I’ve had boats since I was a teen, and it’s a frustrating relationship because they are expensive and you never use them enough. Nothing’s better than getting out in the ocean where the fish are biggest, and dropping your line 80 feet down to them, with the ocean swells creating a gentle rocking motion. And nothing’s more frustrating than when you bring a guest who is rendered green by those swells, usually just when the tide is perfect and the big fish start biting. You head in, a great day is redefined as something else, and you remember why you prefer to go alone.
This reminds me of all the reports I’ve been reading on Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, which has been in danger of being defined not by its cinematic achievement, but rather by the number of faint-hearted folks who, reports suggest, have been dropping like canaries in a coal mine. I saw the film at its Toronto International Film Festival premiere, and have rarely felt as moved by a movie, especially when Boyle and James Franco were joined onstage by hiker Aron Ralston. But the audience continues to be part of the storyline: at last Thursday’s Academy screening, the crowd reaction was huge, but press focus was on a single moviegoer who fainted (apparently not from the amputation scene, but a health issue). I’m told a Producers Guild screening also had a body count. Reviewers weren’t squeamish – The New York Times called the film “nearly flawless” – and the limited-run opening weekend sellouts and high per screen averages give hope that the film won’t ultimately be defined by the thud of falling audience members. Boyle, though, might have some explaining to do to his fellow Brits when he gets home to barnstorm for BAFTAs. At last Thursday’s Academy screening, the Manchester-born director called cinema “primarily a U.S.-based art form,” and said that while British actors are wonderful, “there is a level of brilliance and naturalism that James exhibited, in the American tradition, that Marlon Brando pioneered with Streetcar, that was extraordinary.” Colin Firth, who will certainly compete against Franco for his performance in The King’s Speech, might feel differently about the British vs. American acting argument. Certainly, the Brits have been plying the acting trade longer.