For, Friday, April 6, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: While I was the movie critic at the Deseret News, I would, from time to time, write stories that weren’t exactly about movies, such as this feature that ran on Nov. 13, 1988, under the headline, ‘Enjoying a non-foggy day (or two) in London town.’

It was about a month ago: The phone rang and Roberta Cedillo said she had a junket for me to consider. Roberta calls quite often, since the Denver ad agency she works for handles several movie studio accounts.

In a nutshell, for the uninitiated, a movie junket is a trip paid for by the studios that gathers movie critics and entertainment writers from around the country into one central location where they are shown a movie or two, followed by interviews with a film’s stars.

Most junkets are held in Los Angeles or New York, but sometimes a film’s location will figure in: For “The Verdict” it was a trip to Boston, “The Right Stuff” was shown to critics in Washington, D.C., and “The Milagro Beanfield War” took us to Santa Fe, N.M.

Anyway, Roberta says this junket is for a Sherlock Holmes spoof — “Without a Clue” — starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. Both stars will be there, as will some of the film’s other principals.    

I’m interested, but not that interested. Your friendly neighborhood film critic doesn’t take many junkets. They’re a lot of work, sometimes for a movie that isn’t worth the trouble; they take me away form my family, whose company I prefer over that of other movie critics any day; and the only fascinations New York and L.A. hold for me these days is during rush hour: In New York the rush hour is on foot, as thousands of people somehow squeeze onto the sidewalks without spilling into the streets, and in Los Angeles the rush hour is by car, when people try to race home before the smog drops to ankle level.

So I’m mulling over in my mind how badly I want to interview Caine & Kingsley when Roberta throws in the ringer: It’s going to be in London.

Right. This, I’m remembering, is the woman who said “Mac and Me” isn’t a bad picture.

But she insists she’s not kidding. The junket is in London. And after all, when is a trip to London likely to come along again? Maybe not until Ben Kingsley makes another comedy!

After a pause I tell her I have to check my schedule, consult my family and I’ll get back to her. Ten seconds later I call back and accept.

I’m not crazy about junkets, but I’m not stupid either.

Four days in London for one movie will leave at least two days for sightseeing, I figure. And as it turns out, there is indeed plenty of playtime available.

The long, aching-back flight, the jet lag, the lengthy interviews were no surprise. But there was one unexpected development: It was sunny the whole time. My jacket and sweater stayed in my flight bag. It’s unheard of. Four days in a row of sun in London and the locals begin to think their country has been transported to California by spaceship.

Orion Pictures put us up in the Grosvenor House, a posh hotel right across from Hyde Park, and I did all the touristy things — Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the War Museum, the Tower of London, the Queen’s Gardens, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. . . . I took lots of long walks to take it all in slowly and many bad photographs. I even dropped by 221-B Baker Street. (After all, I was there for a Sherlock Holmes movie!)

It was wonderful, and one of the very few junkets I’ve taken where there really was time to do things other than just work, work, work, making the travel and experience more than worthwhile.


           Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, 'Without a Clue'

And it was also educational. Here are some things I learned in London:

  • A 5-pound note weighs less than an ounce, but a Quarter-Pounder (in a McDonald’s Restaurant) costs more than a pound.
  • In addition to McDonald’s, London has also been invaded by Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Burger King and — no kidding — Taco Time.
  • Painted on the streets by the curbs is “Look Right,” since the British drive on the “other” side of the street and non-British pedestrians tend to be run over a lot because they look “left” before crossing.
  • The British tabloids make the National Enquirer look like the Christian Science Monitor. (Poor Fergie.)
  • Carry-on luggage is “check-on” luggage.
  • Peanut butter does not exist.
  • Diet Coke is called Coke Light.
  • Fried eggs are just “fried” — whoever heard of “sunnyside up” or “over-easy?”
  • The below-ground railroad is called the “Underground,” while pedestrian walkways under streets are called “Subways.”
  • “Couch Potato” is a phrase used as commonly in British newspaper TV columns as it is by our own Joseph Walker, Couch Potato Supreme of the Universe, First-Class.
  • Prime-time British television programs include “Sgt. Bilko,” “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” “Benson,” “Kate & Allie,” Laurel & Hardy features, “The Monkees,” “Dr. Who” (in both new and old incarnations), “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Bionic Woman.” There were also British versions of American shows ranging from “Concentration” to “Donahue.” (Yes, I had remote control in my hotel room and, yes, I am a channel-hopper — and proud of it!)
  • Titles of American movies on TV are sometimes changed — “Hoosiers” is called “Best Shot” and “Young Sherlock Holmes” is “Pyramid of Fear.”
  • A British movie critic on television, instead of awarding so-many stars or balloons or moose-antlers, gave movies he reviewed so-many “clapper-boards” (those hand-held slates used to mark movie scenes as they are filmed).
  • International bloopers included in a British show titled “It’ll Be Alright” included one from Utah’s own Ch. 2, wherein former anchors Randall Carlisle and Terry Wood introduced reporter Sloane Brown, who was on crutches and promptly fell down behind her desk.
  • MTV, British-style, is every bit as bad as MTV, American-style.
  • CNN, British-style is every bit as good as CNN, American-style.
  • And I wondered, since we’ve had “Hamburger … the Movie” and “Hot Dog … the Movie,” will England ever make “Fish and Chips … the Movie”?

Probably not.