The Greatest Show on Earth

TombstoneRecently, Jen and I took a trip to Lille for the night. That’s something I love about living in England and Southern England in particular. On a whim we can hop in our car and drive to Europe for supper. Lille is great as it’s only an hour and a quarter from the Calais Eurotunnel exit. I might talk about the joys of Lille another time as that is not what this post is about.

During the afternoon while Jenny was looking at pretty things in one of many shops full of pretty things I stood in the street in the drizzle and plugged an earpiece into my mobile telephone. I wanted to listen on the internet to what was unfolding at one of the world’s greatest Rugby Stadiums.

The English Rugby fans had gone in their tens of thousands to watch their team slump to certain defeat at the hands of the Mighty New Zealand All Blacks. There was to be no winning for England on that Saturday. The fans were hoping their team might at least show some mettle but the All Blacks would always be too good for them.

Except that’s not what happened. It’s too painful to talk about but England found a superb game of Rugby from somewhere formally undiscovered. The All Blacks were off their game and one of the greatest days in the History of one of the greatest sports Stadiums in the world happened for the home side. The English people at Twickenham that day will talk about it for generations to come. The day England took apart the World Champions at their own game. That’s also not what this post is about. For those England Rugby supporters who paid for the ticket’s it was some of the best money they ever spent. Bully for them. I’ll take a rare loss for my side if the occasion was so immense for the other side while the result for us did not really matter apart from the result. It was not a cup or tournament final of any sort it was effectively an end of season friendly, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Enjoy yourselves England. Make the most of it.

However with regard to stupendous value from a sports fixture ticket, it has been an awfully long time since an England Soccer fan could make such a statement. 1966 springs to mind in fact. The highest paid sports ‘stars’ in England are the lowest achievers, they represent terrible value for money on every single level apart from to the people who run football possibly. I’m confident though that even they would like to reward soccer players with significantly less than they get paid for their services. It got me to thinking about those who get paid astronomical sums for doing their day job. My skin crawls at the thought of the remuneration levels for footballers and investment bankers.  That’s also not what this post is about as up until here it’s been rather cheerless and it’s time to cheer up a bit as it’s the season of Goodwill which is actually beside the point on my next point.

It’s a tribute to or acknowledgement of those, whom to me, represent fantastic value for money.  I have no issue at all with how much they get paid as the amount they earn is a direct reflection of their talent, skill, and creativity and how much they engage us. If we are not given to pay attention to their work and part with our money as a result of what they do, their income falls accordingly which is only fair. These are the people who bring us memories we treasure for a lifetime. They captivate us with scenes of wonder, hilarity, drama or horror. They give us a means of escaping our own world and entering the one they have created, we get to choose which one we like best! They take us to places we never knew existed or could never go to on our own. They colour our lives or make us laugh, or cry, or laugh until we cry. They take reality and make it a fantasy or a fantasy and make it seem real. Their work influences where we travel, what we think, how we speak, what we know and even how some of us dress.  We carry memories of the best and worst of their work through our entire lives. We view the best of their efforts time and time and time again. They are the people who make movies. The actors, the writers, the crews, the producers and directors of movies!

Yes movies! Great literature is great but how many books have you read twice? Great Sporting occasions are epic on the day but who other than sports anoraks watches repeats of a fantastic point scoring moment let alone footage of a repeat of an entire game of any sport? Movies are the greatest show on Earth! There was actually a film with that title but it was about a Circus, which is not the Greatest Show on Earth. A Circus is itinerants doing acrobatics and mistreating animals in a large tent for the amusement of children but something called ‘The Shittest Show in Town’ would have sold fewer tickets. Back to the movies.

We watch movies time and time again because they ARE the greatest show on earth. I must have seen Casablanca a dozen times. I know all the great lines. I watched Dr Zhivago (at about 3 and a half hour’s duration) twice in one day when I first saw it because I was so captivated. I’ve seen Four Weddings at least half a dozen times. I’m going to see Skyfall again at the cinema tonight because I enjoyed it so much the first time. All of my happiest, fondest and most long term memories of being entertained and entralled have come from moments on celluloid or it’s modern equivalent.

We have a world full of fake ‘celebrity’ today and anyone can get on the television for no good reason.  We have paparazzi photographers filling crap magazines full of people we should not care less about. But the real ‘stars’ of the last 100 years were all Film Stars, The impossibly glamorous Liz Taylor and Richard Burton for example. I don’t care that they fought like cat and dog and threw things at each other in their spare time. I don’t care that Oliver Reed might have liked to have knife fights with his son at the pub.  I loved watching them on screen.

Unlike what the media might think I’m not all that bothered how hysterical or weird the Movie stars are off screen. I don’t care what they do in their spare time. I’m not bothered if Tom Cruise and John Travolta believe we are all made up of the pulverised souls of space aliens or something like that. It matters not if an actor likes to do unusual things with furry animals inside his undergarments. If another handsome Hollywood actor let’s his famous lady friend choose his girlfriends for him to suit her own tastes, so be it. Let them do as they like in their own time. I’m here for the films and as Maximus, when he was just the ‘Spaniard’, bellowed at the crowd in Gladiator. “Are we not entertained?”  Yes we are!!

Back to the stars though. Proper stars like Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, John Wayne, Raquel Welch and the fabulous leading ladies from ages ago like Jane Seymour and Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner or Grace Kelly. Then you had the ridiculously cool and handsome guys, men like Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, Robert Redford and so on. The biggest stars in the world today I’m happy to say are still the movie people. Robert De Niro, Anthony Hopkins, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, that Australian bloke with claws, The Kiwi the Aussies think is Australian, you know, Russell Crowe, Little Tom and him off the vampire films. With the women we have the likes of Meryl Streep, Michelle Pfeiffer, Emma Thompson, Cameron Diaz, Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Kristen Scott-Thomas, Keira Knightly and Megan Fox who can’t act but just look at her! The current stars are not so stellar somehow as the ones from my younger days but maybe that’s just an age thing as the youngsters today certainly do seem to go silly for him and her off the vampire films.

Movies change how we look at things and what we know. Remember how Helen Mirren made even republicans more sympathetic to the Queen. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts made all the residents of Notting Hill into millionaires. We know that South Central Los Angeles is a bit rough despite never having been there or read about it in a book. We know what goes on in Indian Slums and that New Zealand is really Middle Earth. We have all been down the Grand Canal in Venice and ridden a bike or driven through small town USA. We know to be more careful which motels we check into when driving through America and to always investigate noises downstairs in a nightgown carrying a handy candlestick holder or fire poker.

If we travel to a central European city in the winter time we will want to look out for spies exchanging apprehensive glances while dressed in McIntosh coats. We know that if we ever get attacked by a dozen martial arts experts they will come at us one at a time rather than all at once and a simple well timed punch is usually just as good as flamboyant jumping and kicking. We learned to assume the worst when men with black hats ride into town or walk four abreast down the middle of the street. We also know that the worlds worst master criminals, evil geniuses or simple traitors are usually English for some reason. It’s good to learn stuff like this.

Yes, movie people can earn as much money as they like because they earn what they are worth. Their job is to make our lives better and more enjoyable and those that don’t succeed in their job of making our lives better don’t get paid as much as those that do and that’s only fair.

So no, I’m not happy my beloved All Blacks were on the wrong end of the greatest day at Twickenham Stadium but I live in England and I’m happy that my English friends are so happy. Maybe they’ll make a film about it and hopefully it will be more reflective of the reality of the achievements of the day than Clint Eastwood’s movie effort called Invictus about an important rugby match in South Africa. Yes I know! Don’t start me! McQueen

4 replies »

  1. A good read Sandy, but have you noticed how most if not all of the really great actors always played exactly the same part in all their films, albeit, the scenery changed.

    For instance Richard Burton who I could watch and listen to for hours, always had the same tone in his voice, always used the same facial expressions, just the scenes and the clothes changed. Or Robert Shaw, George Clooney or, well most others. Perhaps the exception being Olivier who truly became a different character as required. Is this because they only get parts which suit their natural character or do they impose their natural character on the parts? Dunno.

    • Anthony Hopkins made a pretty good Kiwi motorcycle racer when he had finished being Hannibal Lechter!
      Cheers Jon. My wife will not tolerate any criticism of Richard Burton though. I don’t think she notices what is going on in the background

  2. Good for you, Sandy, for not mentioning the winter vomiting bug.
    As for Invictus, isn’t that what movie legends are for? Re-writing history and giving everyone a jolly good time 🙂
    Do write that post on supper in Lille x.

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