THE BLOG
16/12/2014 00:55 GMT | Updated 14/02/2015 05:59 GMT

Film 2014: Movies, Mindlessness and Mascara

'I'll be back'

Whenever there's a poll of the most popular and memorable movie lines ever spoken, it frequently comes out on top. And on Wednesday (December 17, BBC1 at 11.20pm) guess who'll be back to give the nation the benefit of her insight, expertise and encyclopaedic grasp of the silver screen?

Before you ask, it's not Dilys Powell who with the aid of Psychic Sally is appraising the latest releases from beyond the grave. Although wouldn't we all like to witness that?

It is, of course, none other than the doyenne of cinematic critique herself. "You don't mean?" I most certainly do mean.

Yes, my fleapit friends, hold on to your cheesy nachos because it's the return of Claudia Winkleman.

Without her authoritative opinions, millions of people probably wouldn't even bother to visit their local multiplex or art house picture palace. Her knowledge of everything from Biopics and Bollywood to Comedy and Crime, not forgetting Film Noir, German Expressionism and Italian Neorealism is extensive and beyond compare. It stretches all the way from the pick and mix counter to the popcorn kiosk.

I exaggerate, slightly

Claudia's comments and analysis are in fact straight out of the Donald Duck school of film reviewing. Actually, the Hewey, Dewey and Louie school might be more appropriate.

Whatever way you look at it, she's definitely out of her league and is much better suited to fluttering those overly made up eyes at male ballroom dancers with their frilly shirts slashed to the waist. Quite brings to mind Errol Flynn in Captain Blood.

She's in her element when discussing Len's lens ( that's Goodman's). However, when it comes to discussing Ken's lens ( that's Loach's), she's nowhere near as comfortable.

Yet for some inexplicable reason she's still the main host of the Beeb's premier film programme. Now in its 43rd year, Film 2014, as it is currently titled is starting to resemble some old faded Hollywood star. A sort of moribund Norma Desmond. Once glorious and vital, but now regrettably a shallow husk of its former self that has perhaps had one too many face lifts in a desperate attempt to appear more youthful and relevant for a modern 21st century TV audience.

The problem is that nobody cares about it any longer. A few people I asked thought that it had already ceased to exist many years ago.

Watching its gradual decline is sad, particularly for those of us who are old enough to remember it in its heyday. Not when it was presented by Jonathan Ross, but the 70s, 80s and 90s when Barry Norman was at the helm. Here was a man who could converse with confidence about what we should be handing over our money to watch. After all, his father was Leslie Norman who directed Dunkirk and produced The Cruel Sea.

Somehow Barry had a respect and a reverence for movies that Claudia just doesn't have. Never mind a film's pivotal scene, she'd be far more interested if it was an interlocking seam on the Great British Sewing Bee.

By roping in permanent co-host, Danny Leigh, those responsible for its output have tried to bring a bit of gravitas to proceedings.

Along with guest critics such as Antonia Quirke, Robbie Collin and Peter Bradshaw, the show has a more conversational quality to it than before. But it's akin to a college seminar where the participants are talking over each other in an attempt to be as witty and clever as they can be, while throwing in obscure references whenever possible.

These, alas, only serve to leave Claudia looking more confused and bewildered than ever, except when an animated feature is up for debate. She always seems to be on safer ground when discussing the likes of Penguins of Madagascar.

As it presently stands, it could be argued that Mark Kermode had a lucky escape when he turned down or was rejected for the job after Ross left for pastures new at ITV in 2010.

Kermode or Commode as I prefer to refer to him, mainly due to the fact that he often talks out of a part of his anatomy that isn't always his mouth, would have given it an angry edge.

Commode is undeniably angry. He riles against those films he doesn't take a fancy to (and there's plenty of them) with all the demented bile and vitriol of Russell Brand on Newsnight. What's the betting that Claudia was also up for being Jeremy Paxman's replacement prior to the appointment of Evan Davis?

The only thing which continues to be fresh about Film 2014 and the soon to be Film 2015 is the theme tune. The reworking of Billy Taylor's I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free fortunately remains in place. If they decide to ditch that, then they may as well give the whole thing a decent burial.

Why don't the powers that be simply eat a slice of humble pie and get Bazza, in true John Wayne style, to ride to the rescue? OK, he's 81, but so what? Where film reviewing is concerned he knows his onions. Furthermore, he knows his pickled onions as anyone who has bought a jar of his hot and spicy variety will testify.

In this week's episode, the low-rent, the very low-rent Pauline Kael will be giving us her in-depth take on Birdman, The Theory of Everything and Angelina Jolie's Unbroken. You have been warned.