Archive for the ‘Your Celebrities At Work’ Category

Reflections on a Golden Gong

Monday, February 28th, 2011

If you had asked me a week before the Oscars if I thought James Franco would be a good host, I’d have given you a ‘maybe’. He can be funny, and he certainly seems confident, smart, and proud of what he does. If you had asked me again a day before the Oscars, after his prissy response to Ricky Gervais in which the actor lectured the comedian about what is or isn’t funny, and I’d have given a more confident answer. He was going to suck, because he thinks that his business is too important to be mocked, and the Oscars isn’t entertaining if it isn’t a roast.

It’s easy to joke that Franco looked stoned, but of course it isn’t a joke. With his eyes half closed and his face slack, he brought down the energy in the room every time he appeared, and that was a big room with a lot of uppers going on. Even when he strode on to the stage in Marilyn drag, it was more stunt than gag, with no payoff or punchline.

younghiposcarYounger, hipper Oscar

Anne Hathaway was better. She was by no means good, and I doubt she’ll ever be invited back. I thought she would be a total non-presence, but next to Franco’s sleepy stiffness she had a gushing affability, like this was the superest gymkhana that daddy had ever taken her to.

Every Oscars gets dubbed the worst Oscars ever, and it is hard to remember a good one, but no-one watches the Oscars because they expect the whole show to be good. It’s the moments that matter. What made this such a bad show was that it had so very few moments. Taken as a whole, the Oscars are never good. People speak fondly of the Billy Crystal years, but when Billy Crystal hosted I always felt like I was watching a daytime game show. Yet I admit that his brief appearance was one of the scant few highlights. Melissa Leo’s bad language was another. I’m struggling to name a third, as I found Kirk Douglas’s stroke-afflicted mumbling more frightening than charming.

None of the speeches stand out in my memory. Colin Firth’s speech was good for the first half hour, but it waned as the leaves turned. I would have enjoyed Aaron Sorkin’s speech more if he had delivered it while walking to and from the podium. Christian Bale’s speech ought to have been spectacularly mad, but in the end it was only remarkable because he forgot his wife’s name.

Lowlights were many, mostly in the form of the hosts’ strained attempts at banter, delivered with all the art and dexterity of a Slap Chop, but all their horrors paled next to the holographic ghost of Bob Hope, an exploitation of the dead that seemed to drag on much longer than the too-abrupt In Memoriam package.

Who should host the Oscars next year? The job usually goes to comedians - stand ups and talk show hosts. Hugh Jackman two years ago and Franco and Hathaway this year have been failed attempts to do something that’s both new yet conversely a little more ‘old Hollywood’. Last year’s Alec Baldwin/Steve Martin double act bridged the actor/comedian gap, but failed to live up to its promise. If an actor is picked again next year, it needs to be someone with enough wit and charm to win over audiences both in the theatre and at home, and preferably someone heavyweight, yet able to laugh at themselves. Robert Downey Jr, George Clooney and Kevin Spacey spring to mind.

If they go back to comedians, Tina Fey would be a laudable choice. Ricky Gervais would be too untamed, and the Oscars probably wouldn’t want the Globes’ cast-offs. Perhaps Ellen DeGeneres deserves a second chance, and Jimmy Fallon might deserve a first chance, except that he’s on the wrong network, which makes the most plausible contender for the job one Jimmy Kimmel.

On second thoughts, James Franco might do better next time, right?

Let’s Hear It For the Bi

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Update: See end of entry.

Quick, name a current bisexual celebrity. You have until the other end of this picture to think of one.

duncanjames

Ba-da, ba-da, ba-da-da-dum. Time’s up. Who did you think of? Was it Megan Fox? Anna Paquin? Angelina Jolie? Ooh, ooh; Lady Gaga? Lindsay Lohan? Was it Drew Barrymore? Pink?

I’m willing to guess that you probably didn’t think of Duncan James, even though that’s his picture you just scrolled past, either because you’ve never heard of him, or because you wouldn’t recognise him even if he was standing right in front of you.

You may have spotted the pattern in all those other names I mentioned, all of whom are self-identified bisexuals. Most famous bisexuals are women. It may in fact be the case that more bisexuals in the general population are women -  it’s a common enough assertion that female sexuality is more fluid than male - but even so, male bisexuals do exist, and a good male bisexual is hard to find. In terms of current celebrities, Duncan James is about as famous as it gets.

Sure, there are actors who came out late in life, or who were outed post-mortem - Brando, Clift, Olivier, Dean - and there is a handful of musicians who have sort-of come out as bisexual, but have also sort-of come out as ‘rejecting all labels’ - David Bowie, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mika. It’s easier to come out if your identity hinges on being ‘alternative’, or if you’re, well, dead. Male bisexuals are otherwise fairly invisible, and it’s not hugely difficult to work out why this might be. It’s harder for guys in the public eye. People are generally more accepting of bisexual women.

On the one hand, the idea of women who like boys and girls has huge value in a pop culture dominated by the tastes of straight men. Female bisexuality is titillating, so it’s credible and cool. On the other hand, any guy who comes out as bisexual is usually labelled ‘gay and in denial’, and guys who sleep with both men and women aren’t considered trendy; they’re considered a health risk, and banned from giving blood in otherwise civilised countries.

It’s therefore rather big news that Tom Hardy came out today, especially because of what he came out as.

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Hardy is a rising star. He’s not a big name yet, but his role as Eames, the slightly swishy forger in the movie Inception, has already elevated him above his usual world of BBC dramas and low budget British indies. He’s the star of the remake of Mad Max (and let’s face it, that’s pretty well timed given the state of the former Mad Max), and just this week he landed an action/romance role in McG’s forthcoming spy comedy, This Means War, opposite Chris Pine.

Today, Hardy is quoted in the Daily Mail as admitting that he has had sex with men. The matter-of-fact manner of his revelation is extraordinary. When asked if he’s had same-sex experiences, he said; “Of course I have. I’m an actor for fuck’s sake”.

Hardy may have outed most of Hollywood with that admission, but he didn’t exactly come out as bisexual. He came out as someone who used to experiment with same-sex relationships, and he says that these relationships don’t “do it” for him any more. This is perhaps an unprecedented statement for a young, good-looking actor courting leading man roles in Hollywood blockbusters. He just confronted the unsuspecting mainstream multiplex audience with the notion of male sexual fluidity!

It helps that Hardy is quirky, of course. He’s British; he has tattoos; he’s a self-confessed recovering alcoholic and crack addict. He was never going to be Zac Efron. Hardy also has a fiancée, and a son, and an ex-wife - none of which prove straightness, but, taken in concert with his frankness, would seem to indicate that he’s not a gay man in denial. He can’t easily be dismissed.

So, this is kind of a big deal.

It’s not the biggest deal.One day, an actor of the calibre of ’80s-era Tom Cruise will come out as gay, and it will not destroy his career, and that will be the big leap forward - and it may happen ten years from now, or it may happen tomorrow. In the meantime, we’re likely to see incremental steps towards that level of acceptance, and Tom Hardy’s admission is one of those small steps. Tom Hardy can be the action hero, and the sex symbol, and he can unabashedly admit to a little youthful experimentation. Tom Hardy just changed the world a little bit.

Update: Commenter Ásta has pointed out that the interview with Hardy was given last year - a fact that has been omitted in most of the coverage. It’s possible that Hardy wouldn’t give the same interview today, and it will be interesting to see if he distances himself from it while he courts the mainstream.

Beyond that, the full interview adds more detail, but it doesn’t change what we know. Hardy isn’t interested in guys today, but he did experiment in his youth. “To me it just doesn’t compute now; I’m into my 30s and it doesn’t do it for me and I’m done experimenting”. Male sexual fluidity, especially expressed as frankly as this, is perhaps what the bigots fear the most.

Roman’s Holiday

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

It’s been a terrible year for lauded monsters, mostly because they’ve been dying. Notorious alleged nonce Michael Jackson went and got himself killed. Reckless drunken womanslaughterer Ted Kennedy died a hero’s death (he did at least let his crime inspire a lifetime of good intentions, which is the Democrats’ version of good works). And now they’ve only gone and arrested poor long-suffering child molester Roman Polanski, whose only crime was to drug and rape a 13-year-old girl and then skip the country so he wouldn’t go to jail.

The reaction to this arrest of a criminal fugitive has been extraordinary. Normally rational and intelligent people have been crying foul. Polanski’s peers - including Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almodovar, Michael Mann, Terry Gilliam and, perhaps ill-advisedly, Woody Allen - have signed a petition demanding his release. And I’ve been scratching my head and wondering why. Why do these people want Polanski to evade justice? What have I missed? And I’ve read around, looking for answers, and I haven’t found any that convince me.

Anne Applebaum at the Washington Post gives a particularly peculiar rundown of the justifications, stating that Polanski “has paid for the crime in many, many ways”. She points to notoriety, stigma, lawyers’ fees - none of which seem like an undeserved burden for a man who committed a crime and then fled from justice. Polanski’s ‘punishment’ has seen him living in the land of fine wine and finer cheeses for 30 years and swanning from villa to villa while making a living as a respected and successful director with actors like Johnny Depp, Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford.

Applebaum adds that the victim of Polanski’s rape, “now 45, has said more than once that she forgives him, that she can live with the memory, that she does not want him to be put back in court or in jail, and that a new trial will hurt her husband and children”. That’s interesting to note, but it’s not binding on the law, and most criminals do not get the benefit of a thirty-year time-out to give the victim the time to rebuild his or her life.

Film journalist John Farr at The Huffington Post gives his own wet defence of Polanski, pointing out that he had a tough life. He grew up in the Krakow ghetto; his mother died in a concentration camp; his wife was murdered by followers of Charles Manson. As extraordinary a life as Polanski has lead, what does that justify? It seems that Farr believes one collects pain and misery stamps through life that one can trade in against the right to inflict pain and misery on others. Farr also bizarrely claims that, as a married man of 76, Polanski is “probably reformed by now, don’t you think?” Why would I think that? Do 76-year-old men lose a child-raping instinct that Farr believes is natural and endemic to 44-year-old men? A year after fleeing the US, Polanski claimed that “everyone wants to f— little girls”. Should we take it on faith that he no longer holds this view?

Also on Huffington Post, supposed women’s equality activist Joan Z Shore notes, “Arresting Roman Polanski the other day in Zurich, where he was to receive an honorary award at a film festival, was disgraceful and unjustifiable”. The petition strikes the same wailing chord, stating; “It seems inadmissible … that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary film-makers, is used by police to apprehend him”. Are we really meant to believe that Polanski should not have been arrested as a question of etiquette? The police should not have arrested a child abuser because it was rude?

The Polanski case is being framed by his defenders as philistine America versus art-loving Europe, and that’s scary to me. As a drippy liberal European fagola, I’m an ardent believer in the need to defend creative freedom from the censorious right. I don’t want to have to think that my side has been secretly pro-child abuse all this time. That’s exactly the sort of crazy that the right likes to paint artists as being, and it’s up to the creative community to act as its own conscience. People like Scorsese and Gilliam should not be lining up to defend a man who committed an atrocious crime. (Thank God for Luc Besson, who refused to sign the petition, pointing out that his daughter is the same age as the girl Polanski raped.) Creative freedom does not include the freedom to rape little girls and get away with it.

Inevitably with stories like this, the question is asked, should a man’s art be viewed through the filter of his conduct? I don’t think it should. I think Polanski is a gifted director who has given us many excellent films, and the value of those films is not diminished by his crimes. But if art and conduct should be treated separately, then art and justice should also be treated separately. If we do not condemn the man’s art because of his conduct, we also cannot forgive the man’s conduct because of his art.

I realise that there are complexities to the Polanski case. There are accusations of judicial misconduct. Though Polanski was never sentenced, his lawyers claim that the judge intended to renege on a plea deal that they had agreed to. Even so, if you elect to work in or even visit a country, you consent to abide by its laws and you make yourself subject to its system of justice, and if you feel there has been a miscarriage of justice, you appeal through the courts. You cannot simply elect to place yourself above the law, even if you are brilliant, wealthy and free-spirited.

Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl and ran from the consequences. Now, hopefully, he will be extradited to the US and those consequences will catch up with him. If he has suffered enough, as his defenders insist he has, that will be for the courts to determine, and not Monica fricking Bellucci.

How To Apologise

Friday, May 15th, 2009

On a recent edition of his radio show, beloved dandy Jonathan Ross said , “If your son asks for a Hannah Montana MP3 player, you might want to already think about putting him down for adoption before he brings his… erm… partner home”.

jonathanross

It’s just a joke. I understand that. Jonathan Ross is a funny man and a great  TV and radio host, and occasionally his humour is a little risqué. But he’s not Jim Davidson. He’s not one of these repugnant old-guard comedians who like to make jokes about ‘pakis’ and beating women. A joke suggesting that parents should put gay children up for adoption belongs firmly on that side of the line. It’s not a joke at the expense of bigotry; it’s a joke for bigots. The joke is not, ‘people say dumb things about effeminate boys’. The joke is, ‘effeminate boys are bad children’.

Ross responded to the outcry about the joke on Twitter, saying, “Am mortified to hear some people thought I was being homophobic on Radio show. Nothing could be further from truth, as I am sure most know.”

I fully accept that Jonathan Ross is not homophobic. He has demonstrated this time and again. But what he said was homophobic. It was a lazy joke leaning on old prejudices, which perpetuated a message that isolates and alienates children struggling with their sexual identity. No kid wants to be told that his parents should give him away. What Ross seems to have missed is that you can be gay friendly in spirit, and still say obscenely homophobic things.

Ross’s twittered response to complaints was the classic, “I’m sorry people were offended”, but without the “I’m sorry”. His follow-up said; “Have gay/bi family members so never been an issue. But I guess soemtimes you need to be sensitive to avoid upsetting folk.”

Some of his best relatives are gay! And he’s not just sorry you were offended; he’s sorry that you’re so easy to offend! It’s wretched, craven, snivelling stuff.  Bernard Manning could not have put it better himself. The twittered defence actually offends me more than the initial joke.

Over on EW.com, Michael Slezak has called on Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell to stop exchanging homophobic barbs on American Idol. I actually think they have muted their homophobia this season, possibly because Adam Lambert is on that stage, but their enthusiasm for catty ‘U R gay’ exchanges has been very notable in the past, and it’s disturbing for a top-rated family show to revel in perpetuating the idea that gay=bad.

Slezak mentions the recent suicide of a boy bullied at school because classmates assumed he was gay. That’s the collateral damage here. Carl Walker was eleven years old, and he took his own life because we live in a world where TV and radio hosts think it’s fine to rely on lazy gay jokes just so long as they themselves can insist that they are not homophobic. It’s fine to make gay kids hate themselves, just so long as they know a gay person!

Ross has been crucified in the tabloids for saying stupid things before, and it was tedious and it was overblown. I’m not interested in repeating that misadventure. I’d just like an apology, and I’d like him and others like him to make the effort not to do it again. I’m not saying that all gay jokes are off limits. I’m saying, don’t go telling gay kids that they are worth less because they’re gay.

Battle of the Blockbuster Boys

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

trekwolverine

This year’s two big early summer blockbusters do not have a lot in common. Sure, they’re both based on nerd franchises, but one is a reboot of a cult TV show about a crew of spacefaring ambassador-adventurers, and the other is a comic book spin-off starring an ageless and mysterious loner with pointy claws. One is about preppy kids in space band-camp; the other is about an angry emo jock. One is bright and breezy; the other is grim ‘n’ gritty. One has side-partings; the other has buzz cuts. One is good; the other is not.

Yet there is one odd feature that unites Star Trek and Wolverine. Man-candy. Both movies feature a surprising number of healthy young turks with thrusting chests and Pepsodent smiles.

We all know Trek beats Wolverine when it comes to things like story, tension, effects and character, and Wolverine currently has the edge when it comes to box office, but which movie comes out ahead when you look at the most important factor of all - the totty? Don’t worry; I have the answers.

(By the way, I think that my version of Photoshop is broken. There was lens flare all over my Star Trek images, and it looked terrible. I’ve done what I can to minimise it.)

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The Nemesis: Eric Bana vs Liev Schreiber

I have a friend who thinks Liev Schreiber is just a low-rent Russell Crowe, which I think is absolutely shocking. I think Liev Scheiber is a rent-controlled Vincent D’Onofrio in a bad neighbourhood. His face is a cross between a sticklebrick and a billboard. Mussing him up and giving him stubble does not render him magically sexy.

Eric Bana, on the other hand, is so handsome that it’s impossible to ugly him up. Cover him in crazy prosthetics and tribal tattoos, and he still looks like a prettier version of Lincoln Burrows from Prison Break. He could play Aileen Wournos and she’d still be gorgeous.

Advantage: Trek

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The Clown: Simon Pegg vs Dominic Monaghan

I used to have a mild thing for Simon Pegg back in the Spaced days, but I got over it pretty quickly. I’ve never had a thing for Dominic Monaghan, despite his claim to fame as being the least punchable of the Hobbits. (For the record, in order of punchability from least to most, it goes Monaghan, Boyd, Wood, Astin.)

That said, Monaghan’s rough-looking circus outcast loser freak looks like he’d be better in the sack than Pegg’s slightly misplaced bag-hat-wearing loopy Scotsman.

Advantage: Wolverine

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The Korean: John Cho vs Daniel Henney

Look everyone! Asians! Asians in our action movies! And they’re not there to do karate! One of these chaps does fancy gun-fu, the other has a flashing blade. It’s a revolution!

Now, John Cho is a handsome and funny guy, and I’d definitely court Harold over Kumar; but Daniel Henney is quite a discovery; the prettiest Korean to shoot at a good guy since Rick Yune in Die Another Day. Not that this propelled Rick Yune to super-stardom, mind you. Hopefully Henney will break out bigger.

Advantage: Wolverine

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The Wiseguy: Karl Urban vs Ryan Reynolds

On first impressions, this is an easy one to call. Ryan Reynolds is stupidly lovely. He’s handsome in a generic Ben Affleck way, and he has an amazing Men’s Health magazine cover body, and he’s funny and goofy and charming. Karl Urban, on the other hand, tends to look a lot better onscreen than off, and has a face a bit like a pissed-off chihuahua. He was at his best playing a Zoolander pretty-boy assassin in The Bourne Supremacy.

Until now, that is. As Dr McCoy, Urban takes on a lip-jutting matinee idol raffishness. While Scotty got the gags and Kirk got the pratfalls, McCoy delivered most of the best lines. Wit and a pair of delightfully full lips will take you a long way in the Federation. Reynolds failed to achieve his usual potential on Wolverine; Urban emerged as one of the nicest surprises in Trek.

Advantage: Trek

vsdaddy

The Father Figure: Chris Hemsworth / Bruce Greenwood
vs Danny Huston / Aaron Jeffrey / Peter O’Brien

The heroes in both movies have both real and surrogate daddies. Actually, James Logan has three dads; real, adoptive, and evil. James Kirk only has two; dead and fake. Wolverine’s dead dads are both played by good-looking Antipodean soap actors, but both are only fleetingly seen. The more substantial father figure is Danny Huston’s William Stryker. Had the part been played by Dexter star Michael C Hall, as originally planned, the character might have had a little more magnetism.

Kirk’s dad is also played by a good-looking Antipodean soap actor, Chris Hemsworth of Home & Away. Kirk’s surrogate dad is Captain Pike, played by Bruce Greenwood. The original Captain Pike was played by Jeffrey Hunter, one of the most beautiful man who ever lived, so it’s natural that they didn’t try to replicate that. In the five-way battle of the daddies, the Abercrombie good looks of Captain Kirk père put him way out ahead.

Advantage: Trek

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The Girl: Zoe Saldana vs Lynn Collins

Or ‘funny-shaped lads’, as I like to think of them. Saldana is a very beautiful woman, but she could stand to eat a few fried Tribbles. Poor dear is wasting away. Collins is likewise attractive, if you can get past the fact that she looks like she smells of hemp and quinoa. The simple truth of the matter, though, is that they’re girls, and you don’t get any points for putting girls in my boy movies. Silly filmmakers!

Advantage: None

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The Sidekick: Zachary Quinto vs Taylor Kitsch

This is where it gets really tough. Quinto is a very handsome man, who made being a brain-eating psychopath seem sexy (and, yes, Sylar eats brains, no matter what he says). However, his bowl-haired Spock is not anywhere like as appealing as either Sylar or Quinto himself. Even with the lengths the movie goes to in order to sex Spock up, fancying Spock is something not everyone is mentally equipped to do. Besides, Quinto is at his best with a bit of stubble. Bring on the Mirror Universe!

In contrast, Taylor Kitsch gets to have fun playing omnisexual flirt and acrobatic hustler Gambit, and his few short scenes are some of the best moments in an otherwise clunky movie. Kitsch convinced me that I’d much sooner watch a Gambit movie than Wolverine 2, Deadpool or Magneto. His hair may be foofy, but it’s still better than Spock’s.

Advantage: Wolverine

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The Hero: Chris Pine vs Hugh Jackman

With scores tied, it all comes down to the leading men. If you’ve seen Jackman strutting about all muscular and shirtless in Wolverine, you’d be forgiven for thinking this a no-brainer. Jackman got himself into amazing shape, and he’s a hugely charismatic actor who can easily carry a big action movie. And he can sing, and he can dance, and he can even raise the ratings for the Academy Awards! He’s a fricking miracle worker!

Then there’s the new boy. Chris Pine is pretty. Chris Pine is flawlessly pretty. He’s as close as any human could come to being a Ken doll. In fact, he was born in LA, the son of two actors; he might as plausibly have been custom-made by Paramount. Consider this; he was born in late August 1980, which means he could have been ‘conceived’ on the very day that Star Trek: The Motion Picture hit cinemas in early December 1979. He’s not a human being! He’s a back-up plan!

The worst you can say about Chris Pine is that he’s too handsome. I don’t believe in ‘too handsome’. As the young, insolent, swaggering Cadet Kirk, pouty-lipped, big eyed Pine is a new icon of cinema sexy, in the grand tradition of Russell Crowe’s Maximus and Daniel Craig’s Bond. Sorry, Wolverine; you’ve finally been out-hunked.

Advantage: Trek
Winner: Trek

The Ten People You Meet on Twitter

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Oprah Winfrey is the most important person in the world. It says so in Time magazine. They put out special editions just to say how important she is. She’s like Jesus, but with syndication. And without the fasting.

And Oprah twitters. This means Twitter is now officially important. If Oprah does anything, it’s important. She was Barack Obama’s kingmaker, you know. She single-handedly reintroduced the concept of books. She is the reason we even have an Africa.

Oprah has only been on Twitter a few days, and she already has hundreds of thousands of people following her - and that’s without entering into any Ashton Kutcher-style popularity contests. Yet Oprah only follows ten people. Given how important Oprah is, it logically follows that these ten people must be the ten next most important people in the world.

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So just who are these ten people? Well, Ashton Kutcher, of course. Ashton Kutcher is now a career twitterer. He’s better known for twittering (I refuse to call it ‘tweeting’) than he is for… whatever it is he used to do before he started twittering. Wearing trucker caps, I think. His wife/owner Demi Moore also makes the Oprah 10. She’s best known for being married to the world’s second most famous twitterer.

Completing the Holy Trinity of twitterers is Evan Williams (pictured, above). He’s not actually important, he’s just one of the founders of Twitter. I thought this might be like the insecure MySpace founder guy who automatically makes everyone pretend to be his friend that everyone be his friend, but no, Oprah has chosen to shine her beneficent glory on Twitter and say that it is good. Or possibly he made her add him when he was on her show, and now she’s too embarrassed to take him off again.

There are two other people in the Oprah 10 who you might never have heard of. One of them is Sheri Salata, a producer on Oprah’s show, who probably set up Oprah’s Twitter account and then added herself. (How Oprah managed to get ‘oprah’ as her Twitter handle, I don’t know. It seems like someone else would have grabbed it first, doesn’t it?) Then there’s Gayle King, who is the editor of Oprah’s magazines and Oprah’s very close personal friend. Very, very close.

That leaves five spots, four of which go to the other members of the Oprah Illuminati; the secret cabal of talk show hosts who sit above in shadow. They are Larry King, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon, and prettyboy political pundit George Stephanopoulos.

And finally, legendary baseball player Shaquille O’Neal. He is John the Baptist to Oprah’s messiah. His role is to lay a path for Oprah in this new world, and to correct her when she forgets proper netiquette.

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There you have it; the ten most important people in the world - after Oprah. Demi and Ashton? They Rule You. Barack Obama? Nowhere to be seen.

Though I am not one of the Oprah 10, I am on Twitter. You can catch my erratic electronic diarrhoea several times a day at http://twitter.com/Wheeler.

Obituary: Jade Goody

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

jade-obit

Britain’s long national nightmare is over.

Jade Goody has died of cancer at the age of 27. For anyone to die at such a young age, for such a seemingly random reason, is always a terrible tragedy. That is no less true when that person who died is a reality TV star who got famous for being famous despite having no discernible talent, skill or charisma.

Though widely derided and even hated by many, Goody was not a bad person; just a very stupid one. Her many quotable utterances from her time on Big Brother showed her failing at history, failing at geography, failing at botany, failing at language - basically showing a remarkable breadth of ignorance on every subject.

On her repeat performance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007 she also failed at humanity, using racist language to describe an Indian housemate whom she’d had a falling out with, though even here it seemed borne more of her cherished ignorance than of full-blooded hate. The other micro-celebrities involved in that incident saw their future careers wither and fade in those moments, but anyone expecting Jade to return to obscurity thereafter was to be disappointed.

Jade’s popular appeal often seemed unfathomable, but it hinged on her being Britain’s village idiot, a likeable fool whom people wanted to talk about. When she became a public villain, she was still going to be talked about, though it made her harder to sell. The new story became the rehabilitation of Jade Goody, and she was still performing her penitant’s pilrgimage with an appearance on the Indian version of Big Brother when her cancer diagnosis first  came in.

It seemed like a publicity stunt. If anyone would stoop so low as to fake cancer to win back the public’s sympathy for a disgraced reality star, it was Goody’s publicist, that modern Mephistopheles, Max Clifford. Jade, as his gormless ventriloquist’s dummy, would never have the wit or the strength to resist his machinations.

Even with Goody’s recent terminal diagnosis, it still felt a little stage-managed. It still felt like an attempt to make her a hero again. And now she’s dead, and still I half believe this is just phase one of the comeback tour.

In the final weeks there was a weird kind of heroism about Jade. If ever it could be said that someone died as they had lived, they could say it of Goody, who made her death the last event in her tabloid life, and she did so not because it would benefit her, but because it would help her children. She married her on-off boyfriend (currently serving out a sentence for assault) and sold the rights to the coverage to OK magaine for a reported £700,000, all of which will go to her two boys. She would have had every reason to retreat from the cameras in her final days, as weak as she was. It’s ironic, then, that the final time she stood in the spotlight, she did so for reasons that seemed brave and noble. She tamed the tabloid monster and turned it into something good.

Jade Goody is gone, and we ought never to have known that she was ever here in the first place. She should never have been famous. There will be a thousand more just like her, and most of them will grab hungrily at their fifteen minutes and wring them dry, only to disappear so completely back into hoi polloi that their eventual death in old age is never noted beyond their own family and friends. Jade Goody might have longed for such an ending.

Persian Rug

Monday, March 9th, 2009

We now return you to your usually scheduled digestion of trash.

Boy-monkey Jake Gyllenhaal is starring in an adaptation of the video game Prince of Persia. Jakey-poo does not look overly Persian, but since most people don’t know what a Persian looks like (other than Blofeld’s cat), it hardly matters. Just stick a bad wig on him and you’re done.

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It is a very bad wig. (Or possibly very bad hair extensions.) Hopefully it will look more convincing in motion, when he’s running along walls and waving his big curvy sword about. For when he’s standing still, they’ve come up with a different distraction, i.e., packing on muscle and not wearing a shirt.

This probably won’t be a good video game movie adaptation (there is no such thing), but it might be quite watchable.

Segel, the Albatross

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Bloggers are getting very excited about the new Vanity Fair issue, with a photo portfolio of Hollywood’s big comedy stars. One photo sees members of Judd Apatow’s comedy troupe - Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd - recreating the famous Vanity Fair Hollywood issue cover featuring a fully clothed Tom Ford getting all gay pimp on pale and naked Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson.

Aside from a change in personnel and the presence of some flesh-coloured bodysuits, see if you can spot the other big difference between the two images. Here’s the original:

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Mm, smell that haughty English actress, Tom. Smell her good. What does she smell like, Tom? Roses, lavender and Jammy Dodgers?

And here’s the comedy remix:

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So, here’s what I’m wondering; did they actually invite Jason Segel to the photo shoot? What we’ve got here is perennial comedy bridesmaid Paul Rudd, man-of-the-moment Seth Rogen, and rising star/chubby sidekick Jonah Hill. And then there’s this Jason Segel chap, who is still not a recognisable name or a recognisable face even after starring in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He just doesn’t look like he’s meant to be there, does he?

I’m probably projecting my own prejudices here. I’m seeing something that isn’t there. Jason Segel is as deserving of a place in that company as any man could be! The same four guys also appear on the cover of the issue, so there can be no doubt that he was meant to be at that photo shoot, and he was meant to be in these images. Look, see:

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Oh. Do we have a barrel for Jason Segel, guys? Did anyone… we didn’t bring four barrels? Right, right, we thought we only needed three.  Jason, would you mind standing at the back, there? Maybe a little bit further back than that? A little further still. You see the fire door over there? How about you go stand on the other side of that?

Oh, Oscar!

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

The world’s most glamorous dog and pony show has come and gone for another year. Hugh Jackman was the host for the 81st Academy Awards, and if he seemed like an odd choice given the show’s tendency to favour comics and professional talkers in the role, all fears quickly faded the moment he sang the word ‘excrement’ into Kate Winslet’s face. The jokes were a little pantomime, the songs were a little ropy, but one thing Jackman has in spades is charm. The opening number also gave us Anne Hathaway as Richard Nixon, and the blissfully barefaced cheek of the ‘I haven’t seen The Reader’ song, which was the most brilliantly stage-managed snub I’ve ever seen.

I’m getting ahead of myself, of course. I haven’t talked about the red carpet, where all the buzz was about Brad and Ange - he looking immaculate, she looking a little vampiric. Not only did they give short shrift to Ryan Seacrest on E, they also breezed quickly past the fawning official Oscar broadcast. Brad and Ange don’t stop for anyone unless they’re holding fresh orphan.

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Beyoncé came dressed as a lacquer vase. Jessica Biel forgot to take the napkin out of her dress after dinner. Tilda Swinton wore a bizaare dress with a golden top half and a black bottom half. True fact - if you tipped her upside down she became Cate Blanchett.

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Kate Winslet’s two-face dress aptly had me in two minds. I think I liked the steely retro Tamara de Lempicka-flavoured under-dress more than I liked the Spanish widow over-dress, but I think she carried it off well.

The stars of High School Musical and Hannah Montana were all there, of course. Good to see the Mario Lopezes and Elizabeth Berkleys of tomorrow out in force and getting their due recognition. I’m only sorry that there was no sign of Lizzie McGuire or the Jonas Brothers.

There were no real trainwreck speeches, but my favourite of the night was the heartfelt speech from Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, whose win seemed necessary in order to give him that platform to speak out about gay rights and gay acceptance. The white ribbon he wore on his lapel was a wedding knot, the symbol for the fight for gay marriage equality.

What we learned at the 81st Academy Awards:

  • Frank Langella is the real Richard Nixon, according to Hugh Jackman. (When Skeletor does it, that means that it is not illegal.)
  • The ceremony just isn’t long enough. In order to add vital minutes to the running time, the acting awards all need to have five presenters, made up of a carefully selected squad of past winners including at least one barely-remembered veteran, one legend, one lunatic, and one person you’re quite sure shouldn’t have won an Oscar in the first place. How nice it was to see Cuba Gooding Jr up on that stage again. (Traditionally one would make a joke about Marisa Tomei at this point, but since she got nominated again this year, I guess that’s no longer a joke.)
  • They only asked Cuba Gooding Jr up there so that they could have a black actor talk about Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder, and they only had Christopher Walken up there because talking about unknown nominee Michael Shannon is boring, but Walken is always entertaining.
  • Angelina Jolie smiled during Jennifer Aniston’s bit. STOP THE PRESSES! This is doubly shocking, as Jennifer Aniston’s bit was not funny. And why the hell is Jennifer Aniston at the Oscars? Couldn’t they afford to get the dog from Marley and Me?
  • Everyone loves a montage. The action montage! The romance montage! The comedy montage! The Oscars are turning into the MTV Movie Awards. Soon there’ll be an Academy Award for Best Kiss.
  • Seth Rogen likes to promote both DVD piracy and gay panic. Ha ha ha, gay panic never stops being funny. Good work there, Milk star James Franco.
  • Ben Stiller probably paid Joaquin Phoenix to act strange on Letterman so that he’d have something to do at the Oscars. (But it was still pretty funny.)
  • Rogen and Stiller are both a lot funnier than Jerry Lewis ever was. The Jerry Lewis montage powerfully demonstrated the limits of Lewis’ schtick, which was basially just one facial expression. (And yet Renee Zellweger has built her career on so much less.)
  • Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé Knowles singing Abba in a montage from the musicals will do more to recruit homosexuals than Harvey Milk ever could. 
  • Actually, that medley was kind of painful. If the rebirth of the musical means more exposure to the stars of High School Musical and Mamma Mia, I’ll just stick to my Rogers and Hammerstein DVDs, thank you very much.
  • When Peter Gabriel throws a snit about not being allowed to perform his nominated song in its entirety, the Oscar producers are forced to fall back on that old standby John Legend. Swapping out Gabriel for an act that kids have actually heard of must have had the producers kicking themselves.
  • It was a great night for Slumdog Millionaire, and the more awards the movie won, the wider director Danny Boyle’s giant toothy smile got, until he was forced to hold his teeth in to stop them from escaping. 
  • Paul Newman totally won the deathreel popularity contest. Sorry, Charlton Heston. (Getting Queen Latifah to sing along to it was a nice touch.)
  • Jack Nicholson is either unwell or missing, as there were no cuts to him all night. How can you have an Oscars without shots of Jack Nicholson wearing shades and grinning, every five minutes? Even if he was busy that night, couldn’t they have got a film crew to follow him around wherever he happened to be? Here’s Jack wearing shades and grinning in the supermarket. Here’s Jack wearing shades and grinning while he reads the sports pages. Here’s Jack wearing shades and grinning while he has a nap.
  • If they must have montages, I’d most like to see a montage of the best Academy Award Jack Nicholson cutaways from the past 81 years.
  • Sophia Loren is so terrifying that even the usually unsinkable Meryl Streep looked daunted while being addressed by her. Loren seemed to be getting ready to wrestle Streep for the title of world’s greatest actress. Then she would have torn Anne Hathaway in two with her teeth and sucked the youth right out of her.
  • Kate Winslet is now Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, and about bloody time. Judging from the reaction in the theatre, I’m not the only one who felt that way. After calling Angelina Jolie ‘the other one’ at the Golden Globes, she seemed to make a point of going over to Ange on her way to the stage. We’re all at peace with Angelina Jolie now.
  • Sean Penn deservedly won for Milk, but his acceptance speech probably wasn’t as good as the one Mickey Rourke would have given, despite the line about ‘Commie homo-loving sons-of-guns’, and the powerful message about how those who voted for Proposition 8 would make their future grandchildren ashamed. If Rourke had gone up there, there was always the chance that he might have melted under the lights, or vomited blood all over Amy Adams.
  • At one point the camera fixed on the weird dragalicious man-shambles that is Rourke, and over his right shoulder we could see tousle-haired vampire pretty-boy Robert Pattinson, and over Rourke’s left shoulder we could see sexy schoolmarm and comedy goddess Tina Fey, and in that shining glorious moment the zeitgeist of the last six months was tied up in a tidy package and wrapped with a dainty bow. And now we can all move on to the next thing, whatever that is.