On dilemmas and film stars

Last week was pretty epic in its level of interestingness. You can’t complain about a week that begins with a Monday night in the company of famous authors; continues with an evening avec Bishops (ok, maybe that’s not interesting to all, but it is in my world); and concludes on Friday afternoon with half an hour in the company of Robert Redford.

God bless Wittertainment, the BBC and the Sundance London Film Festival – and, most importantly of all, Fridays as days off. Being free on Friday afternoon just over a week ago meant that I was able to listen live to the show (a first, I usually save the podcast for my post vicar school walk home) in response to a tip-off that an exciting announcement was being made. Exciting it was – a live show was taking place the following week, in London, and with Robert Redford. I filled in the form in record time and prayed.

Well, I filled in the form and alerted a fellow fan that they should do the same. Annoyingly, for things like this you’re only allowed 2 tickets and I have two friends who I knew would love to join me. Sadly, the quota filled up too quickly and I was left with the dilemma of which of the two I should take. 

I don’t like difficult decisions at the best of times – this was a bit of a ‘mare. How do you decide between:
Friend 1 – responsible for introducing me to Wittertainment. Never been to a live broadcast. First to know that I stood a good chance of getting tickets.
Friend 2 – massive Wittertainment fan who took me to the Christmas show in 2010 and offered me tickets to last year’s that I couldn’t take up. Took me to The Now Show last month and gave me their spare ticket to World Book Night. Currently storing a lot of my possessions in their home.

See? Tough call. I did what any other sensible person would do – I played them off against each other. Friend 1 said he’d fight Friend 2 ‘to the death’. Friend 2 accepted this challenge, stating that they’d bring peanuts (Friend 1 has a nut allergy). Ultimately though, I went on a ‘first come, first served’ basis – meaning that Friend 1 got it. 

But the guilt was still there and Twitter made it SO much worse. Friday morning’s Twitter stream looked like this:
Me – “Geekily excited about today’s antics. What should one wear to a radio broadcast at a film festival??”
Friend 2 – “not going to be jealous…not going to be jealous…not going to be jealous…not going to be jealous…”
Me: “*Feels bad & struggles to think of suitable response*
Friend 2: “I’m an evangelist, and thus all about the guilt. *mission accomplished* – all is well! Have a great time!”

And then Friend 1 decided to be all gracious and tweet:
“Looking forward to seeing @Wittertainment live at Sundance London today, courtesy of @LizaClutterbuck.” 
Because that didn’t rub her nose in it, not at all…

In the end, my decision was kind of justified in a twist of Christian small world-ness. Another response to my excited tweet was from a fellow trainee vicar who had tickets too. We were right behind him in the queue to get in and it emerged that Vicar School Friend and Friend 1 had once worked together but hadn’t seen each other since. What a coincidence.
Photo from here
Dilemmas and friendship issues aside, it was an excellent afternoon. If someone could find out how Robert Redford has managed to stay so well preserved, and sell it, they could make a heck of a lot of money! He’s 75 and doesn’t look a day over 50. He was great to listen to too (you can download the podcast of the programme here), witty, politically knowledgeable (in the right way), and a great story-teller. I clearly need to have something of a Refordathon in order to fully appreciate his brilliance. (And find some way of making a Clutterbuckathon a possibility – suggestions are welcome.) 

The saving grace of anonymity

[I’m back-dating in an attempt to catch up on posts not written due to illness. Imagine we’re still in 2010…]

Back in September I was introduced to and very quickly became a fan of the Wittertainment podcast – the weekly film review show on Radio 5 hosted by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode. The rather long (2 hours ish) podcast is now my regular soundtrack for Sunday travelling and I eagerly anticipate it every week. While I appreciate the film reviews, what’s especially addictive is the the dynamic of Mayo and Kermode’s relationship and the latter’s superb rants on anything from 3D films, grammar, or projectionists.

Thus, the fact that their Christmas show was to be a specially recorded episode in front of an audience in London presented quite an exciting opportunity – particularly once a colleague had acquired a couple of tickets and offered her spare to me. Watching the show in the flesh was to be a Christmas highlight.

Having listened to a couple of previous shows with audiences I knew that opportunity for participation was high. Often, members of the audience get to provide reviews of the top 10 films, or pass comment upon films generally. My problem was that I’d seen all of two new releases all year (yes, I know, shocking) so if I was going to be able to review anything, I’d need to swiftly go out and watch something likely to turn up in the top 10 – potentially not hard as I still needed to see Harry Potter 7a. However, the onset of the lurgy prevented any cinema going before the big day arrived. Nevermind, I would simply be a silent, enthusiastic observer.

Early observations (while in the bar pre-show) were that the ratio of geeks to non-geeks was high, as was the ratio of men to women – kind of unsurprising I suppose, presumably most film nerds are of a male variety. In amongst such an audience, my level of film knowledge would be towards the lower end of the scale, not to mention the fact that I’d only been a fan of the show for 3 months, so didn’t have all the history either. (In contrast, my companion had podcasts going back years and years – a true fan.) Needless to say, I felt like something of a fraud and resolved to stay silent.

None of this made it any the less fun. As predicted, audience members helped review the top 10 and on reflection, walking up on stage and speaking into a large red mic would have scared the life out of me, so perhaps it was a good thing I’d seen none of the films. There were many laughs, which provided excellent opportunities for me to cough surreptitiously. Then came a moment when I realised that Simon Mayo was stood next to me holding a microphone, poised to ask people for their film picks of the year – and I panicked.

As mentioned above, I’ve only seen two films that were released this year – Toy Story 3 and Africa United. After some quick thinking, I figured I could speak eloquently on the former (after all, I’d only written a blog post about it a few weeks earlier), so that would do – especially as the latter was more of a niche film. One person was asked for their favourite film before me, and what did they say? Toy Story 3 of course. For a few seconds I pondered simply saying Inception (because it’s definitely up there – so I’ve heard) or being dull and repeating the same film. Instead, what I came out with was a slightly pretentious:
“I was going to say Toy Story too, but as he’s just said that, I’ll have to go for Africa United.” 
I’d like to think that in throwing in Africa United I’ll have come across as someone who watches rather more obscure films…wishful thinking?

In typical fashion, I immediately got extremely embarrassed that I’d just spoken out loud in a programme that would be broadcast nationally and turned into a podcast listened to across the world. What if I sounded like a twit? Then I realised, I hadn’t been asked my name. No one would know it was me unless they recognised my voice (difficult, as it was all throaty and non-normal) or if they spotted the rather unusual film combination. Should you be interested, my contribution appears right at the end of the first podcast from Christmas Eve (entitled ‘The Way Back’) available here.

Once I got over my embarrassment, I got on with enjoying the rest of the evening. Though how could you not enjoy an evening spent with Dobby the House Elf, the fabulous Jason Isaacs and the Dodge Brothers playing skiffle style film themes?