Entertainment I Love That Other People Don’t Get
Of course some pleasures are universal. I’m a Shakespeare obsessive because you know, words, and after you trim away all the fat (who needs the second appearance of the ghost in Hamlet?) you have stories filled with emotions that everyone has felt and can therefore understand. I love Game of Thrones because it’s basically the History Plays without the boring bits and sodding Falstaff, plus dragons and the Ice King and Diana Rigg. But I have other choices that take some explaining.
TV Shows Nobody Else Likes
During my childhood there were dozens of wondrously strange cancelled shows from Adam Adamant to The Strange World of Gurney Slade. I loved The Worker, a cruel sitcom called Me Mammy, the one-upmanship comedy Beggar My Neighbour, Stanley Baxter’s bizarre annual shows, and the deliberately annoying The Brittas Empire, all of which have something ‘off’ about them. But the sexism and racism of other shows – the popular ones – always kept me away from them.
Gurney Slade was played by Anthony Newley, tortured, solipsistic and probably an awful human being, and yet he now seems close to genius for his singing, songwriting and strange vowel sounds, his TV and film work, some grand projects, some appalling, and for the astounding ‘Small World of Sammy Lee’. More about him here.
Adams, Mertens, Richter, Ayman, it’s classical music for the rhythm generation and makes perfect sense to me. The argument goes like this; harmonics defined the first half of the 20th century, and at the exact mid-point (1950) rhythm took over, ironically, pushed back into melody briefly by the Beatles. Repetitive loops, beats and samples make sense to my urban-attuned ears while Handel fails to touch me. Although I’d stop talking to anyone who doesn’t appreciate Mozart.
Music, dance, interactivity, angry polemic, darkness, laughter – I love live theatre but generally hate jazzhands musicals and ‘classic’ repertory theatre, preferring multiform assaults on the senses. One of the best productions I ever saw was the profoundly uncomfortable ‘Poppy’ by Peter Nichols, telling the story of the Opium Wars in the style of an English panto, forcing the audience into jingoism and patriotism to recreate the feelings of the times. Although I probably shouldn’t have taken someone to it on a first date.
More recently, Joe Wright’s ‘Life of Galileo’ knocked me out for being set in a circus ring/ planetarium. With puppetry. Awesome. Tell a story any damned way you can. It doesn’t have to be logical in a traditional, linear way, but should gain access to the heart.
If a film is Hungarian, Spanish, German, Italian, Austrian, Mexican, South American, South Korean, Japanese, Nordic or French (currently in that order) I’ll watch it before I watch a Hollywood film. This is not snobbery; I just like good original stories. There have been some great indie Hollywood films lately but there’s a level of connectedness in world cinema that simply doesn’t exist in Hollywood because it’s too hard-sell. Just because cinema is a populist medium doesn’t mean that it can’t make your brain work.
Awful Old British Films
I don’t mean the Ealing comedies, which are delightful on several levels, but the rest – from Charlie Drake to Frankie Howard and Norman Wisdom I watched every shit British film that Rank could churn out, until the name of the director John Paddy Carstairs meant more to me than David Lean. How did my brother and I stand these tiny, painful little proofs that the British film industry was a sham? I watched them because a handful had inadvertent flashes of brilliance that lodged in the brain. And because when you’re young you have absolutely no quality control button, just as children today love the Kardashians and trolling their schoolmates to try and make them kill themselves. Bless.
Not all British films were awful, of course. One immediately thinks of ‘Brief Encounter’, ‘The Wicker Man’, ‘The Innocents’, ‘This Happy Breed’, ‘Black Narcissus’, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Witchfinder General, ‘Don’t Look Now’, ‘The Servant’, ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’, even ‘Paddington’.
I was always attracted to disjunctive, disturbing narratives. It’s hard to understand why, but NJ Simpson, John Antrobus, Joe Orton, Fellini, Spike Milligan, the Pythons, Dali, Bunuel, ‘Eraserhead’, Caro & Jeunet, BS Johnson all made sense to me. The acid test is trying to get anyone else to watch ‘The Bed Sitting Room’ – or even imagining a time when a major motion picture like this could have been made. The golden years of surrealist media from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies hit the mainstream, and I still cannot shake off the influence of those childhood years.
I firmly believe that everyone should have obsessions that make no sense to other people. It keeps us original, fresh and unique.