Archive for Stephanie Beacham

Things I Read Off the Screen in “The Shining”

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2012 by dcairns

To Edinburgh Filmhouse (last week) to see ROOM 237: BEING AN INQUIRY INTO THE SHINING IN 9 PARTS. Rodney Ascher’s essay film is a perpetual joy, cunningly assembled from (sometimes manipulated) bit of Kubrick movies and other (tangentially) related films. Six obsessives describe their theories about the “true” meaning of Kubrick’s horrorshow, which range from “secret, encoded study of the Holocaust” to “secret, encoded meditation on the genocide of the American Indians” to “secret, encoded confession to a role in faking the Apollo moon landing footage.” Despite the eccentricity of some of the claims, the evidence the offscreen voices cite is really there, and most of it seems to be there on purpose to signify something. My only problem was, “If THE SHINING is ‘really’ about the moon landings, why does it have all this stuff about the Holocaust? And if it’s ‘really’ about the Holocaust, why does it have all this stuff about the Indians?”

Each of the film-analysts is focussing very selectively, and each of them is somewhat guilty of the intentional fallacy, assuming they can read Kubrick’s intent, although one does helpfully acknowledge this fallacy and admit that what Kubrick may have intended is unknowable to critics and doesn’t, ultimately, matter.

While one commentator was talking about the partially occluded Indian heads on the cans of Calumet baking soda in this scene, I started scanning the other containers in the b/g to see if I could find anything else of interest. I did!

PIMENTO PIECES. SLICED PEACHES. TOMATO KETCHUP.

All these references to “pieces” and “slices” are deliciously pointed, considering that Jack is working up to trying to dismember his family (which we already know because of the example of caretaker Grady before him). And that is likely the reason the Indian heads are all chopped up by the composition — think also of the spectral party guest with the split head — and rogue English accent. In fact, why are the 1920s flashback/visions populated with Englishmen (Grady himself is the very British Philip Stone)? Only Lloyd the bartender is a red-blooded American. Since Kubrick is shooting in England but dragging Albion up as Colorado, it seems odd that he should so nakedly display the falsity of the premise — but it’s in keeping with the various ways in which the insistently real, textured banality of the hotel set is made to behave in an unreal, Escher-like way, folding in on itself with dream geography so that little Danny can cycle round a corner and find himself one story up.

One interesting lacuna not addressed by any of the commenters, but noted by the mighty Michel Ciment in his Kubrick book, is that Grady the waiter/caretaker has two names to go with his two jobs: we’re told about a Charles Grady, but then he gives his name as Delbert Grady. Why? Maybe it’s part of duality (“You know, the Jungian thing?”) — two names, two jobs, two daughters…

The most obvious things to read in THE SHINING are the titles, in a typical Kubrick sans-serif font, but with a glowing, modern look that suggests sci-fi rather than Gothic (which is apt: the film’s denial of dark shadows miffed Pauline Kael). And then there’s the intertitles, which start explicatory and wind up pretty confusing, another random element hurled in to throw us off-balance — they more closely resemble the title cards of early Bunuel, which make perfectly sensible statements like “Sixteen years ago” and “In Spring,” yet become darkly funny and absurd because of the context they’re spliced into.

Then there’s Jack’s novel, which some poor bastard had to type up — it matters that this doesn’t look photocopied, every page is different, complete with typos — “All work and no play makes Jack a dull bot.” “All work and no play makes Jack a dull bog.” “All work and no play makes Jack adult boy.”

Students of the life of John Barrymore will recognize where Stephen King got the inspiration for this freaky revelation. It also reminds me of a plot point from Michael Moorcock’s The Final Programme, which sadly never made it into Robert Fuest’s tasty film. One of the novel’s MacGuffins is a book written by the American astronaut who spent the longest time in space. When finally obtained, the voluminous manuscript turns out to consist of the single word “ha” repeated a great many times.

“That madman business” — Shelley Duvall is reading The Catcher in the Rye, favourite reading material of crazed loners. Also, the book, favoured by John Lennon’s killer (and later by Ronald Reagan’s attempted assassin) takes its title from a Mondegreen, the lead character’s misapprehension of a song lyric. Stephen King took the title for The Shining from the lyric “And we all shine on” from the John Lennon song Instant Karma.

In the background of the Torrance kitchen we can see a bottle of Joy. The fact that advertisers chose to name a cleaning product “joy” displays baldly the sheer blistering contempt they held for housewives.

Off to the Overlook!

The KEEP THIS AREA CLEAN sign is darkly amusing, in context.

PLEASE PUT CUPS AND OTHER GARBAGE IN THE BINS PROVIDED

Oddly aggressive tone to this notice, don’t you think? Why is my cup garbage?

During this scene, where the chair behind Jack playfully vanishes and returns between reverse angles, the scrapbook in front of Jack also executes a neat unseen page-turn, although it maintains perfect continuity during the vanishing chair sequence — which is intriguing, because if we try to explain the missing chair by suggesting one of those shots was a pick-up, filmed weeks later, it’s hardly likely that the scrapbook continuity would match so perfectly. The scrapbook calmly bides its time until a wide shot gives it the opportunity to flip on a page or two.

The scrapbook is significant — Jack is researching the Overlook’s past, and when he meets Grady he recognizes him from his picture. I think there’s more of this in the book, whereas at least in the UK edit it’s unlikely anybody would notice the book and understand what it was there for.

NEWSWATCH. 10 GLENN RINKER. WPLG Miami.

Kubrick filmed this shot with the newly developed “ScatCam.”

Weirdly, the show is announced as “Newswatch 10″ but the title just says “Newswatch.” Then anchorman Glenn Rinker is introduced, and the caption says “10 Glenn Rinker” which is just weird. It does actually seem like a moronic mistake, as if the captions guy had a scrap of paper with “Newswatch 10 Glenn Rinker” scrawled on it and he decided to break it up in the wrong place. Although it may be a veiled reference to Professor Ten Brinken from Hanns Heinz Ewers’ horror classic Alraune (filmed twice with Brigitte Helm).

The shorter UK edit (prepared by Kubrick himself after the American release) omits all the cartoons viewed by Danny, but we still have numerous cartoon characters in the form of stickers (with the vanishing Dopey), the Bugs Bunny-derived nicknamed “Doc,” and the presence of Scatman Crothers — but everybody is too polite to say “Weren’t you Hong Kong Fooey”?

In ROOM 237, much is made of Kubrick’s slow dissolves, particularly an early crossfade from hotel exterior to interior in which a stepladder echoes the point of the hotel’s roof. I agree that this is deliberate, and I think it may also be a tribute to Max Ophuls, who tracks past a stepladder in a hotel lobby at the start of THE RECKLESS MOMENT (another stepladder pops up earlier in Ophuls’ DE MAYERLING A SARAJEVO — I think he liked stepladders). Kubrick admired Ophuls and dedicated a shot in PATHS OF GLORY to the German director, on the day he learned of his death.

Fiona pointed out that in a later dissolve, Jack on his writing “throne” seems to acquire a matching “crown,” actually a light fitting bleeding through from the incoming scene. Again, this seems deliberate.

Kubrick insists, here and in EYES WIDE SHUT, that it is possible to perform oral sex through a full-face mask. “How much sex did Kubrick have?” pondered Fiona. Still, this is an impressive early appearance by “furries,” those creepy sex fetishists who get off on dressing up like cartoon animals. But it’s not the earliest!

This is SUPERBITCH, aka SI PUO ESSERE PIU BASTARDI DELL’ISPETTORE CLIFF? with Stephanie Beacham as a high-class escort giving the five-star treatment to a rich perv. I guess the furry fetish probably originated with fancy dress parties — alcohol, dancing, dressing up, can sex be far away? Then again, for some the connection may stem from early sexual fantasies being formed in childhood, while surrounded by cute imagery of talking chipmunks.

BTW, sorry my SHINING stills are 4:3. That’s the format Kubrick insisted on when his films first had their DVD release. Perfectionist, my ass!

“I don’t particularly like writing on the screen.” ~ Stanley Kubrick.

Things Roddy said during “Dracula AD 1972″

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2010 by dcairns

“Here he comes… the most exciting, scariest vampire you’ve ever seen!”

Fiona’s brother Roddy likes horror movies — I have to qualify that by saying he likes specific ones, like Universal FRANKENSTEIN movies or Hammer DRACULA ones. Christopher Lee is without question his favourite actor. So during Roddy’s Christmas visit there was no question what we were watching. Fiona screened the original Hammer/Lee DRAC while I was wrapped the parcels, and on Boxing Day I ran AD 1972, the penultimate film in Hammer’s loose series (not counting the later LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES, which maybe I should, even though it’s pretty poor, even by the dubious standards of vampire kung fu crossover flicks).

I like the two modern-day DRACS, although I shouldn’t. The period sequels got dull pretty fast, and even a transfusion of fresh ideas in TASTE THE BLOOD OF D didn’t entirely dispel the air of deja vu. Not that this bothers Roddy, who likes to repeat pleasurable experiences: like a lot of people with learning difficulties, and a lot of children too (Roddy just turned 50) he’s comforted by repetition and predictability.

I’ve never asked him if he prefers historical Hammers to funky modern ones, but I doubt it makes too much difference. I certainly know Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are big parts of the pleasure: although the title BRIDES OF DRACULA always raises his interest, once he discovers Lee isn’t in it, he goes off the idea; a shame, as it may be Terence Fisher’s best film in the “series”.

Hyde Park — a Victorian Hansom approaches. “I think this is the one where they’re fighting — him and Dracula!” declares Roddy as  Cushing and Lee appear, wrestling on the roof.

Lee is dispatched with a spoke through the heart — curiously, Roddy, a traditionalist in matters of vampire slaying, doesn’t object to this. Cushing dies, we get an attractively-shot funeral, and unknown hands rescue a sample of Dracula’s ashes, along with his ring. I’m not sure the identity of this Draculite is ever dealt with, but it’s a nice mystery — he’s obviously an ancestor of the disciple we meet later, since he’s played by the same actor, but it’s not clear why he leaves it so long before attempting a resurrection.

Alan Hume’s Dick Bush’s cinematography makes attractive use of both long lens and wide angle lens effects.

Pan up from grave, past now-ruined church, to catch jet plane flying overhead, a shot which makes me think of the falcon turning into a fighter plane in Powell & Pressburger’s A CANTERBURY TALE. Funky music, shots of cranes forming cruciform shapes against the skyline, a steak house, a red London bus, and on to the wild party.

Cushing appears again, this time as his own grandson, and Stephanie Beacham is his buxom granddaughter, Jessica (inexplicably replaced by the more streamlined Joanna Lumley in the sequel the following year). Jessica is hanging with a wild crowd, including Johnny Alucard (prettyboy Christopher Neame).

“They’re dancing too fast!” complains Roddy during the party-crashing scene. People with Williams syndrome are usually quite musical, and Roddy is a good drummer. With his sense of rhythm, he spots that the partygoers are dancing to the wrong music.

“Would you smile at a policeman?”

“Uh, there he is. Why’s he got a bow tie on?”

“Carpathia? Where’s that?” Roddy must ask this question every time he watches the film. One never knows if he forgets the answer or if he just likes asking the question. People with Williams’ syndrome are notoriously chatty, and Roddy asks questions not just to obtain answers, not even primarily, but rather to keep the conversation going.

Alucard and his gang (including babes Caroline Munro and Marsha Hunt) attempt a black mass, accompanied by the music of The White Noise (featuring David Vorhaus, son of film director Bernard, and Delia Derbyshire, electronic genius behind the Dr Who theme) and raise Christopher Lee, who eschews dialogue as much as possible (Lee hated the scripts’ departures from Stoker, and particularly disliked the modern ambience).

Neame should have been a bigger star, it seems to me. He’s perfectly attuned to the movie’s camp sensibilities, and he looks great. If you’re going to have a character called Johnny Alucard, and I’m not for a minute suggesting you should, this is what he should look like.

“Here comes the smoke — or is it steam?”

This may be the movie where the makeup team pranked Lee by fitting him with Union Jack contact lenses…

Cushing prepares to strike back as Jessica’s pals go missing, and a montage shows him collecting holy water and melting a crucifix to make a silver bullet. This scene is why I’m never watching this movie with Roddy again, because he ALWAYS objects to the idea of silver bullets as a vampire-killing measure. “That’s for werewolves!” And he won’t be told otherwise, even if I quote the entry from my copy of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts (Carey Miller, Piccolo, 1974, my childhood source on all things monstrous) ~

1) A wooden stake made from aspen or hawthorn wood must be driven into the vampire’s heart or navel;

2) Small stones or rains of incense must be placed in the coffin so that the vampire has something to nibble if he awoke, to delay him leaving the coffin;

3) Garlic must be stuffed in his mouth;

4) Millet seed must be scattered over the vampire’s body for he could not leave the tomb until every grain had been counted;

5) The vampire’s body must be buried face downwards;

6) Wild, thorny roses must be strung outside the coffin in order to hinder the vampire’s progress from the grave.

There are other legendary ways of killing a vampire, like shooting him with a silver bullet or burning his coffin so he cannot return to it.

By the way, that millet seed thing only works if the vampire is the Count from Sesame Street.

Cushing tracks Alucard to his lair pad, and after an exciting confrontation where Johnny calls Van “man” about fifteen times, the creature of the night perishes under the clear running water of his shower. He also offends Roddy by calling Cushing “bastard!”

“Language, Dracula!” That’s not Dracula, I remind him. “Language, vampire!”

Alucard, being a recent vamp, doesn’t disintegrate when slain, he just turns a bit soapy.

Ouch! Stephanie has really hot tits!

Cushing corners Lee in his desanctified church and there’s a stirring battle. I like it when Hammer came up with complicated deaths for Lee (while I hate it when he gets struck by lightning), and this is a doozy, with holy water slung like acid, and a plunge from the steeple into a booby-trapped grave. Cushing finishes him off by driving him onto the spike with a jab from his shovel.

“That’s done the trick!”

Rest in Final Peace, reads the end title, a proposition immediately turned into a lie by next year’s sequel.

A shame Hammer didn’t make a true-life adaptation of the case of the Highgate Vampire, which would have given them an AMITYVILLE HORROR kind of documentary vibe. But I must admit I enjoy this tosh, and only wish director Alan Gibson could have been put in charge of the HARRY POTTER series, which might be enlivened by a jazz funk soundtrack and great yawning chasms of female cleavage.

Let the self-congratulatory meat parade begin.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2009 by dcairns

That’s George C Scott’s memorable phrase for the Academy Awards. The Great Man had nothing against awards, he said, but the Oscars had, even then, achieved such an all-encompassing bogus self-importance that they were clearly harmful rather than in any way beneficial. It’s not that stupid time-wasting crap is inherently harmful, but it does seem obscene that the one time of year when everybody talks about movies, is given over to a fatuous fashion show celebrating largely dull work.

And how come the news media conspire in the false earnestness of the event, when everyone I know of who watches the awards show does so in order to mock the bad frocks, ludicrous acceptance speeches and hysteria/histrionics?

Even by paying attention to them here I feel slightly soiled. But come by from around 11pm GMT (two hours before the ceremony itself, wherever you are) and I’ll be throwing the digital equivalent of popcorn at the TV, and updating this here post as regularly as drink and spell-checking permit. If comments appear, then the whole thing might well shift to the Comments section, so keep an eye on that too.

See you in the meat district…

joanfontaine

Image from http://tsutpen.blogspot.com/ — head over there and catch the brilliance.

Part two — am now sat on the couch between David Wingrove and Fiona, waiting for the nonsense to start. Nobody seems too excited about who’s going to win, but if Kathleen Byron doesn’t get a look-in during the Role-Call of the Dead segment, Fiona will be incandescent. I like the animated short HOUSE OF SMALL CUBES, which I blogged about here, so I’d like to see it win, but I imagine Pixar will take the gong.

Conversation has dealt with Steptoe and Son VS Sanford and Son, but is now shifting to the frocks. A lot of black dresses, apparently. “I don’t want to see a lot of black dresses,” protests Fiona. I think it would be good if someone came AS an Oscar, naked in gold paint. Mitchell Leisen through a party for Olivia deHavilland after TO EACH HIS OWN and he had a live Oscar for her. “But his eyes are blue!” she exclaimed in delight.

“John Travolta looks as if his hair has been drawn on with a felt tip pen” — Fiona.

I wonder how emotional Mickey Rourke is going to get. Can he actually locate a working tear duct these days?

Sky  1 has Fearne Cotton on the red carpet in a pink dress, clashing quite badly. And instead of grabbing people on their way in, they’re doing pre-recorded talking heads pieces and speculating about how well Britain’s going to do. Ugh.

They’re running through the Best Film nominees now. “Who’s that woman in THE READER?” asks David W. “That’s Lena Olin.” “That’s Lena Olin? Where’s her bowler hat?”

Just predicting that BENJAMIN BUTTON will get its technical awards but not the major ones. So we’ll see if we’re right.

Our friend Dylan is taking odds on strange things happening: “Odds on Tom Cruise presenting an Oscar and using the opportunity to come out of the closet?” There are no takers.

“Oh look, it’s the Slumdog kids!” “They showed them the other night in a vacant lot filled with sewage, and now here they are, all dolled up.” Danny Boyle has said that they  have a trust fund set up that’ll pay out when the kids finish school “and pass their exams.” No pressure, then.

“Odds on Heath Ledger turning up to accept his award? He’s not dead, it’s all a big publicity stunt…?”

Nicola and Dylan both confess to wanting to sleep with Maggie Gyllenhaal, “At the same time, if necessary.” Since Nicola is straight, this is a powerful testimony to Maggie’s charm.

It is widely agreed that we like Sam Rockwell. And that Frank Langella was a sexy Dracula, but is maybe too attractive for Nixon.

At last, we’re  getting some proper frocks. The mum from BENJAMIN BUTTON looks very nice, and Dylan, who mainly remembers the character in old age, can’t believe it’s her.

Much admiration of Josh Brolin. “Especially with that hair, bizarrely,” referring to his MILK do. Someone claims to have seen his ex, Minnie Driver, in an ad. I suggest she should be in a mini ad, as a mini driver. Everybody being interviewed manages to have one scary person in the background…

Dylan has brought his own cafetiere, and his own special cup. We’re beginning to worry about him.

The guy from TWILIGHT is being interviewed, and standing behind him is a man with an upside-down head. And now a character who looks like someone from Family Guy standing behind the dead girl from Veronica Mars. The people behind Amy Adams look normal though, but we’re complaining that Fearne is blocking our view of the frock.

“And here’s Sarah Jessica Parker dressed as a fairy!” cries Fiona, before we’re overtaken with shock at the sight of Matthew Broderick finally showing some sign of age. And at the same time, a sort of plasticity. I ask if he’s had work. “I take it you mean surgical work, he certainly hasn’t had the other kind,” says David.

“Red is the colour of the evening,” declares Fiona, after Mrs Sir Ben Kingsley makes a good impression. Fiona thinks Mickey Rourke looks like the Cowardly Lion.

(I suddenly remembered that I wrote a feature script in which some violent nuns from the militant wing of the Catholic church ram a Best Original Score Oscar up a man’s backside. I can’t think why that’s come to mind, maybe something to do with DOUBT.)

Sophia Loren is there! But Fearne is talking to David Frost. And Peter Gabriel. “Hi mam,” says Pete.

Claudia Winkleman, who’s doing the post-match analysis for Sky later, calls in, saying she’ll “chew off her own hand” if Kate Winslet doesn’t win. Something to look forward to.

God, some of the talking heads they get are awful. Barely qualify as heads at all. James King from Radio 1 is my bete noir. I don’t want to be mean though. Too early in the evening for that.

Fearne just isn’t pushy enough to grab interesting people on the carpet. Now she’s interviewing the other presenters… now she’s got Winslet. She says hi to anyone mad enough to stay up late in the UK. That’s us! Hi, Kate. Now the red carpet non-event is over, time for the actual crap to commence… except now we get more frockanalysis from Gok Wan, who likes all the wrong dresses. “That’s hideous!” cries Fiona when Miley Cyrus appears.

My Mum and Dad went to see THE CHANGELING, but they had made an appointment at the bank, and had miscalculated the length of the ads and trailers, and the film itself, and being responsible people of a certain generation, they couldn’t bring themselves to be late for an appointment they’d made, so they left before the end. I haven’t seen any of it, so that obviously qualifies me to be holding forth. Me and James King.

THEY’VE GOT STEPHANIE BEACHAM! Who has apparently been Best Dressed and Worst Dressed. I strongly suspect she has more interesting things to talk about than this. Even Steph looks bored.

It’s started! Robert Downey Jnr applauds himself and gets away with it. Hugh Jacktor is singing. “How come comic book movies never get nominated? / How can a billion dollars be unsophisticated?” This is potentially OK. Nobody’s done this since Billy Crystal.

A clip of Vanessa Redgrave’s acceptance speech, but nothing about “Zionist hoodlums.” Five previous Best Supporting Actress winners. They all talk like they’re kiddies in a nativity play. Except Whoopi, who gives it her all. Goldie Hawn says “Taraji P Henson” very carefully indeed. “The Academy salutes you all…and…” says Tilda, when I think she really means “…but…” And then, a mild surprise, as Penelope Cruz wins, disproving the supposed leaked memo. Dylan is disappointed that they didn’t show all the other actors realising they haven’t won.

Screenplay. Usually theres an embarrassing gimmick whenever they deal with something that can’t be straightforwardly illustrated. But some good comedy material, including a poke at Scientology from Steve Martin. Fiona applauds when IN BRUGES is mentioned. So we have favourite. But I like WALL-E. And MILK would be… MILK wins! This is good, I feel. Is it a lone nod or the start of a roll? Am I that interested? Still, good speech, and nice to see something be about something. Now adapted screenplay. The bit of screenplay they choose from THE READER doesn’t match the clip. Simon Beaufoy wins for SLUMDOG. Hmm. Didn’t like THE FULL MONTY much. I’ve seen him talk live and had mixed feelings…

Donald, our host, says, “I’m actually surprised that BENJAMIN BUTTON didn’t get nominated for Best Animated Film.”

WALL-E wins, which is good. The director played Barnaby in a school production of Hello, Dolly! it turns out.

Hooray! HOUSE OF LITTLE CUBES wins! Best short animation. “Domo arrigato mister roboto.” My pal Sharon Colman was nominated a couple years ago, but didn’t won. I think she’s at Pixar now.

BEN BUTT gets design. Happy enough about that, as it’s certainly swellegant looking.

Daniel Craig is not too comfortable with an autocue. THE DUCHESS. The costume designer thanks the composer, which is nice. Then he slightly spoils it by calling Keira Knightley “one classy lady”. “Ewww!” says everyone. “He very nearly said ‘bitch’” says Dylan.

A clip-montage of romance scenes gets us confused. We start reminiscing about previous years.  The interpretive dances! CRASH as a musical number, with Thandie Newton’s molestation by Matt Dillon, recreated in the medium of dance! Marvellous.

What is Philip Seymour Hoffman wearing on his head? He better win so we can get a look. Fiona says he looks like a medieval alchemist.

Cinematographer. SLUMDOG. Anthony Dod Mantle. Very laid-back speech, nice.

Janusz Kaminsky reveals unexpected comic talent. “Suck on dat, Anthony Dod Mantle.” Haven’t seen any of the live action shorts. Since not getting nominated myself…

Inexplicable music medley from Jackman… and Beyonce. This must be the rumoured Baz Luhrmann number. Since they segue from song to song with every other line, it must be Baz. Can’t see who half of them are. Ah, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL kids. “Reminds me of the end of BLAZING SADDLES,” says Nicola. “That was horrible,” says Fiona.

We’re REALLY enjoying Stephanie Beacham. She hates EVERYTHING. Sorry you’re missing this, rest of world. She didn’t like the Seth Rogen bit because they made fun of serious films.

Nice line-up of Best Supporting Actors winners. Alan Arkin! (How come Philip Seymour Hoffman is up for SUPPORT?) Joel Grey! Great facial contortions from Diane Lane, trying to keep a straight face as Josh Brolin’s praises are sung. Cuba Gooding Jnr on Robert Downey Jnr is good casting, and Christopher Walken on Michael Shannon is INSANELY good casting. Father and son! Kevin Kline looks like he’ll be giving the prize though…

Yep, Heath Ledger. “I liked his pencil trick,” says Dylan. Sean Penn’s crying. Sophia Loren looks moved. Many many cutaways of people looking moved, serious, thoughtful. Strangely, some actors aren’t too good at this. But many of them are clearly sincere.

Documentary! MAN ON WIRE appears. “Nutter,” says Nicola. But Herzog appears several times and she doesn’t say anything. The Maysles brothers made the interview segment. MAN ON WIRE wins. Nothing for Werner, again. That little French guy is great at getting awards though! Somebody needs to give him a job where he can accept awards all the time.

Don’t like these montages. The Oscars should do big expensive stupid things. Failing that, imaginative clever things might be acceptable. But a loud montage of action scenes seems rather a wasted opportunity. Bring out the dead! Oh, they brought out Will Smith.

BENJAMIN BUTTON gets best FX, which surprises nobody. They ARE very good effects, and they’re not the kind of effects we’re used to seeing.

The guy who gets best sound for THE DARK KNIGHT looks like Benjamin Button! Hooray! Two for one! Best mixing goes to SLUMDOG. WALL-E should have won both, I feel. But it already has a big gong. Danny Boyle looks genuinely delighted though. A sweet acceptance speech from the mixer. Now editor. We think SLUMDOG, and it should be an award for MOST editing. Yep. Dev Patel jumping up and down in his seat. Thumbs up from a grinning Boyle. A nice yellow set of non-Hollywood teeth.

Jer! Who should be getting something for his acting AS WELL AS for his humanitarian work. Jerry manages to pull a funny face as well as giving a gracious speech. I’d have liked a MUCH bigger montage of him.

Music. The medley is very smooth, to the point that everything starts to sound alike. Apart from SLUMDOG, which wins. Looks like it may well be the big winner tonight. God, I don’t actually care. Why am I here? Songs montage, introduced by clumsy metaphors delivered by autocue-shy HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL people. It’s 4am here, Brain is decaying. Dylan asks, “Do you think Baz has been crushed by the bombing of AUSTRALIA?” and everybody misunderstands. “Australia wasn’t bombed, it caught fire!”

It does look like SLUMDOG is blitzing this thing. Another movie I haven’t seen and am not that bothered about. This may be a bad thing to admit while live-blogging the Oscars.

Haven’t even seen the Foreign Films, that’s how crap I am.

Dead people montage! With an unwelcome song. “I’ll be seeing you,” not the best choice. They have Vampira, but they don’t have Kathleen Byron, and the whole thing is very badly shot, with a pointless gliding crane that often makes it impossible to read the names. Now Stephanie comes into her own, because she can talk about Charlton Heston and Riccardo Montalban from a standpoint of actual knowledge, unlike everyone else we’ve heard from.

Director. David Fincher looks resigned. Boyle wins. A Brit. Please don’t be embarrassing. OK, he’s cited Tigger from WINNIE THE POOH. Good speech. Even Stephanie Beacham approves.

Actress. Loren! MacLaine! Berry! Kidman! Cotillard! And the music from GONE WITH THE WIND. David W on Loren: “She wipes the floor with them all.” “Or could, if called upon to do so,” I suggest. Hathaway starts crying when they say her name. Does she always do that? Must be awkward. Very strange expression from Winslet, listening. It goes on and on. What does it mean? Loren dries up completely, by which I mean she seems to forget her lines, rather than that she crumbles to dust. Kidman, who has possibly had more surgical intervention than Loren, does Brangelina. Winslet. Uh-oh. Actually, her shampoo bottle line is brilliant. And getting her dad to whistle — great! Also, really ORGANISED. “These GODDESSES!” Good show.

Michael Douglas nods to Frank Langella with an incoherent speech; DeNiro does Sean Penn. DeNiro looks different. Adrien Brody on Richard Jenkins. God, I hate these speeches. DeNiro managed to sound natural. Anthony Popkins suddenly goes VERY WELSH and does Brangelina 2. Handhi Bendhi Gandhi does Mickey Rourke.

Wow, Sean Penn wins! That’s actually interesting. Should boost MILK, which is great news. And a tribute to Rourke, which is sweet. Good to have a surprise.

Best film. They intercut clips from MILK with BRAVEHEART. “I bet he’s really glad to be intercut with Harvey Milk,” observes David W.

SLUMDOG wins — everybody invades the stage. Hmm, am I ever going to watch that film? Maybe someday. Must be a complicated thing for India, since this is a British production taking a not-entirely flattering view of a former colony. And while showing social conditions is a commendable thing in many ways, we shouldn’t necessarily be the ones doing it. But then, Indian cinema hasn’t been doing that…of course, what matters here is whether it’s a good film. Knowing Boyle’s previous form, I have a sense of what it’ll be like… not my thing.

Then we get ads for “next year’s Oscars” which is ludicrous. Ah, every muscle in my body aches, time for bed.

11pm – 5.00 am. I’m thoroughly resolved that next year I’ll be viewing my role as to provide an ALTERNATIVE to this bullshit. Generally the wrong people win, or the right people for the wrong films. Sean Penn is probably the exception this year. Actually, where it was surprising it was generally good. Maybe they should plot it like a detective novel and always have the least likely person win?

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