Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Why you should never mess with children and no I don't mean it like that.

Just as most adults put children in the same category as communism; a good idea in theory but a nightmarish catastrophe on any sort of practical level, it’s reassuring to know the only other group who hate kids even more are other children themselves. If you want to make a child laugh, really chuckle; just point to something bad happening to one of their friends.
There is however a special level of hatred, pungent, rattling hatred, children store in boxes under their bed reserved for that most particularly loathsome group; child stars. Yes, all of them; younger siblings in soaps, shrill show offs gurning in commercials, the little girl in movies who wander to their mother’s door and simpers “Will we ever see daddy again?”, anyone who exposed your star turn at the school nativity as the pointless waste of time it was. Like overachieving cousins your granny openly prefers, most children propel themselves through their formative years fuelled by sugar, biscuits and jealously of them.

So it has always been; your mother was probably delighted that Tallulah from Bugsy Malone ended up as a child prostitute in Taxi Driver, your granny hoped Elizabeth Taylor would get thrown from her stupid bloody horse in National Velvet, just as her mother set fire to pictures of Shirley frigging Temple thinking I’d be breaking down racial taboos by dancing with Bo bloody Jangles too if I didn’t have TB to contend with.

Luckily if you grew up in the eighties the chances were your over achieving celebrity siblings, rather than eventually showing you up at family reunions, would fall into a world of drug addiction, soft porn and episodes of Hollywood True Stories with sad music. Thankfully for every Natalie Portman there are twenty dodgy videos of Screech from Saved by the Bell.

It’s only fair, yes they sold their childhood to satisfy their parents’ frustrated dreams, their adult lives a confused quagmire of festered potential spotted with random appearances at cruelly ironic university gigs but equally they did get to grow up in one of those houses on the TV with pastel colour schemes and swingy doors.

This is a business America does very well. Forget Ian Beale’s creepy kids, Ashley and Mary Kate Olson first appeared in family sitcom “Full House” at six months and were CEO’s of their own billion dollar company before they were teenagers. Now they dress like eccentric bag ladies and wander around New York parties like Cabbage Patch Kids the perscription drug years.

Some fans take their personal involvement in their childhood superstars lives a step further, a “Different Strokes” fan recently put up bail for its star Gary Colman after he was arrested for assault and unable to pay the tariff. I’m glad, him we owe. Most of my generation learnt their entire moral and emotional vocabulary from Arnold Jackson and his wry step dad Mr. Drummond. In fact in Ireland, my generation learnt absolutely everything about the world from American seventies sitcoms so we grew up a confused bunch still traumatised by Watergate, and hoping Reagan would get us through, well into the early nineties.

They also have the two dons of doomed youth; the Coreys- Haim and Fieldman, whose CV reads like an exercise class in wasted potential; so lets’ start with the cult teen movie, good, how does that feel? Now we’re bending into a dodgy friendship with Michael Jackson and now up through a brief pop career and we’re into heroin addiction, excellent, shake that out! Britain’s nearest equivalent is Ant and Dec. Why does everyone assume their lifelong friendship is proof of their genuineness? It could just as easily be the result of a solemn pact made after a drunken night in South Shields that ended with a dead stripper during their Ready to Rumble years. Maybe they’re both paranoid if they leave each other’s side for one moment, the other one will run to the police.
Papers have reported the weird fact that now, not only do they always stand on the same side of each other, but have recently bought identical houses, on the same road ,in the same order as they appear on TV. As a sign of fame burn out it’s hardly thrilling; Marcia from the Brady Bunch became a coke whore. The affects of their early fame is almost as rubbish as that early fame itself.

And there in hangs the tale- maybe the happiness of child stars is linked directly to how many children were jealous of them at the time. Imagine millions of bitter tots collectively shaking their clenched little fists at their television screen, wishing them ill and malevolently thinking- I could do that. All that collective bad karma must end up somewhere. “Why Don’t You?” and “Biker Grove”? Happy career in light entertainment. Disney star before you left primary school- Lindsay Lohan. QED.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Oh Tiffany!

Being a grown up is a pain the whoopsie; as we stare down the cold hard barrel of reality we have to accept life’s facts; not only is it unlikely that you’ll ever be fostered by Pippa from Home and Away but your teen idols dearest ambitions may remain unfulfilled too. I felt that dull thump of mortality watching Martine McCutcheon, the nineties Cheryl Cole, Eastenders great white hope, pop back on our screen advertising yoghurt. Oh Martine, Britain’s self styled answer to J-Lo, where did it all go wrong?

It’s easy to forget just how popular Martine was. She broke our hearts playing Tiffany in Eastenders, bringing doe eyed Hollywood glamour to the grubby streets of Walford. When Tiff met her inevitable tragic end, watched by over twenty million quietly sniffling fans, she seemed certain to conquer Hollywood for all the other raggedy East end street children. Her autobiography, the first of that much maligned genre, revealed a deprived and abusive childhood, her talent and tenacity a lifeboat from a world of drudgery.

When her first single went straight to number one ,showcasing an angelic voice, it seemed a fitting end to a modern fairy story, this cockney Cinderella was finally going to go to the ball. Her stage debut in “My Fair Lady” was a perfect casting; she was going to show those snobby West End wendies that a working class girl from a soap could cut it in the elitist world of musical theatre. Move your arse Tiffany, we cheered, you can do it! But then suddenly everything began to go wrong.

She missed more than half of the performances due to sickness and instead of sympathy, there were rumours of malingering and complaints of unprofessionalism from more experienced members of the cast. She still, however, had her big film debut in “Love Actually” in a part written specifically for her. The film’s London premiere gloomily foreshadowed Martine’s misbegotten movie career. Despite an expensive dress and extravagant hair do , the photographers seemed more interest in another lesser known actress also appearing in the film , a posh wan girl in a demure outfit; Keira Knightly. Now Keira’s confused pout earns her millions and Martine is advertising dairy produce.

She now faces her greatest indignity yet; the former Mrs. Mitchell is reduced to writing novels, the poor man’s DVDs. As she tries to convince us how excited she is about her “The Mistress”, I want to get the entire British public to politely turn away and wrap a blanket around her. I know Martine, it’s not fair, we hate Keira Knightly too.

Should she wish to, she doesn’t even have the option of Celebrity Big Brother to kick start her flagging career, as the grand old lady of televised desperation faces her final curtain this month. In its original muggle format it turned everyday “normal” people, in the most inverted of commas, into celebs. Its glamorous sister has the opposite effect; famous faces that may have inspired some curiosity reduced to puffy faced zombies, shuffling around the Big Brother house in dressing gowns like sick teenagers home sick from school.

While the normal version of the show featured hopeful youngsters giddy with the promise of fame, a great big throbbing hole of need where other people store their personalities, the celeb version was an elephant’s grave yard of jaded, pragmatic soul selling. Over the years we’ve had Michael Barrymore, Ulrika Johnson and Jade Goody, shop worn stars, staring at the camera like puppies at an animal shelter begging desperately to be loved again. The spat out, chewed out, aftermath of fame without skill, or talent long exchanged for indulgence and gratification. This year’s is a raggy doll bunch of coulda, shoulda, woulda celebs, including Vinne Jones delicately balancing being a geezer hard man nut with performing tasks requiring jumpsuits and Alex Reid, Jordan’s new consort, a freakish toddler on steroids, making Peter Andre look like Peter Ustinov.

My favourite is Stephen Baldwin,or Alec Baldwin if you squint your eyes and imagine everything he’s saying is meant to be sarcastic. The Usual Suspects star has found God the way a teenager with ADHD discovers a band they really like or a fitness freak champions a new form of squatting. Take away the religion and he could be shrilly hectoring about anything, it just seems to be an excuse to be overbearing and self righteous. What fun it must be at the Baldwin house come Christmas with all the brother sat round the table trying to remember which one is which and who was married to Kim Basinger? You seen Martine, do you really want Hollywood fame if it involves a ministry that spreads the word of God through extreme sports like Stephens? Actually, please, please don’t answer that.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Victoria Beckham- the brave Helen Keller of Light Entertainment

Jobs are awful things. Employment is the terrible toad that squelches on our day, the harridan we married too young and are now stuck with for life, the bore that drags us away from our rightful place driving speedboats in Monte Carlo with Joan Collins.

However, Monday mornings as we face the barrage of rain, depression and broken dreams like World War One soldiers with Oyster cards, we should spare a thought for those less fortunate. There are people out there who are equally rubbish at their jobs but are denied the ability to hide it or the dignity to weep in privacy. If we forget to send that important fax, we can just shred it, if our job application inspires genuine laughter, deny deny deny, whose to know? If however, you are a celebrity and are truly dire at your job, things become slightly more difficult to cover up.

Step forward Victoria Beckham. She first found fame as being the Spice Girl with the worst voice, a heady achievement considering she was in the same group as Geri Halliwell. Her following solo career was one of the most misunderstood and shamefully misjudged events in nineties pop. Her Sisyphus like determination to have a number one hit despite talent that registered in negative numbers should have inspired teary eyed standing ovations. She could have toured primary schools, as an example that even those with most special of needs can be accepted in mainstream entertainment. She couldn’t hold a note or dance, yet she still released records, this Helen Keller of pop deserved a Pride of Britain award not ridicule.

Blighted with singles that were always a number two in every sense of the word, she did what any sensible person would do, quit and pretended she wasn’t really bothered in the first place. Fashion it seemed was her real first love. I know it made eating disorders fashionable but you still couldn’t help feeling sorry for the clothing industry as it faced the full heat of Beckham’s clumsy, tongue clenched in gritted teeth attention. After her unsuccessful swan dive into the world of overpriced jeans she found her place in the world of limited edition high end clothing. Learning from the Dane Bowers incident, she turned to someone who could actually list his job title in his passport without inspiring laughter and went to star designer Roland Mouret for guidance. Apparently just as “sick” now means “good”, “guidance” must now mean “an exact copy of your designs” as you’d be hard pressed to find a difference between the two fashion houses. Luckily the designer of the legendary “Galaxy dress” who shares the same management company as Beckham doesn’t seem to be litigious or mind.

Along with fashion she has tried to use reality TV to win the hearts and minds of the notoriously discerning American public. After her reality TV failed to capture her legendary dry wit, her most recent attempt was a guest judge spot on the latest series of “American Idol”. Many pointed out that Victoria judging a talent show is like Iris Robinson judging an appropriate relationship with teenage boy contest but there she was behind the judge’s desk looking more and more like a skeleton dunked in mahogany floor varnish. The verdict was that she came across as too nutty, in a show that once employed Paula Abdul, in a genre that still counts David Hasselhoff as one of their own, to be given the job permanently. Praise indeed.

If there’s anything worse than being bad at your job it’s not getting the appreciation you think you deserved. Jennifer Lopez has been attracting attention lately by claiming her last film “El Cantante” would have won her an Oscar if enough Academy judges saw it. That’s what J-Lo lacks- exposure.

Every Jennifer Lopez film since “Out of Sight” have been so bad, either the director was on drugs, suicidally sarcastic or a confused child on work experience. If you sat through “Shall We Dance” the rom com where Lopez repairs Richard Gere’s marriage through the power of ballroom dancing, you’d understand. The only thing that got me through it was imaging that those rumours about Gere were not only true but taking place while the scenes were being shot.Before you judge the overpaid reality denier, have a bit of sympathy first. Imagine your very worst day at work, the time you deleted the wrong email, accidentally shredded that file and mistakenly charged that flat screen to the company credit card. Now imagine that it was all filmed and put on worldwide release and you had to show up months later in a dress on a red carpet and say how much fun it had all been. Then my friend, you like Vicky and Jenny would be well and truly busted.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Hugh Grant is dead on the inside.

As the January magazines mentally mug you with diet plans, detoxes and promises to transform your life in two and a half hours, I’ve noticed they’re dodging the real conundrum 2010 poses- are you a Russell Brand or are you a Hugh Grant? You can’t be both, or you’ll end up as Russell Grant and jolly though he seems, I want you to aim higher.

Grant is back on our big screens disgracing himself in a film so bad it seems like a spoof from an episode of The Simpsons. What happens when a bumbling Englishman and his uptight New York wife witness a murder and end up in witness protection in small town America? – Hilarity!? A bit about a bear!? Urinating on any credibility you have ever achieved in your entire adult career?!! I haven’t even seen this film and already it makes me wish the polar caps would hurry up and drown me before in some cruel twist of fate I’m forced to stare in its direction and am unable to avert or close my eyes.

“Did you Hear about the Morgans” may just sound like your average rip off of “City Slickers” a dead eyed, cynical molestation of Curley’s memory but if you’re very quiet you’ll hear the gentle whimper of both lead actors finally giving up hope. Sarah Jessica Parker ,playing the brittle New York harridan, was once a promising actress but seems to have accepted she is doomed to play Carrie from “Sex and the City” in every other film she makes. Now, from what I remember all Carrie ever did was pout, tilt her head down and act like a five year old girl with special needs so I doubt we’ll ever be blessed with her Lady Macbeth.

Grant now seems to hate his audiences almost as much as he hates himself. Like a faded tart applying her makeup of yesteryear, he smears on the bizarre mannerisms and increasingly grotesque stuttering and eye poppings of the English gent persona that made him seem a breath of fresh air over fifteen years ago, and boy does that air now reek. His career has followed a Benjamin Button trajectory, moving from working with Polanski to milking a cow with Mrs. Big. The diffident, hapless air in interviews that seemed so appealing when he was younger now seems arrogant and imperious. He finds film making hideous, he’d rather be playing golf, he really should sit down and write that book he -one wonders why the man doesn’t just bugger off then.

It’s a lesson to us all, what happens when we sheepishly take the cheque and avoid eye contact with themselves in the mirror. We can all slip into it- You’re at the pub and you suddenly get a rush of certainty that you’re above all this, you can’t be arsed to make conversation, bloody Sandra Bullock in ringing on the mobile and you suddenly really feel like using a prostitute. You know you should make your excuses, go home and kill yourself but can’t be bothered. Do not let this be the year of being Hugh Grant. If you ever feel like being that lazy, pop on “Bridget Jones” and think, yes it is a zesty, witty romp, Renee Zelwegger is adorable but how would I feel on my death bed knowing this was the epoch of my professional life, a giddy artistic peak I would never ever scale again. Look into that heart of darkness and then go for a run or something.

Luckily there is an alternative to that corroding, fossilising cynicism - a bit of joie to vivre, a burning curiosity to try everything twice; take life by the cojones a little. This year, why not connect with your inner Russell Brand. Brand is the anti- Grant, a sweaty, hairy, working class grafter to his squeaky clean, lazy , fop. While Grant’s on screen fear of women always had shadows of passive aggression, Brand seems fuelled by his earthy lust for all things feminine.

Brand may irritate as many as he attracts but there’s no denying he’s a trier. His ebullient enthusiasm has seen him hooked on heroin, a sex addict, a millionaire comic with a burgeoning film career and now a pop star girlfriend in the form of Katie Perry. The pair spent Christmas at her parents’ house where Brand managed to win around her born again Christian preacher parents. He then surprised his poppet with a romantic trip to India, where he proposed. All wonderful things but all requiring making a bloody effort. In contrast Hugh Grant is single, still kind of seeing the fragrant Jemima Khan after dating Liz Hurley for over fifteen years.

Never mind Hannah Waterman’s new fitness regime, if you really want to make 2010 interesting , Brand is the one you should be copying.