Archive | January, 2018

Darkest Hour…(Better luck this time)

16 Jan

My enjoyment of Gary Oldman’s brilliant Churchill, moodily navigating his way through the days which led up to Dunkirk was, as is regularly the case, diminished by cinema philistines. And in Epsom too!

The Odeon in Upper High Street – a stone’s throw from  the famed racecourse and a dose of salts – boasts machine-generated tickets and 8 super-screens. Popcorn and full-fat coke are dispensed by grim-looking students scraping their pennies so as to spend their summers as far from the Odeon as possible.

Large numbers poured into Screen 8. Far from silent, the hubbub of conversation and the dazzle of iphones suggested a cavernous wine bar. The trailers were already trailing. Why can’t people find their seats, settle and shut up? A toilet visit prior to entry would ensure comfort and the chance to silence the bloody mobile.

The couple next to us, circa 70, nattered and played with their phones as if they had been instructed that this was the very time and place to obsess with talk and twitter. Luckily they put a sock in it, for the most part, when the main feature started to roll.

Behind us a family – with kids too young to remember the crass errors of  Cameron, never mind the conciliatory chump that was Chamberlain – were set to cause further disturbance. Clearly smug parents were ticking the mind-improvement box and preparing their children for world domination. However learning to behave comes before learning to lead in my book.

Cinemas flog eats and drinks which have extraordinary decibel levels when opened and masticated or otherwise consumed. I need not list the snap, crackle and pop of sounds that cut through the inner ear of my calm. As the opening scenes lit up the screen, I was already a teeth-gnashing mess of ire; I knew that there was trouble ahead. Darkest hour indeed.

Joe Wright, the director, clearly felt that Oldman and Kristen Scott Thomas were likely to grab the headlines. He injected a range of camera tricks from aerial wizardry to close-ups to Oldman’s/Churchill’s nasal blackheads so as to persuade us that the director is worth his place on the credits.

Anthony McCarten’s screenplay is at its best in the in the tense war cabinet rooms with Churchill agonising whether to submit to Mussolini’s offer to broker a victory peace deal for Hitler. Halifax and Chamberlain push him to the brink of conceding. This tension – and the great speeches – are the real stuff of the film. The romantic scenes are distractions: meeting ‘real’ people on the tube; draining tumblers of scotch with the full English each morning while making world-changing decisions from his bed; the bullying-cum-flirtation with Lily James who plays his wet-behind-the-ears secretary. But it’s Hollywood-geared and Oscar-fashioned. And Oldman still steals the show – make no mistake.

I noted that the pathetic advice about phones and other nuisances arrived on screen immediately before the British Board of Film Classification Certificate heralding the main feature. Noooooo.

Put a sign at the front of the cinema which says: Turn your phones off now. No food or drink allowed in the auditorium but there will be a half-time comfort break (as in theatres). Silence in the cinema after taking your seats.

Sounds like I’m a bit of a Nazi (Nartzi) – or Naaaarsi as Churchill would have said.

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Another reading year…

10 Jan

Here again my reading list for 2017. Fewer than previous years. I must have become distracted by the joy of world events. I still don’t get round to enough non-fiction but Martin Amis’s collection The Rub of Time is first on my list.

Friends of mine have done so well to publish in the last twelve months. I lag behind but 2018 may prove a watershed. Watch this space…

Books 2017

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