22 July 2007

In praise of Paul Giamatti

Feeling a bit guilty about not posting anything for 10 days so let's go for two in one night. Irregular but prolific...

I always dig 'in praise of...' in The Guardian. This is a paragraph they have at the bottom of the comment column where the leader writer offers a good word in support of something - or someone - they think is worthy of such positive analysis. Partly I dig it because one of my friends writes some of them, and he did perhaps the greatest ever 'in praise of' - on the live Guilty Pleasures concert that BBC London DJ Sean Rowley put together at the Hackney Empire back in April.

Anyway, if I was in the lucky (unlucky?) position of having to write an 'in praise of', it would have to be the actor Paul Giamatti. I've watched one and a half films with him in the lead role this weekend - American Splendor, which a mate of mine was kind enough to lend me on DVD, and Sideways, which is currently on Film4, and he is absolutely brilliant in both of them, in completely different roles. This is the kind of versatility that all actors probably should be in command of, but sadly very few are. It's kind of weird that I've never noticed Giamatti in any movie before this - even though he's been in loads - but then I'm extremely unobservant, so that's probably it.

American Splendor deserves a blog post all of its own - and indeed there is a strong argument for setting up a 'reviews' site to allow me to write at greater length (and in a more structured manner) about some of the key films, records etc of the current and previous eras. The site would be very old skool - the sort of thing that was springing up on the web in 1995/96. If I get round to it it'll be a great project. But you should give Splendor a shot if you're looking for a genuinely off-beat and original film which is nonetheless very accessible. Fantastic stuff.

Sideways, based on the 60% or so of it that I've seen, is interesting because it's the first film I've seen which offers a detailed treatment of what it's like to be a wine buff. It's not a film about wine but the mechanics of wine tasting play a key role. It's obviously a key influence on that BBC documentary that featured Oz Clarke (the Paul Daniels of the wine world) and the guy from Top Gear - May? [can't remember his first name. Sorry but whenever I think about Top Gear I feel a strong urge to go out and purchase a rifle just to kill or maim Jeremy Clarkson. Then I remember that sadly, this isn't the USA.] The Clarke/May documentary was surprisingly good, mainly because Clarke was an unbelievable prat and May just wanted to drink some bloody wine. He couldn't stand Clarke's bullshit and he was right. If May was in charge of Top Gear rather than Clarkson and they made it a programme about what the best wine for drink-driving was, it might be worth watching. Just.

Anyway, Sideways has given me the idea for a nice little British movie which I'm sure I could get Lottery funding for. The plot would be quite similar to Sideways except that instead of California, we're in East Anglia, and instead of visiting vineyards, we're going to breweries and beer festivals. Best of all I already know about half a dozen people who would be perfectly cast for a film like this as they would essentially be playing themselves. How do I apply for Lottery money for such a project?

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