Monthly Archives: August 2012

Review of ‘Inuit EP’ by Quadrilles

Check out my latest review of ‘Inuit EP’ by Quadrilles:

http://echoesanddust.com/2012/08/quadrilles-inuit-ep/

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Morrissey’s Olympic Rally

Like a bearded hermit that only emerges from his cave every so often to bellow at the clouds, so Morrissey has spoken. This story has of course been given much coverage in the press, and once again Mr The Smiths has become something of a pantomime villain in the news and social media. In a statement to fans on 3 August 2012, he wrote the following:

“I am unable to watch the Olympics due to the blustering jingoism that drenches the event.  Has England ever been quite so foul with patriotism?  The “dazzling royals” have, quite naturally, hi-jacked the Olympics for their own empirical needs, and no oppositional voice is allowed in the free press.  It is lethal to witness.  As London is suddenly promoted as a super-wealth brand, the England outside London shivers beneath cutbacks, tight circumstances and economic disasters.  Meanwhile the British media present 24-hour coverage of the “dazzling royals”, laughing as they lavishly spend, as if such coverage is certain to make British society feel fully whole.  In 2012, the British public is evidently assumed to be undersized pigmies, scarcely able to formulate thought.
As I recently drove through Greece I noticed repeated graffiti seemingly everywhere on every available wall.  In large blue letters it said WAKE UP WAKE UP.  It could almost have been written with the British public in mind, because although the spirit of 1939 Germany now pervades throughout media-brand Britain, the 2013 grotesque inevitability of Lord and Lady Beckham (with Sir Jamie Horrible close at heel) is, believe me, a fate worse than life.  WAKE UP WAKE UP.”

Now, although he’s correct in his assertion that there are ongoing problems with the economy, that doesn’t mean we recession-addled citizens can’t enjoy our first home Olympics since 1948, can it? Are we not entitled to watch as many events as we can, in London or from our sofas, and audibly support our own athletes as they strive to achieve great things in their respective events? And, of all the things to be ‘blusteringly jingoistic’ about, surely having the Olympics on our own soil is one of the most justified?

He also appears to want to have a dig at the Royal Family, a concept of which he’s never really been a huge fan. I’m fairly ambivalent myself, but I would highly doubt that the Royals have ‘hijacked the Olympics for their own empirical needs’. Granted, their status means they’re unlikely to be sitting between Dave from Doncaster and Bharat from Birmingham, but we can kind of allow them that. They are fully entitled to attend Olympic events, just like the rest of us, and their absence might seem slightly strange. Yes, he might dislike the Royals, but that seems a separate issue when talking about the Olympics. I would say the main focus of the BBC’s ’24 hour coverage’ has been to cram as many sports options across their channels and interactive services as possible, and that can only be commended.

Reading his statement, I actually begin to wonder whether Morrissey even likes people. “The British public is evidently assumed to be undersized pigmies, scarcely able to formulate thought.” Never one to mince his words, he clearly looks upon all of us as highly suggestable, unable to decide for ourselves that we’re going to enjoy the Olympics and cheer on our own athletes. IT’S BECAUSE THE MEDIA TOLD US TO, SIR. Yes, I appreciate he’s asserting that the media is considering us as these thoughtless pygmies, but by the same token he’s not giving us the credit that we might be able to make our own decisions. During a brief Twitter discussion regarding this story, a wise gent known as @franticplanet described Morrissey as “the World’s Oldest Sixth-Former”, whose opinions are “delivered through the open door of the sixth-form common room he calls home”. The problem is, his comments would suggest that he never really advanced from that sixth-form mindset. He appears to foster a dislike of the common man, and an elitist disapproval of anyone having some good ol’ patriotic fun. Does he even know what he’s angry about anymore? It reminds me of Johnny Rotten’s answers during interviews at the height of the Sex Pistols’ fame. He was angry, sure, but he didn’t seem able to articulate why.

One has to also remember that Morrissey lives in California. That’s right, IN AMERICA. Surely no-one in America has ever been accused of jingoism during sporting events, wartime, etc? No, of course not. Tell you what, Morrissey, why don’t you move back to the UK so you can really experience how we’re enjoying these Olympics? Maybe also see some of the economic problems we’re having for yourself? I’m sure you’d be able to afford a nice 2 bedroom semi in the Cotswolds, rather than just coming to visit occasionally. Alas, Morrissey seems more than just geographically removed from the situation. Unfortunately, once people of his stature (musicians, actors, etc) reach a certain point, they appear to be convinced that their place as some form of celebrity automatically validates what they’re saying. And the sad fact is, the fans will simply consume it without question, as they want them to. Apparently in exactly the same way as us “undersized pigmies” (oh yes, Moz, it’s ‘pygmies’ by the way), it would seem. Just one question though, Moz; would you rather those who attend your shows remain silent? Surely, if they cheer or sing along, then it’s nothing but ‘blustering’ sycophancy? Or do you secretly hate your fans as well?

And finally, let’s not forget that he compares the simple act of supporting the Olympics, whether as a broadcaster or a fan, to “1939 Germany”. That’s right, he has effectively provided yet another example of Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin’s_law). Of course, our dear Moz is well-known for making sweeping statements using very questionable terminology, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. But sheesh, the BBC aren’t exactly making Triumph of the Will (1935) here. People want (that’s right Moz, we have free will) to see as much of the Olympics as they can, because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see it on home soil. Perhaps if he spent more time on home soil rather than complaining about it from his nice big house in California, he might appreciate the sentiment. From some of the sponsorship to the ticket availability, the Olympics hasn’t been perfect, but the stage, the sport and the support of the nation has been one of the most positive, encouraging things to happen to Britain in a long time. And we are entitled to it.

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Ted (2012): A Review

John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted, in bed

Ted (2012, Dir: Seth MacFarlane)

A foul-mouthed fairlytale. That’s the best way to describe Ted, the directorial debut from the man who gave us Family Guy (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0182576/), American Dad (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0397306/), and The Cleveland Show (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1195935/). If you are familiar with those shows, then you will know what to expect from Ted, because it delivers the same cocktail of offensive and offbeat humour. By the same token, if you hate those shows, then you will inevitably hate this film. Personally, I don’t mind these shows; both Family Guy and American Dad are sprinkled with moments of inspired genius, and, when the effort is made, both have some fairly compelling and very funny characters. Granted, Family Guy has lost some of what originally made it great recently, and The Cleveland Show would almost work better in live action, but there’s a reason Seth MacFarlane is making a lot of money.

Ted is essentially a feature-length, live action version of MacFarlane’s comedy, with all the strengths and weaknesses this would imply to those familiar with his work. The story of Mark Wahlberg’s character John Bennett is effectively a vehicle for the various controversy-baiting jokes and comedic situations, but then that’s how most comedies work. John, a lonely child, is given Ted for Christmas by his parents. On Christmas night, he wishes for the bear to be able to talk, and, in the usual fashion, awakes to find the bear talking to him. After the amusing revelation to shocked parents, we reach the present day, where Ted’s abilities have been long since revealed and the world is accustomed to the fact. John is now the stereotypical 30-something who has a boring job, no drive, and a girlfriend that wishes he would change. Ted is portrayed as the bad influence, persuading him to get stoned and turn up late for work, and eventually becomes the thing in John’s life that needs to change in order for him to grow up.

Despite being a well-worn trope in modern cinema, John’s ‘slacker’ character works for the purposes of the movie. This fairly conventional setup and plot allows the more surreal comedy moments to stand out, including John’s colleague’s sexual confusion (prompting a brilliant cameo from an actor known for his comic book roles), a real-life Flash Gordon, the surprisingly unconventional management style of Ted’s supermarket boss, and wonderful narration from one of MacFarlane’s faithful guest stars, Patrick Stewart. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and cultural references, and generally there’s a decent rate of jokes throughout the movie. Most of the comedy is not for the easily offended, however there are one or two clunky 9/11 jokes that feel blunt and out of place. It might be that MacFarlane was trying to make a pun on prejudiced people’s interpretations of ethnic minorities since the attacks, but it just felt needless.

Mis-steps aside, the movie is very funny. Mark Wahlberg seems far more comfortable in comedy compared to his more serious roles. He was a revelation opposite Will Ferrell in The Other Guys, and the same is true in Ted. It just feels like his face conveys more expression, and his voice avoids any of the monotone delivery common of his action films. He is ably supported by Mila Kunis, who always delivers a decent performance. Joel McHale appears to enjoy playing a very convincing sleazebag boss, and Giovani Ribisi is once again typecast as a creepy hick who may possibly have questionable intentions. He plays the same character in each movie, but he does it well. Seth MacFarlane voices Ted, sounding like a cross between Brian the Dog and Peter Griffin (listen for the cheeky reference). Seth is an underrated voice actor, and conveys all the requisite humour and pathos, very much like the movie itself. There are no real moments of sheer implausability, provided of course that you have already accepted the initial premise of a stuffed bear coming to life.

So, should you see Ted?  If you love Family Guy and American Dad, it’s a definite recommendation; you’ll be comfortable with the style of comedy, and will appreciate the nods to Seth’s other work. If you’re not easily offended, and don’t demand much from your comedies, then you’ll enjoy it too. If Family Guy isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll probably be wasting your cash on a ticket, but there’s an outside chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the movie’s heart and humour. If you hate Seth McFarlane’s previous work, then there’s little chance you’ll enjoy Ted. It’s a well-made, gleefully offensive and undemanding movie, perhaps ideal for its intended audience. It won’t convert you to MacFarlane’s comedy if you’re a non-believer, but everyone else should enjoy some belly laughs and maybe even a few tears. Just promise me you won’t let your kids watch it until they’re older, maybe?

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