Heroes, Villains and Stuff That Happened

Here is the place to make your nominations for the three remaining Spill Awards categories – the Heroes, Villains and Events of 2018 – prefaced by a song about an actual event involving a villain who tried to be a hero for his girl and a villain who pretends to be a social hero.

Villains are not difficult to find: Trump, Putin, bin Salman, Erdogan, Duterte, Orban, Bolsonaro, Rees-Mogg, Johnson…… Unfortunately, we have been spoilt for choice and they are are still being villainous as 2019 approaches. Personally, I’d go with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for being the most blatant (Jamal Khashoggi), most murderous (Yemen) and most hypocritical (let women drive but jail those who fought for it).

Individual heroes may not seem plentiful but there are increasing numbers of ordinary people who survive against the odds; those whose governments have decided they should be poor or have a different sexual orientation or faith. Or those who dare speak truth to power, like the increasing number of journalists in far too many countries that have been murdered, or the kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, epitomised by Emma González, who said ‘stop killing us’. I’m struggling to think of someone who succeeded in making a positive difference, however.

Things definitely happened in 2018, although one of the most important things – resetting the UK/EU relationship – took a lot of time, effort and money to not happen at all. We had great summer weather (in which to take in the dire warnings of the IPCC climate report) and a very enjoyable World Cup (in which we were able to dream of football returning home) but maybe the most memorable event was the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal (and the death of Dawn Sturgess) and the blatant lies told by two Russian architecture students and the Russian state. More positively, there was the episode of Blue Planet II that kicked off the fight against single-use plastics; obviously the way to combat climate change is to show puppies and kittens dying from heatstroke or flooding.

Sorry I can’t be more positive but I’m sure you understand.

Ten Of The Best: Grateful Dead Songs

It seems very unlikely that the Graun will come up with a replacement for RR; they are more likely – as Ravi has pointed out – to resort to an existing format like more Ten Of The Bests. So maybe we should steal their idea and do our own.

This is the list I put together for the Music section back in 2014, slightly modified to take into account some of the feedback I received. Please feel free to disagree or ignore it altogether, but it would be good if someone did commit to producing a list next week, with the ambition of this being a regular series. Obviously, if no-one takes the baton, then this idea wasn’t much of a runner in the first place….

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RR Films: Intermission

You may have noticed the absence of this feature last week. I had a couple of attempts at spinning news items into a topic but, not only did I struggle to make a connection, I then had to look too hard for appropriate films. The project – or its author – is getting stale after 80 outings.

So this is maybe not farewell but it is at least adieu. I’ll leave you with a recommendation though: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s becoming the Oscar front runner and I’m very happy about that (the US Academy was never going to make Elle best picture…), as it is a beautifully played tragi-comedy where nothing is straight-forward and it becomes increasingly difficult to condemn the bad behaviour being indulged in.

So, for the time being, That’s All Folks!

RR Films: Children Performing

Apparently, the leader of the free world acts like a child. Just as we thought. But I’ve seen plenty of child actors who behave better and more politely than Donny, even when left home alone for the second time. I’ve even seen children acting rationally and maturely, both in films and real life, so it is possible that Donny-boy may surprise us one day and do something that adds value to others’ lives, not just his own.

I’m asking this week about which child screen performances have impressed you. We’ve mentioned Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild and Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood in previous weeks but there are plenty of other impressive youngsters. I’ll leave the decks clear by picking Mark Cousins’ fascinating documentary A Story of Children and Film which, if your mind goes blank, provides many examples of performing children from cinema worldwide.

What films featuring child roles would you recommend?

RR Films: Overturning The Odds

Media pundits are examining the state of the world and shaking their heads at the prospects of 2018 being a safe and peaceful one, so let’s build on last week’s theme and encourage ourselves to believe. Maybe by considering films about overturning the odds we can inspire a few unlikely defeats for the dark and powerful forces currently in play.

At the risk of sparking some John Bull jingoism, I’m going to kick off with last years Their Finest. It may have been a tad corny but the basic tale of the victorious defeat at Dunkirk is enhanced by some additional small-but-significant victories against sexism. And Bill Nighy.

What films about overturning the odds would you recommend?

RR Films: Hope and Resilience

Well, the consequences of big decisions made in 2016 have started to manifest themselves this year and 2018 looks very unpredictable indeed. Will Donny continue his mission to become the World’s Greatest Ego by ignoring every person and every fact that contradicts him or will we end the year with President Pence and whatever new hell that might usher in? Will Theresa keep clunking on despite her complete ineptitude and the Tory weasels gnawing at her heels? Will Jezza ever make a policy statement about Brexit? Will men in general grow up and start treating women as people? Will women in general stop taking notice of the propaganda aimed at them and start being nicer to other women? Will we all be blown to kingdom come?

Who knows?

But let’s hope it all works out well, eh, and the human race starts to value difference as something good and enriching, rather than as a threat. Please. So tell us about films with a message of hope and/or resilience, something that stirs the soul and restores/ingites faith in humanity.

I’m going back to 2011 and thence, accompanied by the off-kilter narration of Werner Herzog, back a further 32,000 years to the Cave Of Forgotten Dreams. In 3D, the wall paintings shown in this film transported me back to a time when humans and animals were part of the same environment and, having not yet discovered how to commit mass slaughter, the humans seemed to have an understanding of their place in the world. We are the same creatures who want to record their lives (on cave walls rather than smartphones) and leave their handprints as proof of existence, yet we now also have the technology and understanding to find, analyse, record and enable others to experience things that happened thousands of years ago. In a strange Teutonic accent.

What films that inspire hope and resilience would you recommend?


RR Films: America

As Donny (re-)delivers his version of the Team America refrain, I can’t help (re-)wondering if the man has any grip on reality. But if you always rely on your own perceptions and ignore everything else apart from Fox News, this, it seems, is the result.

There are many films glorifying America and its reverie and many where a more complex story is told. And much of American history has been illustrated and invented in films that have given us a feel of the country (and I’m using Donny’s definition, the USA) that we kinda know the place, even if we’ve never been there.

I’ve actually been to the location featured in my pick: The Florida Project. It’s set in a cheap motel block near a Disney paradise in Orlando; the place I stayed for a couple of nights wasn’t dissimilar. But I couldn’t live there, with kids, like people find themselves having to do in the not-so-great parts of America.

What films about America (the USA) would you recommend?