Britain is no longer the quaint, old-fashioned idyll of Ealing Studios. It’s a place better represented by concrete than crinoline these days. These days, Britons don’t Look Back in Anger; they Look Forward to Anger. Impotent rage is like a bookmark, separating out the week. Perhaps it’s a legacy of Thatcherism. Maybe it’s a post-colonial bellyache. But the tea cosy world of Alastair Sim is long gone. British cinema isn’t something you’d show to your granny. You’re lucky if you come away from a British film without a thorn in your eye. On paper, Paddy Considine’s bleak drama, Tyrannosaur, seems like a case in point. After hearing the premise, I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t make me want to slit my wrists.
Jim Henson was like a father to me. He was everywhere in the 80s; a puppet didn’t appear on TV or in film without Henson’s imprimatur. My images of childhood are mostly foam or fur-covered, thanks to him. I’m eternally grateful that I grew up in the halcyon days before CGI, when puppets were king. The kind of wholesome anarchy Jim favoured was paradise for kids. He was Walt Disney without the evil. His most famous creations, The Muppets, didn’t have that weird, repressed quality you find in Mickey Mouse. They’re free-wheeling, loose-limbed, all-too-human. Kermit the Frog is wonderfully frayed. You can’t feel so tenderly about pixels, or a drawing. There’s a vacuum of sentiment. Jim Henson’s legacy is tactile.
It’s funny how so many sad films are labelled comedies. There’s a real gap in the movie lexicon under sad. You’ve got weepies, of course. And ubiquitous dramas. But both those end with either death or change. There isn’t a genre where the protagonist just stumbles on, helpless. Movies aren’t meant to be like life that way. Audiences don’t want to be told that loneliness and defeat can triumph. We can cope with death on-screen. A sad life is infinitely more hellish. Maybe that’s why movie marketing departments prefer the word comedy. Like Jason Reitman’s new comedy, Young Adult. It’s the saddest film of the year. Watching it, you come to realise: a woman without intuition is a heart-breaker, alright. But not in a good way.