Friday, 11 June 2010

Old Age and Treachery.

Some sort of generational sideswipe livened up the otherwise nondescript Glamour Awards this week, when a curmudgeonly Patrick Stewart upbraided presenter James Corden for his slovenly behaviour during recipient's speeches.

Perhaps only the two gentlemen concerned knew what it was really about, but if any deeper luvvie subtext exists, no matter how cringeworthy (for that was undoubtedly the outcome) I wouldn't mind taking a stab at it.

Ever since poor Andrew Sachs stood up to be cunted, the gardening gloves have been off concerning the lack of respect shown the older celebrity generation by the younger upstarts (pretty much mirroring the cosmos as a whole). Battle lines are more easily drawn on these principles now, and I can well remember feeling a heartfelt pang of "good for you, Manuel" when Sachsgate finally blew up in the prankster's faces. That'll teach 'em.

So it's really about art imitating life again, but because this is showbiz, the essentials are more grandiose, the grievances loftier and their enactment far more Machiavellian. All with, of course, a wide-angle helping of audience participation, because that's what it's all about really, isn't it darlings?

Except it didn't quite happen that way here. From that initial position of squirmy banter, the thespian masks soon slipped and something a bit less cosy emerged. It quickly escalated the way I imagine a playground fight would if one of the participants was a fully grown, school-of-life hard knock while the other was just a little fat kid.

But Corden, in fairness, stood his ground, albeit shakily. Recent experience had no doubt taught him that when an old un turns nasty under the spotlight, it's like trying to win a knife fight in a phone box. Subliminally he knows at this point that it's pretty much about damage limitation. One false move and it's the celebrity deadpile. Bang goes the World Cup number one and all the self-deprecating cash-in ads for Slimfast.

Sadly Stewart's fading grey matter failed to capitalise on this neon signpost, in much the same way that an elderly motorist might miss a red light, or a trucker's airhorn and 3000 watt lightshow as they pooter blithely up the M6 the wrong way. "I can see your belly, from way back there," comes the sonorous barb, and you can just imagine Connery and Douglas, Nicholson and Rooney (Mickey, not Wayne) groaning into their Ovaltines.

So I suspect the altercation came off far more suavely in Stewart's mind than it did under the footlights, but then that is the nature of improvisation, a venture perhaps better left ungained without script or direction, or perhaps, as in Sach's case, the benefit of several days hindsight and a shitload of media support.

For Corden, who can do very little wrong of late, this will be one of a few career-defining moments, albeit the sort that in ordinary pleb life finds its way onto Outtake TV or Youtube. That ill-advised go on a fraying tree swing, the pratfall on a wedding dance floor that continues to endear jolly fat folk to the public long after their type two diabetes has kicked in and confined them to carob snacks and sponge baths. Better this though surely than the wilful on-screen baiting of some half-blind old dog, tempted, via frisbee-like misdirection, into the freezing depths of a filthy canal.

Old scores then, we learned, are better settled in that Sachsian, poker-faced mould of "I'll see your hip-swivelling shagboast and raise you a trembly avowal of dwindling standards." That's how old folk micro-manage their faded power, Patrick, but instead you threw out the passive baby with the aggressive bathwater. It was, to paraphrase the sneery young, an 'Epic Fail'.

All that said, I believe there's mileage in this. I would personally love to see the two ends of this spectrum meet again, in organised bouts of shoutier, less formal match-ups.

So how about a semi-delirious Eastwood, for example, shambling at a teary but defiant Shia Lebouef, rasping "Teach you some, respect sonny. The way we did in my day. With a belt buckle."

Or Paul Newman suddenly snapping at some inane quip in the middle of a charity dinner and stoving Jack Black's skull in with a pool ball in a sock? What do you think?

As Erasure and Brando both said: Give a little respect.

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