COLUMN: September 27, 2018

Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett with Rihanna, but sadly not the late Sir David Frost

OWING to a series of events so unlikely and yet so narratively fitting that I have submitted my own life for the Booker Prize, I found myself alone and at a loose end in London on a Saturday night.

In theory, I could have stayed in my hotel room and watched television, but the bottom half of my hour glass has more sand in it than the top and is only getting more full. Life, in short, is too short.

And so I headed up West, as in EastEnders.

When I arrived up West I realised I had got myself in over my head and had no idea where to go. I gawped at the screens at Piccadilly Circus and wondered where a man on his own should be.

The fleshpots of Soho held no appeal for me. Also, there aren’t any fleshpots of Soho these days. It’s all £18 burger places and bars full of people who don’t remember dial-up internet, people whose childhood pets are still alive, people who aren’t even aware there’s a bottom half to their hour glass.

I suppose this is an improvement. Instead of places one would be embarrassed to be seen entering, Soho now has places one would be embarrassed to be seen inside.

This, though, was the home of British cinema, and if there is anywhere I am comfortable to be seen on my own it is inside a British cinema. Unfortunately, there was only one film starting nearby in the next half hour, but I had not seen it.

It was the heist movie Ocean’s 8, confusingly the fourth film in the series, following Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13. Presumably the person who named the iterations of Microsoft Windows was put in charge of the numbering.

Keen followers of film will think: “Hang on, Ocean’s 8 came out ages ago. Are you sure you were in the centre of a great world city and not, say, Oswestry?” But the ticket cost £15, so it was definitely in London.

Along with my ticket, which was made out of paper and not, as you might have expected, platinum, I purchased a £4 thimble of chocolate ice cream, and I took my seat prepared for a roller-coaster of entertainment.

In my entire 46 years I have only fallen asleep during two films. The first was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I was only seven years old and a philosophical exploration of artificial intelligence was something of a big ask for me. The second was Ocean’s 8.

Ocean’s 8 is a film that looks as if it were an absolute blast to make, but about 4% of that fun comes across on screen. And I really wanted to like it, because it had an all-woman main cast, and that’s still far too rare.

But, oh, my goodness, it was dull. I suppose it’s possible that the 20-minute section during which I was asleep contained cinematic gold that made the rest of it worthwhile.

However, through bleary eyes, I didn’t care about any of the characters, the heist was low stakes, there was an entire sequence that seemed to be included just because somebody remembered that Sandra Bullock is half-German, and the film only livened up when James Corden appeared.

Imagine that. There’s a film out there starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, AND Rihanna, and the best thing in it is James Corden’s performance, in which he portrays James Corden in a suit. Quite frankly, I should not, while watching a heist movie, want the perpetrators to be caught.

But the worst thing about it was that, because I hadn’t fallen asleep during a film for 39 years, I had become careless about the risks of consuming a thimble of chocolate ice-cream in the darkness.

And as the lights came up, and the credits rolled, I discovered on my white shirt a brown stain the shape of – and half the size of – Wales.

I fastened my jacket over it, but there was still some stain visible. And so, as I sat on the tube, I clutched my jacket as if I were hiding something, which, I suppose, I was.

But you can’t do that when half the viewing public has just been watching Bodyguard and is on high alert. People were looking at me in fear. And so, rather than alarm the carriage, I displayed my embarrassing stain to the world.

I should have stayed in my hotel. Life, in short, is too short.

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