Film critic. There’s a job I’ve always had a hankering to do. Watch movies all day and then sit down and bash out my opinion on them for a shit load of cash. What’s not to like? I did actually try to get my foot across the threshold of this, the sweetest of career doors but I didn’t even get a reply from the numerous magazines and papers I approached…which is very unusual for the creative industries. I mean, publishers, agents and their ilk always reply without fail, they would never think to leave you hanging for months on end until you finally have to come to terms with the fact that yet another self-addressed envelope, which they fucking asked for, has been nicked and written over for their own use. Light-fingered philatelist gits.
My idea was to have one word, edging up to one sentence at most, film reviews. Straight to the point, no nonsense advice for busy filmgoers who did not have time to trawl through half a page of BS about lighting, cinematography and the director’s visionary insight. I’m not claiming it was an original idea but I hadn’t seen anything like it (still haven’t if anyone’s interested in paying for my services) and so I thought there was a gap in the market that I could plug. For example: ‘Avatar’ – shite; ‘Star Wars’ – dire; ‘Watchmen’ – da bollocks; ‘Jaws’ – I’ll never bathe again. I think that illustrates where I could have taken the world of critical film assessment…if just one of the bastards had used the s.a.e. enclosed to reply in the affirmative and not write to his relatives instead.
The value of a film critic can be gauged in two ways; if you totally agree with them or totally disagree with them. There is absolutely no point in following a critic who you agree with sometimes but not others, you’ll end up seeing films you hate as much as films you enjoy. Granted it does take some time, experience and lost admission prices to get a film critic you can rely on but in the end it is worth it.
My ‘go to guy’ was Barry Norman as I grew to understand if he liked a film I would hate it and vice versa. So if Bazza gave a film the old thumbs down, I would go and watch it and invariably enjoy it. Sadly Mr Noman is no longer with us so I am pretty much screwed for a point of reference and now see a glut of cinematic bollocks I could have avoided when he was alive and criticising.
The benefit of my one word system is that you can avoid all the time-sapping hyperbolic mutterings like: “Which in a sense, is what it’s there for,” (which is a damn good impression of a typical Barry Norman vocalisation by the way) and get straight to the meat of the analysis. Once you have established if you think I’m an idiot talking out of my arse or a genius who should have a BAFTA you can make your decision to watch the film or not. Even my usual modesty has to admit that is bloody genius. As I have said already, my paid for services are still available if you’re reading this ‘Empire’, ‘Total Film’, even ‘Metro’ though I do have a grudge against you, the details of which are available on receipt of toadying request from the so-called editor.
Why am I even bothering you with this idea; this thinly veiled attempt to get paid for watching movies and then bag the biggest ‘pence per word’ pay cheque ever? Well, I was watching a film the other day and it got me so enraged I didn’t even get to the end of it and that’s unusual for me as I don’t like to think I could be missing out on what could be the greatest twist in the history of cinema. Granted this has left me with lots of untwisted and yet still bitter hours I can never get back, as they say, but it’s something I don’t usually do; I’m the same with books…and pints of beer. It’s always to the very end with me no matter how bad they are and in spite of the fact I already can’t walk, talk or remember my name.
The film in question…‘Darkest Hour’. If only it had been. For a start looking at a completely blank screen for half the time the film was scheduled to run for would have been a vast improvement on every fucking level.
First up I am not an unquestioning admirer of Churchill, I think it is quite hard to see the line between the man and the myth, the good and the bad. In fact even that statement is hard to stand by as research (my research that is – two minutes on Google) has provided a myriad of different reports regarding the same incidents involving the rotund toff. In short I was approaching the film with more than a pinch of salt to hand. Action is called and the cameras roll and we are faced with Gary Oldman in a comedy sumo suit and his face aged with some molten latex. So far, so bad; but then Mr Oldman opens his mouth and the voice of ‘Droopy’ the miserable looking Tex Avery cartoon dog character from 1943 comes out. I nearly choked on my unsugared tea (I was on wartime rationing to get into the mood) with mocking laughter.
“Prime Minister, Hitler said he doesn’t care how many balls he’s missing he’s still going to kick your head in.”
“Oh dear…oh my. You know what, that makes me mad.”
From that initial low point it was all downhill. One minute a bumbling Churchillian fool is waddling across a living room, the next he is powerwalking into Buck Palace. (I understand this might have had some subtle meaning but it just looked like the fat old bloke that really needed to piss or already had pissed himself by turns.)
Scene by scene I was growing to hate the film, fat old men and, as hard as it is to believe, the Second World War. But then the scene came that finally had me hitting the ‘fuck off’ button on the remote and in a way that you will see is truly ironic. As I have covered in a previous rant (Digitally Remastered) there is a story, a myth in my opinion, that Churchill had to have the meaning of the raised ‘V’ of the forefinger and middle finger with the back of the hand facing forward explained to him.
In ‘Darkest Hour’ they decided it was best done by a young woman taking the old letch into a darkened corner and putting him straight much to his hilarity. Except this young woman explains to the innocent old war horse and ex-soldier that the ‘V’ sign means, ‘Up yer bum’. At this point the fat suit earns its pay as it undulates like a stoned lava lamp whilst Oldman giggles like a teenager with a nose full of contact adhesive fumes. I don’t know for sure but I suspect this sanitised version, if shoving anything up yer bum can be sanitised, was forced in for the American market. I know it sounds ridiculous considering some of the expletive heavy films that come out of Tinsel Town but it’s a reasoning that wants to ring true for me. The Yanks seem to have a fluid and inconsistent love/hate relationship with public swearing that I find fucking hard to fathom at times.
‘Darkest Hour’ stopped right there for me, I’d had enough. Which was a shame in one respect as I still don’t know what happened in the end, If Churchill won the war and what not. But why such asinine, sanitised, inaccurate dialogue? The fat suit and Oldman’s vocalisations needed all the bad language you could throw at it for distraction purposes; besides, hearing ‘Droopy’ call someone a mother-fucker in his depressed tones would have been brilliant and elevated the film no end. It’s like the script writer had taken his pride and drowned it in a bucket of war time censorship: KEEP CALM AND WRITE SHITE DIALOGUE.
Why couldn’t they get the writer from ‘Dirty Harry’: “When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher’s knife and a hard on, I figure he isn’t out collecting for the Red Cross.” Or the script editor from ‘A Fistful of Dollars’: “I don’t think it’s nice, you laughing. You see, my mule don’t like people laughing; he gets the crazy idea you’re laughing at him.” That’s dialogue worth remembering. And Harry Callaghan or The Man with No Name would never have tittered like a twat at the mention of ‘bum’. In fact they should have sacked Gary and got Clint to play Winston: “Did I drop six bombs or only five, with all this exciting war going on I kinda lost track myself but you’ve got to ask yourself one question ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well…do ya, das punk?” Perfect.
Anyway, despite my misgivings, I believe Mr Oldman bagged himself an Oscar (Best Droopy Impersonation or something) and so did the fat suit* which pretty much puts me out of step with Hollywood’s tastes but as I said before all you need is to totally agree or totally disagree with me and I’m the film critic for you…should I ever be given that chance.
My one word film review for ‘Darkest Hour’ – never. You’ve got to admit that’s pretty clever, possibly the cleverest film review ever in the field of human conflict.
*As for the script it wasn’t even nominated, a veritable slap in the face…or up yer bum, if you prefer, which you shouldn’t.