Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy is like a case-study in how not to make a biopic.

Granted, it's a tough genre to pull off well. Rather than just presenting a straight documentary, with a litany of facts, you've decided to dramatise events, to make things more entertaining. Biopics are documentaries with jazz-hands. Except there's a huge temptation to allow your film to become little more than a series of narrative checkboxes and what Mark KermodeVia Jon Ronson calls "chubby? Hmm…" moments. These are the sequences where the filmmakers use the viewers' knowledge of the subject to sprinkle delightful moments of irony over a scene. It gets its name from a mis-remembered scene in The Karen Carpenter Story where Karen reads a review of one of their singles which says "and the chubby drummer kept time", to which she says "chubby? Hmm…"

If you were to take the John Lennon element from Nowhere Boy, what would you be left with? A trite and badly-told Dennis the Menace story with some terrific actors doing their best with some dreadful material. Essentially, it's "rebellious child with troubled family background escapes through music", a story you've seen a thousand times already. Try pitching that story without John Lennon's name attached and see how far you get.

The only thing Nowhere Boy has going for it is the John Lennon aspect. The first meeting of John and Paul! The first gig by the Quarrymen! And so on. All of which feel like 50-year old, heavily embellished anecdotes filtered through a Beatles fan's fever-dream. At times, it feels like director Sam Taylor-Wood is so keen to tick these narrative checkboxes that he completely ignores their effect on the larger story. Worse still, the best things about the movie -- Ann-Marie Duff and Kirstin Scott-Thomas's heavyweight performances -- completely put the rest of the cast to shame. Aaron Johnson really does his best in the lead role, but next to these two, he just comes across as a third-rate Lennon impersonator.

Skip this movie and just check out the Beatles Anthology instead.

Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy is like a case-study in how not to make a biopic.

Granted, it's a tough genre to pull off well. Rather than just presenting a straight documentary, with a litany of facts, you've decided to dramatise events, to make things more entertaining. Biopics are documentaries with jazz-hands. Except there's a huge temptation to allow your film to become little more than a series of narrative checkboxes and what Mark KermodeVia Jon Ronson calls "chubby? Hmm..." moments. These are the sequences where the filmmakers use the viewers' knowledge of the subject to sprinkle delightful moments of irony over a scene. It gets its name from a mis-remembered scene in The Karen Carpenter Story where Karen reads a review of one of their singles which says "and the chubby drummer kept time", to which she says "chubby? Hmm..."

If you were to take the John Lennon element from Nowhere Boy, what would you be left with? A trite and badly-told Dennis the Menace story with some terrific actors doing their best with some dreadful material. Essentially, it's "rebellious child with troubled family background escapes through music", a story you've seen a thousand times already. Try pitching that story without John Lennon's name attached and see how far you get.

The only thing Nowhere Boy has going for it is the John Lennon aspect. The first meeting of John and Paul! The first gig by the Quarrymen! And so on. All of which feel like 50-year old, heavily embellished anecdotes filtered through a Beatles fan's fever-dream. At times, it feels like director Sam Taylor-Wood is so keen to tick these narrative checkboxes that he completely ignores their effect on the larger story. Worse still, the best things about the movie -- Ann-Marie Duff and Kirstin Scott-Thomas's heavyweight performances -- completely put the rest of the cast to shame. Aaron Johnson really does his best in the lead role, but next to these two, he just comes across as a third-rate Lennon impersonator.

Skip this movie and just check out the Beatles Anthology instead.

Halloween!

Halloween is my favourite time of year. What's not to love?

I mean, you get to bust out the tog 90 duvets and lounge around on the couch watching scary movies all night. Plus, I love the dressing up.

Okay, I'm probably getting a bit old for it now, but I think it's great that there's one day a year where grown ups can act like idiots and play dress-up. A couple of years ago, I came up with one of my better Halloween costumes: a mad scientist. If you know me, you'll know that half-assedness is my forté and I tend to leave most things unfinished. Not with this costume; I put a lot of effort into it and nailed it. I dyed my hair snow white, got a giant white lab-coat, some huge black rubber gloves, a massive pair of welding goggles. Then to top it all off, I spent the whole night drinking blue WKD from an Erlenmeyer flask. I mean, have you any idea just how god-awful blue WKD tastes? I'm not sure what Smurf piss tastes like, but I'd bet it tastes a thousand times better than blue WKD.

This is how far I'll go. I looooooove halloween.

On the other hand, I hate the sexification of Halloween. I hate this bullshit of girls dressing up in a red bikini, putting on a pair of plastic horns and then - bam - that's their costume. A 'sexy' devil. Or a 'sexy' angel. Or a 'sexy' nurse.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it because I'm against half-naked women. NOT NEARLY AS MUCH AS I'D LIKE - AMIRITE?! HIGH FIVE! I just object to the sheer laziness of it. I can't believe I have to say this, but having tits doesn't give you a get out of jail free card when it comes to putting a bit of effort into a costume. Tits aren't like a note from home saying you're excused from P.E.

What I'm saying is: Put a bit of fucking effort in, ladies

Now, think of all the things that a girl could take from Star Wars and make 'sexy'. It's a real short list, right? Slave Leia, obviously - I don't know a single guy who that doesn't work for, on some level. There's also Oola, Jabba's dancer from Return of the Jedi. Oh, and I guess Padma from the prequels could work too, at a push. But after that, it's a real sharp drop-off. After this, we're talking Aunt Beru and Yaddleand if the idea of Yaddle Milk doesn't make you sick to your stomach, you've got issues.

Know what I didn't put on this list? That mangled-looking dude from the cantina who's all "MY FRIEND DOESN'T LIKE YOU… I DON'T LIKE YOU EITHER". Know why I didn't put him on here? Because he's a mangled-looking dude. Know who else isn't on this list? Chewbacca. Know why? Because he's Chewbacca, for fuck's sake.

Still, that hasn't stopped the makers of the "sexy Chewbacca costume", which is my new limit for trying to make something sexy that clearly isn't. I mean, who are you trying to score with a costume like this? Furries? Inuits?

Try harder, girls.

Halloween!

Halloween is my favourite time of year. What's not to love?

I mean, you get to bust out the tog 90 duvets and lounge around on the couch watching scary movies all night. Plus, I love the dressing up.

Okay, I'm probably getting a bit old for it now, but I think it's great that there's one day a year where grown ups can act like idiots and play dress-up. A couple of years ago, I came up with one of my better Halloween costumes: a mad scientist. If you know me, you'll know that half-assedness is my forte and I tend to leave most things unfinished. Not with this costume; I put a lot of effort into it and nailed it. I dyed my hair snow white, got a giant white lab-coat, some huge black rubber gloves, a massive pair of welding goggles. Then to top it all off, I spent the whole night drinking blue WKD from an Erlenmeyer flask. I mean, have you any idea just how god-awful blue WKD tastes? I'm not sure what Smurf piss tastes like, but I'd bet it tastes a thousand times better than blue WKD.

This is how far I'll go. I looooooove halloween.

On the other hand, I hate the sexification of Halloween. I hate this bullshit of girls dressing up in a red bikini, putting on a pair of plastic horns and then - bam - that's their costume. A 'sexy' devil. Or a 'sexy' angel. Or a 'sexy' nurse.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it because I'm against half-naked women. NOT NEARLY AS MUCH AS I'D LIKE - AMIRITE?! HIGH FIVE! I just object to the sheer laziness of it. I can't believe I have to say this, but having tits doesn't give you a get out of jail free card when it comes to putting a bit of effort into a costume. Tits aren't like a note from home saying you're excused from P.E.

What I'm saying is: Put a bit of fucking effort in, ladies

Now, think of all the things that a girl could take from Star Wars and make 'sexy'. It's a real short list, right? Slave Leia, obviously - I don't know a single guy who that doesn't work for, on some level. There's also Oola, Jabba's dancer from Return of the Jedi. Oh, and I guess Padma from the prequels could work too, at a push. But after that, it's a real sharp drop-off. After this, we're talking Aunt Beru and Yaddleand if the idea of Yaddle Milk doesn't make you sick to your stomach, you've got issues.

Know what I didn't put on this list? That mangled-looking dude from the cantina who's all "MY FRIEND DOESN'T LIKE YOU... I DON'T LIKE YOU EITHER". Know why I didn't put him on here? Because he's a mangled-looking dude. Know who else isn't on this list? Chewbacca. Know why? Because he's Chewbacca, for fuck's sake.

Still, that hasn't stopped the makers of the "sexy Chewbacca costume", which is my new limit for trying to make something sexy that clearly isn't. I mean, who are you trying to score with a costume like this? Furries? Inuits?

Try harder, girls.

myFry for iPhone →

Trust Stephen Fry to be behind the wheel of one of the first mainstream hypertext books where the form is just as interesting as the content.

Don Draper is Dead

You know what, Damon Lindelof, co-creator of Lost? I think you're right.

Or, at least, half-right. Here's my theory of what the final episode of Mad Men will be:

A fifty-something year old guy will wake up in a hospital, having fallen into a coma in 2007. A doctor will come in and say "Oh, Mr. Draper, you're awake!" Except it's not Don Draper.

It's Bobby.

Everything we've just seen has been a coma-induced memory/fantasy.

Seriously, next time you sit down to watch some Mad Men and Bobby comes on screen, pay close attention to him. He's either a dreadful actor or the the best actor on the show, because once you're thinking the entire show is taking place in his middle-aged comatose brain, that kid is even creepier than Glen. And that kid is pretty fucking creepy.

Of coure, maybe all this is just me trying to convince myself it's okay to be watching (and enjoying) a soap opera.

Don Draper is Dead

You know what, Damon Lindelof, co-creator of Lost? I think you're right.

Or, at least, half-right. Here's my theory of what the final episode of Mad Men will be: A fifty-something year old guy will wake up in a hospital, having fallen into a coma in 2007. A doctor will come in and say "Oh, Mr. Draper, you're awake!" Except it's not Don Draper.

It's Bobby.

Everything we've just seen has been a coma-induced memory/fantasy.

Seriously, next time you sit down to watch some Mad Men and Bobby comes on screen, pay close attention to him. He's either a dreadful actor or the the best actor on the show, because once you're thinking the entire show is taking place in his middle-aged comatose brain, that kid is even creepier than Glen. And that kid is pretty fucking creepy.

Of coure, maybe all this is just me trying to convince myself it's okay to be watching (and enjoying) a soap opera.

Jonathan Franzen glasses thief speaks →

In short, a drunken impulsive prank. Favourite line: "To bide me some time, I remember shouting as I snatched the glasses off the bewildered man's face that I was with Channel 4 doing a comedy stunt. Looking back, I'm not exactly sure what that meant or why I said it."

Jon Ronson meets the Insane Clown Posse →

'"Well," Violent J says, "science is… we don't really… that's like…" He pauses. Then he waves his hands as if to say, "OK, an analogy": "If you're trying to fuck a girl, but her mom's home, fuck her mom! You understand? You want to fuck the girl, but her mom's home? Fuck the mom. See?"'

Alan W. Pollack's 'Notes on...' series →

Alan W. Pollack's exhaustive analysis of the music of The Beatles. He wrote these over the course of 11 years, starting in 1989, in weekly posts to the rec.music.beatles usenet group. For example, in his 'Notes on "Hey Jude"', he says "The bridge features a Bach-like walking bassline which, by the way, is a key source of the perceived contrast between the bridge section and its surrounding verses; the bassline of the verse, after all, simply follows the roots of the chord changes." Fascinating and edifying. Bonus.

Horrorthon 2010

We're five days into October and I haven't watched a single fucking horror movie. Which makes me wish I was back in Ireland because I could set all that right over the course of a weekend, because it's time for Horrorthon 2010Of course, I could set that right over the course of a weekend myself, but watching 29 horror films in five days on your own is pretty tough going.. Here's this year's programme and some useful links:

Thursday October 21st

20.45 Paranormal Activity 2 imdb trailer

22.45 The Pack (La Meute) imdb trailer

Friday October 22nd

14.00 Carrie imdb trailer

15.50 The Night of the Hunter imdb trailer

17.30 Shadow imdb trailer

19.00 Island of Death imdb video review

21.25 Primal imdb trailer

23.00 The Apple imdb trailer

00.30 Finale imdb trailer

Saturday October 23rd

13.00 The Amityville Horror imdb trailer

15.10 Altitude imdb trailer

16.50 Phenomena imdb trailer

19.20 Spiderhole imdb trailer

21.00 I Spit on Your Grave imdb trailer

23.00 Birdemic: Shock and Terror imdb trailer

00.30 Siege of the Dead (Rammbock) imdb trailer

Sunday October 24th

13.00 Hershell Gordon Lewis: the Godfather of Gore imdb trailer

15.00 Ed Wood imdb trailer

17.30 The Reef imdb trailer

19.15 Surprise Film

21.10 Amer imdb trailer

23.00 Plan 9 from Outer Space imdb trailer

00.15 Loose Screws: Screwballs 2 imdb trailer

01.30 Blood info

Monday October 25th

12.30 Horrorthon Short Film Showcase

14.15 Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape info trailer

15.45 Killer Klowns from Outer Space imdb trailer

17.25 Red Hill imdb trailer

19.10 Gremlins 2: The New Batch imdb trailer

21.10 Monsters imdb trailer

There's a lot of good stuff on there (and a lot of cheese too). Best of all, it looks like the organisers have done a better job this year of balancing each day so there is at least some semblance of logic behind the programme. So, well done to them on thatBut seriously, Screwballs 2?! Are you just openly mocking your audience now?.

Obviously, being a few thousand miles away and having not timed my trip back to Ireland properly, I'm not going to be able to go to any of these movies (and believe me, I'd love to be going -- this is the first time in years I've felt sad about missing the Horrorthon). But if I were going, the three films I'd be most psyched to check out Shadow, Amer and Monsters. Having said that, there's at least three films each day that I'd be very happy to check out.

As for the surprise film... well, now's the time to start guessing. Given their history of going for Irish premieres and the sub-115 minute runtime, my guess is it will either be Let Me In, Burke and Hare or Saw 3D.

Please, God, don't let it be Saw 3D.

Stephen J. Cannell

I realise this blog is increasingly in danger of just becoming a list of celebrities whose deaths I'm sad about, but Stephen J. Cannell is one that really hit me hard.

When I was 10, my poor little brain couldn't handle any celebrity or character with more than one name. For example, like most kids then, I loved The A-Team. And as fanatical as I was about that show, I still couldn't manage their surnames. They were Murdock, Hannibal, Face and BA. No more, no less. I tried to remember BA's surname, but I think I kept calling him "Balackus" or something. Maybe I was a little racist as a kid. I also used to think "Darth Vader" was called "Dark Vader". You see, because he wore all blackSince I'm already in this hole of self-shame, I may as well dig a little deeper and say that I also used to think the "Standing strong forever" line in "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" was "Santa's gone forever" because, y'know, Santa being gone means you're all grown up. I had awesome logic..

Point is, you give me a celebrity or a character with two names, I was boned. In Knight Rider, I just knew the guy as "Michael". I never once twigged that his surname was in the title. Durr.

But as much trouble as I had with names, I knew who the fuck Stephen J. Cannell was. With this one guy, I not only remembered his first name and his last name, but I fucking remembered his middle initial and everything. Know why? Because his logo came at the end of some of my favourite shows. And when I hear the jingle from his logo, I get a sort of pavlovian response. I feel happy. I feel like I'm 10 years old again. And I don't just mean that in some hyperbolic way. I mean I literally feel 10 years old again. If I close my eyes and listen to that jingle, I feel like I'm sitting in front of our dodgy TV on a Saturday afternoon and now I'm going outside to recreate everything I just saw on TV.

Bagsy being BA.

Thanks, Stephen.

Bonus: Stephen J. Cannell also did a show called Tenspeed and Brownshoe starring Jeff Goldblum. This was less good. I bought the pilot on VHS for 50p a few years ago.