So there I was, last night, standing on stage at NFT1 at the BFI South Bank, standing behind the podium wearing a cheap Halloween mask. For a laugh. (Albeit, I’m afraid, a rather muted one.) Yes, it was my third stint as host of TCM Classic Shorts, the now eight-year-old short film award, open this year, for the first time, to entrants from the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Another bumper year: 381 entries, 141 of which were from outside the UK (foreigners coming over here, stealing our prestigious film awards etc.), and two of which made the final shortlist of six. The award is open to anyone with a camera, but once again, the quality was incredibly high, and the six finalists are all fantastic. You can watch them on TCM this weekend (Nov 3-4, details here), but it was great to see them on a big screen, as ever.
Here’s my blog entry on last year’s event, with pics. I am only in possession of the one above, currently, which is (l-r) me, Tom Tagholm, director and writer of winning film A Bout de Truffe (a very sweet and sad parody of a French film about a man and his truffle-snuffling pig), his editor, award presenter and British film production legend Nik Powell (who is already thinking in this pic, “Can I make the second half of the Arsenal match?”), and, in front, French actor Stephan Cornicard, who plays the man. As soon as I get my hands on more pics, I’ll post them. What you’re not seeing in this one is me in my cheap Halloween mask, which was my opening “gag”, and not spectacularly successful. But it was Halloween! The rest of my opening speech was a little more successful – having mused in previous years on the fact that everything is getting bigger, and how small things are best, I went for it this year and delivered a Short History Of Cinema in five minutes. I was very pleased with this as a piece of writing, but I had no idea how well it would go down as a speech. Luckily, the crowd were very kind, and even, on my instruction, cheered every time I mentioned George Clooney, which I did often. At one point, some people cheered in advance of a mention of George Clooney, which I really loved. They really are a nice crowd. Among them, this year, were Kris Marshall, star of one of the shortlisted films, The Amazing Trousers (and, coincidentally, the first ever winner of TCM Classic Shorts in 2000, Je T’Aime John Wayne), Paul McGann, star of the second prizewinner, Always Crashing In The Same Car, opposite – history being made alert! – Richard E Grant, and Zoe Ball and Norman Cook, as Zoe was the producer of the aforementioned film. (It was nice to see the south coast’s favourite couple afterwards – Norman expressed sympathy for the fact that my mask joke had fallen flat. I knew it had, which is why, when I returned to the stage after we’d watched all six films, I wore a second cheap Halloween mask, and thus rescued my joke through sheer commitment. What a pro.) I was really pleased to meet Paul Andrew Williams, writer and director of the best debut of last year, London To Brighton. He was one of the TCM judges this year and had expressed trepidation about presenting the second prize because he’s a bit shy, but I talked him into it, and it was good to have him up there. (Filmmakers love other filmmakers, especially ones who’ve enjoyed the whirlwind success of Paul Andrew Williams, who’s now in post on his second film, The Cottage, and has just had a baby, four weeks ago, so is permanently knackered. He made it to the after-show party, at some lurid club in Kingly Street, where I imagine the DJ was a little self-conscious about having Fat Boy Slim in the same room. A few nibbles, a nice chat to the BFI’s Dick Fiddy about The Sopranos and barge holidays, and to a nice lady from TCM Germany who was very excited that I had mentioned Berlin Alexanderplatz twice in my speech, and I was out of there before the goody bags had even been lined up. Last year’s contained some nail varnish that stunk out the taxi.
Here is the actual envelope Nik Powell opened.
A good night. Have a look at the short films. They’re very good. I think my favourite is the German entry Cocoon, probably because I’m in a German cinema frame of mind currently, but there’s not a duff one among the six. The ceremony wasn’t being televised this year, so I said “fuck” quite a lot, but I think it was appropriate. And I never called Jonathan Ross’s wife a pig.