Tag Archives: Lone Survivor

Home again, or Homeland? What Hollywood tells us about Saving Bowe Bergdahl

3 Jun
Homeland

Spot the difference: Damian Lewis in Homeland…

Bowe Bergdahl

… and Bowe Bergdahl in captivity

I was asked this morning by the International Business Times to explain the historic release of POW Bowe Bergdahl in terms of films and TV. It turns out to be a surprisingly good way of making sense of a complex topic. My piece starts:

<<When President Obama announced the release, after five long years, of America’s only prisoner of war in Afghanistan, he must have imagined the credits rolling and the music swelling (perhaps Hans Zimmer’s Leave No Man Behind from Black Hawk Down) over a happy Hollywood ending. Saving Private RyanLone SurvivorArgo, even Forrest Gump – these are just a few of the movies that have seared into our consciousness the idea that no sacrifice is too great in order to rescue a fallen comrade.

It even fuels the plot of two Star Trek movies. “Logic dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… or the one,” says Spock, when he sacrifices himself in The Wrath of Khan. But The Search for Spock turns this on its head, when Kirk explains the noble human instinct that caused him to risk his ship and all its crew for his second in command: “The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.”>>

But then the story gets murky… click here to read the rest at International Business Times.

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Texting in the cinema: a capital offence?

14 Jan
Image

Ssssh! A ‘noise ninja’ from the Prince Charles cinema

Today, retired cop Curtis Reeves was charged with second-degree murder for shooting a man in the chest at point-blank range. The man’s offence? Texting in a Florida cinema. My unworthy first thought was that if the jury were composed of film critics, he could walk free for justifiable homicide.

The battle over peace in cinemas has raged for decades. When I edited Time Out, the popcorn debate provoked more reader letters than Julie Burchill. The Ritzy in Brixton refused to serve it, though their excellent carrot cake nearly made up for it. Nowadays, of course, that particular battle is forever lost: the economics of the modern film business dictate that cinemas are not actually in the business of showing films; they are in the business of selling popcorn and drinks, with films but the bait to attract consumers.

But I’m not sure anyway that movie theatres should be silent churches in which to worship cinema. A film by Kiarostami, perhaps. But the fatal altercation occurred at a showing of war flick Lone Survivor; and during the previews at that. One of the most entertaining screenings I have ever been to was of School of Rock at Peckham, where the local kids ended up dancing in the aisles.

If audiences were always quiet as mice, the Rocky Horror Picture Show would never have become a cult hit, with key lines shouted out and Charles Grey’s neck heckled, or rather lack of it. When in 2012 the Prince Charles cinema engaged a team of ‘noise ninjas’ in skin-tight ‘Morphsuits’ to pounce on distracting viewers, that owed more to a canny PR manager than any genuine desire to create silence: they are famed for their singalonga Rocky Horrors and Sounds of Music, after all.

Film in the cinema, as opposed to on your own ginormous plasma TV with surroundsound, is a communal experience. We want to laugh, cry and sigh together. That’s why critics are often more dismissive of comedies and blockbusters: seeing them in small Soho preview cinemas in the middle of the afternoon with a handful of fellow critics, all stifling their natural emotional responses, it’s much harder to enjoy these films. I’m famous among friends for yelping in scary moments: I’m so wrapped up in the film I can’t help it. I hope it just adds to the atmosphere.

But that is why texting – or, worse, talking on your phone – is the least forgivable of distracting crimes. It takes the perpetrator away from that communal experience, and out of the cinema altogether to wherever the person on the other end of the phone is.

I don’t ask my fellow viewers not to crunch popcorn. I don’t ask them not to turn to their partner and ask how the detective finally worked out whodunit. But I do ask them to be there, with me, thrilling to the same explosions, laughing at the same jokes, jumping at the same scares, and even heckling the same rubbish (as with the Ritzy screening of Tom Cruise’s Oblivion). It’s why I go to the cinema. Otherwise, we might as well all just sit at home alone.