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  • Philip Bryer

Caught Between the BAFTAs and the Oscars

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

“Shall we watch a film tonight?”

So it begins, the latest instalment in the Saturday horror show which is going through the Sky Movies On Demand A-Z.

Obviously we have to have the unanimous agreement of the pair of us for a film to pass muster. Or at least a 75% approval rating, where one says, ‘Would you like to see this one?” and the other replies, “I don’t mind.” Which means, if I’m the waverer, that I’ll have picked up a book after 20 minutes anyway, or if it’s Sandra, then her, "I don’t mind" means she’ll have gone to bed to a similar timescale.

To save time, there are certain code-words which mean the film in question never gets to the discussion stage.

Touching family drama

Madcap family fun

Family fun adventure

Feelgood family drama


Sparky rom-com

Sassy comedy

Cute canine caper

Foxy crimefighters


Sweet romance

Free spirit

Troubled relationship

Fangtastic comedy horror


Grieving couple

Terminally ill


Quirky comedy

Quirky drama

Can a quirky horror be far away? (Apologies, I expect it’s already here).

Romcom generally gets a yellow card from me, and we saw something last week described a dramedy. There’s bromantic comedy too of course, so I bet the new rombro is generating so many meetings that they speak of little else in Soho (apologies, I probably mean Hoxton). They should bear in mind though, the risk of confusing stupid people. Someone of my acquaintance asked on more than one occasion, “What’s biopic? Says here Johnny Cash Biopic. Is he ill or something?”

Further shorthand for killing a film stony dead involves us invoking one of the following phrases:

Two words – Richard Curtis, or

Two words – Adam Sandler, or

Two words – Owen Wilson.

You get the idea.

One word – Matilda. Still not over the musical experience, you see, so anything associated gets the flick as matter of course.

Three words – Sarah Jessica and Parker.

Laughing horse

The possibilities are boundless.

School stuff generally gets not much shrift:

Coming of age drama

High school

Dysfunctional school

Troubled youngster

Slam-dunkin’ drama

And of course, the ones to make you claw your eyes out and stuff them into your ears so you might completely avoid anything described with the words:

Little league baseball, or:

From the director of Saw 2, 3 and 4.

I see that nowadays ‘heartwarming and heartrending have been slimmed down simply to ‘warming’. Which surely doesn’t mean what’s intended. A bit like Bad Boys 2, which is described in the programme guide as ‘bombastic action’. Definition of bombastic? Inflated, pretentious, pompous, and overblown. So, even though I haven’t seen any of the Bad Boys series, I’m guessing that sometimes they get it right.

A film called Battleship has the handy warning that it contains violence, flashing images, and Rihanna.

A vanity vehicle for 2-bob shouty bloke, 50 Cent is tagged as a, ahem, ‘Raps to riches drama’. Which should surely be enough to get the writer fired and have their fingers broken.

However obvious, I do like this description, ‘Sweaty welder by day, sexy stripper by night’. If only because I feel they might be interchangeable.

I read this one last week, ‘Terminally ill teenager with Dakota Fanning’. Which I assumed was the name of a new disease. ‘Got a nasty touch of Dakota Fanning, haven’t I?’

And, as I have to be really keen on something to devote more than a couple of hours to it, anything over 120 minutes is often arbitrarily ruled out, which narrows the field even further. Is it any wonder we often end up saying, “So, we’ll watch the Cary Grant one, yeah?”

Bringing up Baby

Hang on though, in the interests of research I’ve been going through the guide again. Here’s one:

“By night she’s a music hall star, but by day she’s New York’s premier crime-fighter”.

“Mmm, sounds alright. What’s it called?”

“Tarara Boom D.A.”*

*We thank Danny Baker for alerting us to this classic Frank Muir and Denis Norden joke.

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