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There are no ugly people in Hollywood, and as such the idea of ugging-up a bit for a role has become a "brave" one. It puts you in the awards conversation, as though peeling off some make-up or yellowing your teeth a bit reveals depth. This involves an acknowledgement that the profound is an exception, and I suppose that the industry is therefore preoccupied by surface sheen. For actresses this proposition also suggests that to be beautiful is to be shallow, which is a bit rich, since if they aren't beautiful they aren't allowed in the door. I think Charlize Theron largely transcends this, but she remains most critically celebrated when she's made to look her least pretty.
Over Christmas, my stepsister's husband tried to palm off on me two tickets for An Evening with Hollywood Comedy Legend Chevy Chase at the Hammersmith Apollo, which he could no longer use. He'd paid £65 each. Obviously I wasn't going to take them face value: there was a decent chance it was going to be awful. Then last week he offered me a buy-one-get-one-free deal and the chance to leave a relative out of pocket was too good to pass up, so I went along on Saturday. It disappointed in the most incredible way.
By now the central premise of Armando Iannucci's recent satirical output is clear enough, or has maybe just about been done to death: in politics, everyone's a chancer, making it up on the fly and looking out for number one. In The Death of Stalin there's an extra layer of irony, too: under Communism, there isn't supposed to be a number one to look out for. It's kind of the point.
Time was, you could get a bit of a reaction by saying Adam Sandler was a good actor. You'd be the toast of the cognoscenti, lauded for your brave and rare insight, or at the very least one of those professional contrarians who make film Twitter such a rich and challenging environment. These days the evidence is there and the idea's not controversial: everyone knows he can do it when he can be bothered changing out of his tracksuit. Maybe it's time to think of him a bit differently.
I'm sorry, the old Tom Cruise can't come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because he's DEAD.
There was a time when seeing overtly racist characters on screen was shocking. I can remember real, genuine frustration on watching Mississippi Burning for the first time; actual anger that this happened, and useless, impotent white-saviour frustration that I couldn't do anything about it. Now that there's a global instant news network, events like Charlottesville play out and are documented in real time, and proud, gleefully stupid characters like Christopher Cantwell willingly offer themselves up as celebrity apologists for their empty ideology. So seeing racism on screen doesn't shock me like it used to.
I'd have been cool if I lived in Berlin in the Cold War. You would've been too: we would've smoked constantly and worn elegantly distressed charity-shop peacoats and listened to Bowie in a Lada. Maybe we could've been happy there, you and me.
Since Maudie is a film whose hat hangs largely on its two main performances, and since the critics on the posters are starting to talk about Oscars for them, let's have a word about performances and whether there's any value in qualifying them.
Mandy Moore is on holiday and she's going to do some shark cage diving, despite it being the most nakedly awful idea two skeevy Mexican guys you'd just met in a bar could propose. She is the sort of person who is persuaded by friends to go to Glastonbury, knowing she will spend every minute unable to enjoy it for worrying where her tent is and whether her phone is sufficiently charged, but goes along with the whole grim jamboree because not to would mark her out as "no fun". She is, in short, eminently sensible and exactly like me, except that she actually makes it out of the hotel in the morning, rather than sitting hungover in her pants eating room-service waffles and watching Friends on Mexican TV.
The tech-firm thriller seems to have supplanted the gangster movie as the modern-day American Dream story. Exploit free markets with entrepreneurial spirit, cut a few corners, hubris, rise and fall, regret, redemption. By now I thought we were past the point of techno-cautionary tales which ask whether the internet is a good or a bad thing, largely because the @dog_rates Twitter account has proved beyond all doubt that it is the former, and yet here we are.