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May 29, 2010

Michael Caine, Conservative (Sorta)

Not to Step On Dennis Hopper's Obituary, But... I've been looking for some reason to link this interview with Tory and Cameron-supporter Michael Caine.

Gun to my head, forcing me to choose, he's my favorite all-time actor.

He says he's supporting conservatives just because he supported Labor previously, but Hopper said something like that too, and I'm not sure if this isn't just to cushion the blow to his lefty fans.

Several interesting things in the interview:

AVC: [Violent vigilatne movie "Harry Brown," Caine's next film] has drawn criticism for presenting what some have called a “Daily Mail take” on things—that it’s tabloid fear-mongering.

MC: That was exactly the reaction. Because one of the things is that if you’re a Socialist newspaper, well, the Socialists have been in power for 12 years, and these are the very poorest people in England, and this is what’s happened to them. So you’ve got to say it’s a load of crap. [Laughs.]

AVC: How did Harry Brown influence your recent coming out as an official spokesman for the Conservative Party?

MC: That came out because they actually had a charity that was trying to take care of these people. This wasn’t something that [Conservative Party leader David] Cameron was going to do if he became Prime Minister; it’s been up and running for ages, and Cameron is part of it. But there’s also another reason—that is, that I don’t belong to any political party. If anybody’s been in too long, I vote for the next lot. [The Labour Party] has been in for three terms now, and I always think that it’s too long. I voted for Maggie Thatcher, and when she’d been in for two terms, I voted for Tony Blair. Now he’s been in too long, and we wound up with Gordon Brown. We didn’t even vote for him. So I thought I’d vote for Cameron this time. But then I told him, “You’ve only got two terms, as well.”

AVC: You told him that to his face?

MC: Yeah, I did. I think we should all vote like that. Otherwise we’re just the slaves of any political party. We should vote for the welfare of the country, not for the welfare of the party.


AVC: But do you think the movie might actually encourage an “us against them” mentality rather than “we should help these people”? The audience I saw it with cheered every time you killed someone.

MC: No, I don’t think so at all, because in the cinema the people we’re killing are really bad people. Let’s put it another way: 80 percent of any gang is not there to attack someone. They’re there so no one will attack them. We’re aiming at that 80 percent that you could possibly save, if you want to put it that way. There are quite a high percentage of people in there who are sociopaths, psychopaths, or hardened criminals who you’re not going to reeducate. All we want to do is reeducate the ones who are too scared. [Laughs.]


AVC: You’ve spent a good chunk of your career playing likeable criminals, killers, and cads. What’s your secret to making those kinds of characters appealing?

MC: Well, nobody’s a criminal to himself. You see, I never play a criminal like a bad person. It’s like the con man in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: He’s fooling old ladies for their money and all that. But he never saw himself as [a criminal]. He just saw himself as some kind of romantic figure, which is funny.

AVC: Do you find the more amoral a character, the more interesting it is to play?

MC: Oh yeah, they are more interesting to play. I don’t want to play saints. I don’t think I’d know how to play one, because I’m not one. [Laughs.]

AVC: When you were first coming up, you represented the rough-and-tumble, Cockney, working-class man—the antithesis to more “proper” British heroes. Do you think that those class divisions still exist in pop culture?

MC: No. We broke those down in the ’60s. You have to remember that before people like me came along, the only time you ever saw a Cockney in the movie was either as a thug or a subservient servant of some kind. You never saw [Cockney] heroes until John Osborne wrote Look Back In Anger—the first working-class hero I remember. For instance, in England, all war films were about officers, which is why my lot—my young guys—we all watched American war films. All American war films are about privates. From Here To Eternity, The Naked And The Dead—it’s all about privates. Every British war film was about officers. But I eventually wound up in a play called The Long And The Short And The Tall, which was the first play for the stage ever written about private soldiers. So that was where we broke the class thing down.

I really like that last bit-- Britain really does have that tradition of only writing books and making movies about the upper class (or at least "respectable" middle class).

That's why Robin Hood -- as obvious and iconic a member of the yeomanry, or proto-middle class, as there ever was in all of history (or historic fiction)-- was of course transformed into Lord of Loxley in plays, and then movies, a very dumb conceit that continues to the present day.

And is what's wrong (among dozens and dozens of other things) with the new Ridley Scott Robin Hood -- yeah, sort of, he's a yeoman, but then they still want to make him Lord of Loxley and so have a big boring convoluted patch of the movie which makes him become Lord of Loxley by invitation and deception, and also then they establish that he seems to be the son of a baron or some other nobleman.

It spends the first half hour establishing him as a yeoman commoner, and then the next hour fighting itself to back-door him into the nobility. I felt like Russel Crowe had wanted to make him a yeoman, and Ridley Scott wanted to make him a lord, yet again (or vice versa), and the compromise they found was to make him both, which wouldn't be that objectionable, except they wasted my time for over an hour with this wishy-washy partly-one-but-really-the-other nonsense.

Worst movie I ever saw in the theater -- don't see Robin Hood. I could not wait for it to be over, and I had that feeling within 50 minutes.

It was so bad I could never get down to a proper review, because I just kept noodling in my head all the things that were fundamentally wrong with it, and there were too many to detail.

See Iron Man 2 (more of the same, almost as good; not great, but neither was the first one, actually) and, yes, MacGruber, which is very funny and well done, but is not for everyone -- it earns every inch of its R rating with filthy jokes and scatological humor.

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posted by Ace at 04:53 PM

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