Saturday, 27 June 2015

27th June 1995: A Field Day For Journos and a Good Year for Grant

June 27th marks twenty years since Hugh Grant's Los Angeles arrest for lewd conduct and the press storm surrounding it. Even now, his mug shot can easily be googled, there is merchandise to be bought featuring the so famous (or infamous?) picture and the subject has been brought up against him multiple times since he became a campaigner and frontman for HackedOff, an organisation that, in its own words, campaigns for a free and accountable press.

The actor survived the media frenzy by charming his way through it, much like any of his onscreen characters would have done. He appeared on talk shows to openly apologise for doing “a bad thing”, most notably on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show, in an episode that drew such an audience so as to shoot the show straight to the top of the ratings.

I will not go into the merits of whether he did a bad thing or not, whether then-girlfriend Elizabeth Hurley should have forgiven him or not (many sources state that she left him at that point but that is incorrect - their relationship lasted into the year 2000 when they split amicably).

His public persona was advertised by the press for all the wrong reasons, causing speculation as to how the film he was meant to be promoting at the time - Nine Months - would fare after such news. It seems that he escaped the episode untarnished and said he got even more film offers than ever afterwards. However, even two decades later, upon uttering his name I have come across many who are quick to remind me of that one incident in his life.

Rather than finishing off his career, the incident made him more widely known and 1995 spelt one of the most productive years of his career. He starred in four films that were released that year, as well as taking part in a fifth but only in a minor role whilst leaving the spotlight to Robert Downey Jr. His performances that year might have been numerous, but so were the nominations and awards for his stellar performance in the 1994 Four Weddings and A Funeral, which included a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical as well as a BAFTA for Best Actor.

These are Grant’s films from that year in order of release:

An Awfully Big Adventure (released 7th April) - Fantastic performance by Hugh as a disgusting villain in this dark comedy. Director Mike Newell had praise aplenty for Hugh's performance as the erring Meredith Potter. This is, according to myself, the one character he ever played which will get no sympathy, not even from hardcore fans! (read my review here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com/2014/09/an-awfully-big-adventure-1995.html)

The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain (released 12th May) -  here he co-stars for a second time with Tara Fitzgerald, who played his partner also in Sirens. He plays his usual soft persona and is once again an Englishman out of his depth, this time in rural Wales.

Nine Months (released 12th July) - Hugh was in America to promote this film when he got caught by police on Sunset Boulevard. Hugh's and Julianne Moore's performances are the one good thing about this film. The direction, by Chris Columbus who later went on to direct the first two instalments in the Harry Potter film series, is very pitiful indeed. The scenes connect jaggedly at best and the comedy elements have all been used before.

Sense and Sensibility (released 13th December) - Hugh makes a much more interesting Edward Ferrars to the one in the book, in this adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel. Starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as the impoverished Dashwood girls, it features heroes (Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant) and a loser (Greg Wise) with quite a few twists along the way to love. Some describe Hugh as too stiff and boring in this film however it is the character in the book that is like that and he is merely being a good actor.

Hugh and Emma were both present on The Graham Norton Show last October, reminiscing about this film, and Hugh pointed out that in addition to being grumpy on set, he got arrested half-way through the filming. When he was once asked by Oprah whether he liked himself in the film, he said no because of the unflattering costumes, whilst gesturing at his neck and pretending he was wearing a high buttoned up collar.

Restoration (released 29th December) - Grant plays a minor part whilst leaving the leading role to Robert Downey Jr in this historical drama. In an unauthorised biography, Dan Whitehead suggests Hugh was happy to “ease himself back into acting without drawing too much attention.” (page 101) He is here reunited with director Michael Hoffman, who directed him also in his first ever role (Privileged 1982). (read my review here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com/2014/12/a-michael-hoffman-film-restoration-1995.html)

NB - The above picture was kindly provided by Christopher Cilia and was taken at the Prostitution Museum in Amsterdam.




Friday, 19 June 2015

"Time to myself?!"

"Time to myself?!" Isabel Green exclaims in Nanny McPhee Returns (which you might also find instead as Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang).

My son laughed at me when I once admitted my favourite scene in all of the film is the one where she breaks down and shouts out all her problems. He thought it funny that I like it, whilst I love more than like it because I feel relieved any time I see I am not alone in thinking at times I am going nuts with all the things I need to catch up with.

This week in particular, I feel like my head is about to burst. It might be that I'm not getting enough sleep, that I've overworked myself, or simply that I have way too much to handle.

The thing is, seeing how I kept staring at my home in wonder at how on earth not only do we manage to make it so untidy, but more-so about how would it be possible to get it all under control again, I knew I had to take steps to rectifying this situation.

The answer came in the form of a really good self-help book that I ordered a few weeks ago, and whilst I had started already reading through it and was dying to try out all the tips and tricks in the books, I'd given that a miss for not having any time for it. That is, until only last week when, to add mayhem to mountains of clutter, I decided the best way to get the house in order would be to tackle this head on, regardless of how much more untidy it was going to get before I finally finished the process and therefore achieved the harmony that the book promised.

As directed in the book, I started first with my clothing and was amazed to see just how much I got rid of with this process, leaving me with the space necessary to carefully sort out the items that I did love and wanted to wear. Egged on, I decided I would not stop the process until I had more time but instead started tackling one type of belongings after another in some sort of race against myself. And this is where it has now led me - I am tired, irritable and there is even more clutter around the house in between books I wanted to throw out and which instead I promised to keep for family and friends till we somehow (think a year from now!) manage to meet up, clothing and other items that again I am slowly passing on to the people who really appreciate them, as well as bags full of stuff to take on to the charity shop which is quite a way from my house on foot, resulting in that said bags are only trickling out of my house and to the shop very slowly because of their being too heavy for me to carry!

Oh I am in no way dissing the book's method, which really delivers on its promise of achieving lovely tidy cupboards full of only the things you love whilst clearing your mind from its cobwebby thoughts related to eternal clutter and leaving you free to think and dream and make plans for the future. In fact, despite that I am now exhausted beyond what I thought possible from adding the process to my already full timetable, I do see where I am going in life much more clearly and can even envisage better what I want of my surroundings. The one thing I shouldn't be doing is going through the KonMari Method (as it is called) all at one go when I really should be catching up with all else. However I must admit, I really am addicted, and I don't think I could let go of the process and break it up into tiny bits per month. So I'll keep my headaches (literal ones) and rush around like crazy to catch up, so that once I am done with the whole process I can finally be more calm... Calm enough to take on the huge projects that are now creeping into my head more forcibly than ever before.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Affecting The Happiness Meter

I am a moody person. That, I admit with no excuses. Anything can make me ecstatically happy else plunge me into a sulky mood for a day (or two!) Maybe that is, after all, the reason why I have always wanted to be a writer. JK Rowling's imagination takes a boost when she's depressed and likewise I have written my best poetry when in pensive moods else high on happiness (or even low and in despair). My biggest problem seems to be, in fact, attaining and keeping what is called The Happy Medium. However, regardless of how easy or not it is for each of us to go from one end of the happiness meter to the other, we must admit that external factors play a big role in shifting that needle up or down.
 
A word can really put me down but can as easily make me happy beyond comprehension. In fact, a positive comment can accompany me for days or months even (like when someone said I'd lost weight and I'd really been trying to do so or the times a superior said I did a good job). Same goes for people who honestly listen when I confess to something that is troubling me.
 
Meanwhile some people are very much like the dementors of Rowling's imagination - sucking us dry of positivity whilst feeding on our discomfort. They will talk behind our back or make stinging remarks and generally try their best to make themselves happier in comparison by reducing our own level of feel-good vibes. Some people will show they are enjoying your company versus others who make it clear they would rather be elsewhere (maybe even stating it out loud!) Now whilst it is true that we should not let others make or break us, it is also true that no one is an island and humans need interaction with others, as my favourite book and film character Will Freeman (About a Boy) ultimately finds out.
 
Though contact with other beings, apart from being necessary and healthy, also directly affects our bigger picture, it is not the sole thing that does. Some of us are badly affected by change whilst others (like myself) thrive on it. Some of us might get a positive boost from buying something whilst others get more joy out of the expectation prior to buying something. In the same way think of the disappointment that accompanies the realization that you must forego, for some reason, buying or doing something you were looking forward to.
 
We are a complex type of being not as easily satisfied as other animals it seems. However even within our own species, there are sub-types that react differently to situations, people-problems and dilemmas. Some of us are opportunists, others charitable, there are those of us compassionate to the point of letting other people's circumstances affect our Happiness Meter. We all of us have a list of traits that make up our unique personality, which in turn is governed by what we feel because of those very traits. So whether you are a loner whose nightly ritual of reading in bed will help your happiness level up else someone that requires constant praise for a job well done, I think we must all of us look into ourselves for those special triggers that will allow us to control just how happy we aim to be.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Champagne Charlie (1989) - An Interesting Film to Watch

As I mentioned in my entry about characters, I've been watching what is listed as a 'miniseries' from the eighties. In fact it is a two-part made-for-tv film. It is somewhat biographical and based on a book with the same name as the miniseries - Champagne Charlie (1989). Although there are productions from 1936 and 1944 with the same name, this is a totally different story and not to be confused with these earlier versions.

Charles Heidsieck is a Frenchman, and the son of Charles Heidsieck Sr, who owns vineyards and produces a very delicious brand of champagne. The story starts in the 19th century, with the elder Charles, his young son by his side, presenting the champagne to the Russian ruler and introducing it to Russia. Unfortunately Heidsieck Sr died only a while later, leaving a widow and a son too young to take over the business. And whilst I say business, I mean that both Charles and his son care also about the process of making the delicious champagne, taking care to produce grapes in the best of conditions, allowing them to ripen enough, and to ferment at the best temperature.

However with the demise of Charles senior, his brother Pierre-Henri, a proper businessman and one with a grudge, takes over the running of the estate, turning the Heinsieck estate into a business over anything else, reducing on the quality of the champagne for the sake of cutting costs and increasing production. Pierre-Henri is as ruthless as Charles Sr was a gentleman, and soon comes the time for the young Charles to grow up enough to face his uncle and clash with him, even over the treatment of the workers. For despite being still somewhat immature especially when it comes to girls, Charles fast becomes a proper man with values.



What follows is the story of the entrepreneur Charles, as he faces life, love, rejection, loyalty and traitors, sometimes bad choices and at others just plain bad luck, all the while with the villainous uncle on his tail. This is the story of a businessman who is also humane, of a man determined beyond measure, and an inspiration with his words, "We'll start again," and the way he follows this phrase all the time as he faces what others in his place would have deemed the end. This is a three-hour historical drama and a journey full of surprises. In fact I have to admit, If I had the time I'd be watching this over and over again.

Needless to say, this DVD made it into my collection for being listed in Hugh Grant's filmography. (In case you're wondering I got the Dutch version - English audio with Dutch subtitles - hence the weird writing in the pic.) It is a title I had never heard of outside the context of the filmography and it is a big pity that it seems to be little-known, especially in view that it has to be Hugh's best performance from the days of his late twenties. Given the main role in a three-hour presentation, Hugh here is as competent in the role as he is with his more funny persona of later years and way better than in his previous attempts at roles like that of Allan in The Bengali Night (1988) and the good highwayman from The Lady and the Highwayman (1989). In addition to praise for a good performance, I must also comment on his accent. For the man who is known for his unique posh British accent here makes an effort at changing it somewhat for a more-apt French intonation which if I must say, is even sexier.