Sorry, Ridley Scott, we just don’t think it’s safe to go back into the cinema | Rebecca Nicholson

The Last Duel director has blamed flighty ‘millennians’ for his latest epic film tanking, but maybe we’re not blockbuster-ready

Ridley Scott is responsible for many of the best proper films in the history of cinema and by proper I mean the massive, blockbuster, event-type ones, the ones you’d make an effort to go to the cinema to see, the ones that practically smell like popcorn. Thelma & Louise? Ridley Scott. The Alien movies, Blade Runner, Gladiator and I would make a case here for GI Jane, all directed by him. It must help with the hit rate that his work ethic is astonishing: he’s had two films out in the UK in six weeks.

His latest, House of Gucci, out now, has divided critics so sharply that seeing it has become a matter of urgency: is it “boring”, “audacious”, “so bad it’s bad” or “stylish”? Is anything better than Lady Gaga in the trailer, saying: “Father, son and house of Gucci”, a line that gets stuck in my head like the chorus of a catchy pop song? The big question is whether it will do better than Scott’s The Last Duel, which was released in cinemas last month and effectively bombed.

If times were different, you could wonder why The Last Duel did not do very well, with that cast (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jodie Comer), and that story, and Scott behind it. It was perfectly placed to be a Proper Cinema Film, yet its box-office takings were miserable. Scott talked about it with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast last week, suggesting that the reason it had tanked was young people and phones. “What we’ve got today [are] the audiences who were brought up on these fucking cellphones. The millennian [sic] do not ever want to be taught anything unless you’re told it on a cellphone,” he said.

It’s hard to argue with the first part, though older millennians are the last generation who remember life without the internet, never mind cellphones, and have queued up for Gladiator. And I have many thoughts on screen size (I can barely read a crucial-to-the-plot text on my television, much less my phone) and what is lost when beautiful films are shrunk into a tiny box.

But surely it is more that, at this time, it remains a big ask for people to go and sit in the cinema to watch a film for two hours or more. I have heard stories of sold-out music gigs that were only half full because ticket holders either wouldn’t or couldn’t attend. Pantomime ticket sales are down a third on pre-pandemic times. People are only half ready to get out there again and understandably so. Everything right now is uncertain and shaky and the blockbuster movie may have to wait a bit longer for its comeback.

Dua Lipa: forget gender, we are all now music-fluid

Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa: the last of her kind. Photograph: David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Frieze

For the rest of time, a statement that, at this rate, is looking less hyperbolic than it should, Dua Lipa will be the last woman to have received a Brit award for British female solo artist, while J Hus will be the last man to have been crowned British male solo artist.

The Brits have followed the Berlin film festival by scrapping gendered categories and will instead introduce more genre awards, opening up new slots for acts in four categories: alternative/rock, hip-hop/grime/rap, dance and pop/R&B.

The decision to do away with male and female categories has been the most chat-worthy, obviously, provoking a small ripple of a backlash that could have been predicted in photographic detail, though I will admit that Brian May going off on a tangent about Queen and diversity was a curveball. The worry seems to be that either men or women will be disadvantaged by this move, but this ignores the fact that music and pop trends are cyclical – women are dominating pop right now and men will perhaps come to dominate at another point. I doubt that judging work on its comparative merits rather than the sex of who made it will make much difference to that.

More curious is the genre decision, which seems to have been necessary to bulk out the ceremony, but arrives in an age where genre has all but collapsed and it is increasingly difficult to categorise artists. In 2021, where would Little Simz sit? Arlo Parks? Adele? Ed Sheeran? All borrow bits and pieces from everywhere.

I’ll have to check what Brian May thinks.

Richard Madeley: gut response to I’m a Celebrity

Richard Madeley
Richard Madeley: completely bushed. Photograph: Kieron McCarron/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

I have an ambivalent relationship with I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, currently trundling towards the end of a busy first week.

I love Ant and Dec’s humour, the general camaraderie and watching people triumph over tough situations, but I hate seeing snakes wrap themselves around famous people’s heads and having to wonder if the snakes are OK or pitying rats just trying to go about their business only to have Ian Beale’s face looming large next to them. The RSPCA yet again asked the series to stop using live animals in bushtucker trials this year; yet again, the producers claimed that “rigorous protocols” were in place.

It is not a show for the squeamish and may be tougher than we thought. Richard Madeley slid headfirst into a pit of rotten fruit and veg and had fish guts and offal dumped on him on a freezing cold night in Wales. The presenter, whose Partridge-isms set him up as the main attraction, was taken to hospital “as a precaution” when he fell ill and ended up leaving the series after just four days.

Does it make it more watchable, or less, to wonder if the celebrities are actually going to make it through?

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


Rebecca Nicholson

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