The Bens 2012

I really must blog more. A time-, soul- and hope-consuming freelance project is drawing thankfully to an end so hopefully there’ll be more time after that …



Meanwhile, the Bens 2012 have been announced, for various classes of movie watched by Ben in 2011. The motto of the Ben Academy is it’s not what it’s about, it’s how it’s about it (or as Google Translates assures me, circa quod non est suus, suus est de modo.



Best movie:



And the winner has to be The Girl. The entire Millennium trilogy was energetic, atmospheric, well acted and generally fun, dammit. It didn’t help the others on the short list that I already knew their story in advance, whereas in the Girl movies you honestly feel almost anything could happen. And it very often does.

Best actor:

  • Bob Hoskins
  • Colin Firth
  • Wall-E

And the winner is Bob Hoskins, for The Long Good Friday, of which you will be seeing more of in these awards. Colin Firth played George VI very well (despite being almost the age George was when he died) and, like Wall-E, manages to tug on the heartstrings by sheer power of performance. Hoskins on the other hand does everything in his power to be horrible, yet in the famous ending you still can’t help but feel sorry for him. A little. The emotion and unspoken, facial acting of those last two minutes is astonishing.

Most unexpectedly good:

These are the movies I didn’t have very high hopes of, but ended up watching for various reasons not worth going into. Despicable Me is an enjoyable Pixar-clone.Shrek gets a mention for finally pulling the series out of the third movie’s slough of despond, but honestly guys, enough is enough.

And the winner is Keeping Mum, a film I’d not heard of before and wasn’t too hopeful about when I did: Rowan Atkinson has a vicar? Okay-y-y-y … Yet not only is his character very sympathetic and not at all a clown-vicar, he actually comes up with a couple of quite deep Christian insights. He is admittedly helped out by Maggie Smith as a dotty, loveable serial killer.

Least predictably ‘meh’ sequel:

Quite an easy one here. Dawn Treader had its moments – I liked the way they continue to link the real-world sections to the War, and managed to get the other kids in too with quite acceptable plot jiggery pokery, but otherwise it just continues the series’ slide into computer gamery. Tron was a noble effort and also had its moments, but the improved graphics paradoxically work against it – the charm of the old wireframes, or whatever they were, is lost in a faithful CGI rendition. But Wall Street actually pulls some surprises out of its hat.

Best film where the actors are clearly loving every minute, and so is the audience:

It can only be The Long Good Friday. It is helped by the fact that the other two contenders, while good and fun, are essentially star vehicles, whereas none of the stars of TLGF (Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, whosit from Casualty, Piers Brosnan as First Irishman) were famous. No one could have quite known then who would go on to be Oscar-winning Hollywood superstars and who would continue to be whosit fromCasualty for the rest of their natural.

Best movie with Jeff Bridges:

He is an actor of considerable range: all five performances (Tron has two) are quite different from each other, even if his character in Goats does recycle the Dude – a role he plays extremely well. But Jagged Edge wins for the did he/didn’t he plot and the eloquent, deadly charm of his character.

Best old friend, watched again:

Winner: once again, after long deliberation, The Long Good Friday (see above) withThe Ipcress File a very close second: a wonderful low budget, very sixties, non-Bond spy drama. Apart from the minor detail that Gordon Jackson’s character dies, it’s easy to believe this is from the early, pre-CI5 career of George Cowley.

Most unexpected underage male teen nudity that I bet wouldn’t be allowed on screen nowadays:

Nuff said. Seriously, I am astonished it was legal then and presumably continues to be now – like, I was able to buy the DVD and there’s no warnings on the case. Possibly in case it becomes a collector’s item for the wrong type of viewer.

Funniest football scene:

Also. Sport is a subject I find very hard to find funny, but see if you don’t believe me for Brian Glover’s finest moment (and no nudity at all, thankfully).

Read and watched in 2011

For the record …

Gave up on:


American presidents

The last movie watched in 2008 was The American President, which I first saw about 10 years ago and wanted to see again because it was a kind of dry run for The West Wing and now that I’m familiar with the latter I wanted to see how it held up. Same warm heart, same creator, a lot of the same cast, same attitude, a lot of the same lines and unashamedly Democrat.

And it does hold up, because like TWW its two greatest strengths are: (1) it actually uses real-world issues to drive its drama, and the result isn’t always a happy one, and good people are forced to do bad things because not doing them would be even worse; and (2) it loves the presidency. Not for what it’s become but for what it should be. It should attract people of the highest calibre. It should be such a power for good. To be addressed as “Mr President” should be the greatest honour a country can bestow, and it should only be bestowed on people who are utterly worthy of it. Presidents Shepherd in The American President and Bartlet in The West Wing – and indeed the future President Santos in the same – are such people. You can’t help respecting and liking them. Why can’t we get them in real life?

Also over the holiday period we reached the end of series 6 of The West Wing – one more to go, even if I do know roughly how it ends. Series 6 ended with the battle lines being drawn up – the end of the presidency in sight, the two new presidential candidates confirmed. And true to form and its own internal guidelines, it doesn’t make the Republican guy a cipher who will easily be beaten. He’s just as good and honest a man as Bartlet, who is well aware his own party can only produce slimeballs and second-raters and is actively worried that they can’t find someone to stand against him. Until the underdog Congressman Santos enters the fray, of course, but some conventions of drama have to stand.

It got me wondering: when was the last time a Democrat president handed over to another Democrat? (Not counting Clinton who should have handed over to Gore, but that’s history …) A quick check isn’t encouraging for the future. The last two Democrat successions both came about by the incumbent dying – Kennedy and Johnson, and before that Roosevelt and Truman. In both cases the former VP then won a single term in his own right but was followed by a Republican. The last time a living, breathing and compos mentis Democrat president was followed by another Democrat was Franklin Pierce in 1857, who was pro-slavery and had been disowned by his own party after a single term. The last two-term Democrat to hand over to another Democrat (though Clinton had two terms …) was Andrew Jackson in 1837.

So, fingers crossed for Mr Obama in 2016, eh? He’s already broken a couple of records; another one or two shouldn’t be a problem.