Too much of a Gooding thing

TELEVISION

Well, I knew you wouldn't, so I had to. Stay up till 5 in the morning, that is, for the live coverage of The Oscars (BBC2, Tuesday). Sandwiched in between OU programmes on (appropriately enough) "Bubbles and Fluids", and "Christopher Mantin: Polyglot printer of Antwerp", this was a lift of ABC's programme - except with Barry Norman (from the Eclipse restaurant nearby) in a tux, shoe-horned into the gaps created by American commercials and allowed to talk to a rather unexpressive American film wonk.

I was partly motivated to this act of sedentary somnambulism by having seen The English Patient the previous weekend, and having been amazed by what I saw. Naturally I had read many of the film reviews - and thus knew that this was a romantic classic. What I hadn't expected was a deeply silly film; a film that - no matter how I tried to like it - wouldn't let me take it seriously. The desert flashbacks were Indiana Jones meets Brief Encounter - all emotional constipation and wings over the sand, culminating in the ridiculous cave sequence (unmarked air-crash victim dies in dark crevice, but is miraculously spared the attentions of scavengers, for whom her body should have been an all too rare - but substantial - treat). When Ralph Fiennes puts his dead lover in the back of the biplane, and flies off, and her white scarf streams behind her slumped form, I let out an entirely involuntary Wildean laugh - and then blushed for shame in the darkness. So I wanted to see what Hollywood would make of all this, though their track record suggested that they'd prefer it to the much less silly Secrets and Lies.

As usual we began with the comers, as the stars trooped past on the arms of their next alimony case. I recognised some of them, including Goldie Hawn, who was on the arm of a grey-haired man who looked old enough to be her husband. All the while the camera was picking out people knowingly, marking them for a role in the unfolding drama - as though there was some hidden script.

Inside the enormous theatre - dominated by a gigantic Oscar - we were greeted in ominous fashion by a senior American Luvvie (ie a gushing millionaire with love in his heart and money in the bank) who argued that films were about "shared humanity" (Terminator 2? Jurassic Park?) and went on pompously, "We propose an agreement: you keep going to the movies and we'll keep making them". Big of you, I thought. We have somewhere warm to sit on Saturday nights, and you get to keep your Galliano frocks, Mustique hideaways and multiple marriages.

The first big award (Best Supporting Actor) went to Jerry Maguire's Cuba Gooding Jr. Cuba loved his wife - the mother of his children; he loved God - who had put him through a lot of things; he loved Tom Cruise; he loved ... They brought up the music to give Cuba a hint to clear off (reminding me of Brian Mawhinney's comical effort last week to bring Mrs Thatcher's anti-union peroration to a close before she reminded everyone that she was now completely demented), but Cuba mistook the sudden burst of music for an accompanying orchestral score, and started loving more people in an even louder voice. It was either a moment of genuine emotion, or a moment of toe-curling embarrassment, or a moment of high comedy. I prefer the latter.

Toes certainly curled, however, when La Binoche (easily the best thing in the Patient) got her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. "I thought Lauren was going to get it. And I think she deserved it. Where is she?" Hiding her head in chagrin and embarrassed disappointment of course, you daft bint. We recovered during a bit of action from the Riverdancers, who - in their black uniforms and black boots, kicking high-steps in drill-like precision - looked like the corps de ballet of the SS.

We were building up towards the climax. Minghella (whose work I like, really) picked up his director's award and made a good speech, in which he thanked "my wife, who taught me the meaning of uxoriousness". It's just as well she did, I suppose. It is not something one really wishes to learn from, say, one's grandmother. By now, however, the Yanks had had enough of us, and were cheering ever more desperately for any mention of an American film. Next year, no matter how ludicrous the film, the Brits should not expect too much.

It is hard to believe that the country that produced Minghella also produced the human raw material for the much-hyped The Dinner Party (Channel 4, Monday). I tuned in pre-emptively angry with producer Paul Watson. I mean, who wants to watch a job-lot of estate agents and publicans getting their rocks off about capital punishment? What kind of TV programme is that anyway?

And at first I thought it was dull, dull, dull. These know-nothings spoke about themselves, and then rowed with each other - broken from time to time by sequences of grey, wintry skies, dripping taps, skeletal trees, and a broken pane of glass in the conservatory.

There was George the bleary-eyed Yorkshire publican, whose once-good brain has atrophied in a puddle of beer and laziness; the sort of guy who you have to be prepared to fight with, should you enter into any discussion with him. Then there were the sisters from hell, Bridget and Judith - one of whom was a doctor in mediaeval history, a period from which she and her equally voluble sister had derived much of their thinking. Thus: (Murderers) "They deserve to die and that's it." (Gays) "I'm sorry, they're all freaks of nature." (The very ill) "If an animal is in distress, you put it down." (The poor) "As Jesus is reported to have said, the poor will always be with us". As I recall, this is not exactly everything that Jesus had to say about the poor.

Mistaking Watson's purpose, when Kathryn, the icily sexy agnostic estate agent with a comprehensive education, was told to "shut the fuck up" and flounced out, I desperately wanted to follow and see the aftermath. Why didn't her useless but liberal husband follow her? What did she really think about them all?

But by now the film was coming together. As the words mounted up and we became used to the faces, there was a growing realisation of just how beleaguered these people were. We were not witnessing the inner strength of the historically vindicated, the confidence of free-marketers proud of themselves and their country. Take Bill - 41, but looking 55. He confessed gloomily to being a "nonentity". Unemployed, finding it very hard and married to the appalling Judith, he exemplified a culture riddled with defensiveness and self-loathing. This lot had sod-all, and they were so afraid of losing it. They were - in the bigger sense of the word - pathetic.

How they contrasted with the mad ebullience of the guests on For The Love Of ... (Channel 4, Monday), in which Jon Ronson - shock-haired, and relaxed to the point where I was worried his Silk Cut might slip out of his fingers and ignite the large armchair in which he reclined - met the cryptozoologists; folk interested in finding and cataloguing mythical beasts. One moment summed it up. "I haven't told any of you guys this," said the vast, amiable paterfamilias wearing a denim tent and scrubby beard, "but I have a friend who has seen a video taken in a crop circle, that shows flying snakes!"

Just as barmy were the sect members discovered in Witness: Polygamy (Channel 4, Tuesday), which showed that this condition was far removed from the male fantasy of a harem full of gauze-wisped odalisques ("If it's Friday it must be Fatima."). Instead, this staggeringly tedious and responsible film on the polygamous practices of a breakaway from the Mormon church (which itself abandoned the practice in 1890) - inhabiting a small town called Manti - made clear that polygamy is horrid. For a start, the praying Mantids didn't seem to have much fun, their idea of entertainment apparently consisting of your three wives sitting on the porch watching you play "Danny Boy" on the mouth-organ.

And don't expect bedroom frolics. When the most recent of one chap's two wives spoke of having - in effect - married two people, Wife One corrected her sharply. "We're all agreed that there's only one marriage. It's not a kinky relationship. There's no lesbianism." Shame. Still, they might like The English Patient.

News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

News
Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Arts and Entertainment
film
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

    £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

    £29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

    Recruitment Genius: Engineering Manager - Alconbury

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for an Engineering M...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee