Three Surprising Things We Learned from the Movies in 2014


The Waffen SS were rubbish soldiers

Though generally held to be the most feared and effective fighting troops of the Second World War, the Waffen SS were not averse to making elementary mistakes. In 1945, for example, as the Allied forces advanced into Germany, an entire SS battalion was reduced virtually to platoon strength by a single disabled Sherman tank.

Foolishly, instead of taking out the tank’s skylined machine gunner as he wreaked havoc on their ranks with a .30 cal machine gun, they instead adopted the novel tactic of running around in circles screaming like girls, refusing to take cover, and completely forgetting – at least till it was much too late – that they had at their disposal both Panzerfaust rocket launchers and sniper rifles.

This inglorious moment in the SS’s brief history was captured in a film called Fury, so named because of the intense irritation it caused among the war buffs who had gone to see the film lured by misleading rumours that it was actually a pretty accurate depiction of the realities of combat.

You can polish a turd


Mockingjay – the third in The Hunger Games trilogy –  is almost certainly one of the worst novels ever written. It’s especially disappointing given that its two predecessors, the first one especially, were so good. They worked first because of their delightful hot-teens-killing-one-another-in-a-variety-of-cruel-and-unusual-ways Battle-Royale-style premise; and second because they were the perfect Libertarianism 101 for Generation Y.

The effete, decadent, rapacious Capitol sucking, vampire-like, on the productive sector of the economy (the various Districts) is, of course, an only mildly exaggerated version of what Obama and his gilded cronies are doing to America from their Babylonian stronghold of Washington DC. Unfortunately, in book III author Suzanne Collins loses it completely: it basically comprises heroine Katniss Everdeen going into a massive teenage sulk, whingeing a lot, and expecting us to care – which we don’t – whether or not she’s going to choose the wet-blanket love interest or the other one. Then presumably it ends, though God knows how, because I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.

The film version, though: amazingly it’s bearable. More than bearable. Especially that nice scene by the lake where Jennifer Lawrence breaks into that pretty folk song.


Watching paint dry is (almost) quite interesting, if you’re in the mood….


Ext. The Thames, nr. Rotherhithe, 1838.

A paddle-wheel steam-tug, with a tall, black, uncannily familiar smokestack is pulling what looks possibly quite like a wooden, Napoleonic-war era warship with, if you were to hazard a guess, a French-sounding name, which may have taken part in a battle or two. The scene gives the viewer an eerie sense of deja vu. Perhaps the occupants of this slender rowing boat now scudding across the water can give us a clue.

Man in hat: ‘pon my soul, that is a tragic sight. One of Nelson’s last ships-of-the-line being pulled to its final resting place. What say you Mr Turner?

Mr Turner: Grunt.

Other man in hat: Why, ’tis the kind of capital spectacle that should be immortalised on canvas!

Mr Turner: Snoaarkk.

Fat, jolly woman: Oh, Billy, Billy, I think I know just the man as’d do this fine scene justice.

Mr Turner: Gorraarr Burp Schlurrppp.

Camera pans from rowing boat, back to tug-boat and poignant sailing ship, lingering on the scene for so long it feels like we’re looking at a painting, or maybe an extended version of the director’s cut of Lawrence of Arabia where Omar Sharif takes a full three hours to emerge from the desert, as opposed to two hours fifty five minutes.

Mr Turner: Snore.