TV Hell

Right. That’s it. I’ve reached breaking point. If I have to hear one more conversation about a great TV series from America that is the best thing since the first loaf was sliced and  I shall be forced to, well, I’m not sure.

But put  it this way.I ‘d be very happy if each and every TV series box set was thrown into a deep pit and incinerated.

Oh but it needn’t be this way. I have loved with all my heart Friends, Seinfeld and Mad Men. But only recently have such series become part of the national conversation. Once, we watched TV as part of a diversion. we watched it in the doctor’s waiting room or before we went out. Or we put it on when we were with a lover and we wanted to provide the right background atmosphere.

But now, look what’s happened. We binge unthinkingly on endless hour after hour of box set. We’ve robbed TV series’ of their immediacy, their right-now-ness. I dread to think how much time people are spending watching these shows. a lifetime could be wasted without finishing every box set that we think we should watch (because advertising is relentless and unescapable). 

I think Charlie Brooker was on to something when he made a series called  How TV ruined your life. Most of the programmes people are watching are offering nothing but the same tired old plots, acting, the same situations. I put them into three categories: the crime drama: The Killing, Borgen, Lillehammer. The American ‘comedy’ sitcom: How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory. Only one of those could be genuinely considered a comedy. Then there are the more gritty but still unsurprising American cable dramas. The Sopranos has a lot to answer for. Come on! The Godfather said all there needed to be said about the mafia in under 10 hours. Then there was the horribly overrated The Wire, not to mention The Shield, then Prison Break. Enough. There are other things we can be doing. I suppose if I am honest with myself I envy the simple pleasures (and believe me, they are simple, there is nothing simpler than lolling in front of a screen for hours on end) that are derived from watching these shows., But I regret that they are missing out on so many more rarefied, and mostly more organic pleasures that this life has to offer., Speaking of which, I’m off to enjoy some organic pleasure of my own, and I won’t be using a TV to do so.

Some upcoming movies I am very excited about

1. American Hustle: David O. Russell

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper


Why? After the knockout success of Silver Linings, I’m  thrilled that O Russel is making another film with Jennifer Lawrence and De Niro.

What’s the story?

Set in 1970’s, its about a true-life con-artist forced to inform on impoverished mayor of Camden, New Jersey.

When: December 23, 2013

The Bling Ring : Sofia Coppola


Starring: Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Claire Julien.

Why? the film is about fame obsessed women who use the internet to locate and burgle the homes of celebrities, and then sell what they steal. Its been filmed once as a made for TV movie. Coppola makes every film she makes totally fresh and interesting.

When? July 5

Pieta : Kim -ki Duk (2012)



Ki Duk makes some of the most artistic and painterly films around. Recently an actress nearly died while making Breath (the director reflected on the experience in the documentary Arang). Luckily he hasn’t been stoppped making more movies. Pieta won the Golden Lion at Venice last year.

What’s the story? 

A loan shark is forced to rethink his violent lifestyle with the arrival of a mysterious stranger claiming to be his mother.

When? No release set

The Wolf of Wall Street: Martin Scorsese

Who’s in it: Leonardo Di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew Mconnahey

Why: Its a dream for Scorsese: the mob, corruption and Wall Street.

When: 15 November 2013 (USA)

Five (genuine) celebrity sex tapes

Paris Hilton – released as One Night In Paris

Many thought this would be the end of Paris Hilton. What, really? If anything it made her more famous.  Paris was the Kim Kardashian of the mid 2000s, starring in The Simple Life reality show with Nicole Ritchie.  One Night In Paris showcases Paris’s amazing body. The fact that she spends most of the time talking to the camera suggests she was entirely complicit in being filmed. The leaking of the tape may have been an attempt by her ex boyfriend Rick Salomon to get back at her. They made three sex tapes together, One Night In Paris is the most widely seen.

Virginie Gervaise

She was a high street honey for French FHM before it was revealed that she was also a pornstar. So no stranger to being filmed having sex.

Colin Farrell and Nicole Narain

‘slim, shapely, luscious stunner’ is how IMDB describes Narain, and after looking at her its hard to argue. The film was featured in Celebrity Sex tapes unwound, one of those crappy Channel 4 countdowns.


Alana Dante

She has been on Belgium Big Brother. 

Kim Kardashian

I knew there was a sex tape of Kardashian before I knew anything else about her. 



Mia Farrow: Hollywood villain?

Let’s look at the evidence: Mia Farrow  was married to Frank Sinatra for two years. She drove the singer mad, Dean Martin pointed out that he had Scotch that was older than her, she was 19, Sinatra was 48.

Her role in Rosemary’s Baby encapsulates her elfin grace, showing her being consumed by something growing inside and is one of the few films to look at pregnancy as something terrifying, Rosemary’s Baby was a better choice than doing The Detective with Sinatra. It was the first of many ‘possession’ films leading up to Friedkin’s spectacularly disgusting The Exorcist (1972).


She hardly pulled her weight in her next films and needed the voodoo magic of Polanski to bring out her best work.

She was Daisy in The Great Gatsby, probably only because Robert Evans couldn’t get Ali McGraw (they were recently divorced), she looked the part but was not in any way sexy or alluring, so why should Gatsby have gone to so much effort to get her?

Her career was quiet for a years when she was away being a mother with Andre Previn (1970-1979). Then came Full Circle, Death On the Nile, Avalanche, and then along came Woody.

It is now the subject of dispute whether he did her very great good or ill.   Their living arrangement led to grotesque melodrama, with children biological and adopted as front-line soldiers. They were never actually married, although it seemed to the public that they were. Her films with Woody are: A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters and Radio Days. that list was as many as the Diane Keaton films Allen made in the seventies, yet she continued to work with Allen, even though the roles were no longer fresh: September , Another Woman, Oedipus Wrecks, Crimes and Misdemaenours, Alice, Shadows and fog, Husbands and Wives. As for the last film, it came as the Soon-Yi scandal was at its height, and seemed very much a case of life imitating art.

She has spoken badly of Allen, she found a nude photograph of Soon-Yi in 1992 which led to the custody battle, they have joint custody of their biological children.  She went to Ireland to make Widow’s Peak; Miami Rhapsody; Reckless; Anglea Mooney; Private Parts,Redux riding Hood; Coming Soon;Forget Me Never; A Girl Thing; Purpose; Black Irish.

Verdict: Mia Farrow is a highly intelligent woman who has made some good films, but her personal life has been brought into question. She has always needed a strong male presence in her life, but  the thought remains that her father – John Farrow, director, Catholicism and something of a wildman – may be the dominant male influence in her life.

So, not a villain, just sometimes misunderstood by the general public.

The Great Gatsby – Baz Lurhman – 2013

The Great Gatsby is one of the most intangible books I’ve ever read. The words slip through your mind like sand running through your fingers. It’s one of those books that is hard to follow because the story is ungraspable, it seems to escape understanding, the closer we get to it the more it eludes us. Well, I’ve attempted to read the book many times but haven’t finished it. No doubt I will try again before the new film.

The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, his seconds novel after This Side of Paradise. Fitzgerald had already published dozens of short stories. Winter Dreams was published in Metropolitan in 1922. In many ways it is a prototype of the Gatsby story, encompassing many of the same themes.

Dexter Green is a shy, middle class boy who longs to be part of the old money elite. He caddies for the rich at a golf club. He meets and falls in love with Judy Jones, daughter of the owner Mortimer Jones, but can’t abide her knowing he is a servant to her.

Eighteen months later Dexter meets Judy whilst swimming on the beach, she is now extremely beautiful, they date, and he learns that he is one of 10 men she is stringing along. Soon they are engaged, but she breaks it off after one month. Dexter goes to fight in World War 1. After five years, Dexter is a very successful businessman, working in New York. On a particular day, a man named Devlin visits him, and mentions Judy Simms who is married to one of his friends, her beauty has faded and she is now a housewife. The news affects Dexter greatly as he still feels love for Judy and has hope for her. Dexter realises he can never go back home now:

For the first time in his life the tears were streaming down his face. But they were for himself, now.

‘Long ago,’ he said ‘there was something in me, that thing is gone. I cannot cry. I cannot care. That thing will come back more.’


The story of Winter Dreams has never been filmed. However, Ali McGraw had wanted to adapt it in the seventies and suggested it to head of Paramount studios Robert Evans, she gave him a leather-bound notebook in which the story was copied meticulously in her own handwriting.  

To get you going for the latest Gatsby offering here are some screenshots of Lurhman’s film:




Ready For Love: a new dating show on NBC

‘I’ve always loved dating shows,’ announces Eva Langoria (executive producer of Ready For Love), ‘but lets be honest, they don’t work too well at matching people.’


I’ve enjoyed my fair share of dating shows too, but my tastes run to cheesy early nineties shows that I watched in my childhood, Blind Date being one of them. In that program a single  man or woman asked three questions (carefully scripted to involve as many double entendres as the pre-watershed scheduling allowed). The format would be irredeemably naff today, but it gave me my first awareness of male/female couplings. Davina McCall’s Streetmate is another one I can remember watching

Ready For Love uses the ‘blind’ element too, so the man, in this case ‘rock star’ Tim, stands behind a screen and asks questions to women and must select each one in order of preference, leaving one last woman who must go home at this point. Except that all of these women have been carefully selected by Amanda Kelleher – in case we weren’t sure of her credentials, ‘I’m match-maker to the rich and famous, through the last twenty years I’ve been able to build the worlds’s largest match-making service.’

Got that? It turns out that match-makers are a dime – a -dozen on this show. There’s even a frankly rather creepy English chap, about whom more will follow.

The four girls, contestants, who are looking for love are presented as though on The X-factor, auditioning for Tim’s approval. Apparently they have applied for a part on the show, but I’d bet they were looking to get famous and thought that appearing on this show would be as good a chance as any. Let’s be honest, these aren’t women who should have any difficulties finding love in the real world, but maybe  no-ones meeting anyone in the real world, not in the workplace, especially where political correctness means even a compliment can lead to a lawsuit.

I felt sorry for the women on this show. Tim seemed bland, undeserving of any of them. Although after listening to some of their comments, maybe they were made for each other: (Sara – realtor) “I came here for you, because after watching your video and hearing you say the words you’re not going to have your career with you at your bedside, I instantly connected with you”). The show is full of lines like that. Only Siham (her name is Arabic for love at first sight) can break through the mush, coming across as sexy and fairly human, saying she would like to give him a real french kiss and reads him poetry. Inexplicably Tim sends her home, and chooses Hailey instead (elementary teacher).

The show throws a spanner, and then the entire toolkit into the works when it brings out one of Tim’s exes, who feels that now is the last chance for her to declare her love for him. The show lost all credibility right there, and sunk to new levels of cruelty when it set the girls up in a house together, like a harem in which nobody had sex with anybody else.

“I have never been on a date with nine girls,” said Tim. No shit. In case I haven’t made it clear, the show has three matchmakers, who each select four women, and Tim must say goodbye to one of each four. That’s still  nine women. Phew. that’s more than most men date in a lifetime, I’ll bet.

Matchmaker Matt, ‘we care about emotion not logic’ uses some kind of NLP to get the women to bring out who they are and get Tim to fall in love with them. Make no mistake, this is big business and has made him a lot of money. A lot of money for some fairly dubious advice. If there’s one piece of wisdom people used to give for those looking for love its to be yourself. But what if yourself is a total loser? In other words, you shouldn’t be yourself, but the self you think is most likely to attract someone. Its simple really.

Ready for Love is an American reality matchmaking competition television series on NBC. The series premiered on April 9, 2013, at 9/8c and airs every Tuesday at 9–11 pm ET/PT. The series is hosted by Giuliana and Bill Rancic.

You have been warned


Don Draper is back! This time its 1967, the hair is longer and there’s more facial hair. I thought that Peggy Olsen had got a new boyfriend but it was the same guy, just hiding behind the weight of colossal sideburns and a beard.


Don Draper read Dante’s Inferno whilst on holiday in Hawaii with his wife Megan. That was the scene of the most interesting vignette, when Draper was best man at a GI’s beach wedding. The show was composed of several somewhat elliptical scenes, in which characters’ experience were condensed into glowing, tightly edited compositions. The sight of elegant Betty Draper in a doss house was alarming, but it showed a development in her once shallow and rather brittle character.

Sycophantic Pete Campbell was such a powerful presence last season, he continues to provoke Don Draper as best he can, using his oily charm on business leaders against Don’s maverick ideas (a surreal ad which showed a man’s clothes reminded them of James Mason leaving his clothes on the beach and drowning at the end of A Star Is Born).

I’m not sure how long Mad Men can keep all this stylized artifice up. When Mad Men began, it was 1962, the time of JFK, Marylin Monroe and Jackie Keneddy. The show’s rat pack glamour seemed in keeping with the era, but i’m not sure how well it works in 1967. Mad Men will have to become more Easy Rider than Frank Sinatra. It will be fascinating to see what happens.

Ten bizarre, weird and disturbing films



Most films about Lewis Carrol’s classic are frankly dull, i.e. Tim Burton’s recent interpretation.

This film gets closer to other films in capturing the curious atmosphere of the original story, by using live actors and animation, it has surrealist overtones and the puppets by director Svankmajer are like the sock puppets you made at school.

Bad Boy Bubby Australia/Italy 1993


A retarded 35-year old who has never been allowed out of his home, murders his parents and experiences the wider world. Many found this film repugnant, but it offers a satirical perspective on everyday life and communication, as the man replays back everything said and done to him.

Cannibal Holocaust Ruggero Deodato


The original video nasty. It was number one on the list of banned titles by the director of prosecutions. It has a surprisingly sophisticated structure: a professor of anthroplolgy goes into the rain-forest of Brazil after a previous documentary crew went missing. He finds their footage which shows them subjecting the ‘savages’ to the most appalling treatment, raping their women, setting their homes on fire and senselessly killing snakes and other animals. The film has a genuinely authentic feel and the found footage looks disturbingly real.   

El Topo – Mexico 1971 – Alejandro Jodorowsky

Impossible to do this list without at least one film by Jodorowsky, it is perverse and unpleasantly violent. An evil gunslinger rides through the old west and has various encounters, after which he sets himself on fire. There is some lesbian stuff too, see below


If you are great, El Topo is a great picture, if you are limited, El Topo is limited.

Even Dwarfs Started Small, 1970, Werner Herzog

Dwarfs in a prison start a revolt. see also Terror In Tinytown and Lost Highway for more dwarfs

Funny Games, 1997, Michael Haneke

Haneke’s film is disturbing precisely because it highlights our fascination with watching violence on screen and our enjoyment of watching people suffer. There is no other point to this film, it exists as a corrective to the Hollywood gloss of Tarantino and Michael Bay.

Gummo/Julien donkey boy (Harmony Korrinne)

Idiot savant and author of Kids made these films before Springbreakers. Gummo features bored teenagers having sex with retarded people and skinning cats, whilst Julien Donkeyboy has a schizophrenic youth (Ewen Bremmer) sharing his home with his equally dysfunctional uncle and his sister.



I Spit On Your Grave


a low-budget shocker, and another film banned on video in this county. when most films depict rape, they shy away from revealing the true enormity of the crime, worse, they eroticize it (Thelma and Louise, The Accused). This film features the most powerful rape until Irreversible or Baise Moi. It was remade a few years ago.

Tetsuo II: Bodyhammer, Japan 1991

A clerk, punishing punks who have killed his son, mutates into a metallic man with built in weaponry, this film will blow your mind.



the incredible shrinking man

I cannot get over just how weird this film is. So there’s a couple on Honeymoon, and all of a sudden they get sprayed by somne radioactive material. A few weeks later he notices his clothes seem to big for him. His collars are loose. He goes to the doctor and his told that nothing is the matter. He keeps shrinking, and after a second visit it is confirmed that he is indeed getting smaller. soon he can swing his legs whilst sitting oin a chair. His wife no longer finds him interesting. Eventually he is small enough to live inside a dollshouse. By the time the film ends, he is so small that no one can see or hear him. It is the most powerful realisation of our fears that we will be ignored and unappreciated, even by those closet to us.


Looking back at teen movies

Ahead of tomorrow’s release of Spring Breakers, a recap of some of the best films in the genre.

When Ferris Bueller spent a day off school in John Hughes eighties classic Ferris Bueller’s day off, the worst behaviour on display was the crashing of one of the parent’s sports cars. Ferris and his friends spent the day in Chicago and were content with a lunch in an expenisve restaurant and a visit to an art gallery to look at impressionist paintings, hardly riotous behaviour.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) Poster



In many ways, Hughes’ films are romantic gloss, rarely bothering to go deep into the psyche of adolescent minds. Such superficiality reached its peak in other Hughes films Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. The Breakfast Club aimed to encapsulate the nerd, the jock, the princess, all the familiar characters you would expect to meet in an American High School, or a film set in one in the eighties. Hughes’s film was so successful, in no small part due to its music, and Judd Nelson’s triumphant raised arm at the end of the film. It was one of the first films to almost ignore the parents, but the note that Anthony Michael Hall writes at the end seems to hold them entirely responsible for their (mis)behaviour.The Breakfast Club (1985) Poster

Fast forward to 1996. Larry Clark’s debut film Kids opens to a firestorm of controversy and outrage in America. The film is authored by Harmony Korrine, and takes place in and around Manhattan on a single day. A few things to consider about the film: it has almost no plot. There are few sympathetic characters, we follow amoral HIV-positive Telly, seducer of virgins as he roams the streets, meeting his friends in Central Park, going to a party. About the only character who could have appeared in a Hughes film, Jennie, is HIV positive and tries to prevent other girls from meeting the same fate. Quite apart from its unabashed language, the film broke taboos in its showing of teenage sex, with a cast of very realistic-seeming teenagers. In many ways the film goes back to a cycle of fifties films, of which Rebel Without a Cause is the most  famous, serving as an expose of the dangers of teenage lives.

Nowhere (Greg Araki) 1997

Nowhere (1997) Poster

The flipside to Larry Clark’s wallowing in squalor, nowhere is artificial, brightly lit and full of soon to be stars (Ryan Phillipe, Mena Suvari, Rose McGowan, Heather Graham) taking drugs and engaging in pan-sexual activities. In many ways the film is impossible to take seriously, the way these teens speak is a parody of Valley girl-ese, and at the end of the film the main character turns into a giant bug. These teenagers are privileged and moneyed, even if they are going nowhere they are determined to have a good time going there. Such characters could have appeared in the eighties novels of Bret Easton Ellis, although no explicit link between Araki’s films and Ellis’s books has ever been made.

Rules of Attraction (Roger Avary)

The Rules of Attraction (2002) Poster

After Less Than zero and American Psycho, this was adapted as a film. It dropped the eighties setting but kept the characters and the most memorable parts of the book, which I have read several times. Interesting fact: the sped-up footage of Victor travelling in Europe was at one stage  going to be released as a film, or at the very least a DVD special feature, but so far has not been made available.

Not Another teen Movie

After American Pie (essentially Porkies for the nineties) came a tide of very poorly made campus comedies, often starring Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari. There were four American Pie films, and the inevitable spoof, Not Another Teen Movie.

Springbreakers (Harmony Korrine)

Spring Breakers (2012) Poster

finally, another film from Harmony Korrine. Springbreakers takes the stars of High school Musical (Vanessa Hudgens) and Wizards of Waverly Place (Selena Gomez) and puts them in Florida where they get drunk and then go on a robbing spree. Early reviews have been mostly strong. The film is a departure from movies where unfashionable young men attempt to have sex (Superbad, The Inbetweeners), and shows a good amount of female flesh in the process.

The Bling-Ring

I have to mention this, though not really a teen movie. Somewhere made me cry, I love what Sophia Coppola did with Elle Fanning and Stephen Dorff as father spending time re-connecting with his daughter, the film was lyrical, lovely and tender all at once. The Bling Ring looks at fame obsessed young women who trawl the internet to find the addresses of celebrities whose homes they rob. It comes out in June.

The Bling Ring (2013) Poster

The Bling Ring – photo from IMDB

Why do people hate celebrities?


From the way celebs are written about in the media, you’d imagine that most famous people had committed crimes that would put them in the same category as dictators of small african countries or Russian oligarchs, yet most celebrities are no more guilty than the rest of us, yet are endlessly reminded of their transgressions by a relentless and remorseless media that salivates like a bloodhound chasing after a fox. Below are some of the most unfairly vilified celebritries of recent times. according to me.

Lindsay Lohan


Yes, she was in Mean Girls, and Freaky Friday. And then beautifully grown-up, confidently acting with Meryl Streep in A Praire Home Companion, yet all anyone cares about are her latest arrests or court appearances. If this was happening to any other 26 year old, it would be nowhere near the news.


Justin Bieber

The rumours surrounding this guy are just insane. That he fathered a child with a German fan. Or taking his pet monkey on a plane. He may have beaten a papparazzo. these things don’t make him a monster, just the signs of someone reacting in a very human way to intense fame and adulation. Bullshit aside, Bieber makes good music, just listen to his collaboration with Nicki Minaj on Beauty and the Beat. Speaking of which…..

Nicki Minaj


I put Minaj alongside other beautiful and talented singers Madonna and Lady Gaga, whom the media are always putting down when they appear to get out of hand. Most of the time, its misogyny pure and simple. These women are doing nothing that countless male singers have done their whole careers, ie, having a good time doing what they love and being richly rewarded.

Sasha Grey


Beautiful, smart, a good actress. A triple threat, or, would be, if it weren’t for the fact that Grey eked out a career in 100 + porn movies. No way are they going to let someone this sexual anywhere near the big time,…

I could go on, Sienna Miller, Taylor Swift, Amy Winehouse. On the one hand, we venerate celebrities, putting them on a pedestal. Then we expect them to behave as though they are just like us, as normal people. then we are disappointed when they are like us and take drugs, lie cheat and steal. Frankly, these guys just can’t win.