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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Last Flag Flying, a road movie in a train, paralleled by us in a cruise ship. New York to Boston

If you are an Academy or BAFTA voting member you will know that the 'awards season' has started in ernest. Not ignoring that we are invited to screenings and events all year round to encourage and solicit our votes, but now the invites come thick and fast as the film awards first round of voting accelerates towards us.
Recently I attended a screening of The Last Flag Flyingat the private screening room of the Mayfair Hotel, a favourite of mine for these events. It was with guests, director Richard Linklater (Before Sunset etc) and actor Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad). I like it when I see a film that 'sets the bar', that gives me a clear base for best film, best actor, best supporting actor and makes me say to others, as good a s you are, you are not in that league. It is like watching any talent show, like X Factor where you go, she or he is good, but not in the league of Grace Davies who just stands out as one to beat. Or like Ashton on Strictly. That is talent that sets a bar, even if they don't win.

I really liked The Last Flag. I don't think that it was just that I had been in Boston and been in New York, this movie, which is a road movie, or a car movie, certainly a journey movie is easily understated by such labels. It is without doubt an acting masterclass from three guys at the very top of their game, Cranston supports an amazingly understated performance by Steve Carell worthy of Best Actor. It is a crime that Laurence Fishburne is likely to be overlooked because his performance is a master class too. That is by no means ignoring the rest of the class including J Quinton Johnson who is like a fantastic young footballer who has just got the opportunity to kick a ball around with three legends, both in story terms and working life. These three guys get together in an unexpected union, and they end up moving a body from New York to Boston. In what could become a farce in lesser hands is a moving drama that never over steps, not even when the players perform what is the iconic scene in the train. I am giving less away than the film's description, but you will discover all in this must see drama.

I am always amazed at some of the daft questions the honoured guests are asked at the end of such a film so I often hold back in case mine is just as stupid and I hadn't noticed. However, I wish I had asked Linklater about his choice or railway station in New York. I had just been in New York with my wife, Jean Heard who presents the travel show Doris Visits and wondered around Grand Central Station while she was filming. My question would have been to Richard, if the station he used was not Grand Central, and it didn't look like it, nor did he expose it as such, did he consider using it, or if he did, did he consider the more iconic views of it, or was it too loud and too much of a statement to impose on such a drama? But then I think I know the answer so the question is not worth asking. The film is better for those choices. It would have been wrong, it is not a Sleepless in Seattle moment at the top of the Empire State Building. This is about three lives and one that has past and a truly emotional film that did not need to be upstaged by a location. Our journey was made by ship, so is totally different but by all means take a look.

The links I have made are to Jean's travel films for you to have a look round New York and Boston before you see The Last Flag Flying because this is a travel site. As we help people enjoy cruises we also feature the entertainers, the shows and we have just started a section to mention the films on the on board sea screens or in the cinemas.  New York Library where Ghostbusters shot a scene, Empire State building where Tom Hanks did turn up, Boston Guide and the Cheers Bar. I saw so many places that feature daily in film and TV; maybe that had an effect on me, but I would like to think my judgement as a film maker was not ambushed. I did make a film in New York, one remembering my jump of the State of Liberty for American Werewolf in Paris....

Judge for yourself as to whether Grand Central is just too loud a character for The Last Flag!




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