I went to see Stardust on Thursday and despite having low expectations of it, loved it. Getting the balance of humour and fantasy right so that it doesn’t look like self-indulgent nonsense is tricky and I think they even just about managed to pull off Robert De Niro in a dress.
But one thing spoiled it for me: Ricky Gervais’ cameo. This was basically David Brent in a silly hat and stood out like a sore thumb. It reminded me of Paul Heiney’s cameo in 1985’s Water. Paul Heiney was a That’s Life presenter who made a series called In At the Deep End in which he had to do things he had no prior experience of (sort of an 80s version of Faking It). Somehow he got a small part in this small, rather rubbish British film and his performance – up against Michael Caine – is execrable. It has become embedded in my brain as an example of why film-makers should resist the temptation to include showy cameos in their films for the sake of a bit of extra publicity.
It has become increasingly clear that the reason The Office was so excruciatingly funny was that Gervais wasn’t acting. It was him – or at least scarily close to his true persona. Yet because he remains popular in the public imagination, and has lots of celebrity friends, he has somehow managed to build a years-long career doing the same basic schtick. How much longer is this going to go on?
I have horrible visions of him becoming the 21st century version of Leslie “hel-lo!” Phillips, turning up in films and TV programmes in his 70s to do his David Brent act so long as the fee was right. But while typecast, at least Phillips could act.
The Evening Standard is getting all excited about some of the poses struck by Cho Seung-Hui and their similarities to some of the characters’ in Korean Film Oldboy.
Not very difficult subtext to work out there: Korean = mad killer obsessed society = accident waiting to happen. Twas ever thus from the Northcliffe Press.
Having watched Seung-Hui’s video, I was struck by its similarities to another film: Napoleon Dynamite. Give him a ginger afro and you wouldn’t be able to tell him apart from Jon Heder’s excrutiating character. The saddest thing about him is, well, quite how sad he is: a lonely boy lost in a fantasy world.
What gets me about these stories are the trivia. For example, the Columbine killers called themselves the Trenchcoat Brigade/Mafia. This was a reference to a throwaway comment made by John Constantine in Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic (a story about a bespectacled male English orphan on the cusp of adolescence who discovers he is destined to become a great magician and has a pet owl – sound familiar?), which mutated into a rather disappointing Vertigo mini-series as they continued to scrape the Gaiman creative barrel. Very few people can pull off geek chic. We may like to think we look like David Tennant, but we usually look more like Jeff Albertson. The media preferred to concentrate on their predilection for Marilyn Manson, a glamourpuss who matched their preformatted image of the sort of thing that might drive a teenage serial killer over the edge than a comic book about wizards.
The mundane, tawdry reality of these killers needs to be exposed much more, instead of the mythological glamourisation that the media likes to feed down our throats. There’s a certain amount of truth in Lionel Shriver’s dictum that ‘campus shootings keep happening because they keep happening‘. Perhaps one of the best weapons we have against this trend is to encourage a narrative where these people are not seen as bad seeds, but as lonely, vulnerable and ultimately pathetic individuals. Speaking as a liberal, I find it ironic that I would like to see rightwing press condemn a little more and seek to understand a little less. Wouldn’t it be nice if they extended the same courtesy to the average hoodie wearing chav that they do to murderers?