Sunday, March 29, 2009

TV or not TV

Without wishing to sound unduly negative, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to be even remotely interested in television, despite exhortations to watch The Wire which apparently will jump start my batteries and get the juices flowing again. OK, but the everyday stuff just bores me, the production values scream "CHEAP", the formats are boringly repetitive, the scheduling's a bloody mess, and most comedy (except Stewart Lee) is just, well, shite. I don't even get my news there now.

But man cannot live on the Guardian Crossword, websites and the pub alone. Noooo...

So on Friday at BAFTA we watch Britain's greatest film director (official) have praise heaped on him by every living luminary from cinema - Danny Boyle, Stephen Frears, Mike Figgis, et al - a true BAFTA love-in at the feet of Nicolas Roeg who, at 80 years old, is still making films - Nic Roeg films - and who sat modestly listening to all these current whizzos explain how he'd influenced them, how they'd stolen his ideas, and how brilliant he was/is. The clips of his best movies - Performance, Don't Look Now, Walkabout, The Man Who Fell To Earth - were played over and over, as exciting now as they were thirty years ago. There's something about breathing the same air, scoffing the same canapes, and networking with the same people as the genius in the room that beats staying in to see Jonathan Ross.

And then to the theatre to see Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen trip the light fantastic through 'Waiting For Godot' Becket's marathon which - with Simon Callow and Richard Thackery in tow - is an absolute comedy joy. Both leads at the peak of their powers here, teasing out comedy line after comedy line, filling every space with precisely the right nuance and body language, constantly chattering for an hour, then after the break another hour in an awe inspiring display of actor supremacy. I do not know how they did it. McKellen is his character, no question, and the longer it went on the more I didn't want it to stop. I've always thought of it as a long play and yet time flew with this pair. Masterclass Theatre.

Michael Sheen's out again, this time as Brian Clough in the Damned United about his 44 days at Leeds in the 70's. He's been so stunning in his previous impersonations it's sometimes like watching Kenneth Williams or Tony Blair doing Cloughie, but that's the price you pay for being mesmerising in characters you look vaguely like. Tim Spall's senasational and the arch nemesis Don Revie is played suitably dark and brooding by Colm Meaney. Jim Broadbent is, sigh, his usual brilliant self (is he ever bad at anything?). And yes, it is the best film about football you'll ever see although to be fair it's a TV film blown up for the big screen to allow BBC Films to recoup some of that dosh.

A second visit to the Picasso exhibition at the National is even more rewarding than the first now that I know and understand what "Challenging the Past" is actually about, the artist's obsession with the grand traditions of past European Masters. Picasso's take, and responses to his esteemed forebears reveals not only a great deal about his passions, but theirs too, and the motivations of all great artists with a desire to make great art their own. Easily one of the best curated shows you'll ever see.

And before Duplicity sinks from sight, an hour or two in the company of Clive Owen trying his hardest to playact in shiny Armani suits, smooth tanned skin, from New York to Rome in a dense, almost impenetrable tale of artful deception, making love to Julia Roberts along the way. Is this what he would have been like as Bond? I'm glad he didn't get it if it is, but it's still pretty flash stuff written and directed by Tony Gilroy, our fave screenwriter (Bourne, Bourne, Bourne!) who put a lot of effort into the pace and intrigue.

Apparently there was something on TV too this weekend, but I can't remember what exactly.


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