Not much News…
…Though what there is is good…So, what’s the situation in Italy with Corona virus now? Lockdown is as before, and the rates of infection, hospitalisation, ICU beds occupied and fatalities are: down, down, down and stable at under 3% respectively. Yesterday’s fatalities (19thApril 2020) represented a 1.86% increase on the previous day. The percentage daily increase in fatalities has not been above 5% for 16 days and has remained under 3% for the last 8 days. So the lockdown has brought containment and a moment to puff out the cheeks and partake of the half-time orange wedge. But we need to figure out what’s next: another month or another year? When will schools reopen? When will shops, bars, offices reopen? How will any containment measures look and be enforced once the collective tortoise starts to peer out from its shell again?
Right, that’s enough of Corona virus for now. I’m well aware of its existence and the effect it’s having on people, and so, I imagine, are you. So let’s talk about something much more fun – even if I’m only doing that because of Corona virus…!
DVDs are discs…
I have realised that there are only so many blogs you can realistically get out of: ‘We didn’t go anywhere or do anything’. I’ve done four of them now, and by my reckoning, that’s probably 3 more than is plausible. Noah is entertaining, as ever, but I think I’ve probably already exhausted any ‘proud dad’ goodwill there is by banging on about how special my kid is. Besides, I will be doing another soon enough about that…
So I am particularly grateful to Richard Willmett, a former Berry Bros & Rudd colleague, who posted his Desert Island DVDs on facebook a few days ago. For anyone not familiar with this idea, it is based on a long-running radio programme first broadcast on 29thJanuary 1942, called Desert Island Discs. The conceit is this: a prominent individual is invited to be hypothetically stranded, without human company, on a desert island. They are allowed 8 records (as they would have been in 1942) along with a book and a luxury item of their choosing. An interviewer then grills said prominent figure, with a view to ascertaining why they chose what they did. So my friend Richard, finding that he had some time on his hands for an unspecified reason (I told you we had had enough of it for now…) went back through his DVDs and found plenty of great films that he hadn’t watched for a long time. This gave him the idea of choosing his 8 to take with him on this hypothecated ultimate social distancing exercise. His choices were, in no particular order:
- The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007) – Andrew Dominik
- Le Samouraï (1967) – Jean-Pierre Melville
- Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) – Robert Hamer
- Fight Club (1999) – David Fincher
- The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
- Rififi (1955) – Jules Dassin
- The Right Stuff (1983) – Philip Kaufman
- Three Colours Blue (1993) – Krzysztof Kieslowski
Book: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Luxury item: Sky Sports Cricket
Now, prominent though I consider him, I am not proposing to interview Richard for you. (Save that for a lockdown blog in 2022…) Instead, I have rummaged through my DVDs – I have included Blu-Ray but not iTunes – to bring you my 8 films, plus my book and luxury item choice. Obviously Netflix, Amazon Prime and any other streaming services are not permitted…I chose the following, again, in no order of importance:
- Apocalypse Now (1979) – Francis Ford Coppola
- Fight Club (1999) – David Fincher
- Withnail & I (1987) – Bruce Robinson
- Life of Brian (1979) – Terry Jones
- Deep Water (2006) – Jerry Rothwell and Louise Osmond
- L. A. Confidential (1997) – Curtis Hanson
- Mission (1986) – Roland Joffé
- Memento (2000) – Christopher Nolan
What interested me, though, were the ones that I left out:
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Stanley Kubrick
- A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Stanley Kubrick
- Dr Strangelove (1964) – Stanley Kubrick
- The Godfather (1972) – Francis Ford Coppola
- The Godfather Part 2 (1974) – Francis Ford Coppola
- The Usual Suspects (1995) – Bryan Singer
- Alien (1979) – Ridley Scott
- Some Like It Hot (1959) – Billy Wilder
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – Blake Edwards
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001 – 2003) – Peter Jackson
- Star Wars, Episodes IV, V & VI (1977 – 1983) – George Lucas, Irvin Kirschner & Richard Marquand
- The Bourne Trilogy (2002 – 2007) – Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass & Paul Greengrass (I don’t have the poor one with Jeremy Renner, which, frankly, was an insult to the previous three, and number 4 of the proper ones is on my iTunes account and hence doubly inadmissible to my last 8)
- Tootsie (1982) – Sydney Pollack
- Touching the Void (2003) – Kevin Macdonald
- Crash (2004) – Paul Haggis
- The Lives of Others (2006) – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
- Hot Fuzz (2007) – Edgar Wright
- Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy (2005 – 2012) – Christopher Nolan
- Blade Runner (1982) – Ridley Scott
The list of left-outs surprised me a little, even though it was my own list. If I have unlimited time – are we talking about our imaginary desert island isolation, or our actual situation? Talk about life imitating art… – then surely it makes sense for me to have a film such as 2001 or the Lord of the Rings films: they’re quite long. And who knows, maybe watching 2001 enough times will reveal to me what it was all about, what the ending meant.
Similarly, Star Wars was the first film I can remember being excited about. When The Return of The Jedi came out, 13 year-old me went to the cinema for the triple-bill, dressed as close as I could get to Han Solo (much more interesting than that do-gooding wet blanket Skywalker. I feel much the same in re Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, though Nebbiolo is more akin – if you’ll forgive the pun – to Anakin: there is something black in its core. Discuss…). Star Wars was also, I would argue, the first film that actually looked ‘futuristic’ – certainly the first one I had seen. While 2001 was much more rooted in reality – there was no gravity in space, for example, and the spacecraft sequences were shot using a single light source – it nevertheless looked like the 1960s in space. Similarly, things like Logan’s Run and Silent Running looked like the 1970s. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis featured cities with planes flying about the place, but they were all 1920s biplanes: none of it looked any different…But Star Wars looked like nothing you’d ever seen before: land speeders, a kind of ‘car’ that hovered rather than requiring wheels, but didn’t look like a 1970s car with the wheels removed; interiors didn’t look like 1970s designs transported to space, and the space craft didn’t look like modified versions of things that were familiar, or even cutting edge, in the 1970s. And it wasn’t all pristine – things were dinged, grubby, worn, as though they had been in use for years, lived-in. Doesn’t get into my 8, though…
The Godfather parts 1 & 2. Now, I’m not saying that they weren’t great films. It’s just that Mafia stories aren’t my cuppa. I watched them so that I had seen them (same with number 3, but I didn’t finish that as it wasn’t very good, as well as being about stuff that really doesn’t interest me: it felt like I was watching a first rehearsal). I feel much the same about The Sopranos: I can appreciate that it was a great series, but I couldn’t have given a monkey’s about any of the characters or the story lines. They all get bumped off in the end, and, when they did, after 9 seasons of watching these people, I just shrugged. I’d say Apocalypse Now would be my ‘Godfather’.
Touching the Void was a terrific documentary, but I found the triple-strand story of Deep Water had a bit more to say on the human level: Touching the Void seemed more about events, staggering though they might have been, while Deep Water was more about the protagonists themselves. I found myself feeling more for those in Deep Water than I did about Simpson and Yates in Touching the Void. I guess if I am on a desert island on my own, feeling something for other people would count for a lot.
Stranded solo for an indefinite period, perhaps comedies would be the way forward, and yet three of my favourites – Hot Fuzz, Tootsie and Some Like it Hot, don’t make it. I’m sure they’d be more uplifting than Apocalypse Now, but there we have it…
And there isn’t really a science fiction film in there at all, even though my near-misses have plenty of them…Nor an out-and-out fantasy (I’m not getting into a philosophical argument about all films being fantasies as they are constructs…) unless you count The Life of Brian.
Whilst there may be some very good or even ‘great’ films on the missed-out list, I’m not sure that I would want to watch them over and over again on my desert island. Whereas Withnail and I is the only film I have ever watched that I have wanted to watch more when I had just finished viewing than before I started. Right, now I might go and watch all the ‘nearlies’, knowing that I am going to leave them behind, and keep the final 8 for when I really need them…
For my book, I originally narrowed my choice down to The Code of the Woosters or The Pickwick Papers, but they may have to be relegated by The World Atlas of Wine. I remember reading The Pickwick Papers over 20 years ago now and thinking, ‘This is like a Wodehouse, but written by a genius’. And I think Wodehouse was a genius. Also, Pickwick is much longer than The Code of the Woosters, which would certainly help. But The World Atlas of Wine might be just the ticket if I am alone in the middle of nowhere. I could enjoy vicariously the rest of the world, all the while keeping in my mind a romantic view of the regions – Napa is still a bucolic dreamer’s paradise, for example – unsullied by reality: Napa is a corporatised Disneyland for adults getting drunk on stag dos, riding the Napa Valley Wine Train to over-priced, over blown wineries (so I’m told…) for example.
My Luxury Item would be constant updates to The World Atlas of Wine, with one proviso: that each update does not overwrite the previous iteration. Or I might have to have wine as my luxury item…I have always wondered why no-one asked for an instant ticket home, or at least a rescue, but I Imagine that that is against the rules. It’s like those fairy stories where someone is granted three wishes: the first one should be unlimited subsequent wishes, which never seem to be proscribed, and yet no-one seems to think of this.
Having found that, in reality, I was not stranded with only 8 DVDs, a book (in addition to the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible) and a luxury item, I watched some more tv.
Black Mirror continues to un-nerve, some episodes more than others, but all worth a look. Dolemite is my Name, a film about a chap named Rudy Ray Moore trying to break into movies in the 1970s, was good fun, and did show that Eddie Murphy still has talent and skill: some of the film was pretty run-of-the-mill, but every now and then there was a scene or even a couple of lines that Eddie Murphy made seem just unbelievably effortless. Wesley Snipes was ott but fun, too.
I have bowed under the weight of hype and watched 2 episodes of Tiger King. I came away with the impression that they are all bonkers. But by the end of the second episode, I was certain that I have to find out what’s next. This is the kind of thing that makes you wonder why anyone writes fiction (along with the aforementioned Deep Water and Touching the Void. And Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room).
If you’ve got a better selection for your Desert Island DVDs than either of the above, bung it on the facebook page. And feel free to rubbish my selections. I will need to see the working, though…
Stay safe wherever you are, don’t go thirsty and thank your lucky stars that I’m not blogging about being on my own on a desert island…