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DudeDuke Rooster

Via GroovyVic comes the horrifying word that the Coen brothers are remaking True Grit, with Jeff Bridges in the role of Rooster Cogburn.

Oh, sure.  Why not? I mean, what does anything matter anymore?

– – Sound of flask cap being hastily unscrewed – –

But how is it even possible to make such a film these days?  What made Rooster Cogburn (and so many other Wayne characters) so good was that under the boozy, eccentric, cantankerous exterior the audience knew that there was a man of honor, integrity and morality, a  -dare I say it? – hero.

But we live in a post-modern age, in which all those old-fashioned notions have been largely jettisoned.  Under the boozy, eccentric exterior of characters like the Dude (and other Coen brother creations) lies….what? Ambivalence? Relativism? Nihilism?  There’s really no distinction.   

So I really don’t see how this works.

Plus, you don’t mess with a classic.  Just ask Tom Hanks, who is still pulling out splinters of shrapnel from his bombed attempt to “update” The Ladykillers.

Well, Robbo has finally started the Reconquista of the garden, doing some cutting and pulling this morning.   I fear, though, that in the end it’s going to take me just as long to throw all the Buddleia out of my little plot as it did the Spaniards to throw out the Moops Moors.

On the kitchen front, we are now at the stage where we are I am painting and installing the covers on all the light switches and electrical outlets.   It’s been quite some time now since I last did a paint job and I’d forgotten all about the heady rush of huffing all those fumes.  Whoa.

Damian Thompson puts the boot into Stephen Fry:

Every year the Edenbridge Bonfire in Kent sets fire to a celebrity effigy on Guy Fawkes’ Night. Previous victims include John Prescott, Anne Robinson and Saddam Hussein. This time it’s Jordan. Bad choice. Mine would be Stephen Fry. Yup, let him fry. Or, rather, melt, since this particular guy would be made of wobbly, self-pitying blancmange.

I think I’d call it “burning at the stake” rather than a bonfire, because that is what Catholics do, according to the caricature Stephen Fry has constructed of us. That’s when they’re not herding Jews into Auschwitz, which, you may recall, was Fry’s imaginative reconstruction of the Nazi atrocity. Polish “rightwing Catholicism” was to blame, he argued, from the perspective of “those of us who know a little history”. Later, he apologised to the Polish people (though I’ve been unable to locate any apology to Catholics). “I mean, what was I thinking? Well, as I say, I wasn’t. The words just formed themselves in a line in my head, as words will,” he wrote on his blog.

How very typical of Stephen Fry: he says or does something stupid, then issues an apology which, though fulsome, is intended to leave his critics loving him even more than before he screwed up. Please, Stephen, spare us. Not just the apology, but the winsome references to “words” tumbling about and lining up and whatever else they do as you’re rolling them fruitily around your mouth before they pop out smugly.

Fry could give masterclasses in the art of dishing it out but not taking it. If he comes out with something wildly offensive, then he says “silly old me” and moves on – but when critics savage him or even take the mickey out of his tweets then we’re treated to the hissiest fit in luvviedom.

And the critics do have a go at him because, let’s face it, he spreads himself awfully thin these days, under the impression that if you can chortle your way through a few sub-Wildean epigrams then you can also shine as an essayist, stage actor, poet, documentary maker, novelist and authority on cricket, new technology and bipolar disorder. The truth is that very clever people (of whom Fry is one) can attempt all these things, but they end up doing nothing quite as well as the person who sticks to doing one thing – say (to pick an example at random) playing a doctor in a cult American television series. Look what happened to Clive James.

Fry claims to hold the record for saying the word “f***” on television, which is appropriate, when you think about it, because that’s what people increasingly say when they turn on the set and hear the dreaded squidgy chuckle. Enough! Next year, people of Edenbridge, set fire to an effigy of Stephen Fry. Something tells me he won’t enjoy the joke, and the words tumbling out of his mouth will be fruity indeed.


I own several of Fry’s earlier novels, which I found somewhat amusing, plus an autobiography that, although certainly not lacking in objectionable material, was nonetheless quite moving in places. (Fry was a sneak and a wastrel in his teenage years and showed every sign of heading straight for the bottom.  Nonetheless, he managed to pull himself together.)  But I must confess that I have not paid any attention to him in some time.  Evidently, he has contracted a rayther severe case of Oscar Wilde Syndrome, the primary symptom of which is believing that an artiste is free to make an ass of himself in public with impunity.

It seems Dr. Thompson would beg to differ.


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November 2009