Friday, March 25, 2011



It’s over.

You PROMISED Cassandra’s Dream was the last of your London trilogy, yet here I am in the cinema having been tricked out of YET ANOTHER £6.50 to watch a substandard version of Love Actually which, like Mickey Rourke’s face post-surgery, has had all the good bits removed.

If I didn’t know otherwise I would presume that you have never even BEEN to London. Or Europe. Or out of your BEDROOM, because your idea of our capital city seems to have been based solely on repeat viewings of Notting Hill without the jokes or social commentary. Yes I said social commentary. And yes, I am referring to the film in which Hugh Grant falls over a fence and says Whoopsie-Daisy.

I’ve got nothing against Richard Curtis. It’s just that I’m not convinced aping his back catalogue is the way forward for a man who wrote my all-time favourite opening line of, well, pretty much anything.

It's from Annie Hall.

Woody/Alvy says: "There's an old joke. Uh, two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of 'em says: boy, the food at this place is really terrible. The other one says, yeah I know, and such ... small portions. Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly."

THAT is what I want to pay £6.50 for.

So between 8.50pm and 10.30pm last night I came to terms with some unpleasant truths.

Naomi Watts can’t act.

Some people are physically incapable of separating themselves from their Facebook newsfeed, even in the cinema.

Woody Allen must NOT be allowed to make another film set anywhere except New York.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger just about passes the time. It’s a multi-stranded story about a privileged family falling apart - well, I say falling apart. What I actually mean is going through a not-very-traumatic divorce followed by a second, even less traumatic divorce which has minimal impact on any of the characters and happens off-screen presumably in order to make sure we really don't care about their situation at all.

So Viagra-popping Anthony Hopkins ditches watery-eyed wife Helena for Amazonian gold-digger Charmaine, who’s more interested in her handsome fitness instructor. Helena turns to fraud psychic Crystal for help, while daughter Sally’s marriage to failed novelist Roy crumbles. Newly single Naomi Watts makes an unsuccessful play for Antonio Banderas, while barely-out-of-her-teens Frieda Pinto falls for charmless middleaged Patrick Swayze-lookalike Josh Brolin in perhaps the least likely coupling since that septuagenarian director ditched Mia Farrow for his 20-something adopted daughter… oh wait.

But Neurotic Woody has become Complacent Woody, papering over the cracks in a lazy screenplay with an A-list ensemble cast who don’t quite manage to distract us OH LOOK ITS ANNA FRIEL!!! from realising that despite quite a good premise WAIT ISN’T THAT SIR IAN MCKELLEN? all the characters are vapid or unpleasant and only one storyline comes to a NO WAIT I REALLY THINK IT MIGHT BE THAT BLOKE WHO PLAYED GANDALF satisfying conclusion.

And by the way, I checked and it’s not Sir Ian McKellen. Just a good lookalike.

The story gets juicy approximately two minutes before the end, when Roy realises that the friend whose debut novel he has stolen and published to wild acclaim is not, as Roy thought, dead, but in a coma and maybe even about to wake u- ROLL END CREDITS!

This is about as satisfying as feeding a plastic sandwich to a starving man, and deserves a similar response.


Possibly followed by eating said plastic sandwich in order to make a point, and hopefully choking to death on it in order to avoid the possibility of watching any Woody Allen films made after the turn of the century. Even by mistake.


You’re fired.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Norwegian Wouldn’t

Am I the only person on the planet not counting down the days until *hyperventilate* OH MY GOD that TOTALLY AWESOME adaptation of that TOTALLY RAD novel by that TOTALLY HIP Japanese dude comes out?

Norwegian Wood is Murakami’s most straightforward and least imaginative novel. No sheep. No incest. No Super-Frogs. No unexplained paranormal phenomena. It’s just a love story about a student who falls for two different women.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the book. I do. But I don’t think there’s anything in the story that justifies turning it into a film. Oh except it’s a bestseller. Ch-ching!

Scripts have rules. Books don’t. That’s how it works. Novels can have fourteen subplots, seventy characters, span six generations and win the Booker. A screenplay with fourteen subplots and seventy characters won’t make it off the paper. It shouldn’t make it off your laptop. It probably shouldn’t make it out of your BRAIN.

Great screen stories have a single protagonist and a clear goal. Olive wants to win Little Miss Sunshine. Indiana Jones wants to find the Holy Grail. Elliott wants to help E.T. go home.

But Toru doesn’t want to escape from prison. He doesn’t want to get the hell off an island overrun with dinosaurs. He doesn’t even want to book Aerosmith for Waynestock.

He falls in love with Naoko. Then he falls in love with Midori. He sort of falls in love with Reiko too. The End.

The problem with this is that falling for one woman after another isn’t a goal unless you’re Russell Brand. It’s a sequence of emotions which play out in Toru’s head i.e. a thought process rather than a plot. You know what this says to me?

Voiceover. Long silences. Too much time to appreciate the soundtrack by *hyperventilate* OH MY GOD that TOTALLY AWESOME dude from that TOTALLY RAD band Radiohead!

Unless Tran Anh Hung has restructured the story to give Toru an active dramatic goal, I’ve got a feeling I know exactly what kind of film we’re going to be left with.

Two words.

Marie Antoinette. Otherwise known as 142 minutes which could more productively be spent eating toilet roll.

I’d like to be proved wrong but I don’t think I will be, particularly after reading an article by Philip French on the Guardian blog, which ends with the backhanded compliment that Tran Anh Hung is ‘not afraid to risk boring his audience’.

This is a bit like saying that Gordon Ramsay is not afraid to give his customers food poisoning, and about as inviting.

It suggests that, as predicted, Tran is going to go all Sofia Coppola on my ass, and therefore that Norwegian Wood is a film I am not going to enjoy.

It also suggests that there are going to be a large number of vegans in the audience who cycled to the movie and won’t be needing their glasses to watch it.

Tran may not be afraid to risk boring us, but I am afraid to risk emptying my wallet for two hours of my life I’m not going to get back.

And for the record, no, I probably won’t be watching Howl either.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Well looky here

The BBC have kindly uploaded a picture of a small sample of the spec scripts their readers are working their way through.

The more eagle-eyed among you may spot that there are quite a few scripts on that table.

One, in fact three, or four, are probably mine.

So here I am, sitting at my desk and midway through writing a snarky blog about how reassuring it is to know the BBC have the time to build forts out of the destruction of approximately 20% of Epping Forest, when something nice drops through my online letter box and lands on my virtual doormat.

Dear Writer,

Congratulations! We're delighted to tell you that your script has been selected by our team of readers to go through to the next stage of the Laughing Stock competition.

Your script will now be read by members of the BBC Writersroom team and BBC comedy team and we will be in touch in the next couple of weeks with a decision about your submission.

Just a reminder that successful writers will be invited to a masterclass on either the 4th or 5th of April which takes place in either London or Manchester.

Only 10% of all the submissions have reached this next stage of the competition so we do hope that, whatever the final outcome is, you are encouraged by making it this far.

Well, that'll teach me. Judgemental blog retracted.

Monday, March 7, 2011

How to spend £40 on casual racism

I’ve got mixed feelings about Dominic Cooke.

For every middle-class dysfunctional family drama he stages at the Royal Court (That Face, Tribes, The Heretic) he pulls something out the bag that’s just so goddamn fucking GOOD you wonder why you balked at the £40 ticket price for the West End transfer.

Yes. FORTY POUNDS. Which is equivalent to approximately 3.5 days rent or a Ryanair return flight to Barcelona, and for some strange reason you’ve spent it on a seat so far above the stage you get vertigo every time you look anywhere except the ceiling. Please note that ‘restricted view’ is usually code for ‘behind the fire door’.


Every so often the Royal Court comes up with a play so good it makes you want to rush out in the interval with a cattle prod to round up everyone on the street and drive them inside for the second half.

I wasn’t sold on Enron. My mum fell asleep but then again she won’t read anything unless it comes in a plastic library jacket and has a gruesome murder in the first three pages. But I liked the lightsabres and the raptors and all the other things I wasn’t expecting from a play set in the bank, and I would be more than happy if Boris installed them in NatWest to get rid of the lunchtime queues.

I loved loved LOVED Jerusalem. I loved it the way I love Sky Atlantic, Christmas trips to TGI Fridays, and all versions of Hush. Yesterday Deep Purple, today Kula Shaker. In fact why don’t we take a moment to look at a picture of Crispian Mills.

Watching Jerusalem is like eating your way through a Kellogg’s variety pack until you get to the Frosties (great) only to find there’s something else in the Frosties box (even better) HEY IT’S A CHEQUE FOR A MILLION POUNDS AND A LOVE LETTER FROM JAMES FRANCO!!!!!

Lets take another moment to look at a picture of James Franco.

Seriously. It's that good.

And as from Saturday I’m adding… erm.. racist comedy Clybourne Park to my list. It’s the latest **MASSIVE SMASH HIT!!!** to transfer from the Royal Court to the West End, and comes without a public school anorexic or prescription painkiller in sight.

The first act is set in 1950s America where perfect housewife Bev packs boxes around a grumpy husband who won’t change out of his pyjamas. It’s a farce about casual racism and uneducated Middle America which starts with nobody knowing the capital of Mongolia and does a U-turn into nastier territory when neighbour Karl turns up with the bombshell that the house’s new owners are black. Or coloured. Or Negros. Who cares? Not Karl - he’s just worried they’ll lower the tone of the area.

The second act skips ahead a couple of decades. Clybourne Park is now an all-black neighbourhood, and the granddaughter of Bev’s maid isn’t too pleased about a young white couple moving back in. An innocent meeting about planning permission turns into a minefield of escalating political incorrectness which manages to offend black people, white people, deaf people, women and at least six other social groups in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Eastenders.

A lesser playwright might have thought this concept enough, but writer Bruce Norris is two steps ahead and weaves in a story about the grieving family of a young Korean War veteran whose suicide is inextricably linked to the fate of the house. OH NO HE DIDN’T! Oh yes he did.

Is it funny? Very.

Is it offensive? Definitely.

Is it a masterclass in structure that makes me want to give up writing because I will never EVER be as clever as Bruce Norris? YES!!! Watch it and weep.

If your idea of an enjoyable evening is watching an entire theatre squirm in unison as a black mother asks her pregnant white counterpart what the difference is between a white woman and a tampon (answer: they’re both stuck up c*nts) then I thoroughly recommend you spend those 3.5 days of rent on a ticket.

Shall we have one last look at James Franco? Go on then.