Ben Affleck’s lovely hair as a metaphor for the human condition

I am pleased to be able to begin this latest (assuming that you’ve have not read any future entries before this one) instalment of vaguely film-related whimsy with another exiting addition to the team for our forthcoming feature film “High Tide”. Step forward Mr Lewis Gillingham, joining the crew as stills photographer and marketing artwork coordinator. I have just made that second job title up; what I actually mean is that he is going to be taking the photographs that will form part of the film’s poster. Except I think “Marketing Artwork Coordinator” sounds a bit sexier. I do recommend setting up your own film production company, not least for the fact that you can invent your own job titles. I am Writer / Director on “High Tide” but I am also “Lord High Admiral of Artist Relations” and “First Lord to the Treasury of FUNK”. And no one can do a damn thing about it.

Anyway, back to Lewis Gillingham. The more sparrowhawk-eyed amongst you will have noticed that Lewis and I share something (and not just a love of Mid C18th porcelain); yep, that’s right – Lewis is a Gillingham. And he is my cousin. Don’t you just hate it when people give jobs to their friends and family? It is like the Cabinet – all Tory boys together, all schooled at the same bejewelled palaces of privilege and all related to each other’s cousins. It makes me sick. It is a disgrace.

But in my defence, I would have given Lewis a job even if he wasn’t my cousin. Because Lewis can do this:

I hope your browser allowed that slideshow to function correctly, otherwise it will seem like I am celebrating my cousin’s ability to write a URL. Which I am sure he can. But that’s not why we’re employing him. If it did work properly, I am sorry about the oddly-shaped box in which the slideshow was displayed. I am not clever enough to work out how to change it.

Despite his disgustingly few number of years on this earth Lewis can take photographs that make you sigh in wonder. Our eyes are filled with a parade of ugliness at nearly every second of every day: images of hate, exploitation, tedium and greed, all of them churning and churning, a kaleidoscope (which is a tricky word to spell I’ve just discovered) of badly-exposed and shoddily-framed crap and then along comes Lewis who takes a picture of a tree and suddenly all of the horror begins to fade. Maybe it is because he grew up in a field (in a house in a field, but still basically in a field) so he has something of instinctive connection to the landscape or maybe that’s just a load of pretentious Wordsworthian (and there is barely anything more pretentious that the adjective “Wordsworthian) twaddle and he’s just bloody good at taking photos. Whatever the truth, he’s great and we’re lucky and delighted to have him aboard the Long Arm carnival.

All of which has nothing whatsoever to do with what I wanted to write about this evening. In fact, what I am about to write has nothing to do with I wanted to write about this evening. Because what I wanted to write about this evening is not going to be possible to write well enough before the hour becomes unhealthily late ahead of the usual horrors that lie in wait amongst the half-light of a Monday morning. So instead I am going to prattle on for a few paragraphs about something that Jimmy and I have often mused about when not writing scripts or wrestling on the carpet. And I am sure there is a cogent and pithy way of expressing this but for the moment it eludes me so instead I am going to clump all the following thoughts together under the leaden title:

Why small stuff in films and sometimes television is actually more revelatory and moving than exploding planets or robots beating the bejesus out of each other and as such should be encouraged wherever possible

I have watched “Argo” twice in the past week and a bit. I enjoyed it both times. It is very well shot, the recreation on late 70s Iran seems flawless (not that I have the first clue about how accurate it is – for all I know, they could have shot it on the moon and slapped on an Instragram filter and I would have probably believed every moment, such is my dearth of knowledge about this part of the world) and the narrative is compelling, not least for the fact that is largely based on truth. And Ben Affleck’s hair is genuinely excellent. In fact, thinking about it, Ben Affleck’s hair was probably the most enjoyable part of the film for me. Whether it was “best picture” material is a largely pointless debate although I suspect that it’s overly-sentimental final seven minutes certainly did not hurt its chances in this respect. Yep, it was Hollywood who saved the escaped hostages, AND NOT CANADA WHO ACTUALLY THOUGHT OF THE PLAN AND WERE LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ITS SUCCESS. But saying that to Hollywood is like eloquently elucidating the rhetorical flaws in the argument of Nathan “Basher” Duncombe just before he looks at you blankly and then punches the shit out of your pasty Westcountry face.

However, there was a moment in the film that I found particularly moving. Inside the house of the Canadian Ambassador, one of the escaped Americans is washing up a wine glass. After weeks of being trapped inside the house, the pressure is clearly beginning to show and she breaks the glass against the tap and begins to cry. It is a small moment, almost incidental but it contains such a truth about humans under pressure that it makes for a very compelling piece of filmmaking. We’ve all been there, we’ve all broken wine glasses, or plates, or fallen over, or dropped armful of folders and we’ve all cried as a result (or sworn and looked to the sky) not for the loss of a glass but because life is sometimes so damn hard. And baffling. And you don’t need to be in hiding to feel these things, you just need to be human. Which, if you are reading this, I assume that you are.

Aaron Sorkin is a master of these small but profound moments of humanity. (And yes I realise that this  is about the fifth time I’ve mentioned Sorkin in a blog post but I JUST LOVE HIM AND I WON’T BE HAPPY UNTIL WE’VE KISSED). The West Wing is strewn with such moments and I suppose they are all the more successful in this context because they are contrasted with events of global import. There is a particularly excellent episode (although this a little like saying there is a particularly good bit of painting by Michelangelo) from Series 4 called “Evidence of Things Not Seen” in which the West Wing staff are debating whether it is possible to stand an egg on its end during the equinox  – and then there is a terrorist attack on the White House. Thanks to the dirty brilliance of You Tube you can see an extract below – go on, treat yourself:

For me, that is brilliant writing. The juxtaposition between the kind of ridiculous and wonderful chatter that we all engage in (especially after a couple of drinks – with some old friends many years ago, we came up the sport of Fox Crashing after a night on the red wine – what you do right, is find a fox, get him drunk then MAKE HIM RUN!) and moments of terror and threat . . . well, maybe it is not a great leap to suggest that it works as a metaphor for human life in general. Aren’t we all just balancing eggs in between attempted terrorist attacks?

Er no, clearly we’re not. I am an arse. But I hope you at least pretend to understand my meaning. Even if you are doing so because you feel sorry for me. Thanks.

So, artists of the world, more of this stuff please. You don’t need to blow up a planet to move me to a state of quivering emotion, you just need to break a glass. Although I am sure that Aristotle said all this over two thousand years ago so there’s nothing new in it. And then of course there was Blake:

To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.

Bloody late C18th bastard. Why couldn’t I have thought of that? Two lines! Two arsing lines! It took me 1459 words and still I’ve come nowhere near such clarity of thought. I guess that’s why he’s a dead genius and I am just some knob from Devon.

Although a happy one. So I won’t complain. Now, talking of wine glasses . . . .


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