What use is a blog if I can’t share with my readers things that I think they will enjoy.
Because our time is finite, how much of it do we waste watching and reading things that are unworthy of our precious time?
And especially so with films or movies.
I have a theory that to enjoy a terrific movie, it is likely that you will need to sit through at least ten pedestrian films and some complete duds.
In this vein, a blog should also warn its readers of movies to avoid, as chronicled by me when I had the misfortune to watch The Favourite.
And now on my way home from Dubai – sitting on an airbus A380 again – I have just watched Ford v Ferrari.
Before I explain why I am commending this film, I should establish some context.
I like cars but I do not do cars. Not really.
I admire them. I get their beauty and their allure. Their lines, design and their aerodynamics. But I’ve never been a horse-power guy.
V8 means nothing to me.
It did when I was young. Growing up, I imagined one day that I would drive a Porsche like all self-respecting successful people.
But now, not-so-much. I drive an electric car and I get more of a kick plugging my car in - than I would smoking someone at the traffic lights.
As witnessed just recently in Stuttgart where I accompanied Tom to the Porsche factory with Sam and Harry and the irrepressible Granddad Bob – who it appears has managed to preserve his car/speed mojo.
The prospect of driving the new and thrilling Porsche Taycan on the famous race Hockenheim race track is a dream come true for many men. Indeed, I was excited at the prospect but it quickly waned.
The boys did laps with relish – while I was satisfied with just a single lap and then happy to watch.
It seems that - life in the slow lane - is my life mantra.
I don’t watch Formula 1 I have never watched a single episode of Top Gear, nor a Fast and Furious film and with my clean drivers licence, choosing Ford v Ferrari from the extensive Emirates film library might seem incongruous.
I confess that star power here had some bearing on my choice and why movie stars command such attention and income.
Matt Damon I have liked in many films and Christian Bale resides confidently in the A list - and the two of them got me over the line because the film’s title certainly didn’t appeal...
...Ford v Ferrari
Hardly a fair fight, I thought.
One marque is a racing car that delivers sports stars to stadiums and the other delivers the weekly shop and sales executives to their appointments.
A bit like Manchester United v Enfield Town – or Brazil v Azerbaijan - the outcome of which we already know and so why bother watching? Although this being a Hollywood film and Ford being an American behemoth, we can make educated guesses easily enough.
Great films need to be many things and in order, I would argue…
They need to be great stories that entertain and keep us guessing: Hidden Figures leaps to mind. The Shawshank Redemption of course. It’s a Wonderful Life...
They need to be interesting. Better if we learn something watching a film. Apollo 13.
Thrilling. Enemy of the State.
Funny? Not necessarily so but a few laughs can’t hurt.
Tense and gripping – like Fury. The Runaway Jury. Primal Fear. Mississippi Burning.
Touching and thought provoking – a moral spine, like Holes (one of my all-time favourite films)
And brilliantly concluded.
A great film has to end well. The final ten minutes are the most important part of any film or novel. This is the payback by the director/author to the viewer/reader for their time. And too often, this payback is not high enough.
A great film is one you are happy to watch again. Before going to Dubai, I sat down with Sam and Nikki to watch (again) A Few Good Men.
More recently I thoroughly enjoyed Sully – which didn’t appeal to me immediately because I knew the outcome - and so I am glad I did. The story is compelling and the ending is marvellous where the stuffed suits get exposed. It’s a film I will watch a again.
Ford v Ferrari ticks many of the above boxes.
I have almost zero regard for awards. In something so subjective, to pick a best film or a best actor is largely a nonsense and also fatally undermined by patronage and politics.
I am rarely interested in a film because of a purported great performance by an actor. Often it is great roles that win awards but the actors who receive them. That said, Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men and Tom Cruise for that matter – overlooked that year for a nod and more fuel to my argument.
But Matt Damon and Christian Bale are worthy of their star status in this movie. Both are entirely convincing.
Christian Bale plays Ken Miles – an English maverick racing car driver pitted against corporate Ivy League America - he does an outstanding job. Perhaps it is just to my ear, but English accents in American movies can sometimes jar – and indeed, some do in this film – but not Bale’s. I knew nothing of Ken Miles the driver. Until this movie, I had never heard of this ‘legend’ that he undoubtedly is. A cranky, eccentric obsessive. His brusque personality grew on me and combined with his skill and inhuman levels of bravery, I was quickly rooting for him. His love for his son and how incompatible this was with his perilous career choice.
Matt Damon is also in his element. Although feted and a genuine movie star - we keep hearing about Leo and Brad - but Damon is one of Hollywood’s gems and his career will extend for however long he keeps his desire.
And a word also about the script. As a writer (sort of) I feel foolish now for not flagging the screenplay as another essential component of a great film.
My Cousin Vinny by Dale Launer – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by er… Dale Launer are two wonderful screenplays – as is The Social Network by some bloke called Aaron Sorkin.
Jez Butterworth is a UK writer of some considerable pedigree. We used to share a literary agent in my more heady days and I expect Jez hasn’t been let go like I was.
Co-written by Butterworth, the screenplay is tight, continually providing great lines and moments for the actors and the viewers.
Even the undercard story is captivating. The battle/race off the track between the self-important suits and the people who actually build and race these awesome machines and in terrifying circumstances.
In my last blog – I commended Brian Regan to you all. A comedian who does things that few comedians can.
And now I offer up Ford v Ferrari.
Saving Private Ryan. As Good as it Gets. Seven. Back to the Future…
It is difficult to make a great film.
It must be because so many people are trying to do it – and yet, so few succeed. I should know because I am one of them and why I got to write a book called Eclipsed.
Ford v Ferrari might not be up there with some of the greats films listed in this blog.
But it’s a thrilling watch and a great story. Brilliantly told and masterfully made. Great credit also to the director, James Mangold. Great job, man.
What more do you want?
With this virus that has descended on us all, it could be that we find ourselves with time on our hands and confined to our homes for the foreseeable - so we are going to need to fill our time and you could do a lot worse than enjoy this movie.
And as to something to read, well, The Fruit Bowl will be available...
Full disclaimer – with such a vested interest in the film world now (via my progeny) in the interest of impartiality, I decided not to list any films which members of the Holland family (Tom) have had a hand in – whether I think they are worthy of inclusion or not.
Feel free to comment here with what films you consider great - and why.
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