Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Guilt and sex and stuff: more popular culture hell at Cannes

Roll up, roll up!
There's SERIOUS ART going down at the Cannes Film Festival.
I sometimes wonder if any one generation can handle so much creativity and intellectual height-scaling as our own. How privileged are we to be living in such times!
We can go to the cinema, our cinema, our CINEMA OF FREEDOM, and see SERIOUS, IMPORTANT, ADULT themes being explored in a FREE, FRANK, UNFETTERED yet still, always, RESPONSIBLE and MATURE and ARTISTICALLY JUSTIFIED fashion.
Or, alternatively, if you're not a big Batman fan for some reason, you can watch "a grieving couple, played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, mutilate each other after the death of their child."
This in Lars von Trier's new Cannes sensation Antichrist. According to The Times, from which all quotes are taken:
Gainsbourg hits Dafoe so hard in the testicles with a plank of wood that he lapses into a coma. He ejaculates blood when she masturbates him. She drills a hole through his leg before tying him to a rock. But the scene that has caused the most disquiet is the close-up of Gainsbourg's character cutting off her clitoris with a rusty pair of scissors.
Isn't it extraordinary the things some people get all up in arms about? Can't they see how lucky we are?
Think of your poor parents and grandparents, going to the cinema and having to sit through Genevieve and Calamity Jane and Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum - the patronising state propaganda of those dark, unlamented days when showing something as valid and serious and important as Charlotte Gainsbourg walloping Willem Dafoe's nuts with a plank would be literally impossible. Imagine it! It's a wonder they didn't insist audiences all troop to and from the cinema chained to each other at the ankles and just have done with it.
Your cut out and keep guide to the film directors exhibiting at Cannes this year
More laughs from the Times report:
Lars von Trier remained unrepentant yesterday over the storm that had engulfed him in Cannes after the showing of his film Antichrist... Von Trier told The Times: “If the film is shocking that is a side-effect. It was technically fun to play around with but it certainly wasn’t the most important thing to me. In my opinion a film can never be too graphic or shocking. I was not expecting the critical reaction here in Cannes but I suppose that was naive of me. I tend to be more human in the sense that I like people to like me.”
Von Trier’s film is not the first clitoral self-mutilation seen at Cannes. [ The article goes on to discuss the first clitoral self-mutilation seen at Cannes.] Another milestone has been passed in the history of cinematic shocks — just when we thought we were too jaded to be shocked, von Trier has raised the bar...
Von Trier said at a press conference that Antichrist “is a very dark dream about guilt and sex and stuff. Not to show it would be lying. I don’t think I have to excuse myself. You are all my guests. Not the other way around. I’ve made this little film, that I’m rather fond of, for me. I don’t think I owe anybody an explanation.”
How shaming of us that a berk this obvious swaggers unhindered through his culture, with reason at bay, and nobody, it would seem, quite big enough to laugh him into a ditch.
The rest of the article goes through the usual tedious guff about the history of censorship, taking in outright gibberish, and cultural and historical illiteracy:
In the early days of silent films, pretty much everything was shocking... Clara Bow shocked and delighted in equal measure. It (1927), the title of which referred to Bow’s supposedly unavoidable erotic magnetism, caused outrage within some sections of society, but it also made her a star. It seems tame by today’s standards - but then in the 1920s nobody had a problem with a white actor performing in black face (The Jazz Singer, 1927) whereas today such a stunt would cause a sharp intake of breath.
... and my all-time favourite unquestioned assumption about films:
Cinema has a matchless power to shock. It also has a duty to explore the dark side of human nature.
No it doesn't, no it doesn't, no it doesn't.
No it doesn't. No. It doesn't.
Why does it? Don't bother answering. Just take my word for it. It has no such duty. It's a means of entertainment. Nothing else.
People who think otherwise are at best tits and often really horrible people.
And please don't believe any nonsense about there being any difference between art films that pretend they are not in the business of violating decency for fun and cheap trash that is at least honest about it, viz:
The appetite for torture pornography in slasher flicks such as Eli Roth’s Hostel (2005) is almost as horrifying as the BBFC’s refusal to censor any gratuitous part of it. But there is a profound gulf between Hostel and Irréversible in what they are trying to achieve, and their intended audiences. Irréversible is a daring experiment with perception and time...
Thinking cinema produces the greatest shocks. Brillante Mendoza’s Kinatay — in competition at Cannes — features a prostitute who is stabbed and then slowly dismembered for the rest of the film by a street gang. “When you watch most horror films they are simply there to scare you,” says the Filipino director. “You don’t experience the process. I want the audience to know these horrors really exist. That’s the scariest part.”
Talk amongst yourselves for a moment while I laugh myself bandy at the phrase 'thinking cinema'.
Ah, that's better. Now, where was I? Oh yes. Now. Believe it or not, I do actually know that "these horrors really exist". I knew it already. I don't need some pompous Filipino pointing it out. Didn't need it. And as far as the notion that there is a valid distinction to be drawn between Hostel and Irréversible on the grounds that "Irréversible is a daring experiment with perception and time"... Sorry it's no good. I have to go and laugh myself bandy again.
If you'd like to laugh yourself bandy too, enjoy this trailer for Guy Ritchie's forthcoming film Sherlock Holmes. I think you'll agree with me that this really does look set fair to be the biggest heap of crap yet created for the medium of cinema.
Have fun!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

North Korea: The sanctions are in!

‘President’ Obama has pledged to "protect" South Korea following the recent provocation by the Communist dingbats of the North.
And for once, he's proving true to his word. The White House today announced that North Korea would suffer the immediate cessation of all access to his charisma.
This means that from twelve midnight tonight, North Koreans will not get so much as a glimpse of his charisma, until a written pledge to cease permanently all live nuclear testing is received.
Essential humanitarian and emergency supplies of his wit, iconic style, dazzling good looks and general glowing magnificence will be available at strictly controlled checkpoints, but that free-flowing tide of beatific majesty he so generously bestows upon the rest of the world will be entirely withdrawn.
If you happen to be South Korean, I trust you'll be sleeping a little more soundly tonight.

SCIENTIFIC FACT: Self-righteous plastic bag re-users spread disease

An incontestable report by SCIENTISTS (that's real scientists, by the way, not those medicine show quacks who dream up global warming statistics in the lulls between drug-fuelled, grant-subsidised sex orgies) has PROVED through the use of SCIENCE that uppity self-righteousness kills.
Here are the COLD, INARGUABLE FACTS (from or something):
Bags for life could be the death of us
It might be better for the environment - but reusing your plastic shopping bags could make you sick... a new study shows.
High levels of mould and bacteria were found in dirty reuseable bags, some even contained faecal matter, researchers said.
A third of the bags tested contained unsafe levels of bacterial contamination, the study showed.
People should treat plastic ‘bags for life’ like kitchen chopping boards, said researcher Dr Richard Summerbell, a microbiologist. ‘People don't think of it like that but we should worry about hygiene,’ he added.
Most of the shoppers’ bags tested were less than a year old and looked clean - but had never been washed.
Almost two-thirds of them had some bacterial contamination, while new bags were found to be clean. Supermarket checkout staff might be transferring microbes from one bag to another, the rport said. Doctors should add reusable bags to the list of possible sources of contamination when investigating food poisoning, added Dr Summerbell.
Of course, from a Darwinian perspective, the impulse to endlessly reuse one of these fetid articles rather than wash it or, even easier, use a new one each time, purely as a gesture of moral commitment and superiority, even when everybody knows the carrier bags they give you free at Budgens are bio-degradable now anyway, is itself the result of germ-transmission on the memetic level. How piquant, then, to see it leading to the transmission of deadly plague germs on the bacteriological level, too. Plagues begetting plagues; all very biblical.
Imagine if the Great Plague of London had been spread not by proximity to the breeding and dwelling areas of flea-bearing rodents but by proximity to the holier-than-thou, attention-hungry, propaganda-addled self-aggrandisement of flea-bearing rodents.
How different our history would have seemed to us as children. That's what future generations are up against.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

And there's an end on't!

Samuel Johnson writes...
Bizarrest sight of the week was egregious windbag Michael Craig-Martin escorting William, elder son of our half-mad future king, round the Whitechapel Gallery. According to this gaseous fraud, the Prince was "very amused by" Chris Ofili's Painting with Shit on It. "He was obviously quite taken with it," concluded the subsidised slacker king of Goldsmiths. Then, giving a speech, William scored big laughs by claiming to be 'Banksy', talentless paint-sprayer by appointment to the media class aristocracy, whose real name is Robin. (How I long for an anti-Banksy, some caped crusader who rushes to the site of each of the maestro's new mediocrities with a pot of paint and paints over it in the colour of the original wall. Technically, this would also be an illegal act - so what would the authorities do, I wonder? What an experiment! Come on, someone!)
But to return to these buffoons neck-deep in this topsy-turvy chaos of feigned gutter-worship: a future king bowing before an ageing art school parasite, both bowing before a fake proletariat artist, and all three bowing before a fake proletariat conception of art... A far cry from the days when artists grovelled to the aristocracy for patronage, and aesthetic aspiration was the currency by which both were measured. The final trowel-load of irony, of course, is the fact that this rubbish is still of no interest whatsoever to yer actual proletariat. They can see when they're being conned with far greater acuity than the media class, they resent being parasitised by fops, and however dead the Samuel Smiles aesthetic may be, wallowing in elephant shit interests them no more now than it ever did.
Oh, how repellent this man Obama is!
Every day, seemingly, he reveals more of the wretchedness of his soul.
So much for Tim Alexander's claim in his well-balanced and sober chronicle Barack Obama: Hope For The World that "he must be all too aware of the responsibilities that rest on his shoulder".
Even if you think that he's on track to end the world economic crisis, even if you think that playing Chamberlain to Israel's Czechoslovakia is the road to peace in the Middle East, still, surely, the gravity of the current world situation is such that the wisecracking love-ins with his showbiz brownhatters should be put on temporary hold...
Not yet awhile, not when commanding a room is this easy... basking in the sycophantic spotlight as the invited showbiz elite whoop and screech, wipe the little tears from their piggy little eyes, sieg heil and hail Caesar, crawl and lick-lick-lick, till their bellies rub thin and their tongues run dry.
"I'd like to welcome you all to the ten-day anniversary of my first one hundred days," he began. "I believe that my next hundred days will be so successful I will be able to complete them in 72 days. And on the 73rd day I will rest." It'll sound even funnier when the first mushroom clouds blossom over Tel Aviv.
He and a Republican called John Boehner, apparently one of those very tanned people you see around quite often, "have a lot in common," quipped this shameless fool: "He is a person of colour; although not a colour that appears in the natural world." Michael Steele, a black Republican - probably the most unfashionable thing in America - was "in the house - or, as he would say, in the heezy, wassup?" Whatever this 20,000 leagues beyond irony hateful drivel means, it certainly made Ben Affleck, Glenn Close, Tom Cruise and Sting all laugh, which has to count for something. Then a hideous old bat called Wanda Sykes (pictured; sorry) came on to do a stand-up routine involving hilarious references to the destruction of the World Trade Centre, in which so many people so hilariously died, and expressed the wish that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh's kidneys fail. It seemed to tickle the Messiah at the time, though one of his staff later issued a weaselly disclaimer that "there are a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection rather than comedy... there's no doubt 9/11 is part of that."
My contempt for this man rises like a choking river from my gut.
Further to my comments about the new Reggie Perrin, a kind correspondent has forwarded me an interview with new-Reggie Martin Clunes (“I think this one’s funnier... There are more jokes. It’s quicker paced... I don’t think it’s as ponderous and melancholic”) and what he rightly describes as "a mind-bogglingly dreadful extract from Caitlin Moran's Perrin review in The Times":
Personally, I engage with the escalating depression and insanity of Clunes’s Perrin more than I did with Rossiter’s — who, however talented an actor, couldn’t quite cover up the fact that he would have been a ferociously bitter, difficult and demanding next-door neighbour, say; or company if seated next to him at a dinner party. I can’t be doing with difficult “classic comedy” geniuses. They all seem the same to me. Indeed, I can segue Rossiter’s Rigsby saying “Oh, Miss Jones!” into a postwar, light-entertainment catchphrase mega-mix of big-chinned legends, co-starring Norman Wisdom, Michael Crawford, Tony Hancock and Bruce Forsyth: “Oh, Miss Jones! Mr Grimsdale! Bettyyyyyyy! That’s practically an armful! Didn’t they do well?” And that’s about all I want from any of them.
What a big-chinned assortment of legends you've assembled there, Caitlin! There's Bruce Forsyth, there's... er... well, there's Bruce Forsyth, certainly. Now while you're there and fired up with wit, tell me anything else at all about any one of them. Go on. I dare you.
Ah, the line goes dead. If there's one thing these columnists who truffle through the shallows of popular culture hate even more than high culture, it's the popular culture of the past, it's good popular culture.
Doubtless, though, she'll have something desperately pertinent to say about the imminent divorce of orange-skinned breast model 'Jordan' & witless hitless Australian pop fool Peter Andre, which has taken up so shamefully large a portion of the media's attention. Hilariously, the couple asked that their privacy be respected, though this nasty piece of work Andre has since given an interview explaining that he has left his wife on account of a sex ban of some sort. (And you thought the woman had no taste.) I'm sure this is the reason. With nothing whatever to do with the fact that she is, for better or worse (and my money's on worse), an enormously successful businesswoman and he a minor ex-flash in the pan from decades past. Even on the microscopically irrelevant plateau of culture upon which such creatures scuttle, what a level of non-achievement to have built one's celebrity upon! In a world teeming with crap, talentless pop stars, Andre sets up his stall as a failed crap, talentless pop star.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Good luck, Gurkhas!

The unspoken tragedy about the Gurkha war veterans and their fight to live in Britain is that they have no idea what the country they are so desperate to enter is really like.
They probably imagine it's the same one they fought for.
Little do they know we are now a civilised country, superior in every way to that barbaric, best-forgotten Britain of yesteryear.
How long before the first one leaves again? Or gets murdered?
In civilised countries, that do not have capital punishment, old age pensioners are shot dead in their homes by police marksmen. In old, uncivilised Britain they had the right to a trial.
Look forward to many more such shootings, as criminals have long realised that they have nothing whatever to fear from the due process of civilised law, and the British bobby, no longer the servant of his community but the enforcer of state ideology, is thus forced by necessity to mutate into Robocop. Remember this is more civilised than the alternative Britain that many still remember, when people did not, by and large, get shot to buggery in stand-offs and sieges with heavily armed paramilitary law enforcement squads.
The civilised country forgives and forgets. How heartwarming that grinning moron Ronald Biggs will be released this July or August after living a free man for the greater part of his adult life and serving less than a third of his sentence. The reason for his release is, intriguingly, that he is old, a fate likely to befall many of us, but an excuse unlikely to hold much water anywhere other than a civilised country.
The name of the train driver was Jack Mills.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Can we really still be worshipping the second least popular president of the last forty years? Yes we can!

There's a lot of talk about an article published in the Washington Times about a Gallup poll that seems to suggest that one hundred days into the second coming, Obama is in fact clocking in as the second least popular US president of the modern age, with worse feedback than Bush, Nixon and even Carter. Only Clinton pips him to the top seat.
I distrust polls and wouldn't have given this one a second glance if it hadn't happened to pander to my own hysterical biases. On the Obama thing, I lean a little off-centre. The mainstream position is that it is dangerous to look at him without frosted glass, lest the intensity of his greatness burns your retinas away. I prefer to think of him as the trumpet call of the end of civilisation as we know it. So I was amused to see America waking up this early to the folly of their decision to float him to the White House on a syrup river of condescending naivety.
According to the paper: "Americans have a lower approval of Mr Obama at this point than all but one president since Gallup began tracking this in 1969... Mr Obama's popularity after 100 days is the second-lowest for a simple reason: He is more partisan and divisive than his predecessors, including Richard Nixon."
Normally, as I say, I would treat this with the respect due any such poll - about as much as is due to the cast of Hollyoaks. But the speed with which the Obama industry has rushed to disprove it makes me think there may be something here after all. History News Network leads the charge in defence of their hero:
In recent days, several media figures and outlets have falsely claimed that President Obama's approval rating at this point in his presidency, according to Gallup, is lower than that of most or all recent presidents. The falsehood is based on an apples-to-oranges comparison between an April 20-21 Gallup poll question that asked respondents to "rate the job Barack Obama has been doing as president so far -- excellent, good, just okay, poor, or terrible," and the historical results of the traditional Gallup approval rating poll question that simply asked whether respondents "approve" or "disapprove" of the president's performance... Gallup also recently reported that Obama's most recent weekly approval rating of 65 percent -- averaging Gallup's daily poll results from April 20-26 -- is higher than the April approval ratings (poll dates unspecified) of all presidents since 1969 other than Reagan. According to Gallup, Obama's previous weekly averages were 62 percent approval from March 30-April 5, 61 percent approval from April 6-12, and 62 percent approval from April 13-19.
Well that clears that one up. The poll was made even more unfair by only publishing the approval ratings of American presidents. When asked to rate world presidents in order of popularity Obama was only the fourth least popular, behind Ahmadinejad of Iran in third place and a nostalgic vote for President Amin of Uganda in second. Clinton remained in first place.
Hope for the world's terrorists: Obama cosies up with the despicable Gerry Adams and a woman who is either much shorter than either of them or else possibly stood much further away from the camera.
The wonderful thing about the Obama farce is the extent to which the media put their cards on their table. There's simply no room to manoeuvre in the years to come. None of them can say: Well, I always did have my doubts about him... because they didn't.
And if they ever try to claim otherwise, we will always be able to point to books like Barack Obama - Hope For The World by Tim Alexander.
This is a hardback book intended for children - according to the publishers it's aimed at 6-12 year olds. In format, it's exactly like those picture-heavy, text-lite books you can get about pop stars; to anyone of my generation it will prove irresistibly reminiscent of the 1982 Metal Mickey Annual, only without the puzzle pages and general air of intellectual seriousness.
The blurb tells us that the book "will fascinate, entertain and educate knowledge-hungry fans" and, as if that were not enough, will additionally and simultaneously "inspire and inform and be a must have for every book shelf in the world."
It belongs on every book shelf in the world.
The front cover tells us that it features "Everything you want to know about the president, and more!"
It belongs on every book shelf in the world, and its heavily illustrated pages contain not just literally everything you want to know, but more even than everything. Imagine everything you could possibly want to know. Now imagine even more than that. Now imagine no more, for it is here.
"Every page bursting with facts and photographs!", it promises. That's every one of sixty pages, a grand total achieved by counting the endpapers as pages, so that the first page, which is page three, is actually labelled page five. Page seven bursts with a picture and a fact, and here it is: 'Obama was nicknamed 'Bar' by his late grandmother'.
On pages that don't have facts, and they can't all have facts or the whole book might burst, though they do all have photographs, Tim Alexander has compensated with quotes from some of the most respected thinkers in the world today. This insight, for instance - "Barack Obama doesn't represent a colour; he represents change" - is attributed to 'Usher', a kind of pop singer. (How Edgar Allan Poe fans will laugh if his house falls down, especially if he's in it at the time.)
Here are some more great facts I learned from Barack Obama - Hope For The World:
Barack collects Spiderman and Conan The Barbarian comics.
Barack has read every Harry Potter book.
Barack plans to install a basketball court in the White House grounds.
Barack has his hair cut once a week by a barber who charges $21.
Barack uses an Apple Mac laptop.
Barack thinks "the thing about hip-hop today is it's smart, it's insightful".
Just the man I want left in charge of the free world.
Now here's some of Alexander's measured commentary:
If you are holding this book in your hands you are part of the generation of change, the generation that lives in the time of hope, where anything is possible and where belief in your dreams can brings real change.
Behind us there stands (sic) years of war, global warming, economic difficulties and inequality. Ahead there is the hope of peace, freedom and a world where men and women of different colours, beliefs and religions can live in harmony... One man has stepped forward to bravely lead the world towards our future.
What can we expect from this incredible man?
So don't forget, war and economic difficulties are behind us, peace and a new age of religious tolerance lie ahead. Remember that, won't you...
Elsewhere, the 6-12 year old readers are told that Kennedy was "mysteriously assassinated", and that after "the tragedy of 11 September 2001... a climate of fear and prejudice grew, especially towards Muslims." (I think it was Ann Coulter who pointed out that these kind of slippery creeps always refer to the destruction of the World Trade Centre as a 'tragedy' instead of an outrage, so as to deliberately remove the dimension of conscious human agency and demote it to the status of natural disaster, as if it were a hurricane or a tidal wave rather than a calculated attack perpetrated upon the innocent by the evil.)
And here's how he thinks the American Civil War started:
Knowing that Abraham Lincoln wanted to outlaw slavery across America, eleven of the Southern states joined forces to form what became known as the Confederacy. Together they declared their desire to separate from the rest of the country and be free to continue importing slaves.
Alexander is winding things down by the time he gets to this model of sobriety:
Our Future.
It's impossible for us to know what the coming years will bring for Barack Obama. As the President of the USA the challenges he faces will be tough and he must be all too aware of the responsibilities that rest on his shoulder.
Our Hero.
But our hopes lie with Barack, the hope of a new generation, the hope of a cleaner, more peaceful world and the hopes for a more equal world. America has chosen the right man for the job. Barack Obama isn't just the new leader of America, Barack is a hero that everyone, no matter where they live, can believe in.
Such knicker-wetting sycophancy is merely hilarious when you encounter it in The Guardian, but remember that this naked, unashamed propaganda is for children. It's for young children. It's unbelievable. The jaw drops further as each page, bursting with photographs and facts, is turned. It is embarrassing, it is idiotic, but it is also disgraceful, and profoundly sinister.
Democracies simply do not behave this way. We laugh at countries that do. We know that free nations have not the need, the inclination or indeed the stomach to idolise their elected representatives in such a fashion, certainly not in print and even more certainly not for an intended audience of impressionable children.
This is the kind of book fascist and communist societies produce about their leaders.