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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Spring Chickens and Tough Old Boilers

                Some years ago I was invited to a hen party as a colleague of the bride-to-be. In recent times, hen ‘dos’ have become more elaborate affairs, as have stag parties. They often consist of an entire weekend of activities-even, as in the case of one of our neighbours, a whole holiday of sailing around the Greek islands. For women there will often be some kind of ‘pampering’ like nails, massage or facials, followed  by something more active, such as ballet, followed by cocktails, followed by a meal, followed by getting extremely drunk going clubbing and tottering around on spindly heels/falling over/throwing up/stripping off/lying in the gutter and generally having a great time. The whole of this may be undertaken in some kind of themed fancy dress, or simply the tartiest get-up that can be assembled.

                For a number of reasons I consider rites of passage such as these to be the realm of the young. If you are of more mature years and get invited the best policy is to select the part that is most appropriate [in the aforementioned case it was the cocktail and the meal]. As the meal drew to a close, the two of us who had opted out of the clubbing part waved their taxis off with a shared sigh of relief. I must add that not all the older women had opted out of clubbing-indeed one or two threw themselves into both the late night revelries and the taxis with an excited anticipation that appeared a little incongruous alongside their younger companions; still, no matter.

                Subsequent feedback during coffee with one of the [thirty something] married revellers of that night only served to reinforce my theory. Had she had a good time? ‘It was ok’, she replied. ‘but you know-however young, fashion conscious and fit you may be, there is always going to be someone younger, more fashionable and fit than you are’. This, I might add was from a beautiful, intelligent and witty young woman. No surprise then that she has risen up the career with meteoric speed.

                It is currently Red Carpet Season. Consider the likes of Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep. They are held up as shining examples of older women who are ‘still gorgeous’-and yes, they are, though the unspoken phrase ‘for their age’ lurks in the background of the chatter column like an eavesdropper.

                So what are we ancient crones to do? The answer, I feel is to do nothing. We can continue to scrub up the best we can for the sake of our own dignity. We can be good conversationalists, good listeners, constant learners, entertaining, interesting, interested, fun, witty, wise, creative. But we cannot, and should not attempt to compete in the sexual arena, for there will always, always be younger, lovelier beings; such is life.