It’s been clear for a while now that while Western animated films make megabucks and look lovely and shiny, they are leagues behind the likes of French and Japanese films in terms of story. Whether CGI or hand-drawn, English-speaking animation generally errs on the side of soft and fluffy, and they can hardly be considered thought pieces.
Someone called a little while ago to tell me a story. He doesn’t generally care about gossip, but felt this was good enough to share with me.
Last night he was talking to a friend whose neighbour hired out a suite in a hotel in Sandwich, Kent this weekend for his wedding anniversary. He booked it ages ago, before the dates were announced for the 2011 Golf Open Championships.
A couple of weeks ago he received a phone call from the hotel. The conversation went like this:
“Thank you for booking with us, are the plans going alright?”
“Very good. It’s the Opens during the weekend of your booking, and we have someone who is very keen to use the suite you have booked. Would you be willing to alter your arrangements?”
“The other party really is very keen, and is willing to compensate you.”
“Oh really? How much?”
“They have offered £10,000.”
“Er… blimey. That’s really generous, but no. It’s my anniversary, it’s been booked for ages, and my life wouldn’t be worth living if I started messing about with things.”
“Can I ask how much it would take for you to cancel your reservation?”
“(Laughing) Well, I have £42,000 left on my mortgage, if they really want it that badly, they can pay off my house.”
Four days later, a cheque for £42,000 arrived from Victoria Beckham.
Turns out her dad is a big golf fan and she wanted him to stay somewhere nice while he enjoyed the Open.
And that’s the end.
Now, obviously it’s nonsense, and I imagine you have come across this tale before. In fact, I talked to a journalist from The Sun earlier today we discussed this ‘story’.
Excited members of the public have called The Sun with this exclusive a number of times in the last few days, and versions of it have been kicking around forever, but the ones The Sun are contacted with always involve the Beckhams. The details might change, but the payoff is always David or Victoria Beckham clearing someone’s mortgage so one of their immediate family can do something or go somewhere. Naturally, the name of the person it happened to is never known, they are a few steps removed from the source, and other details are thin on the ground, but it involves the Beckhams, and they’re rich and a bit daft, so it must be true!
It’s the staying power of this story that elevates it above mere celebrity gossip and into the realm of urban myth. And like the very best urban myths, this one has a life of its own and adapts to fit contemporary news (Wimbledon/World Cup/etc). The real power is in being just believable enough to suck in otherwise intelligent people, but outrageous enough to stick in the mind and make the listener want to tell other folk.
So there we go. Pass it on or keep it in your back pocket for a while. Either way, we’ll be seeing a mutated version rear its head next summer when the Olympics hit London.
It always leaves me aghast when I read quotes from millionaire actors and actresses complaining about directors making them get up early, people in airports asking them for autographs, how their gold house is too shiny and their rocket car is too fast. At least they aren’t told what films to appear in by their government.
The Beginning of the Great Revival is a new Chinese propaganda movie filled with Chinese movie stars who were gently persuaded to appear in the film made to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.
Released last month, The Beginning of the Great Revival covers the period between the 1911 revolution that overthrew imperial rule and the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party.
Director, Han Sanping, says it’s better than 2009′s The Founding of a Republic which told the story of the Communist Party’s seizure of power in 1949 – and he’d better be right. The government have done everything they can to make sure the film is a success, so if it isn’t, you can be sure that he’ll face spme serious questions. (The difficult thing about stories like this, is that you can’t use potentially portentous terms like ‘in the firing line’, ‘facing the chop’, or ‘it’ll be his head on the block’.)
As part of the government’s pursuit for success, 178 of the world’s top Chinese actors from the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong appear in the film, schools and offices have been advised that buying tickets would be a good idea, and cinemas are banned from showing new Hollywood movies like Harry Potter until The Beginning of the Great Revival has run its course.
Furthermore, at least two major entertainment websites in China have been forced to ban users from reviewing the film in an effort to quash negative reactions, while critical comments are banned from television and newspapers. The irony of authoritarian rulers banning criticism of a film that aggrandises a period of revolution against authoritarian rulers, seems to have passed the CCP by.
Gao Jun, deputy general manager of Chinese theatre operator new Film Association said: “We’re expecting a great turnout, especially with it being summer.” Meanwhile, the subtitles read: “We need a great turnout, otherwise this will be our last summer.”
The next time you hear a star with more money than God complain about doing foreign press junkets because the people ‘talk all funny’, you have my permission to track them down and stick pins in them. Go on – no one will mind.
He’s not the Messiah, he’s a dead alcoholic
Monty Python star Graham Chapman is to be the subject of a 3D animated biopic.
Adapted from the actor’s 1980 memoir A Liar’s Autobiography: Volume VI, the film will blend contributions from the surviving Pythons with audio of Chapman reading from his book.
The founding member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus died of cancer in 1989, and is famous for being one of the first openly gay celebrities as well as struggling with alcoholism. For younger readers, yes – he was Brian in The Life of Brian and played the king in The Holy Grail.
In keeping with the flighty tone of Chapman’s autobiography, the film will be comprised of 15 cartoon segments, produced independently by different animation houses. John Cleese is expected to play himself, with Michael Palin co-starring as Chapman’s father and Terry Jones mimicking the late comic’s mother. Terry Gilliam will be chipping in with some of the other voices, and if the producers don’t get him to consult on the animation, they’re big dumb dummies.
Of the surviving members of the Python team, only Eric Idle has yet to sign up.
Idle once said: “We would only do a [Monty Python] reunion if Chapman came back from the dead, so we’re negotiating with his agent.”
Michael Bay: Recycling pioneer
Having now seen Transformers: Dark of the Moon it’s easy to say, yes, the 3D footage is some of the best ever produced.
It’s also easy to say, “By Christ, that was a dreadful film, what’s wrong with Rosie Huntington Whiteley’s face? Why does she sound like she’s reading all her lines off a card? I miss Megan Fox. ”
You may have even found yourself saying, “That car crash/explosion looks familiar.” And that’s because it probably was.
It seems that two key action scenes were recycled from material used in Michael Bay’s 2005 film The Island, starring Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor. In fact, one of the segments is almost identical, save for the giant robot that has been pasted on top of the action.
It’s not the first time Bay has been accused of lifting footage from earlier films (bits of Pearl Harbour were used in the first Transformers), but given Bay’s insistence that the whole movie was filmed in 3D and not simply converted in post-production, it’s even more disingenuous this time round.
Some people are suggesting that Michael Bay is the Johann Hari of the film world, but that’s not fair. At least what Michael Bay is recycling is his own work.
I’ve just watched the best film of the year so far.
Senna is a documentary about the professional career of Formula 1 racing driver, Ayrton Senna – the triple world champion who has attained almost mythical status – and it is going to be right at the top of many critics’ Best Of lists at the end of this year.