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Archive for May 18th, 2018

by Allan Fish

(UK 1964/1970/1977/1985/1991/1998/2005 715m) DVD1/2

Aka: 7 Up, 7 Plus 7, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, 49 Up

Give me the child for seven years and I shall show you the man

p Michael Apted, Derek Granger, Margaret Bottomley, Steve Morrison, Ruth Pitt, Clair Lewis, Bill Jones, Stephen Lambert d Paul Almond, Michael Apted narrated by Derek Cooper, Wilfrid Thomas, Michael Apted,

Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Simon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, Neil Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Paul Kligerman, Suzanne Lusk, Tony Walker, John Brisby, Peter Davies, Susan Davis, Charles Furneaux, Nicholas Hitchon,

The beginnings were humble, a programme in the weekly TV current affairs show World in Action which wanted to take a look at the executives and shop stewards of the year 2000 by looking at a group of seven year olds. They were taken from a vast range of backgrounds, from highly upper class prep schools to urban primary schools in London and Liverpool, and even to a one room school in the Yorkshire Dales. There was only meant to be one film, but through Michael Apted it became a life’s commitment for both him and his subjects. Every seven years Apted would take a few months out to catch up with them, and filming those who agreed to be filmed.

There is a strange irony that lay at the heart of the show. In looking ahead to the people of 2000, what 7 Up actually did was point the way to the reality TV obsessions of the new millennium. Here was reality TV before the term was invented, and there’s no doubt that for the subjects it has been a double edge sword, priceless as a record, a testimony, a family album on film for posterity, but agonising in its invasions of privacy and in dredging up events in their pasts they would perhaps like to draw a line under. Apted’s intentions are undeniably honourable and he must be commended for his incredible desire to see his baby through, taking time off from his movie career to return to his Granada home every seven years, but one senses a change, a shift in focus of the series in the recent updates. It was once a political notion to see what advantages an upper-class upbringing and education afforded some children. Though the class system remains, the surety of people’s futures does not, and thus the series has, to these eyes, become more interesting as a study of people, of individual concerns, frailties and aspirations, and coming to see whether they realize them or fall short. It even at times changes Apted, and he’s forced to come to terms with the fact that he may not be presenting these people as they are, but as he wants to see them. What we thus get is an enterprise as much uplifting as it is dispiriting, and in coming to realize perhaps the very futility and transience of life itself. As one of our protagonists observes, they just want to know they’ve “left some sort of print, rather than just live out my life.”

One was reminded of Tim’s final words to camera in The Office; “life isn’t about endings, is it? It’s a series of moments…if you turn the camera off, it’s not an ending is it? I’m still here. My life is not over. Come back here in ten years. See how I’m doing then.” That in essence is exactly what 7 Up did. All the names listed above as ‘cast’ members deserve our plaudits, and yet it’s one everyone remembers. Just as in tapestry novels or plays adapted for TV, there’s always one who falls on hard times, and Up’s Charles Stringham, Sebastian Flyte, call him what you will, is Neil Hughes. His descent to homelessness and depression was literally heartbreaking. So imagine my surprise when, only yesterday, I sat down on a train to Blackpool and found Neil diagonally opposite. I didn’t bother him; he’d doubtless had people staring and thinking “aren’t you?…” all his adult life. He looked fidgety, melancholy, fingering in his pocket for a half-eaten Mars bar, taking only one bite before replacing it. I got up to get off ten minutes later without saying a word, but as I passed him, while he was looking out of the window and not even noticing I was even there, I thought to myself “you’re an inspiration.” You can keep your directors and stars on the red carpet, none of them would be travelling standard class. I’d seen a real hero, and that was more than enough for me. TV has never been the same since 7 Up.

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by Allan Fish

(USA 2001 701m) DVD1/2

We few, we happy few…

p Mary Richards, Erik Bork, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg d Mikael Salomon, David Leland, Richard Loncraine, Phil Alden Robinson, David Frankel, Tom Hanks, Tony To, David Nutter w E.Max Frye, Tom Hanks, Graham Yost, Bruce C.McKenna, Erik Jendresen, Erik Bork book Stephen E.Ambrose ph Remi Adefarasin, Joel J.Ransom ed Oral Norrie Ottey, Billy Fox, John Richards, Frances Parker m Michael Kamen art Anthony Pratt cos Anna Sheppard spc Joss Williams, Angus Bickerton, Mat Beck

Damian Lewis (Maj.Richard D.Winters), Ron Livingston (Capt.Lewis Nixon), Kirk Acevado (SSgt.Joseph Toye), Donnie Wahlberg (2nd Lt.C.Carwood Lipton), Matthew Settle (Capt.Ronald Spiers), Rick Warden (1st Lt.Harry Welsh). Frank John Hughes (Ssgt.William ‘Wild Bill’ Guarnere), David Schwimmer (Capt.Herbert Sobel), Michael Cudlitz (Sgt.Denver Bull Randleman), Marc Warren (Pvt.Albert Blithe), Colin Hanks (2nd Lt.Henry Jones), Dale Dye (Col.Robert Sink), Scott Grimes (TSgt Donald Malarkey), Dexter Fletcher (SSgt John Martin), Rick Gomez (Sgt.George Luz), Nolan Hemmings (Sgt.Charles ‘Chuck’ Grant), James McAvoy (Pvt.James Miller), Simon Pegg (1st Sgt.William Evans), Tom Hanks (British officer),

The Shakespearean title reference to this magnificent series could hardly be better chosen. Three years after the release of his over-praised Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg produced this epic adaptation of Stephen Ambrose’s best-selling true story. The tale of Easy Company, in the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, from their days training in late 1943, through Normandy, Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, the invasion of Germany, the liberation of the death camps and the final infiltration of Berchtesgarten.

On one hand the series is undoubtedly a conventional one, and memories of many films and series gone by flood back to the memory. A simple tale of one company of soldiers through the last eighteen months of the war and the following twelve, is told over ten episodes detailing different events during the conflict, and detailing how various men died or were affected by what they saw. However, the fact that everything we see actually happened – a feeling grasped from the first moment with each episode being begun with talk from the real-life veterans – gives it its own sense of not just gravitas but immediacy. To be perfectly honest, Saving Private Ryan is a total embarrassment in comparison, a strictly routine film that trivializes everything it touches.

Just take the individual factors that contributed to the series’ success; the use of such talented directors as Richard (Richard III) Loncraine and Phil Alden (Field of Dreams) Robinson; the magnificent career-best score from the late Michael Kamen (who even managed to perfectly incorporate several popular and classical themes, none more so than a sublime use of Purcell during the liberation of the death camp in episode 9), as inspirational as so many similar themes are saccharine; magnificent designs from unsung master Anthony Pratt (many of them recreated on 1,100-plus acres of an airfield in Hertfordshire). Not to mention the cast, heroes to a man; Fletcher, Wahlberg, Settle, Gomez, Acevado, Cudlitz, Grimes and Hughes were all merely perfect, Livingston never better than as Lewis Nixon, and superb cameos from a very un-Friends Schwimmer and the ever-excellent Warren. At its heart, though, as he was heart of the company, is Lewis, as the loyal, heroic Dick Winters, exhibiting the same sort of integral integrity that once was the realm of Gary Cooper, and like many Englishmen in the cast, never betraying his Anglo-origins. Yet this is not about heroes, and not about nationalism, for in many ways the series itself, and the men who form its core set of characters, are encapsulated in the farewell speech delivered by a German general to his surrendered troops. Yet the last word is saved for one of the real-life veterans who recounts on how he was asked by his grandson whether he was a hero in the war and he replied “no…but I served in a company of heroes.” No-one who saw Band of Brothers would ever argue.

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