Friday, 18 February 2011

Sexing Up The BAFTAs

In light of criticism that the BAFTAs show was dull, I have a solution. Just as the Grammys and Brits invite the competing artists to perform onstage, why not ask the nominated actors up to do a bit from their film? We could have had Firthie going "F-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-fuck" while Geoffrey Rush (via video link) urged him "to let it all out Bertie." Or Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield mumbling incomprehensibly down to their shoes. ... What, they did that?... Okay, then Christopher Lee rising from his coffin ... That too? Oh, shut up.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Death Of The FA Cup

And another thing... In Fourth Round week, is it just me, or has the FA Cup given up the ghost?

Back in the day, or in my case the 1970s, it was just about the most thrilling sporting tournament there was, climaxing with the Final itself, an all-day excite-a-thon, a one-nation TV moment matched only in pulling power by the Morecambe & Wise Christmas Special.

Hard for youngsters to believe, but the Final was the only domestic club game screened live during a season. Winning the cup was arguably more important than securing the league title. The tournament traditionally yielded a wide spread of winners, occasionally a team from outside the top division.

And there's the rub, of course... for since the advent of the Premier League/Sky, everything has changed. Not just in terms of wall-to-wall live coverage, but the abundant riches. The resultant gulf between "haves" and "have nots" has long since made it highly improbable that an unfashionable team will ever bag the prize.

The facts speak loudly. In the last twenty years, only two winners (Everton in 1995 and Portsmouth in 2008, still both Premier League teams) have come from outside (and I hate this phrase) "The Big Four". The "unachievable" Double — only won twice last century up to 1971 — is now a regular haul.

There are other things to take the shine off the old tin pot. In a gibbering frenzy induced by the rare chance to show unedited games, the BBC, and now ITV, inevitably screen ties featuring Premier League teams (or Premier League reserve teams), undercutting the very "romance" they keep banging on about.

And then there's the status of Wembley. After the surrender of its exclusivity — hosting the semis, play-offs and everything else — is hoofing on the "hallowed turf" really that big a deal anymore? So improved are club pitches (when did you last see a player get muddy?), that gone is the thrill of watching teams strut their stuff on a showpiece bowling green rather than their usual approximations of the Somme. (Kids, seriously. Go to youtube. Punch in "Baseball Ground".)

I'm just a misty-eyed romantic. The genie's long since out of the bottle. But has the time come to kill off the FA Cup for good? When they bulldozed the old stadium, its mecca, maybe they should have laid the competition to rest, too. It might have been kinder in the long run.

Soairse Ronan

Interviewed Soairse last week for The Sunday Times. Delightful lass. Has starred in several major movies and still only 16. Her new film, Hanna, is an unusual one for both her and Joe Wright (who directed her to an Oscar nomination in Atonement as the young Briony Tallis) — and action film about a junior Femme Nikita-esque assassin. I had to sign my life away saying that I won't review it online. Let's just say that it packs a punch (stars also Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett) and that Saoirse is fantastic in it. I know she top-lined The Lovely Bones, but you get the sense this film might be the next big step to stardom for the Irish actress... Oh and it's pronounced "soo-sha".

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Edward VIII and Me

In the wake of the King's Speech, allow me to introduce a historical titbit. In 1920, the then Prince of Wales undertook a Royal trip to Australia and New Zealand to thank the Empire nations for their support and sacrifice in the Great War (an extensive city tour on which he was greeted rapturously, by the way). A little-recorded fact is that on his two-month voyage Down Under on the battlecruiser HMS Renown, he was served his daily grub by none other than the ship's cook, one Arthur Thomas Dawson, my grandfather (who, sadly, died before I was born).

I sincerely hope it wasn't Grandad Dawson's boiled beef and carrots that persuaded the future Edward VIII that this kingly business might be hard to stomach. I prefer to think it was this commoner's advice (delivered in a candid moment, while slopping up the mash), that American birds were "always up for it"... And then again, maybe not.

A butterfly flaps its wings, etc. ...