Don’t know why I didn’t mention it before but if you haven’t seen it already then do pop over to the BBC Film Network homepage right now and check out my mate Alex’s really rather good short “Bang! Bang!” It’s top stuff and very funny. I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Alex and the director, Alex (yes, another one) the best of luck when they screen the film at The Director’s Cut Film Festival in New York next month.
Oscars have come and gone. I missed the ceremony this year but I did see the BAFTAS which were probably better due in part to the nominees (“The Constant Gardener” replaced “Munich” in most categories and is clearly a better film). The academy selected the films they believed were the most important films of the year. But which film has the issue that should be praised above the others? I haven’t yet seen “Good Night, and Good Luck” (attacking current media info-tainment and attempts to limit free speech) or “Capote” (the only film to be nominated that is more character study than issue-driven) but am sure that they will be well worth a look. On Saturday Hannah and I happened to rent Best Motion Picture of the Year; “Crash“. This was an excellent film, very well handled and the way the separate stories and characters were affected by each other was beautifully done but we both felt the race issue but a bit heavy handed and forced in places. Here reality seemed to be distorted to make things seem worse than they are (like the state of relationships were made to out to be nothing but hellish in “Closer“). Maybe I’m just being naive, being white and middle class and not living in the U.S., but have these issues not been dealt with and addressed in cinema countless times over the last few decades (e.g. “To Kill a Mockingbird“, “A Time to Kill“, just off the top of my head)? Is the situation not better now then it has been in the past or are racial prejudices and racial tensions so bad now that this film is really that important? Certainly the script has been around since at least 2001 according to the IMDB (where these links will take you). I just thought it was a very well made film that was refreshing in that every racial group demonstrates their own predjudices e.g. the Don Cheadle character referring to his girlfriend/partner as being Mexican when she is infact half Puerto Rican and half El Salvadorian. This too has been done before in films like “Traffic“.
Even “Brokeback Mountain” which was also excellent is deemed important not because it is a wonderfully written love story that is superbly filmed and acted but because it is a gay cowboy love story. I just thought it was great because the gay characters were not relegated to the side lines or presented as being riotously camp so that they were the focus of humour but this has similarly been done before in other genres (E.g. “Wilde“, “My Own Private Idaho“). Maybe because these films remind the viewer how much worse the situation could be (i.e. if the whole of the U.S. went back to the racism and homophobia that it had in the 60’s), they are considered safe and worthy of being rewarded and why more revealing and potentially dangerous films like “The Constant Gardener” and “Syriana” were kept out of the best picture and best director categories. “Philadelphia“, which isn’t a great film, managed to show a sympathetic and realistic gay character and a black character who is biggoted and predjudiced in the same film and that was over ten years ago. If the academy is arguing that “Crash” and “Brokeback Mountain” deserved to triumph because they are well made films then that’s one thing but I suspect that it was their issues that lead them to victory and kept other well made films out of contention.
I was reminded of this fable this weekend. Not because of the moral of the story but because it would make a cool name for a pub and exactly what I’d name mine if I ever opened one. Hannah had taken me to two pubs in Oxford, one called The Lamb and Flag (we think it was – Hannah remembered where the place was but we never actually ckecked the name and we passed a different Lamb and Flag later so either Oxford has two, or we went to a pub with an entirely different name…) and The Eagle and Child. Now I think I’m right in saying that The Lamb and Flag probably has Navy origins what with associations to the royal navy flag and/or Lamb’s Navy Rum. I might be wholly wrong there. The Eagle and Child did have a display that babbled something about somebody’s coat of arms and a child that was raised by an eagle and underground tunnels (that are still there apparently). Unfortunately it wasn’t really very interesting and I had forgotten the story before I left the place (and not due to drinking as I was only on my second).
My pub would boast a display that recounted how a bat, a bramble and cormorant met and decided to go into business together. They agreed that each of them would bring something to the new venture in the way of capitol with the bat securing a large monetry loan, the bramble arranging to buy a large quantity of cloth on credit and the cormorant getting his claws on a large stocklpile of copper. The three needed to transport their wares abroad but whilst they were at sea fell victim to a violent storm that scuppered the ship. The three partners made it to land but the ship and all of their goods and monies were lost. To this day the bat never goes out after dark fearing he will run into his creditors, the bramble strives to catch the clothes of passers by hoping to recover some of his cloth and the cormorant flies over the sea looking for traces of the lost cargo of copper. The moral is something like, make sure you make careful investments, or choose your business partners carefully, lest you spent the rest of your life affected by your misadventures. I’m sure there’s more to the story than that but I couldn’t find anything further. This fable never seems to get the exposure of stories like The Hare and the Tortoise or the Fox and the Grapes but I will always love it because it has the coolest name. You might say to your mate, “Fancy a pint at the Bat, Bramble and Cormorant?” or “Got absolutely leathered in the Cormorant last night?”. Although having said that people would probably just shorten my pub’s name to “You and Dave goin’ down the BBC later?”. At least you won’t mistake it for another pub.