with great range that sticks to the emotional ribs.

Over time Mirren has achieved an eminence that allows her great freedom, and she pretty much owns “Eye in the Sky,” a thriller driven by several potent and omnipresent realities: armed drones, establishment decision-makers stepping on themselves, and the 21st Century power woman.

That’s Mirren as Col. Katherine Powell, driven by the death of a colleague murdered by a terrorist group.

Her counterpoint is a room full of those decision-makers, including at least one lawyer and cabinet minister. They debate and dither while Mirren manipulates and the camera darts around the globe, Nairobi to Nevada to Pearl Harbor to London.

Under director Gavin Hood it becomes a frenzied dystopian arrhythmic mental chase. Everyone is focused on what’s happening inside a suicide-bomber house as Mirren grinds forward and the hesitant senior deciders weigh the political risk in that big rich room full of power.

It’s a simple decision and it needs to be quick. It has been an observe/capture mission.

Under extreme time pressure and imminent danger of multiple same-day suicide bombings, does it become a strike-and-kill? The “eye in the sky” is an armed drone ready to strike, and collateral damage becomes a critical issue, embodied in a child who will be injured or die in a strike.

Like the film’s tempo, this is cranked up to overkill, but it opens space for Somali actor Barkhad Abdi (of “Captain Phillips”), whose humane bearing and sensibility reveal the limitations of the robotic acting that the film’s tempo forces on the other actors.

Abdi takes time to be subtle, and his interlude with the child is a relief, humanizing the film and easing the pressure with his slower stronger personal rhythm. Where Mirren becomes her mission, he does not, but relates to the other actors in his sequences more naturally.

Read more »


Newspaper ad for New York’s Piccadilly Hotel back in the day.

Newspaper advertisement for New York City’s mid- town Piccadilly Hotel — back in the day (c.1950s).

  A Voice of Baltimore Feature, an excerpt from

      First-time novelist Margo Christie’s
       second work — Memory Motel
                a novel in progress

      set in mid-20th Century Charm City
                             By Margo Christie
I stayed in New York that Easter weekend after all, though not in the loft above my aunt’s club like I wanted.

After returning to the loft to find her husband dead, Aunt Gen checked us into the Piccadilly Hotel. She ordered club sandwiches delivered to the room, then returned to the loft to report Uncle Gus’s death without taking a single bite of hers.

Never again did we speak of Paris. Dreamy as I’d gotten dropping a coin into a Times Square fortune-telling machine to see if my trip abroad would come true, it no longer mattered after she took her leave and I perched on the windowsill, gazing 12 stories down at the bright lights and ceaseless flow of Broadway.

“Paris has nothing on this City That Never Sleeps,” I thought. I was born in New York. With Uncle Gus gone, I might just return, live with Auntie and be her helper and companion. I felt horrible thinking this — so willing was I to jump into a dead man’s shoes — but I’d never seen Broadway from such a thrilling vantage point before.

I was in bed but awake, thinking of what I might say to convince Daddy and Mom to let me stay, when Aunt Gen returned, stepped out of her shoes and crawled, fully clothed, into the twin bed opposite mine.

In the morning, over toast and coffee in the café off the hotel lobby, she said, “I’m sorry you didn’t get to see the club, but I couldn’t rise to the occasion of showing off anything. I hope the hotel didn’t disappoint you.”

I shrugged, unable to admit that it thrilled me last night and thrilled me still. I could’ve lingered in that café for hours, watching tourists gawk at the sheer height of the hotel, feeling apart from them by virtue of a birth certificate.

“I’m off from school this week, Aunt Gen. Maybe I could stay with you, help you take care of things.”

Read more »




Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died earlier this year

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died this year.


An ‘originalist’ & clever writer who larded his work
with misleading contemporary references
that falsely suggested he was in touch
with profound cultural changes

By Bjarne Rostaing
The dust has cleared, we have a damaged Supreme Court, and the canonization of Celebrity Justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia is official. His greatness is accepted by all sectors of the political spectrum and the media, which would probably have amused him.

He might joke about how many friends he acquired by dying. His death put talking heads and politicians of all types under a spell, and they scrupulously avoided even the suggestion of any reservations, fearful of the man even in death and mindful of his powerful living allies.

His host at the time of his death was the brilliant but fatally compromised John Poindexter of Iran-Contra fame, pardoned by his partner in that crime, Bush 41.

But yes, Nino was a decent law-abiding and friendly man who meant no harm. No one seems to have disliked him much.

Good men may do great harm though, and do it with a sense of virtue that distracts criticism and seems to lend righteous substance to their actions.

Scalia did this:  Toppling the voting rights act (2013) opened the way to disenfranchise the poor, a serious attack on something taken for granted for many decades.

Conflating the rights of men with those of corporations (Citizens United) was a profound incursion on common sense, going against a long tradition of keeping unlimited money out of politics, and we’re seeing the results as billionaires like Adelson and the Kochs pour money into politics in hopes of buying the presidency.

Read more »


Former FMC Chairman and Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley turns 90 Nov. 28th. At her 90th birthday celebration in November 2013

Former Baltimore Sun reporter and Maritime Editor, FMC Chairman and Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley, shown here at her 90th birthday celebration in Nov. 2013.  (VoB File Photo/Bonnie Schupp)


The son of a bitch who caused it!
Feisty to the end, and checking out on her own terms, former Baltimore Sun reporter and Maritime Editor Helen Delich Bentley died Saturday at her home in Lutherville, where she had been in hospice care for more than a month.

The five-term congresswoman and staunch advocate of the Port of Baltimore, whose bi-weekly shipping column was once syndicated in more than 200 newspapers, was 92.

At a Baltimore Sun reunion lunch five years ago, retired Night Editor and former rewrite man Dave Ettlin asked Bentley about her infamous streak of four-letter words on a ship-to-shore telephone in 1969 that caused the Federal Communications Commission to abruptly cut her off the air, an incident which made headlines round the world and embarrassed then-President Richard Nixon, who, with much hoopla, had just appointed her Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission but then refused to swear her in at the Oval Office.

Bentley gleefully described the incident to Ettlin (who was not on rewrite the night of its occurrence), but then pointed a finger at the former Sun reporter and rewrite man who was — AL Forman, now the Managing Editor of Voice of Baltimore — with the admonition, “And there’s the son of a bitch who caused it!”

She was only half-kidding, of course: Bentley was never one to mince words. But she had mellowed in her old age, and had actually begun to use such language as “please” and “thank you,” niceties that were unknown to her throughout her professional life, where she attained praise and notoriety for being crusty and tough.

It was central to her success: She fought her way to the top in professions — newspaper reporting, television and the maritime industry — that were virtually closed to women when she started out. She quickly recognized that the only way she could get ahead in that so-called “man’s world” was to be as tough as nails — and to cuss like a longshoreman.

Read more »


Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard last week risked her polit- ical career by resigning as a Vice-Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for President.

Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard risked her political career this year by resigning as a Vice-Chairperson of the Democratic Na- tional Committee to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for President. Last week she put his name in nomination at the Democratic Convention.


If ever new blood & change
were urgently needed,
the time is now

By Bjarne Rostaing
It was startling to see Rep. Tulsi Gabbard nominating The Bern at the Democratic Convention last week. Many gave her up as politically dead after her March DNC kerfuffle with Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Subtle is not DWS’s style, and the stench of blatant favoritism emanating from the Democratic National Committee was not manageable. A blatant Clinton ally, she pulled out all the stops.

That was over the top for Gabbard, her No. 2 at the DNC. Gabbard was a Sanders fan and she didn’t accept seeing him screwed every day and twice on Sunday. She would also have been his perfect running mate and heir apparent.

Few took special note of Gabbard’s defection, and it might have been forgotten in the heat of the convention, but for DWS. Debbie knew she was being fired because of leaked emails revealing her machinations and she refused to go quietly, placing herself stage-center and treating her fellow Dems to a pile of streaming scat that destroyed the all-important Party unity theme on Day 1 and disrupting what should have been a fairly routine process.

People wondered what she has on Clinton to be getting up in her grille like that and getting away with it.

Gabbard was in political limbo after leaving the DNC behind, going from anonymous to endangered. The courage to confront DWS (and by implication, Clinton, her close ally) was striking.

It made Gabbard visible and interesting, especially in light of serious non-political credentials that gave her a real-world perspective. For a machine politician like DWS, the Near East would be a political problem, but Gabbard had been there on the ground as a military officer. She emerged not as another hawk, but someone who saw that messing around in Syria and the Near East generally was a bad idea.

Read more »


Web Design Bournemouth Created by High Impact
Voice of Baltimore webpage designed by Victoria Dryden
Copyright © Sept. 2011 | All rights reserved