England’s Dreaming

Such was my boredom last night that I finally watched The Iron Lady which was not, alas, a tale of a spunky dominatrix at all but rather a bio of Margaret Thatcher. I know, I’m a few years behind but you know how those Netflix envelopes pile up. That and my personal enmity for Thatcher’s politics prevented me from tuning in, despite Meryl’s Oscar. And in truth, the reviews had not been very good.

And…the critics were right. Aside from Streep’s amazing performance and the incomparable Jim Broadbent as her dead-but-he-don’t-know-it husband, it’s a mess of a film, almost amateurish in spots. Not the production values, or the supporting cast, but the weak, 8th-grade-book-report of a script (by Abi Morgan) and the repetitious, lazy montages meant to convey trouble and strife (hey, aren’t those the same punks who were rioting in the last flashback?) and the general sense that, like her or not, Thatcher was just doing right for England and those unemployed miners and ungrateful Irish could just bloody well suck it up. How I envied the dead husband, walking out in the end…

As a restorative, keeping in the UK mode, I watched Charlie Is My Darling, the recently restored concert film of the Rolling Stones on tour in Ireland in 1965. Andrew Loog Oldham, the band’s old manager, produced and was touting its revival last year on his radio show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage on Sirius XM (Sir Andrew is a welcome presence in my car several days a week; it’s like having a slightly debauched Bill Nighy as your carpool buddy), but again it takes me a while to get around to stuff.

And what stuff it is! the concert footage is great (each show ends in a riot, literally, as the Irish youth jump on stage not so much to attack the band but be the band) and the backstage footage is even better. “Satisfaction” was conquering the airwaves and about to unleash a whole new generation of rock, the Beatles were hiding in their mansions and Mick and the boys clearly saw this as their moment. See Mick and Keith (the only one who doesn’t say two words to the interviewer) writing “Sitting On a Fence”! Hear a drunken Mick and Keith ┬ádo their impressions of Elvis, the Beatles, Frankie Lymon and anyone else who comes to mind! Marvel at the friendly Svengali Oldham was –he wasn’t just along for the ride, he was printing the tickets, playing percussion and remembering the words. Fuck Thatcher. Let’s have a good biopic of Oldham, with Nighy in the role. Now that I would watch right away.

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