January 1st 2018
Happy 2018, everyone. As ever, the new year brings with it the new Coddies, the annual film awards I dish out on this blog. You know the drill: a movie is eligible for this most prestigious of award ceremonies if either: (i) I saw it at the cinema on general release in 2017; or (ii) it was released in the UK in 2017 and I saw it elsewhere - this year that meant DVD (9), streaming (7), plane (4) & TV (1). In addition to the 33 films I saw at the cinema, that's a record-smashing 54 eligible films this year.
With so many to choose from, there ended up being a number of really good - and even some great - films that didn't get any nominations, including American Made, Dunkirk, The Founder, Hidden Figures, Justice League (I enjoyed it!), Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Paddington 2, Passengers & Spider-Man: Homecoming. The worst films of the year, for me, were The Mummy, Rules Don't Apply, and What Happened to Monday. Anyways, without further ado, let's kick it off.
Winner: La La Land - the one true classic of the year, which I suspect will be remembered long after Moonlight has become just an Oscar trivia question, this re-awakening of the musical genre was a delight. On the first viewing I wasn't sure about the ending, but having re-watched I understand the choice Damien Chazelle made (as you'll know if you read what I wrote about the film last year). Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are outstanding actors and even better as a pairing, which more than makes up for what they lack as singers. The songs themselves, though, are just as good. They still make 'em like they used to.
2nd: Star Wars: The Last Jedi - just like Force Awakens, this is kept off the top spot in the Coddies by a Damien Chazelle film about jazz. This episode didn't bring me as much pure joy as the last instalment, but the last hour is wonderful and the choices made for various characters are brave, unexpected and wholly justified.
3rd: Baby Driver - Edgar Wright's first non-comedy is as ambitious and rewarding as you'd expect from him, the entire film set to a musical soundtrack that elevates the action without becoming too gimmicky. The car chases are executed superbly, but the foot chase is the highlight.
4th: Battle of the Sexes - telling the story of Billy Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs, this movie eschews an obvious tale of chauvinism to give a nuanced view of both the leads, focusing on what drives them both while still being funny and (a first for a tennis film?) believable.
5th: The Big Sick - too many modern romantic comedies seem ashamed to be part of the genre: this break-out comedy is not afraid to be romantic as well as comedic, and the strong cast backs up an excellent screenplay based on the writers' real-life experiences.
6th: The Greatest Showman - frankly, this is not one of the six best films of the year. I know that. But it is a musical I enjoy immensely despite its flaws - as opposed to many films that I admire but cannot warm to - and is so clearly made with love that some of it inevitably rubs off on the willing viewer.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Winner: Denzel Washington (Fences) - directing himself in a role he had played many times on stage, Washington manages to portray a character so charming and sympathetic that you only belatedly realise how flawed and selfish he is. A true masterclass and comfortably the best performance I've seen from him.
2nd: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) - this was another incredible performance, and almost the reverse of Washington's: a character whose failure to take on responsibility makes him quite unsympathetic until the audience realises the sorrow that has made him what he is.
3rd: Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) - Garfield is a great actor and probably never better than here, playing a conscientious objector who is able to display great bravery in this excellent war film.
4th: Dev Patel (Lion) - oddly nominated as a supporting actor, Patel is the driving force of this real-life story of a man trying to locate the family he lost in India as a child.
5th: Ryan Gosling (La La Land) - while it was Emma Stone who won the most plaudits, Gosling is also on top form as a jazz musician balancing romance, ambition and success. This is a very funny performance as well as moving: the dinner scene is a classic for the ages.
6th: Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes) - Carell is obviously most famous for his comedy, and there's plenty of that in his portrayal of Bobby Riggs, but his dramatic capabilities (previously seen in Foxcatcher) are used to great effect here as well.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Winner: Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes) - she's long been my favourite actress, and including this year she's made 8 appearances in the Coddies, but this is her first win. Without doing a full-on impression she absolutely embodies Billie Jean King, portraying her emotional & professional struggles flawlessly - while also playing realistic tennis. Could another Oscar win be on the cards?
2nd: Natalie Portman (Jackie) - another real-life portrayal, Portman is spot on as Jackie Kennedy in the days following her husband's murder: the voice and manner are perfect, but also the resilience and steely calm. A real showcase of Portman's talents, although perhaps voters thought it left little else for others to do.
3rd: Emma Stone (La La Land) - this was the role that won Stone her Oscar, which came as a bit of a surprise to me, but she's as excellent as ever. The warmth and vulnerability she brings to the character is complemented by her well-honed comedic abilities (even if she's not much of a singer).
4th: Gemma Arterton (Their Finest) - this was a great role for Arterton, playing a woman in a man's world - in this case, script-writing for films during the second world war. She is wonderful in it, particularly for the very emotional scenes, where she never overdoes it.
5th: Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) - a truly captivating performance, Gadot almost single-handedly saves the DC movie universe (well, Patty Jenkins must take a lot of the credit) and is perfect as the naive, righteous and powerful amazon. Who knows what range she has, but no one could have bettered her here.
6th: Anne Hathaway (Colossal) - in a film that bounces a bit awkwardly between genres, Hathaway is another who gets to show her comedic as well as her dramatic capabilities. She does it well, only let down by the unbelievable arcs of the key characters.
Winner: Damien Chazelle (La La Land) - following the success of Whiplash, Chazelle had his choice of films and decided to make a throwback musical comedy in the style of the likes of Singin' in the Rain. To my mind this is the superior film, because the focus on the characters - and the excellent lead actors - means that we genuinely care about what happens. The songs are great, and from the opening number on the LA freeway onwards this is directed with imagination, wit and joy. As mentioned above, the ending initially left me very dejected - an indication of the film's strength. I look forward to Chazelle's next project, a biopic starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong.
2nd: Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) - last year's winner for Arrival, Villeneuve again brings vision and imagination to the sci-fi genre with a great continuation of the world introduced in 1982's Blade Runner. Not since The Color of Money have I seen a sequel that does so well to move away from the original and live on its own merits - at the same time, though, this share essential DNA with Blade Runner, being similarly languid and thoughtful. It underperformed at the box office but provides further evidence that Villeneuve is a director with few peers.
3rd: Edgar Wright (Baby Driver) - another previous Coddie winner, Wright doesn't know how to make a film half-heartedly, and loves to build complexities into his films that reward multiple viewings. This is stylish, often funny, and beautifully shot: the only real weakness is in the development of Lily James's character and therefore her relationship with Baby.
4th: James Mangold (Logan) - it must have taken some bravery to pitch an R-rated Wolverine film, separate from the X-Men universe, with graphic violence and swearing throughout. This is a triumph, by miles the best of Wolverine's solo appearances, and as a Western has helped to inspire the recent run of genre-mixing in superhero films.
5th: Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) - this is probably my favourite war film ever, a real-life story based around a fascinating character but also containing the best, most harrowing and hellish war scenes I've ever seen. Almost unbearable, but at the same time you can't look away as all the supposed glory of war is tripped away. The only failing is some overly mawkish shots and musical cues towards the end.
6th: Steven Soderbergh (Logan Lucky) - returning from retirement, Soderbergh essentially directs Ocean's Eleven for hillbillies: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver & Daniel Craig play fairly hapless West Virginians who rob Nascar in an amusing and outlandish caper. Let's hope Soderbergh's next retirement doesn't come any time soon.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Winner: Woody Harrelson (The Glass Castle) - the film itself was rather disappointing, given that it reunited Brie Larson with her Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretton and then gave her very little to work with (one of three starring performances this year that all fell a bit short). However, making up for that was Harrelson's performance as the alcoholic father who flipped between loving optimism and savage control throughout. He managed to portray extremes without seeming cartoonish.
2nd: Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) - I think we now have the best Star Wars villain in the canon, as Driver's subtlety and range - as well as a script that allows him to explore it - has given Kylo Ren complexity far beyond that of Vader, Palpatine etc., as he battles internal conflict. I can't wait to see more of what he can do.
3rd: Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) - one of the breakout stars of the year, he holds his own alongside Casey Affleck as the teenager who has to readjust when he life is thrown upside down. Expect big things from him, especially if he's given more scripts this good to work with.
4th: Ray Romano (The Big Sick) - based on this performance, it's a crime that Romano (erstwhile star of Everybody Loves Raymond) hasn't been given more high-profile roles. He's funny, in an understated way, and shows dramatic depth in bringing to life the father of a girl in a coma.
5th: Patrick Stewart (Logan) - in his umpteenth portrayal of Charles Xavier, he's given far more to do than in previous X-Men films: the character is falling apart mentally and physically, and Stewart nails it.
6th: Armie Hammer (Free Fire) - this is another film that was a little disappointing, as Ben Wheatley's enjoyable set-up and tone doesn't quite pay off as well as it could have done, but Hammer is the actor who makes the most of it and really seems to enjoy the comic possibilities of the hapless stand-off.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Winner: Viola Davis (Fences) - like Denzel Washington, she had played the part repeatedly on stage so knew it inside out, and brought that depth to her portrayal on-screen. Her emotional outbursts made all the awards showreels, understandably, but this is a characteristically strong performance throughout.
2nd: Tatiana Maslany (Stronger) - this was a fairly thankless role in a film that was built around Jake Gyllenhaal's (very good, but ultimately a bit too Oscar bait-y) central performance, but Maslany made a great impression. As the ex-girlfriend of a bomb survivor, she played the character's range of emotions - guilt, hope, frustration, and more - very strongly. As it were.
3rd: Holly Hunter (The Big Sick) - rounding out the film's excellent supporting cast is Hunter, who - like Ray Romano - brings dramatic depth and comedy to the role of a worried parent. An actor of her calibre can spot a strong script a mile off, I imagine, and she makes the most of it.
4th: Felicity Jones (A Monster Calls) - another of my favourite actresses, Jones makes her 5th Coddies appearance as a dying mother in this powerful and emotional film, and she performs her role admirably. Sigourney Weaver, as her mother, is also excellent.
5th: Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) - she has less to do than I had imagined, given the award season buzz last year, but makes a powerful impact in a couple of scenes alongside Casey Affleck where subtext is key. She's a wonderfully diverse actor and goes from strength to strength.
6th: Nicole Kidman (Lion) - it was slightly odd hearing Kidman actually playing Australian, as the adopted mother of Dev Patel's character, and she lends the film gravitas and further emotional depth.
Best Visual Effects
Winner: Thor: Ragnarok - taking place exclusively off-Earth, and co-starring a CGI Hulk (as well as other entirely CGI characters), this is a film that can't work without strong effects. Fortunately they're great, with the highlight being an arena battle that shows Batman v Superman how superhero showdowns should really happen.
2nd: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 - another Marvel film with CGI characters, and another expensively assembled triumph (although it wouldn't have worked without the strength of James Gunn's writing and direction, both of which just missed out on Coddie nominations).
3rd: Beauty and the Beast - again, this is the kind of thing that would have been mind-blowingly impressive just a few years ago and is now just accepted with little thought. The Disney live-action films are in good hands, from a technical perspective at least.
4th: Star Wars: The Last Jedi - rounding out the list of Disney properties is the latest Star Wars: I could have lived without porgs but you can't argue with the quality of the effects. They're put to great use in the climactic battle scenes.
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Winner: Luke Davies (Lion) - it was a bold move to have fully half the film take place with a child as the lead, before fast-forwarding to the adult iteration, but it pays off well. One of the most emotional films of the year: the only weakness, really, is that Rooney Mara's part as the girlfriend was rather shallow.
2nd: August Wilson (Fences) - Wilson (who died in 2005) adapted the screenplay from his own play, and while the direction never lost the stagey feel, the script is very powerful.
3rd: Patrick Ness (A Monster Calls) - another film centred around a young boy, this is a great adaptation of a story about a monster visiting a child whose mother is dying. It is emotionally complex and fulfilling, avoiding cliches or easy answers.
4th: Jake Kasdan, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) - perhaps an odd one for this list, as it is very much a popcorn movie, but it is a great example of how to make a funny, satisfying, polished blockbuster. At a time when remakes, sequels and franchise films so often fall flat, this screenplay should be mandatory reading at all the big studios.
Best Writing – Original Screenplay
Winner: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) - from the Judd Apatow stable but with a romantic and comedic sensibility I've not previously associated with him, this story has deservedly won plaudits for its writers, who based it on their own experiences (Nanjiani then played himself in the film). Another film where it is clear that a love went into making it.
2nd: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) - this is a very bleak film about traumatic and painful events, and while it allows some rays of hope, it is a counterbalance to the usual Hollywood narrative of personal strength overcoming all. Revealing its twists at just the right times, and trusting the actors to portray a lot that isn't in the dialogue, this is sometimes hard to watch but excellent.
3rd: Damien Chazelle (La La Land) - what more can I say about this film? The comedy works, the relationships work, the dramatic escalations are wonderfully done. The layers of optimism - which pay off for the characters in some ways and not in others - are neatly done. Even the alternative montage towards the end, which felt like a cruel trick at the first viewing, I now regard as an excellent and imaginative choice.
4th: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049) - this is the epitome of thoughtful sci-fi, getting to the core of Blade Runner - questioning what life is, what its purpose is, what relationships can be - without just rehashing its tropes. Too slow for some, but not for me.
Best Animated Film
Winner: The Lego Batman Movie - it doesn't have the charm of The Lego Movie, but there are enough innovative jokes to make this pretty enjoyable.
2nd: Sing - a by-the-numbers talent show film, with a great voice as the animals but not a huge amount of imagination.
Winner: Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond - I saw one documentary last year, this intriguing beyond-the-scenes view of Jim Carrey's work on Man in the Moon. It reveals that Jim Carrey was every bit of annoying in real life as he made Andy Kaufman appear in the film itself.
January 5th 2018
The blog year has begun - it coincides precisely with the calendar year, and is otherwise identical in all respects - which means that I'll be Qing and Aing the year just gone. Right now. Here we go.
1. What did you do in 2017 that you'd never done before?
Used a sauna, used a beard trimmer, performed in a pantomime, went vegetarian (short-term), had a letter published in the Times, missed a plane, saw an ice hockey match, went to a pub quiz every night for a week (nearly), visited Gateshead, visited Gotham, guest-starred on a podcast, flew with a budget airline, bought prescription sunglasses, bought courgettes (now a staple of my shopping list), downloaded an album... and a few things that I'll come back to in question 21.
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
This year I am reverting to a resolution I made (and kept, at least for a few months) two years ago: stop using my laptop in bed. This should help me both to sleep and to read more (not necessarily in that chronology), but does mean - I've discovered - that I've got to get to sleep without the gentle whirring sound of my laptop nearby. On the reading front, I'm trying to make more time for books, alongside continuing to read the Times, Empire & Private Eye. So far, so good. My other resolution is to be more thankful to God.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Uncle Bob & Granny Tom both passed away in 2017.
5. What countries did you visit?
I visited Scotland for work at the second attempt. The first attempt was a trifle embarrassing for my manager and me, as we arrived at the airport with plenty of time, but didn't notice that the board had changed to green until it was too late - she was buying a coffee; I was doing the crossword - and, apparently Bristol airport is a 'silent airport'. Except, of course, that it's not. A random selection of its announcements are not vocalised, so we were waiting with bated ear when we should have been watching with bated eye. One of my resolutions should be to find out what 'bated' means. Anyways, we made the trip successfully a few months later. I also visited Canada with Simon, an excellent trip filled with much excitement, and I went to France with some friends from Uni. The latter was my debut appearance on such a hoiday, which has happened every year for nearly a decade I think, and I was made to feel very welcome. I tend to be uncomfortable in countries where English is not the main language, but fortunately some people on the trip spoke very good French, so I stuck to "avec fromage", a phrase which caused such consternation that I didn't dare try again.
6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
Last year I mentioned that I wanted new glasses - the same thing I'd wanted at the start of 2016 - and I'm pleased to report that I got some in 2017. Nailed it. In 2018 I'd like to have started on a Masters in maths - after some deliberation, I tried to sign up to the Open University course starting last October, but missed the deadline. This year should be my return to studying.
7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The whole Toronto trip will live long in the memory, a really fun adventure with Simon. I was insistent that we filled our time with things that we couldn't do elsewhere - I didn't want to get home and wish that we'd managed to do more - so I planned out an itinerary (with Simon's input) and we achieved everything on it, albeit not quite in the intended order. The most memorable bits include Niagara Falls & ice hockey. I'll also remember the weekend Anthony & his kids came to visit, a trip to see Steve in Southampton, all three of the Wolves victories I saw (a win against Cardiff with my cousin Jake; a 5-1 demolition of Bolton with Rich; a 94th minute winner against Bristol City with Dad, Geoff & Jonty), and the days associated with some of the things in my answers to 8 & 21.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I'm feeling big-headed, so I'll go for three achievements. The first was the play 'Agatha Crusty and the Village Hall Murders', which was very much a team achievement - personally speaking, though, I had a much bigger part than in 2016, and was really pleased with how it went. I have always loved making people laugh. The other two achievements are crossword-related: I made it to the grand final of the Times Crossword Championship for the first time, and managed to come in tenth; I also had a Listener crossword published in the Times. It's been lovely to get feedback on the latter, including a package of correspondence that came through this week, and while I'm not good at receiving any kind of negative comments, there were a surprisingly large number of kind and generous ones.
9. What was your biggest failure?
For the second year in a row we narrowly failed to win the BAS quiz, which was disappointing. I also failed to get an all-correct year in the Listener crossword submissions, but (I think) I've done a lot better than 2016, so I'm on the right track. I also failed to go to any weddings in 2017, after a record-breaking seven the year before, which I don't think is exactly a failure on my part but is surely worthy of note.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Embarrassingly, I contracted hand, foot & mouth disease, which: (i) apparently can happen to adults; and (ii) is unrelated to foot & mouth. I got a fairly mild version of it, it would appear, but it still hand an unpleasant week-long impact on my hands, mouth, and... other areas... although my feet were relatively unaffected. The worst part was going stir crazy from staying at home for a week. I also managed to do my back in, the worst it has ever been, from a combination of running and then, a few days later, lifting a table. It's a real shame, because I had been very thankful that I was able to run without injury - previously I'd hurt my leg when running on the pavement, so I'd been running on grass - and I'd actually managed three lots of 10k in a week. I think the error here was not taking longer gaps between runs. I'll be starting up again in the next few days, hopefully, and am already booked on the Bristol 10k this year.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
The beard trimmer was a great purchase - I'd never realised how much better it was that the razor attachment I'd been using up till then. Also very pleased with the sunglasses, which got plenty of use on my trips to France and Canada. I also bought quite a lot of shelving, partly for books but mostly for Funko Pops. You've no idea how many of those I've bought. So many. It's a problem.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My father was rectorified on the last day of the year, so many congratulations to him. The performances and results for Wolves this season have merited significant celebration - we're currently 12 points clear at the top of the Championship. Simon got himself a flat, which is an exciting development. Mum, of course, continues to be wonderful and has twice celebrated the joy of pancakes and maple syrup alongside me. Our performance in the inaugural Week of Quizzes (WoQ) was worthy of celebration, winning three out of five pub quizzes - can we hit those heights again next month?
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Politically, basically everyone. Both the Conservatives and (particularly) Labour are about as awful as I can remember them being; Trump and his crowd are worse. Various Hollywood stars, including some I have admired, have admitted grievous faults. Less seriously, everyone involved with The Mummy (and the abortive Dark Universe) should hang their heads in shame. I'm also really annoyed by the people who provide this site, as they've changed it so that it doesn't update automatically when you save it... I might need to migrate elsewhere, after about 14 years here. Finally, I am appalled/depressed by anyone who uses any of the following terms in earnest: mansplaining, woke, Remoaner, anti-choice.
14. Where did most of your money go?
That Canada trip didn't come cheap. My biggest expenditure, though, was over-paying on my mortgage, which seems like the best possible investment choice at the moment. Having had an unexpected windfall from a work shareplan, I was able to overpay by quite a bit.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
That Canada trip was the most exciting, I think. Also, seeing my Listener crossword in print. I'm not sure I've ever been 'really, really, really excited' in my life, but those were probably the things I most looked forward to in 2017. Oh, and I managed to get Harry Potter tickets towards the start of the year, which I was delighted by - Zijian and I will be seeing it in April this year.There were also a couple of things I was fairly daunted by, which isn't really the same thing, but I guess it's close to excitement.
16. What song will always remind you of 2017?
Sorry to harp on about Canada, but I think it will be "Whatever You Do, Don't" by Shania Twain, which made it onto the Canadian playlist that Simon & I put together. By the by, Simon is seeing Shania Twain next year - and (this might be an early indication of my answer to question 15 next year) I'll be seeing Billy Joel!
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Depends how much I think about life.
ii. thinner or fatter?
Thinner than I've been for years, since you ask. This was a deliberate effort, after years of being despondent about the amount of weight I'd put on (and, if I'm being honest, it was partly driven by the realisation that the France holiday included a swimming pool). My three-step guide to losing weight: (a) don't eat between meals; (b) don't buy pizza to eat at home; (c) don't buy cookies to eat at home. That's it - and otherwise my diet hasn't changed significantly - but it works. Despite massively over-indulging in Canada, I seem to be keeping most of the weight off.
iii. richer or poorer?
Probably richer, but no real change in my circumstances (apart from that shareplan thing I mentioned).
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I might take the plunge and do something, this year, that I didn't manage to do last year and I've been toying with for a few years. I'll stay that cryptic for now. Otherwise Rob will ask me about it, even more than he already does. Oh, and I kinda wish I'd watered my sweet peas more (or, rather, arranged for someone else to water them while I'm away). They die at the drop of a hat. Rather a headache.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Eating vegetarian. Well, I'm kinda glad I did it for Lent, at least because I proved to Simon that I could (which I'd never doubted), but it's a truly ghastly way to live. I guess I also wish I'd injured my back less.
20. How will you be spending Christmas?
This will be the last family Christmas at Chiselborough: Dad will retire shortly thereafter, and then... who knows? I've extended my invitations for a Christmas BBQ at my house in 2019.
21. What have you achieved from your '40 by 40' list?
We have another new question 21! This lets me keep track of how I'm getting on with my list of 40 things to achieve before I hit 40, and in 2017 I did the following:
- Bought a ladder (it's still in its wrapping)
- Became confident in how to pronounce 'minutiae'
- Learned how to scramble eggs, under the tutelage of Steve
- Saw Les Misérables on stage, with Rob (who also enjoyed it)
- Learned how to poach eggs, under the tutelage of Rob
- Went to a rugby match, watching Bristol Rugby with a different Steve
- Visited Canada, with Simon
- Reached the Grand Final of the Times Crossword Championship
- Got a Listener crossword published
- Finished 4 of the BBC's Big Read list
- Visited 4 of the parish churches in Bristol & Avon
22. Did you fall in love in 2017?
24. What was your favourite TV program?
2017 began as 2016 had ended, with my Gilmore Girls obsession. It's utterly wonderful. A tip for new viewers: stop watching it at the end of the first episode in which April appears. Not only is her story-line bad, but so is pretty much every other story-line from that point onwards. Go out on a high. Anyways, I also powered through all the episodes of the US Office, which I'd never watched before. It takes a while to get going, and tails off after a few seasons, but it is mostly wonderful, largely because (unlike the UK version) it has real heart. The lead character, Jim, is actually a pleasant human being: where Tim (in the UK version) would scoff, he empathises. I've also got into Suits, and continued to enjoy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Flash, Supergirl, the Graham Norton Show, Modern Life is Goodish, Hunted, and more.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
26. What was the best book you read?
A shout-out to The Immortals, the first book I've ever read that was written by someone I know (Sophie, a friend from Warwick). Very well-written and intriguing. I also very much enjoyed two of Lauren Graham's books, an autobiography and a novel, which I didn't actually read but instead listened to via Audible, read by the author. My favourite book, though, is probably Of Mice and Men - if I can count a book that I began on 30 December and finished this year.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I spent the start of the year listening over and over to the La La Land soundtrack, and I've spent the tail end listening over and over to the Greatest Showman soundtrack. I also really enjoyed seeing Les Mis & Girl From the North Country, and I've booked tickets for Wicked. So... my greatest musical discovery is that I kinda love musicals. I also bought two of the biggest-selling albums of the year, by Ed Sheeran & Taylor Swift. The former is fine. The latter is (with the possible exception of her self-titled debut, which I don't have) comfortably her worst. I applaud her experimentation, but the sooner she abandons electro-pop and returns to good tunes & lyrics that don't sound like they were improvised under pressure, the better. Also, it would be nice if she weren't so spiteful. Sorry, Taylor.
28. What did you want and get?
Harry Potter tickets; Billy Joel tickets. Oh, and thinner. Also, this is the question where I like to list the Warwick people I managed to see during the year, and while it's not as many as 2016 (no weddings!) it was still quite a lot: Ant, Charissa, Dom, Ellie, James, Jason, Jen, Larry, Matt, Rich, Rob, Sinead, Sophie, Steve & Tom. I was also delighted to repeat the apparently annual tradition of the Park-Froud clan visiting for a BBQ and zoo trip, and made the return journey to visit them for Leo's christening, which was a great day (and prefaced by a curry, as all things should be).
29. What did you want and not get?
My run of voting failure continues: in the general election, I voted for my local Tory candidate and she lost her seat. I wanted a Tory majority, a cabinet filled with people I can respect, and a Labour leader who isn't a Trump Lite buffoon. I got none of these. Still, staying up all night for the election was a fun (and sanity-weakening) as ever.
30. What was your favourite film of this year?
You'll have seen that the Coddies have already appeared, confirming La La Land as my favourite new release. Other films that I saw for the first time in 2017 and particularly enjoyed include: Paper Moon, The Edge of Seventeen, End of Watch, Mystic Pizza & Across the Universe.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old?
I hit 100000 in binary, and spent the evening winning the quiz at the Gloucester Old Spot alongside Jim.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If the future Mrs. Thomas could make herself known, that would be grand.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
I told you about the sunglasses, right? I'm very, very cool these days.
34. What kept you sane?
Sometimes I retreat into fiction. Other times I invite people round to play board games.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Listen, I don't want you to think that this is the reason I'm such a big fan of Gilmore Girls. It really isn't. But... Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore.
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I continue to be almost entirely unmoved by Brexit, so probably the general election and the unexpectedly small defeat for Labour. For me, very concerning. Oh, and the whole Trump thing. I regard the imminent destruction of the world as a relatively minor thing compared to the threat of socialism.
37. Whom did you miss?
It was a shame that I didn't manage to meet up with Guy or Jason, after we couldn't get diaries aligned.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
Some more great drama group people, including Kev in the midyear play, and a fair few new faces in the panto. Also Zoe, Katie, Kari, Brian, and no doubt many lovely people I'm momentarily forgetting. While I didn't meet anyone new on the France trip (except young Penelope), I got to know some Warwick people better than I had before, so in a way it felt like I was still making new friends from Warwick CU. Finally, tt was also great to have a rapprochement with my old friend James.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017:
A George Foreman grill is fantastic for cooking bacon. Cooks it quickly, really crisply (my favourite), and a lot of the fat drips off. Mmm... my mouth is watering.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
I think that I'm beginning to know her / Let it go
Fall At Your Feet - Crowded House
January 13th 2018
I went to see All the Money in the World last night, an awards season film directed by Ridley Scott about the kidnap of J. Paul Getty's grandson. It's made behind-the-scenes for two big, and connected, decisions: first, for the astonishingly late call to re-shoot with Christopher Plummer taking the place of the disgraced Kevin Spacey; second, the fact that Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5m for the reshoots whereas Michelle Williams was given only $80 a day.
The first of these decisions was, I think, entirely justified, and not just because Plummer is excellent in the role. I find the Twitter mob style of justice extremely troubling, where allegations equal proof, and the facile "believe women" cry (although, in the case of Spacey, allegations have not come from women) seems to outweigh anything as mundane as facts and evidence. We live in a post-truth world, after all, and the USA has yet to see equivalent cases to those of Cliff Richard, Paul Gambaccini and even Ted Heath, posthumously, where reputations have been unfairly traduced. In the case of Spacey, though, he has admitted at least some of the allegations against him, so I can understand the moral argument for removing him from the film. Perhaps, cynically, some of those involved also had an eye on the commercials - going ahead with Spacey would undoubtedly have had a significant impact on the box office.
Which brings us on to the money side of things. Ironically, given the film's title and topic, the headlines this week have been all about the amount of money paid to Wahlberg and to Williams, respectively, for their parts in the re-shoots - which, despite only taking nine days to film, must have been quite extensive, based on the finished film (by the by, the Spacey trailer is still out there, and a comparison is intriguing). Wahlberg had co-star approval in his contract, and apparently refused to approve Christopher Plummer unless he got paid the $1.5m dollars - so, technically, not a fee for doing re-shoots, since he presumably could have asked for it even he hadn't had to re-shoot a thing, but that's what it amounts to. It's not clear if Michelle Williams also had co-star approval, but regardless of that she - as well as the director and the rest of the cast, apparently - agreed to do re-shoots for the minimum amount the union allows.
This has been spun as part of the gender pay gap in Hollywood, but it isn't. At least, not directly. It would be interesting to know what the original payments were to each actor, as that would certainly be a pay gap indicator - Williams has a much bigger role in the film; she is also by some distance the better actor: Wahlberg, on the other hand, has more name recognition and is a bigger box-office draw - but it's a red herring here. Faced with a demand for $1.5m from one actor and no such demand from another, what is the studio supposed to do? The options are: (i) refuse Wahlberg's demands, and release the Spacey version; (ii) refuse Wahlberg's demands, and shelve the film; (iii) accept the demands and given Williams $1.5m that she never asked for - and presumably the same for Ridley Scott, and commensurable amounts to the rest of the cast; or (iv) pay everyone what they asked for and get the re-shoots done.
Option (i) is, as I've already argued, not feasible. Option (ii) would cost the studio tens of millions of dollars, and would be cutting off their nose to spite their face. Option (iii) would be throwing money away. The studio chose to go for option (iv). I really can't blame them at all.
The villain here, if there is one, is Mark Wahlberg - or, at the very least, his agents. I don't know how many of us would do the right thing if the wrong thing would get us $1.5m - I'd like to think I would - but clearly the right thing to do would be to join Scott, Williams etc. by working to scale. I suspect that he will be making a sizeable donation to charity soon, in order to salvage his good name.
This, of course, opens up the wider question of the pay gap, and the suggestion that a lot of it is driven by the fact that men are statistically much more likely to ask for a pay rise - or negotiate a starting salary - than women are. Startling so, in fact. I have heard the argument that companies should either refuse to negotiate at all on any salaries, or should offer pay rises across the board whenever one person gets an improved deal, but to me both options are clearly ridiculous: the former would mean that the best staff always leave; the latter would be ruinously expensive (and the best staff would probably still leave). Fortunately for me I don't have to make any difficult decisions on this kind of thing.
[Something, something, clever segue] all the money in the world.
|what was I listening to?
The Greatest Showman soundtrack
|what was I reading?
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
|what was I watching?