Month: January 2014

Why the Oscars don’t mean a thang


Academy Awards nominations have been announced and everybody cares, for some reason. It’s all “It’s a disgrace that…” and “Why the hell did she/he get nominated?” Everybody’s up in arms about Jennifer Lawrence getting nominated again as the backlash begins – another year, another actress being thrown out of The Best Likeable Actress category for existing all the time (remember the Dissolution of Anne Hathaway last year? She was a good actress, but she was too grateful for her Oscar apparently, the silly over-excited pair of earlobes). Meanwhile in the Best Actor category, Matthew McConaughey has risen from the cheesy rose petal-strewn ashes of How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days and The Wedding Planner with The Dallas Buyers Club, a movie which, from what I can glean from the trailer, is inspired by a true story about AIDS. Only it’s totally funny. And Jared Leto dresses up as a woman. A funny AIDS movie with Jared Leto doing what he always does on Saturday nights anyway. Academy Awards gold.

Then there’s Leonardo DiCaprio. Poor Leo. He’s like the kid in your class who gets really good marks and sits behind in the library after school to revise and answers all the questions in class – but the teacher always forgets his name. Yet 2013 was a pretty banner year for him, as he teamed up once again with the maestro of entertaining (read: bloody and mafia and sex) films, Martin Scorsese. It’s no great wonder that Wolf of Wall Street is up for an Oscar, because it’s got a lot of swearing in it so that means it’s serious and stuff (I haven’t seen the movie, to be fair, I’m just wisecrackin’). Personally, I thought he should have been nominated way back in 2006 for Catch Me If You Can, a fantastic con-man flick that remains one of my favourite films to date, or even way back in 1993 for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? – a groundbreaking performance at the tender age of eighteen. Though he’s considered one of the best actors of his generation by many, year after year the Oscar gods fail to smile upon him. Could this be his year? Maybe. Who cares? He’s a great actor and the fact he doesn’t have an Academy Award says more about the awards themselves than his acting skills.

So why is such importance placed on what a bunch of white men, most of whom are over the age of 60, think a good film is? Surely judging a film is such a subjective thing that an award for it would seem a rather unspectacular accolade? Good for you, some people liked your movie. I hated Gladiator. i thought it was so, so dumb – but it won an Oscar. Does that mean I simply cannot appreciate fine cinematic art? No. Does it mean that the Oscars are wrong? Well, to me it does. But that’s the sheer beauty of opinion! It’s what divides us and it’s also what brings us together like a weirdly close-knit family.

After recently seeing Inside Llewyn Davis, it only solidified for me what I knew to be true: the Oscars aren’t called the Underdog Awards for a good reason. They don’t gun for the underdog. They gun for the blockbusters, the showstoppers and the overly trite. Sure, there were a couple of times where they went against the grain (Slumdog Millionaire was one of those magical moments of true triumph against the odds). But a low-budget underdog movie about an underdog? With folk music and depression? Even the casting of a furry friend doesn’t seal the Oscar deal anymore (looking at you and your overrated Weinstein production, The Artist). But when a movie strokes deep inside your soul in the first five minutes, you don’t need a golden statue to tell you it’s a great movie. You just know (*cue schmatlzy music score with shots of longing looks outside bus windows*)

So try not to get too pissed off if Jennifer Lawrence wins again, or if you lose a bet you made to someone that she’d trip again, because this is Hollywood, baby, and everything’s a game. Those who don’t play get locked out in the cold. Nothing’s real except the bank notes and the diamonds, and god bless you if you’re Hilary Swank and everyone’s forgotten about you and that Million Dollar Baby. That’s the Chicago way. Badda-bing, badda-bye.

P.S. If you still think the Oscars are hot shit, chew on this. A classmate reminded me today that Mark Wahlberg has an Oscar. Mark Wahlberg has an Oscar. Marky Mark can call himself an Academy Award winner. This guy.


Purely fer the Gegs: Jonah Hill on SNL

Jonah Hill was the latest guest on American sketch show Saturday Night Live, and the otherworldly specimen of beauty that is Leonardo DiCaprio comes by to say hello. Hilariousness ensues.

Frigid or Slut: The University Clichés


“Oh yeah, [random girl’s name] is up for it. She’s already f***ed five guys here already. Easier than Sunday morning.”

“I fancy [random girl’s name].”

“Nah mate. Hasn’t banged anyone as far as I know. Total prude.”

Ah, university. A time of great change – evolving from the person you were when you were leaving high school to the person you aspire to be, from the caterpillar to the chrysalis to the butterfly you always knew yourself to become. From fledgling to falcon, from puppy to hound.

But enough trite transformation metaphors. There’s a problem in university culture, and its name is Misogyny.

Since I arrived at university in September I’ve noticed something disturbing- misogyny’s new form of expression. While I was under the impression that humans were complicated, layered beings with personalities and loves and hates and intricate psychological irregularities and basically homosepians in all their confused, complicated glory, it would seem that I was gravely mistaken. After eavesdropping on the conversations of students in my proximity I have gleaned the consensus that people can be summed up in a sentence or an offensive nickname.

It is entirely obvious that there is a double standard between men and women when it comes to their sex lives. Men are expected to behave like a rampant sex monkey when they arrive at university, and their behaviour is accepted as them just “being a lad” (CUE MEGALOLZ). Yet when women dare to enjoy sex and have it often-with more than one partner- they are labeled a “slut”. This trend has spread like wildfire, and I see it every day. I know plenty of people who like having casual relationships with men and don’t want to be weighed down with a serious situation. There’s no problem with it. But there is a problem with the double standard for men and women in regards to their sex life. Take this sample conversation I listened to while at a flat party:

“She’s at it again. She’ll get an STD if she’s not careful.”

“Doesn’t she have any shame whatsoever? Doesn’t she have any self-respect?”

“He’s clearly using her for sex.”

“I heard she’s had sex with ten people since she got here.”

“F**k sake. What a slut.”

So if a girl is promiscuous she’s a slut. Got it. What if she doesn’t have sex at all – not because of any religous reasons, but because of personal reasons? Turns out the grass is not always greener.

“She hasn’t had sex with literally anybody. Frigid.”

“Is she a lesbian?”

“Probably. She won’t even meet anyone in a club.”

“What’s she doing with a skirt that short then?”

“Fucking tease, probably.”

*Cue laughter*

The charms of the UniLad. It really is enlightening.

But it’s not just men who do it. Women are just as likely to do it. But it isn’t totally the fault of these people – it’s society that has conditioned to be judgmental and perpetuate the prude/slut stereotypes.

So to sum it up, if you happen to have a vagina, you’re damned if you do and you’re screwed if you don’t. Never mind the obvious fact that women are people with thoughts and feelings and desires and motives. If they’re having sex they’re getting shamed for it. If they’re not having sex they’re a lesbian, or they’re just too uptight to let someone use them as a human wank flannel. It disregards women as human beings and perpetuates the unhealthy  virgin/whore stereotypes that society (and of course, The Daily Mail) dictates. Both men and women have been brainwashed to think that people can be put into the “virgin” or “slut” category, when the truth is far more complicated – that women and men are humans, and cannot be whittled down to simple labels and groups. It disrespects the individuals and disrespects humanity.

Of course not everybody adheres to this culture. Many men and women are open-minded, thoughtful individuals who are respectful of a woman’s right to her own body. But that needs to be the norm, not the exception.

I propose a radical revolutionised way of treating each other – acceptance, tolerance and lack of judgement on anybody’s way of living their life. Accept the truth that nothing is as simple as it seems, or as society would have us believe, and refrain from subscription to the disgusting culture that has permeated the otherwise exciting world of university.

In other words, do whatever (and whomever) you like, and let others do the same.

Please share your views with me via the comments or Twitter @superhans180

Music Review: Mechanical Bull by Kings of Leon

Being a big fan of these Tennessee natives, I have had to put aside any bias to conduct as professional a review as I can.* Bear in mind I usually detest music reviews in general, for the way most of them write as if their opinion is fact, instead of opinion (I don’t need the tightly-wound dirty teenagers at NME telling me what’s cool to listen to) – so I urge you to regard this article as exactly what it is: an opinion.

kolThe follow-up to critically lauded Redneck-rock offering “Come Around Sundown” in 2010, “Mechanical Bull” is somewhat a departure in terms of musical structure – gone is the  red hot sun, while the reliable down-South rock n’ roll sound the band are known for is sustained.

“Supersoaker” is an electrifying opener, perhaps the most “mainstream” tune of the entire album, so it’s not surprising that it was chosen as the lead single. A good beat, reliably country-boy lyrics (“Down in the delta, I’m ringin’ bells”) with a jubilant tone. Are the lyrics patriotic? “I’m a supersoaker, red, white and blue on the way” does suggest an Americana declaration, but Followill’s lyrics are notorious for being taken far too seriously (calling to mind “Sex on Fire”, which many misinterpreted as having a deeper, metaphorical meaning when in fact Followill has since said it was written as a joke). Nonetheless, a strong opener.

But for me, “Rock City” is really where it kicks off. Put your Aviators on, climb into the open-top Mustang and set off on the dusty road to Memphis, because there’s no other way to listen to this tune. Soaring guitar riffs and classic rock lyrics are the epicentre of this song, a freestyling, spine-tingling anthem to beat the dashboard to. “I was runnin’ through the desert, I was lookin for drugs/I was searchin’ for a woman who was willing to love” calls to mind the best work of Jackson Browne’s pen, and showcases the band in all their Southern glory. Cameron Followill’s stratospheric slide guitar storms the track, and I challenge you to listen to this one without playing the drums on whatever surface is closest.

“Put your Aviators on, climb into the open-top Mustang and set off for Memphis, because there’s no other way to listen to this tune.”

“Don’t Matter” is a somewhat darker track, a tone of passionate frustration. “It’s always the same/ And I’m always the same” rings several times through the song, but mostly to showcase the lead guitar, which thrashes out this track to match the tone of Caleb’s vocals and ascends into a screeching riff in the middle. Whether it’s due to familial relation or natural musical cohesion, the band knows how to jam together. There is no confusion of tone here; it’s pure seamless rock. that calls to mind the early days of the band when they were just a bunch of redneck kids bashing out great music.

“Beautiful War” lends itself a more languid, easy-rock vibe, with a scintillating rhythm that ascends into an anthemic chorus. There’s that raw desperation in Caleb’s vocals, and the repetitive riff at 3:30 is fantastically symbolic of the album’s namesake, the constant ride of the “mechanical bull”. The song reaches a soaring crescendo without any prissy X-Factor choirs or key changes, just strong backing vocals and lead guitar. Though the chorus is repetitive “love don’t mean nothin’, unless there’s somethin’ worth fighting for”, the Tennessee twang gives it an irresistible war-cry tone, as the song fades out with a defeated tone that “It’s a beautiful war.” “Wait for Me” is the other slow-rock song on the album, and again it carries the theme of a journey, an internal war. The lyrics are pleading “I tried all the way” “Wait for me, wait for me”. It might be pure conjecture to think that it refers to the recent internal battle of lead singer Caleb with controlling his dependence on alcohol, which caused something of a rift in the band early last year.

“Temple” is more upbeat, and combines the band’s loyalty to both rock n’ roll and church by comparing the love of a good woman to drinking the blood of Christ with “Take wine from the temple, I take wine for you”. Or at least that’s what I could glean. Maybe it’s not. Maybe these kids wrote the song because they knew that chumps like me would read way too much into it and now they’re having a good old chuckle at me typing away on my laptop while they enjoy a couple of Coronas on the sundeck. I dunno. Whatever, it’s such a tune.

“Family Tree” is the sense of humour in the record, and showcases the band’s remaining ability to write rock n’ roll, calling back to the days of “Aha Shake Heartbreak”-the band clearly haven’t lost any of their edge just because they gave up the drugs. “I am your family tree, I know your A to Z” pleads the family in question not to listen to the “make-believe”. But the climax is when the entire band joins in on the chorus at the same time, a catchy, thumping acapella. Hot damn.

“the band clearly haven’t lost any of their edge just because they gave up the drugs.”

“Comeback Story” is lighter fare, with more delicate riffs, a whistly tone, and a lighthearted chorus line “I walk a mile in your shoes, and now I’m a mile away and I’ve got your shoes.” The snare builds up to a majestic chorus but the song has no pretension – the song doesn’t drag, it just flows. “Tonight” professes “I don’t know why i keep acting this way”, a tonal shift to images of lonely nights, hand clasped around an Old Fashioned. The growling verses contrast with the emotion in the chorus and the song alludes to the spiritual roots of the band (“Tonight, I’m gonna leave my body”) and the song fades out with the guitar in tandem.

In “Coming Back Again”, the piercing electric guitar presides, not unlike Don Henley’s 80’s stuff without the cheesy over-synthesized riffs. It makes me think of driving fast through the city, bright lights and cool breezes. It’s a grand finale, if anything, and closes the metaphorical book on “Mechanical Bull”, a collection of songs which allude to a shift in direction for the band, without veering too far from the dusty trail. Needless to say, them Southern boys have done it again, but hey, don’t take my word for it.

*Aw, who am I kidding? I love these guys. I find it especially irresistible when they play up their Redneck roots, ’cause there’s nothing like good old Southern rock n’ roll. But that’s just me.