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Traditionally, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) – the 90 or so journalists who vote for the Golden Globes – do not have the best reputation. Not only has the Globes’ standing as a predictor for Oscar winners been called into question, agreeing with the Academy just twice out of the last eight years for Best Picture, but the organization, the members of which are often obscure international film critics (you won’t find for example, Roger Ebert or David Denby on there) are also held to be far too star struck.  Just two years ago, Angelina Jolie was reputed to have laughed when she was told she had been nominated for a Best Actress Globe for her role in The Tourist, widely held to be one of the worst films of the year.

That was hardly the first time the Globes had found themselves mired in controversy. In 1968, NBC stopped airing the Golden Globes for six years when the awards were accused of misleading the public as to how the winners were chosen. In 1981, Pia Zadora controversially won a Newcomer of the Year award that was thought to have essentially been bought for her by her multimillionaire husband. According to Rolling Stone magazine’s Peter Travers the Golden Globes are an event that, “perpetrates a scam that would make Bernie Madoff blush.”

And yet, if this year’s double whammy Globe victory (Best Picture and Best Director) for Ben Affleck’s Iran hostage thriller Argo shows anything, it is that the Golden Globes still serve to highlight where the Oscars have got it wrong. Not only are they less afraid of controversy – nominating, for example, Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director, despite the torture endorsement controversy surrounding the film –  they also often favour the popular global choice. Lincoln has not yet been released worldwide but will non-US audiences really flock to see Steven Spielberg’s brilliant but heavy-going slavery abolition drama over the gripping Argo?

The Oscars, voted for by around 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), have been critcised in the past for favouring the high-brow. Meanwhile, the Globes often pick up on the more popular choice. In 2006 the Golden Globe Best Drama award went to Ang Lee’s controversial gay cowboy drama Brokeback Mountain, which has stood the test of time far better than that year’s Best Picture Oscar winner Crash. The same thing happened in 1982 when the Globes eschewed Richard Attenborough’s ponderous epic Gandhi in favour of Spielberg’s sci-fi family favourite E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. The latter went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time until it was knocked of its pedestal a decade later by another Spielberg film Jurassic Park.

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 10.44.47Underdog actors are also more likely to fare better with the HFPA rather than the Academy. Last year, Michael Fassbender, whose critically acclaimed performance as a sex addict in Shame won him the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival was nominated by the Globes but completely overlooked at the Oscars. Funnyman Bill Murray has been nominated as Best Actor three times at the Globes (once even for Ghostbusters), which finally awarded him victory in 2003 for Lost in Translation. At the Oscars, he was pipped to the post by Sean Penn for Mystic River. Years later the former has achieved cult status, while many audiences would barely remember the latter by comparison. There are dozens such examples. The Globes were the only awards to spot Marilyn Monroe as a timeless comedienne, awarding her Best Actress in 1959 for Some Like it Hot, while she was snubbed by the Academy where she did not even receive a nomination.

So, does Argo’s victory mean that it could now win Best Picture at the Oscars, making it the first film to do so without a directing nomination since Driving Miss Daisy in 1990? It seems unlikely, given the highly patriotic subject matter of Lincoln, currently leading the way in the Oscars with 12 nominations. Indeed, one of the biggest differences between the HFPA and the Academy is that the former is made up of foreign press. This means that overtly patriotic films such as last year’s critically lambasted but Oscar-nominated 9/11 flick Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (it has just a 47 per cent positive rating on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes) are far less likely to do as well at the Globes as they will at the Oscars. Still though, perhaps the job of the Globes is not to predict victory at their bigger, more famous counterpart but to make the race that little bit more exciting.

The Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) category was added to the Globes’ line-up in 1952 and it is perhaps this category that best encapsulates the differences between the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Traditionally, the former take themselves far less seriously. As a consequence they are more likely to applaud performances that appeal to mainstream audiences (see also the three awards won by Les Miserables this year, including Best Picture, Musical). Many of the winners in this category have gone on to be cult classics (The Graduate, M.A.S.H., Working Girl, Toy Story 2, Sideways) while the Oscar Best Picture list can feel more self-important than enjoyable. Lincoln still seems likely to clean up at the Academy Awards this year, especially with the endorsement given at the awards ceremony yesterday by Bill Clinton. But in 50 years, will people be watching that or Les Mis?

Of course, the Globes certainly do not always get it right. In their inaugural year in 1944, the winner of Best Picture, as well as several other awards, was a film called The Song of Bernadette. Meanwhile, over at the Academy, the winner was… Casablanca.


As a film journalist I normally go to several media screenings a week. Which means that I hardly ever actually go to the regular cinema anymore.

You might think this means I get to avoid the sweet-chomping and incessant chattering that is the multiplex. It doesn’t.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last year it’s that film hacks are just as capable of being thoughtless during  a film as the rest of the public. Like the time I went to see The Artist and someone sitting two seats away from me talked the whole way through. The characters in the film don’t even talk!

Anyway, since anyone and everyone seems in need of advice on the matter of cinema etiquette, I thought I’d lay it down straight. Actually the ever authoritative Debrett’s has already written some guidelines. You can see those ones here.

But dear Debrett’s, you’ve put it so very nicely, with such restraint.  I, on the other hand, have a few things to add.

If these things sound like things you do, please feel free to stop doing them. Immediately.

Or, indeed, to stop coming to the cinema altogether.


 1)     Adverts are not part of the film. Trailers are. Despite the resourcefulness of YouTube, Apple Trailers etc, which now nab trailers the moment they moment they emerge, I still like seeing trailers on the big screen. Especially when they’re for The Hobbit. So please, lady talking loudly about how selfish Becky from work is. Shush.

2)     Eating food quietly at the cinema is hard. Especially since the Odeons and Vues of the world seem to have decided that classic “Cinema Food” should basically consist of the noisiest eats in the world. Nachos and popcorn? I mean, come on.

But if there’s one thing that’s more annoying than people eating loudly, it’s people opening sweet packets quietly. You know, the kind of quiet where it takes someone 50 minutes to open that packet of minstrels they’re trying so hard to do it quietly. Here’s a thought. Open it before the film starts. Wait for a loud bit. Hell, rip it open if you have to, but don’t torture us with your deafening and protracted attempts at silence.

3)     If you have to arrive late, go to the loo, leave early, please don’t stand at the bottom right in front of the screen. You’re obscuring what is somehow always, always, the most important bit of the film. Yes, you, chatty girls who went to the loo three times during The Hunger Games kiss scene and the build-up to it in the cave. You just should not have drunk the extra large coke.

4)     Glancing at your phone, especially a big light-blasting iPhone, during the film is rude. We like the dark abyss of the cinema. It’s one of the reasons we go there.

5)     Talking on your phone during the film is totally unacceptable.
Get out.

Legendary newscaster Ron Burgundy announced this week that a teaser trailer for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues would air ahead of The Dictator.

Said Burgundy in a tweet, “I don’t know what a teaser trailer is either but they say you all    will.  When did the world get so crazy? I’m having a scotch.”

The teaser, though apparently it has already aired at an advance screening, has yet to appear online, but allegedly includes the full Channel 4 team, apart from smelly pirate hooker Veronica Corningstone.

Ten Things with no Heath Ledger? Never!

Gil Junger, who wrote and directed the original Ten Things I Hate About You, based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, in 1999, is now apparently making a sequel starring Hayley Atwell, of Captain America fame.

No Julia Stiles, No Joseph Gordon Levitt and definitely no Heath Ledger.

It’s a bad idea, simply speaking because the original was just so darned good.

Here are ten reasons why I – and everyone I knew in the nineties – loved the original, and why it can never be replaced…

Julia Stiles’s career never really took off after this (unless you count Bourne), in part perhaps because she really is very normal looking. But that’s what girls loved about her in 10 Things. Her hair’s a bit frizzy (check the perm ponytail at the prom), her teeth are a bit wonky and she has knobbly knees in that girls’ soccer match scene.

“Judith! What’s another word for ‘engorged’?” Everyone’s favourite Democrat chief-of-staff is, in one of her earliest roles, the filthiest, most inappropriate bad teacher imaginable. Cameron Diaz ain’t got nothing on Allison Janney.

So, we know it’s the 90s (just) and that Bianca is meant to be the whiter than white little sister but there really is no excuse for those wide-banded strappy sandals (they really aren’t Mary Janes, love) and that pouffy pink prom dress. Then again, it all just helps make Kat (Stiles) look even cooler when she arrives at Prom wearing a loose, navy spaghetti straps number.

Along with Han Solo and Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad in American Pie, Larry Miller’s role as the over-protective father is one of those great this-was-meant-to-be-a-supporting-role parts that unintentionally steals the show. “I’ve got news for you. I’m down, I’ve got the 411, and you are not going out and getting jiggy with some boy, I don’t care how dope his ride is. Mamma didn’t raise no fool” Enough said.

From the Shakespearean quotes (“Sweet love, renew thy force.”) to the come-back quips (“Hey! Don’t say shit like that to me. People can hear you.”) the script is tight, funny and merciless. Also, see Reason Number 4, above.

We’ve got a liberal, bad-ass black teacher who’s also kind of a racist, a pot-thieving sports coach and a headmistress who writes erotica. Would this have been the coolest school to go to ever – or the worst?

Anyone who has ever been paint-balling (especially if they’ve ever been with my ex-army friend Ben) knows that paint-balling is more often than not a vicious, competitive, strategic sport that will invariably leave you with countless bruises, aching limbs and a lingering feeling of failure whether you win or lose. But in Ten Things it looks like a romantic roll around a haystack with a pack of hairdye.

I guess we have Bill Shakespeare to thank for this one, but the story here is simply better than most other high school rom coms. The characters are so well-rounded that we care about all of them, from Gordon Levitt’s geeky friend to the teachers at school.  We don’t even hate whiney, selfish Bianca. Well, not much.

If The Taming of the Shrew is lacking one thing it might be this. Is there anything more romantic than Heath Ledger serenading Stiles on the football pitch with a microphone he bribed  the band guy for and a mischievous twinkle in his eye?

Which leads us on to what is quite frankly the best things about this film…

Ah, let me count the ways… Before he became a really good actor and stuff, Heath was the shaggy-haired rebel from down under who steals Kat Stratford’s heart by throwing paintballs in her face and letting her vomit on his shoes. He’s lean, mean, utterly sexy and looks about as unlikely to be in high school as Dawson Leary (he actuallywasa teenager when he made the film, but looks about a decade older).

Without him, Ten Things could have just been a slightly more erudite She’s All That (although I actually quite like She’s All that too by the way).

He’s just lovely in this film. R.I.P.

The name! And the poem that accompanies it. It doesn’t rhyme properly, the syncopation is all over the place and the whole thing has almost nothing to do with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 141, which Kat’s homework assignment is based on.

Although it’s definitely not the worst – or last – affront to Shakespeare from poor old Stiles.  Anyone seen O? Watch the trailer for the Othello revamp, which Stiles made several years after Ten Things, below.

You may have noticed that I’ve been away for a while, writing and editing for the great http://www.skymovies.com, and helping them launch their new website: www.skymovies.sky.com

But before the Oscars this Sunday (26th Feb for those of you not paying attention) I thought you might like to see the various reviews I’ve written on those films that are Oscar-nominated.

So, here goes:
The Artist
The Iron Lady
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
A Separation
Jane Eyre
Real Steel

And, even though it didn’t get a SINGLE Oscar nomination, I’m going to include my Shame review here too, since, to my mind, it was definitely one of the best films of last year.
You can see several more of my reviews in JPEG version below, as they are currently being moved from one place to the other on the live site.

THE HELP (Double-click on the images to see the larger version)


If you want to see a picture of me in a Stetson and chaps – or if you want to read about how few women there are in Westerns – buy The Times today or go to http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/film/article2902553.ece I know there’s a paywall but it’s cheap as chips and I promise the photos of me trying to look like Clint Eastwood are worth it… 

We’ve all seen it: unremarkable men – unsightly even – walking hand-in-hand with women so beautiful they could launch more ships than Helen of Troy. Usually, of course, the ordinary fellow who manages to bag himself a hotter bit of totty than his peers has something extraordinary to offer: money, power or, occasionally, just a cracking sense of humour.

But there has been a rather odd development of late, in the way this hot girl/plain man dynamic is dealt with in film. Hollywood has taken to pairing up models with Average Joes who have nothing to offerOr not enough to make their relationship credible, anyway. Take Knocked Up, The Holiday or Couples Retreat. OK, so Seth Rogen’s character is, well, quite nice. But seriously, Katherine Heigl could go out with anyone. In Grey’s Anatomy she plays a model who is also a doctor, for God’s sake. And Kate Winslet and Jack Black? Not only is she at least a foot taller than him, but her last beau was Rufus Sewell . RUFUS SEWELL, people.

When did it become normal for sub-part blokes to get super-hot girls? Call me fattist or lookist if you want to, but I’m not sure I like it. I’m all for people favouring personality over looks. But if grumpy old sods like Paul Giamatti’s character in Barney’s Version, in cinemas now, can pull girls like Rosamund Pike, then which men are left for normal women? Morbidly obese criminals?

Hollywood seems intent on presenting us with a parallel universe where men can get anyone no matter what they’re like. Here, in no particular order, are some of the most unlikely onscreen couples of recent years. If I’ve left any off, share away.

Barney’s Version: Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike
She was a Bond girl. He’s made a career out of playing underachievers and weirdos. And he’s not even a likeable weirdo in this film (most of the time). We can only imagine that, since the story is supposed to be Barney’s life seen through his own eyes, he’s just embellishing a tad.

The Holiday: Kate Winslet and Jack Black
We’re not such heartless curmudgeons that we don’t understand the need for the nice guy after having your heart broken. But even the director doesn’t seem to believe in this unlikely pairing, giving the couple a chummy kiss rather than the lustful embraces of Jude Law and Cameron Diaz across the pond.

Couples Retreat: Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis
Favreau – and Vince Vaughn too for that matter – have fallen hard since the glory days of Swingers. Not only are they less funny, they are also less fit. It might have been conceivable that Heather Graham would take a shine to Favreau in 1996. But in this 2009 film he is bloated, boring and a bit of a sex pest.

Hitch: Kevin James and Amber Valetta
She is a model from Manhattan. He made his name as  The King of Queens, an overweight delivery man from, er, Queens.  Apparently she finds his dancing and mustard-spilling skills irresistible.


Zack and Miri make a porno: Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks
We get that this film is in tongue in cheek. We even get that its premise is meant to be absurd (broke flatmates make porn movies to pay the bills, all good clean fun). But we cannot get past the fact that Miri originally fancies Brandon Routh (that’s Superman, by the way) but eventually falls for Seth Rogen.

Knocked up: Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen
She’s a gorgeous, successful TV presenter. He’s an unemployed, unkempt man-child creating a soft-porn website. Really?   


Sideways: Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen
Sorry Giamatti. We know Madsen is marginally less unattainable than Rosamund Pike  but to a depressed, awkward, failed author we reckon she’s still unattainable. 


Cyrus: John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei
John C. Reilly has made quite a lot of money out of playing pathetic losers who are left by their wives- only here his similarity to Shrek, as he puts it, gets him the girl. A very sweet and beautifully-acted film but we still don’t know any women who actually seek out plug-ugly guys peeing into bushes at cocktail parties.

As Good As it Gets: Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt
Jack Nicholson is mean, neurotic and pretty old. Helen Hunt, is beautiful and kind but oh, hang on, she’s a single mother. Well then, no wonder. She probably would have married a bigamous midget now, wouldn’t she?


And a few  in reverse…

Bridget Jones’ Diary: Hugh Grant/Colin Firth and Renee Zellweger
In real life this is a bit more likely – after all thin Zellweger  is going out with Bradley Cooper (whom she allegedly stole from Jennifer Aniston). But the movie Zellweger is about 100 times less attractive than normal Zellweger, and we’re not just talking about her weight. Apparently, Mr Darcy, who is handsome, loaded and surrounded by attractive women, is smitten by her knowledge of British soap operas. 

Muriel’s Wedding: Toni Colette and Daniel Lapaine
What a sheila lacks in the looks department she can make up for in confidence, or at least she can Down Under, where Muriel Heslop, an ugly duckling who has never been on a date,  wins the admiration of an Olympic hopeful. Streuth!

My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Nia Vardalos and John Corbett
Every girl dreams of a makeover that would increase her level of attractiveness ten-fold. Of course, it helps if you start off with specs because in Hollywood taking off your glasses results in an instant transformation. It’s not really that we don’t believe Corbett would fancy her. It’s more that he seems instantly attracted to her just because she’s got some Frizz Ease.