28 February 2011

A Man's Movie: Any Human Heart


I have a theory why the Academy Awards attract so many viewers from around the world. It's damned near impossible to win a Pulitzer or Nobel Peace Prize but it doesn't take a leap of faith watching the Oscars to think to myself, "You know, had my luck been just a little better...that could be me up there."

It's a fantasy anyone can believe will or could happen. We don't even to have to worry about our acceptance speech. Save for the British, the winners can rarely communicate an unscripted thought much less a brief and humble thanks.


I'm not sure if the Oscar's are getting worse or I'm getting older but, after 30 minutes, I could no longer watch the luckiest people in the world push luck even further. Maybe it's because 4,700 teachers in NYC lose their jobs today. Maybe it's because this country is flat broke. As my stomach turned so did the channel.

I caught the last episode of William Boyd's three part series on PBS, Any Human Heart. I missed the first two episodes but had read the book years ago. I remember two things about the book. One, I didn't want it to end. Two, I couldn't believe Logan Mountstuart wasn't real in what was a book of fiction.

I became a huge fan of Boyd's fiction (another here) but I am convinced Logan is out there somewhere. Probably because he's all of us. With his good luck and bad luck, we follow him from the beginning of his life to the end.

Any Human Heart was unlike any book I've ever read. It makes sense the film is unlike any I've ever seen. Understated and direct, it uses only what any of us have to tell our story. Memory. And as we grow older we look back at our mistakes and our luck and hope to be spared the cans of Bowser.


But if Bowsers is to be -- it's to be. There's a DVD here but all three episodes are available on line until 22 March here. And don't forget the book. It's not about fantasy. It's about a life and how one man becomes what I want to be.

19 comments:

Mom on the Run said...

I have all three episodes on my dvr, but have only watched one. I also have Downton Abbey, but only made it through part of the first episode. I'm having a hard time sympathising with any of the spoiled rotten characters so far (including the nasty help), so I haven't returned to watching it.

This one, though, I liked. Of course Matthew Macfadyen (my favorite Mr. Darcy) might have something to do with it.

The Sluice Box said...

As I watched the three wonderful episodes I kept wondering how a TV show could have the production values of a fully budgeted movie. It was a pleasure to watch. After "Downton Abbey" I'm once again a Masterpiece fan.

I agree with your comment - after the series ended I had to check Wikipedia to see if the main character was real.

www.thesluicebox.com

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Sounds just like the sort of thing for today. 75º and I can't summon the energy to suit up for a run.

I've given up watching the awards. Even the red carpet. We don't even get to the movie house, but wait for the DvD. I miss going to the movies. Don't really miss the awards.

TRVS said...

Have seen bits and pieces of episodes I & II ~~ heartwrenching. Didn't realize there was a book, so thank you.

Fatfriend said...

Right about William Boyd. I read 'An Ice Cream War'at the back of class when I was supposed to be studying for my final professional exams in 1983. Still amazed I passed and still enjoy 'Restless', 'Brazzaville Beach'.... Mean to read 'Stars and Bars'and this latest effort.

Preeminent posting Mr Trad.

Fatfriend said...

P.S. Didn't one of the Clintons, or Kissinger, or Obama win a Nobel 'Peace Prize'? So I'd take the 'Best Director' any time - how much damage has Woody Allen done?

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Agree with you re the ghastliness of Oscars. Energy level rose briefly whilst a shilling Billy Crystal came out on stage to introduce a holographic image of Bob Hope hosting past Oscar ceremonies. Producers must have whisked that up quickly as they watched their Neilsens drop by millions every six seconds. Pa. The. Tic.

I watched the first two episodes of Any Human Heart and will watched DVR's last episode tonight. By the look of last week's previews I have a sinking feeling that Scabius goes all Widmerpool but then again maybe not.

Looking forward to playing Vesper to your Bond.

tintin said...

Tess- Better. He's moved to Guernsey to avoid the tax man. Boyd always manages to take it one step more. Vesper to my Bond. Dear, I've been drinking a lot of Nattie Light lately.

oldominion said...

'A Good Man in Africa' remains at the top of my recommended comedies list. Hard to write comedy, of course, but Boyd excels at it when he wants to.

I picked it up recently for kicks and began to read. Started laughing by the second or third sentence. One of his first books--first?--it's highly recommended.

Sartor Resartus said...

Laurence Olivier, Honorary Oscar: "In the great wealth, the great firmament of your nation's generosities this particular choice may perhaps be found by future generations as a trifle eccentric, but the mere fact of it . . . the prodigal, pure, human kindness of it . . . must be seen as a beautiful star in that firmament which shines upon me at this moment, dazzling me a little, but filling me with warmth of the extraordinary elation, the euphoria that happens to so many of us at the first breath of the majestic glow of a new tomorrow."

Oh dear, oh dear me...

Main Line Sportsman said...

Coincidentally, got hooked on this when I stopped in to visit my Mom and she was watching...damn fine stuff....but I was a tad depressed by the pancreatic cancer followed right up with the guy being hit by a car....

greatzamboni said...

Brother you said it...Franco was stoned and snarky, Anne was, well an actress, not a host. I enjoyed that armadillo bit about the brown shoes, not sure how I missed Boyd, but now I haven't...thanks.
I do love Billy Crystal, he just feels like an uncle, and he makes a brief appearance in Zamboni's current entry...cheers.

greatzamboni said...

just watched the first episode of that.... damn good- "I have nothing against grouse..."

Anonymous said...

Why reward people to pretend to be others? I rather reward people who do real acts that better society.
I think he hits the major points:
http://stuartschneiderman.blogspot.com/2011/02/why-watch-oscars.html

TRAWETS NILTGEOV said...

Franco's allegedly sitting in the director's chair for adaptations of As I Lay Dying and Blood Meridian. I may kill him with my own bare hands before he soils those masterpieces.

Brummagem Joe said...

I caught the last episode too. No contest really between an absolutely brilliant screen rendition of Boyd's novel (which like you I read a few years ago) and the contrived vaporings of the youthful hosts. McFadyen and Broadbent were brilliant as ever and I buy the central conceit of the novel, it's all about your luck. You can shorten the odds a bit (get a good education...the biggest money is in the entertainment and financial industries) but at the end of the day a lot does depend on where you're standing when the music stops and as Keynes observed "In the long run we're all dead." So enjoy it while you can.

old said...

After I read the novel a few years back, I too thought it would make a good movie. Was impressed by the final product. Seems that the British studios and actors are lone sources of quality films these days. Nice to see that Masterpiece Theater seems to have re-invigorated itself with Downton Abbey and Any Human Heart. I am hopeful more will follow.

As per Hollywood, my parents taught us discretion is the better part of valor. However, viewing the third episode of Any Human Heart gave me a compelling reason to eschew watching the freak show know as the Academy Awards!

Scale Worm said...

Some of the best summing up I have read in a long while. I know it is late and all, but as a teacher, well, it sickens me to think how funding is wasted, and worse, what minds will be. Third world nations here we come!

"I'm not sure if the Oscar's are getting worse or I'm getting older but, after 30 minutes, I could no longer watch the luckiest people in the world push luck even further. Maybe it's because 4,700 teachers in NYC lose their jobs today. Maybe it's because this country is flat broke. As my stomach turned so did the channel."

Andrea said...

I watched the first two episodes and have a feeling the book might be better. Logan Mountstuart as played by Matthew Macfadyen is someone for whom I can't summon up any feeling, positive or negative.