Monday, December 7

Canine Excitement

Not long ago, I blogged about my imaginary superhero, Canis Lupus. Since I am yet to start writing about that particular character, and I am unlikely to do so to be honest, I shall have to content myself with the upcoming blockbuster, Wolfman, which promises to be a dark, riveting take on lycanthropy.

Brooding comicbook heroes are back in fashion following the epic critical success of The Dark Knight and its subsequent box office record-setting. Other adaptations from the staples of the geeky fanboy demographic have made that switch to noirish and stylish, with Sin City draping set pieces in blood-spattered silhouette. Wolfman continues along this path, if the trailers are anything to reckon with. Oscar-Winner Benicio Del Toro plays the lycan here and anybody who knows his work will agree that he might have been born to play this role. He could go on and do for the Wolfman what Heath Ledger did for The Joker circa 2008- render him legend. If he brings his own powerfully animal charm to bear on the eponymous hero, this should make great viewing when it opens next February.

I am heating up to microwave degrees in anticipation of this movie. Should it succeed it will shake off the stigma that usually follows remakes. The consensus opinion condemning remakes is very often warranted. Go see The Day The Earth Stood Still if you do not believe me. However, it might be foolhardy to allow scepticism affect expectations of this film. Director Joe Johnston is an unknown quantity to me as I have only ever seen one of the films in his oeuvre- Jumanji- yet I'm picking Wolfman as a potential great for the new decade.

We wait, we watch, we never withdraw.


Wednesday, November 25

The Girl is Dangerous

It is gospel, backed up statistically, that when a black girl squares up against a girl from, well, any other race (except the Russians, too cold to flinch really, numbed reflexes maybe), the other girl will back off and most probably turn and run. In London, I see it everywhere- women on buses and very often men in the street will cower like backed-up quarry when a black girl raises her voice; girls on reality TV shows on the much-revered BET channel know what time it is when a weave-haired black girl utters the immortal lines "Oh no, she di'n't" with appropriate glottal stops; and people everywhere are aware that the aphorism "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" has been modified for the purposes of racial neutrality. The correct expression, "Hell hath no fury like a (black) woman scorned" is the one more enshrined in public consciousness.

As a part-time anthropologist, I have always wondered at this behavioural quirk in my sistuhs everywhere. Where did it all start, is the pertinent question? I have searched high and low for an answer that is logically and anecdotally satisfying, scoured all the relevant research on the subject (Please see Winnie Mandela's memoirs for facts and figures). I even spend a  lot of time in social sampling. Without making it too obvious, I pose the question to black women everywhere to guage their response, maybe to gain some first-hand insight from the horse's mouth (please my sistuhs, the reference is purely idiomatic). The question is: Why are black women so damn dangerous?

I try to watch at least five movies a week. In a really frenzied week, because I have the movie bug and I have it badIy I will watch in excess of seven movies in a Christian week, working out at more than one a day. This means that unavoidably I will stumble across old classics, new revelations and some really week-ruining events (I hope I never get to meet whomever made that film You Don't Mess With The Zohan, because I will try to speak my mind but all that will come out is puke). Happily, I stumbled onto the 1996 hit movie Set It Off  by F. Gary Gray in the last week. This movie is one that all my friends were talking about when we were all waiting to hit puberty and we spent all our time idolising people who spoke their minds and displayed contempt for society. Those girls, Vivica Fox, Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett with their foul mouths and foul attitudes were the epitome of a form of delinquency, if I may call it that, that was intoxicating at the time.

Fox has since gone on to fade into legend, Queen Latifah has matured into an Oscar-Winning maternal sort of actress, and Jada Pinkett still makes a living out of a tight butt and a tight mouth. But with that 1996 movie, they gave black girls everywhere the boldness, the craziness, the blank canvas to paint out a vision of aggressive resourcefulness that continues to be replicated from the streets of Surulere to the projects of New York City. Vivica Fox who plays 'Frankie' degenerates from a gentle pleading bank teller to a die-hard (in every sense of the word) bank robber before our dangling eyes. Jada Pinkett, who had the guts to carry the name 'Stony', is oiling up her boyfriend's back in one scene and popping caps in asses the next. All the while, they are talking smack like WWE goons without giving a *&%! who is listening in.

Of course back then, young as we were, nobody really paid much attention to the main theme of fighting  a system that agitated the poor and a police force so ruthless they did not think twice about wasting a blameless, unarmed teenage boy while looking for somebody completely different, all because they both shared a similar haircut. We didn't care about those serious motifs that set the tone for the violence and the oppressed response of these women. All we cared about was that Queen Latifah (as 'Cleo') was strutting about in a vest totting Smith & Wesson pistols and trash talking the hell out of everyone in close contact with the air she breathed. I know guys who wanted to be Cleo then. For goodness' sake I still know guys who want to be Cleo, even if they won't admit it.

Now, black women the world over have the right to roll up their sleeves and use the precedent set by these imaginary characters to their advantage. I have seen big men, over six fet of muscle-bound menace, shrink away from a black woman's fast-clicking tongue (I am not referring to myself here people). Just two weeks ago, a black girl, all five-foot-nothing of her was squared up to a man twice her size in front of a departing train at Waterloo underground station. Violence radiated from her eyes. The gentleman had somehow fallen backwards off the train as the doors shut, taking her with him, and she was letting him know just how small she thought his winky was and what she planned to do with it if he did not skedaddle. The man would have crushed her. She did not care. He walked away, with a tremor in his knees.

And Hollywood remains faithful to this impression of the black woman- brash, unrestrained and ready to pick a fight at any given time. Just see the Scary Movie franchise if you need a black female stereotype update, or go ahead and watch the MTV show, I Love New York. If not I can give you mobile numbers for some of my friends, who will educate you, accordingly.

Nigerian women, who have all the copyrights and patents filed under "I don't care if I am under duress, I must be true to my tongue", may argue that Set It Off has nothing to do with it. Years of heat and sweat have congealed into a thick caustic paste that flies out, pepper-hot, with every word they utter. But we must all admit that that film had a lot to do with it, even if it only institutionalised the vehemence.

Ah, now I remember this started out as a movie review. Seven stars out of ten for Set It Off, which is one of those films I think would have been classic but for the predominantly black cast and the Thelma & Louise- esque feel to it. The story, though hackneyed, is fully-realised and the acting is taut. More importantly you feel the emotion, you feel it as if you're right there with them in midtown LA, and you get caught up in each and every character. I appreciate cinema like that. Most of all you come away satisfied at the resolution of the question that everyone of us has asked at some point in our lives. Yeah, go ahead and blame 'Stony' and 'Cleo' and 'Frankie' (not so much 'Titi').

PS Blair Underwood For President.

Leading Ladies #2- Cate Blanchett and that voice

Any movie character who gets the kind of introduction 'Galadriel' gets in the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring) will do well to match that expectation. Elves assured of their protection in her power, esconced in a deeply wooded forest, with whispered words of warning to the ragtag army that is the Fellowship, all herald her first appearance in possibly the greatest film franchise ever. For me it wasn't just my first sighting of Cate Blanchett in the series, it was my first sighting of her, period.You could count The Talented Mr Ripley which I once watched while drifting in and out of sleep on an airplane. I'm told that she was in that film and didn't do her reputation any bad either for it. But all I remember about that particular film is my fourteen year- old brain (thirsty for blockbuster action- Vin Diesel) musing on the fact that Matt Damon was acting rather peculiarly for a large portion of the drama.

In that one scene, where Cate Blanchett tries to seduce the all-powerful ring from Frodo the dwarf (Hobbit, as the PC lobby reminds us), she sold me on her prowess the minute she opened her mouth. It is not often that you will give an actor points for their voice, not unless they are faking it like Marlon Brando who made Don Corleone's falsetto the most memorable vocal turn in cinema history. After all, Lonardo DiCaprio is rated one of the most fitting leading men in Hollywood today, despite sounding like a choirgirl. Yet, it goes without saying that Cate Blanchett has one of the most recognisable voices on the silver screen. Her larynx is a professional instrument.

It's not that she rounds off every vowel with a swaggering drawl the way Jack Nicholson does, glory be, and she doesn't have the affected enunciation of Alan Rickman, ladling spoonfuls of ironic emphasis onto affixed syllables just so. But Cate Blanchett can inflect arrogance, mystery, and as in The Lord of the Rings, raw power without the viewer ever noticing that she has flipped the switch. Perhaps this perfect pitch has something to do with her theatre training, and it does, but even in interviews where the need to project is absent, when she is no longer playing a role, Cate Blanchett retains the remarkable ability to sound as if everything she says is poetry, and with no trace of drama.

In that scene, Cate Blanchett gave the star performance of that movie. I know the CGI went a touch loopy with all the gimmicky colours and the facial contortion and all that stuff diector Peter Jackson was throwing at the screen. If you ask me, Galadriel's voice had enough special effects to carry it through. Later, when I got around to watching Elizabeth I, where she gives a masterclass in acting, I caught myself in this imaginary moment where I felt like I was blowing backwards in the force of her sound. The woman is magnificent.

On top of that, she has won countless awards and has a very womanly beauty that goes far beneath the skin. It is a refined pulchritude, as with a thoroughbred horse. Those high cheekbones and intelligent eyes and lips that can intimidate or entrance alternately, merely by the twisting. I personally think this Australian actress has a look that can be worked any which way: the kind of actress who could play the dizzy blonde lead in Legally Blonde or come off equally well as a dark vampire with a primitive streak. But she almost always chooses roles that emphasise strong female characters, however troubled they may be she makes them convincing and makes sure you leave the cinema, or your sofa, transfixed.

This may be my only question about her. How come she never plays enough fun upbeat roles on the screen? Why does she not don a costume and play a superhero, or act in a comedy or something like that? I guess we could look to The Bandits, a comedy crime caper with Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton, in which she plays the meddling accomplice. Sadly, it did not resonate with moviegoers. In the upcoming Robin Hood movie, due out next year, she plays Maid Marian. That might turn out a refreshing change of pace from her modus operandi, but with the reputedly difficult Russell Crowe as the anti-heroic do-gooder I'm not so sure that's what we'll get. It remains to be seen.

Anyway, I have noticed that this has become an extended eulogy but I won't forget to add that Blanchett turned in a superb bit of acting as Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes' biopic I'm Not There that was so good I thought it better than her unbelievable Oscar-winning rendition of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator, a role which she was warned against taking because of the size of Hepburn's personality. Watch both movies to understand what I am going on about, if you do nothing else this Christmas.

TRIVIA: Cate Blanchett has been married only once, and is still married to Andrew Upton, a writer with whom she currently heads up the Sydney Theatre Company as artistic director. She's a natural redhead (surprise, surprise).

NEXT WEEK: Sanaa Lathan and those handles

Wednesday, November 18

If I Ever Wrote A Superhero

Has anybody ever thought about what kind of superhero they would like to be? More than likely, the answer from a poll of this question would tally a resounding yes. I know of friends of mine who dream of becoming Wolverine, other stranger friends who I am sure would like to be able to transform into Jem or whatever those barbie-esque lady heroes were called. On my own part I've always tried to consider what kind of superhero I could come up with.

Hollywood is going through a phase, at present, where it's chasing after comic-book heroes in an era where real-life heroes are non- existent or else blighted by the recession with all the doom and gloom surrounding it. Escapism is rife and has been for the better part of this blossoming century, as people delve back into the simple happinesses of their childhoods. As a result, superhero movies are bigger, better and ever present, fine-tuned to cater to an ever- expanding audience that has grown to encompass not only the original geeky fanboys but also discerning cinemagoers seeking a means to avoid the drudgery of eeryday life. Directors have now exhausted the marquee characters with Spiderman, Superman, Batman and the X-Men getting recent makeovers for a generation that likes its heroes brooding, existential and conflicted. So it has become necessary to plunder comic lore for more niche titles to keep the bandwagon playing along, albeit without much merriment (cue Joker hiss: 'Why SO Serious-uh?'). The ultra-violent noirish take on Watchmen last year came after the successes of films like Sin City and 300, which was ultimately a comic book (okay, okay, graphic novel sheesh) adaptation regardless of what the swords-and-sandals epic lobby might want to tell you.

In the coming year, as has been heavily reported, we will see the advent of Green Lantern to herald the upgrade of other comic book characters running the gauntlet from the camp Captain America through the cult favourite Afro Samurai and on to a proposed Justice League super- blockbuster. The genre has never been in ruder health. Needless to mention, there have been pros and cons, winners and duds, good elements and pure radioactive fallout from this boom in animated heroes. Sometimes ardent cinema fans and diehard comic book devotees alike have had to suffer through the sort of lullaby that Frank Miller's debut solo effort The Spirit turned out to be. At other times, a director has pulled out of the hat a reworking of a familiar protagonist so protagonist as to be considered to have broken the mould. Step forth Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight which unlocked the full mesmeric potential of Heath Ledger, now of blessed memory, and an ensemble cast who are the only superhero collective to have outperformed the splendid work of the X-Men trilogy.

What remains to be seen is if a superhero can be created specifically for the screen. Of course there are pitfalls to this notion. Such an attempt, heroic as it may be (pun intended) will have to be so thoroughly unique to even pass muster with the Hollywood bigwigs who decide if to shell out for a script. In the past we have had Hancock, an iconoclastic sort with a drinking habit and a foul temper. This achieved some box-office success but not the sort of accession to the pantheon of cinema greatness it desired. I also remember Damon Wayans' madcap attempt with Blankman, a nerd who discovers a way to make a super bulletprof suit, back when he was still big news on the Hollywood grapevine. That movie fell short in many ways (even though I have fond childhood recollections of Blankman's spasmodic reaction when the hot girl tries to kiss him) but mostly because it failed to engage properly with the scale of the escapist's need- superheroes have to be larger, much larger than life.

Anyway, coming finally to the thrust of this piece, my idea for a superhero is not SuperPoet as some who know me might suggest: The Man who bores villains to death by reading Shakespeare and tossing sharpened ball points with poisoned ink (even though that suddenly seems a great idea; think Byron and the Literati including Faust, the undead master negotiator and Eliot, who plots wastelands for antagonists to fall into). No, I have this idea for Canis aka The Lone Wolf, a Nigerian senator desperate to fight corruption tooth and nail. He falls out of favour with his party for his single-mindedness and unwillingness to accept bribe. Thus the powers-that-be orchestrate an assassination attempt which fails, and Canis slumbers into a coma. In his vivid 3D dreams he becomes Canis, a leather-clad man with wolf-like abilities (not a werewolf so no howling please) of speed, strength and stealth working as a secret agent in the corridors of power, uncovering secrets and providing assistance to politicians everywhere who want to rise above the murk but cannot beat the system. These dreams will take place in locations all over the world from Austria to Australia.

The twist is that Canis meets and falls in love with Eva aka The Bridge, a being that holds the key to him waking up in real life and who doesn't tell him that his 'dreams' are actually happening in real time in the real world because she is desperate to keep him as her weapon. Canis must now learn to fight with the Pack, four other characters who can help him overthrow Eva's deceptions while assisting him with his missions. Being the Lone Wolf, of course Canis is unwilling to make the leap to team player. This accounts for the tension and conflict in the story. For the moralists, this story will aim to teach the values of working wih people and living above the natural tendency of society to malfunction. It also provides a true escape for the world-weary.

I wonder what people think about this messy idea. I was quite proud of it when I thought about it, mostly because I am completely enamoured with wolves, especially since that totally ridiculous scene in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Did anyone know that a wolf can clear 16ft in a single bound, or that it can run at twenty miles an hour for hours on end without getting tired? For those who have original ideas for comic books or superheroes, please feel free to append your thoughts. Otherwise I implore you to give feedback on my idea for this superhero. Too much, too little? Email me if you want a full synopsis.

So, Who are your favourite superheroes then?

Leading Ladies #1- Tilda Swinton and that, well just that...

Recently, I've found myself fielding questions from friends who wonder or are sometimes even alarmed at some of my choices of favourite actresses. Bulge-eyed amazement giving way to a shake of the head and a peripheral glance of worry is not an unusual reaction. I do not mind. In a pretentious way, I like having a quirky taste in actresses which does not conform to the word-on-the-street trend. For instance, I do not see what all the hoopla is about Megan Fox. I barely noticed her in the first Transformers instalment, even though I did find her more attractive for being less vampish; in the second Transformers her sexiness was a belaboured as the boring movie itself.

I'll be the first to acknowledge the strangeness of some of my choices seeing as they are too old to fall into the category of bootylicious bombshells headlined by your Scarlett Johanssons and those Gossip Girls. I'll also admit that being turned on automatically by red hair has that 'serial killer' ring to it. However, my more unusual screen loves are easy to explain. This is why I am kickstarting this brand new weekly comment on some of the women who make my cinema experience so much the sweeter. I present to you Leading Lady numero uno: 49 year-old Tilda Swinton, the crop-haired, gender-bending Cambridge graduate with a flair for the bizarre.

I assume she was born Matilda Swinton. Perhaps she wasn't and her parents were fully aware that not even they, flush with the powers of circumscription afforded any parent over their child, could straitjacket this fiery-headed woman into the type of, what may I call it- sweet simplicity that that name suggests. Even if they didn't know beforehand, they would have cottoned on when she burst out on Guy Fawkes Day no less. Bonfire Night. She is now noted for her iconic portrayal of the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia and her Oscar-winning turn in Michael Clayton- both mainstream characters- but it is her working partnership with the gay experimentalist director Derek Jarman and her willingness to play men (Mozart, Orlando) that provided her with her reputation as a left field performer willing to take on daring roles without ever compromising her true identity be it as a thesp or in her personal life.

Maybe it was news that she keeps a lover at the same time as (and to the full knowledge of) the father of her twin children, a bit in the Michael Gambon mould, that pricked my antenna and tuned them fully into her mystery. Nontheless, I have admired her austerity and frozen wit since I saw her play a rogue angel Gabriel with stumps for wings in the playful blockbuster Constantine opposite another strange choice of favourite, Keanu Reeves. And snarling roles as entirely unseductive affairees in Burn After Reading and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button only served to enhance her appeal to me. I love a woman who exudes sexy without having to try. She has those suffer-no-fools eyes and that regal gait, that beanpole body and nuanced fashion sense (to be kind), and altogether that combination prods at my nerve-endings with frissons of excitement. Of the kind that delights in being far away from the bandwagon.

Tilda Swinton appears in an adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel We Need To Talk About Kevin  (in pre- production). Until then, catch her in The Limits Of Control by Jim Jarmusch alongside Bill Murray, John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal and the screen force that is Isaach De Bankole (see Casino Royale).

TRIVIA: Swinton garnered acclaim for her 1995 art installation 'The Maybe'. She has sat on the juries of both the Venice and Sundance Film Festivals.

NEXT WEDNESDAY: Cate Blanchett and that voice

Monday, November 9

The Most Electrifying Rivalry In Entertainment

DDT. Suplex. Sharpshooter. If like me, you spent a vast portion of your childhood camped out in front of the TV, chances are that you would have, at some point caught some of the advanced physical stunts on display in the twenty-by-twenty foot ring that served as the platform for the launch of the wrestling careers of several World Wrestling Federation (WWF) 'Superstars' in the Nineties and early noughties. Even if you didn't memorise the technical names for the moves llike I did, it would not have been difficult to get sucked into the captivating entertainment on show- the leaping top-rope moves, the gravity-defying drop kicks, and the downright disrespectful backhand slaps sometimes delivered with remarkable disdain across the straining pectorals of an unfortunate opponent. WWF (now World Wrestling Entertainment) is as much a mega-business now as it was then, but somehow though, some of its shine seems to have faded away into a blur of nostalgia looping through memory like a highlight reel.

Fortunately, the highlights were big enough to still inspire awe now in the twilight of my boyishness, enough to help massage over the growing dullness of adulthood. It helps those who had the benefit of a couple of hours of suspended logic to gloss over such formidable episodes like recession, death and taxes- at least for a moment or two. Wrestling's puppet masters are adept at tapping into the primordial human desire for carnage that dates back to the Roman Empire when Gladiators strutted to chants of praise from countless thousands in the iconic Collosseum. They simply scripted the fights which we later discovered were choreographed, to collective childhood disappointment.

In retrospect, was there really any other way to generate some of the most memorable sporting moments ever committed to celluloid? Picture this, the sound of glass smashing followed by bloodcurdling rock music to announce the entrance of a man known simply as The Toughest S.O.B. in the WWF aka Stone Cold Steve Austin. Then remember the spinetingling cry of a consummate braggadocio: 'If you smellllllll...what The Rock is cooking' and the emergence of the Great One with the permanently cocked eyebrow who might as well be sweating sunlight for all the mass hysteria in whatever auditorium he graced. Those two men, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, giants on the WWF stage, created what can only be termed The Most Electrifying Rivalry In Sports Entertainment.

Forget El Clasico, forget Lakers- Celtics, forget Borg- McEnroe, for sheer drama nothing else in sports has come close to the consistent spell-binding cinema served up by those two week in week out. To start with, neither man could possibly stand the other. On paper, they were chalk and cheese. The Texas Rattlesnake Steve Austin was a bald-headed redneck everyman anti-hero who would have come on in shirtsleeves if it wasn't impractical. The Rock, au contraire, was a trashtalking self- advertisement with more aliases than Jay-Z. He showed up on stage in Miami shirts and shades and sported an Elvis quiff complete with sideburns. Steve Austin started out from scratch and was nearly dropped from the franchise for being 'un-marketable' (read, 'too real, no acting'). The Rock had the spotlight on him from the outset as the third in a three-generation line of Wrestling Idols- his dad and grandfather were also wrestlers. The writers behind the scenes worked their story perfectly, bringing the two giants together in clashes that would help define a generation of teenagers.

By the time the two men became the biggest tickets in the WWF, I was hooked. Looking back at clips of their exploits now, I am amazed at the things they said and did. Both men ended up as fundamentally the same. But this happens with the most intense of rivalries (Conservative- Labour, check; Good- Evil, check). They both had swagger by the gallon (for a long time I tried to imitate Stone Cold's entry walk, head bobbing left-right like a pendulum, ground cowering from his boots). In fact, they were dirty lodmouths that splattered headlines across every screening of Wrestlemania, each determined to provide unrelenting entertainment to the placard-wavers in the bleachers. Steve Austin had the nerve to utter the infamous mantra 'Austin 3:16 says I WHUPPED YOUR ASS!' to the supposedly born-again Jake the Snake in open mockery of his persistent reference to John 3:16 in the Bible. I'm sure we all know what that verse really says. The Rock was the more magnetic speaker. He pasted opponents with catchphrases like 'Know Your Role- And SHUT YOUR MOUTH!' and muttered mumbo- jumbo any chance he got. The madding crowd lapped it up, no question, when we should have been asking italics'What in the blue hell is a "Roo-Dee-Poo Candy Ass"?'. While Stone Cold spent all his time flipping the bird as though his middle finger were loaded on a spring, The Rock bounded around with a microphone permanently tuned in the third person and inventing ridiculous ideas that referenced his status as The People's Champion. Thus, the People's Elbow and The People's Eyebrow were born.

I do not think any one piece of writing can adequately fete these two men. It is difficult, nay impossible to pay full tribute to the glorious years of Stone Cold Stunnas and Rockbottoms. It is only when you take a trip down memory lane and unlock the doors to the numerous highlights they provided as a feuding duo that you begin to realise their impact. I was sixteen before I stopped believing I could be The Rock. Those were the days when I would lie in wait for my school mates and take them by surprise, swinging one arm under an opposing shoulder. Then I would lift my flailing victim up and bring them crashing down to concrete in one sweet copycat movement. Afterwards, I would raise an eyebrow. It is only now that I can appreciate the theatre that was WWF, especially now that the WWE has finally degenerated into a doggone farce that is too plot heavy to transcend the imagination of the willing fans who flock to stadia to be fooled on days besides April 1st.

Those days, Stone Cold and The Rock got away with so much that was un-PC it was un-believable. Austin drove a beer truck on stage. Then proceeded to hose down opponents with alcohol. He dived in opponents' faces and shouted almost-unpardonable obscenities. The Rock used sex-riddled innuendo. He described his 'rock jewels' as biggerthan the entire arena. He called himself, yes he NAMED himself The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment. Today, John Cena brushes his shoulders off hip-hop style, as if that is enough to symbolise rebellion. It is stuff like this that makes me wish I could be eleven again. Yet I am glad of my age because now I can see that Steve Austin was George W Bush before the 'misunderestimated' one figured out that all Americans want is 'the bloke they can have a beer with' to look up to. And The Rock showed many black boys that they can be hard and outspoken at the same time, and still be number one and franchise-leader; he stepped easily into the shoes of Muhammad Ali providing the quotable quotes for teenage boys thirty years on.

Just watch the clips below to grasp the legend of these two men, to reach back into recent memory and pull back the awesomeness that was WWF's Golden Age. These two went past the mildly amusing tantrums of Hulk Hogan and transited direct into the sphere of global relevance, the arrogant but talented hero with the movie star looks who made everyone want to hang like him, and the bloody-minded anarchic rebel-without-a-cause who helped every angst-filled teen hurt a little easier, whom everybody wanted to hang with. I'll say it again- The Most Electrifying Rivalry in Sports Entertainment. BEST QUOTES IT DOESN'T MATTER VS


Thursday, September 10


I find it funny that people constantly harp on about how music can always brighten any day. Well, not exactly funny just, well, odd that not everybody (at least not this ipod-totting, youtubing generation) recognises that there is, similarly, a movie for every situation. A good film will do wonders for the downbeat, offer motivation to the depressed, relax the over-stressed and enchant the unimpressed. I have personal experience of this miracle pill that is cinema: Never has Braveheart failed to lift me to an emotional peak, charged through with the electricity of valiance, chivalry, self-belief; A friend of mine claims that he is shot through with goodwill after every viewing of Love, Actually (his words, not mine).

The thing about movies is that they have the power to set an agenda in a way that a song, however revolutionary never can. Consider the power of a movie like Milk to sustain the fight against homosexual prejudice, the way some cinema phrases from the silver screen make their way into everyday lingo (Who has never said "Houston, we have a problem!" from Apollo 13 or "Yipee Ki Yay Motherfucker!" from the Die Hard franchise?) and certain movie characters help to articulate the peculiar circumstances of a whole section of society previously overlooked (see Requiem For A Dream; Boyz In The Hood). One song may become transcendental as with John Lennon's Imagine, in fact a novel may blueprint the start of a movement- a paradigm shift- as with D H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, but neither of these media can represent situations that are true-to-life and at the same time thoroughly accessible to everybody.

Now, I watched Funny People, the new Judd Apatow comedy about a famous dying comic and his struggle to reconnect with reality. Apatow's movies have been hailed as a new take on the trashy comedy that allows women to cash in on the jokes too. This point is driven home by the many female faces pictured hee-hawing at the various dick jokes in the sets of the stand-up comics that give this film its title. That is Apatow's agenda: he is re-engineering the genre so that it is no longer directed mainly at men but also made for their girlfriends to enjoy too. This is why topics like pregnancy and its pitfalls and now a man with potentially terminal cancer are becoming routine in his work. Despite the vulgar jokes and his offensive characters, he can maintain the estrogen levels in a viewing audience.

Apatow's achievement is, however, putting the bromance front and centre. Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in Superbad cemented the role of the bromance in modern comedy and Funny People puts Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler centrestage, tackling age-old issues like Who Is The bigger Dick? alongside How Much Can We Take Before We Let The Tears Fall? The bromance, an abbreviation for brotherly romance (I presume) which describes the platonic love between two males (and will not apply in the Brokeback sense) has become a runaway success, borrowing from the buddy comedy turns of actors like Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in 48 Hours and filling the hard shell of manliness with a caramel heart, much like an eclair (lol). Now we can look to screwball-esque comedy without the expectation of a repertoire full of explosive fart gags in the way that the Wayans brothers' Scary Movie franchise taught us to expect. It's genre- bending has made (I'm told) men more open and women more forgiving of the time men spend together, now that they know that all the filthy talk is a mask for all the love welled up inside.

Going back to music and the way it can change the mood though, anyone who likes good music should see (500) Days of Summer by director Marc Webb which is a sunny but sort of grey dramedy (the term romcom will not do, this is too real). Boy Meets Girl, falls in love, Girl gets married to someone else. That is the sequence pursued back and forth at random through 500 Days. It is not a movie about the summer season, but rather the girl's name is Summer and it is she who is a mere season in the boy's life. Joseph Gordon-Levitt with those schmaltzy eyes waltzes through the phases alongside the delightfully quirky Zooey Deschanel backed by the gorgeous piano- driven tones of Regina Spektor lighting up their dull wasted days in a Greeting Card company while the straightforward lyrics of Morrissey with the Smiths underscores Curtis' vision of the nature of the modern relationship. Every song on the soundtrack seems carefully chosen and adds to the wise and whimsy autumnal feel of this feelbad feelbetter flick which is perfect for this season.


Monday, August 17


I am now certain that the world was created in conversation: God the Father, God the Son and God the HolySpirit gathered around the firmament in conference, considering how to create a lesser existence that would mirror their own but somehow would be inferior to and, thus, subject to them. And along the line, Jesus mouths with overwhelming compassion "They would be unholy, But I'd die before they let it all come to ruin." The Father and The Son, brimming with majesty, turn on him and smile: "You've got it, you've hit the nail on the head Jesus! That's exactly what we'll do!".

Abandoning all irreverence, I do think that is how the greatest of ideas and hitherto elusive solutions are born; in conversation. There are some conceited folks who will deny this and insist that they were all alone when their best ideas came to them (especially Newton who told alot of lies about that apple falling on his head to sell his autobiography), but knowing that all geniuses are mad, and all mad people talk to themselves (and permitting that talking to oneself be admissible here as 'conversation'), there do I rest my case. That is why I used the initial example of the creation of the universe- we all know that God the Father, Son and HolySpirit are one and the same.

So with that exciting bit of background information, I shall deliver to you the most important thesis ever created about man since God Himself stated "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him" (New King James Version Bible: Genesis 2, 8). I was chilling with a bunch of people, all of them female, a couple of Fridays ago. The conversation descended as usual into this cess pit of derisory condemnation of one sex by the other. Being the stand alone man, I prepared to defend my own with as much imaginative evasiveness as I could muster. You know how we men can be so inventive, stylishly parrying every accusation with astoundingly varying versions of the indelicate "Women ask for it", and expecting that shit to fly. Eventually, having exhausted every thought from "But women ask for it though, the way they act", to "Well, women have always asked for it, right from Eve in the Garden", I deflated and waited to be crucified by these fulminating ladies.

And that was when We stumbled on it. The Truth. I say we because it was a collective effort to appropriately process this metaphor and ascribe basic everyday situations to each twist and turn of what I hope will become a major twenty-first century adage.

Men are dogs. Granted. But in the best of ways, the worst of ways. The general connotation of this statement is that a dog will hump anything and everything regardless. The dog will do a poo and leave the doo for you to clean up. The dog will run away for days without a thought as to the emotional restlessness you are experiencing. And, worst of all, a dog will run after a stick and fetch it and expect you to give it a pat on the head and a doggy biscuit. Sensational. This is The Truth: All Men are Dogs. There are these natural instincts in them that propel them to want more than is their share, take more than they deserve and expect more than is coming to them. So we are in agreement right? At the same time, the Men Are Dogs (hereafter M.A.D.) lobby forgets to factor in the other side of the story. The same Dog that will take off without warning will also run miles to get help for his owner struggling for dear life in a ditch; That Dog would risk his life to battle off attackers and invaders; but most importantly, that Dog is controllable. Give a dog a bone and he's alright.

I remember one author asking the question(and I paraphrase): If you see a person with a dog on a leash, the dog stops to take a leak and the person is forced to stop, the dog stops to drop a shit and the person bends over to scoop it up, who is boss and who isn't? It's an interesting conundrum that one. I'm sure the author was in favour of the dastardly dog, doing whatever the hell he likes. But I beg to differ. The power is in control, the power is in the leash. The dog is doing his thing, making you work and costing you energy but at the end of the day, you dictate that dog's schedule. You decide when he goes for a run, when he eats, who he plays with and at the end of the day, simply because of the quality of your doggy biscuits, he will always come home. Figure out that one for yourself.

Dustin Hoffman stated with no little conviction on the Jonathan Ross show (aye, that kills off all my credibility then) that for any male-female relationship to work "a man has to be terrified of his wife". Substitute 'man' for Dog and 'his wife' for you (speaking to ladies now) and you see the picture of things in High Definition. No matter what else transpires, no matter how doggy your dog is, if you handle it right and realise that you are the boss, that you hold the leash, the dynamics change. Even though, he will fight you when you wish to bathe him, you can still get him to take a bath with the right skill. It is the same way you can get your man to spruce up if need be so long as you are tactful in your approach. You need to give your man time to roam, to gambol free and wide, to get pissed down the pub (if that's what he is into) and to throw a barking fit. You need to make him feel like he's the boss. But inside he must know that you, in fact, run things.

Of course problems arise with the type of dog you find yourself with (for breeds of man-Dogs see, the size of the dog, levels of intelligence, personal hygiene (etc etc) but the principle stays the same: All Men are Dogs, granted. Now deal with it and stop complaining.

What's the point of this? You cannot suddenly change your man into a naturally monogamous penguin who will date the same mate all their lives and go as far and wide as possible to bring her the perfect pebble on the beach (I watch too many movies- this one's from Good Luck Chuck) but you can cultivate his loyalty. Men are Dogs, I cannot say that enough. And most men like to think they are top dog as well, so they will play even faster and even looser with your emotions than you can handle. All that is required is that you master your dog and keep him 'terrified'. This involves careful nurturing, several months of cleaning up shit, endless hours of shouted commands going unheeded, unimaginable expense (emotional currency that is) but ultimately you will get to the point where all you get from your man is love and adoration and vice versa.

Unfortunately I am no life coach and all I have is my philosophy. I will refrain from offering any 'real-life'
situations on which to test out this groundbreaking theory. All I'm saying is if your dog pooed on the carpet, would you start crying about it? No, you clean it up and lock the fool outside and watch him feed you unrestrained affection the next day. Know your dog and leash him, is all I say. And lay off all that other 'I hate Guys' talk. It's rubbish. Every real woman knows how to handle a Dog.

As for you muumuu guys reading this aghast. I just gave you a get out of jail free pass. If she stresses, just tell her The Truth- All Men Are DOGS.

PS It just occurred to me that Men Are Dogs can be acronymised (sic) as MAD. Random. So you can go ahead and call this a MAD theory.


Wednesday, November 12

Little Children

I remember being a young kid, caught up in my first romance, when my love interest of the time would curse and I would, without disgust, but with a zealous assurance, let her know precisely where to dump those four-letter words (I'm talking about that great monster, the rubbish bin- before imaginations run too wild), all the while threatening to wash out her mouth with soap and hard water. She was two years older than me and already very "mature", introducing me to a few things that I only ever saw in the movies. Yes, the movies, a mother's scourge, that great bastion of obscenity and extreme liberalism. How many times did kids I know get accused of being spoilt by the nasty little box, menaced by its all-too-true isms? In portraying reality a bit more graphically than the naturally conservative ethos of parenting permits, the movies became a corrupting influence that was to be frowned upon.

Funny then, that children in movies and the arts in general are mostly deployed to the opposite effect. The movies I have watched most recently have used children to drape their otherwise noxious themes of violence and debauchery, bigotry and inhumanity in softer shades by emphasising this innocence that is much- treasured in children. As a theatrical facility, a child, firmer of belief and less morally dubious, can be an illuminating factor, clearing up the matters of good and evil, right and wrong without appearing didactic or corny were they to be viewed from an adult perspective. Even better for artistic eggheads, this facility does not need to be subtly utilised. The plot sub-text that expresses the child's impassioned defence of things we hold to be of moral value but are much too educationally liberated to acknowledge, does not need to be sophisticated when included in the storyline. Using children also invites us to scrutinise adult issues with tempered attitudes.

I had never heard of the 1996 title "Sleepers" by Barry Levinson until a friend lent it to me last month. It's a wonderful picture, none too subtle, but good all around. And it doesn't need to be subtle because the story revolves around children . The subject matter itself, sexual deviance, is one that will inspire disgust. The movie would probably have received harsher treatment (it was slapped with an 18 age certification) if the scenes of molestation and child violence were visited more visually. As it were, the story was told through the eyes of happy, frolicking kids having fun, albeit at the expense of others. It's a movie about boys in a young offenders' home, remanded because of a childish summer prank that turned sour and hospitalised a man. The slithering riddle in the underheath of this destroyed Eden of a movie is this: exactly how much brutality should be allowed behind the scenes in correctional (ahem) facilities? This is a question that can be applied just as aptly to adult prisons and jails and, on a larger scale, to places like Guantanamo Bay where the world turns a blind eye to savage injustices. And the idea that the world is turning a blind eye looks so much more wretched because the sufferers here are children labeled bad rather than desperate adults labeled terrorists.

"The Secret Life of Bees" is another surprise package which I just watched (I mean that in a good way since surprises are not always good as I found out a few frames into How To Lose Friends And Alienate People). The characters are pursued with skill and solidity and the story, though sappy at times, contains enough substance to convey the moving message of a lost child finally connecting with her roots, against a socially- charged background of racism in America's Deep South of the 60s. Dakota Fanning plays the child here with depth and poise, using her wise-beyond-her-years eyes to good effect in juxtaposition with a face just shedding baby fat. As a kid unsullied by the bigotry of the time, she is able to save her "coloured" nanny from certain death and to show a black family that love is complicated but still possible between races in spite of the prejudices of one to the other. Sophie Okonedo is also able to weave a bit of childish magic in her strong depiction of a child-like mentally- handicapped adult.

A lot of fantasy (movies, books etc) centres around this medium- the redemptive qualities of children, their ability to see past complications created by grown-up scheming, a salve in troubled times. This is possibly what causes many to see the story of Christ as fantasy, because he idealised children as the epitome of purity. The Chronicles of Narnia are loosely built around themes of Christ and Christianity and all the main protagonists are children. "Prince Caspian", the latest installment, is very warm, and better than the box office has accounted for. But it is the primary role of the children as saviours of a Narnia in the grip of usurpers and foreigners which is of interest to me. The secondary theme of foreign occupation is very much relevant in light of the US occupation of some parts of the Middle East. Where are Edmund and Lucy to tell the United States to back out and stop imposing their foreign rules on others? If only it were that simple.

The fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials (Phillip Pullman) which goes even further by examining an attempt to subdue this innocent power exclusive to children (through a sinister sounding process of "intercision") by the powers that be, so as to aid force-fed religiosity, has a pre-pubescent girl as the heroine. A girl whose main skill is lying. But this is blotted out by her innocence, that precious rambunctious gift that is lost forever once we cross into adulthood. Even JRR Tolkien makes his main hero (in LOTR) not the hardy- hearted and chivalrous Aragorn, but Frodo who is by and large an incarnation of a little boy. His confusion in choosing between good and evil sometimes can be blamed on the interfering emotions of adulthood, his sudden entry into the real world of Blake- esque experience.

Even in real life, children are an emblem for innocence and purity. Children accompany footballers into stadiums to symbolise fair play. Parents sense a shift in their world view once they have to raise a child. They find something worth fighting for because they see in the eyes of their little ones a promise that there's a bit of all right in the world. Sometimes the sight of a child will stop a mugging, or sometimes a murder. The movie "Children of Men" goes so far as to present a world set in the future without children. A covert mission is then assembled to aid the escape of the first baby born in several years, a sign of hope, safely to a holding house. These motifs are clear in what they are trying to tell us: children have souls that need protecting because their unsoiled, egoless enthusiasm can broaden that thin line between love and hate.

Ah, but back to my particular childhood. That girl, the one I mentioned earlier, she made me watch "Barb Wire", a 16 certificate movie, way before I was ready. "Barb Wire" features Pamela Anderson in leather-clad glory. That was the day i think I uttered my first expletive.


Wednesday, November 5

Audacity of Hope: The Movie

I have a Dream that one day in the no too distant future men and women of every creed and colour will sit down in a cinema and watch a biopic of the instant legend Barack Obama, purveyor of hope extraordinaire. This particular aspect of the dream does not require one to shut their eyes too tightly to imagine that it will indeed come to pass, with soft murmurings of "Impossible is Nothing". The rather more fantastic aspect of this Dream is my wish to be the director, the helmsman of such an ambitious project. Such is the inspirational effect of the Obama movement that I, an Igboman steeped in the traditions of Iweka Road, hub of the nonsense- fueled industry that is Nollywood, the Nigerian movie market, can aspire to the heights of actually shooting a picture about a man who has been making history since he spoke so eloquently at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Scratch that, since he was elected the first black president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

Anyway, one can but dream.

I saw a slideshow on the BET website listing possible actors for roles in a Barack Obama movie. As I had already been contemplating this possibility, I went off on a tangent and decided that I would put together this movie in my mind in readiness for that not-too-distant future when I might be called upon to call the shots on what could be, if voter turnouts on November 4th are anything to go by, the highest grossing film ever. If you want to see BET's picks for the characters, refer to and enjoy their take on events. I decided to go one step further and structure the entire movie with plot, setting, budget, the works based on today's market.

One must begin at the beginning though so I pondered on an apt title. A box office draw. Films like The Shawshank Redemption have been hampered at the box office by their overly cerebral, ponderous titles. At the same time, the Quantum of Solace set about demolishing box office records despite a name that is more tongue twister than cinema gold. The draw is in the brand and the Obama brand is strong. Moreover, the ever prepared Senator has already provided several possible titles strong enough to plug a movie charting his stride to the White House. Audacity of Hope, the title of his bestselling book, is a sure banker as is Hope. However, Dreams From My Father, which adorns the cover of his lesser known but equally bestselling memoirs does not, for me, capture the essence of the Presidential campaign. Yes We Can is too uppitty and rather more suited to a West End musical, as is Change We Can Believe In which would come off as didactic and synonymous with a BBC documentary.To give my movie the Nnamdi Awa-Kalu stamp of originality, I toyed with "The Colour of the White House"; I like the suggestive double entendre. For punch, one can never discount a straight- talking "Barack", but Obama is a lot more of a character than one line can convey so I finally settled on "40 Years Later" to reflect the context of the Civil Rights movement as well as the lifespan of the man.

Ok we're getting tasty now. The maltesers sugar rush is building. I had to then decide on who to play the characters. BET picked Harry Lennix Jr., the actor who plays Monica's father in Love And Basketball to take the lead, and to be honest, though I have never seen him do anything masterful I am aware that actors like him can often reinvent themselves spectacularly for roles like this, especially in biopics (ask Forest Whitaker). I would personally prefer Don Cheadle, who, were he a couple of shades lighter would fit the bill perfectly. He can play Obama Sr. However, Will Smith is certifiable box office dynamite and a good actor to boot. He has the voice and delivery to step into Obama's dulcet-toned shoes, a suitable blend of the gray and black of the president- elect's hair colour, and above all, pointy ears. Anyone who has seen Pursuit of Happyness will also know that the man can act.

For the rest of the characters, sassy Regina King (voice of the Boondocks' Riley) as picked by BET, would make a terrific Michelle O (why didn't I think of it first) and not only because she has worked with Will Smith before (Enemy of the State) otherwise Sanaa Lathan or Kerry Washington can do it. Jeff Bridges can reprise his role as "the Dude" in Big Lebowski for the role of Bill Ayers in real hippy style, Jamie Foxx can play Martin Luther King as he's a great actor and the totally hilarious Kat Williams will assume the role of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright for real laugh-out-loud moments. As the other major players, nobody is taking Sarah Palin away from Tina Fey who sent her up on Saturday Night Live like nobody else could. And forget Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones has got be George Bush. John Travolta gets Bill Clinton (go watch Primary Colours) and The Weakest Link's Ann Robinson can learn an American accent and play Hillary. I cannot think of anyone to play McCain. Damn.

The movie itself will play out like this- starting out as the credits roll in with Obama's speech in New Hampshire where he brought the house down with his power of oration, Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come palying softly in the background as the scene shifts between Nashua and the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC where MLK delivered the I Have A Dream speech 40-odd years earlier. In the opening scene, Obama wakes up from a nightmare in his Chicago home on the eve of the 2004 Democratic Party Convention where he is billed to give the keynote address that will launch him into national consciousness. Michelle Obama soothes him through what appears to be a recurring dream- he keeps seeing MLK on the balcony, the bullet ripping through his ear, Jesse Jackson's arms flailing and MLK whispering something incoherent to him. Then the keynote address itself and Michelle Obama, pithy and supportive, murmuring "Don't screw it up, buddy" as Obama approaches the lectern. As the speech finishes and applause rings loud and long, with newsreaders' voices providing a voice over ("the junior senator from Illinois today confirmed himself a rising star of the Democratic party") that fades into the background, we see a young Obama (Jaden Smith) attending school in Indonesia, young and gleeful. The movie quickly speeds up to see a teenage Obama (played by Will Smith- that man can play any age from eighteen to fifty without need for makeup) playing basketball and then arguing with his grandparents about his heritage and eventually experimenting with drugs. In his college years, he will ask to be called Barack instead of Barry and one troublemaker will quip "So you think you're Muhammed Ali now huh, did any Vietcong call you n*****?". Young Barack, showing the signs of the calm statesman to come will retort "This is a change I believe in". And on the movie will go to cover his mother's death after which he starts to have dreams about his father prompting him to travel to Kenya to seek out his other family. It will feature one love scene where after a while under Michelle O's tutelage in a Chicago law firm, he finally seduces her and takes her home for one-on-one time (the scene just writes itself- Michelle O screaming Yes He Can and whatnot). And then thereafter, it's all political as Obama's career as a public servant takes off. The whole idea will be to present a humane side to the Christ-like Obama reported in the press. We'll see him argue with his wife and lose, suffer at housework, and worship in church where Kat Williams' take on the audaaaaaaaaaacity of hope will be riveting. He will be haunted by the MLK dream throughout the film but also comforted by dreams from his father, offering wise words he never experienced in real life. Don Cheadle will have a booming laugh and smoke a pipe in this role. It will of course climax at the Democratic Convention of August '08, 80,000 gathered in affirmation of Obama, and then peter out with handheld camera footage of a scene from the victory party in Grant Park, the crowd watching Obama's speech on a jumbotron as O promises Sasha and Malia a puppy. Yes I have given this a lot of thought.

Ah, but to dream.

I shall try to write a play or something once I can summon the courage. Until then I have to hope that this "movie" will be made an even greater watch by a strong first four years in office that deliver on all the promises of Obama's campaign. G-Obama!