Make a Beatles biopic with absolutely no Beatles music in it. Go on, I dare you.
Getting the Fab Four to grace your movie or TV show, however big your budget, is notoriously difficult. Their manager Neal Aspinall was wary of diluting the brand, and for years Michael Jackson jealously hoarded the back catalogue (I picture him as an etiolated, racially ambiguous dragon crouching in the bowels of Neverland on a crumpled heap of sheet music, occasionally pawing a copy of Lady Madonna and hissing semi-threateningly through his nose). Since Jackson’s untimely/ timely demise (I have no clear idea how old he was, which I’m sure he would have been happy to know), a cover might occasionally slip through the net (The Black Crowes doing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds on the I Am Sam Soundtrack, a bunch of then-unknowns with an unwelcome cameo from Bono in the dull musical Across the Universe). It reportedly took $250,000 and a lot of earnest sweet talking for HBO’s Mad Men to use a snippet of the psychedelic mind bender Tomorrow Never Knows in their final series, and who knows how much for The Social Network to get Baby, You’re a Rich Man playing out over the end titles (worth it).
Spoiler alert: they don’t stay this happy for long
There’s not many Certificate 18 films in my collection, which I like to think is more of a reflection on my total lack of capacity for horror or violence rather than any particular prudishness. It’s actually quite difficult to get an 18 rating for sex outside of actual porn, it seems – you can have any number of fuzzily lit bedroom scenes complete with clenched jaws and bulging forehead veins without unduly bothering the censors (though it helps if they’re heterosexual, of course), and when you see a film like Danny Boyle’s Trance starring a lovingly rendered slow pan up Rosario Dawson’s naked body – entirely naked, you understand, given ladies who choose to eschew even a token tuft of pubic hair somehow manage to be an actual plot point (the Hollywood wax being particularly aptly named here) – and realise it merited only a 15, you have to wonder what it would take to get bumped up. (The answer being, of course, full frontal male nudity, which still makes the Film Certification Board come over all unnecessary in the manner of a Victorian lady in need of a fainting couch and explains why in the same film all you get of an equally naked Vincent Cassel on screen is a coy glimpse of his right calf). Continue reading →
Another massive flop! Can you spot a trend emerging?
But first a short aside. A couple of months ago I was walking home late at night through an eerily still and sodium lit London, with only the odd urban fox for company. I stepped off the curb to cross an entirely empty road and suddenly a man appeared in front of me, flying. He held an upright white disk between his feet, rim to the floor, and he snaked silently past me a foot off the ground at high speed and as our eyes met he nodded solemnly like he wasn’t a unicyclist in a suburban prequel to Tron, and then he was gone. Forget all those kids on their ersatz hoverboards hanging around outside KFC, this felt like the real deal. All the hair on the back of my neck stood up, because I suddenly realised I was in fact living in the future. Remember when we were promised jet packs?
Liv Tyler: just writing poetry in the bath like we all do
You may remember back when all this started (lo these not-very-many months ago), I said I avoided films by auteurs. Apparently I’m prepared to make an exception when these films bomb horribly, because even if he remains best known to philistines like myself for Marlon Brando’s ‘get the butter’ moment from Last Tango in Paris, Bernardo Bertolucci is definitely an auteur. And Stealing Beauty was definitely a flop.
In 1996 Liv Tyler was almost the next big thing. After a winning turn in Empire Records (Just for you – it’s Rex Manning Day!) she just needed the right vehicle to turn her stellar, and luckily, Bertolucci was in the market for his next muse. Unfortunately for both of them, whatever film they were trying to make, it wasn’t the one fans wanted to watch at the Cannes Film Festival where it was roundly booed. And – whisper it quietly – Liv Tyler never really did break out into superstardom, elf-ears notwithstanding. Continue reading →
Gwyneth does her best impression of an ordinary person
Perhaps in the end, all British people want to be convinced that Hollywood stars would much rather be living in England. And not living in England like Gwennie used to before her ‘conscious uncoupling’, writing ecstatically in her scary lifestyle blog about her yoga retreats and the best way to make your own almond milk. No, we’d like to imagine they’re just like us – complaining half-heartedly about tube delays, drinking English Breakfast, putting up with twattish British men on unsatisfactory mini-breaks and popping out of a Thursday evening for sharing plates with their mates in overpriced bistros. Why bother with all those palm trees and red carpets when you could be enjoying half a pint of mild in a draughty pub somewhere?
Anyway, a long time ago (17 years! I’ll give you a moment to mourn the inevitable yet astonishing passing of time) in a galaxy far, far away (West London is basically its own universe) Gwyneth Paltrow brit-ed up like a trouper to join John Hannah in giving us that classic of the rom-com genre, Sliding Doors. Still occasionally popping up as shorthand to describe the ‘what might have been’ effect, the moral of the story appears to be that if mildly bad things happen (missing your train) you shouldn’t worry because everything will turn out pretty great in the end, at least right up until you (spoilers) die traumatically and prematurely. If mildly good things happen (catching your train), then this just means that you’ll be in blissful ignorance of the terrible things happening all around you for a while longer. No honestly, it’s a rom-com, but writing a proper plot synopsis for this one is up there with trying to explainPrimer. The only thing you really need to know is that there are two Gwyneth Paltrows in this film, differentiated by their haircuts and living out two parallel existences after a significant split in their timelines (like Terry Pratchett’s ‘Trousers of Time’ theory but with more public transport). Continue reading →