My Own Private Michael Sheen Season

I love Michael Sheen.  I can’t get enough of the man.  His little face, his brilliant acting, that cheeky grin that can say ‘I’m a champion’ one moment and ‘I’m in misery’ the next.  The man is a chameleon, a vessel for weird and wonderful Britons of the last hundred years.  His deployment in so many iconic roles recently has been inspired.  A truly great British actor.

So it follows that I should host my own Michael Sheen Season!  I’d like to call this my Sheen Season but that could be confusing (not that I’d begrudge anyone a Charlie or Martin season).  I have to admit this wasn’t planned very carefully.  It’s rather been an organic exploration testifying to the addictive property of the actor’s presence and work – you just want to go back for more.

Front/Nixon

Most recently for us it’s been Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon.  This has been one of those big films that everyone cool says is great – a bit like Good Night and Good Luck – critically accclaimed, intelligent, big.  It always takes me a while to get round to watching these.  Maybe it’s War and Peace syndrome except on a small scale with movies: a big committment for a Friday night!  Anyhow, we watched it and loved it.

Sheen was great as hedonistic David Frost.  We felt that Frank Langella’s Nixon was something of a caricature, but maybe this role demanded a bit of overplaying.  Nixon has been caricatured so many times since his presidency that it’s the caricature that everyone remembers anyway.  It was the right choice, because we forgot about Langella quickly and focused on his Nixon instead.  A great, entertaining film that gives you just enough information on the background so that you can learn and enjoy.  And Sheen?  Perfect!  The role doesn’t stretch him hugely, but that’s the role.

Kenneth Williams: Fantabulosa

Before Frost/Nixon it was Fantabulosa.  Aired by BBC4 (I missed it and rented the DVD – worth it!) this drama depicting the adult life of Kenneth Williams is stunning.  The writing felt just a little slow and clumsey at the very beginning, but the story unravels fantastically and manages to be dark, tense, uncomfortable and funny, like the man.  Playing both the young man and ageing Williams, Sheen is camp, delerious, mentally and physically ill, and miserable.  This finished on BBC iPlayer but it’s all over youtube.  Here’s one of my favourite sections (it’s worth waiting until around 5 minutes in to see the brilliant, hideously awkward ‘love’ scene – be warned, not one for the kids).  In my opinion this is Sheen at his very best:

The Deal; The Queen

Sheen has played Tony Blair twice.  I would summarise these as Nasty Ambitious Blair in the 2003 TV drama The Deal and Great Guy Blair in The Queen.  He’s best known for the latter, but I prefer the Nasty Blair of The Deal because its focus is on Blair himself and it’s a more thorough exploration of the man.  And he’s portrayed as a nasty git!  In any case, Sheen gets quite the accolade from me for doing two different Blairs, each one great.

The Blair character promises a lot more screen time.  We’re still waiting for War Criminal Blair, but I suspect that can only be done once the outcome of the current Iraq Inquiry is known and Blair is retired and we have a little distance from it.  Perhaps Pierce Brosnan’s ex-Prime-Minister in Polanski’s The Ghost will take us part of the way there.  I haven’t seen it but I don’t think a character played by Brosnan who merely alludes to a Blair-type figure is a sufficient third part of this trilogy.  There’s a great movie in the Blair story yet.

Wilde

And last but not least in my Season, we must revisit Wilde (1997).  Sheen in a love scene with Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde?  Must be done!  Ealier roles such as this promised just what we have now:  a fantastic, developed actor with a great CV, screen presence and versatility.  And tonnes of potential yet.  Look at him there, snogging Fry! (Again, NOT for the kids!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4mTcelHf5s&feature=related

Anyone have any other recommendations?  I still haven’t seen The Damned United due to my football-schmutball attitude, but I must get over that!

To Blog or not to Blog, to Save the Planet and Other Such Clichés

There’s been a lot of talk recently about diaries.  The BBC gave us a whole season on the subject, with illuminating programming which revisited the diary of Anne Frank, Roger Casement’s terrifically scandalous ‘Black Diaries’ and the undeniably fascinating journals of Kenneth Williams (pictured), among many others. 

Whether the concern is historical, such as with The Diaries of Tennessee Williams on Radio 4, or espousing the merits of writing one’s own and tips for so doing, exemplified in the Dear Diary series, the message is pretty clear: we like diaries and we should all write one.

And then there are blogs – the public, showy-offy version.  To say that blogs are de rigueur these days is so obviously an understatement that I needn’t even bother listing off recent examples; there are too many anyway.   I’ll take it that you’re convinced. 

But aside from settling on what’s worth reading, we quickly reach a problem when confronted by the plethora of blogs now online – a neurotic and especially modern problem.  What value is there in setting up yet another one, taking up that little bit more space, making the internet one blog more cluttered than it was before?  Surely one could adequately fulfil one’s sacred duty to the improvement of the internet simply by abstaining from the whole business, just as one might help the environment by laying off the beef or staying at home more (in the cold with the lights off, of course)?  Simply put, is the best kind of blog these days one that is never started?

Well, aside from the obvious ‘just make it a good blog’ solution to this conundrum, I’m going by the principle given to me by the Beeb at the license fee-payers’ expense: that it’s good to write a diary, and by that I understand blogs too. 

Anyone (read: me) who’s concerned that blogging has become clichéd and that we are overexposed to the habit should wonder whether all of those ladies and gentlemen of yore who gave us all the great diaries spent a lot of time worrying about such issues when they were writing.  I suggest that they didn’t.  Nor should we.  And besides, those yore-folk were too busy worrying about wars, God, untreatable diseases and the illegality of homosexuality. 

And as a final word in this little ode to the blog, I correct myself:  blogs might well be public and ‘showy-offy’, but there is no reason to suppose that diaries are any less so.  I grew up reading other people’s widely published diaries, for God’s sake.  So, thanks Leither Magazine for setting up this timely blogging service which I now benefit from.

And so I begin yet another one, but this one doesn’t waste paper; instead, they have a big engine in California or somewhere that powers hundreds of computers.  Oh Hell, we can’t win!  At least they’re more efficient with home heating over there!

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