Tales from the Red Carpet

Film award season is upon us. I must admit to a passing interest in the BAFTAs and the OSCARs in spite of myself. I’m not a fan of the hype, the ‘loviness’, the millions of bucks chucked at those whose earnings are already millions of bucks, the horrible, fawning adoration and blitz of papparazi resulting in tabloid, red carpet effluent. Then there are the ceremonies themselves; the over confident, self-congratulatory smugness of whoever is hosting, the simpering and the tearful gushing of the winners. On occasions there is a glimpse of a plucky loser as the camera pans around the glittering audience, applauding with as much generous enthusiasm as they are able to muster.

Sometimes I will have seen one or two of the nominated films. If this is the case it will either have been due to having read the book or because something about the story has grabbed my attention. This time I have seen ‘Room’, drawn by the fact that I’ve read it and that Mark Kermode, a reliable BBC critic gave it a ‘thumbs up’. Having initially been interested to see ‘The Lady in the Van’ I am now deterred by the [again reliable] remarks of my writing group members, who declared it ‘awful’. This is disappointing, in view of the fact that the writer, Alan Bennett is a national treasure.

This year I am intrigued to see that traditional story-telling appears to dominate the selected movies, rather than over-blown productions salivated over for their special effects. I can see no virtue whatsoever in resurrecting tired old Star Wars. Give me some gritty drama and a brilliant story and I’m happy-oh and the acting has to be plausible.

Of course, a film is about more than the plot or the acting. There are costumes, photography, direction, locations, ‘stars’. But for me the overriding element is always story line and while I am inevitably compelled to see a movie about a book I’ve read I will always come away knowing the book was better. Yes, ‘Room’ the movie was excellent and the best actor award well deserved but the book got into my head in a way that seeing the images never could.

I’m always surprised by how many people have no interest at all in fiction and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that most are of the male gender, but I may be wrong. Throughout all the years of my previous life as a teacher I never once encountered a child who didn’t love stories. What happens during the transition to adulthood to turn some people off reading them?

 

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A Bucket Seat Full of Cinematic Musing

It is film award season. Oscars, Golden Globes, ceremonies, red carpets, gowns, overblown, tearful speeches, lovies, tabloid bitching. What fun!

Most the world has adopted the term ‘movie’ these days and although I have stepped cautiously into the use of the word, ‘film’ [if I’m honest] is still my word of choice. I say this because ‘movie’ is what I regard as an Americanism.

I have apologise to American readers here, right at the start of this post, since it will seem as if I am anti-American, which I am not; it is simply that growing up, the terms I was used to hearing were ‘film’, ‘flicks’, ‘the pictures’ and sometimes-‘flea-pit’.

My earliest experiences of going to ‘the pictures’ were treats, to be enjoyed during holidays-or as an escape from relentless rain on one of our family camping jaunts [described in a previous post]. Although there were earlier visits to the cinema, the first film I can recall is seeing ‘Swiss Family Robinson’, the 1960 Disney version, in ‘glorious technicolor’. It was a captivating adventure romp involving shipwreck, pirates, an island, treehouses, wild animals and a dramatic rescue.

As an adolescent, trips to the cinema were at first thrilling first outings alone with friends, then more adventurous attempts to flout censorship laws by getting in to see films we were too young for. It was more about the preparation than the activity, a lengthy Saturday afternoon with cosmetics and wardrobe choices-memorably to get into ‘Cathy Come Home’, a ‘gritty realism’ film about homelessness but containing a birth scene, which I am ashamed to say was the main reason for our attendance.

Soon after this, cinema-going took a new turn with the film itself becoming immaterial, the principal motive being getting ‘a boy’ to take you. This objective, I seem to think was rarely an unbridled success, since some assignations resulted in ‘no-shows’ and those boys who did turn up would have arranged to meet inside the cinema in a bid to escape paying for two tickets.

The cinemas were vast auditoria with prickly upholstery, intermissions, ‘B’ films and Pathé News.

Later I became a fan of thrillers, with Bond a clear favourite, although Sean Connery was, for me the only conceivable choice for the lead and all successors paled in comparison. I also loved the ‘Doctor’ films, mild comedies with gorgeous Dirke Bogarde starring [no one knew he was anything but heterosexual then].

What did most of these films have in common? They were either British made, or were dominated by British actors.

These days I rarely visit the cinema, since Husband seems to dislike film-going. I tried ‘Sky Movies’ but not being a fan of rom-coms, cartoons and action-hero movies I found nothing I could watch! I have, however discovered the joys of ‘Blinkbox’-a streaming system that allows me to catch up on the flicks I’ve missed. Now all I have to do is think what they are.

January revisited

                It is unreasonable to expect much to change within a one year time frame. When I look back at the first three posts of last year the immediate thing that strikes is that they were much shorter-by about half! So either I could not think of much to say at the time, and have become more practised at writing dross, or I have become even more verbose; or a combination of the two.

                The beginning posts were somewhat grumpy. I set out my case for disliking musicals, citing ‘Les Mis’ as a prime example of everything I did not like. This is still true; although following this diatribe I did download the novel [gloriously free for classics] and made a worthy attempt to read it. I have to say now that having tried several times to wade through this famous and admirable classic novel the musical comes across as a little less awful. Never let it be said I cannot climb down a rung or two when proved wrong. You have to admire the makers of said musical, to have constructed a universally popular, understandable tearjerker from such an incomprehensible narrative.

                The Christmas and New Year season is the only holiday period which features [for us in the Northern hemisphere, at least] reliably ghastly weather, no more so in the UK than this year, when we have been battered by gale force winds and squally downpours consisting of rain, sleet and hailstones for about a month now. It is not conducive to going out, for taking bracing walks or winter bike rides. Unless your heart’s desire is to while away the hours in the sales [see previous post, ‘Boxing Day-a Daft Party or a Bun Fight?’] you are stuck with a choice of a good book, getting on with a project [Novel 2 for me] or the dismal TV schedules. The TV planners appear to save all of their dross for the winter months, as if their only objective was to make viewers as miserable as possible. The screen guide is peppered with reality shows, manically overwrought ‘comedy’, ancient movies from the year dot [trotted out every year] and re-runs. I found the only viewable items-‘Death Comes to Pemberley’-a barmy idea but a good romp, and ‘Jane Eyre’-a new adaptation of a reliable yarn. These I recorded, only to discover that Jane Eyre’s recording had been interrupted by a signal failure fifteen minutes before the end [and was no longer available on i-player]. Great…

                It’s not all depressing. We made an overnight trip to Gloucestershire for a birthday party, travelling back through the gloomy rain and the cold today. There are already catkins covering the hazel trees and fluffy buds on the willows, the first signs that the year is turning. Light at the end of the January tunnel! Happy New Year!