Monday, 3 October 2011

That was the week that was (26 September - 2 October) - Part Two

I have to confess that there was a slight fib in my previous post. I never got round to watching another film last night (instead I caught up on the latest episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Fresh Meat), so there are just two movies left to wrap up my coverage of last week's films.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

Michael Radford directed this adaptation of George Orwell's classic novel, which chronicles everyman Winston Smith's attempts to survive in a alternate version of England in which a totalitarian regime has taken control of every aspect of society. Smith (played here by John Hurt) works in the Ministry of Truth; his job entails rewriting the previous editions of the governing Party's official newspaper to ensure that there is no record of the Party ever having been in the wrong. The England governed by the Party in 1984 is a drab, bleak place in which society has been divided into a rigid hierarchical structure. Members of the Inner Party live in comparative comfort and are able to indulge in the occasional luxury, but members of the Outer Party like Smith are forced to live in crumbling tower blocks, with their actions subject to constant scrutiny from videoscreens at home and at work. It's an existence almost as horrific as being forced to watch all 11 seasons of Big Brother back to back with only Davina McCall for company. Winston's life is changed when he meets Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), a free spirited young woman who flouts the Party's restrictions on fraternising with members of the opposite sex. This love affair can only ever end badly for Winston, as the Party has agents of the Thought Police scattered all over the city, and he will soon end up in the Ministry of Love, at the mercy of the torturers led by Inner Party bigwig O'Brien (Richard Burton). This is a fine adaptation of Orwell's (even better) novel. While not everything in the book makes it to the big screen, Michael Radford does an excellent job of creating a suitably grey, drab, city in which the populace cower in fear under the all seeing eyes of Big Brother. John Hurt and Richard Burton are particularly good in the key roles of Winston Smith and O'Brien; Burton, in his last screen role, is chilling as the outwardly placid face of evil. It might not quite be doubleplusgood, brother, but it's certainly highly watchable.

Rating: 8/10

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Another film from the mid eighties, though this one is far lighter in tone. Chevy Chase heads the cast as a family man intent on driving his wife and teenaged kids from Chicago to 'Walley World' in LA for their annual holiday. Of course, the journey doesn't go too smoothly... the family have to put up with an encounter with their redneck relations, getting lost in the desert and the death of an elderly family member en route, amongst other things. Despite being a little dated now, the film certainly has its moments. It probably won't live long in the memory - to be honest, I'd forgotten half of the plot points writing this now (and I only saw it yesterday), but I have to admit I laughed out loud a quite a few times. Chevy Chase's mugging for the camera can be a bit much, but he can also be very funny. I was also impressed by how far the film was prepared to go in search of a laugh - the end sequence, in which Chase forces John Candy at gun point to give him a tour of Walley World being a case in point. I'm not sure if Hollywood would allow that sort of thing to go on in a 'family' comedy these days.

Rating: 7/10

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