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The Post-Game Show » 2009 » May

Archive for May, 2009

The Movement to Protect Singing

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

My friends, I would like to speak to you today about singing, and the radical threat that could destroy the divine gift of song for all of us.

I refer, of course, to homosexuals.

psgaysingers

It is time that laws were introduced to outlaw homosexuals from writing or performing songs. We must also formally enshrine the definition of song as “a lyrical and musical composition originated and performed by heterosexuals”.

The soundness of my reasoning is self-evident, but if you will indulge me, I will explain my position.

In brief, homosexual songs undermine the value and sanctity of singing. They harm our songs.

Singing is a gift given to us by God so that we can praise Him. Song is used as a means of expressing faith and worship. Any songs that deviate from this standard will inevitably sully the importance of songs as a means of expressing ourselves to God. For this reason, it is important that all songs be messages of faith, reverence, and sanctified love, either between man and God, or between a man and a woman.

pschurchchoir

Homosexual songs are by their nature heathen and spiritually bankrupt. They are often used to praise unnatural or harmful behaviour. One need only look at such songs as ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Marc Almond’s version of ‘Tainted Love’, or ‘Anything Goes’ by Cole Porter, to see the menace they represent.

It is no exaggeration to say that many people do most or all of their singing in church. If we do not take a stand against the growing storm of homosexual singing, it is certain that some day in the near future churches will no longer be free to choose songs for their congregations to sing. Uplifting hymns such as ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ will be replaced by decadent gay songs like ‘Fastlove’ and ‘Go West’. Can you imagine an evangelical assembly being forced to sing ‘Filthy/Gorgeous’ by the Scissor Sisters? It simply does not bear thinking about.

Of course, it is not just our churches that are under threat, but also our schools. Song is an important part of teaching, especially for the youngest and most impressionable children, who learn about the alphabet, mathematics, wildlife and even foreign languages through the medium of song. If we do not act now, teachers will soon be forced to teach children the lyrics to gay-themed songs such as ‘In The Navy’ and ‘Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other’. Do we really want our five-year-old sons and daughters to know that “[Candy] never lost her head even when she was giving head”? No we do not.

psmoregaysingers

Nor is this the end of it. Shops that currently make a living selling religious books and music will soon be made to sell Queen and Ani DiFranco, or else they will be forced out of business all together. Churches will be obliged to rent out their property for rock concerts by The B-52s and Judas Priest. Adoption agencies will be made to give children up for adoption to people who own music by Tracy Chapman, Rufus Wainwright or Stephen Sondheim.

Then there is the fact that gay singers and musicians are frequently intrinsically unnatural. One need only look at Boy George or KD Lang to see that the singing of ‘gay’ music has a corrupting effect on traditional gender roles. The sounds made by the likes of Antony and The Johnsons and Sigur Ros are barely songs at all.

Indeed it is surely not too extreme to suggest that the ultimate aim of those who would seek to promote homosexual songs is to do away with the concept of singing altogether. It is a stealth movement that is fundamentally opposed to our musical values. If we accept homosexual songs, what next? Will we have to define the noise a goat makes as ’singing’?

Homosexuals do not even need singing. There are already plenty of perfectly good words that describe the noises that they make, such as ’screeching’, ‘yelling’ and ‘wailing’; they will still be permitted to use those words.

psyetmoregays

Some people say that homosexual songs make people happy or joyful, or they argue that homosexuals deserve the same right to sing and compose as everyone else. It has even been argued that the sale of homosexual songs can have some economic benefit.

This very much misses the point; this is not about an individual’s happiness or rights, or even about money; this is about protecting the religious freedoms on which our society was founded. If we challenge those foundations it will be a threat to family, liberty and the right of individual expression. This has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with respect for our sacred traditions. People may say that this proposal is intolerant, but surely the true act of intolerance would be to oppose narrowly defining an activity in a way that excludes people based on their differences?

So I call upon you all now to join me in my campaign. It is time to say no to David Bowie. Say no to Dusty Springfield. Say no to Linda Perry, and Aaron Copland, and REM. This is not about hating homosexuals; this is about protecting our music. Love the singer; hate the song.

Idol: When You Think The Road Is Going Nowhere…

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

It’s results night. I warn you now, I will say who the winner is by the end of this post, so if you’re trying to avoid spoilers until it airs in your timezone, stop reading this, and avoid all other media. Call in sick and go back to bed. Basically, you’re screwed.

Before I assess this evening’s performances, I want to look back over the season as a whole. Was it a good year?

It’s a good final two, that’s clear enough. Kris actually looks and sounds like I think people who have never seen Idol believe Idols look and sound, but he is a strong performer and a talented guy. Adam doesn’t look like anyone’s idea of an Idol, and he’s turned the competition on its head and put a shot of adrenaline into the heart of mainstream American culture. He inspires people to write hyperbolic statements just like that one!

meganjoysings

But what of the rest of the top thirteen? There are names you’ll barely remember, like Jasmine, Jorge, Alexis and Michael (though Alexis deserved to do better). There are a lot of names I think the world would do well to forget; Scott, Matt, Megan and, of course, Danny Gokey. Outside of the final two, I think only Allison deserves to go on to a successful career, and I suspect she will. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anoop Desai also somehow makes something of himself - he’s the new Constantine Maroulis. I don’t see the appeal, but what his fans lack in numbers, they make up for in passion.

That’s not to say there weren’t other singers who could yet make names for themselves in this competition; they just weren’t in the final thirteen. The likes of Ricky Braddy and Jesse Langseth showed far more potential than many of the contestants ‘cast’ for the live shows. I liked the voting-in format of the show this year, with three groups of 12, but the talent was poorly distributed across them. Fully six of the finalists came from just one of those groups, including four of the final five.

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The other innovation beside the wildcards was the judges’ save, which can firmly be said to have flopped. It was introduced to solve a problem that didn’t really need solving, and it was squandered on Matt Giraud, who didn’t deserve this save any more than he deserved his wildcard save; he was consistently the most horrible performer to watch all season.

Oh, and then there’s Kara. She showed so much promise when she started, offering refreshingly informed and forthright opinions on the auditionees. Compared to Paula, she seemed like a genius. Then the show went live, and Kara became so soft and so stupid that it was like she was a completely different person. Her every utterance was dumb and devoid of insight. By the end of the season, I’d found a new appreciation for Paula. And Kara gave us this year’s diabolical winner’s song (from which the title of this post is taken). The best anyone can say for Kara is that at least she isn’t Randy ‘I agree with Simon’ Jackson.

rowlf

On with the show! On with the unflattering white costumes! The top 13 return for another of those tortuous group performances, this time Pink’s So What, and it’s actually better than most of these performances simply by dint of the fact that it’s a shouty song and these people can only shout when dumped on stage together. They are not a chorus. Interesting to note that Blind Scott seems to be managing his way around the stage. Now the show is over, he doesn’t need to pretend to be blind anymore. Watch the audience; we’ll probably see Danny’s wife out there, alive and well.

Last year’s champion, David Cook, follows up with a song for his brother, who died a couple of weeks ago from brain cancer. Proceeds of the sale go to finding a cure for cancer. I have nothing funny to say about this.

Next; the loser awards, for people who humiliated themselves on international TV. I was hoping they wouldn’t do this again this year. It’s cruel and painful. By all means bring the losers back for a group performance, as they seem to enjoy that, but don’t give them medals for stupidity! Anyway, you can guarantee that the winners will be Nick Mitchell and Tatiana Del Toro, both of whom actually made it to the voting shows, which is a sad indictment of the circus this show has become.

Lil Rounds versus Queen Latifah. Winner: Queen Latifah. Then Jason Mraz turns up for a performance of his feelgood summer pablum I’m Yours, with Alexis, Anoop, and Anoop’s scary child abuser moustache.

kris-puppy

This is followed by a montage of Kris Allen’s side-mouth singing, and Kris’s duet with Keith Urban. That’s sad. If I got to the American Idol final, I’d like to be rewarded with something more exciting than a guy best known outside the South as Nicole Kidman’s other ex-husband. (And I just checked Wikipedia to check I’d got the right guy, and he’s not the one who got divorced from Renee Zellweger for being gay, and apparently Keith Urban is still married to Nicole Kidman. Well, who knew? Given that he’s wed to Ms Nicole, I presume Keith Urban is also a closeted gay man. Country music is evidently a hotbed of self-loathing homosexuals. Proof, if proof were needed, that what the world needs now is Adam Lambert, sweet Adam Lambert.)

The Idol girls sing Glamorous, and we’re promptly reminded that Megan Joy was much worse than either Alexis or Jasmine, despite her interesting voice. But the producers smile on Megan by putting Fergie on stage, and suddenly Megan looks like Montserrat Caballé. Aaaand fast forward…

Bikini Girl. Ryan Seacrest pretending not to be gay. Fast forward… and there’s an actual nice moment here when Kara comes out on stage to perform with Bikini Girl, whom she loathed. And by perform with her, I mean school her. Turns out Kara can sing, dawg.

dora-the-explorer

Allison Iraheta versus Cyndi Lauper. Was Allison even alive when Time After Time was released? In fact, no; it predates her by eight years. EIGHT YEARS! Well, it’s nice that Cyndi was given extended day release from the home for this. She’s a bit rude, though, concentrating on her zithering all the way through the performance.

Danny Gokey sings Hello with Lionel Richie. Thrilling. Fast forward. Either this turned into a medley half way through, or this the most HI-NRG version of Hello that’s ever been performed.

To sweeten that bitter pill, we get the Adam Lambert video package, set to Rule the World. A-ha-ha. Then Adam’s showpiece, wherein he’s dressed as a Starlight Express quarterback and backed by Kiss. What’s astonishing is how comfortable and composed he sounds - moreso than he did last night. I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t care what happens next; he’s just here to enjoy himself. It’s glorious. It may be the high point in Idol history.

frankenfurter

Matt Giraud versus Santana. The oiliest few minutes in television history. Thankfully the Idols come on to pour detergent on things. Then a Ford commercial.

Megan Joy and Michael Sarver versus Steve Martin. Uh… OK. It’s some odd country song about an old married couple, with Martin playing banjo. There does not appear to be a punchline. Finally, the male Idols perform If You Think I’m Sexy in anticipation of, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Rod Stewart. And, I swear to God, Blind Scott is definitely not blind anymore. Rod sings Maggie May, and oh dear, Rod Stewart is old. Actually, I think they’ve accidentally booked Rod Hull.

Tatiana Del Toro. Fast forward. Kris and Adam sing We Are The Champions with Queen. But who is the champion? Who? WHO?

The winner of American Idol 2009 is… well, by the time you read this, you already know that the boy-next-door pipped the gay glam rocker to the post. It ought to be a huge surprise, a huge upset… but it’s not. It was obvious at the end what a close contest this was going to be. It is a little disappointing that the gay guy couldn’t win, and I do have to wonder what part homophobia played in his defeat - I’m sure some of those votes for Kris were from anti-Adam bigots rather than Kris fans - but even in losing, Adam has gone further than any ‘theatrical’ ought to be able to get on this show, and he did it on talent, and I’m thrilled to think what he might do next.

And now Adam never has to sing that terrible winner’s song again. Bad luck, Kris.

Idol: The Final

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

It’s the final. The day of reckoning. Well, the day before the day of reckoning, because we don’t get the result until tomorrow. But still, this is the showdown, and… and it almost doesn’t seem to matter.

I mean, it doesn’t matter, of course, because it’s only a reality TV show. But it does matter because Adam Lambert has totemic value as an acceptable face of gay in the American heartland. But it doesn’t matter because… well, Danny Gokey is gone.

For a long time, the safe money was on a Danny/Adam final. I wrote last week about the allegorical power of this confrontation - safe Christian values versus debauched Californian liberalism. And then a miracle happened. God himself flooded the Idol phone lines with votes for Adam and Kris, pushing Gokey into third place and out of the competition, as if to say, “You do not sing for me, widowmaker”. Poor God, he must be tired of people saying the devil has all the best tunes.

If Gokey had made the final, this would have been a tense end to the season. But with the smug one’s ouster, it’s tough to care, and for the best of all possible reasons; I like both of the finalists.

kradam

Adam is the favourite, and he’s the most creative performer the show has ever seen, and the best singer this side of Melinda Doolittle, so if he does win it’ll be entirely right and proper. Kris need not worry; he’ll get a career out of this as well.

But if Kris wins… well, it wouldn’t really change anything. Adam would still be a superstar. The Adam haters would be gleeful, but I think most Adam fans would take it in good grace. Most of them like Kris, and it’s still a victory for the flamboyantly gay contestant to have got to the final at all. The voting between Kris and Adam last week was reportedly close, and most of Danny’s votes will go to Kris, so victory for Kris could easily be on the cards.

There were rumours of a Kris/Adam feud in the papers at one point, but it’s obvious from the way the two interact - hugging, joking, sitting together - that they’re very close. The fanfic has already been written. Sharp-eyed fans spotted last week that Kris had nail polish on one thumb, while Adam had nail polish on all but one thumb. This was apparently a deliberate gesture of solidarity between the two. We’re also told that when the results were announced, Kris’s mum ran up to Adam’s mum and they hugged. Whoever wins, I think the loser will be legitimately happy for him. The final result is largely irrelevant.

kradam-1

Perhaps the clearest illustration of this odd win-win situation is the conundrum that anti-Idol site Vote for the Worst found itself in. VFTW tries to propel bad contestants to victory because… I don’t know, really. Boredom, I suppose. Regardless, the site has had a terrible season. In the prelims they backed Tatiana, Alex and Norman, none of whom went through. For the show itself, they backed Megan, Scott, Lil, Matt and Danny in quick succession. They had no noticeable impact. (If they’d picked Matt Giraud as the worst, like I did, they’d have looked like geniuses!)

The point being, they capped their terrible year with an impossible choice. VFTW is consensus-led, and therefore tends to be musically conservative, so their natural choice for ‘worst’ would be Adam (an early poll showed that VFTW wanted Adam as their pick), but you can’t try to sway the vote in favour of the popularly acclaimed front-runner; it’s meaningless

As it’s too late to back Adam, VFTW picked Kris as its ‘worst’, claiming that Adam had pussied out of being his full queeny self, and that Kris would be a disastrous winner for the producers. Neither of those claims stands up to a second’s scrutiny. Vote for the Worst couldn’t pick a plausible worst in the final two, because there is no worst. There’s no bad result here.

adam

On to tonight’s performances. Adam starts things off with a Mad World reprise, backlit and wearing a long school-massacring coat. He doesn’t sound as confident as he did last time he did this number, and he’s not offering anything new, but it is a typically well acted and emotional performance. A safe choice.

Kris revisits Ain’t No Sunshine - lovely and unchallenging, I wish he’d gone with Falling Slowly, which was much more original, but much less well known. Another safe choice.

Adam’s next song is A Change Is Gonna Come, the producer’s choice - and it’s a good contrast to what’s gone before. This is a musically challenging, dazzling song that allows Adam to show some shade. He starts out controlled, but intense, then unleashes a trademark wail that could knock a man down. It’s a home run for Adam’s constituency of tweens and grandmas.

kris

Kris follows that with What’s Going On. And I’m suddenly very aware of Kris’s weird pubescent moustache. Is that an Anoop tribute? Kris is adorable as ever, but he’s definitely milquetoast compared to the competition, and this little acoustic coffee bar set demonstrates that very clearly. Of course, his best chance of winning this really is to run as the anti-Lambert; an island of normal in a flood of glitter.

Finally, the winner’s song, No Boundaries, by Kara DioGuardi (among others). Yes, her; the shite judge. This is what she otherwise does for a living, you know. The song is predictably rotten stuff, and not even rotten in a dependably stirring way. It’s not a very Adam Lambert song, but he does infuse it with a texture that I suspect it’s otherwise lacking. Ultimately, though, it’s kind of sad that this is the last song he gets to sing in the contest. Kris fares a little better with the MOR-ness, but he struggles with the range, and, let’s be honest, the banality of the song is beneath him as well.

That’s the end. Tomorrow we’ll have a winner. Bookies favour Adam, but I think Kris has an excellent chance - he’ll get a lot of votes from supporters, but I’m sure he’ll also benefit from people voting against the gay guy, sadly. Still, this time tomorrow we’ll either have a queer Idol champion, or a queer Idol superstar. It’s a win-win.

Another Opening, Another Show

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Five years ago, in one new pilot season, the TV gods gave unto us Lost, House, Desperate Housewives, Veronica Mars and Deadwood. It was a good year. There hasn’t been a year like it since.

In fact, the most recent couple of TV years have been especially terrible, thanks to the writers’ strike. There have been very few good shows, and even fewer renewals. Chuck, Gossip Girl and The Big Bang Theory are some of the only survivors from 07-08, which is good news for underperforming shows from the 08-09 season, like Castle, Dollhouse and Better Off Ted. The closest things to bona fide hits this past season were The Mentalist and Fringe. Nothing truly popped, and studio execs are desparate for success.

So what looks good? Here are my picks of the shows I’m looking forward to in the coming season - assuming they get a season order.

glee

Glee (Fox)

Nip/Tuck’s Ryan Kelly goes back to high school (he was responsible for the underrated Popular, which gave the world Christopher Gorham, Leslie Bibb and Sara Rue) with a show about a school choir. It looks like it’ll be all the usual jocks/geeks/cheerleaders stuff - a well-tapped mine that still sometimes turns up gold - but with added musical numbers, and a regular role for the always excellent Jane Lynch. I suspect it’ll be the most fun thing on TV this year. We’ll get a sneak peek tomorrow, when they preview the pilot after the American Idol final.

Tremé/Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

If the HBO name is no longer enough to get you excited about the show, these two have some other names that may work for you. Tremé, about musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans, is the new show from The Wire’s David Simon. The neighbourhood of Tremé, also called Storyville, is next to the French Quarter, and it’s the birthplace of jazz. I love jazz and I love New Orleans, so this intrigues me more than The Wire ever did.

Boardwalk Empire is the work of Martin Scorsese, and it’s a show about Atlantic City gangsters in the 1920s - ‘Once Upon A Time in The Sopranos’. With a cast that includes Steve Buscemi, Kelly McDonald and Michael Pitt, it promises some heavyweight dinner theatre - but the pilot may not get made until Scorsese is free to direct, so this could get bumped to another year.

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Eastwick (ABC)

The Witches of Eastwick has already inspired a movie, a musical and a sequel novel. Now it’s a TV show, with Rebecca Romijn as one of the three suburban witches, and Paul Gross as Darryl Van Horne, aka the devil. Casting the former Due South mountie in such a role strikes me as odd, but he is eerily ageless and rather irresistible, so it could be a good fit, and it will be nice to see him back on TV. The movie’s Veronica Cartwright, best known for vomiting cherry stones, also has a role in the show.

Masterwork (Fox)

As I mentioned this past weekend, Former Friday Night Lights star Scott Porter is my choice to play Captain America in the movie - but he may be too busy if his new show does well. Porter plays a globetrotting FBI agent tracking down art thieves. Hijinx ensue. Who doesn’t love hijinx? It sounds expensive, so it may need to do incredibly well in order to succeed - and, frankly, nothing does incredibly well anymore - a fact that seems to have been lost on the people who decide which shows to cancel or renew. Ratings ain’t what they used to be.

Flash Forward (ABC)

I am looking forward to this, but I’m also slightly dreading its likely inevitable phenomenon status. It’s another JJ Abrams show, and with Lost bowing out this coming season, ABC is lining this up as a replacement. The concept is that the whole world suffers a blackout (leading to death and destruction, yay) and everyone sees a flash of their future five months hence. You can be sure that these flash-forwards will set up lots of intriguing ‘how do I get to there from here’ mysteries. Stars include John Cho and Joseph Fiennes. ABC also has a remake of the lizard alien show V in the works, starring The 4400’s Joel Gretsch and Firefly’s Morena Baccarin.

Those are the shows I have high hopes for. There are also a few I’m wary of, so consider this fair warning:

Lost & Found (NBC)

A gritty cop drama from the Dick Wolf stable, about a young maverick LAPD detective who teams up with a grizzled older partner to work cold cases. It could hardly be more formulaic, but it does boast Katee Sackhoff and Brian Cox as the leads, so that gives it some small hope of being interesting.

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Vampire Diaries (CW)

I doubt your committment to sparkle vampires. The CW is cashing in on the Twilight thing with this adaptation of another young adult novel series about high school bloodsuckers. You shoulda wrote one of those! You’d be rich now! This one stars Ian Somerhalder as, I don’t know, ‘Jedward Scullen’, probably.

Eva Adams (Fox)

A sexist sports agent finds himself trapped in the body of a beautiful young woman. If it gets made (and I don’t think it will), it will surely be diabolical, but it does raise one interesting question; how would they handle the love interest? Is the male-to-female lead character going to get it on with boys (gay!) or girls (also gay!)? Like Ugly Betty, this is an adaptation of a South American telenovela.

Human Target (Fox)

This is based on the DC comic about a detective who impersonates his clients in order to protect them. The premise has a little in common with Dollhouse, but without all the rape. However, word has it that the show has ditched the comics’ impersonation angle. If so, it’s ditched the ‘human target’ premise that made this show intriguing (and, uh, gave it its name). Then again, if you want an actor who can exhibit range, craggy faced Mark Valley seems about as wise a choice as, say, Eliza Dushku.

Legally Mad (NBC)

This one didn’t get picked up, so we already know we’re never going to see it, and that’s a reason to be cheerful. This was going to be yet another tedious ‘wacky lawyer’ show from David E Kelley, who gave us Ally McBeal and Boston Legal: Ally McBeal For Boys. This one starred squeaky-voiced Kristen Chenoweth and squeaky-voiced Loretta Divine, so it would only have been audible to dogs. To cap it all, it was called Legally Mad, for God’s sake. We dodged  a bullet there, folks.

Tremendously Thor

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

This is Thor. He is a god of Thunder.

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He is also a Marvel superhero, and one of a handful of such heroes set to star in their own big screen blockbusters in the next couple of years - this one to be directed by Kenneth Branagh. The other really big hero on the slate is Captain America, and casting rumours have been rife on who would be cast in each of these roles. For a long time, it seemed the most sensible choice for Thor was this fella:

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This is Alexander Skarsgård, son of Stellan Skarsgård, and one of the stars of both Generation Kill and True Blood. Not only is he tall, handsome, muscular and blond; he’s also Scandinavian! It was pretty much dream casting. Thus I was very disappointed when Skarsgård recently said that he was out of the running for the part. At that point I was resolved to hate whoever they eventually did cast.

Then came today’s scoop from Deadline Hollywood Daily that Branagh has his Thor, and it’s this guy:

chrishemsworth5

You may know him as Kim Hyde on Home & Away. More likely, you know him as Captain Kirk. Senior, that is. He played the rather dishy George Kirk in the new Star Trek movie.

He’s not as tall as Skarsgård (an inch shorter at 6′ 3″), and he’s not as Scandinavian (he’s Australian), but he is tall, handsome, muscular and blond, so as second choices go, he looks pretty good to me - and he’s about seven years younger than Skarsgård, so he has better mileage for a franchise. Given that the producers were considering Charlie Hunnam (a good looking lad, but an atrocious actor), I’m actually rather relieved.

This still leaves the question of who should play that other tall, handsome, muscular blond, Captain America.

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The names being thrown in the hat by Cap fans include Tahmoh Penikett, Travis Fimmel, Chris Egan, Jensen Ackles, Kellan Lutz, Mark Valley, Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith.

I’m fairly sure they won’t cast someone who isn’t actually American (it would be a scandal), so Penikett, Fimmel and Egan are out. I also don’t think they’re going to cast a black actor - there was a black Captain America, but 1940s America was not going to choose a black man to be its symbol of hope. They won’t cast Kellan Lutz because, let’s be honest, he looks kinda metrosexual.

Because the character is meant to have gravitas, there’s a temptation to cast someone a bit older in the role, but Cap would have been in his early 20s when he started out, and not yet 30 when he was frozen in 1945, and the movie is expected to cover that period, so the likes of McConaughey, Damon and, especially, Valley should be too old.

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My personal favourite for the role is Scott Porter of Friday Night Lights (above). He was perfect as an iconic blond, blue-eyed, square-jawed hero in Speed Racer, playing big brother Rex. He definitely has the all-American thing going on, and he doesn’t look too lightweight. Of course, if the Marvel movie makers do not follow my excellent advice, their casting on Thor has proved that they can sometimes make a good decision without my help.

Eurovision 2009

Friday, May 15th, 2009

It’s a well-known fact that the Eurovision Song Contest is the cultural high watermark of the year. This is why I spend several hours every year compiling my guide to the performers and their songs - a cheat sheet to steer you through the contest. This year, for the first time, I’m posting the rundown here at its new home, The Post-Game Show - though in this instance it’s pre-game all the way.

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Read the rundown; share it with your friends; and leave your comments to let me know who your favourite acts are, and who you think is going to win. But most importantly; enjoy the music. Every year, the ghost of Mozart weeps, for Mozart never lived to submit an entry to Eurovision.

This year’s contest comes from Moscow. You can watch a live stream of the show from 20:00 BST, 15:00 EST, or see videos of any of the songs, at http://www.eurovision.tv/.

Lithuania
“Love”
Sasha Son

Sasha’s biography tells us, “The Lithuanian artist has received many prizes and is responsible for many chart-busters in the country!” It’s true! He has all his achievement badges, and he is very popular in rural areas! The start of this ballad put me in mind of We Are The Champions, but it’s Lithuanian, and Lithuania has never been a champion at anything, so it’s probably We Are The Starving Downtrodden Peasants Living in Abject Poverty, my friends. And we’ll eat potatoes, ’til the end. The lyrics to the chorus are, “If you really love the love you say you love then surely that love would love to love you back”. And the Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Israel
“There Must Be Another Way”
Noa & Mira

Although the title is in English, fooling you into thinking you know where you stand with this cheerful song, the rest of the lyrics are all guttural throat-clearing sounds. Possibly Klingon. Trek is so big right now. And that one girl definitely has some proper Klingon hair. In fact, the other girl could pass for Bajoran, so maybe this is a Federation peace song. There must be another way to unite the planets! Fire up the warp nacelles and drop the power core into the sun! (I suppose it might also be a song about peace in the Middle East, but there will never be peace in the Middle East so long as the Vulcans are without a homeland.)


France
“Et S’il Fallait Le Faire”
Patricia Kaas

Last year, France boldly opted out of competing in Eurovision, while simultaneously continuing to participate. That is to say, knowing they weren’t going to win, they put forward a musically credible act with a decent song, and offered audiences a three minute respite from the madness (with a different flavour of madness - Sébastien Tellier certainly was not sane). It looks like they are doing it again this year, with jazz singer Patricia Kaas singing an earnest Berlin cabaret torch song. It’s rather good, and thus stands out like a sore thumb.

Sweden
“La Voix”
Malena Ernman

Though born a human ‘woman’, Malena looks and sounds like a weird hybrid of drag act and alien, and her wide glazed eyes look like they were painted on to her eyelids. Her song would be equally at home opening a retro sci-fi TV show or as the theme for the BBC coverage of the European Cup. It has a lot of wailing - and with wailing comes solicitous dancing waiters waving their arms about. Highly camp, and therefore somewhat charming.

Croatia
“Lijepa Tena”
Igor Cukrov featuring Andrea

This starts out sounding promisingly like “Something Stupid”, and the cross-eyed young male singer does seem to fit that description (though I confess a personal weakness for young men named Igor. The hunchback thing is such a myth). This song is not in English, and I’m not sure it’s in Croatian either. I’m having trouble distinguishing much in the way of words at all. It’s 99% yodel. That is considered well above the international standard for yodelling, so unless they have special dispensation, they may find themselves dragged off to a Russian gulag to build tractors for the farming collectives.

Portugal
“Todas As Ruas Do Amor”
Flor-de-Lis

Here’s a bright and breezy little ditty. I believe the title of this song translates as, “Look out, I am going to spin”. If the young lady dressed as a gypsy caravan can pick up some speed with those arms of hers, she could take out her entire backing band of ethnic musicians dressed as children’s TV presenters. The song is bubbly folk, bursting into sudden and unexpected bouts of loud enthusiasm before subsiding back into hurdy gurdy.

Iceland
“Is It True?”
Yohanna

Iceland does not want to win Eurovision. Iceland can’t afford roads right now; they certainly can’t afford a song contest. I’m amazed they even bothered to field a contestant, but maybe Yohanna was on holiday in Moscow when the economy collapsed, and since she was stuck there without a flight home, Iceland decided to let her compete so long as she did her own hair and sang a safely unmemorable song. They must be horrified that she got beyond the semi-finals. If Iceland could afford an assassin, they’d take her out in the first chorus.

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Greece
“This Is Our Night”
Sakis Rouvas

You may recognise Mr Rouvas from such Eurovisions as 2004 (performing) and 2006 (hosting). And if you Google him, you’ll find that there are very few pictures of him wearing a shirt. His nipples are the best known in Europe. The song is pure Europop - grinding, repetitive and overheated, with a heavy dose of mid-90s trance throbbing along in the background. Sakis looks like he enjoys a bit of throbbing.

Armenia
“Jan Jan”
Inga & Anush

It wouldn’t be Eurovision without yodelling, but this one sticks within the legal limit, and once you get past the obligatory cultural warbles, this morphs into one of the stranger entries in the contest; it’s like a Bollywood hokey-cokey, but without any perceptible rhythm. Following the dance moves would be like trying to play Twister on an escalator.

Russia
“Mamo”
Anastasia Prikhodko

Russia were lobbying to win the contest for a long time, and would have invaded some bitches if they hadn’t won last year, so hurray, thank God gaypalooza is in homophobic Moscow this year! But few countries want to win twice in a row, which is why Russia has found some miserable under-age gangster’s moll, given her a shower and a fresh change of clothes, and told to go out on stage and lament and smile. As soon as the show is over, they’ll sell her in exchange for a bootleg DVD of Twilight. (Russians love glampires.)

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Azerbaijan
“Always”
AySel & Arash

I love Azerbaijan very much. They made their Eurovision debut last year with perhaps my favourite entry of all time; a homoerotic rock duet between a screeching meringue angel and a growling leather-trousered devil (pictured above). “Ze urse is in flame, and you mast share ze blem”. They could never hope to match that genius this year, so they’ve opted for a more conventional, slightly ethnic male/female duet, with a thin Martine McCutcheon and a young Andy Abraham. It’s a bit of a step down from the falsetto rockpocalypse.

Bosnia-Herzegovina
“Bistra Voda”
Regina

Regina, you will note, means ‘Queen’, but don’t expect any Freddie Mercury glam operatics from this band. The Bosnian Queen like to dress as a touring production of Les Mis and sing Teutonic drinking songs with military drums. It’s all appallingly glum. I think ‘bistra voda’ is an alcoholic drink distilled from gravy granules. This would explain why they’re so upset.

Moldova
“Hora Din Moldova”
Nelly Ciobanu

This is a song about the hora (as in, the dance) in Moldova (as in, the country next to the country where Michael Praed is presumably now king). I used to know how to dance a hora, but it didn’t look anything like whatever it is these people are doing. Things are different in Moldova. Poorer, but with more tablecloths. Still, if we must have folk music, I welcome this upbeat cheerful folk music full of men shouting ‘hey!’.

Malta
“What If We”
Chiara

We’ve seen Chiara on this show before, so I think I’ve already made the ‘Malta in an evening dress’ joke. Chiara looks a bit like Adele, if Adele went to an all-you-can-eat buffet where they were serving fresh baked Allison Moyet. Chiara doesn’t have that smoky voice, though; instead it’s a very nasal pop voice; one octave in search of an AutoTune. She delivers a stirring little anthem about stars and keys and dice and, oh, just all the different marshmallows in a box of Lucky Charms.

Estonia
“Rändajad”
Urban Symphony

The name of this act got me very excited. I thought it was going to be foxes playing car horns. Sadly it’s just Emily the Strange and a string section, and a song that starts off a little early Eurythmics, but turns into one of those layered numbers with dramatic synths and miserable wailing. Only at Eurovision is ‘dramatic synths and miserable wailing’ its own distinct genre of music. OK; Eurovision and Evanescence concerts.

Denmark
“Believe Again”
Brinck

Well, this is devastating. I always took comfort in the belief that Ronan Keating was a one-off. Seeing Brinck, I come to realise that there may be legions of moon-faced Bryan Adams wannabes injecting fake rock growl into their pappy pop voices and straddling their legs like they’re riding Tina Turner. My only solace now is the thought that, if there is a worldwide industry in Ronan Keatings, most of them failed, and have probably been boiled down to make glue. And that thought makes me happy again.

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Germany
“Miss Kiss Kiss Bang”
Alex Swings, Oscar Sings

There is a lost Bond song called “Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, recorded by Dionne Warwick for Thunderball, which was eventually dropped for the Tom Jones title song. You can hear the Warwick song played against the Thunderball opening credits here. It has its charms. You can also hear the Shirley Bassey version here. Even Johnny Cash recorded a song for the movie, which you can hear here. None of this has anything to do with this scatty calypso song. Apparently Germany thinks it’s Havana in the 1920s. Back before, you know, history happened.

Turkey
“Düm Tek Tek”
Hadise

Just when you’re thinking the opening guitar line sounds peculiarly like something from 90s grunge rock, we’re rescued from musical legitimacy by the traditional Middle Eastern pipe music and a baseline either ripped from “Kiss Kiss”, or else from… every single song Turkey has ever entered in the Eurovision Song Contest. I’m led to believe that the people of Turkey do nothing but belly-dance all day. It sounds exhausting, but it is excellent cardio.

Albania
“Carry Me In Your Dreams”
Kejsi Tola

And again with the pipes! Disco gypsy music must be absolutely huge in Europe, given how many countries offer up a slice of the genre at Eurovision every year. The day someone first plugged a Persian bagpipe into an amp was a banner day for Eastern Europe. If the UK ever does want to win Eurovision again, we should just send drum machines to all the traveller camps in Kent and see what comes back.

Norway
“Fairytale”
Alexander Rybak

Norway has fielded a fiddling imp. Cease your fiddling, imp! Little Alexander is surely the Zac Efron of Norway, and like Zac Efron we would be better off not hearing him sing, as he looks and sounds like his voice is just on the cusp of breaking. The fiddling, on the other hand, is rather good, and this folksy jaunt is thus one of my favourites.

Ukraine
“Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl)”
Svetlana Loboda

Svetlana has a lot going for her; big porn lips, stripped-down athletic men in plumed Roman helmets, the most intriguing song title in the contest, and the name ‘Svetlana’. It hardly matters that the song is a jumble of hectoring noise. I would definitely watch a TV show called Svetlana: Anti-Crisis Girl. She could jet around the world rescuing people from collapsed bridges and plummeting cable cars with the aid of her big lips and her corps of muscular dancing legionnaires. She also needs a nemesis. I’d suggest young Igor Cukrov of Croatia, but I fear she would make short work of seducing and killing him, poor lad.

Romania
“The Balkan Girls”
Elena

Romania, as you know, is famous for its pumping Latin beats. Elena, an Eastern Bloc version of Lindsay Lohan (with all the airport lounge sluttiness that implies), wants to tell us about the thrilling nightlife in Romania’s capital city of Slobdigabblegrad (all right, Bucharest, whatever.) The basic thrust of the song is that Balkan girls are cheap sluts and you should definitely come and party, ja! Balkan girls “shine” for the crowd’s delight, their hips “glow”, and their boobs “pulse” with radioactive fallout. That last bit isn’t in the lyrics, I’m just assuming. Elena does get some respect from me for saying she starts her weekend with “gin, tonic and lime”. Me too! Let’s hang out! You hang out over there, and I’ll hang out over here.

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United Kingdom
“It’s My Time”
Jade Ewen

By leaving the UK, I’ve missed the reality show that picked the person who would sing this Andrew Lloyd-Webber/Diane Warren number. Apparently the winner was Ms Lips McGee (though her lips have nothing on Svetlana). I’ve also not heard the song before, but just from the title I can tell it’s one of those ‘hey everyone, I just won a singing contest’ numbers. “This is my victory, I’ve come so far, thank you God and cough cough I just swallowed some confetti”. Actually, this is not even as good as most of those songs. The lyrics are astonishingly irritating, consisting as they do of the title repeated ad nauseam. Thanks, Diane Warren, for all your hard work.

Finland
“Lose Control”
Waldo’s People

Finland, home of Euro-rock, has this year opted for some pounding headache-inducing techno, with all the sophistication of a 2Unlimited B-side. The video features a man lying down in the middle of the road, which, having listened to this song, I may now do myself. Waldo’s People are discouraged from contacting my people.

Spain
“La Noche Es Para Mi”
Soraya

And finally… a man-eating blonde singing an energetic dance number. My interest in such things is limited at the best of times, but after sitting through all these songs, my tolerance is at a new low ebb. Spain wins the prize for ‘most astoundingly generic act’ in this year’s competition.

That’s it; 25 countries, 25 songs, 25 tonnes of Maybelline foundation. I don’t know who the favourites are this year, but there’s a combination of public phone voting and panel voting, to break up the traditional blocs that have, like, totally robbed the competition of its credibility, so it’s tough to predict how that will skew things.

There’s not much this year that stands out in the way of contestants like Ruslana, Lordi, Verka Serduchka or the aforementioned French and Azerbaijani entries from last year. My personal favourites are France, Norway, Portugal and… oh, all right, Svetlana of the Ukrainian Steppe, the famous Anti-Crisis Girl. But ultimately, I think victory should probably go to Adam Lambert.

Remember, feel free to share your thoughts on this year’s contest in the comments - or to send your friends over here so they can share theirs! A Eurovision shared is a Eurovision halved.

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”.

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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

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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

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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

Idol: God, The Devil and Kris

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

American Idol is down to just three. Despite a performance so awful as to have already become notorious, Danny Gokey has survived, and poor Allison Iraheta has been given the boot. We now know that whatever Danny does, the judges will praise him and people will vote for him. As a consequence, we now have the first all-male top three in Idol history.

Last week’s final four saw two rock kids go up against two Christian music kids. It was a mini-referendum, and rock lost (and most of Allison’s votes should now go to Adam). If Kris goes home this week, as expected, we’ll have a final two of such blatant symbolism that the punditry will explode with glee.

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In the Red State corner: Danny Gokey. Church ‘worship director’. Tragic widower. Loves Jesus and talks a lot about heaven. His performances show a complete lack of imagination. He never does anything the least bit subversive or original.

In the Blue State corner: Adam Lambert. Musical theatre performer. Blatant homosexual. Loves eyeliner and lives in California. His performances showcase his tremendous range and presence. He is inventive, magnetic and shameless.

Stuck in the middle: Poor Kris Allen, a good-looking lad who has become the dark horse contender this year, but who realistically is expected to end his journey this week in the face of the warring fanbases digging trenches either side of him.

People hate Danny Gokey. They hate him because he’s dull. They hate him because he’s smug. They hate him because they’ve seen him dance, and, oh dear God, no-one should ever have to see him dance. They hate him because he auditioned with his friend Jamar, and Jamar was better but didn’t get through. They hate him because he gets praised by the judges every week despite being the musical equivalent of gruel.

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Mostly they hate him because, thirty days after his wife died unexpectedly from complications in surgery, he auditioned for this reality TV show. He also wept to the producers and sent them footage of his wedding day so they could tell his story. Then he gave a friend a photo of his wife to hold up during one of his performances. He has repeatedly made gestures of remembrance for his dead wife, or chosen manipulative songs like Hero, Jesus Take The Wheel, What Hurts the Most and Endless Love. He has exploited his wife’s death to win votes in a popularity contest, and that’s sickening.

And people love him, of course. He’s the only contestant this year never to have been in the bottom three, and, most times, that’s the contestant who wins. The judges love him; he’s the only contestant to get good comments every week without fail. Christian conservatives surely love him. He’s a good church-going boy, and he’s struggling on through the grief and hardship of his wife’s tragic death to become a success; an example of what a person can achieve with God on their side, no matter what life throws at them. And he dresses sensibly and talks politely and never tries to scare the horses. He’s intensely nonthreatening and middle-of-the-road. He’s Billy Joel.

People also hate Adam Lambert. They hate him because he shrieks and screeches. They hate him because he’s arrogant. They hate him because he’s over-the-top. They mostly hate him because he’s gay.

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That’s probably not fair to his critics. It is in theory possible to hate Adam Lambert for reasons other than his gayness, but in most cases I think what people object to is his… flamboyance. His theatricality. His loud, proud and unapologetic sense of self. His… how can I put this? His gayness. Even a lot of gay people hate his gayness, but it was ever thus. No queen likes to be out-queened, and Adam Lambert is the queen bitch in charge.

And people love Adam Lambert. Win or lose this competition, he’s a phenomenon like this show has never seen before; an Idol who already sells records, already sets the media afire, and already appears on magazine covers even before the contest has ended. But if he does win, then change has come to America.

Adam Lambert is secretly a handsome and wholesome pop star, but he’s also a subversive godless sinner. He sneers and writhes and glowers. He’s sleazy and sexual. It’s all in a safe, cartoon way, but still it’s all there. I’m sure there are people in the midwest who refuse to accept or even consider that he’s gay, but he remains a totem of gayness. It doesn’t matter if they don’t accept that Adam Lambert is gay; if America votes for Adam Lambert, they have already de facto embraced the gay.

Adam is the salvation! He is the promised gay messiah. Perhaps Adam is actually the new face of the divine, and menacing wife-slayer Danny is the devil preaching scripture?

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On to tonight’s performances:

Danny’s first song tonight, chosen by Paula Abdul, is Terence Trent D’Arby’s Dance Little Sister. If it has a melody, you wouldn’t know it. It sounds like a coffee grinder that’s been left to run with nothing in it.

Kris Allen’s song, picked by the count-as-one-choice budget judges Randy and Kara, is Apologise by OneRepublic; a popular contemporary ballad that fits well with the sort of soft radio hit you’d expect from Kris. Kris breaks out the grand piano in a bid to impress. It’s a fairly heartless performance, and Kris isn’t actually at his swoony best here - some of the low notes are too low, and he’s not entirely comfortable with the falsetto. But it’s better and more interesting than Gokey.

Adam Lambert is the chosen contestant, so of course Simon Cowell picks his song (and Simon has come right out and said he thinks Adam will win). The song is One by U2, which Simon tells us he personally got Bono’s permission for, because Simon is all-powerful. This is Adam’s ‘nude’ performance of the night - less make-up, no costume, lots of raw emotion. It’s an arrangement I’ve never heard before, and it’s impressive. The boy has an amazing voice.

Danny’s second song, chosen by himself, is You Are So Beautiful, by his soundalike Joe Cocker. No effort required there. He sings on a stool, with a string quartet. The song is actually a little quiet, a little delicate, for his voice, but when he gets into it it’s the same competent piano bar rendition we’ve come to expect. I simply can’t imagine anyone going out of their way to hear this man sing. Interestingly, Kara praises his second performance as if she had criticised his first performance. But she hadn’t!

Kris Allen comes back with Heartless by Kanye West. Two contemporary songs, Kris? This is unprecedented! And he’s singing with just a guitar! Which he’s playing! Playing two instruments in one night is also unprecedented. It’s a delightfully upbeat performance, great fun to listen to (and a bit incongruous given what the song is about), and probably the best he’s ever been. Great stuff.

Adam’s song choice is Aerosmith’s Crying. In two words; it rocks. It’s not actually as extravagant as I was expecting it to be. He must be saving something huge for next week.

So is Adam Lambert going to be in the final? It would be the biggest shock in the show’s eight seasons if he didn’t make it. Is Danny going to be there? Almost certainly. But I’ve been hoping to see him sent home for weeks now, and this week is no different. An Adam/Kris final would be a wonderful thing. But Jesus wants a Danny/Kris final, and you wouldn’t want to disappoint Jesus.

Barack Obama Doesn’t Care About Gay People

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Dan Choi is one of my new favourite people. A first lieutenant and infantry platoon leader with the New York National Guard, Choi recently came out as gay on The Rachel Maddow Show. Choi is a founder and spokesman for Knights Out, an organisation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender US military academy alumni dedicated to fighting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and he knew that by coming out on TV - by ‘telling’ - he would risk getting kicked out of the military.

Last week he got the letter telling him this was exactly what was happening. By saying he was gay, he had engaged in ‘homosexual behaviour’ and would be dismissed from service. Dan Choi went back on the Maddow show to say how outraged and offended he was. But of course, he expected it. And I suspect he wanted it. I think Dan Choi is attempting a very deliberate and courageous gambit; he is making himself the public face of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell debacle.

Choi is a West Point graduate, an infantry officer, an Iraq veteran and an Arabic linguist. He is proud and keen to serve. He was already out to the men and women he served alongside, to no detriment to ‘unit cohesion’ (the bogus bogeyman that provides the sole justification for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). He’s being drummed out of the military for the weakest, silliest of reasons; because of something he said. Because of something he said about himself.

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There’s no scandal here. He did not behave in a disgraceful way. He did not do anything inappropriate or sexual while serving. Dan Choi is a dedicated serviceman. He is intelligent, eloquent and informed, and he has skills that are of tremendous value to the US military. He is being forced out of the military because he said, “I am gay”. That places the issue front and centre, with the perfect spokesman at its fore. No-one could look at a man like Dan Choi and seriously believe that the US military is better off without him than it is with him.

I hope that Dan Choi’s case will force the Obama administration to take action. It’s a shame that the Obama administration needs to be forced, but it’s increasingly evident that it does. Barack Obama is not living up to his claim that he is a “fierce advocate” for gay rights. He has done nothing about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, nothing about the Defense of Marriage Act, nothing about the Matthew Shepard act; he hasn’t made any attempt to repeal bans on gay adoption or to expand health-care benefits to same-sex couples, and he’s been conspicuously quiet on the advances in marriage equality in Iowa, Vermont and Maine. Obama’s single greatest contribution to the most pressing civil rights issue of his day has been to invite homophobic pastor Rick Warren to lead the nation in prayer at his inauguration.

Barack Obama doesn’t care about gay people. The impression that I get is that his position on gay rights is entirely political, not personal; he talks the talk to stay on-side with his core constituency, but he does not have any empathy for, or interest in, gay rights.

I don’t think he’s homophobic - not at all - but I do think that he’s ignorant, blinkered and tin-eared when it comes to this topic. I suspect that, like a lot of otherwise liberal people, he does not really grasp the extent to which gays still feel maligned and marginalised, and he does not see gay equality as belonging in the same league as racial equality or gender equality - despite that inconvenient word, ‘equality’.

It does not escape my notice that Barack Obama has had a lot on his plate during his first four months in office, and the standard defence offered of Obama’s inaction is that he has two wars and a financial crisis to deal with; gay rights are not - and should not be - a priority.

Nonsense. The Obama administration can do more than one thing at once, and civil rights ought always to be a priority. Civil rights are not something you wait to address when it’s convenient. The world does not wait, and minorities should not be asked to wait. On the contrary; at a time when people are worried about real issues, like keeping their job or keeping their house, they don’t have the luxury to indulge themselves in reactionary fights against things that have no actual bearing on their lives. We are at the flashpoint now. The time to act is now.

It would take a stroke of the pen. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can only be overturned by Congress, but the President can suspend all investigations and prosecutions by executive order while Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is reviewed, and that would effectively put an end to it. At a time of war, the president can stop the American military from haemorrhaging people like Dan Choi who want to serve, with a stroke of his pen.

Obama has not made this minimal effort. He has not found the time for it.

Before he left office, George W Bush took steps to lift the ban on people with HIV entering the United States. It was one of the only good things he ever did. In his rush to undo all of Bush’s farewell gestures, Obama undid this one as well. He kept the travel ban in place, and he did it with a stroke of his pen. He found the time for that.

When elected, Barack Obama made a pledge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Now the language from the Obama administration is about ‘changing’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, not repealing it. The word from his national security adviser, General James Jones, is, “I don’t know” if the administation will overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Not only is Obama doing nothing; he’s backpedalling.

Barack Obama doesn’t care about gay people.

Hopefully people like Lieutenant Dan Choi can make him care.