Victor Olliver

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The annals of imperial Tinseltown


A Times profile of Russell Crowe dwells on the subject of the surly
actor's "muscularity". Reference is made to his "beefy" arms and his
"muscular preacher" in The Quick And The Dead.

It then goes on to typecast the world in relation to him: "Women
flock to his concerts for his unapologetic maleness". Meanwhile "Men flock
to their DVDs to watch him slay Ancient Rome...."

Ah, yes: the unapologetic maleness. I wonder what apologetic maleness looks like - Kevin Spacey? Kermit? It's amazing how the old gender stereotypes rear up when space for a 1,000 words must be filled

The reality is that hardly anyone attends Crowe's concerts for his 30 Odd Foot of Grunts band (male or female) because he only knows laddish yobbo songs. His voice? Think Bryan Adams with bronchial pneumonia.

As for the DVDs, women have been known to "flock" to them as well, even for films starring Russell Crowe.

How sad that The Times, supposedly a sophisticated paper of record, is driven by the soul of a myopic King Kong, unreconstructed and a bit dim. The profile was written by a man, incidentally.


So what about the film critics? I'm talking about the Oscars and the lack of an award for those freeloading ingrates who spend half their lives
in basement screening rooms thinking up new ways of saying "fantastic" or

It's odd that reviewers - on whom the entire movie industry depends for free publicity and creative analysis - are not lauded in some way by the Academy, or even by the Baftas.

I suggest The Pauline Kael Award For Film Reviewing - named after the prosaic old trout who bored for America for decades at the droopy yet literary The New Yorker.

The most improbable result would be a win for any UK film critic. Jonathan Ross may as well be a celebrity chef for all his movie insight, broiling his tired adjectives for those crucial movie ad credits beloved by newspaper editors.

Alexander Walker writes like an angel yet reads like a man who talks
to himself in the bath - his trashing of The Lord Of The Rings in the London Evening Standard was froth-mouthed lunacy, and readers rightly
skewered him.

Peter Bradshaw on The Guardian simply yawns at his chosen subject, while The Times' Barbara Ellen affects an almost autobiographical approach
to her task, giving movies a walk-on part in the fascinating drama that is
her busy life.

The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert would probably be favourite to win the first "Kael": his lucid, insightful copy contrasts violently with the picky, neurotic and often inaccurate musings of our UK critics.

This proposed award has at least one thing going for it: Dame Judi Dench couldn't possibly win it.


To the ALFS (Awards of the London Film Critics' Circle) at the Dorchester where I encounter the enemy of news-gathering: radio and TV journalists.

Most print hacks delve for a story by posing gently tricksy questions to the innocent buffalo we call celebrities. Radio/TV hacks try to ruin it for everyone else with queries designed to produce affable non-answers.

"So Nicole," starts one, "where will you be putting your award?" "So
> Ewan," asks another, "is that award heavy?" "Nervous about the Oscars, Helen (Mirren)?"

"Could you say that again Nicole, in a proper sentence," asked one
radio journo of Nicole Kidman, a man somewhat notorious in press circles
for trying to hog stars with his everyman posers. Invariably he grows
docile after a few shouted "shut ups".

To broadcast hacks, the enduring novelty is that stars speak at all
- the excitement of seeing and hearing glittery oracles! If anyone of
these red carpet loafers has ever broken a significant showbiz story, let
me know.


Bad Blood: An Illustrated Guide To Psycho Cinema (Creation Books,
14.95) is a warm wallow in bad taste - an exploration of real-life
killers and the movies they have inspired.

Where would movie-makers be without the Jeffrey Dahmers and John
Christies? In this warped world, homicide has a social purpose, a sort of
gladiatorial sport for later mutli-media entertainment.

The case of Kate "Ma" Barker is a good illustration. The criminal
mastermind has inspired at least eight movies, including Jonathan Demme's
Crazy Mama ('75) and The Grissom Gang ('70).

Oddest is Roger Corman's Bloody Mama ('70), starring Shelley
Winters. Corman dares to suggest an incestuous relationship between the
brutal matriarch and her sons.

"Killers are losers," explains German director Jorg Buttgereit,
"poor creeps that have lost the battle within themselves....they have
decided to use more effective means to engage our their cry
for help."

Sounds like baloney, but the book's a fascinating read.


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