Tron Legacy: Ultimate Frisbee

Two hours of Garrett Hedlund springing about in lycra, hurtling deadly neon frisbees at people one minute, launching himself dramatically into the arms of holographic vehicles the next – Tron Legacy was surprisingly exhilarating and wonderfully camp.

I enjoyed all the Disneyfied neon orgasms that were exploding left, right and centre, I relished the Kylie video clothing, I even got caught up a little bit in the film’s drama and symbolic explorations. Are sci-fi films always this swishy? Am I missing out on something?

The geek aspects of the movie were admittedly a bit trying. Of course Tron Legacy is catering for that socially awkward and desperately escapist sci-fi boff market, so certain geekiness should be expected. Still, Michael Sheen’s character Castor was a ridiculous cyber-goth indulgence, dressed as a lurid platinum blond child-snatcher from the future, prancing about a classic sci-fi movie nightclub (an onscreen depiction of a nightclub for an audience that has never stepped foot inside a nightclub), waving a Willy Wonka staff about, it bordered upon intolerable to the extent that David Tennant sprang to mind. The relentlessly husky Hollywood dialogue (and sheer abundance of pointless lines) was a bit crap too, but just about manageable thanks to the cyclical shots of Garrett Hedlund’s arse in a catsuit.
Olivia Wilde was quite good as ‘Quorra’, with her hair all hacked off, she played a combination of Alice Glass from Crystal Castles, Milla Jovavich in Zoolander and that AOL woman from the last 90s.
Jeff Bridges, an actor from the original Tron movie who is currently being hailed in America as their “most underappreciated actor”, sadly came across as a poor man’s Sir Ian McKEllan, offering little more than a disappointing mimic of Magneto in X-Men. James Frain, on the other hand, was brilliant as Jarvis (pictured below), it’s a shame his character wasn’t explored more.
The Daft Punk soundtrack wasn’t as titillating as I’d hoped it would be. Quite traditional really, with strings arrangements and no vocals. I wanted to hear a more daring offering from the visionary duo. Their cameo appearance, although intentionally cheesy I’m sure, came across as ever so slightly naff. Although the music is undoubtedly one of the film’s strengths, and indeed the major turning force behind the movie’s PR wheel, Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy soundtrack was no major feat and is incomparable to their magnum opus on Interstellar 5555.
Finally the film employed wordplay quite successfully to build extended metaphors around computer technology and human emotion, from memory disks and portals to larger almost profound concepts like ‘game over’ and the notion of a ‘user’.
I’d recommend going to see Tron Legacy at the cinema, to receive the full impact of the film’s graphics, futuristic charge and general intergalactic chaos. Seeing the original is by no means necessary, although a few YouTube highlights like the original LightBikes scene will help contextualise what is ultimately a high-budget homage. Fun and futuristic, it will be interesting to see how this film dates in years to come.
Below: James Frain as Jarvis / Daft Punk's Insterstella 5555 / Garrett Hedlund sighing at his own beauty.

Christina-mas: Stars Are Born ("Burlesssque!")

Wow! The guest performances on Saturday’s X Factor demonstrated just how big the gap is between an X Factor finalist and an actual popstar. It was like a high-budget version of the Charlotte Church show. Do you remember that? Where Chazza would feign interest in a pop star on her sofa for half an hour and then proceed to militantly out-sing them, often improvising unexpected dramatic descants, or elbowing her guests out of shot, blasting them into submission with her booming Welsh larynx.

But on Saturday we were treated to real popstars. We’re not talking Alexandra Burke and her ‘glass collector doing karaoke’ vibe, we’re not talking JLS and their urban re-interpretations of YMCA. No, put your melon lip gloss away kiddo, we’re talking Rihanna and Christina Aguilera here.

And they did just that. Upstaged the finalists, outshone X Factor and reminded Britain what it really really wants – a big-budget Top of The Pops. It’s great to see Christina back at the top of her game and finally getting to grips with her pop niche, mixing that sauciness from Moulin Rouge with the bedraggled bottle blonde of Dirrty, and all held together by her fiercely outstanding voice. The new song Express (from forthcoming film Burlesque) is like a Pussycat Dolls hit fortified with elements of big band, latino drum rolls and incredible production touches from Chris Stewart.

All I did for the rest of the weekend was repeat that shit, tossing my hair about, breaking garden furniture between my thighs and going “Burlesssssssque” through semi-gritted teeth.
Likewise, Rihanna’s showmanship and stage command, at the tender age of 22, is just astonishing. Both singers are exciting, sexy, adventurous and brave.

I was really disappointed therefore to read negative comments online and see miserable complaints over Christina’s performance because it was too raunchy for a family show.

Is X Factor really a “family show”? What is a “family show”? Firstly, look at the childless people who are on it. Simon, Cheryl, Louis, Danni, Robbie and have a combined aged of 246 years and a grand total of one child between them, thanks to Dannii who gave birth to little Ethan in July.

Christina Aguilera, on the other hand, started her family in her early twenties. She is a dazzling example of a modern woman who is strong, talented and fantastically fearless. She can raise children and she can still be sexy, and there’s nothing, repeat, nothing, wrong with that. Christina is a showgirl who works industrially hard and she is fully entitled to *gasp* *faint* give Britain a glimpse of her cleavage if she wants to. This isn’t early 90s television for fuck sake. If parents want to shelter their kids from breasts then they should perhaps turn their TVs off and spend some real time with their so-called family.

X Factor isn’t a “family show” anyway, it’s the most watched show in Britain, and is therefore a show for everyone. And in being a show for everyone that doesn’t mean its content should be rolling-pinned into a shapeless and nondescript pulp. On the contrary, it means that just as millions of students and more enlightened viewers are made to watch family-orientated scenes in which contestants’ parents cry into their ready-mix cupcakes over the prospect of never owning a conservatory, so must the millions of overly protective parents and “family orientated” viewers have to put up with the occasional two minutes of someone who actually possesses an X Factor. Christina is what these contestants are aspiring to be. Christina is pop music.

Besides, young children won’t even absorb the sexual provocation of Christina’s performance, it will just fly over their innocent heads, and older children shouldn’t have wool pulled over their eyes. We all remember feeling a bit dizzy the first time we saw something a bit sexy. For me it was the roller girls at Disney World, Jasmine in Aladdin, and of course He-Man!

What were parents expecting when Dermot announced "Christina singing Express, from the film Burlesque"? Christina in a Cindarella gown? Or perhaps Christina crossing herself in an Evans roll-neck whilst five girls play 'Amazing Grace' on the recorder? Seriously. If people are too stupid to see how sexually and financially charged the entirety of X Factor is, and indeed pop culture in general, then they don’t deserve TV sets.

Meanwhile, us pop enthusiasts, thank you very much, will hereby proceed to, as they say in the world of pop, take it to the parking lot, and I bet you somebody’s gonna call the cops, uh-ohh, here we go’s, here we go, wo-O-oo-OOho—Oo-OOO-u-u-OOOOO, uoOOuOoOOH, OHHH OHHHHH...

Below: Christina's promotional performance of 'Express' from Burlesque.

Amendment, 14th December:
Okay, I did just see some stills of Christina's dance in the Mail Online, and admittedly they are quite dirty! Photos of Christina on X Factor. Perhaps X Factor needs a proper heterosexual man with children of his own on the show to confirm what is and isn't too racey?

Bad Boy Gone Gay: Is Chris Brown Homosexual?

From gay song lyrics to kiss-and-tell stories by Brooklyn party boys, the rumours are spreading thick and fast that Chris Brown likes his bling on boys, leaving us to have a re-think over what it was Chris actually meant when he sang ‘double your pleasure, double your fun’ on his somewhat ironic high-hoping fidelity-focused hit Forever.

You’ve asked me to look at this recent rash on the internet about Chris Brown and his alleged male sex partners (which was news to me!), and so despite being a big Rihanna fan and not liking the look of Chris's mug all over my blog, I'm going to take up the challenge.

And let’s hope it’s the last blog post we have on boring self-obsessed closet cases across the Atlantic. America, if you're reading - Seriously guys, nobody cares anymore!

So here goes. Chris Brown is gay? Or neigh?

One forum helpfully-slash-hilariously informed me: “Chris Brown was involved with a man named Jordan who was always around Brown. He was in the Kiss Kiss video and numerous performances. Jordan spoke of having threesomes with Brown with women, and claimed that Rihanna was assaulted when she threatened to expose him that night. When this hit the net apparently he and Brown Got into a NASTY Twitter fight”

Twitter is an important publicity tool for celebs and so I doubt Chris would engage in a bitch fight with a secret ex-boyfriend. Equally, a manager would be foolish to let Chris damage his online brand and take cyber punches at a male lover!

A more interesting argument suggesting that Chris Brown is homo is his gay-as-Goldfrapp song Love Rocket:

I’m fly in the sky ,
Outer space our satellites
Wanna take a, a little ride
On your rocket yeah yeah your rocket.

Hit it for the milky way your big surprise,
Looking for the sugar rush I,
Are you the guy
To light it, if was invited.
So tell me how bout it yeah .

Definition of a freak yeah,
Lets do something crazy yeah,
I want you and you want meeeeee.
And i don't need

Your chain your bling
It don't mean **** to me
Just keep your money in your pocket
Everything up in here out
No fake I.D
Just keep it real with me
You know you want me
Boy just stop it
Let me hop on your love rocket

There's no need to even look at the metaphors, "milky way your big surprise" and of course "love rocket" itself. The song is actually addressed to a guy. Perhaps it was intended for a girl to sing? Or was it going to be a duet with Rihanna?

More worrying to me is the line "No fake I.D."

When reading rumour forums look at how full-on their advertising is because salacious rumours bring high traffic to websites. Forum owners deliberately fill their sites with shit. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who put “Is X gay?” into Google every minute.

In fact, I once put out a blog post called “Is Ashley Cole Gay?” as a traffic experiment. The rather rushed argument went like this:

1) Ashley Cole entered a showmance with Cheryl Cole to cover-up his realisation that he was gay.

2) The media have suggested ulterior motives for Cheryl Cole entering this relationship too.

3) Cheryl Cole is a gay icon, so a subconscious girlfriend choice for a suppressed gay.

4) The photos Ashley Cole sent off his phone would not have impressed any of the women that I have ever met in my life, but are on the contrary similar to the kind of content one sees in gay chat forums.

5) Footballers are famously obsessed with the closet, because they can afford very comfortable ones (preferring to take the money off their small-minded fans than bring about unwanted homophobia, stress and vulnerability)

Now. I removed this “Is Ashley Cole Gay?” post after one hour of going live with it. Firstly because I kind of like Cheryl Cole, secondly because I actually have no idea whether Ashley Cole is or isn’t gay, and finally, because I realised that I don’t care and I definitely don't fancy him.

However, it told me what I needed to know, because 1,000 people visited my blog in the space of an hour.

So is Chris Brown gay? Well, we're no nearer to an answer until either he tells us, or a media group gives him a nudge. And I couldn't care either way.

But crucially, you need the public’s suspicion on your side from the word Gooogle, otherwise they won't be typing the right keywords into search. And it is perhaps this argument that most supports online rumours, and most suggests that Chris Brown is gay. Google keywords are the online equivalent to human instinct, just like rumours are the edges of a jigsaw.

Right, enough of this bollocks! Let's get our groove on to Love Rocket...

I still don't understand why he went ahead and sung this song if it's not a gay fantasy ballad, like, what's wrong with getting a demo singer to sing it? I'm loving the Alexander McQueen bumpster bum-boy jeans look here. Not too sure about bending over while gripping a ladder though.

Giving this song a second listen, perhaps being a gay R&B star would be a nice move for Chris? Problem is though, the pop gays love Rihanna.

Digital Love: Christmas gift ideas that cost nothing #1 : Give your Friend a Facebook Makeover!

In the run-up to Christmas 2010, The Jack of Hearts will bring you five truly novel gift ideas that are both amazing and solely internet-based. Who’d have thought ‘austerity’ would be this winter’s buzzword? It’s all about stripping back those daunting gift responsibilities until all you’re left with is your parents and your other halves. In other words, recession-chic is in full flow so three-dimensional presents only go to people who once gave you life, or who currently give you head.
Admittedly there’s a certain self-indulgent pleasure in offloading someone with an expensive gift, but nothing beats keeping all your money to yourself, and so we kick off by swapping price-tags for remove-tags with #1:
Give them a Facebook Makeover!
Or as I've come to coin it... "A Fakeover!" (exlamation mark compulsory).

All of us like to think our Facebook profiles look fantastic and yet when we look at our friends’ profiles we often find ourselves thinking ‘Oh God, what a loser’. It never occurs to us that we look stupid on Facebook because we’re incapable of truly turning a critical eye on ourselves, which is why offering to give someone else a Fakeover is the perfect Christmas gift.
It’s the polar opposite to ‘Fraping’ (a phenomenon that I’ve always seen as being cringingly puerile with a nasty whiff of the pubertal about it). So great are Fakeovers I’m surprised there aren’t freelance consultants out there offering them already. So, ask for their login details and away we go:
First off - Religious Status and Favourite Quotations. Is being a ‘Jedi’ really that amusing? No. Does ‘Very Conservative’ make them sound like a tiny bit of a twat? Yes. Sort these out. Do they really need 15 badly typed out in-jokes festering under the heading ‘Favourite Quotations’ when really the section should be called ‘Yes, see, I’m FRIENDS with her, SEE, SEEEEE, and our life is really REALLY witty and fun”? No.
With their actual name on Facebook, if it’s not their actual name, then change it to their actual name. I know this sounds obvious but some people actually give themselves a stupid middle name, forgetting the fact that whenever they see someone else with a stupid made-up middle name, a small part of them dies. So do James Engleberry Dub-Step Ass-Bandit Squidoo Smith a favour and sort that out.
Now the hard part. Grooming your friend’s Facebook photos…
Start off by appointing yourself chief remove-tagger. The rules of thumbnails are:

1. Nobody should have more than 1,000 Facebook photos.
2. Parties, group holidays and weddings are the only excuse for having more than 5 photos of the same event.
3. Few people need to see your friend grinning sweatily in an awful skirt from Jigsaw. Nobody needs it from fifteen angles.
4. Kangaroos, stick insects, mountain ranges and random lakes are a NO.
5. Nobody needs a photo of their house looking magical in the snow.

And most of all...

6. NOBODY wants an augmented reality of Thailand, in its entirety, in photographic form, laid out across 17 fucking pages. Thailand should be a backdrop to Leonardo DiCaprio looking hot on a DVD that you’ll probably never watch again. Thailand should not be the vast majority of your online presence. Especially when you're a public school girl from Kent.
To finish off a girl’s Facebook makeover simply remove their mobile number for them, any attempts at jokes beneath their profile picture and all of their HAR HAR ‘siblings’.
If you’re giving a boy a Fakeover you need to set aside a good day and half really. Start off with their “Interested In” section. If they’re heterosexual, lack self-esteem and benefit from reading a daily reminder of their chosen position on the sexual compass then be a dear and let them keep their sad little “Interested In: Women” on there. However, for confident straight men, those who are in relationships, very macho men, bisexuals and gay men, remove their “Interested In” section all together, as it’s entirely unnecessary and they’ve no need to either advertise or reassure themselves.
The beginners guide to remove-tagging a boy’s life in pictures starts with the following (to be read aloud in a Mary Poppins voice): Double chins, sweat patches, arses, pornography, cocks, pints of snakebite, people urinating in the street, infinity pools in Cyprus, people exhaling smoke in front of festival tents, piles of sick, self-portraits of oneself sunbathing, close-ups of insect bites, diving off the sides of boats, people sitting on the toilet, lines of men with pants around their ankles, Google Images of the homeless, people hugging the toilet, drunk and meaningless conversations around wooden tables, characters from Southpark, innuendos on street signs, close-ups of testicles, hotel bathrooms and anything depicting what they seem to think is a mythological equivalent to scholastic achievement, for example, lifting up one’s dirty white t-shirt to overtly exhibit a chavtastically toned stomach.
Some boys fall victim to the black death too, which is where their Facebook photos suggest they actually live in a marquee at a perpetual never-ending black tie event, furtively clutching onto the sequined hip of someone they should have shagged while they had the chance. You need to sort this out.
Finally make sure they’re not Facebook friends with their parents, unjoin them from any groups that are redundant like ‘Leona To Win: Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease Vote For Leona Everyone!!!!!!’, and ta-da: You’ve given them a profile of comfort and joy!
Check back for #2 on my list of amazing Christmas gifts that cost nothing, later on this month...!

Geek Thursdays: Google Maps Gone Mad

A friend Joey Severn posted this on his Facebook wall today and I wanted to share it with my readers:

‎1. Go to Google maps.

2. Click "Get Directions".

3. Enter New York as a start.

4. Enter China as the final location.

5. Go to number 31 in the directions.

6. When you finish laughing, put this on your status


For those who cannot be bothered, number 31 says 'Kayak across the Pacific Ocean'.

Number 106 says 'Jet Ski across the Pacific Ocean'.

Although my favourite was direction number 114 'Take the ramp on the left onto 外环高速/外環高速' - like an Asian Rocky Horror show.

I checked to see if 122 was 'Sweet and Sour Chicken (Cantonese Style)', but alas, it was 'Keep left at the fork to continue toward 宁合高速/寧合高速 and merge onto 宁合高速/寧合高速' - well at least there's a culinary object in there.

Above: Mariah Carey enroute to her gig in China.

Confusing CCTV

Following on from my previous blog post Big Mocha Is Watching You. If you don't want to invest in a flask, but would like to obscure the informsation obtained from CCTV about you that is used for market research, then here are some ideas:

1. Dress as the opposite sex.
2. Make yourself look older. (or younger perhaps, although as Felicity Kendal knows, one is easier than the other)
3. Make a daily habit of walking into a coffee shop, queuing for 5 minutes, and then leaving.
4. Buy items that are unlikely for someone of your age and sex, and that you have absolutely no interest in.

5. Pick up an item, hold it up to the CCTV camera, shrug questioningly, give the camera a sad and longing puppy face, and then erratically throw the item on the floor and violenty stamp on it. Then look back at the camera and smile peacefully.

6. Wear a burka or a nun's outfit. Not only will this completely obscure your age and (theoretically) sex, but it will give the market research company a skewed idea of their customers' religious demographic.

7. Buy what your friend wants and ask your friend to buy what you want. Then once outside and away from the CCTV's glare, swap purchases.

8. Constantly pick things up and then put them back.

Big Mocha Is Watching You

Yesterday I was waiting in a well-known coffee house when this rustic sign caught my eye, taking pride of place atop the dazzling lean-on-me-as-much-as-you-like-bitch-we’re-rolling-in-it cake counter, it announced “CCTV footage taken in this branch is to prevent crime and is in the interests of your own safety.”
Now usually whilst waiting patiently in a coffee queue I would be playing the addictive Critter Crunch on my iPhone or perhaps quietly reading through my Guardian app’s Favourites page (Hadley, Tanya, Imogen and Germaine – I like pieces that are either uber current, or about affairs). I wouldn’t usually put any time into thinking about other things, like, I don’t know, THE FACT THAT WE’RE BEING CONSTANTLY RECORDED. But this sign made me think a little and look-up nervously at that tiny camera hanging from the ceiling. Why was Starbucks (Oh, woops) so keen to reassure me that CCTV is to prevent crime and keep me safe. What else would it be for?
I opened up Google, which reluctantly informed me that CCTV is also used as a major market research tool. Is this general knowledge? Or did Sugababes release a single the same day that people were told this? It’s certainly news to me so I thought I’d share my findings on The Jack of Hearts.
CCTV helps companies to stay at the blinding and untouchable top of their industry. CCTV in a coffee shop can decipher your sex, your approximate age, what you buy, how much you spend, whether you choose to eat-in or takeaway, and rather creepily with more advanced technology – whether you’re a returning customer. It also tells companies how many staff they should employ in accordance to queue lengths at various times of day.
If you Google ‘Is CCTV used for market research?’ (In an Orwellian future I imagine keyboards will electrocute you for typing such a deviant inquisition) you come across companies like Smart CCTV, whose website proudly announces its history of using CCTV to track consumer habits.
In their words:
“We are a key provider of retail market research information based on the enumeration of metadata extracted from CCTV. This is of interest to retailers who can use the information to improve retail flow and gain comparative information on consumer preferences. Video analytics can be used to track the movement of people around a retail environment and from this data provide estimates of attraction of point of sale materials and optimal flow patterns around the store.”
In other words:
“We’re rent-a-creeps”
It’s a pricey procedure that costs a lot more than yelling ‘Yo sally, how many bagels did you bin last night?’, but evidently worth the effort. From how many slices of cheesecake to lay out to how many employees to have working a particular shift on a particular day in a particular branch, companies can use CCTV to build an incredible customer database that allows them to fine-tune their business, and what’s better – smaller rival shops can’t afford to play with the big kids, widening that ever-growing gap, keeping the zeros with the Neros so to speak.
I know this is all carried out by computers, but now whenever I go to fetch my breakfast on Great Portland Street I can’t help but have this image of Sad Brad sitting in front of his grid of screens over in Daventry at Store Stalkers R Us HQ going “Well ring-a-ding-ding it’s that tall guy with the stupid satchel again, he always gets a mocha with a mozzarella croissant, one sugar, then just before he leaves he looks round at the Brazilian dude, just you watch, see, mocha, mozzarella croissant, reaches for sugar, headphones in, goes to leave, but just before he does… THERE a swift predatory gaze at the new barista boy, what did I tell you!”, at which point Sad Brad turns to his colleague Clammy Sammy for a high five, but Clammy Sammy is busy staring at his femme quotidian as she innocently readjusts her bra-strap before ordering a soya latte somewhere in Matlock Baths.
Does anyone else feel a bit uncomfortable being a part of this voyeuristic landscape? *Insert to Christmas list*: Flask.
Anna Leach on the blog Shiny Shiny wrote a good little piece on this subject and the fears of new face recognition technology.

An Interview with Comedian Paul Foot

BY POPULAR REQUEST (!) Here is the text from my interview with Paul Foot, back in the days when I was an edgy and stalkerish student journalist. It was published in Leeds Student at some point in 2009 (I had to salvage the HMTL-stricken words off their website) and I believe it is still the most in-depth interview with Paul Foot to date.
I like this interview because it documents the first time I properly met Paul. Since then Paul's become a friend and I've become his publicist. One of the many bizzarre and unchartered limbs of my couldn't-make-it-up career in media.
It seems Paul Foot is a comic of both the margins and the centre. An eccentric and aloof character known for holding secret gigs and subversive tea parties, as he springs onto the stage (with a strange roll-along suitcase never too distant from him) we feel as if we are in the presence of Dr. Seuss’ take on Paddington Bear. He bounds and buckles before the audience delivering his bizarre humour that slips between enthusiastic loud bursts and humble self-musings. There are some impressive facts and prizes tied into the Paul Foot story. Amongst several comedy awards Paul was nominated for a Perrier, and more recently he was a finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, not to mention his thousands of committed fans (or “connoisseurs’ as he calls them).
But this stage presence of the extrovert recluse is a cleverly constructed identity, and to the fashion-trained eye there is a clue-his exquisite Paul Smith tie.
I spent an afternoon and evening shadowing this shadowiest of comedians, on behalf of LS, before, during and after his gig at Winston Smith’s Leeds comedy night Gag Hole. I set myself the task of finding the real Paul Foot. How has he come to be on the brink of world stardom four times and always somehow refrained? Who are the inspirations and cultural resources behind his genius humour? And what of his never-before documented past— a confused maths graduate from Merton College, Oxford —
It is the last day of April, and the sun fills the room with a warm glow from behind Winston’s canary yellow curtains. I am sitting in Winston Smith’s bedroom in Leeds where Paul Foot lies (fully clothed) inside Winston’s bed and looking somewhat like Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.
I’ve watched Paul perform three times, at the Edinburgh Fringe, in London and now here in Leeds. Winston Smith introduces us as I sit gingerly on the foot of the bed, rummaging in my satchel for my Dictaphone. Paul smiles with an unsettling mixture of friendliness and knowingness, I am now reminded of the landlord in the Wicker Man. I learn that feeling at ease and also a bit
uncomfortable is an important paradigm of Paul’s act, if not self-conscious.
I ask Paul to talk about Last Comic Standing, a popular TV show from last year presented by Fearne Cotton in which 35 “international’ comedians took part in a US knock-out tournament. “I was invited to the heats in Miami. One or two of the comedians were from Australia, but mostly from the UK. So it was thirty-five comedians on one jumbo-jet, a massive party.”
Unlike other professions, say singing or acting, it seems comedians get on well together. “There are probably only two comedians that I don’t like as people. Generally we all bond and get on well together. It’s delightful, you can meet a comedian who has been in the business for fifteen years, or one who has just finished their first gig, and you get along great, you understand each other”.
Last Comic Standing was Paul’s biggest audience to date, with a live theatre of 1100 plus an international TV audience of over 15 million. “I was quite nervous in Las Vegas. There was a difference between getting into the final and, well, not getting into the final”. Iliza Shlesinger eventually went on to win, her humour perhaps tailor-made for an American audience, with reels of jokes about Pizza and fatness.
I wondered what working with Fearne Cotton was like. “I saw her a lot for the actual finals, but Fearne had a lot to do, I just turned up for my parts of each show. I was having a holiday basically. Fearne’s lovely and very good at her job”.
Like all comedians Paul started off unheard of. “I remember at first I had one fan. Just one person who would turn up to my gigs. It was sad”. Nevertheless Paul’s fan-base rocketed as a result of the exposure on such a huge show, and he now has an avid following which demands a lot of Paul’s time-delivering video blogs, replying to fan emails and updating his twitter. “The internet can be problematic, I’ve been having problems with Twitter this weekend. Also, there’s another Paul Foot, an actor who is in Equity”.
A particular cult classic Paul Foot moment is his spoof film proposal, in which Paul plays all the characters. The plot revolves around a trophy wife who accidentally kills her older husband while having sex on an internet-purchased mahogany dining table.
Perhaps my favourite Paul Foot moment is his routine on how despite Jesus’ many attributes and achievements, was a failure in the field of carpentry.
But I venture into the more sincere side of the interview. What did Paul Foot do for a living before comedy?
“Well I knew I wanted to be a comedian when I was at Merton”. Where most figures in the public eye that went to Oxbridge flaunt the fact, Paul rarely acknowledges his educational background. “Maths was a tragic degree. I was good at it but it was boring. Upon graduation I took up a job with a recruitment agency.
"I remember the interview, I told him that I was completely uninterested in the job but that I wanted some money. The guy told me that I was unemployable with such an attitude, but he took me on anyway, in fact I initially didn’t take the job and then he head-hunted me. It wasn’t hardcore, I just fetched cakes”.
Paul Foot graduated from Oxford exactly when the internet was born. “I had to read manuals on HTML and just write websites from scratch. None of us really knew what we were doing”. It wasn’t long before Paul left bureaucracy for comedy. “I was scientific as a child, although Mathematics was the wrong degree, I should have done English or, um, perhaps Latin. But of course it doesn’t matter now. My interests are mainly comedy and cock”, he looks away at the window with a wry little smile.
The interview reaches a natural interval and Paul begins to make suggestive comments towards Winston. “He keeps being all sexual” jokes Paul, casting an eye at the unsuspecting and seemingly innocent Winston. “He keeps talking about his cock and saying he wants me to touch it”. They begin to laugh, Paul clearly in his element, Winston sat cautiously on the window-ledge of his own bedroom, picking at the hem of his chequered shirt. I snatch my moment to quiz Paul over his sexuality— does he have a gay agenda?
“I hardly ever acknowledge it. My material is probably the straightest of any openly gay comics. I sometimes mention sexuality, but often not, there are other things to talk about. When I’m out in the provinces, like Bedford, I’ll do my routine about gay sperm since it causes such a reaction.
“It angers me to read about homophobia, like people being beaten up at three in the morning in a car park because of their sexuality, so I sometimes use comedy as a learning curve. It’s pathetic when comedians are homophobic and think they’re being cool and ironic, they’re not, they’re just crap comedians who lack imagination. I’m not going to go around telling people not to be gay, and similarly I’m not going around telling people to be gay. I don’t have a gay agenda, just a comedy agenda. I’m a comedian.”
Sexuality – tick, I move on to more pressing issues like fashion. Where, repeat WHERE, does Paul shop in order to conjure this look of mostly-purple antiquity? He is reluctant to tell me exactly. “Anywhere really. These trousers came from a shop for example. This cardigan was from a connoisseur. He wore this cardigan, I wore my cardigan and we immediately swapped, there was a bond”.
Fine dining is a topic that Paul will discuss. “I’m self-taught, with a few lessons learnt off my mother. I enjoy cooking game pie, venison omelettes, that sort of thing”. Winston mentions how Paul once made a roast dinner at 4am for a group of friends, but ate the best bits of meat himself. “Well I bought it all” Paul hastily interrupts in mock self-defence. I ask him if he has a favourite restaurant back in London. Paul gives a prompt and definite reply: “Pied à Terre”.
Paul is adverse to pop culture, “I can’t stand films, there’s too much going on, people walking around, men wearing hats, and women, I just can’t follow them. My favourite film is Titanic. I don’t like it, in fact, I hate it. But it’s my favourite”. On literature he says “I haven’t read a book since I was seventeen”. What about Harry Potter? “Well actually I did try that. It’s rubbish”.
And so the official interview slot draws to a close as Paul sits up and adjusts the cuffs of his shirt. I leave the house of Winston Smith, anticipated about the evening’s performance, I’m perhaps more confused now as to who Paul Foot really is.
The evening eventually arrives and I am sitting with my American friend Maggie on the second row. I was beginning to consider myself a quite senior Paul Foot connoisseur by now, afterall, I’d not only seen him perform several times, but I’d interviewed him extensively at his (or Winston’s) bedside, as well as sharing a large icy pitcher of Pimms before the gig.
Nothing, however, could have prepared me for Paul’s set that night. His comedy started off in recognisable Footian territory, musing on the farcical nature of counselling hotlines pinned to the credits of soap operas. The second phase of his gig took a loony twist as Paul began speculating over the occurrence that is vans—that’s right— just vans, as in the vehicle, and then his invented accessory – vanglasses—.. I just can’t explain…
My journalistic ability is yet to be formative enough to describe Paul’s set… in fact I question whether I will ever develop writing abilities strong enough to do Paul’s comedy a decent service. Still, the audience of around one hundred Leeds students, were a riotous concoction of laughter fits, gasps of shock and (I’m pretty sure) pissing themselves.
The final part of Paul Foot’s act was titled “Revenge on a Bed & Breakfast Landlady”. The complex and increasingly elaborate tale spiralled out of control until, somehow, Paul had two men simulating sex with themselves on stage, ululating like Red Indians and pretending to smash imaginary china dollies while he screwed himself up into a ball on the floor and started wailing as if in pain. The audience by this point had lost all sense of reality to their inner senses and to laughter. None of them knew what to think anymore, they just knew that Paul Foot was something else.
“In my teens I imagined my future self at 48 years old, married, with a Ford Sierra and children” Paul told me quietly as we walked towards the grandeur and noise of Leeds University Union. His career stands testament to how none of us, not even Oxford maths graduates, can predict our futures, but that creativity and humour are enough to be a success, and more importantly – to be happy.
Students run up to Paul post-gig, asking for info about upcoming gigs, excited girls take photos alongside him while even the most scrofulous of boys offer him their rosy-cheeked praise. He is invited to a handful of parties too. Surely the cool party culture is the icing on the comedian’s cake, it’s the social approval they all craved in school, the opportunity for them to cash-in all that hard-crafted humour for drugs and sex?
“I’m okay thanks” he politely rebuts. “I don’t really feel like partying tonight, but I’m quite hungry though, I might just get some food”. And so Paul Foot’s off— in his Paul Smith tie, roll-along case in tow, and disappears into the warm May moonlight.
Follow Paul Foot on Twitter: and join his Official Facebonk Page.

Skittles: Taste The Facebook Following

Skittles have launched a Facebook campaign in which a hunk is locked in a perspex box for 24 hours with Skittles dropped on him every 15 minutes. The amount of Skittles dropped every 15 minutes depends on the amount of people who have joined up with Skittles on Facebook during that period. Genius.

In signing up not only do you swear online allegiance to Skittles, but you also give Skittles access to all of your basic details including name, gender, a list of your friends and associates, and any photos or content that you've added to Facebook with an 'everyone can see' setting, so it is essentially a data mining exercise in which online privacy is yet agaiOOH LOOK... Skittles falling on a hunk's head! WHOOOOO!

The Facebook page also has a live commentator making jokes in a deadpan manner such as "Why isn't he busy sorting the Skittles into different coloured piles?

How many Skittles will be dropped?
A maximum of 2,000,000 Skittles. Currently there are only approximately 9000 Skittles going into each drop drop. For every 1 person who joins on Facebook 40 Skittles are added, although how this is put into practice is not revealed. Do they have a special Skittles counting machine, or do they just shovel in any old amount and hope Rain Man isn't watching? The entire gimmick is recorded and livestreamed through the Facebook page.

Who is David Phoenix?
The man in the box goes by the name of David Phoenix and he appears to be a kick-boxer and stunt artist according to the University of Yahoo Answers. He is dark, handsome and is currently sitting in the perspex box wearing a red sports jacket looking quite glum (probably because he can't w*** , as one boy following on Facebook helpfully pointed out).

Where is the Skittles stunt happening?
In Soho, London. Where else would a rainbow-obsessed publicity stunt involving a male model occur? Melissa Smith just revealed on Facebook: "I've just seen the real deal....
St Annes Court, in between Dean St and Wardour Street, he's even more awesome in the FLESH......"

Disappointingly the Skittles don't all fall onto David's head, they mostly just land infront of his crotch joining a huge pile around his feet, and David isn't naked, which would have struck me as a must. As PR expert Paul Wells scoffed to The Jack of Hearts this afternoon: "Oh Skittles, what’s the point of having a hunk in a box, if he’s not at least half naked?! These social media stunt rookies are absolutely clueless."

What will happen when the Skittles go over his head? Does he have a game plan? Before entering the perspex box David Phoenix asked people to follow him on Twitter @IAmDavidPhoenix , yawn, go on then.

The Facebook group currently has over 1,300,000 members make this an incredibly successful campaign, especially considering there are over 20 hours to go.

Some questions raised on the Skittles page that there are currently no answers for: Can David go to the toilet? Can he eat the Skittles? Can he take his clothes off?

I've just read this little article about the whole affair by Rosie Baker in Marketing Week. According to her piece the footage from this campaign, which pays homage towards the gunge-tank glory years of 1990s kids television, will form part of a new marketing campaign too.

I'm so going to take a look after work. If only for the Warholian brilliance of 15 minutes.

Why Are Simon Cowell's Pop Tarts Above the Charts?

So this year’s X Factor live show performances will be purchasable through iTunes and other official websites, but sales will not affect the Official Top 40 charts, putting Simon Cowell in an omnipotent throne above the charts.

If 500,000 people like and buy a song then it should be number one, that’s what a chart is! Why is Simon Cowell scared of transparency and online democratisation? It’s supposed to be a harmless music competition, albeit a money-grabbing one, not some Kim Jong-il Karaoke freak show.

Some have praised Cowell for ‘protecting the integrity of the charts’ as if this man’s first taste of chart success wasn’t with novelty singles as profound as The TeleTubbies (‘Eh Oh’) and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers! As if this man doesn't look to 80s sensation Sinitta for her earnest opinion on singing.

The officially provided reason for this above-the-charts malarkey is that the show’s makers want to prevent audiences from knowing who the tournament’s favourites are. This too is slightly flawed in that iTunes already has its own popularity tally system and the size of Facebook fan pages has always correlated with a contestant’s popularity.

Now that X Factor can make money out of its 'live' performances it completely changes the nature of the tournament in that contestants are going to be given songs with maximum money-making potential. If 500,000 girls and gays are going to buy a 1 Direction single each week for the next 10 weeks then there’s no way Simon Cowell is going to chuck the boys out of the tournament no matter how badly they might screw-up.

Will the contestants be rewarded for lining Cowell's pockets each week or do they remain unpaid popstars? Perhaps the proceeds from all of these Saturday night whore-outs should go to charity? And how much money does the original artist get paid? Can Kate Bush sue if she feels her creative genius has been sieged, shat on and spewed out by a talentless teenager?

I like The X Factor, it’s hilarious and I enjoy watching it, but for me it is basic wine and crisps pre-clubbing Saturday night entertainment, not a conglomerate Orwellian Ministry of Music that rams a spoon down your throat and then smacks you in the face with it. Luckily we still live in a world where televisions can be turned off. Sadly half of Britain don’t seem to realise this.

Wow, we’ve only had one live show and already the Jack of Hearts has had an X Factor rant! And last night in Tescos I noticed a stand selling X magazine, so expect another…

YouTube Sundays: Madonna Couldn't, Britney Couldn't, Calvin Could

Few people know Britney's killer groove 'Trouble'. It only appeared in the UK as a bonus track on 'Circus' for those who pre-ordered the CD although internet downloads are available. It's one of her best tracks; sexy, cool, minimal, disjointed and 'current' - but for some reason it was never a single. A couple of years earlier Madonna tried to make a hit out of the same synth scale in 'Get Together', her follow-up to the genius Abba-sampling hit 'Hung Up'. But again, nobody paid much attention. Then only last year Calvin Harris released 'Flashback' as the second single off his Ready For The Weekend album, and despite having had nearly 4 million plays on YouTube it still didn't receive the recognition it deserved.

Three questions:

1) Can anyone else see the striking shared ground between these three songs?

2) Is there some kind of curse on this melody?

3) When will Lady Gaga make her version and fly to the top of the charts?

Take a listen:

Britney Spears - 'Trouble'

Madonna - 'Get Together'

Calvin Harris - 'Flashback'

X-Factor Girl Group Belle Amie Named After Gay Adult Movie Company

These four girls Rebecca, Sofia, Esther and Geneva were thrilled last weekend (well, last summer, but let's pretend) when Simon Cowell told them that they were going through to the live shows of this year's X Factor, as a girl group called Belle Amie.

The girls innocently named themselves Belle Amie after they saw the phrase in a french text message that one of Geneva's friends wrote to her. What they probably didn't know is that Bel Ami, is one of the world's most successful gay porn production companies. I don't imagine Simon Cowell would have known this either, assuming he's too busy to attend Ryan Seacrest's movie nights, and Louis is probably a bit slow at responding to his Blackberry.

Wouldn't it be more fitting for the twinky boyband 1 Direction to be called Belle Amie? Pretty boys Harry Styles and Liam Payne actually resemble Bel Ami 'models', whilst Niall Horan has a sufficiently complex blond hairstyle to feature in a Bel Ami title.

1 Direction is an awful name, they may as well be called Direct Line, although I think that's the name of a Lancastrian tribute act to the 90's boyband Northern Line. Then again, having a crummy and pointless name seems to work for boybands. Northern Line, Westlife, East Seventeen, what about Southern Fried? No? How about 911 Direction? or Directory Enquiries? Or just 9/11? Now that would be post-modern. The Post Modernists? Now that would be cool.

Below (don't click the still unless you're liberated enough to casually browse a successful gay porn production company's website) is one of the 'models' pages from Bel Ami online. The idea is that viewers can search Bel Ami's hundreds of gay titles in search of a particular 'actor' that they have a soft spot for. But it made me think... wouldn't a porn star knock-out tournament make for perfect evening television?

Here in London we have Gay Porn Idol every Thursday at Heaven, beneath Charing Cross Station. Anyone can enter and the idea is that boys who need to top up their job seeker's allowance to buy a new vintage jumper can make-out with themselves (or a friend) and the 'winner' gets £100! Only problem is, the boys who enter rarely match up to the high standard that good quality gay porn directors and X-Factor judges swear by.

Below: Bel Ami's cast directory online. A bit like Top Trumps, but literally.

What I don't understand is, if Bel Ami have hundreds of gay porn actors, who are all incredibly built and challengingly handsome, then where on earth do they live? I've never seen one walking around. Do they all live on yachts? Sometimes I think the FAQ section on Chanel's website needs to be a bit more comprehensive.

What are these Black and White Pixelated Squares?

An introduction to QR Codes: Real Life Hyperlinks
What do these scary black and white squares mean? They've started popping up everywhere in my life, hiding on the back of Flash domestic wipes, hovering around spookily in TV adverts, chilling out on the sides of printer cartridges, and even in high-brow Missoni adverts. Are they a secret code? An Alien invasion? An eccentric billionaire's treasure hunt? Or maybe just some interns in a design company pissing about? I swear if you squint at them you can make out an image of two fish about to eat something off a seabed? Ok, maybe that's the Blossom Hill talking.
Well anyway, after some hardcore Googling I've discovered that these demonic chessboards have a name: "QR Codes" (Although now that I've coined the phrase 'demonic chessboards' I'm secretly hoping that will take off)
"QR Codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards, or on just about any object about which users might need information. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR Code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the phone's browser."
So they're a type of inverted commas 'hardlink', or double inverted commas "physical world hyperlink". In a sense they are an alien invasion, they are an eccentric treasure hunt, and they are from some design company who felt like pissing about, so you see - my instincts were right, they just didn't have the jargon du jour. The jury's still out on the depiction of killer fish though.
With trademark speediness The Guardian wrote about QR codes way back in 2008, in relation to a Pepsi campaign. According to their article QR codes have been used on tombs in Japan, so that people can find out about that person's life! The modern day equivalent of nailing a leaflet rack to your grave.
QR codes evidently haven't taken off in Britain yet, and give us strength when they do. Just imagine a world where celebrities can QR code their foreheads with downloadable messages and photo albums. If only they could put a QR code badge on James Corden so those who wanted his opinions could download them, and everyone else could enjoy television once more. Coming to a pair of Jordan's breasts near you. You read it on The Jack of Hearts first.
Further reading: Wikipedia - QR Code ; Calvin Klein's PR Code campaign ; QR Code on the front of Las Vegas Daily ; Richard Wray in The Guardian on QR Codes

Above: Kelis, a drawing of someone kissing a dog, and a QR Code on a Missoni advert. All in one issue of W mag!

Are These Really Joe McElderry's Ambitions?

Whereas Donkeyboy's video to Ambitions was quite good, Joe McElderry's video looks like a cross between Billie Piper's 'Because We Want To' and Coronation Street: The Musical

I was disappointed to find Joe McElderry’s new single is just a mushy microwave meal cover of Donkeyboy’s song ‘Ambitions’. Inevitably nowhere near as good as Donkeyboy’s original soft-pop hit debut last year, it lacks creative engagement, sexiness, and like so much manufactured and soon-to-be-forgotten crap, it fails to convey a sense of ownership between artist and song.
Giving Joe a lyric like “If it’s me that was going to take it, then I know that it wouldn’t be straight” is a bit clumsy too given his recent outing in the red tops aged 19.
You’d think Simon Cowell would have pop-writing mega talent on speed dial, what with the likes of Mark Ronson, Calvin Harris, Tom Chaplin, Miranda Cooper and other members of Britain’s shit-hot pop powerhouse all just a cab ride away, so why on earth have they flogged poor Joe off with a damp wafer of a first single? Evidently he's far down on their priority list.

The original 'Ambitions' video, directed by Brett Sullivan, is much sexier and works much better with the song’s story. Linnea Dale’s guest appearance makes it a more dynamic effort too, adding the much-needed female touch that the song needs. Joe McElderry’s video looks like a cross between Billie Piper’s Because We Want To and Coronation Street: The Musical.

Take a look at Joe’s behind-the-scenes video, at parts it comes across like a satire, I hope Catherine Tate is watching:

Let’s hope Joe’s cover at least brings some attention to Donkeyboy, and more importantly to Norwegian pop music which is an increasingly talent-packed affair. Let’s also hope for Joe’s sake that he starts taking the reins of his career before he becomes just another nobody on the back of an old Now CD.
Here’s Patrick Wolf’s video to 'Vulture'. Now that’s what I call a proper gay popstar.

Jack's Gay Times Road Trip

Above: Sitges at 4am, photographed from Hotel Calipolis, one of the best located hotels in Sitges, hot men stay there, the bathrooms are gorgeous and the shuttle bus to the nudist beach stops right outside!

Below: The path leading down to Dead Man's Beach.

In a moment of nostalgia brought about by this freezing, boring, Papal weekend in Britain, I've compiled a cute Jack of Hearts collection of my sensational and sexed-up gay road trip articles from July/August. It was a six-piece serialisation for Gay Times.

I toured France, Spain and a bit of Sweden in a blacked-out VW with two shoe boxes worth of amazing CDs ("I heard a rumour..."), and basically let my hair down for almost 1000 hours. During lapsed moments of reflecton (and recovery) I put my rugby socks on, wrapped myself up in my Carebears duvet at the back of the van and typed up these accounts of my findings. I then used the free internet from McDonalds car parks to ping them over to Bob at Gay Times.

Have a read:







Let me know what you think. Maybe you've been to some of these places yourself?

Can't be bothered to walk to your local (and kind of nasty) newsagent to discover that they might not even stock Britain's chief gay magazine? Well why not just SUBSCRIBE TO GT HERE and receive it in a discrete and no-fuss opaque packet through your door! (I used to get mine sent to school).

Above: Me rocking some designer stubble in a graffiti'd shelter on Ile d'Oleron.

Cathwalk Trends: What to Wear for a Papal Visit

"The major feat of the Papal Visit Store has to be their range of rosaries. Not only are these items holier than Philip Green’s fake plastic beads, but they’re better quality and cheaper. From wooden to imitation blue glass - there’s something appropriate for every kind of sinner "
In preparation for The Pope's visit, Jack has trailed through pages of Catholic Merchandise to give you a lowdown on the season's best Cath Fash:
Fashionistas are always talking about creativity, vision, and inspirations. When they’re not obsessing over what’s next, they’re busy bickering about who copied who. What came first - The meat or the dress? Some actually talk with lurid empty-stomach breath about Karl Lagerfeld as if he is God.
Well if fashion is all about creation, looking forwards, looking down, and so on, then surely it makes a lot of sense for the Catholic Church to have their own fashion range? They’re higher than high street, they were passing judgement on people way before the chain-festish sinner Gok Wan and they really do give the concept of the word designer a run for its money.
Benjamin O'Brien De Clare, theologian, World of Warcraft veteran, Catholic sympathiser and sinner told The Jack of Hearts: "We're talking the first great designer, and with a charity slant. Their early stuff is the staple {or steeple? - Jack} in ecclessiastical design" Although supply teachers, social workers and television historians take their fashion inspiration from Methodists, everybody would agree that The Catholic Church are the most fashion-conscious religion going. Sinner Briony Fleming, a horse-riding charity worker and world authority on bracelets told The Jack of Hearts: "Jesus was the first official fashion muse." Noah being the first technically, but unaccredited by the fashion industry due to poor taste in sandals and later-on loathed.
So today we’re shopping in the Papal Visit Store, and I’ve been marvelling at several pieces. Firstly there’s a gorgeous Beatification Tee (pictured above).
Written across a bang-on-trend monogram of this season’s saint-to-be John Newman are the Latin words Cor Ad Loqvitvr , which means “Hearts Speaks Unto Heart”. Evidently the sinner Henry Holland needs to start dishing out catwalk slogans in Latin if he’s to stay at the head of his game.
According to The Jack of Hearts' resident Latinist, papal fashion enthusiast and sinner Zoe Wells-Cole, sinner Henry Holland's iconic t-shirt "I'll Show You Who's Boss Kate Moss" translates as "Kate Moss: Demonstrabo Tibi Quisnam Est Dominum". (Kato Mossum, optional)
The next piece that I adore, and no doubt coming to a member of The Saturdays (all sinners) near you, is this heavy-metal-chic Pope Benedict XVI tee - popally rocking and another jewel in the collection’s mitre. It would look perfect at one of the weekend's papal events with some animal-print jeggings, killer heels and a trilby hat.
But the major feat of the Papal Visit Store has to be their range of rosaries. Not only are these items holier than Topman-tycoon sinner Philip Green’s fake plastic beads, but they’re better quality and cheaper. From wooden, to glow-in-the-dark, to imitation blue glass (glass!), there’s something appropriate for every kind of sinner in here.
For bling lovers the PV store offers some fetching medallions and plain black “Heart Speaks Unto Heart” caps, but don’t take the bling too far or risk being condemned like Wales’ biggest fan of Cath-fash the notorious sinner Catherine Zeta-Jones, who the Vatican City awarded a lifelong membership to hell back in 2002.
For nu-ravers the pope-ular look to go for is ‘Flashing Candles’ as a take on the traditional wanky glow-stick and white silicone wristbands, plus they do a handy-little Pope tote bag to pop your pseudo-sunnies, Red Bull and spare pants in.
“Heart Speaks Unto Heart” may sound like an M.I.A lyric or a new sinful J-Lo song but it is actually the life motto of John Newman. I always thought it was good to let the heart speak out, but it seems keeping the feelings of one’s heart to one’s self is a more recommendable path to Catholics these days.
So, New York – London – Paris – Vatican City. It’s time to get hip-hopping and ship-shopping in the official Papal Visit Store. Don’t forget your Papal Flags (another song that M.I.A. never got round to making).
I won't be attending The Pope's speeches, but if I was I'd so be rocking a Cath-fash get-up with some of this great pap tat.
An abridged version of this blog post appeared on The Guardian on Sept 16th 2010:

Inception A.K.A “Ocean’s Five”: Not Exactly The Stuff of Dreams

There is an incredibly annoying twenty minute “planning” sequence in which facetious semi-soliloquies occur around a flip chart whilst anxious violinists scratch away at the audience’s ears. I was half expecting a secretary to appear and announce “Sir Alan is ready to see you now.”

Inception begins with a tide lapping into the semi-conscious face of Leonardo DiCaprio. Minutes later we follow him as he commando rolls and dives around what looks like a militarised version of the Japanese-themed hotel in Disney World. As lanterns drop and smash dramatically from great heights and chaos flourishes, Marian Cottilard is phased by none of this as she calmly parades around a wood-panelled room in a black designer dress, ignoring the tidal waves that are smashing against all sides of the building. Ahh, she’s not real, we’re in a dreamscape. Silly us.

Attempting to combine Matrix-style concepts with the black tie elegance and action of a James Bond, Inception sets itself a tall order and, well, fails. The film lays itself a deadly trap in that it needs to feast on quite intellectual material but cannot afford to bite-off anything a mainstream American audience won’t be able to chew.

Ellen Page gives the only strong performance but her character is sadly flawed without a background or a motive. Ariadne is overly-reminiscent of Thora Birch’s Jane in American Beauty and Jena Malone’s Gretchen in Donnie Darko. Her lines alternate bizarrely between whiny questions and profound statements of scientific understanding. Ariadne has nowhere to go and the last we see of her she’s looking both gormless and meaningful, slouched in a first class airplane seat.

Cillian Murphy’s talent is tragically wasted in this film. His first six scenes could have been made using a Madame Tussauds waxwork, and although he looks quite sexy in his white-on-white designer skiwear, his alpine Action Man scene is quite bland and whoever dreamt up the scenery seems to have borrowed heavily from the graphics on the N64's Golden Eye. Only at the billionaire father’s deathbed do Inception’s makers get a bit of their money’s worth out of Cillian.

Leo’s looking old these days. He was great in The Departed and Blood Diamond, proving his succesful transition from teen twink to mature actor. In Inception, he looks more like a door-to-door salesman, he’s good at being chased by evil nondescript Asian gangsters, but not so good at building up atmospheric tension. The music score therefore has to work overtime, but is still a missed opportunity with very little memorable material. A bit of a Jack Dawson esque heart-shaped curtain flops across Leo's forehead during the romantic moments, a forehead which, quite fittingly for this film, is starting to look like a maze.

Inception wants to be six successful movies at once and so fails to shape its own identity. It has a weak script which darts between being painfully patronising and unintentionally funny. The actors take themselves too seriously, which has undoubtedly woven a breeding ground for future parodies (French & Saunders are probably filming as I type this). Tom Hardy is unbearable in this film as his character attempts to make light of what is essentially the ugly over-simplification of a complex concept.

And so Inception ends up being riddled with nonsense and mindless hysteria. The dream landscapes themselves are very bureaucratic, almost positively boring, and seem to be modelled on waiting rooms, corporate atriums, hotels and the Mavis Beacon typing school. Perhaps the film should have been called Reception?

A second viewing on DVD might offer better insights into the storyline, but the script doesn’t give the actors much to work with. Consequently he characters are two-dimensional apart from Leonardo DiCaprio who is given a Hollywood family (two angelic little blonde children, one boy and one girl of course). It is naff, wet and lazy how Inception uses Leonardo’s reunification with these two annoying holographic kids as the emotional lynch-pin and driving force behind an entire film.

Inception wants to be a lot of things that it isn’t. So what is it? It’s corporate, it’s Hollywood and it’s an okay movie. All of the actors have given much stronger performances in much better films in recent years, and so it is sad to see these big screen A-listers all lost in a kind of “Ocean’s Five” movie. So much happens and yet nothing much happens.


(If the credits were accompanied by Lee Mead singing ‘Any Dream Will Do’, then I might have written a different review)