Wednesday, December 30, 2009

9/10ths Full of Penguins Review of the Year 2009

As the decade with the crappest nickname since the roaring Nineteen Noughties comes to a close, I have been reflecting on the last ten years. I will be blogging some thoughts over the next few weeks, but I thought I'd kick things off with my customary review of the year.

Best Moment
Laughing so hard my sides hurt for 3 days while watching Bill Bailey live in Manchester ranks pretty high. However, sharing this glorious sunset with Heidi while on holiday in Northumbria wins the accolade.Worst Moment
My 6 year relationship with Refresh FM came to a sad and rather painful end. See my post from November for my thoughts and links to the various other posts and articles.

Best Film
In hindsight, 2009 was a good year for movies with some absolute blinders wowing my eyeholes. Watchmen and Avatar just about met expectations, Star Trek and State of Play exceeded them and The Hurt Locker and District 9 came out of left field and almost stole the show. However, there can be only one winner and that was the wonderfully eerie Let the Right One In which showed all the other vampire films released in 2009 exactly how things should be done.

Worst Film
Channing Tatum and his unfeasible face slunk into a few movies this year including the inexplicable GI Joe. However, he sunk to new depths in the utterly dreadful Fighting. A film called Fighting which is about fighting should have more actual fighting in it. It spent so long talking about fighting and setting up the bouts for the charmless Tatum that when they finally arrived the director appeared to get rather over-excited and crammed 2 minutes of badly choreographed handicam scrapping into the film.

Best TV
Battlestar Galactica finally come to an end in 2009 and still managed to be just about the best TV of the year. Although honourable mentions do go to the superbly crafted Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle and BBC's Life.

Best Album
Its a tie between Neon Horse's Haunted Horse: Songs of Love, Defiance, and Delusion and Absence by Paper Route

Best Book
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett. It may not be the best book of the year, but it was my favourite. Pratchett is as good as ever and reading his books now comes with a slight twinge of sadness. If you missed the marvellous two-part BBC documentary where he explores possible treatments for his Alzheimers I suggest you seek it out. It's both funny and moving - very much like the man himself.

Best Penguin related story of 2009
The heartwarming tale of penguin adoption in a German Zoo. A hearty slap in the face for all those stupid fundamentalist Christians who use penguins as an example of 'wholesome' family values. They're just animals, they're not proof of anything!

Blogs of the Year
Fat Roland
Cultural Snow

Here's to more blogging in 2010...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cocking a Snook at Simon Cowell

I don't like reality TV shows. Big Brother, I'm a Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing, Britain's Got Talent & X-Factor being just the highest profile peddlers of televisual offal. They are lazy and dedicate themselves to one of two goals. The first being the search for the Z-list celebrity or freakish civilian who will humiliate themselves in the most amusing manner. The second being the discovery of a moderately talented singer/dancer who can churn out mediocre pop music to further fill the obscenely bulging coffers of Simon Cowell.Once upon a time, all we had to worry about in the Christmas charts was Mr Blobby or worse, Cliff Richard records (The Lords Prayer set to Auld Lang Syne - remember?). However, we now look back on those dark times with pangs of yearning for the good old days. Now every year with a depressing inevitability we await the latest offering from whoever has triumphed in the X-Factor. Simon Cowell is now so used to having the Christmas number 1 that he now seems to expect it as his sovereign right. The only reason that so many people will lumber out and buy this prepackaged drivel is because ITV have spent what feels like the last 10 months shoving it down our damn throats.

There is currently a campaign to stop the Christmas charts from rolling over and presenting to Codpiece Cowell. People all over Britain are voting on who they want to be Christmas Number 1 by purchasing the Rage Against the Machine classic Killing in the Name of. Check and join the Facebook group here. This group is now approaching 750,000 members and has been branded as 'stupid' and 'cynical' by Simon Cowell.

Lets just think about for a moment.....

So creating a show that broadcasts twice a week for 3 million years to create masses of advertising revenue and gets all its participants to show up for mass auditions to remove the pesky job of searching out talent is not cynical? Creating a show that keeps in a few of the more freakish and vulnerable wannabes so we can laugh at them and their crazy dreams of stardom (dreams fueled by constant reality TV shows and f***ing Heat magazine) is not cynical? Creating a show that has as its end result a prepackaged, bland cover version of a pop song that is arranged and recorded months before the winner is discovered and then has the winner's vocals smoothed, produced, tweaked and then tacked on like an afterthought is not cynical? Creating a show that is so utterly meaningless as a contest because the winner is never the act that triumphs, but rather Simon Cowell, is not cynical?

No, apparently a large number of people going out a buying record they like to get it to number 1 is cynical. I always thought that was just the charts, but maybe Cowell is right. Perhaps the Christmas number 1 we deserve is from a man called Joe warbling a Hannah Montana cover.

Tropic Thunder ** (Apart from Tom Cruise, who is bloody hilarious)
The International ****
State of Play (UK & US) ***** ****
The American President ***
The Clone Wars ***
The Game ****
Prince Caspian ***
Eagle Eye **
High Fidelity ***
The Escapist ****
Three Kingdoms ***
Jurassic Park 3 ***
Star Trek:Insurrection **
Step Brothers **
The Hangover ****
Schindlers List *****
Get Smart ***
Fighting *
Galaxy Quest ****
Juno ***
Starship Troopers ****
Yes Man ***
The Box ****
Pans Labyrinth *****
Constantine ***
Dan in Real Life ****