Monthly Archives: February 2006

Autopsies Can Be Fun

I went to see Alien Autopsy last week. Not a real autopsy, obviously, but the new film starring Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, Britain’s most popular light entertainment presenters. However, my paralysing fear of the vast, rumbling legal machines of Warner Bros pictures means I’m not going to say a word about what I thought of it. I watched an unfinished print, so brand-new it practically had the cellophane still on it, and if I breathe one word of judgement Warners will crucify me for reviewing it so early.

I’m scared of Warners. They’re bigger than me.

Instead I’ll talk about Ant and Dec, whom I had the good fortune to interview the next day. For anyone who doesn’t know these guys, they’ve been around for donkeys’ years (though they’re only just into their 30s) hosting everything from Pop Idol to I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Here! Either you love ’em or you hate ’em. I fall into the former category – I think they’re genuinely funny, witty presenters and love them to bits. The prospect of interviewing them was too good to pass up, if only because I knew it’d be a good old giggle. And I was right!

The hotel booked to host the interview (which I won’t name, because Warners wouldn’t want me to – did I mention they’re bigger than me?) was ridiculously over-priced, kitschy and daft, the kind of place rich people stay in when they’re bored with The Dorchester and fancy some fun. The guys were in the penthouse suite and the lift up to the room had me in fits – kitted out with holograms of stars and planets like a seven year-old’s bedroom. Tasteful? Not on your nelly. Expensive? You betcha!

The penthouse was far more classy, though a giant plastic egg was perched inexplicably next to one of the chairs in a gesture of “I cost a lot of money, therefore I’m tasteful” defiance.

“That’s gonna hatch in a minute,” mused Dec, as we took our seats for the interview.

“Hope it’s not got bird flu,” I replied. “Nice penthouse, this, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, we’ve been having a good poke around it,” said Ant, grinning. “We’ve looked in all the nooks and crannies.”

“Okay, so tell us why you’ve made a movie… oh, hang on. That noise you just heard? That wasn’t me farting, it was this leather chair.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Ant. “We believe you.”

As interviews go, this one was rather informal.

For the record, Alien Autopsy features Ant and Dec playing two real-life guys who faked footage of an alien autopsy back in 1995 and made a fortune. I remember watching it at the time, knowing it was a hoax, but was fascinated nevertheless. It’s funny what gets made into movies, isn’t it? And they co-star with Bill Pullman and Harry Dean Stanton, if you don’t mind. Films are weird

Anyway, the interview went really well; never have I spoken to anyone who giggled as much as these guys and it was seriously infectious. How they host their shows without cracking up every five seconds, I have no idea. Although, admittedly, half the joy of I’m A Celebrity is in watching them try to keep a straight face… particularly during the bush tucker trials.

Which has just made me think of spiders. Urgh.

So, I arrived back in the office half an hour later to be met by our Reviews Editor wearing his best “I need a favour” face.

“There’s a screening at 1pm that nobody can make,” he said. “Can you go? It’s a romantic comedy called Failure To Launch.”

“I hate romantic comedies,” I replied. “Who’s in it? Anyone sexy?”

“Matthew McCaunaghey. And Sarah Jessica Parker.”

“Erm…”

“And that guy from Doctor Who,” cried our Staff Writer suddenly, looking inspired. “David Tennant. And, er, he’s not wearing a shirt in it!”

“Ewan McGregor’s in it too,” continued the Reviews Editor. “Naked. In fact, they’re both naked. I think they have a sex scene that goes on for a while.”

“With lots of songs by Neil Finn playing over it.”

“So. Wanna go?”

I was so touched by their elaborate ploy to get me interested that I went to see the film. If only half of what they’d said had been true, it would’ve been the best film ever.

But it wasn’t. Rotten swizz.

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Golden Boy

I forgot to mention in my last post: one of the most amazing things on display at the TE Lawrence exhibition was the Academy Award won by David Lean for directing Lawrence Of Arabia.

An Oscar! Right there in front of me! I pressed my nose to the glass and got as close as I could – after all, I may never be as near to one again.

I had a good look at his little golden buttocks, too. They’re very pert.

I suspect Oscar must work out between awards seasons.

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Arabian Heights

On Saturday, to treat myself after Total Film’ s latest godawful deadline, I pootled along to the Imperial War Museum to check out their current Lawrence of Arabia exhibition. I’ve been interested in TE Lawrence since I was a teenager, reading book after book on the enigmatic man once described as the “uncrowned King of Arabia” (a title he no doubt thought was embarrassing, flippant and inaccurate, but that’s the media for you). I’ve never considered myself an expert – and, with my rotten memory, I’m always forgetting important facts and figures – but it wasn’t until I was in the exhibition that I realised that yes, actually, I must be one after all. I knew his entire life story already, barely had to read any of the cards highlighting each segment of his story and was able to pick up on important facts the exhibition had missed.

Although, seeing as most of those omitted facts focused on his private life, there’s a chance the exhibition missed them deliberately. They probably didn’t want to mention Lawrence’s alleged homosexuality, his masochism or his misogyny; the fact that his rape at the hands of a Turk general in the town of Dera’a might not have happened or that, in later years, he paid a man called Bruce to thrash him regularly. Not that any of this makes Lawrence less of an icon – if anything, it makes him more interesting – but when a man has so many sides to his personality it seems odd to present him in only one dimension in such a huge exhibition.

And it really was huge. I’m still reeling from the shock of seeing Lawrence’s desert clothes; the third draft of his incredible book, Seven Pillars Of Wisdom (the first draft was stolen from him at Reading Station as he changed trains; he burnt the second); copies of Pillars that belonged to George V and Winston Churchill; a shopping list for his Arabian army, written out in Lawrence’s tiny, precise script, which proved that they drank a helluva lot of coffee; an enormous, jagged camel saddle made of thick wood that makes you wince for those poor ships of the desert… and the item that really sent a shiver down my spine: the bike Lawrence was riding when he died in 1935. Completely restored, it’s a shiny and beautiful monster. You can understand why he loved it, but the instrument of his death on display amidst so much of his life… well, it was a bit creepy. There were oak leaves scattered nearby, taken from the tree planted by the scene of the accident in Lawrence’s memory. A nice touch.

I came away from the exhibition feeling overwhelmed and have since signed up for a one-day TE Lawrence symposium on 11 March: lectures, discussions, talks… sounds wonderful. I’ll be intrigued to see who attends. Will there be reams of students or hordes of fusty old men? I was the youngest person in the room at the exhibition (which is saying something, if you bear in mind that I’m 34), although the comments book I signed afterwards had entries from visitors as far afield as Kyoto, Venice and Iraq. Lawrence might have been gone for 70 years but he’s still drawing in the crowds.

After the exhibition I met up with Old Man Withers, aka Simon Withers, SFX‘s Production Editor, who I haven’t seen in around a year. We had a really nice chat and wandered around London for a while, avoiding a noisy demonstration in Trafalgar Square against “Islamaphobia” (though they had a point) and partaking of my very first caramel latte. Mmmm. Bet they never had them in Lawrence’s day…

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