Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The People's Queen - A Rant.

by Edwin Hesselthwite

We at LMWN would not usually deign to honour The Oscars, and particularly their nomination stages, with discussion. However, there is something about this years awards that have stuck themselves deep inside my, Edwin's personally, craw. Judi Dench, Britain's most internationally celebrated actress is up for - yet another - Oscar for playing (drum roll please): Judi Dench.

Right... Ok... Just a second...

Please bare with me while I burst into flames of righteous fury...

So.. "She's done important work on the stage", "she's the biggest draw in the West End", well maybe she is - but her international reputation has nothing to do with that. Barely 100 000 people total will have seen her collected works as she treads the boards of Shaftesbury Avenue - this is not what has got her a list of honours as long as your arm and an honorary doctorate at The University of Durham. No, that reputation is based on her work on the telly, and the last 10 years of her cinematic career.

15 years ago she was working for the BBC making lame SitCom vehicles like "As Time Goes By" and "A Fine Romance". Then boom, she hits the big screen and in the last decade has been nominated for The Oscars 8 times. 8 nominations for queens, upper class authority figures, and noble Englishwomen easing gently into old age. Yes! It's the same darn character again, and again, and again.. Austerity, Regality, Virginity with tedious moments of touching sentimentality as she demonstrates her ability to shed one tiny tear. As if anything with repressed emotion is soulful, anything with shouting is dramatic, and anything with a female aristocratic despot (preferably dead and Saxe-Coburg) is somehow significant.

Is this clever? Is this good female acting? Does this deserve for one second to be considered in the same pantheon as Kathy Bates's role in Misery?

So... Christmas was coming, was it? Let's throw Judi another honour to give the day we close the deal on this years peerage contracts a bit of celebrity gloss.. Already an MBE? Make her an OBE, already an OBE? Make her a Dame. Already a Dame? Invent some "Companion of Honour" nonsense to give to the inflated harridan, that'll keep the prole magazines happy as Lord Levy raises us a bit of cash.

And old Elizabeth II loves every second of it, because by going through all this ceremony every year with these proxy royals (Dench who I expect nothing else of, and Mirren and Smith who should be ashamed of themselves) she underpins the Englishness of the occasion, being more queen than The Queen. What better support for our dysfunctional monarchial clan can you get? Elizabeth II appears ill educated and somewhat baffled when talking in public? Contract out the job to Dench, she'll underpin The Firm and help us gloss over all of those underpaid servants.

Each year they stand in a line and shake hands. Two months later Denchy runs over to America and swaps the British Luvvies for the glowing hair and permatans of LA, lending their clothes show some gravitas. The camera focuses on her for 30 seconds, she gives a look of intense authority, then they pass the award to someone else.

When you cant get Liz, Wills, Katie or Charlie... There is always Judi to prop up the creaking old edifice.


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