The War with Fruit

Ill-informed, irritable defiance. I’ve got loads. Do you want any? It does me absolutely no good at all.

Come to me with a well thought out plan that might save money, time or my life, and explain that plan to me reasonably and in a calm tone of voice and for some reason I will feel an irresistible urge to disagree and to try and prove you wrong, however vast my ignorance. It’s a disease I tell you.

Take the National Health Service’s Five A Day campaign in which we are encouraged to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. Who could possibly disagree with that? Well, me for a long time apparently.

My arguments weren’t even arguments. Just an impotent shake of the fist at someone I thought was telling me what to do and a few sarcastic comments about the Fruit Police.

In a massive recent personal climb-down however I have come to accept that the whole of the NHS is right and I am wrong. In fact they deserve a bloody medal for having to wear a cheerful face every day whilst telling the thickies of the world (me) that two litres of Cherry Coke and 500g of Pickled Onion Monster Munch or Frazzles are not as nutritious as a fruit platter, say, or a nice vegetable stir fry.

So I’m on message now. I like vegetables and I like fruit, but bloody hell fruit’s a struggle isn’t it?

The guidelines are that for the magic five-a-day spell to work in warding off cardiovascular disease and “some” cancer then you have to have a mixture of fruit and veg. No getting by on just strawberries for instance.

This is OK, understandable even, but for the single male shopper who has permanently foregone relationships with women on account of their persistently cruel and mendacious ways it presents a bit of a dilemma. I mean I can purchase a big pile of assorted fruit and then watch weeping as my fructose empire dissolves into blue fur over the space of a week before I get a chance to eat half of it. Or I can buy small amounts of fruit which, by definition, aren’t varied.

Plus, if I’m walking to and from the fruit monger (Tesco in my case) the vastness of some fruit makes the transportation unfeasible. Pineapples are lovely, but wrangling them home and then eating them is like herding and then skinning porcupines.

Once upon a time, when I was buying a melon in Tesco the checkout person, who was just trying to be helpful, noticed that they were Buy One Get One Free. “You’d better go and get another,” she said. Waving off my feeble protestations that I didn’t want another she sat as the queue ground to a halt and I, wracked with humiliation, went back to get another melon.

I had gone in a proud man simply looking for some fruit. I came out looking like an ill-advised Katie Price tribute act. I might have been crying.

And I ended up throwing the second melon away after I’d carried it all the way home.

A sexy fruit lady earlier today.

Current compromise: dried mixed fruit and those plastic trays of pre-prepared fresh fruit, but there’s a stack of plastic waste getting generated this way.

***

Three films quickly.

Starcrash is magnificent: a logic-fucking Italian Star Wars rip-off from 1979 that looks like it was scripted on the hoof. The director Luigi Cozzi (or Lewis Coates as he internationalised himself) would later enhance his career with Contamination (1980) a gooey Alien hack job, and the 1983 version of Hercules with Lou Ferrigno and Sybil Danning.

I adore this kind of filmmaking, but only the Italians seem to do it properly.

There is an American crime writer, one of the best working today, called James Ellroy. His idiom is to interpolate fictional characters into real events (the Black Dahlia murder case, Cuba, the JFK assassination) and have his whole oeuvre stand as an alternative dark history of the USA in the second half of the 20th Century. It’s majestic stuff, scrupulously researched but, even though a lot of it has to do with the film industry, the books do not lend themselves to screen adaptation.

Curtis Hanson just about got away with it in L.A. Confidential, though it’s an insipid experience compared to the source novel. Brian De Palma however did not get away with it in The Black Dahlia. In fact I specifically remember thinking as I watched De Palma’s effort unspool over too long a part of my life, “This is the sort of movie you would get if you let a bunch of eight year old kids watch L.A. Confidential and then filmed them the next day acting it out in the playground.”

And that’s what you get with Starcrash. A luridly coloured collection of things the writers and director remembered liking about Star Wars cobbled together with an effects budget of $30,000 (not that much even in 1979) and the narrative sensibility of a kid hepped up on Refreshers and Red Kola.

But this, as I keep stressing, is all to my liking when the Italians do it. We live in an era of commodified entertainment where the question is never “What is your film like?” but is always “What film is your film like?” And in that context anything that flouts story-telling convention, received acting wisdom or even basic cinematographic competence is something I find interesting.

At one point, just as things seem lost for the heroes, the Emperor orders his flagship to “stop the flow of time!” which it does, duly allowing our guys to escape. The only problem, as the Emperor explains, is that he can only stop the flow of time for three minutes.

Ummmmmm…

Caroline Munro is your contextualiser (if she’s in a film it must be 1971-1979) and ruddy marvellous she is too. Two years earlier she had been unchivalrously blown up in a helicopter by Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me. Two years later she would be co-hosting YTV’s unfathomable game show 3-2-1 with Ted Rogers. I think I love her.

There’s an inappropriately fierce-looking comedy robot sidekick, a lush John Barry score (obtained pretty much by deception) and Christopher Plummer and David Hasselhoff playing father and son. What are you waiting for?

Night Of The Comet written and directed by Thom Eberhardt in 1984 is an entirely lovable enterprise. It has a reputation as a lost classic, and on one viewing I’m going to go along with that.

A passing comet wipes out the world’s population leaving two valley girls, a trucker and a bunch of scientists to fight their way through zombied-up Los Angeles. The trucker, incidentally, is played by Robert Beltran who would go on to play the biro-faced Chakotay in Star Trek: Voyager.

The micro-budget is eked out heroically. Some of the early shots of a deserted L.A. are as thoroughly disconcerting as the deserted shots of London in 28 Days Later.

The script is tight and witty, the actors are wonderful and the whole thing is as evocative of the 80s as Beverly Hills Cop, Weird Science, Young Guns and Lost Boys. Why this is not seen as a key 80s text is beyond me. It’s mega!

Buffalo Soldiers (2001) came as a mild disappointment after the high concept adrenalin rushes described above. Perhaps it’s my fault for bringing too much in the way of expectation to the film, but it does seem like a minor work.

American soldiers, based in West Germany at the time the Berlin Wall was coming down, indulge in black-market, pharmacological misadventures. Consciously or subconsciously referencing MASH and Kelly’s Heroes the film staggers all over the place tonally. It isn’t serious enough to care about. It isn’t anarchic enough to enjoy.

And if you’re going to have a moral centre to your film, best not to have it played by the implacable, unsettling Joaquin Phoenix.

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