Who were the real winners and losers of the 2014 MTV VMAs?

MTV VMAs

If there’s one award show that guarantees drama each year it’s the MTV Video Music Awards.

The celebration has been the host of a number of infamous incidents in the past – Madonna controversially kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on stage in 2007, Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech in 2009 and last year Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke shocked audiences with their risqué performance of Blurred Lines.

Lorde, Ed Sheeran and 5 Seconds of Summer were amongst those to walk away with a moon man trophy this year, but who were the real winners and losers of the night?

Winners…

Beyonce

The verdict from Twitter was that Beyonce ruled the night with her extravaganza of a performance and emotional acceptance of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. However, she may have been slightly overshadowed by her adorable daughter…

Blue Ivy Carter

After announcing her pregnancy at the 2011 VMAs, Beyonce brought Blue Ivy along to this year’s awards. The toddler stole the show with her adorable dancing and even Katy Perry tweeted that her “life is over” because the child waved at her.

Miley Cyrus

Following last year’s catastrophic performance of Blurred Lines with Robin Thicke, all eyes were on Miley Cyrus at the 2014 VMAs.

After winning the Video of the Year award the singer sent a homeless teenager named Jesse onto the stage to collect the moon man trophy. Jesse then directed viewers to Cyrus’s Facebook page, where the star encouraged people to donate to My Friend’s Place, a homeless shelter in Hollywood.

Sam Smith

Sam Smith’s incredible stripped-back rendition of Stay With Me wowed the VMA audience, who could be heard singing along with him during the captivating performance.

Katy Perry

Katy Perry decided to channel Britney Spears with her VMA outfit by rocking double denim alongside Riff Raff, her collaborator on This Is How We Do. She admitted that her look was inspired by ‘nostalgia’ and her ‘Tumblr addiction’ and Britney even tweeted that she thought Katy looked great.

Losers…

Amber Rose

Amber Rose’s outfit was inspired by another VMA trendsetter, Rose McGowan, but she turned heads at this year’s awards for all of the wrong reasons. There’s having fun with a throwback outfit and then there’s being nearly nude.

The Kardashians

When rapper Common requested that the audience should have a minute’s silence as a tribute to the Ferguson conflict, Kim, Kylie and Kendall appeared to be looking at their phones. In fact, the sisters were frequently on their phones throughout the night and viewers were unimpressed by their lack of respect.

Nicki Minaj

After it was revealed that her backing dancer had been bitten by a snake during rehearsals it was clear that Nicki Minaj had grand plans for the VMAs. However, many were unimpressed with her suggestive dancing when performing Anaconda and then she had that dress malfunction on-stage with Jessie J and Ariana Grande.

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – From Page to Screen

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThis feature contains some brief spoilers from both the book and the film adaptation of ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a huge success when released in the cinema last year. It is no surprise that the screenplay is faithful to the book, as both were written by incredible writer Stephen Chbosky.

Although an over-used phrase, the book is truly a coming-of-age story that focuses heavily on the disillusionment so frequently felt by teenagers. The plot revolves around Charlie, an apprehensive freshman starting the new school year. He has communication issues and struggles to connect with people following the suicide of his best friend, Michael, the year before the novel begins.

Charlie initially struggles to connect with his family and explains that the only family member he has ever felt close to was his aunt Helen, who died when he was younger.

I read the book for the first time last year when the film was announced and was so captivated by Chbosky’s writing style that I managed to read the whole thing in a day. It’s uniquely written through a series of letters to an undisclosed person meaning that Charlie’s first-person narrative is honest and he doesn’t hold back. As the novel is written in this way, it is so easy to find yourself empathising with Charlie.

There are many themes to the novel, from abusive relationships and sexuality to drugs and adolescence. However, I felt the main theme was loss. Charlie is not only suffering from the loss of his best friend, but also the loss of his youth and, as the novel goes on, his innocence.

Throughout the story, we see Charlie befriend the eccentric Patrick and Sam and adapt to his new, more social, life. Patrick is openly gay and secretly dating popular quarterback, Brad. Sam is his step-sister and has a troubled past, Charlie is immediately besotted with her, but feels he isn’t good enough to do anything about it.

Initially, Charlie is heavily juxtaposed to Patrick. Patrick is over-the-top and obnoxiously loud to teachers whereas Charlie doesn’t have the confidence to participate in classes. As the plot develops and Charlie feels more comfortable with his new friends he gains more confidence and feels free to voice his true opinions.

The novel features many great quotes

The film adaptation of the novel has been a long time coming. The novel was first published in 1999 and has gained a cult following since. It is considered a modern classic by many and features some amazing quotes, including one of my personal favourites “we accept the love we think we deserve”.

The film is extremely faithful to the original novel, which I feel is because Chbosky adapted the script himself. Chbosky has stated in the past that the novel is semi-autobiographical and he can relate to Charlie which may play a part in why the characters do not digress from their original representations.

Usually I find film adaptations don’t live up to the novels they are based on and whilst I still think in this case the novel is better than the film, there isn’t much in it at all.

I think one strength of the film adaptation is that the characters are established much quicker than in the book. When initially reading about Patrick and Sam, I wasn’t sure what kind of people they were as I was only finding out about them at the same speed as Charlie, but as soon as you see the pair on-screen, you understand they are eccentric outcasts.

Logan Lerman is fabulous as wallflower Charlie, especially during party scenes, where he portrays Charlie’s naivety brilliantly. One stand out scene is when Charlie has started dating one of Sam’s friends Mary-Elizabeth. During a game of Truth of Dare? Charlie is dared to kiss the prettiest girl in the room, but instead of choosing Mary-Elizabeth, he chooses Sam. Lerman’s performance when he realises the mistake he has made is great, as Charlie is slowly seeing himself turn back into a recluse as his friends stay away from him.

Emma Watson is also surprisingly good as Sam in the film. Although at times her American accent leaves a lot to be desired, her performance is much better than that in any of the Harry Potter films and after seeing the film, I believe she has the potential to continue as a successful actress for a very long time.

However, it is Ezra Miller’s portrayal of Patrick which is truly exceptional. He is able to go from over-the-top clown to emotionally vulnerable in a matter of seconds and you understand why the character is able to draw so many people in. One outstanding scene is when he is confronting Brad about their affair in front of his friends. The dispute turns violent and Patrick completely breaks down. It is no surprise that Miller received a number of accolades for the role.

The production of the film is also well done. Music is a big part of the book and this is conveyed on-screen as the film has an excellent soundtrack. Additionally the editing is extremely clever, with many sound bridges used for transitions, particularly as Charlie recollects about his past. This allows the audience to see the links he makes in order to remember these events.

My only issue with the film itself is that I think it hints too heavily at the films climatic twist, something which was quite shocking and unexpected in the book. However, I often find this to be the case with adaptations.

Overall, I would highly recommend both the novel and the film, but would suggest reading the book first in order to fully embrace and understand Charlie as a character.

 

Freaks and Geeks: Then and Now

Note: This blog post will contain spoilers about the TV show ‘Freaks and Geeks’ 

Although lesser known in the UK, the Judd Apatow produced Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) has a cult following in the US despite only lasting for one season. The show introduced audiences to some of the biggest actors and actresses in film and television today and dawned the start of the ‘comedy clique’ that would frequently appear on-screen together.

Freaks and Geeks marked the start of many successful careers [Getty Images]

Freaks and Geeks marked the start of many successful careers
L-R: Seth Rogen, Busy Philipps, Samm Levine, John Francis Daley, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, Martin Starr, James Franco. [Getty Images]

The show followed the Weir siblings, Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and Sam (John Francis Daley), and their respective friendship groups, the freaks and the geeks, as they went through high school during the 1980s. The show focused on friendships, family bonds, drug use, bullying and issues with self-image. It dealt with serious issues in a light way and, unsurprisingly considering the cast, had many hilarious moments.

The Freaks consisted of Lindsay, Daniel (James Franco), Nick (Jason Segel), Ken (Seth Rogen) and Kim (Busy Philipps). They were a group of burnouts likely to be found smoking weed by the bleachers or sneaking out of class. At the beginning of the series, Lindsay is dealing with the death of her grandmother and the narrative predominately follows her questioning her faith and social standing as she begins to hang out with the ‘freaks’ rather than the mathletes.

The Geeks consisted of Sam, Neal (Samm Levine) and Bill (Martin Starr). The series saw the Geeks trying to avoid bullies, deal with first crushes and coping with family issues.

Last year, Vanity Fair reunited all of the cast members publicly for the first time since the show was cancelled. They had previously held a reunion at PaleyFest in 2011, however, James Franco was not present due to filming commitments.

Vanity Fair reunited the cast of 'Freaks and Geeks'  for the Judd Apatow comedy edition

Vanity Fair reunited the cast of ‘Freaks and Geeks’ for the Judd Apatow comedy edition

Here is a run through of the best moments of Freaks and Geeks and the career highlights of the cast so far:

The Freaks:

Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini)

Lindsay Weir

Best Moments

At the start of the series Lindsay isn’t the most likeable character. It is frustrating as a viewer to see her trying to be somebody she is so clearly not just to fit in with this group. But her best moments come when we see her compassionate side, such as when she talks about her late grandmother or when she defends Eli, a boy with mental disabilities. As the series goes on, she builds a friendship with Kim which is great to watch and it is endearing to watch her struggling with her feelings for the overly-keen Nick.

Notable Credits

Velma in Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
Cassie in Brokeback Mountain
Nurse Samantha Taggart in ER

Current Projects

Voice work on Gravity Falls
Currently voicing Sharla in Out There.

Daniel Desario (James Franco)

James Franco

Best Moments

Daniel’s turbulent relationship with Kim offers some humorous moments, especially when he decides to agree with everything she says during episode 12, ‘The Garage Door‘. However, some of his best moments occur when he is communicating with the geeks. In the finale, Daniel is forced to join the Audio/Visual club after pulling the fire alarm to try and get out of a test so to be nice the geeks invite him to join them at their Dungeons and Dragons night, where they all bond over Daniel’s creation of Carlos the Dwarf (see below). 

Notable Credits

Harry Osborn in the Spiderman franchise
Aron Ralston in 127 Hours
Will Rodman in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Current Projects

Alien in Spring Breakers
Oz in Oz the Great and Powerful

Nick Andopolis (Jason Segel)

Jason Segel

Best Moments

Nick is the character who is freakishly loveable. He is obsessed with Lindsay, going as far as serenading her with Styx’s ‘Lady’ (cringe through the clip below) and later writing his own song for her, ‘Lady L’. His pride and joy is his 29-piece drum kit and he is initially convinced he can make it as a drummer, despite having no motivation to do anything about it. There are many touching moments between Nick and Lindsay where she tries to encourage him to be more ambitious, but he struggles to remain motivated under the watchful eye of his dad, who has warned if he doesn’t sort himself out soon, he’ll be going into the army.

Notable Credits

Peter in Forgetting Sarah Marshallalso writer
Gary in The Muppetsalso writer
Tom in The Five-Year Engagement; also writer

Current Projects

Series 9 of How I Met Your Mother
Featuring in This is the End as himself
Rumoured to be taking the lead role in Dreamworks’ Undercover Cop an 80’s era comedy

Ken Miller (Seth Rogen)

Seth Rogen

Best Moments

In my opinion, Ken is so underused in the series. Although he is there early on to provide some witty one-liners, it is only when he gets a girlfriend during episode 12 that he more heavily featured. When Ken meets his girlfriend, Amy, Rogen’s performance is spot-on. He goes from the quick-witted, sarcastic character to the one who doesn’t know what to do or say.

Notable Credits

Officer Michaels in Superbad; also writer
Dale Denton in Pineapple Expressalso writer
Kyle in 50/50

Current Projects

Featuring in This is the End as himself; also writer
Linked to Nicholas Stoller’s Townies alongside Zac Efron
Linked to Anthony Leondis’ B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations

Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps)

Busy Phillips

Best Moments

When I watched the first few episodes of the show, I hated Kim Kelly. I thought the way she spoke to Daniel was awful and her mistreatment of Lindsay actually felt like bullying. However, by the fourth episode, ‘Kim Kelly Is My Friend’, that all changes. You get a glimpse of her dysfunctional family life and realise she mistreats others because that’s all she’s ever known. As the series progresses, her friendship with Lindsay grows and the two really care and respect each other, which is great to watch.

Notable Credits

Audrey Liddell in Dawson’s Creek
Hope Bobeck in ER
Laurie Keller in Cougar Town

Current Projects

Continuing to film Cougar Town
Featuring in Kat Coiro’s A Case of You

The Geeks:

Sam Weir (John Francis Daley)

Sam Weir

Best Moments

As Sam is quite a lot smaller than most of the other boys his age, he lacks a lot of self-confidence, especially when talking to his crush, Cindy Sanders. He’s a true mummy’s boy and worries about Lindsay mixing into the wrong crowd. There is an adorable moment when Lindsay decides to have a party whilst their parents are away, worried that their house will get wrecked, Sam buys a keg of non-alcoholic beer and swaps it with the original keg. Another great moment is when he tries to revamp his image to make himself look a bit cooler, however his choice of a blue jumpsuit doesn’t quite have the desired effect…

Notable Credits

Dr. Lance Sweets in Bones 
Carter in Horrible Bosses; also writer
Mitch in Waiting…

Current Projects

Ben House in Rapturepalooza
Writer of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Writer of Vacation

Neal Schweiber (Samm Levine)

Best Moments

Neal comes out with some of the best liners on the series – my all time favourite is “I’m Jewish. That’s no cakewalk either. Last year, I was elected school treasurer. I didn’t even run!”. He is convinced he is older than his years and that he can charm Lindsay into liking him and after finding out his dad is having an affair, he starts to speak to people through a puppet. Whilst Levine is hilarious during the funny moments, he also makes your heart melt during his more emotional scenes.

Notable Credits

Pfc. Hirschberg in Inglourious Basterds
Spanky in Sydney White
Appearances in Lost, How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family and 90210.

Current Projects

Uncredited role in jOBS
Pranked caller in Miss Dial
Matt Nealy in Phys Ed

Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr)

Best Moments

I could write an entire blog post about Bill Haverchuck, who is, without any doubt, my favourite character on the show. In a show full of amazing one-liners, his are always the best and the way Starr uses simple mannerisms means that even when he’s not speaking, Bill is the person you are watching. From getting drunk whilst watching Dallas, drinking a concoction of disgusting food that Sam and Neal have blended together to earn ten bucks and trying to teach the boys how to “dance sexy”, he is always providing laugh-out-loud humour. However, his best moment has got to be his halloween costume… (see below)

Notable Credits

Martin in Knocked Up
Joel in Adventureland
Appearances in How I Met Your Mother, Parks and Recreation, New Girl and Community

Current Projects

Featuring in This is the End as himself 
Todd in The Lifeguard
Roman DeBeers in Party Down

Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings PlaybookAs soon as I saw the trailer for Silver Linings Playbook, I knew it was my kind of film. Although it didn’t give much away, the amazing cast – including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro – sold it to me right away. So much so, that I went against my rule of always trying to read novels before watching their film adaptations.

Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) as he is released from a mental health facility into his parent’s (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) care. Pat suffers from bipolar disorder and was hospitalised after finding out his wife, Nikki, was having an affair with a colleague, whom he proceeded to nearly beat to death. He believes that if he finds enough silver linings in his life he will win Nikki back.

At a dinner, he meets his friend Ronnie’s sister-in-law, Tiffany, a young widow, (Jennifer Lawrence) for the first time. The two soon develop a friendship, with Tiffany offering to give Nikki a letter from Pat if he will be her dance partner in an upcoming competition that her husband never wanted to go to.

As Pat and Tiffany bond on-screen, Cooper and Lawrence’s chemistry is undeniable. However, the film is by no means the typical romantic-comedy you might expect. It is more of a romantic-drama with a few comedic moments. It is clear that David O. Russell, the director and writer of the screenplay, had a distinct vision with the film.

O. Russell has stated that he was so heavily invested in the screenplay because his 18-year-old son Matthew has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As I watched Silver Linings Playbook, it struck me how well those with mental illnesses are represented and I think it’s a testament to the outstanding script so clearly based on personal experiences of the issues portrayed on-screen.

As I’ve already mentioned, the cast of the film is absolutely outstanding, but none shine quite like Bradley Cooper. I wasn’t expecting much from Cooper, as I hadn’t seen him in such a dramatic role before, but in his performance as Pat he shows the perfect combination of vulnerability, emotion and humour. I think Jennifer Lawrence’s statement that his performance ‘broke her heart then put it back together again‘ is spot on and, in my opinion, Cooper deserves all the awards he is nominated for in this role.

Silver Linings Playbook features outstanding performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

Silver Linings Playbook features outstanding performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

A stand-out scene for me is the first meeting of Pat and Tiffany (much of which is seen in the trailer at the end of this review). Both Cooper and Lawrence display such quick wit in the scene and it flows so naturally. Both of their characters social struggles are obvious and they aren’t immediately comfortable in each others company as is so often the case, to the audience their meeting is plausible as being the first. The film is written so perfectly that the gradual development of their friendship is believable and so endearing to watch as a viewer.

The supporting cast are also great, with there being no weak links. Chris Tucker plays Danny, a friend of Pat’s from the psychiatric unit, who is obsessed with his hair and looking for any legal loopholes that will get him out of the facility. Jacki Weaver plays Pat’s mother, Dolores, with such raw emotion and compassion and Robert De Niro is amazing as Pat’s father, who resorts to bookmaking to earn money and suffers from OCD tenancies.

I think one of the funniest scenes, and the one that makes me believe we will be seeing Jennifer Lawrence on-screen for years to come, is when Tiffany argues with Pat Snr. in the middle of a gathering, dismissing his OCD beliefs that Pat needs to be at home when American Football is on in order for his team to win. There’s something about seeing a 22 year-old Lawrence talking down Robert De Niro which is hilarious and it’s a beautifully portrayed moment when Pat Snr. begins to acknowledge that Tiffany shouldn’t be judged because of her issues and where he finally believes in his son.

Whilst the plot is predictable, the incredible performances by the cast are reason alone to see this film. The character relationships are intriguing to watch and you genuinely root for Pat and Tiffany, not just to have a relationship but to be content as individuals and find the silver linings they both deserve.

Rating: ****

Review: Mumford and Sons – The Road to Red Rocks

The DVD Cover.

The Road to Red Rocks DVD Cover.

In 2011, I was fortunate enough to see one of my favourite bands, Mumford and Sons, live. My friend treated me to tickets for my birthday and we both agreed the gig would be unforgettable as it was held in a tiny venue, the New Wimbledon Theatre.

I find it hard to describe how amazing the gig actually was to people, when they ask I usually just say “I spent an hour and a half with butterflies in my stomach”, mainly because I was bewildered by how incredible they sounded live. Whilst most artists never quite live up to how they sound on their albums, Mumford and Sons were even better and their musical talents shone that night, especially when playing ‘Timshel’ acoustically with no amps. They played an amazing setlist  including unknown songs from their then unreleased second album, Babel.

The night ended in the best way possible when we met Winston and Ben after the gig. They were incredibly humble and kind and took the time to talk to us, although we did feel slightly bad when the people around us recognised who they were and they got bombarded, but they didn’t seem to mind at all.

Since then, I’ve found myself saying part of me doesn’t want to rush to see them live again, just because I don’t think it could be as good as that night. But with the release of their incredible new album, Babel, I’ve found myself in two minds again.

Ben and Winston were kind enough to stop for a chat and take photos with us.

Ben and Winston were kind enough to stop for a chat and take photos with us.

When I heard the band were releasing The Road to Red Rocks, a dvd featuring live footage from two sold-out shows at the Red Rocks Ampitheatre, there was no doubt in my mind that I needed to get it. Upon watching it I found myself in possession of the butterflies I previously had at their gig.

The setlist of the dvd great, with tracks from Babel and some old favourites from Sigh No More. It is clear that the dvd isn’t just a means of promoting Babel, but it is more of a thank you to the fans. My personal stand out tracks are Lover of the Light, Awake my Soul and Dust Bowl Dance. 

The footage of the band  is brilliantly directed by Fred & Nick. It features amazing performances and there are also some interviews and backstage footage where the band talk about their bond as a group and their love of music. Beautifully candid moments are shown when they come off stage where you can see how happy they are to have played at such a prestigious venue and to be in each others company. These endearing moments will melt the heart of any fan.

The band’s love of performing really comes across on stage and, unsurprisingly, The Road to Red Rocks dvd has left me desperate to see them once again. The dvd is, without a doubt, a must-have for any Mumford and Sons fan.

Rating: ****

‘Truthful’ Oscar Posters

Following yesterday’s feature on Oscar nominations, I had to share these hilarious posters from the web of “If 2013’s Oscar-nominated movie posters told the truth“.

Here are some of my personal favourites:

Lincoln: Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay

Django Unchained: Nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay.

Life of Pi: Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

To see the rest of the posters, go to theshiznit.co.uk.

To see the full list of Oscar nominees, go here.

My advice to the TOWIE producers…

By the looks of Twitter, I’m with the 90% of the British population who wishes they could un-see last night’s dreadful The Only Way Is Essex, better known as, live. It has been described as the ‘worst tv show ever’ by readers of The Sun and many fans have expressed how they were tempted to stop watching.

The thing that struck me though, is that it was the cast who were getting slated online. Although I’m in agreement that some are acting a little too big for their boots *cough* James ‘Arg’ Argent, I really don’t see how the failure of the live episode can fall into their hands.

The Arg Charity Show... it's all for charity!

The Arg Charity Show… it’s all for charity, apparently!

Whilst the message was clear – the ‘stars’ were putting on a charity show – there were no details anywhere with how fans could donate to their charity of choice, Breast Cancer Care, and although some may claim they raised awareness, no facts on the cancer were shared.

The show played out like a poorly executed version of The Muppet Show, except it wasn’t funny… It was plagued with poor edits and a lack of understanding of those behind the scenes that as they were shouting to the cast, the audience could hear them too. It is a credit to the post production staff of the regular shows that it is usually edited so smoothly. Last night we had to endure cutting people off mid-sentence and moving to a shot of two people looking at each other in silence – until we heard those behind the camera say “we’re rolling”.

Sam and Kirk have lots to discuss

Sam and Kirk sit in silence, until they are prompted by someone behind the camera to “talk about Lauren”

If last night’s show did anything, it made it clear just how constructed the storylines are. We heard producers prompting Sam and Kirk to “talk about Lauren” and it would appear the only people pressuring Joey to talk about marriage are those we don’t see on-screen. The poor boy was almost reduced to tears and the rumours online are saying it’s because he was being pressured to propose at the end of the show.

So, my advice to TOWIE producers – the live show clearly didn’t work, please don’t try it again, if you do, count your losses, it’s pretty clear the show last night was scripted and had been rehearsed, so don’t try to pretend it isn’t.

If you’re going to revolve it around a ‘talent’ show, don’t cut away from the acts, aren’t they what it’s all about? In fact, an even better route could be to put on a TOWIE pantomime, add an ‘Essex twist’ to a tale we all know.

The saving grace of the live show was, without a doubt, Kirk Norcross’ performance. He’s never mentioned that he could sing before so it was a shock when he said he was singing a jazz song, that’s usually Arg’s territory. In my opinion, and according to Twitter, he was the star of the night… It would be great to see a little rivalry between him and Arg over the performance.

But please, don’t try to go live again. I don’t think the nation can handle it….or Joey.

The live show appeared to upset Joey, who was seen crying to producers after the show

The live show appeared to upset Joey, who was seen crying to producers after the show

(All screenshots have been sourced from ITV Player, if you dare to watch the episode again, it’s available here for the next month.)

I’m a “Celebrity”, Let Me Tarnish My Career

I’m enjoying this year’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, although I have to admit, a week in, I still can’t name the full line-up. That is what is infuriating about these “celebrity” shows, they end up centering on one individual who provides the most entertainment and controversy.

This year’s edition might as well be called “The Helen Flanagan Show” as little has been seen of any of the other contestants. In fact, I forgot Linda Robson was even in the jungle until a quick Google Search.

Every year it seems to be the same story – the public find one individual who just cannot stand to complete the Bushtucker Trials, or do so with a lot of fuss. Who can forget the Gillian McKeith episodes? She was the first person in the history of I’m a Celeb to refuse a live task… after “fainting”.

As frustrating as it can be to watch Flanagan refuse to complete the trials, which staff have been preparing for months, I can’t help but feel bad for her. It has been revealed that she left Coronation Street due to depression and suffering from extreme panic attacks, which is worrying as before each trial she has expressed how she feels anxious and is seen getting worked up about how the other camp mates will feel about her should she fail. There has been speculation that she has been faking her fear to gain public attention, however, considering her parents have spoken about their concern for her, I can’t see this being true. I doubt the negative press and twitter attention will make her feel good about herself upon leaving the jungle either.

I’ve always had issues with actors and actresses going on shows like this and Celebrity Big BrotherIt doesn’t seem to be an issue with soap stars, as long as they are content staying in the same role. But with Flanagan having left Coronation Street over a year ago and not acting since, I can’t see producers fighting over her having seen her admit she is a “drama queen” with “diva antics”. In fact, one high profile writer, Noel Clarke, has already hinted he wouldn’t be interested in working with her due to her involvement with the show.

Despite a few I’m a Celeb successes, like Myleene Klass, Joe Swash and Stacey Solomon, you have to wonder, for some of the other contestants, is it always worth it?

 

 

Timeline of the MTV VMAs

The 2012 MTV VMA logo

Each year, MTV holds the highly popular Video Music Awards, better known as the VMAs. The infamous ‘moon trophy’ is given out in a number of different categories including ‘Video of the Year’, ‘Video With a Message’ and ‘Best Editing’. This year’s event celebrated the diverse range of genres currently popular amongst young audiences with performances from Frank Ocean, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Green Day, Pink, Alicia Keys and One Direction.

Whilst the 2012 award show ran through fairly drama-free, in the past it has been known to play host to some fairly controversial moments. This year’s host, Kevin Hart, used his opening monologue as an opportunity to warn the audience he is likely to make mistakes and to prepare themselves for the unexpected. After talking about some of the well-publicised mistakes of the year, including Kristen Stewart’s affair and Chris Brown and Drake’s New York bar brawl, Hart said:

“People here have made mistakes before, Kanye West, Lil’ Mama coming on stage when Jay-Z and Alicia Keys were performing, Britney Spears and Madonna, when they kissed, Russell Brand hosting… twice. The point is guess what people tonight I will make tons of mistakes and I suggest you prep yourselves”

This timeline will run through some of the key dates and performances featured on the VMAs as well as some of the more controversial events to happen over the 28 years.

1984 – The first VMA ceremony is held at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

1988 – Michael Jackson appears at the award show for the first time with a pre-recorded performance of Bad.

Guns N’ Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin is assaulted by Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil.

1991 – A fistfight occurred backstage between Poison’s Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille due to ongoing conflict about DeVille’s cocaine addiction. On-stage DeVille began playing the wrong song and his guitar lead disconnected during the performance. He was fired as a result.

1992 – MTV requested that Nirvana play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘, despite the fact the band wanted to play their new song ‘Rape Me’, eventually MTV and the band settled on ‘Lithium’ as their performance. However, Kurt Cobain sang the first few lines of ‘Rape Me’ before playing ‘Lithium’. Furthermore, during the performance, bassist Krist Novoselic threw his bass as it stopped functioning, hitting him on the forehead.

During the 1992 awards show Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain challenged each other to a fight. Cobain spat on a piano on stage, believing it to be the one Axl Rose would be playing, only to find Elton John to come out and perform with Guns N’ Roses.

1994 – Newly married Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley walk out on stage to a standing ovation.

1995 – Hole perform in their first major televised performance since the death of Kurt Cobain and bassist Kristen Pfaff. Courtney love dedicated the song to them both as well as other friends who had died, including River Phoenix.

1996 – Van Halen make their first public appearance together since their break up in 1985.

1997 – Foo Fighter’s Pat Smear announced he was leaving the band and presented his replacement Franz Stahl. He would re-join the band as a touring musician in 2006.

2001 – Britney Spears’ performance of ‘I’m a Slave For You’ receives criticism from animal rights group PETA for it’s inclusion of a live Burmese Python and a tiger.

2002 – Eminem challenges Moby to a fight on-stage as he is booed whilst accepting an award.

2003 – Madonna performs ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘Hollywood’ with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Madonna dressed as a groom and kissed her two ‘brides’ on-stage.

2007 – Britney Spears sings ‘Gimme More’ for the first time following her well-publicised personal problems. The performance is given negative reviews due to her miming and disheveled appearance.

Kid Rock and Tommy Lee start a physical fight whilst Alicia Keys is performing on-stage.

2008 – Russell Brand hosts the award show for the first time and shocks American audiences with his controversial jokes.

2009 – Kanye West runs on-stage whilst Taylor Swift is accepting an award for ‘Best Female Video’ and proclaims that Beyoncé should have won. When Beyoncé wins an award later on, she invites Swift to give her speech again. Swift would perform a song about the situation, ‘Innocent’, the following year.

2011 – Lady Gaga appears at the show dressed as her alter-ego Jo Calderone. She performs ‘You and I’ with Brian May.

Beyoncé announces her pregnancy on the red carpet and makes reference to it during her performance of ‘Love on Top’

Compare two (or more) versions of the same text with close reference to their differing cultural contexts and production circumstances

This is an assignment I completed in my first year of university for a unit based on Adaptation

Whilst some adaptations remain faithful to their source text, others can be adapted to fit a new cultural context and be made under different production circumstances. This results in a film with little fidelity to its source text, such as Felix Gary Gray’s 2003 adaptation of Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job(1969). The film has been stated as being more of a “homage” to the original film due to their independent narratives and differing settings and characters. In order to conduct a comparison of the two films, it is necessary to look at the different eras in which the films were made and how this affects the themes portrayed in the films, as well as considering whether this is a result of the different cultural contexts. It is also essential to study the different settings used with reference to the Americanisation theory, the actors chosen and similarities between their characters as well as advances in technology changing the production circumstances and how these are seen in the mise-en-scene. In terms of the films being made in different cultural contexts it is also interesting to look at the advances in special effects whilst comparing similar scenes. Theories used by Tzvetan Todorov,Hutcheon and also audience theories debating changes in uses and gratifications will also be discussed further in this essay.

The Krays - A highly glamorised pair in the 1960s

The Krays – A highly glamorised pair in the 1960s

Having been made nearly 35 years apart, the differences between Collinson’s and Gray’s The Italian Job are very prominent. Whilst Collinson’s film focused on 1960s Britain, Gray’s adaptation looked at 21st century America, in particular life in Los Angeles. The original focuses on British gangsters, a highly discussed matter which was sensationalised greatly during the 1960s. A great amount of press coverage was dedicated to The Kray twins at this time and there was much interest and intrigue in the criminal underworld during this era. Gangsters of the era were glamorised, with some practically given a celebrity status. This is shown in the original film, as the main character, Charlie Croker, is portrayed in a very positive way and is shown living a very glamorous, and almost carefree, lifestyle. This is further emphasised by the lack of violent scenes featured in the 1969 original, for example, when Charlie is getting beaten up by the crime boss, Mr Bridger’s guards, no acts of violence are actually shown, merely a silhouette. Despite the two films’ differences, the emphasis on living a glamorous lifestyle is also prominent in Gray’s remake, with much emphasis being placed on the importance of wealth and the happiness it supposedly brings. This is greatly debated when Steve, played by Edward Norton, betrays his friends by stealing their gold, and uses it to buy the luxuries they all wanted, not knowing what he wanted himself. Despite this, more violence is shown in the 2003 adaptation, suggesting audiences have been desensitised due to the increasing amount of violence that is now shown in the media.

The themes of the two films are very different; the 21st century adaptation focuses heavily on the theme of cynicism, with great emphasis placed on revenge and betrayal rather than the patriotic style of the original. This can be identified through the heavily used quote “I trust everyone. It’s the devil inside them I don’t trust”. However, both films follow Tzvetan Todorov’s (1960) disequilibrium theory to some extent. Todorov claimed that in order to keep an audience captivated, the narrative of a film must contain disequilibrium where the balance and calm of the characters is disrupted and that the ending should restore the initial equilibrium or create a new one. Whilst this happens very clearly in the later adaption, with the characters getting revenge but then falling in love, the original 1969 film ends with a cliff-hanger, which is still a disequilibrium. It is arguable that it is not suitable to end a contemporary film with a cliff-hanger due to audiences now being seen as more passive consumers, however, it could also be said that the change in the storyline used in the adaptation is due to audiences becoming more active and not just wanting to see a repeat of the original.

In contrast to the cynical theme presented, there is a very patriotic feel to Collinson’s 1969 film as public morale was very high in the era in which it was made. Scenes with the character of Mr Bridger portray this feeling through the atmosphere created in the mise-en-scene. The non-diegetic music is often the British national anthem in his scenes and he is very well spoken, appealing to the “English gentleman” stereotype which is often highly regarded globally, making the film appeal to a larger audience. Mr Bridger’s clothing is also what is seen as typically British, wearing a sophisticated suit, and he also proclaims his love for the Queen by singing the national anthem. Furthermore, there is also a very positive representation of the younger characters, through their characteristics and the mise-en-scene, despite the fact the younger generation were said to dominate society in the “swinging sixties”. This creates a very positive representation of the British and links into the great public morale that was dominant in the 1960s.

Michael Caine as Charlie Crocker in the 1969 film

Michael Caine as Charlie Crocker in the 1969 film

The patriotic theme presented in the Collinson’s original The Italian Job could not be repeated in the 2003 adaptation due to a change in setting. Whilst both films have an Italian element, with part of the action shown in Italy, the adaptation is primarily based in the USA, indisputably showing Americanisation has taken place. Some may argue this is because the 2003 version of The Italian Jobwas aimed to be a “Hollywood blockbuster” and had more privileges in terms of production circumstances. White (1986) argued that:

“American films offered heroes and heroines who were less hidebound by class than their technically inferior British counterparts” (p.166)

This again, suggests that the common “English gentleman” is more suited to romantic-comedies for a global audience because they are seen as unrealistic to be con-artists in the way that Gray wanted the main characters of his version of ‘The Italian Job’ to be, showing that an updating in terms of national stereotypes has occurred.

The differing cultural contexts can furthermore be identified by the actors chosen to portray the main characters. In Peter Collinson’s 1969 film, all of the main characters are played by British actors. Michael Caine was a very popular British actor in this era, having already achieved success in Alfie(1966). However, in the 2003 adaptation, there is only one British actor, Jason Statham, with the majority of the rest of the cast being American. However, it is also noticeable that South African Charize Theron is also in the film; however, she portrays an American. This again supports the suggestion that Americanisation has taken place in worldwide cinema. McGuigan (1992) claims that this could be due to cultural populism and the idea people like to “look into” other cultures. He claims that it has become an increasingly influential perspective on the study of popular culture due to the success and intrigue it causes among other global audiences. It is clear that these cast changes in terms of nationality have been made because of the change in setting in the adaptation. This could be due to Gray wanting the adaptation to be viewed as a separate text to the source text, as there are very few similarities between the two films.

Whilst the actors portraying the characters are very different, some links can be made between some of the characters. Freddie in the 1969 film, played by Tony Beckley, and Rob in the adaptation are both represented as the “handsome” males, however, the cultural differences of the respective eras are obvious when comparing the films. This is because in the original Freddie is seen as a “dandy” with his flamboyant attitudes and sexual exploits fitting to the “swinging sixties”, whereas Rob is seen as very masculine, with his muscled physique and love of cars, in the more recent adaptation. This proves that modern notions of gender roles and masculinity have changed in the context of the last forty years, what was once viewed as masculine is not acceptable in the twenty-first century. Despite similarities between some of the different characters, one of the characters who features in both films, Mr Bridger, is given a very different representation. Whilst Bridger is seen to be a figure of gang authority and not very trusting in the 1969 film, the 2003 adaptation presents him as a father-figure to the main character. Again, suggesting that fidelity to the original text was not seen as important during the making of the film as it was intended to be a standalone text.

Jason Statham as Handsome Rob

Jason Statham as Handsome Rob

Advances in technology between the years of production in both films are very prominent, mainly through the differences in the mise-en-scene. Whilst the 1969 film looks rather grainy, in contrast the adaptation has great use of special effects. This is mainly due to the latter having a larger budget as there is greater money in the film industry now. Technological advances can also be identified through the use of camera techniques used. The 1969 film relies heavily on fixed camera angles, as seen in the opening scenes showing the car driving on the cliff, whereas the 2003 films has a much more varied range of cinematography and more use of stunts and special effects. This is further seen in the iconic chase scenes. Collinson’s version of The Italian Job features stunts that were seen as outstanding in the era in which it was made but Gray’s adaptation featured new elements, such as stunts with boats and helicopters, which obviously would have been unachievable with the technology in the 1960s. These new action scenes reflect the new technological features available in the 21st century.

Furthermore, these new advancements in technology are reflected in the diegesis within Gray’s 2003 film, mainly through Seth Green’s character, Lyle. Gray used a key part of the original film in his adaptation, whereby the con-artists change traffic lights to “create the largest traffic jam in history”. In the original, tapes are used and the thieves have to manually change the tapes themselves, however, in the remake Lyle is a computer hacker and simply uses the internet to hack into the database controlling the traffic lights. Further advancements are seen in the tools used to commit crimes. Whilst the later adaptation has features such as lasers and timed bombs, the original has a heavy usage of explosives and blueprint plans, more manual tools.

When comparing scenes which are distinctly similar in the films it is clear that the key iconography remains in the adaptation in order to satisfy fans of the pre-existing text. An example of this is the inclusion of the infamous Mini Cooper racing during the final heist. However, this again expands on the idea of special effects with more daring and risky stunts included in the 2003 adaptation, as well as further features added in post-production. As key iconography of the original Italian Job it seems necessary for the Mini Cooper racing to be included in the adaptation and it is thought if it was to be cut from the adaptation there would be little link between the two films. However, some may argue that re-creating infamous scenes such as this scene lacks originality on the film-makers part. Linda Hutcheon (2006) argues that “adaptation is now the norm, not the exception” (p. 177) and that audiences are now used to adaptations and in a sense buy in to the commodity that is created from the re-creation of these infamous scenes. This proves that despite differing cultural contexts, audiences who are aware of the original are satisfied with the familiarity of iconic scenes.

The infamous Mini Cooper chase scene recreated for the 2003 adaptation

The infamous Mini Cooper chase scene recreated for the 2003 adaptation

The introduction of more comedic elements, such as funny characters, in film is noticeable in the 2003 adaptation of The Italian Job. It is thought this is due to changes in audience readings of films and new expectations of the media. Stephen Littlejohn (2007) argues this is because audiences have now become more passive and watch films for escapism, making it necessary for content to be enjoyable and entertaining as people prefer this to more distressing themes. Furthermore theorists of the uses and gratifications perspective would argue that some of the more minor characters of the adaptation, such as Handsome Rob, Left Ear and Lyle, have been added to create the light-hearted humour and more comedic elements of the theme as. Although these characters are involved in the main plotline, some of their scenes, like the dream sequence in which they imagine what they would do with their share of the stolen money are greatly over-exaggerated. For example, Lyle talks about speakers that could “blow a girls clothes off” and Handsome Rob pictures himself in a major police chase. This type of comedy would have been seen as unsuitable in the 1969 version of the film due to the cultural context in which it was made.

In terms of the endings of the film, the differences between the results of the final heist can furthermore be related to the development of audiences. Whilst the source text results in a cliff-hanger, the adaptation results in good triumphing over bad, suggesting audiences may now feel the need for a definitive ending in film. In ‘A Structural Study of Myth’ (1955), Levi-Strauss argues that binary opposites are now dominant in every media text as audiences like the idea of one subject dominating over another. In the case of ‘The Italian Job’ (1969), it is featured in ways such as revenge against justice and heroes against villains. The more recent adaptation (2003) also contains the idea of males against females, with Charlize Theron’s character, Stella, seeking revenge for her father’s murder. This could suggest that the messages featured in Hollywood films can at times, be quite immoral.

To conclude, it is obvious that, due to the differences in cultural contexts and production circumstances between Collinson’s original The Italian Job (1969) and the 2003 remake, both films can, in a way, be read as entirely separate texts. However, by keeping the key iconography in the adaptation, it still makes reference to the original text and would therefore be pleasing to its fans. By keeping this iconography, fans of the 1969 original film would be interested and with the new features such as special effects, popular actors and intriguing plot lines, new, younger audiences would also be intrigued. With such emphasis on overall profit in the movie industry it is essential to tap into all different types of audiences and by featuring these new aspects as well as features from the original Gray successfully does this. Furthermore, by moving the cultural setting, there will be further interest by Americans, which, as the main source of capital in the film industry, is important for marketing and achieving greater viewing figures. This also links to the changes in theme, as contexts which were popular in the 1960s would not be understood by the younger target audience of the adaptation. It is fair to say that in comparison, the different cultural contexts and production circumstances is the main reason the films can stand as individual texts because as culture is moving forward and adapting, so is cinema and the expectations of the audience. Therefore, when comparing texts for different cultural contexts and production circumstances it can be said that with adaptation, new audiences can be reached through additions to an already popular text.

2573 words

Bibliography
Films
– ‘Alfie’1966. Film. Directed by Lewis Gilbert. UK: Sheldrake Films.
– ‘The Italian Job’1969. Film. Directed by Peter Collinson. UK: Oakhurst Productions.
– ‘The Italian Job’2003. Film. Directed by F. Gary Gray. USA: Paramount Pictures.

Journals
– LEVI-STRAUSS, C., 1955.The Structural Study of Myth. Journal of American Folklore. 78. 428-444

Books
– DELDEN, R et a, 2005. A Readers Guide To Contemporary Literary. London: Pearson Education.
– HUTCHEON, L, 2006. A Theory of AdaptationLondon: Routledge.
– LITTLEJOHN, S, 2007. Theories of Human Communication9th Edition. London: Wadsworth Publishing.
– MCGUIGAN, J, 1992. Cultural PopulismUSA: Routledge.
– STRINATI, D, 2004. An Introduction To Theories of Popular Culture2nd Edition. London: Routledge.