Saturday, December 29, 2007

Guest Blogger: Steve Fitzpatrick

Just so you know, each year on the podcast UK DVD Review I do a poll whose format is a chart countdown but whose sole purpose is to get you ten great DVD recommendations. I ask for votes and it's all tabulated away merrily in Excel, but I am fully blatant about how I'm more interested in passion for a DVD than I am for just weight of numbers. So each year I ask for a vote - and a reason why you're voting for this or that particular title.

But for the 2007 poll, I got more tremendously considered reasons than ever before. I felt bad that I was going to reduce people's fine work to a two-liner, so I said I'd stop hoarding these great emails. Over the next little while, I'm going to show you what people showed me: the best reasons for loving the best DVDs.

First up, Steve Fitzpatrick. I'd tell you what he voted for but his email was one that worked through his arguments nicely and I'm just going to shut up.



From: Steve Fitzpatrick


Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, sadly in our household, not so much. If a film or programme is branded as worthy it means it is usually beautifully filmed and themes and ideas are fully explored in all their minutiae, characters developed extensively (preferably in flash-back or flash-forward) dialogue is crafted so carefully each word carries a thousand meanings. Usually when you get to the end you discover there has been no plot, and what you have watched has left you mystified and confused as to what has happened. The phrase pretentious billooks (got to be careful of the profanity check) never entered my head.

Steven Poliakoff is usually worthy - yes, I have just watched Capturing Mary - did it show?

That's why with eager anticipation I sat down to watch Die Hard 4.0. and instantly put it to the top of my list of DVD's this year. While it has no plot either it contains the necessary essentials to while away a winters evening. Chases, one liners, explosions, a bit of gun play, more one liners and even more explosions. What more do you need? It even has Bruce looking moody, bruised and torn. No character development, no plot, but at least at the end you know where you have been. I don't think I'll be giving away too much to tell you that the baddy gets it.

An unworthy, shallow, film then; and definitely my DVD of the year.

I haven't had the chance to watch Oceans 13 yet but, fun caper it undoubtedly will be, it doesn't have the Bruce factor.


In a chance conversation I remembered Pierrepoint, recently re released, about the career of Albert Pierrepoint Britain's most "successful" hangman. This is a film I saw at the cinema, it had a limited release and needed extensive research to find where it was playing. It left a huge mark on me, I talked about it endlessly for weeks after and clamoured for its DVD release. It is rare for me to revisit a DVD more than a couple of times, but this was a film I would play to anyone given the merest excuse, and watched over and over. I can't say "enjoyed" it, the subject matter doesn't lend itself to enjoyment, but I was captivated by it. Each viewing giving a different nuance, a different feeling, about the subject matter and still left me tense and shocked by what I saw.

It is, however beautifully acted, and the characters well explored. Timothy Spall is exceptional in the lead role as the film follows Pierepoint's career, from applying for the job of hangman to his resignation, after some 600 executions, in the late 1950's.

It shows a man, dedicated to his work, and applying the job dignity and compassion to the prisoner sentenced to death, yet a man totally dedicated to being the best at his job.

It shows the effect the work had on him. Albert Pierrepoint kept his government job to himself, and no-one knew what he did, not even his wife until the newspapers revealed his identity as a "hero" following the executions of the Nazi hierarchy at Nuremburg to his vilification as the country increasingly turned against capital punishment.

The one thing this film doesn't do is comment. It is neither pro nor anti capital punishment. It does not glorify or vilify. It presents just the facts (taken from Pierrepoint's autobiography) and leaves the viewer to make up their own minds. It does however provoke debate, and I have seen people's attitude to capital punishment both re-inforced or reversed after viewing.

The subject matter does not make for an enjoyable film. It is however compelling and thought provoking. In other words, worthy. And I mean that as the highest compliment.

I wholehearted commend this worthy film as my DVD of the year.



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