On Friday night I found myself sitting on my sofa drinking Coca Cola straight from the 2-litre bottle and layering brie onto crackers and forcing them into my increasingly fat face. It was half past eleven and I live approximately two minutes away from the local town centre, which features at least ten bars and a nightclub. I considered this and decided to stay on my sofa in my Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles pyjamas, the waistband of which is becoming quite strained. It’s fair to deduce that if my life is going anywhere, it’s to an early grave, and it’s getting there by way of an embarrassing conga line.
Given how pathetic I’ve become, it’s hardly surprising that my local video shop plays a vital role in how my life functions. It’s an exciting time at the moment because awards season is coming to Blockbuster. It’s the Bloscars (or at a stretch The Oscbusters). I personally like to call it ‘lamentation season’ because it’s the time of year when I lament over all of the excellent films I didn’t get around to seeing at the cinema. In my defence, I’ve been busy eating brie and sitting on the sofa. Plus going all the way to the cinema and back leaves me sweaty and out of breath.
Picking out The Wrestler I overheard a brilliant conversation between two numbskulls, one of whom had seen the film. “It’s shit,” he reported. “You think there’s gonna be loads of fighting in it, but then there isn’t that much. It’s all talking and that. You should rent this (The Day the Earth Stood Still), it’s wicked. It’s got all aliens and Keanu Reeves and that.” I don’t think it would have been unreasonable of me to collapse his head in with a metal chair. Alas, I’m an out of shape coward, so I just sniggered to myself instead.
In his defence, according to the box, The Daily Star rated The Day the Earth Stood Still 10/10 (making it, according to the Daily Star, one better than There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men), saying, “The special effects are magnificent.” Of course, The Daily Star also said that “…you can’t fail to enjoy” the Sex And The City movie, so maybe just ignore every single thing they’ve ever said.
The Wrestler is a terrific character piece that’s quite worthy of all the critical praise that’s been heaped upon it. Much has been made of Mickey Rourke’s performance, and rightly so, but director Darren Aronofsky warrants more than a passing mention for the success of this film. There’s a lot of handheld camera work going on here, but it’s used to the benefit of the film rather than because of recent trends. The potential of this film to go horribly wrong (what with how hilarious 80s American wrestling was) was huge, and that it has turned out so well is a considerable achievement.
If I had one complaint about the film it would be that it doesn’t incorporate any of the lunacy that most American wrestlers of the era now exhibit. Randy the Ram was a mess, but he wasn’t a shit-flinging nutcase, which is an avenue they may look to explore in a sequel. For inspiration, they might look to the Ultimate Warrior, who regularly publishes bizarre and aggressively intolerant rants on his blog. My personal favourite is the one that bemoans the refusal of wrestlers of his generation to “act their age”, which is a bit rich coming from a man who spent his twenties and thirties parading around in neon pants in front of thousands of children, doing an impression of a disco. Further inspiration might come from Hulk Hogan, who recently publicly empathised with O.J. Simpson, or Macho Man Randy Savage, who disappeared into obscurity after his rap album didn’t prove to be the success we were all expecting.
Next up was Milk. Several excited shirtless men, hearts filled with hope, bound together with a bond of intimacy that most of us will never understand, completely oblivious to the disaster and heartbreak they would experience in the proceeding two hours. Come to think of it, that was actually Newcastle’s last match in Premier League this season.
I’d been looking forward to The Wrestler, but Milk had hardly registered with me. I’ve been burned before by Gus Van Sant and I was in no rush to sit through another of his experimental mis-steps. Here, Van Sant has got it all right. It’s a measured effort with a real punch to it. The constant feeling of impending tragedy makes this a difficult film to watch at times. It is rewarding viewing though, and comes at a time when it can perhaps prove of some comfort or inspiration to those fighting similar battles at the moment (see America’s recent voting shenanigans over Prop 8).
Sean Penn’s Oscar win for his performance in Milk was somewhat tainted by the mumbles of discontent from those who felt the award should have gone to Rourke, who was being punished for previous behaviours. Whilst I understand that Rourke has a great redemption story that would be nicely concluded with an Oscar win (not to mention that Rourke invokes a certain amount of sympathy for having a face that looks like a mashed potato sculpture covered in cellophane), the truth is that Penn deserved the win. He’s remarkable as Harvey Milk and once again proves himself to be a versatile actor.
Then I braced myself for The Reader. I’ve heard that Kate Winslet is great in this. Apparently so great that she slams Mickey Rourke through a table wrapped in barbed wire, covered in broken glass and coated in shame. Then she shoots Harvey Milk through the back of the head whilst waving a flag that says ‘Look at me, I won an Oscar finally, don’t look at them, look at me and my acting in a holocaust film. Wasn’t the holocaust really bloody sad? Well, look at me in my film, I really put that across’. I mean, not actually. But as a metaphor, that’s basically how good she is.
Unfortunately, I haven’t actually seen The Reader yet. I couldn’t hack it. This many heavy films in such a short period of time are just too much. I’m already exhausted from all the reaching for snacks that I’ve been doing. So I rented The Day The Earth Stood Still instead. Apparently, the special effects are magnificent, and there are aliens and Keanu Reeves and that.