Lucy Vickery

Between the lines

Lucy Vickery presents the latest competition

In Competition No. 2534 you were invited to submit an extract from a speech given by the presenter of a Lifetime Achievement award at the Oscars in which the discerning listener can detect that the speaker is not as ‘delighted’ for the recipient as they purport to be.

The film industry is clearly a cut-throat business and it is safe to assume that beneath the veneer of back-slapping and mutual congratulation at awards ceremonies runs an undercurrent of bitter rivalry. We can only imagine the outrage and vitriol that lurks behind the rictus smiles and brave applause of the losers. Hats off, then, to Bill Murray who, at the 2004 Oscars, turned his back on this collective hypocrisy and sat stony-faced, resolutely refusing to clap as fellow nominee Sean Penn collected his award.

I was looking for speeches filled with the double-edged and back-handed in which insults masquerade as compliments. A commendation to Alan Millard, but Adrian Fry nailed it nicely and nets the bonus fiver. His fellow winners, who can only grit their teeth and smile, get £25 apiece.

In an age when cinema can seem merely entertaining, Ken Loach demonstrates that it can be something quite other. Valiantly ignoring the cinéaste dogma ‘show, not tell’, Loach remains unafraid to tell, tell and tell again. Whether searingly indicting secondary modern education in Kes, the Spanish Civil War in Land and Freedom or the subcontracting arrangements of trackside railway workers in The Navigators, his gift is not merely to chronicle the despair underpinning late capitalism, but to enable audiences actually to experience it. His is a cinema in which substance has triumphed over style, and it’s this substance that has held film-makers and critics in thrall for almost half a century. Loach believes passionately that cinema can change the world; its failure to change only compelling him to redouble his efforts.

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