So as you know, I really like Stephen Fry – but I have to say that presenting the Baftas wasn’t the best move he ever made. On the face of it, it seems like a good idea – the man is erudite, witty, entertaining and brilliant with language. ‘Who could be better?’ you might think. But no..
To be fair, presenting these award ceremonies has become a game no-one can win: it’s de rigueur nowadays to undercut the whole thing, to take the piss but without actually undermining the mutual admiration society which underpins it. So hosts have to be rude but in a jokey kind of way, as if to say, ‘Yes, we are brilliant but we don’t want to seem it, so we all take the piss out of one another.’ More than that, Fry’s verbal dexterity didn’t hit the right note here. There were lots of Americans in the audience and that kind of cleverness doesn’t play well with them; they see it as yet another form of post-colonial one-upmanship, and besides, the whole thing is so staged; the cameras placed strategically to catch the reactions of the people he’s just insulted (or praised), the smiles of many of them seeming rather fixed and glazed. Fry does best when standing on solid ground, not in the air: when hosting a Fairly Interesting quiz show or doing some serious satirical comedy. But award ceremonies are neither fish nor fowl; they uneasily tread that middle ground between seriousness and satire, and usually do it badly. To try to say ‘Let’s see who won’ in a variety of clever ways (‘let’s see who didn’t write an acceptance speech in vain’) just ends up sounding horribly contrived and in the end I started to see all the features I’d disliked in ‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’ – but magnified.
So why do I watch these things, since I dislike them so much? Well, usually I don’t watch the whole thing, I just dip in and out (can you dip out?) but my main reason for watching is not, clearly, the repartee of the host; nor is it to catch a glimpse of the glitterati – most of which I hardly recognise in evening dress anyway – nor even really to see who wins. No, it’s to catch up with what’s out there; to find out what films have been around, who did what in them and to see a short clip from each. Some I knew, of course, such as The Life of Pi and the Hobbit, but I had only just heard of Argo and there were some interesting foreign-language films which I’ll probably never get to see. But the ratio of interest to sheer squirminess is such that I don’t keep watching long.
Bad move, Fry. Don’t do it again.
Separation of Church and Faith
Now, as to the Pope, I can’t help thinking there’s more to this than meets the eye. You don’t just suddenly wake up one morning and think ‘Ouf! I’m too old. Think I’ll resign today’ – or ‘Ach! Ich bin zu alt. Ich glaube dass heute werde ich pensionieren,’ as he would have thought in his Bavarian brain.
I mean, if you’re thinking along those lines, normally you give people a little heads-up; send out some signals, prepare the ground so people can get used to the idea and start thinking about a successor. You don’t just get up one day and think, ‘Oh – that’s it.’ It’s too Pythonesque.
So I suggest a number of possibilities:
1. He is going senile and wants to avoid screwing up
2. He is going senile and resigning seems like a Brilliant Move
3. Some stuff is about to hit the ventilator and he wants to be out of the way when it does.
5. …that’s it.
I though I had more ideas than that but turns out I don’t. And I’m sorry if any of my Catholic readers feel I’m being less than respectful towards their leader, but I find it hard to respect a bunch of ancient and mostly ultra-conservative men who hold a ridiculous amount of wealth and power: who have, in the past, been responsible for more human rights abuses than a whole conclave of Latin American politicians; and who are in the present day responsible for holding back progress on a massive scale. Every time I look at the Pope I think, ‘What the HELL does this have to do with St Peter of the Bible?’
I have every respect for the Catholic faith – it’s the Catholic church I can’t stand. it needs to change – and fast. So let’s all pray they elect a more progressive Pope next time.
Shrove Tuesday today, folks! So I’ll be whipping up some pancakes later.