A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Constant Groaniad: time for British films to grow up.....

I was delighted that Bafta presented little but the wooden spoon to The Constant Gardener. I relished even more the ensuing hissy fit from the luvvies. Stephen Pollard has it exactly right in his blog this morning:
"... its student agitprop message - they're worse than gun runners, those nasty drug companies - and preposterous plot [less subtle than even The Mummy Returns, also starring Rachel Weisz, which is at least hilarious. Ed.] were so laughably stupid that even Bafta's membership saw more sense than to honour such drivel..."

The Constant Gardener suffers from that classic British disease, which I term the 'David Hare Syndrome', named after Hare's many sententious plays in which beautiful, left-wing heroines (and Ms Weisz is unquestionably stunning) save the day. It is Student Union stuff, and it has reminded me, yet again, how so much of British political environmentalism, from 'global warming' to 'organic food', has hardly escaped from nanny and the nursery.

Even more just, however, was the near complete omission from the Bafta awards of Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (2005). I thought this film a travesty of Austen, a kind of unique English tweeification of Austen's world, a sickening hybrid between Wuthering Heights and The Darling Buds of May. The scene where Keira Knightley (playing Elizabeth Bennet) lingeringly stares out at Derbyshire from a gothic-like promontory is pure Bronte, and it has as much to do with Austen as the Rolling Stones. It is time to stop traducing the immensely complex social world so brilliantly encapsulated by Austen.

As ever, we are thus left with a quintessentially British film, Wallace and Gromit in 'The Curse of the Were-Rabbit', which follows, at least, a long tradition of English whimsy, from Pooh to Fantastic Mr. Fox. And, of course, it does make one smile and laugh out loud at the circus-like slapstick and punning word play, and, even better, it does give beautiful, left-wing lassies spouting PC rubbish a wide miss (though not English upper-crust oddballs). On Monday, they erected a glorious, wobbly, giant, inflated Gromit in Trafalgar Square, reaching half way up Nelson's Column. I have to admit, this quite made my morning (and clearly that of many excited tourists, camera phones to the fore). I adore the fact that Gromit has no mouth.

But, in comparison with, say, Brokeback Mountain (immensely subtle and no beautiful, left-wing women) and Cache (Hidden)* (Juliette Binoche is a truly great actor), let's be honest, we Brits are still in the cot.

It's time to grow up a bit, and to drop the student politics from films, all so redolent of The Independent and The [Constant] Groaniad at their most embarrassing.

Yet, to be fair, good old Marcel Berlins, writing in today's The Gloomiad, agrees (scroll down):
"Unbelievable. Outrageous. An evening of woe. A conspiracy. The world has caved in. The Brits did not do very well at the Baftas on Sunday, and there has seldom been such an outpouring of British whingeing, moaning and whining. You know what? There was a subtle reason behind the awards. The American films and actors were - how can I put this tactfully? - better. There's only one thing to do to prevent another debacle. Restrict the awards to British films. That will really give Baftas status and prestige in the film world."

Philip, still mulling over Hidden, a disturbing piece of cinema, and something, for once, worth chatting about over post-film cocktails. "I say, Tammers, what was that last scene about?"* Time for a thinking-cap morning coffee, I deem. Now, what's that camera doing in the tree across the road? And - oh! - the post has just arrived..... Help!

*And here's my take on that final enigmatic scene from 'Hidden': two things are worth noting: (a) the son is seen talking quite animatedly with Majid's son (left-hand corner of the screen) for some time. They are mouthing a genuine script which will, apparently, never be released. The two young men then part, and the son re-climbs the school steps to speak nonchalantly with school friends; but, also observe that (b) the two boys are, in turn, being filmed by a fixed camera shot, just as the house is filmed in the long, static, opening sequence. So who is watching whom? Is it all going to start over again? Who controls the static camera? God? Conscience? An unknown third party? We shall never know. And that's the point!

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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