I remember 1984. I was a student at Uni, we were dancing to Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Wham. It was nothing like George Orwell had predicted. At least, not in Deptford. Big Brother wasn’t watching me and, even if he was, I was probably too drunk to notice. But whilst I was idling away my life, I was more or less oblivious to the political landscape around me, including the miner’s strike. The only time it ever impacted on me was when my dear Grandad was taken ill and in his dying days, ranted about how Scargill would bring the country to its knees. I’m rather ashamed to admit, I don’t think I even knew who Arthur Scargill was.
‘Pride’ depicts events in 1984, when how Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) and his friend Mike Jackson (Joe Gilgun) founded a support group for the striking miners. Unambiguously, the group was called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) and it did what it says on their collecting tin. The Group raised money to support the families of striking miners and made contact with a Welsh mining village, which benefitted from the LGSM’s fund-raising. With a wonderful British cast including Imelda Staunton, Dominic West and Bill Nighy, the film depicts the ways in which two apparently disparate groups of people united for a common cause. The LGSM understood persecution, so they understood the plight of the miners.
The film is vibrant and funny, shot through with contemporary music and fashion, blended beautifully with the harsh realities of prejudice and hardship. It brought back a flood of memories about those early Eighties, including the scary media coverage about a new epidemic. AIDS. I was saddened but not surprised to learn at the end of the film that some members of the LGSM were affected by the disease. It somehow made what was achieved in a short life, all the more poignant.
Choosing Christmas presents? I love it. Shopping? Love that even more. Parting with the cash is sometimes painful, but I can cope. Wrapping up all the gifts? I hate it. Absolutely bloody hate it. It’s an annual battle, me against the Clinton roll wrap. So, whilst I barricaded myself in the bedroom and stuck a ‘Keep Out – Elf at Work’ sign on the door, ‘Love Actually’ was a great choice to distract me from the disobedient sticky tape.
The film interweaves twelve love stories, which take place in the 5 weeks leading up to Christmas. Written and directed by comic genius Richard Curtis, the film is gentle and thought-provoking, exploring love in its many guises. Watching the film for the first time is probably the best, as the links between the characters are gradually revealed; David the Prime Minister is Karen the Mum’s brother, and Natalie, who is David’s secretary, turns out to live next door to Mia, who is Karen’s husband’s (Harry) secretary and in love with him and so on. It sounds complicated and in some ways it is, but so is modern life; we are all inter-connected by links of romantic love, parental love, friendship, familial love. The film is saved from being corny by its robust script and strong cast, as almost anyone who is everyone in British acting puts in an appearance: Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Martin Freeman, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy …..and more. Even Rowan Atkinson pops up as an over-attentive shop assistant. Rodrigo Santoro, one of Brazil’s most talented and famous actors also stars, as Karl, with whom Sarah is in love. Santoro does not have a big role, but deserves a mention simply because he is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, especially when he takes his shirt off!
‘Love Actually’ has probably become part of the UK Christmas viewing landscape, together with ‘Its a Wonderful Life‘, ‘The Snowman‘ and the ‘The Sound of Music‘. The film is showing pretty much back to back on Sky over the Christmas holiday, or the DVD is only £3 on Amazon so would fit into your stocking. I suppose the fact that I could watch the film whilst multi-tasking probably says something about its watchability; it’s mental floss. But that doesn’t make me like it any less!
Richard Curtis, writer and director of ‘The Boat that Rocked’ has many claims to movie success: I first fell in love with John Hannah as the heartbroken lover in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’! ‘The Boat that Rocked’ is not widely acclaimed as being one of Curtis’ better movies, but it’s still a fun film.
It has an impressive cast list including; Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans and the now sadly departed Philip Seymour Hoffman. ‘Radio Rock’ is a pirate station, anchored in the North Sea and broadcasting non-stop 60s pop to a nation which listens somewhat guiltily to its forbidden pleasures. Back on the mainland the officials, led by Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh), are trying to close down the subversive station.
Having been expelled from school Carl (Tom Sturridge), is welcomed on board by his godfather – Radio Rock’s director Quentin (Nighy) and he joins the team of DJs as they drink, smoke, lark about, womanise – oh, and play music. The film starts slowly, but culminates in some action-packed scenes as the station faces ruin. As you’d expect, ‘The Boat that Rocked’ has a fantastic toe-tapping soundtrack and a generally feel-good factor, with some great comedic performances.