Now I love an overpriced, pretentious burger as much the next creative living above his means, but gone are the days when I classed eating next to Darth Vader’s helmet in a chain owned by buffed-up action daddies as a taste of glitz and glamour.
Yet in a bid to reflect on this year’s Oscar nominees and to channel the ghosts of Kubrick and DeMille, I have come to Planet Hollywood, which has recently been refurbished to fool tourists into thinking that this is a cool place where Londoners hang out.
It’s been a good year for story. From the chamber play feel of The Social Network and the solid traditional narrative of The King’s Speech to the imaginative joy of Toy Story 3 and the refreshingly genrebending comic qualities of The Fighter, sophisticated plotlines seem to be making a surprise Winona Ryder comeback in mainstream cinema. Nowhere has that been more apparent than with Inception, the high concept conundrum and summer’s biggest blockbuster, which brought a sense of the experimental back to the multiplex.
I am reminded that in recent years the Oscars (perhaps due to their positioning at the end of the season) seem to have adopted a system of equal distribution.
“Hi, I’m Cindy” a shrill American voice with Marilyn-hair and a Rambo-face eclares as a menu drops down before me. “So willkommen, bienvenue, welcome. You’ll have what she’s having. Hasta La Vista, baby. I’m the king of the world.”
She’s somewhat overdoing it on the quotes. Also I’m convinced she’s actually from Romford. Jurassic Burger, Terminator Fries, Godfather Meatballs. A sudden dizziness takes hold of me and Cindy senses something is wrong. I look at her weakly and she responds “Lactose-intolerant? Nut allergy? No gluten?” I shake my head and a sparkle appears in her eyes. “Ah, I knew you were special when you walked in. Here’s our secret slightly tortured arthouse indie menu for you, sir.” Result. I order the Todd Solondz Milkshake and Cindy gives me a knowing wink. I can tell she appreciates a connoisseur.
As I watch her diligently following the milkshake recipe that’s lovingly bluetacked to the original bloodied shirt from Brokeback Mountain, I am reminded that in recent years the Oscars (perhaps due to their positioning at the end of the season) seem to have adopted a system of equal distribution. If bookmakers are to be trusted, this could very well be the case this year if main category nominees Colin Firth (King’s Speech), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Christian Bale and Melissa Leo (The Fighter), as well as Aaron Sorkin (Social Network) take home Academy gold. It also means that it will be a tight race for Best Picture, with Social Network and King’s Speech as the current frontrunners.
When I broke into Hamley’s the other night to spy on the toys, they were all completely static!
Cindy puts down my ‘Solondz with extra angst’ and explains that she is Head of the Award Season Waitressing Experience at Planet Hollywood. To earn her tips she has developed a posh stutter, trapped her arm behind the fridge for 10 hours (yes, she caved in early) and stole her colleague Angelo’s idea for a poodle worshippers networking site. She’s truly a perfectionist, although her boss Nigel thinks she dances the white specials menu more convincingly than the black specials menu (the one with all the sugars and carbs).
I ask her if she’s incorporated indie outsiders Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right. “Yes” she replies sombrely “I make sure I get really depressed in cold weather and last month I went on an emotional quest to find my real father. He was on the couch next to my Mum complaining about traffic on the M25.”
I try to impress her with expert knowledge. How I feel Blue Valentine, Rabbit Hole and that Cher song were overlooked and how Biutiful and Toy Story 3 will win for Foreign Film and Animation because they have other nominations. Suddenly she gets angry. “Don’t even get me started on Toy Story 3! When I broke into Hamley’s the other night to spy on the toys, they were all completely static!”
That’s when I realise she is actually a total nutter. In fact, she doesn’t even work here, which becomes imminent when two massive security guards appear with the words “You’ve gotta stop doing this, love”. And yes, on reflection, it probably did seem a little odd that she wasn’t wearing a name badge and smelled of decaying vegetables. As the men escort her out, she screams in a Boston accent: “I knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard ferchrissakes! Dickie, help me!”
Trying to soften the blow I take out my spinning top and suggest we double-check that we’re definitely not in a dream before we get all worked up about everything, but by this time nobody’s listening. ●