This year, Mrs P and I have been particularly good cinema customers over the last year. We both enjoyed Gary Oldman’s version of Winston Churchill. I had my doubts about the casting of wirey, high pitched Oldman. But he pulled it off, then some. Worthy of an Oscar? Definitely. We watched the Post, which many people have referred to as the prequel to All The Presidents Men. Has Tom Hanks ever made a bad movie? I mean, a real stinker? I can’t think of one. I’m also currently watching the sequel, being played out in episodes each night on the news. It may end up being called All The Presidents Russians. We’ll see.
It’s time for the Oscars again, and as I’ve watched most of the nominations I feel almost compelled to hand out my own highly prized set of gongs for the best, and worst, that the film industry has to offer. What right do I have, a Brit, in intruding on the United States of America’s glitziest, glammest night out on the tiles? Well, first of all, we talk properly. In fact, most US movies should probably be moved into the Best Foreign Film category. Secondly, we’re on our way over to win all of those Oscars. Again. So there.
The Award For The Most Important Haircuts…
Boyhood. A near three hour epic absolutely packed full of nothing. Seriously, no spoiler alert is required for this film. Have you got your eyes closed in case I give away a key moment and ruin it all? Relax. Nothing happens. At all. At times, it has the feel of Stand by Me, (awesome novella in a set of four, by the by) the tale of four young boys on a sunny day trip. Except in Boyhood, there’s no dead body to be found. There was a moment in an abandoned house where you thought there might be a nasty accident. I almost hoped for a fatality, just to liven things up. But alas, nowt came of it. About an hour and a half into the film, you realise that actually, really, nothing is going to happen. And what you are really paying attention to are the change in hairstyles which signify a shift in time. This flick was, after all, filmed over a 12 year period. Without the radically morphing bonnets, then quite frankly you’d be completely lost. Was it a bad movie? No, not really. It was fairly watchable. Enjoyable, even. It’s a nice film. But it won’t see a re-run in my home. Once was more than enough.
The Best Christmas Movie Award
On 25th December I had a limited choice of viewing. On what is traditionally the best day for TV in the UK, I found myself short changed. Listen to the Queen drivel on for ten minutes, or East Bloody Enders. Or, that new Sony movie of North Korean fame. On account that my downloading and watching this film would greatly irritate the Dear One Junior, I chose the latter option. It is toilet humour, and will be forgotten as quickly as anything else you’ve ever flushed. But it had its moments, some of them quite funny. And it saved my Christmas afternoon from regal festivity or slum land depression
The Vieux Boulogne Award…
Hollywood knows how to produce a bit of cheese. Heck, there’s a bit of curdled dairy in most films. Sometimes it even helps. But there is cheese and then there is Vieux Boulogne. Which movie this year managed to leave the audience with the most acrid, pungent aroma of stinky French fromage stuck to the inner walls of their nostrils? That would be Fury. In a similar fashion to the cheese that gives the award its name, Brad Pitt and co put their names and reputations to an epic World War II monstrosity that smells like the contents of the unwashed behind of a farmyard cow. The initial plot, plausible. Just. The battle, unlikely to the extreme. The outcome, simply ridiculous. Brad Pitt’s career? Surely on the skids. I can sense every other great WW2 movie turning in its cassette each time this is played. The greatest shame, for me personally, is that the two main tank stars, the Sherman and Tiger, were both borrowed from a tank museum not far from my home. Brad, you let that museum down. Or maybe not. Perhaps visitor numbers are up. I’ve a sudden urge to pay it a visit. Stay tuned.
The Goebells Award…
And the winner is? American Sniper. What. A. Missed. Opportunity. I grew up watching war films. Battle of Midway. The Battle of Britain. A Bridge Too Far. Bridge over the River Kwai. Later on, I enjoyed Apocolypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and Platoon, as the Vietnam films gained popularity. Perhaps I shouldn’t like them, but I’m afraid I do. I guess we all like a hero, and war does provide the theatre for heroics. And it’s far better to watch a reproduction of the event than to be a participant. Perhaps, if we are going to be honest, most of us don’t want to be a hero so bad that we’d wander into a war zone. Better to be a living, breathing cow than a dead general, as the saying goes.
There haven’t been many decent Gulf War II films of note outside the Hurt Locker. There may be a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, the war is still something an embarrassment. Have they found those weapons of mass destruction yet? No? Really?? Secondly, there were so many journalists and film crews embedded in the front line, we watched it live. It almost became a sports event. How many people watch reruns of the Super Bowl? Exactly. But here was a story, Chris Kyle’s story, that could be made into a movie. It doesn’t matter if he was a hero or not. That’s up to the viewer to decide for themselves. But he did have a story.
Alas, Clint Eastwood seems to have lost the plot. There’s not really that much of a fine line between artistic license and complete bullshit. If you’ll pardon my French. The former is a matter of padding out the story. Selective focus. The latter is just screwing the real story up and inserting complete fiction. Clint has jumped the substantial gap between artistic license into bullshit territory with aplomb. I hoped the Eastwood of Gran Torino, Letters from Iwo Jima and Million Dollar Baby would turn up. Instead the right wing, politicised Clint Eastward of Talking to an Empty Chair fame took centre stage. And ruined the chance of American Sniper being the film it could have, should have, been. From a technical point of view, there was so much right about this movie. But in the end, it wasn’t actually the story of Chris Kyle at all. The movie deserves whole theatres full of empty chairs. Shame on you, Clint.
Thumping Church Organ Soundtrack Award
There can be only one candidate. Interstellar. When did church organs become acceptable for use in film scores again? I thought they must have been banned for overuse in vampire movies some time ago. It took me half the film to decide whether I liked it or not. In the end, I just turned the volume right on up and let those godly beats outta them pipes and into my my living room. Hallelujah! They do work. They provide atmosphere. The film itself. It’s ok. I like a good sci-fi film. Ok, the science is stretched, just a tad. I’m pretty sure a guy in a space suit probably can’t take a stroll on the surface of a black hole. But you have to let these things go once in a while. It’s good to be dumb sometimes, and to just enjoy.
Award For The Most Surreal, Even A Little Bizarre, Movie…
Hmmmm. Birdman or Grand Budapest Hotel? Birdman or Budapest? Eeeny, meeny, miny moe. No, there can only be one, and that has to be the Grand Budapest Hotel. Birdman was ok, but it was also a little pointless. Without Edward Norton, it would have been a total flop. The Grand Budapest Hotel though. What is not to like? The colours. The cast. Their performances. Ralph Fiennes at his fiennest. The setting. The surreal storyline. It’s so far fetched, it’s wonderful. It’s a couple of hours in a fantasy world that has just a sufficient amount of tangible reality to it to make it somehow believable. Almost. I liked this film. A lot. It’s not an all time great. But it is a worthy candidate for film of the year.
The Mexile Best Motion Picture of 2015, Even Though We Are But Five Weeks Into The Year Award…
I suspect myself and Mr Oscar will disagree, and they’ll give their gong to someone else. But hooey to him. The best film this year was The Imitation Game. It’s a true story, told well. But that doesn’t make it a winner. Foxcatcher was also a true story told well. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly were both excellent. I barely noticed Keira’s underbite at all. Well done her. But the cast of Foxcatcher was also excellent. This story had set-work one step above the competition. If you’re going to tell a WW2 story, make it feel like WW2.
The difference is the scale of this story. How important it was to be told. The difference that this story made to tens of millions of lives around the world. The tragedy of this story was a tragedy for countless others of a non heterosexual persuasion in that era and afterwards. Never in the history of human conflict was so much owed, by so many, to that one chap over yonder in that there wooden shed. As Churchill might have said in one of his radio broadcasts about Alan Turing. Had Turing himself not been shrouded in total secrecy. There will always be those who pick at details in the film. But the Imitation Game stays on the right side of the artistic license/bullshit divide.
Crazy Walking Guy Award…
A couple more awards, just for the hell of it. Wildcards, if you like. And not for movies. This one goes to Walking The Nile. Levison Wood redefines travelling. Simply put, if you don’t have at least one companion die from heatstroke, get chased by a crocodie, stroll through a Muslim Botherhood village, visit a terrorist infested mosque, spend the night in a warzone, trek through a mine field and keep going for more than 4,000 miles…..well, you’re just not really travelling man. You’re just on holiday. Pft. Ya feeble tourist.
Crazy Guy Award…
O.M.G. There are some people who should not be allowed to play with the internet. This guy has popped up a few times on Facebook and elsewhere. I’ve watched a couple of them. And my first question is…how does this guy have an audience? How brain dead must a person be to swallow this sort of nonsense? The one I’ve posted below is a fine example. His rebuttal of the US as having a gun problem. They are, after all, not even in the top one hundred of murders per capita in the world, despite having by far the highest gun ownership rates. Well, that’s settled then.
Except, a couple of questions. Firstly, if you’re going to list gun ownership rates, why not then list firearm death rates instead of overall homicide rates? That places the US somewhere between number 17 and number 28. Secondly, did one not think of other issues that might account for higher murder rates in some countries. I mean, is it not fair to say that social and economic development might not play a part? Is it not fair to say, perhaps, that Mexico might not be so high up the list if the US didn’t give it so many guns and then demand a ton of drugs sneaked back across the border in return? Just perhaps?
And finally. That list of countries above the US on the list. Who on earth are you comparing the US to?? The argument he is making is akin to Jeffrey Dahmer standing up in court and pleading not guilty on the basis that there have been at least a hundred worse serial killers than him. Do none of his viewers analyse his data and logic a little more carefully? Or even pause for thought? Jebus, me thinks not. Some people have too much goo glooping about in their skulls. There’s a sensible debate on gun control to be had. You won’t have it with Bill.