Issue 281 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published January 2004 Copyright © Socialist Review

Stack on the back

Oscar wild

Pat Stack stakes out the films likely to impress the Academy.

Wild Oscar

Usually my Xmas combines the following: overeating, which usually involves half a turkey, a whole Christmas pudding, and god knows how many mince pies; wild drinking sessions involving huge amounts of Guinness and crates of Irish whiskey; or romantic interludes (well, drunken lunges) under the mistletoe. This year, though, the new reformed me spent much time in the cinema looking for likely Oscar nominees. Here are my tips:

Bombs Actually
Hugh Grant plays the dashing young hero Tony who slowly loses his sanity, good looks, hair and bladder control in an obsessive and delusional search for weapons of mass destruction which he is convinced are hidden under his bed, in his cupboards or behind his TV set. His obsession, although at first funny, ends up having tragic consequences.

The Refugee Collector
A reworking of the nativity story. In this modern day version we see a blind king named David (Al Pacino) first of all explain that there is no room at the inn but when desperate people keep coming, orders the confiscation of their children as a means of teaching them a lesson.

When Santa Got Mean
A children's tale of Charles (Mel Smith), a fat boy who got free gifts from Santa every year, but now that he's grown up wants to charge all the children fees for their Xmas gifts, ensuring that only the rich will really enjoy Xmas.

Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow
When Georgie (Bill Murray) was a boy his daddy wouldn't let him have a pet dog. Now grown up, Georgie has come in to some money and has surrounded himself with three vicious rottweilers (Rumsey, Chaney and Pearl), and a little lap-dog called Bliar, whose tail he pulls the whole time. The little dog loves him so much that he doesn't mind and keeps coming back for more. However Georgie is hated by all and they end up taking their anger out on the pathetic little dog (hankies at the ready).

Fall Short
The rollercoaster tale of Clare (Judi Dench), a confused woman who keeps threatening to resign her important, high profile job, but keeps changing her mind at the last minute and staying on. Her friends all urge her to quit, and become frustrated by her constant to-ing and fro-ing. Finally she goes but by then nobody takes her seriously and she doesn't have any friends left (Golden Elephant Films).

A Boy Named Sharon
Inspired by Johnny Cash's song 'A Boy Named Sue'. In that song the father calls his son Sue so he will have to grow up tough and fight his corner. This father calls his son Sharon (Marlon Brando). Clearly it has the desired impact as we see our hero lay all his neighbours to waste in a frenzy of cold-blooded killings. Brando's finest and most demonic role since Apocalypse Now. Brought to you by West Bank Films.

No, I'm Napoleon!
Hilarious comedy in which three friends, William (Sam West), Ian (Francis Wheen in his acting debut), and Michael (Steve Coogan), all share the same nanny, the dangerously mad Maggie (Kathy Bates). As they grow up it seems they will be friends for life but when Maggie goes completely off the rails, drinking like a fish and talking dangerous gobbledegook, their friendship begins to fall apart. Having to stand on their own two feet, the three friends begin to show signs of the damage Maggie did to them, each eventually becoming convinced that they are the Emperor Napoleon.

Cause Without a Rebel
A tale of cynical betrayal. Peter (Richard Gere) comes all the way from South Africa fired up by a hatred of apartheid, racism, injustice and inequality. As he grows older, Peter loses all his rebellious instincts, and although many of the causes remain, the rebel is no more as Peter opts to join the establishment he once fought so hard against.

What the Butlers Saw
Charles (Alan Rickman) is a hugely wealthy but desperately sad middle-aged man whose mother won't let him take over the family business. Bored and alienated, he goes round desperately trying to find work. In the end he gets so confused he even begins to ask the servants to give him a job! Rejection comes as a real blow. Very funny, in a sad sort of way.

Me and My Beard
Tom Cruise plays Edward, a young man with something to hide. He desperately grows a big long beard, which he affectionately calls Sophie. Hilariously everybody recognises him, although he seems blissfully unaware of the fact.

A fascinating documentary studying sporting heroes David Beckham, Jonny Wilkinson and Tim Henman, and asking whether absence of personality is crucial to sporting success in Britain. Includes a fascinating interview with Sven Goran Eriksson.

Pre-Natal Distraction
Hollywood takes a wry look at itself. Bill (Michael Douglas), an ageing fading movie star, marries Mandy (Catherine Zeta Jones), a pretty young film star with little or no acting talent. The pair embark on a never-ending course of litigation against anyone who photographs them or writes about them (unless they have paid the couple huge amounts up front). One day they wake up to find nobody cares any more. Mandy quickly departs for a younger model.

Happy viewing in the new year!

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