Monday, 31 May 2010

is Big Brother Watching you

From a social experiment to a cash cow to the goose that laid the salmonella infected egg. Big Brother comes to an end this year. Already Channel 4 is starting the overkill that will accompany the shows launch next month. This show has done more than most to create eyesores on the television landscape, with its legacy of numerous reality based Television ideas.

What started out as a shot in the dark quickly became a fast track to celebrity status. In the first season it had residents that were allowed to read books, look after chickens and have uncensored discussions. They also got their clothes off day one thus making any titillation redundant. The show had a pantomime villain and was rather compelling as it seemed quite fresh. It is notable that the winner, Scouser Craig, gave the prize money to charity and didn’t have a load of skeletons in his closet. He is probably the most ordinary of all the winners.

As each years show came around it soon became clear that the producers of the show (most likely graduates the lot of them) made selections of residents based on inanity and breast size, along with tokenistic selections in terms of sexuality , race and ego.

Big Brother became a conduit for the most awful publicity hungry egotists who tried to be manipulatively outrageous, the sheer tedium meant that viewing figures declined with the result that the people behind the scenes tried ever more desperate attempts to cause controversy.

What Big Brother will leave behind is a black hole full of aspirant celebrity wannabes, pointlessly manufactured personas and a cultural deficit.

It’s ironic that the very name of the show comes from Orwell’s 1984 and relates to loss of free will and identity. To fiddle with the words of George Orwell;

"Don't you see that the whole aim of Reality TV is to narrow the range of thought? Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2010, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?... The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."

- George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 5

Sunday, 30 May 2010



Dennis Hopper an artist a character and a star but most of all an actor who 's CV cannot be repeated. Featured in Key moments in six decades; REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE in the 50s- a defining movie that for many sums up the birth of the teenager and rebellion beginning, EASY RIDER in the 60s-the start of the independent boom and a summation of the era,APOCALYPSE NOW in the 70s- one of the great movies of a great period involving the movie brat directors,BLUE VELVET in the 80s-possibly the great film of the decade and Lynch at his peak, TRUE ROMANCE in the 90s-the era of Tarantino and a stylised all star version of a Quentin script & 24 in the 00s-The decade where TV stands toe to toe with cinema, Hopper is the villain in the quintessential harbinger of this era.

Dennis has passed,afed 74, so Cheers Dennis ; one of a kind!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

David Beckham

The England football team is currently full of self serving loathsome individuals, which is why I find it hard to raise any enthusiasm for their forthcoming World Cup exploits.
The thing is that when David Beckham is discussed there is a note of resentment and immaturity about the critique. Now it may not be the done thing but I like David Beckham. He has been criticised and vilified by intellectuals and England supporters alike, for his lifestyle choices, his silly hair and his reptilian wife. But let’s look at the reality. A working class boy, who, while gifted, was not the most talented player of his generation but worked hard at his game and managed to play for Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan,. Captain of England; representing his country over 100 times. A family man who behaves himself and comes across as a pretty ordinary bloke who has done well for himself. Some of his performances for England have been outstanding some not so good but you get the feeling that the majority of the time he has given his all.

Given that the modern player is, generally speaking a badly behaved petulant gad-about I think that Beckham isn’t a bad role model. Yes I know Footballers shouldn’t be role models in a reasonable society but the fact is that they are to many young people.

It’s almost accepted that things and people that are popular get criticised and Beckham is one of those people who gets stick from those that should know better. The argument that he is not intelligent and is not an academic is a fatuous one. I have met many people with degrees left right and centre that are as bright as a 2 Watt bulb.

Yes, he does all the charity stuff and is an ambassador, which can't be a bad thing, but David Beckham is a fellah who has achieved a lot through application and taking opportunities as they have presented themselves. All the talk about being a cultural icon, clothes horse and model takes away the fact that a kid from London has become a success above and beyond his sport. Nice one David.



Cillit Cillit Bang bang

Please feel free to chuckle

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


Watching Alexander Burke of X Factor fame introduce her new song and video was akin to a health and safety expert showing a banal and soulless film about the perils of the workplace. Ms Burke seems a decent enough person but the aural and visual wallpaper that followed was a reminder how mind numbingly awful modern pop music is.
Modern pop music has as much joy as that held on the semen smeared faces of  porn stars , lacking in heart, emotion and soul. It's formulaic composition is both predictable and cynical. There is no emotional truth to it nor is there any sense of haphazard talent conjoining through inspiration to produce something that fills the mind and the room with fun and gives a uplifting sense of enjoyment; which is pops raison detre. The production teams and Svengalis churn out the generic burger of popular music with the sterility and systematic conformity of a turkey twizzler factory.
These, so called, musical masterminds operate in the equivalent of an abattoir where the last remnants of flesh are stripped from the bones of a pop culture that once had meaning and resonance.
The last great age of Pop music, The Eighties, had at least some heart and soul and most of all an all important drop of fun.
Today Simon Cowell is the Dr Mengelle of modern music and the X Factor is the Nuremburg Rally of the vacuous.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tamla Motown -I hear a symphony

Motown, a name to conjure with. Some say Atlantic was grittier or Stax was funkier but there are always those that are critical of the mainstream. Motown songs have become almost ubiquitous by repetition. Embraced in the UK at an early stage the songs released on Tamla Motown records have become part of the Karaoke and Hen night circuit as well as being played on chatty commercial radio. But this should never detract from the majesty of Motown.

I would suggest that a boxed set of Motown is like a box of treasure.

Tamla Motown records started in 1959 by Berry Gordy in Detroit, Michigan, the home of Ford cars, and Motown was the popular shortened name of ‘Motor Town’. Tamla was taken from the hit Debbie Reynolds film ‘Tammy’.

The Miracles, ‘Money (That’s What I Want) was an early hit soon followed ‘Shop Around’, written by Smokey Robinson, which was the label’s first million seller.

The hits started flowing; The Miracles’’ You’ve Really Got A Hold On’ and ‘Mickey’s Monkey’, Marvin Gaye’s ‘Pride and Joy’ and ‘Can I Get A Witness’, Stevie Wonder with ‘Finger Tips’ and ‘Uptight (Everything’s Alright)’, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas ‘(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave’, ‘Dancing In The Street’ and The Supremes with ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ and ‘Baby Love’, Mary Wells with ‘My Guy’, Four Tops ‘Baby I Need Your Lovin’ ‘ and ‘I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)’, The Temptations ‘My Girl’ and ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’. Gladys Knight and The Pips ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ and The Isley Brothers with ‘This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You).

The list goes on and on.

The ‘Motown Sound’ became a distinct genre and was based on a distinctive song writing and production style utilising songwriters like Holland Dozier Holland, Ashford & Simpson and Smokey Robinson and a collective of musicians known as The Funk Brothers these musicians played on more number-one records than The Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys combined, though some claim the sound was something more than this;

People would listen to it, and they'd say, 'Aha, they use more bass. Or they use more drums.' no way. When we were first successful with it, people were coming from Germany, France, Italy, Mobile, Alabama. From New York, Chicago, California. From everywhere. Just to record in Detroit. They figured it was in the air, that if they came to Detroit and recorded on the freeway, they'd get the Motown sound. Listen, the Motown sound to me is not an audible sound. It's spiritual, and it comes from the people that make it happen. What other people didn't realize is that we just had one studio there, but we recorded in Chicago, Nashville, New York, L.A.--almost every big city. And we still got the sound-Smokey Robinson

Motown also promoted itself with review style tours. During it’s golden period, 1961 to 1971, Motown had 110 top 10 hits, with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Jackson 5.

Artist development was a major part of Motown's operations. The acts on the Motown label were fastidiously groomed, dressed and choreographed for live performances. Motown artists were advised that their breakthrough into the white popular music market made them ambassadors for other African American artists seeking broad market acceptance, and that they should think, act, walk and talk like royalty, so as to alter the less-than-dignified image commonly held by white Americans in that era of black musicians. Given that many of the talented young artists had been raised in housing projects and were short on social and dress skills, this Motown department was not only necessary, it created an elegant style of presentation long associated with the label.

As the years passed hit after hit came out of detroit much like the production lines in the car factories, including (deep breath)

I Heard It Through The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye

My Girl - Temptations
Reach Out I'll Be There - Four Tops
What's Goin' On? - Marvin Gaye
I Want You Back - Jackson 5
Superstition - Stevie Wonder
Please Mr. Postman - Marvelettes
My Guy - Mary Wells
Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye
Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
The Tracks of My Tears - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
I'll Be There - Jackson 5
Papa Was a Rollin' Stone - Temptations
The Tears of a Clown - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Stop! In the Name of Love - Supremes
You've Really Got a Hold On Me - Miracles
Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) - Temptations
Baby I Need Your Lovin' - Four Tops
You Are the Sunshine of My Life - Stevie Wonder
Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
You Keep Me Hangin' On - Supremes

You Can't Hurry Love - Supremes
Signed, Sealed, Delivered - Stevie Wonder
Nowhere To Run - Martha & The Vandellas

It Takes Two - Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston
War - Edwin Starr
I Second That Emotion - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Higher Ground - Stevie Wonder

Ain't Too Proud To Beg - Temptations
I Can't Get Next To You - Temptations
Cloud Nine - Temptations
Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today) - Temptations
Smiling Faces Sometimes - Undisputed Truth name a few!

The success of Motown also has the distinction of having created the largest black owned business in the USA. It also gave a voice to black America and created the Black pop star. After Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, a tribute album was issued TML 11076 ‘The Great March to Freedom’ which included extracts from his speeches.

The joy of Motown is the quality and accessibility of the music. The songs are so well known that they have entered into popular culture and they seem to conjure up memories and feelings in a unique way. Hitsville USA did more than most to create a soundtrack for the times of our lives.

Monday, 24 May 2010


Yes, Soylent Green is tasty and Nutritious.

Enjoy Soylent Green

Soylent Green is People

Master of disaster

Charlton Heston; when it comes to Disaster & Dystopia Chuck is your man. Never has an actor been more synonymous with carnage ruin and a bleak future.

Earthquakes, Train crashes, sunken subs, Air disasters, mad snipers and bleak looks at a future of misery were Heston’s Genre of choice.

The Omega Man has a depressing air far removed from I am Legend the movie (both based on Richard Matteshons book) and Planet of the apes' bleakness is unmatched by the Tim Burton remake.

It is surprising that a remake has not been made of Soylent green or perhaps we are too close to the reality.

Heston has many detractors for his views on guns and his rampant Reaganism but for decades he was the Master of disaster.

It seemed to be that he was the face of a crushed and desperate humanity facing adversity and disaster with a manic grin.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

My double bills #14 nightmares

Two chilling looks at the inexplicable and unpredictable nature of violent psychosis.


Roman Polanski's film Repulsion is a film that is both a psychological thriller and a horror movie. Starring Catherine Deneuve in one of the earliest films in her career.

It tells the story of an imbalanced young 18-year-old named Carol living in a London flat with her sister it’s clear that there is something different about Carol, but the people in her life don't seem to notice and view her as socially anxious.

When Carol’s sister goes on holiday things really begin to go downhill for Carol. Bizarre visions of being rape, cracks in the walls and taking a scalpel to the back of a man's neck before slicing him to death, ensue.

Polanski uses silence and score effectively to depict Carol’s unraveling. This movie is cold yet compelling and leaves the viewer confused and haunted.

Director Miike Takashi unleashed this stylish slice of extreme Asian cinema upon an unsuspecting audience, myself included. This movie has to be seen to be believed.

Following his son's advice, widower Shigeharu Aoyama decides that it's time to look for a new wife. By devising a plan to hold auditions for the part of a female lead in a non-existent production, he uses his professional position to track her down. Among the many applicants, he is struck by the mysterious charms of Asami, a quiet, 24-year-old woman, and asks her for a date.

Finding that Asami is responsive to his attentions, Aoyama becomes convinced that she is the woman for him. But when he asks her to accompany him on a romantic holiday things take a dark and disturbing turn. Soon Aoyama will discover that there is a side to Asami that he could never have imagined, even in his most depraved nightmares.

Furious in intensity but with a slow dreamlike build up Audition is a genuinely unique and disturbing look at obsession.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

My Double bills#13 Big VampireTrouble

Big Trouble in Little China & The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires

A double bill of Hammer Horror Dragon Thrills Stupidity and Kung Fu mayhem!

'Vampires' features a reliable Peter Cushing wading through the nonsense with his comely companion in the shape of Julie Ege and features possibly the least frightening Count Dracula ever committed to celluloid. Hammer meets Hong Kong.

'Big trouble' has Kurt Russel parodying his earlier incarnation for John Carpenter; Snake Plisken. This action hero is bold but dumb. Kim Cattrall plays the female foil to our action hero much as she went on to do in Indiana Jones and the temple of doom. Kung Fu meets Die Hard

Both plots centre around mysticism, Chinese artifacts and preposterous Kung Fu battles. But the plots are secondary to an excuse for massive tear ups. Highly enjoyable!

Friday, 21 May 2010

My Double Bills#12 at The Movies

Swimming with Sharks & The Big Picture.Two takes on The LA movie industry

In Swimming with Sharks Writer George Huang is the real star who has written great lines that Spacey delivers brilliantly;

Buddy: You are nothing! If you were in my toilet I wouldn't bother flushing it. My bathmat means more to me than you!

Buddy: And now try to follow me, because I'm gonna be moving in a kind of circular motion, so if you pay attention, there will be a point!

Buddy: And when you're done with her, west lobby, tube dress, stiletto heels, hurry. Fetch!

Buddy: Say this one time with me: "Would you like that in a pump or a loafer?"... Good. Now memorize it, because starting tomorrow, the only job that you're going to be able to get is selling SHOES!

Buddy: This is the only way that you can hope to survive. Because life... is not a movie. Everyone lies. Good guys lose. And love... does not conquer all

Buddy: You're happy. I hate that!

Buddy: You thought. Do me a fucking favor. Shut up, listen, and learn. Look, I know that this is your first day and you don't really know how things work around here, so I will tell you. You have no brain. No judgement calls are necessary. What you think means nothing. What you feel means nothing. You are here for me. You are here to protect my interests and to serve my needs. So, while it may look like a little thing to you, when I ask for a packet of Sweet-N-Low, that's what I want. And it's your responsibility to see that I get what I want.

In The Big Picture there are nice cameos particularly Martin Short as sleazy agent Neil Sussman written by Michael Varhol and Christopher Guest.

Neil Sussman: I'm very, very aware... that you are seeing other agents. And I think it's good that you are. Finally, I mean it's healthy. But, this is the thing. If you decide to sign with me, you're gonna get more than an agent. You're gonna get three people.
[Holds up four fingers]
You're gonna get an agent, a mother, a father, a shoulder to cry on, someone who knows this business inside and out. And if anyone ever tries to cross you, I'll grab them by the balls and squeeze 'til they're dead.

Neil Sussman: I don't know you. I don't know your work. But I think you are a genius. And I am never wrong about that

One a dry as a bone cynical comedy about how to get ahead by losing your morality the other a warm witty take on how to get ahead and keep your morals.