Posts Tagged ‘Claudia Winkleman’

Barry Norman’s 1977 Review of Star Wars

April 29, 2022

Here’s a blast from the past to cheer up fans of Star Wars and who miss the genial, avuncular tones of film critic Barry Norman on their TV screens. I found this little snippet from Film 1977 on YouTube, in which Norman looks at, and actually likes, Star Wars. He states that it has become the biggest grossing film in history, as it was when it first came out, although it’s since been overtaken by Titanic and Avatar. The film contained the right mixture of romantic adventure, including the knights of the round table and Science Fiction. Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi is described as a kind of elderly Sir Galahad with the film also starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. But, adds Norman, the real stars are likely to be the two robots, R2D2 and C3PO. He also mentions how the film was already becoming a merchandising phenomenon. The action figures wouldn’t be out by Christmas, but a whole range of other toys, including ray guns, would. He quotes one Fox executive as saying that it’s not a film but an industry.

The film’s success took writer and director George Lucas and producer Gary Kurtz by surprise. Lucas spent years writing and re-writing the script before it was ready for shooting, and the film was initially rejected by two studios. Even more amazing is that it was shot on the low budget of £6 million – which was obviously worth a lot more in 1977 than it is now – and that the special effects and many of the live action sequences were created by British special effects technicians at Elstree. But none of the film’s massive profits will be coming back to them, unfortunately.

Before Star Wars, Lucas was best known for his film American Graffiti, but the seeds of Star Wars are in an earlier film he made as a 27 year old graduate film student, THX1138. And now, two films later, at the age of 32, Lucas is so rich he need never work again. But there’s no point being jealous, says Norman, adding ‘Damn him!’ He nevertheless concludes that Lucas is a good director who deserves his success.

The review rather surprised me, as I can remember Bazza complaining in the 1980s that there wasn’t a cinema for adults, and Star Wars, while a family flick, was aimed at children. The review surprised me even further with the statement that Lucas is a good director. I think he was, at least in the first trilogy. Unfortunately the first of the prequels, The Phantom Menace, caused some people to drastically revise their opinion of Lucas as a director. Mark Kermode, reviewing it for BBC radio, declared that Lucas ‘couldn’t direct traffic’, which is far too harsh. I’m not a fan of the The Phantom Menace, which is rather too juvenile for my tastes. But it definitely wasn’t the Nazi propaganda flick poet and critic Tom Paulin claimed it was in a bug-eyed bonkers segment for the Beeb’s Late Review. And watching the next two prequels on DVD, I found that they recaptured some of the wonder and excitement I’d had watching the original trilogy as a child in the ’70s and ’80s.

As for Bazza, his retirement from the show and death a few years ago has, in my opinion, left a hole in the Beeb’s film criticism. Yes, Kermode and Mayo are good on Radio 2, and Kermode’s series a few years ago on the essential elements and plot structures of various film genres was very good. The Beeb did try bringing in Jonathan Ross and then a couple of female presenters, one of whom I believe was Claudia Winkleman, to replace Bazza on Film –. Ross was responsible for the Incredibly Strange Film Show on Channel 4, in which he reviewed some truly bizarre and transgressive movies. At least one of these was by John Waters, the man responsible for Hairspray amongst other assaults on the cinematic sensibilities of the mainstream American public. I was afraid when Wossy took over that he’d drag the show downmarket. But he didn’t. He was knowledgeable and intelligent, offering reasoned criticism and insight. Nevertheless, neither he nor the two ladies could match Norman and his quiet, genial tones giving his opinion on that year’s films. Bazza was so popular, in fact, that 2000AD sent him up as an alien film critic, Barry Abnormal, in the story ‘DR and Quinch Go To Hollywood’. This was about a pair of alien juvenile delinquents trying to make a movie from a script they’d stolen from an alcoholic writer after he’d passed out and they thought he was dead. The film stars Marlon, a parody of a certain late Mr Brando. Marlon is illiterate, but his acting is so powerful, as well as the fact that no-one can understand a word he says, that people so far haven’t actually figured that out. Marlon dies, crushed by an enormous pile of oranges after trying to take one from the bottom of the pile. Which Dr and Quinch film and release as ‘Mind the Oranges, Marlon!’

It’s good to see Barry Norman giving his surprisingly positive views about Star Wars, 45 years, and many films, as well as countless books, comics and toys later. Star Wars is, I believe, very firmly a part of modern popular culture, as shown by the way it’s casually discussed by the characters in the film Clerks and the Channel 4 TV series, Spaced. And Norman himself, though having departed our screens years ago, is still fondly remembered by fans of his series, even if we didn’t always agree with him.

And why not?

Conservative Lady Claims Labour and Momentum Supporters Responsible for Misogynist Abuse – But Is This Real?

January 12, 2018

There was a bit in the I today, reporting a speech made in the House of Lords by a female Tory peer, in which she broke the taboo against saying the ‘C’ word. She said it as an example of the misogynist abuse, which she claimed was coming from Labour and Momentum supporters. Mike’s already covered this issue over on his blog, pointing out that it’s been condemned by Jeremy Corbyn. Mike’s fully behind the condemnation, saying that death threats and other abuse have no place in civilised politics, and we shouldn’t lower ourselves to the Tories’ level. Which is absolutely correct, though looking at the incident, I wonder how much of the abuse, and the good lady’s outrage over it, is actually genuine.

Remember, one of the accusations that the Blairites tried to use against Corbyn and Momentum was that they were all terribly misogynist, and subjecting to poor, middle class corporatist Blairite women to vile abuse. This was taken over wholesale from Killary in the US, and her attempt to demonise Bernie Sanders’ supporters. In fact, the ‘Bernie Bros’ she claimed were responsible for all this abuse didn’t exist, and on examination neither did the misogynist abuse the Blairites were claiming came from Corbyn’s supporters. But clearly the tactic has made an impression, and it’s become part of the right-wing narrative that Corbyn’s supporters are all terrible misogynists, as well as anti-Semites. None of which is true.

It also seems to me something of a diversionary tactic. This is the week that Toby Young came under fire as May’s appointment for the universities’ regulatory board, because of the highly offensive nature of comments he’d made and written. These really were sexist and misogynist. There were Tweet after Tweet in which Young commented on the size of women’s breasts, including those of Claudia Winkleman, whom he told to ‘put on weight’. As for a photograph that seemed to show him touching a female celebrity, he also Tweeted that he had his ‘d**k up her a**e’. Labour’s women and equalities minister, Dawn Butler, rightly condemned Young’s comments as vile and misogynistic, and demanded Young’s removal from the post.

Which makes the Honourable Lady’s comments about misogyny from the Labour left, and how it was turning women off politics, seem somewhat contrived. It looks as if she was trying to take attention away from how terrible Young, and those like him in the Tory party are, by making a similar claim against Corbyn and the Labour party.

Now I share Mike’s and Corbyn’s views on such abuse. It’s clearly not acceptable. But I can understand the rage behind it. If people are sending hate messages to the Tories in May’s cabinet reshuffle, including Esther McVile, some of the anger is because they feel powerless. This government has done everything it can to humiliate and degrade working people, and particularly the sick, the disabled and the unemployed. Thanks to Tory wage restraint, jobs don’t pay. There is rising poverty, and move people are being forced to use food banks. At the same time the Tories are engineering a crisis in the NHS so they can eventually privatise it and force people into a private insurance-based system, like America. Where 40,000 people die each year because they don’t have medical coverage. The unions, with one or two exceptions, have been decimated, so that working people are left defenceless before predatory and exploitative bosses. And the benefits system has been so reformed, so that claimants can be thrown off it for even the most trivial of reasons. All so that May and her cronies can give their corporate backers even bigger tax cuts, and a cowed, beaten, compliant workforce.

In this situation, I think people have every reason to be angry. Especially when it comes to Esther McVie. When she was in charge of the disabled at the DWP, she was directly responsible for policies that threw thousands of seriously ill people off benefits, on the spurious grounds that they had been judged ‘fit for work’ by Atos and then Maximus. As a result, people have died, thanks to her policies. Personal abuse is unacceptable, but people have every right to express otherwise how loathsome she is, and how she is manifestly unsuited to have any responsible post dealing with the vulnerable.

If people are angry, and they can’t find any other way to express their anger, then it will turn into abuse. I don’t know how much of the abuse the Tory lady claimed is real, but if it does exist, it’s because the Tories have left people feeling powerless, and feeling that they have no other means of expressing their anger and fear.

And I also find it highly hypocritical that this woman, who is rich and entitled, should accuse those below her of abuse. Quite apart from the fact that I’ve no doubt that you can find similar comments expressed by the Tories on their websites, Tweets and blogs, various Tory grandees have in the past made their contempt for working people very clear. Such as the infamous comment by one of them – was it Matthew Freud? – that the homeless were the people you step over when coming out of the opera. The Tories are very well aware how controversial the appointment of these new cabinet ministers are, especially Esther McVile, the minister in charge of culling the disabled, as she’s been described by Mike and others. It looks to me very much like part of the purpose of this accusation was to silence genuine criticism of the grotesques, bigots and corporatist horrors with which May has decided once again to fill her cabinet.

I therefore have strong doubts that there was misogynist abuse directed at Tory women, or if there was, whether there was any more than usual, or the same amount of abuse directed at female Labour MPs. If you want an example of really vile abuse, take a look at some of the comments the Tories have made about Diane Abbott, which manages to be both misogynist and racist. It all looks very much like a ploy to stop people noticing the vile abuse coming from Toby Young and the Tories, by repeating the lies spewed by the Blairites in an attempt to silence justifiable criticism of May’s murderous new cabinet appointments.