It’s that time of the year again. Awards Time! The time when the denizens of Filmland find out what the audiences think of them. That’s not quite true. The people that vote for the films are, usually, a selected bunch of opinionated people with time on their hands. Like me.
Since November there has been a steady stream of padded envelopes thudding onto the coconut matting. Each containing DVDs of films that the distributing companies want me, as a voting member of BAFTA, to endorse and win them a nice shiny award and a fervent round of applause. Trouble is I’m not sure that I am the best person to give my opinion. There are hundreds of films circulated every year. Impossible to see every one of the them. Therefore I tend to be guided by reviews and what people are saying about them. Guided but not dictated to. Usually my vote is way off. The people I have elbowed are there on the night collecting awards. You might go as far as to say that my vote is the kiss of death.
Take this year. Elizabeth – The Golden Age had everything – I thought! Cate Blanchett was fabulous as the Queen, Clive Owen was a dream in his tights. Wardrobe, direction – couldn’t be criticised. I waited for that great defining moment of Elizabeth I at Tilbury when the Spanish Armada was storming up the Channel. The Offal Oration! “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king……” But where was it? How can you possibly have Tilbury without the ‘heart and stomach’ speech? Took the shine right off the film for me.
The Bourne Ultimatum. I’d seen the previous offerings and thought they were OK – if you liked your leading man to look like a clone of Wayne Rooney and walk like Felix the Cat. But I was bombarded by statements that made Bourne, Matt Damon, and his problems way above the shenanigans of 007. What? 007, in any of his incarnations, would have sorted out his identity problem as well as seduced the enemy’s leading spy in the teaser at the beginning of the film.
Atonement with Keira Knightley was one film I was going to love. All the critics told me so. Trouble is I can’t remember a single scene from it and was totally confused by the storyline. With Russell Crowe as a supporting actor and Denzel Washington as the leading man American Gangster should have had everything. The thing that was missing was a half-way believable storyline. Plenty of violence and casual murders, but joining up the dots was a bit iffy.
I’m a dyed in the wool Eastwood fan. Up until Flags of our Fathers (2006). which he co-produced with Steven Speilberg, as far as I was concerned, he hadn’t put a foot wrong. All his films were character driven and the character was usual Clint. So why did he have to make an ensemble film? The follow-up to Fathers is Letters From Iwo Jima, showing the battle from the Japanese point of view. Entirely in Japanese – with no definable central character. It had been promoted as ‘Another Masterpiece from Clint Eastwood.’ I feel like a heretic who should be condemned to the stake, but I found it deeply boring.
I couldn’t sit through Ratatouille. Rats are not my favourite animals. Rats running a restaurant ……….! Then there’s poor old Shrek The Third. They tell me it’s the ‘Best One Ever’. I’m just glad I didn’t see one and two.
I guess I’m just about to lose my voting rights but there was a film on two which didn’t disappoint. Remakes are always difficult. Sleuth was on a hiding to nothing. How was it ever going to be better than the original Caine vs Olivier duet? So it is surprising to find that I actually like the revamp with Michael Caine reversing his role and Jude Law taking on his cheeky cockney sparrow role. Better than the original? Does it matter? It’s good entertainment and that is what counts.
The same must be said for 3:10 For Yuma. A faithful remake of the 1957 version with Glen Ford playing the villain Ben Wade and Van Heflin standing in for dirt farmer and hero Dan Evans. A rollicking, old fashioned Western. My only grouch about it is the nimbleness of Dan Evans, who is supposed to have lost a leg in the war. He leaps, runs, fights and only on very rare occasions limps. Roehampton could certainly learn a thing or two from whoever made the prosthetics.
I’m not sure what 300 is all about. Thought at one time it was animated but was wrong. It is post “I am Spartacus” and depicts the bloody last stand of the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae against the Army of Xerxes. For the Spartans, in the left corner, is King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and in the right corner for the Persians is Rodrigo Santgro. Whish, bang, wallop and nothing to think about for 111 minutes – that’s entertainment.
If you want to think, try This Is England. It’s about skinheads and racism and bullying and friendship and rights of passage and other thought provoking matters. And is surprisingly good. Any moralising is left to the viewer and the film is better for it. Directed and written, but not necessarily in that order, by Shane Meadows.
I wasn’t going to like Brick Lane adapted from the novel by Monica Ali, about a Bangladeshi girl, trapped in an arranged marriage to an older man and forced to live a gruesome life in the East End’s Brick Lane. But I was sold on it by the the engaging photography, the relaxing music and the beautiful Tannishtha Chatterjee.
And then there is Hot Fuzz. I saw Shaun of the Dead and found it quite funny. If decomposing bodies shuffling around and eating anything with warm blood in it can be deemed funny. Simon Pegg is once more in the lead and does the best he can with a woeful script but the only time I laughed was when they ran the credits – and that was with relief.
But I still having a hankering after Elizabeth – if only she had put some offal in it.
Ingrid Pitt writes every week at Den Of Geek. Find last week’s column here…