Not setting my alarm on Thursday evening was a moment of pure, unadulterated joy. Having worked in hospitality for the majority of my time since leaving university, the idea of bank holidays meaning time off didn’t really occur to me. Now that I’ve got a “proper” job – read: one that doesn’t make me want to spend all my money on a lot of cheap alcohol – I was delighted when fellow Saboteurs informed me that yes, indeed, I WOULD get my four day weekend, and for a Religious event that I don’t even believe happened – double result!
So, instead of whiling away the weekend in wintry London, I decided to head back home to Wales for the weekend – a few days in more rural climbs, laughing at my fat tabby Suze skulking its way aimlessly around the house, safe in the knowledge my mother would have stocked up the liquor supply and bought a leg of lamb for Sunday.
But what is the use of free time if you don’t fill it by doing productive things? In my case, I spent the weekend watching movies. I searched through the various channels – @TopFilmTip proving invaluable as ever – trawled my DVD collection, took up my space on the couch (much to Suze’s chagrin) and began with the only film that seemed appropriate given Richard Griffiths’ sad passing on Friday morning – Withnail & I.
Prior to Friday Withnail was one of many films on my “I definitely should have seen that already” list. I’d heard rumour of its endless quotability and drunken hedonism, and after seeing the tributes to Uncle Monty pour out on Friday I acquired a copy to watch on Friday night. I was instantly engaged. Good scripts impress me more than anything in films, and Withnail has one of the most beautifully poetic scripts I can remember hearing, each character delivering their lines with a pleasing idiosyncrasy that always commands your attention – from Withnail’s desperate Shakespearean lilt to Danny’s spaced out Midlands drawl. Visually the film is excellent too; dirty, squalid, the inevitably bleak consequence of a decade of sex, drugs and rock and roll crashing to an end. It’s a film I know I’ll watch again and again, taking something different from each time.
Saturday morning began with coffee, eggs and bread, as ideally all mornings should. There were other additional elements to the breakfast, but I need to have those three in order to feel properly myself. I wanted something light and fairly nostalgic to take me through the day, and thankfully, Jumanji was on the telly. Now, I bloody love Jumanji. It’s a terrific story, really well executed, with some really well written sub-plots woven through it – the story of Carl the shoemaker turned cop and how Alan Parrish makes amends with him being a highlight. The special effects still hold up for the most part too, considering it was made nearly 20 years ago now. Ok, the CGI monkeys look a bit naff, but the rhinos and elephants stampeding through the house look great, not to mention the lion who escapes from the game early on. I think my favourite aspect of the film is the fact that the same actor plays both Alan’s Dad and the hunter Van Pelt, a really clever, theatrical device. Always nice to see kids’ films that don’t treat the audience like kids, Jumanji is one of the best.
Fair to say the tone shifted Saturday evening, when I noticed Goodfellas was on Alibi (@TopFilmTip again, cheers guys!). We used to have a VHS rental shop in town, an easy source of entertainment when we were kids. The place closed down in the middle of my teens, to be replaced by an estate agent, the upshot of which was a fairly extensive fire sale of their catalogue – Goodfellas shot into my hands for a couple of quid, and I watched it that day.
The King of Comedywill forever remain my favourite Scorsese film, but Goodfellas runs it close. I love watching Ray Liotta’s switch from impressionable, naive kid; to menacing gangster; to strung-out, fractious drug baron, before finally ending up in his own personal prison. That ending is pitched so well, the camera tracking across cookie-cutter houses, a perfect picture of domesticity, and Liotta striding out looking totally out of place, at the same time giving a knowing smirk to camera, knowing he’s come out clean. It’s always good to see De Niro in his pomp too. Silver Linings Playbook aside his recent performances are fairly phoned in. Watching him in this, King of Comedy, Raging Bull, Casino, Taxi Driver, Heat... there’s a reason why he’s regarded as one of the best actors of all time.
Saturday rolled into Sunday, the loss of an hour a mild inconvenience, and after sticking a leg of lamb in to braise I returned to my throne. Thankfully, my parents rarely delete anything off the Sky Planner, and we still had Blade Runner recorded from Christmas. I can’t think of a more visually arresting film than Blade Runner, every scene a masterpiece in lighting and composition, Ridley Scott managing to create something that perfectly harks back to old school film noir at the same time as being completely dystopian and futuristic. Rutger Hauer’s closing speech remains one of cinema’s truly iconic monologues – “All those moments lost in time, like tears in the rain.” That dove flying away was probably a bit much, mind.
I knocked the lamb out of the park, by the way. A good five hours of slow cooking left meat falling off the bone, and I took great delight in parading that bone around the house. Buttered leeks and parsnips, carrots & potatoes braised with the lamb made me feel pretty fucking pleased with myself. Crusty bread to mop everything up. Wine. You know how it goes. I let my Mum pick the Sunday night film – Still Crazy, a sweet story of a rock-band reunion, with a terrific lead performance by Bill Nighy – essentially, the role he plays in Love Actually is a reprisal of the role he plays in this.
There’s a nice turn by Bruce Robinson in the film too, as the reclusive Brian, presumed dead until the final act of the film where he is convinced to play one last show with the band. The story is pretty cornball, but there’s some great comic performances – Timothy Spall, Jimmy Nail and Billy Connolly filling out the cast – and it’s a good send up of that era of music...but to be honest, seeing Bruce Robinson just reminded me of Withnail again...think I might stick it on once Match of the Day ends. Happy Easter everyone. Cheers to Jesus and that.