Friday, June 26, 2009

Issue 4 - Hair Maketh The Man

(Here's one for the ladies and for discerning men.)


Not the musical, but the organic stuff we all have growing on us.

People spend millions trying to get rid of it; people spend millions trying to get more of it. Some people really need to spend some of their millions doing either/or (Donald Trump, I'm looking at you).

I am most fascinated by the role that hair plays in the consideration of a person's attractiveness; not only that, but how popular culture influences that consideration.

Particularly for men. Remember the undercut? Or the shave-and-peroxide phase?

Over the last 12 months or so, I have noticed a gradual shift in the popular perception of what is "hot" in a man and what is not. For several years, every teen idol and pin-up boy sported a variation on the Emo Fringe - the more side-swept, the better. The current poster child for the Emo Fringe is Zac Efron (although he stole the title from Pete Wentz, who was too busy having babies and Twittering about his personal life to notice). The Emo Fringe in its purest form was complemented by skinny jeans and layers of eyeliner. Oddly enough, tattoos would also get you points. In a way, it was the slick, modern, commercialised version of punk, with a hefty dose of glam rock thrown in.

And chest hair? Pffft!! Don't even GO there! A man didn't get anywhere in the fashionable world unless he was waxed and buffed to a shine. Only the most attractive of the most attractive could afford to get away with anything different. For a while there, it looked like Hugh Jackman was the only one managing to hold his own - ironic, really, considering his all-singing, all-dancing background.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I like a pretty-boy*, but I did feel like the look had become a bit tired. Then, one day, I opened a magazine and found not one, but two fashion adverts featuring very manly men with very manly chest hair proudly on display. What had happened?

Back-track about a year. Enter a certain young vampi-- sorry, a certain young actor by the name of Robert Pattinson. At first, Twilight fans were horrified. This was not the Edward Cullen of their fantasies! He was…scruffy! His hair had not been touched by a pair of straighteners! And what was that growth beneath his shirt?! But, he was…funny…and he sang like a tortured angel…and he played piano…OK, so maybe he didn't sparkle, but that was part of his charm…

Cue screaming girls and massive over-exposure.

There were other signs, too, that made me suspect the winds of change were blowing, bringing female affections back around to the more manly physique: Gerard Butler suddenly surged in popularity after bulking up for "300", mo's and beards were appearing here and there at random, I had never seen so much gush about a pair of thick eyebrows as I was seeing about those belonging to a certain supervillain named Sylar (and if Zachary Quinto grew a bit of facial hair? Look out! Fan girls everywhere were suddenly volunteering to have his babies).

My suspicions were subsequently confirmed by the attention surrounding a particular King. A King of Leon, to be precise. What's interesting here is that the Followill clan has always been a hairy bunch. In truth, they used to look like lumberjacks who had stumbled across 70s fashion a couple of decades too late. But one member, in particular, made some drastic follicular changes and - voilĂ ! - all sorts of things were on fire.

You might be forgiven, at this point, for thinking I mean the bass player, Jared. He is the obvious heartthrob of the band: the cut jaw, the eyes, the cool movie star confidence; he's also formerly a proud supporter of the Emo Fringe - even Miley Cyrus loves him. But, no.

Instead, take one blue-eyed lead singer named Caleb, shorten his ridiculously long hair, grow and cultivate a nice tidy beard/longish stubble and you have a man who looks as good as he sounds. And, boy, is that good.

Now, if only we could get Dave Grohl to see that less is more, all would be well with the world of rock.

I've been thinking through my knowledge of pop history and have decided that I cannot picture any of the following without thinking of their iconic hair:

Jennifer Aniston - "The Rachel"
Salvador Dali
Prince Harry
Tom Selleck
Kurt Cobain (single-handedly responsible for the grunge mop)
Farrah Fawcett (RIP)
Danny Masterson as Steven Hyde
Freddy Mercury
Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow or Edward Scissorhands
Princess Leia
Amy Winehouse
Albert Einstein
Victoria Beckham (don't hate me, just face it - whenever she changes her hair, the whole world stops to look)
The Beatles
The Queen of Simple Chic, Audrey Hepburn.

Wanna get noticed? Storm the charts? Start a revolution? Then either get with the hottest hair trend, or start one.

*Although Harrison Ford will always be top of my list.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Issue 3 - T4 - Salvation?

I'm torn between my head and my heart.

But I'm also fascinated by something...

Let me start at the beginning.


Next, it was:

Then, out of America, came:

Followed by:


*...but we will get to that

Shortly thereafter:

Why the disparity in response between the two countries? Was it, simply, that England's large Welsh and Australian contingents were feeling patriotic about Bale and Worthington? Unlikely.

Is the British audience more willing to accept mediocrity? Possibly - look at the majority of its TV programming. But, then, I'm not British, and you won't catch me watching East Enders, either.

Are the English less hard-core nitpickers when it comes to their sci-fi? Not really.

Or...had they just been smart enough to avoid "Charlie's Angels" and therefore had no deep-set prejudice against McG? Strangely enough, I think this may be closer to the truth.

The more reviews I read, the more I noticed something: the majority of the haters weren't giving a solid reason for their thorough dislike of the movie.

  • "Too loud" - um...what?
  • "Not violent enough" - OK, perhaps. That was definitely one of the problems with Alien vs Predator 1 & 2, but hardly a killing stroke (pardon the pun) in this case.
  • "Too much action vs too little story" - sorry, but there actually was a story there, flaws aside (yeah, yeah, I'm getting to that).
  • "Christian Bale's Connor wasn't engaging" - fair enough, but this is the first of three movies - he's got to give the character some room to grow. Besides, as Bale has said, this really wasn't John's story - it was Marcus' - and one of the things I've always appreciated about Bale as an actor is his understanding of when to hog the spotlight and when to let someone else shine.
  • "The franchise is dead without Arnie" - are you crazy? Would you seriously have wanted The Governator wandering around, trying to equal his former glory? Remember Rambo 4, people...remember Rambo 4...

With each new review, I was left with the uncomfortable impression that the critics really only had two things on their minds: McG's name and Bale's rant.

Now, don't get me wrong. The movie wasn't the best thing I've ever seen, but it was enjoyable. As it should be. It certainly had far more of the "feel" of a Terminator movie than T3 did. I also appreciated the fact that, as with Star Trek, CGI was used sparingly and effectively. In other words, I don't think McG did too bad a job. Sure, the ending felt like it had been stuffed into a VacuSac and had the air sucked out of it (I'm guessing that had to do with the multiple versions and edits that were reportedly trialled), but at least we didn't have to put up with things exploding unnecessarily all over the joint and multiple close-ups of the hero's knee-cap throughout the most crucial moments, as we undoubtedly will get with Transformers 2 in a week or so.

hmmm....Bale's uncontrolled, f-bombing outburst on set. It's interesting to me how much this has set people against the movie itself. And how it comes up in every single negative review. Why? It has no impact on the tone of the movie. More likely it was the other way around - when you watch John go through intense situation after intense situation, you begin to understand the pressure Bale himself must have been under, day in and day out. I'm not excusing his behaviour, but I do understand how the mood of a role can easily rub off on you. It seems, however, that the Americans have taken this mis-step more to heart than the Brits have. Perhaps it's just that, as one of my friends said, the British don't mind a really good rant every now and then.

It does go to show just how a bit of bad (or good) publicity, or a pre-conceived notion, can taint the consumer reaction to something.


Now - as promised - to the problem with the story. Whilst most of the objections I've seen in online forums can be easily debunked, there is one thing that has been troubling me since the day after I saw the movie (yes, it took me awhile to realise this - don't laugh).

[spoiler alert]

Kyle and John are numbers 1 and 2 on Skynet's "most wanted" list...but, John is not yet the leader of the resistance and Skynet doesn't know that Kyle was/will be his father. How does that work? Now, I can accept that maybe John was number 2 for other reasons - something to do with the opening sequence, for example. Or, perhaps, the Terminatrix conveyed her mission to Skynet when she activated the machines at the end of T3. Either of those are perfectly plausible. But nobody (except John and Kate) knows what Kyle will become. Because it hasn't happened yet. The T-800s from T2 and T3 knew, but they were both destroyed in the past. The only explanation I can come up with is this: Dr Silberman and the staff at the institution where Sarah was locked up were the only other people who would have known about Kyle. Cyberdyne Systems is obviously dabbling in medical research at the beginning of the movie, so, perhaps that gave Skynet access to Sarah's medical records.

It's a stretch, but it will have to do.

To be honest, there are other problems with the story - there usually are, in time-travel movies - but they are relatively minor. However, the whole story hangs on this one. Hence, I am torn between my head and my heart. On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie; on the other, I will have to turn my brain off the next time I watch it.

P.S. Sam Worthington: we love you and you're a fabulous actor, but next time you might want to get Christian Bale to give you a few lessons in "how to keep up your fake American accent". ;)

P.P.S. Anton Yelchin. I just couldn't finish this post without mentioning him. I liked him as Chekov, but he seriously made an impression on me as Kyle. Unassuming, unflashy, amusing; he plays the character exactly the way he should be played, and he creeps under your skin. Just like Michael Biehn did. My final, overwhelming impression as I left the cinema was, "Man, I could have kept watching him all evening." The kid's got a future. More, please.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Issue 2 - Never Without Controversy: The MTV Awards

The MTV Awards are usually an interesting study, but this year's Movie Awards, in particular, confirmed a number of things for me:
  • Sandra Bullock is still one of my favourite celebs (and one of the most down-to-earth).
  • I have no desire to see any more of Sacha Baron Cohen's naked backside than I already have.
  • Kings of Leon are one of the best rock bands of my generation. (Good to see America is finally waking up to them.)
  • Keeping the camera trained on expressive faces – like Rob Pattinson's and Zachary Quinto's – during comedic moments is always good value.
  • Kristen Stewart has a better sense of humour than people give her credit for.
  • Ben Stiller can actually act – he managed to look engaged, even interested, all the way through the longest, most rambling and ultimately strangest introduction I've ever witnessed. Oh, and he has great hair. That's completely irrelevant, but true, nonetheless.
  • J.J. Abrams is now even closer to the top of my list of people I desperately want to work with.
  • Somebody needs to teach Lil Wayne a few home-truths. Like, "That ego-trip of a speech made you look even more like a dope than you already do."
  • Plugging family members' careers irritates the heck out of me. I don't care if you are Denzel Washington.
  • I like Jim Carrey more and more as time goes by.
  • Twilight rip-offs are funny, even if you're a Twilight fan.
  • I think I just inadvertently and very publicly admitted that I'm a Twilight fan.
  • Damn.
The MTV Awards (...actually, most award shows...) has never really been known for the quality of its comedy. Still, perhaps it's time to consider a different style of host. Andy Samberg can range from hilarious (e.g. one of the night's highlights, for me: the song, "Explosions") to pathetically un-funny (e.g. whatever-the-heck that piece of stupidity/waste of talent with LeAnn Rimes, Chris Isaak and Forrest Whitaker was). Unfortunately, the un-funny moments seemed to outweigh the genius ones - unless I'm completely missing something, I just don't find fairly well-respected celebrities singing expletive-packed nonsense particularly original or entertaining.

I've been mulling over some options for hosts...Hugh Jackman did a stellar job at the Academy Awards, so I suppose the MTV Awards would be a bit of a step down for him...I would suggest Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto - the most refreshingly natural comedic team in a long time - but, considering the incredible success of Star Trek, I imagine they'll be too busy accepting awards next year to hand them out...David Tennant? That'd be cool, but the humour might be a bit too sophisticated for some viewers...seeing as Twilight is likely to dominate the Awards for the next few years, maybe they should just go the whole hog and have "the Cullens" host it. There's 8 of them - at least there'd be something for everyone...Paul Rudd. We love Paul Rudd...or how about we go back to one of the greats? I'd give a lot to see someone like Bill Cosby in the hot seat...arghh...who am I kidding? Like that'd ever happen.

Some final thoughts:
  • Biggest controversy - The internet has been buzzing with speculation for the last two days. Everyone had their opinion about the Eminem/Bruno stunt. All I can say is, props to Eminem for putting himself through it. Nice to see he (apparently) has a sense of humour.
  • Biggest beef - Megan Fox: you get to make movies with both Optimus Prime and Shia LaBeouf. This means your life is pretty good. Please smile.
  • Weirdest date combo - What the heck was Catherine Hardwick doing there with Billy Zane?
  • Best outfit - The little number J.J. Abrams wore for his keyboard solo.
  • Best "D'oh!" moment - Kristen Stewart dropping her trophy (nice cover, by the way). Honorary mention to Shia LaBeouf for not checking beforehand how to pronounce "Cam Gigandet".
  • Pet hate - To everyone, on every award show ever made: you don't need to bend down - the microphone can pick you up!!