Gilbey on Film: Highlights of 2011

What to look forward to in the year ahead, plus a few sneak previews.

What to look forward to in the year ahead, plus a few sneak previews.

Of the three films I singled out this time last year as titles I was particularly looking forward to seeing in 2010, one was moderately interesting but deeply flawed (The Killer Inside Me), another was a well-liked romp that hardly anyone went to see (Scott Pilgrim Vs the World) and the third ended up on DVD after unfairly scathing reviews and only a few days in cinemas (Gentlemen Broncos). So now, I'm casting my net wider. Surely one of the films below is going to go down well . . .

The Fighter

The unpredictable genius David O Russell (Three Kings) returns after the folly/triumph (delete as applicable) of I Heart Huckabees with a drama about a boxer (Mark Wahlberg) and his junkie brother (Christian Bale), who is also his coach. Just when you thought you'd seen everything Bale could do . . . (4 February)

Two in the Wave

A documentary about Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut; there's also a Truffaut season coming up at the BFI Southbank in February. (11 February)

Archipelago

The second film from Joanna Hogg, director of the marvellous Unrelated. Something tells me it's not going to be a screwball comedy. (4 March)

Restless

Gus Van Sant's first film since the Oscar-winning Milk stars Henry Hopper (son of Dennis) and Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) as a crazy couple of mixed-up kids. He attends strangers' funerals! She's terminally ill! The trailer looks . . . cute. (11 March)

Ballast

I've deliberately avoided reading anything much about this 2008 US indie set in the Mississippi Delta but have still managed to notice the waves of acclaim and respect it has received. (18 March)

Attack the Block

Joe Cornish, one half of Adam & Joe, already deserves a place in film history for his alternative theme for Quantum of Solace. This year, he has writing credits on two pictures: Attack the Block (8 April), which also marks his directing debut, is an alien-invasion movie shot in Elephant and Castle, south London. It's not to be confused with Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (26 October) a motion-capture adaptation of Hergé, co-written by Cornish, Edgar Wright and Doctor Who's Steven Moffat.

Source Code

The second feature from Duncan Jones, director of Moon. No further enticement necessary, surely. (22 April)

The Tree of Life

Do I even need to mention that Terrence Malick has a new film out? Have a butcher's at the trailer, which is typically sumptuous, if ever-so-slightly redolent of a Malick pastiche, or the product of a computer programme that can generate its own trailers for imaginary Malick movies. The film, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, is likely to premiere at Cannes before going on release soon after. It's the director's first since 2005's The New World but the six-year wait has been a mere toilet break compared to the two decades that elapsed between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line. (May/June/anyone's guess)

Cowboys and Aliens

If this looks like a straight-faced Wild Wild West, that shouldn't preclude the chances of it being thrilling -- if you're going to trust any director with making a decent popcorn movie these days, it should be Jon Favreau (especially after Zathura and the first Iron Man). (12 August)

We Need to Talk About Kevin

All hail the return of Lynne Ramsay, with this adaptation of Lionel Shriver's provocative novel. Starring Tilda Swinton and John C Reilly as the parents of a boy gone ferociously astray. (2 September)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (16 September),Wuthering Heights and One Day (both 30 September)

Three literary adaptations to get the mouth (and, in two cases, the eyes) watering. TTSS is directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) and stars Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch , Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Stephen Graham -- every decent British actor, more or less, working today. The Brontë adaptation is by Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank), who has attracted attention for the not-at-all controversial move of actually reading what the text says and casting a non-Caucasian actor as Heathcliff (that's newcomer James Howson). Meanwhile, One Day stars Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway as two university pals glimpsed on the same day each year over a two-decade period. Lone Scherfig (An Education) directs, David Nicholls adapts his own novel. I gobbled up the book -- didn't you?

On the Road

Walter Salles is still working on his film version of Jack Kerouac's Beat bible, starring Sam Riley (also to be seen in another literary adaptation, Brighton Rock, out in February), but it should be released before the end of the year.

There. I got all the way to the end of my 2011 list without admitting that I was looking forward to The Green Hornet.

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

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Beware of tea: the cuppa has started wars and ruined lives

. . . and it once led F Scott Fitzgerald to humiliate himself.

A drink sustains me – one that steams companionably as I write. It is hot, amber and fragranced differently from any wine; nor does it have wine’s capacity to soften and blur. I’ve never understood how the great drunks of literature, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and their like, ever put anything on the page more worthwhile than a self-involved howl, though even Hemingway apparently finished the day’s writing before beginning the day’s drinking.

Tea is more kindly, or so I’d always thought. Those aromatic leaves, black or green, rolled and dried and oxidised, have some of wine’s artistry but none of its danger. Even their exoticism has waned, from a Chinese rarity (“froth of the liquid jade”), for which 17th-century English traders were made to pay in solid silver, to a product that can be found dirt cheap on supermarket shelves.

There are even home-grown teas now. The Tregothnan estate in Cornwall has supplemented its ornamental rhododendrons and camellias with their relative camellia sinensis, the tea plant, while Dalreoch in the Scottish Highlands grows a white (that is, lightly oxidised) tea, which is smoked using wood from the surrounding birch plantations. Tellingly, this local version is priced as steeply as the imported rarity once was.

I enjoy a simple, solitary mug, but I also appreciate communal tea-drinking – the delicate tea warmed with water at 85°C (a little higher for sturdier black blends), the teapot and china, the pourer volunteering to be “mother”, as if this were a liquid that could nurture. But in reality, tea is not so gentle.

Those long-ago English traders disliked haemorrhaging silver, so they started exporting opium to China from India and paying with that. This was a fabulous success, unless you happened to be Chinese. In 1839, a commissioner attempted to clamp down on the illegal and harmful trade, and the result was the Opium Wars, which the Chinese lost. “Gunboat diplomacy” – a phrase that surely constitutes froth of a different kind – won England a great deal of silver, a 150-year lease on Hong Kong and an open tea market. China received a potful of humiliation that may eventually have helped spark the Communist Revolution. As many of us have recently realised, there is nothing like economic mortification to galvanise a nation to kick its leaders.

Later, the tea bush was planted in India, Ceylon and elsewhere, and the fragrant but bitter brew for the upper classes became a ubiquitous fuel. But not an entirely sweet one: just as the opium trade ensured our tea’s arrival in the pot, the slave trade sweetened it in the cup. Even today, conditions for tea workers in places such as Assam in north-east India are often appalling.

Scott Fitzgerald also had tea trouble. When invited round by Edith Wharton, he frothed the liquid jade so assiduously with booze beforehand and risqué conversation during (a story about an American tourist couple staying unawares in a Paris bordello) that he was nearly as badly humiliated as those 19th-century Chinese. Wharton, unshocked, merely wondered aloud what the couple had done in the bordello and afterwards pronounced the entire occasion “awful”.

Some would blame his alcoholic preliminaries, but I’m not so sure. Tea has started wars and ruined lives; we should be wary of its consolations. On that sober note, I reach for the corkscrew and allow the subject to drive me softly, beguilingly, to drink.

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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