Making space in my brain to love new films


A DAD'S LIFE: Why do new books and movies not excite me anymore?

JANUARY DOESN’T have much going for it apart from the launch of this season’s Oscar hopefuls and a pile of Christmas gift books to work through.

Although I’m particularly looking forward to 127 Hours, the films usually disappoint. Seriously, Titanic won 11 Oscars, the Academy should have been a laughing stock ever since, but still we sit up and take notice.

Making waves this year we have The King’s Speech, where Colin Firth gets to play handsome and wounded and sensitive and charming and eventually inspiring. Sounds suspiciously like Colin Firth in Fever Pitch, Pride and Prejudice, even Love, Actually.

So, the chances are Colin Firth will win an Oscar for playing Colin Firth and we’ll all stay up late to watch his sensitive, charming and ultimately inspiring acceptance speech.

I’ll go to the movie, probably enjoy it and yet have totally forgotten it within 24 hours.

It’ll be discussed at a party in a few years and people will go, “Yeah, it was your man, not Hugh Grant, the other one, won the Oscar, didn’t he?” and we’ll know it was about a king and a speech. No, I won’t be watching the awards this year.

Books though are different, aren’t they?

Because they’re worthy and the people who write them don’t get paid millions and because we feel better pontificating in public on a “buke” we read rather than another crumby movie.

My January pile is of standard length this year, wobbling precariously beside my bed. But due to housekeeping difficulties otherwise known as domestic distress, last year’s pile is still in situ alongside. I was able to take a peek at it and see if anything made much of a lasting impact and, sadly, the answer is no.

Neither movies nor books are gaining permanent access into my memory in the way that say Goodfellas or The Buddha of Suburbia did back when my memory was a fresh thing as opposed to the addled murk it has become.

I wonder is this because it’s harder to get enthused as you get older due to the creeping growth of cynicism, or do your standards raise with age in the belief that whatever is touted as new you’ve seen before?

My standards haven’t increased in any area and I fight a daily battle to keep cynicism in check or it would be impossible to get out of the scratch in the morning, so maybe it’s down to a simple lack of space in the cranial region.

For new stuff to gain permanent entry, it has to bludgeon out some of the old material in residence. If 127 Hoursis any good, it’ll have to overpower a nostalgia for the Emilio Estevez classic Stakeoutto have any chance of being remembered in 2012.

Armed with this theory, I returned to the new book pile and had a peek at what might make a dent. One change this year is an increase in non-fiction, which I tend to shy away from.

This paper’s Mr O’Toole is in there, as is a little thing called Nurture Shockby Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, which promises to tell me why everything I think about raising my children is wrong.

Right, Messrs Bronson and Merriman, if you know what I think about parenting, please let me know for a start because if there is any topic more shifting and malleable than figuring out how to keep your kids safe, then I have yet to unearth it.

The first chapter points out that praising your kids incessantly for what amounts to remembering to breathe can be detrimental. A kid will sniff out unworthy praise, disregard it and then become suspicious of any that comes his or her way.

Really? I paid 10 quid for this “insight” that any parent who spends more than an hour a week with their offspring would assume every other parent knows? Really? There must be more, it’s a New York Timesbestseller for God’s sake.

A quick flick on confirms the suspicion that here is a book for parents who see their kids as projects rather than humans and who then get concerned when little Johnny isn’t making A-grades in kindergarten.

Shock, horror, chapter two informs me that kids lie to get what they want and their parents have trouble acceptin g this fact. If you’re a parent who hasn’t noticed your kid telling fibs yet, pull your head out of your ass now. Then go buy this book. Then consult with your friends on the existence of Oz the Great and Powerful.

If this is as good as it gets, I think Stephen King’s Misery is safe in my temporal lobe for the time being.