Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Brooker’

Shockwaves NME Awards 2009

March 2, 2009

If it was the Brits last week, it must be The Brats tonight, right? ‘The Brats’ being the name they used to call the NME Awards before they became so similar that the differentiation seemed a bit silly. They’d be better off calling it the NME Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party, what with the awards having silly bozo-names like ‘Best Dancefloor Filler’. I sat through this one making notes, as I did with The Brits, in the name of balance. Here are my real-time mitherings.

First up, our hosts. Mark Watson is an affable comedian and will be hosting on the grown up stage. Taking care of the Fearne Cotton, backstage side of things, strictly for telly, is that bloke who did Big Brother’s Little Brother – the one with the self-consciously irritating hair. Jack Whitehall

No?

Anyone?

Admittedly, I had to google him hard to get the name.

Is it possible for a person to have a ‘hateful face’? You hear the term bandied about a fair bit, and it seems to be a little unfair. You should judge someone on their actions and not the way their facial protrusions are arranged, no matter how runtish their upturned nose makes them seem and no matter how weak their chin. But if they top their noggin with an annoying, Mr Whippy, latterday-indie construction, the face beneath is always going to come off badly. Anyway – Jack Whitehall isn’t very good at his job.

In an echo of days gone by, Steve Lamacq is employed to take care of the voiceovers while Watson helms the stage, with jokes slagging off Johnny Borrell. It seems slightly hypocritical of the NME to have passed those gags, what with it being about 63% their fault that Razorlight got to the stage where they could release Slipway Fires on an unsuspecting audience unchallenged.

Grace Jones arrives to present Best Live Act! So we’ve kicked off, and the first award goes to the band which is considered best at grinding out music which is too bloody noisy and badly mixed whilst in front of a room full of teenage idiots, all of whom are clambering over each other to look the coolest, dropping beer in each others’ faces and singing along with the lines of the songs, obscuring the music in the process and allowing themselves to believe that they gain some measure of kudos from memorising badly-rendered poetry. Yay!

Muse beat Kings of Leon, Oasis, Radiohead and Killers. Their drummer accepts the award, which is the coward’s way out.

‘Still to come’ says Steve Lamacq – and some adverts come on.

Next up – Best DVD. This one throws me. Best DVD isn’t very rock n roll, is it? All the live DVDs I’ve seen have only ever served to demonstrate that gigs aren’t the revolutionary gatherings of energy they’re made out to be and shows them in the more realistic light of artists deluding themselves they’re gods while an audience deludes itself that it’s having fun.

Arctic Monkeys beat Foo Fighters, Kaiser Chiefs, Rolling Stones and Muse. Dean Learner accepts the award.

Here are the Skins – those children from the kid’s drama serial (for infants). The one that shouldn’t be watched by adults because it’s for kids. They’re here to present the Best New Band award. Up for the award are tedious Sting-thieves, Vampire Weekend, those Jesus & Mary Chains for losers, Glasvegas, the criminally insane Late of the Pier, offspring of the Flaming Lips – MGMT and a band called White Lies who I’ve never heard of.

MGMT win, predictably enough, and their self-consciously kooky acceptance speech (‘it’s a jelly spider!’) doesn’t do much for me.

Presumably it’s not fashionable to refer to ‘singles’ any more, what with iTunes and the internets, so they appear to have replaced that category with ‘Dancefloor Filler’. It’s a silly name for an award for two reasons. Firstly, indie people can’t dance and, secondly, it precludes any release that has a slow tempo. It suggests frenetic indie pop, so anything vaguely leftfield or undanceable gets left on the sidelines like a fat kid at football.

Beating Crystal Castles, Friendly Fires, Bloc Party and Late of the Pier, Dizzee Rascal wins for the witless dirge he made with Calvin Harris that has the cheapest video in the history of hip hop.

Let’s have some music to cheer us up!

La Roux (me neither) and Franz Ferdinand pile onstage to kick the living shit out of Blondie’s Call Me. Jaime Winstone is dancing! Ooooh, I wanna dance with Jaime Winstone! Alex Kapranos does a grand job of flattening the entire vocal melody but blood isn’t truly drawn from the flailing carcass of the tune until La Roux pitches in with a whine last heard in a slaughterhouse. They create the second worst cover version of all time. Lucky for us, the first worst comes later on in the evening. At least Estelle and the Tings had the courtest to murder their own tunes at The Brits…

Best Album Award now – with everyone’s least favourite comedian Keith Lemon, presenter of ITV2’s woeful Celebrity Juice, actively molesting Alexa Chung as they present. Kings of Leon beat The Dancers, Glasvegas, Oasis and Bloc Party, with a recorded speech which appears to tell everyone in the audience that they hate them. Possibly the only rock n roll moment of the evening.

Friendly Fires play a song. It’s the first time I’ve seen this lot, and there won’t be a second. There are some terrible dance moves over a tune that sounds like, and forgive me for putting the idea in your mind, U2 crossed with The Klaxons, and then some Brazilian dancers come on for a booty-shake. This momentarily makes notions of suicide drift away with an idea clearly nicked off Basement Jaxx. Fill the stage with bright colours and dancing, and you might get away with it.

Best British Band! Kasabian present. The singer asks if everyone there is ‘c*nted’ – which I think is a bit rude. Cut to a shot of Muse who are visibly not c*nted, but might be very slightly stoned on crap hash. Oasis beat some other bands who have already appeared in other categories (it all begins to blur). The crowd begins to boo. It overwhelms Mark Watson. Strange, I think, that a band who kept the paper afloat whilst the (superior) likes of Melody Maker and Select magazine folded are now being booed by the crowd. The acceptance speech is amusing, pairing up Russell Brand and Gallagher, N for the first time since the former was rude on an old man’s phone.

It’s never going to end.

The child who partners Steve Coogan on Saxondale comes onstage with Steve Lamcq and they give the Outstanding Contribution award to Elbow, which seems startlingly pre-emptive. Are they writing them off the minute they hit their peak? That’s the NME all over, is that.

Best TV Show? Eh? This is a music paper!

Here’s Charlie Brooker, aka Preacherman, offering out a sitcom award at a music award show – which seems idiosyncratic to say the least. But then, when you think about it, indie kids generally spend their days sitting around at home recording sitcoms. I know I did.

Brooker says the word ‘c*nt’ and smashes the status quo. Boosh win.

We’re nearly there. Don’t fall asleep, because… …it’s time for the Worst Cover Version of All Time (see video link at the top of the age). Florence and the Who? work in unison with humourless Scotch combo Glasvegas to trample Elvis’s decomposing spine with a one chord rendering of Suspicious Minds. What results is so laughably awful, it looks like a sexual assault blooper. The Glasvegas singer begins to grope Florence with his face and soon, to distract from the musical mess they’ve made, they are hitting each other and running offstage.

We limp on to Best International Act, if anyone cares, and Killers win. Last Shadow Puppets win Best Video. The audience are now so drunk they don’t understand what’s happening and are talking amongst themselves. ‘Why are Girls Aloud here?’ they appear to be asking, quite reasonably.

Now for the promised big moment – Graham and Damon Blur reform to do a song together. With the best will in the world – it sounds a bloody mess. Albarn’s use of an out-of-tune foghorn-organ was possibly a mistake, as the one note he issues throughout three quarters of the song drowns Coxon’s guitar in a farty wash. A missed opportunity, perhaps.

Solo Artist – Pete Doherty. A token award, one feels, seeing as the man hasn’t released any solo material yet. Bridge-building from the kid from Saxondale, who clearly realises Petie D makes covers and sells papers.

At least we end on something of a high, with The Cure getting some late recognition. They play the oldies after receiving an award from Tim Burton and the audience, all far too good-looking and well-dressed to be what used to be the indie I knew, dance along.

Except, you can’t actually dance to indie. Its structure simply doesn’t allow it. They simply do that thing where you jiggle from side to side, pulling a poseur face and faking the sensation of being taken over by music. The credits roll as we watch people trying to dance to indie, safe in the knowledge that indie is best listened to on a walkman, uncelebrated at industry bashes, away from fashion victims and sponsored awards ceremonies. I’m not in love with the modern world.

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Dead Set

November 3, 2008

Contains very mild spoilers

I enjoyed Dead Set far more than I thought I would. Being something of an obsessive gimp when it comes to all things undead, I saw the trailer and my first thought was…

…zombie’s shouldn’t be fast!

How many times do we have to tell you?!

Zombies are slow, idiotic, lurching beasts. Not hyper-aware, sprinting gut-munchers! For gawd’s sake, film-makers – you’ve tried it, now let’s get back to the shambolic, staggering undead twats we know and love. It worked in 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake, to a point. But LET’S MOVE ON.

However, I now feast upon my own, over-critical words because it worked here.

The crucial difference between your fast and your slow zombie is margin for error. With a super-zombie, its ability to run at full pelt allows it to kill you within seconds. The virus will spread literally like wild-fire and your only hope, really, is to keep yourself at a massive distance from trouble and holed up securely.

The opportunities for fun multiply when you’re dealing with the traditional, slow zombie as they’re only really a formidable opponent when they come at you in numbers. The virus takes days to set in giving you time to find security. When they do eventually get to you, if you’re stuck in a room with three and have even the lightest of weapons, if you don’t freak out you’ve got a chance. You can outpace them if you choose to run or, if you time your hits right, you can kill them.

The classic zombie allegory, the one film-makers constantly strive to include in their work is based around the fact that zombies are essentially us. When coming at protagonists in hords, they represent the mob. Public opinion. The notion of habitual behaviour. Slow zombies, in this instance, represent the fact that people are catatonic in the face of outside pressures and only respond on the most basic of levels.

So what can we take from the faster, modern zombie? That we’re more clued up? Demand instant satisfaction? Are more aggressive?

It certainly adds up when you consider Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set and it’s none-too-subtle mockery of Big Brother viewers. From the cynical media-savvy watcher to the baying crowds who attend live evictions, thankfully nobody was spared. And, with kudos to Mr Brooker, beyond the premise, the execution of his central conceit was underplayed very well.

So, at the centre of the drama we have the fact that BB viewers are not only zombified – they’re also filled with a kind of aggressive, televisual blood-lust. But beyond that any didactic element was expertly hidden. Despite the fact that characterisation was limited in terms of backstory, we learned enough from their actions to grasp the point the writer was making.

Joplin, I feel, was key here. As a weary, supposedly uninterested contestant approaching middle age, he most represented the BB viewer I tend to know, and I suspect he was the closest Brooker came to scripting himself into the story. Through Kevin Eldon’s lines we got the distinct impression that Brooker feels the cynical observer is just as culpable as the less-informed viewer. And Joplin’s being responsible for literally opening the floodgates in the hectic conclusion was a blatant metaphor for where he feels the blame lies. Essentially, we allow this to happen.

The other characters, sadly, didn’t have quite the depth of Joplin. Jaime Winstone portrayed the standard overlooked herione and the rest of the Big Brother contestants weren’t given a chance to shine. Winstone’s boyfriend had some fantastically emotional scenes but, after five episodes I can’t remember his name, which means he can’t have made much of an impact beyond looking moody on a boat.

The producer character obviously had the best lines – despite being overwritten at some points. With one too many Brookerisms – referring to a PDA as a robot’s bollock, for example – he was in danger of reaching uber-stereotype proportions. But this was remedied by the amusing sight of him literally gutting former housemates with demented glee. And not much needs to be said of the symbolism of his shitting into a bucket in a confined space. It explains itself.

Inevitably, we had the zombie Davina – an idea I was hoping the makers would resist. But, to her credit, Davina makes a far better zombie than TV presenter and it was actually quite gratifying to see her whacking her head against a door – putting those twitching mannerisms to excellent use.

The real problem for anyone approaching zombie film-making in a world where even Romero himself is treading water is what novel amendments can be made to the format without polluting the genre. Fast zombies kind of worked, but have had their day. The first person perspective worked brilliantly in The Zombie Diaries and at the end of the Dawn remake – but faltered somewhat in Diary of the Dead. So one option is to change nothing but the location where the survivors hole up. The location itself becomes the source of tension. Romero was the first to twig this and located his first three movies at, sequentially:

  • The home – looking at how family, friendly and neighbourly relations were compromised.
  • The shopping mall – questioning our consumerist habits. 
  • The nuclear base – playing on fears of nuclear war and military aggression.

Placing the action in the BB compound replicates this structure. Also replicated were several scenes from other zombie movies. Picking zombies off whilst standing on the roof, a la Dawn of the Dead. The producer ripped to shreddies, guts hanging out and all, like the army boss in Day of the Dead. A winking nod to the brilliantly weird Living Dead at Manchester Morgue in the script here, a dash to the van sourced from Night of the Living dead over there… you have to question when homage becomes a tiresome tribute.

It’s this reliance on the genre archetypes that makes Brooker’s outing a worthy addition to what’s becoming a vast pantheon of quality zombie output rather than an outright, genre-busting classic. I’d imagine, to his mind, that’s probably the job wholly done.

Can we get back to the good old days of the stumbling, bumble-fuck undead now? Before it’s too late?

The Friday Question: Scary stuff

October 24, 2008

Charlie Brooker’s much-anticipated zombie homage / Big Brother parody ‘Dead Set‘ is on our screens on Monday and Hallowe’en is just around the corner. It’s generally a time of year when the channels stick a load of old horror films on, into the night, in a half-hearted nod to the time of year.

The scariest things I’ve ever seen in TV haven’t been late night horror films, however. They’ve been from far less likely sources.

Stranger danger adverts that should really have been laughable, ‘Charley Says‘ miaowing like some freaky banshee, anything by The Children’s Film Foundation… I wasn’t a particularly nervous child but all of these things gave me the willies.

So – think back and let us know…

What TV stuff has scared you silly?

NewsGush – Dead Set

August 27, 2008

An update on that Charlie Brooker thing can be found below…

Click

Personally, I’d say an appearance from Davina McCall and former Big Brother contestants automatically devalues it, but time will tell. No doubt Aisleyne will get plenty of airtime in Brooker’s bewildering, ongoing campaign to get her work…

Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe

October 11, 2007

Brooker 

Right, we’ve been skating round this one for long enough now.

Early on in the days of WWM, some little tool piped up and, in other words, called we contributors ‘Brooker-lite’. Needless to say, he was subject to a written stream of abuse and pretty much to this day the names ‘Charlie’ and ‘Brooker’ have become WWM’s equivalent of paedophilia-scat. Piss.

The main issue here is that Brooker does pretty much what we do. He slags off telly using lots of hyperbole, metaphors, cynicism and witticisms e.t.c… for the sake of amusement and largely at the expense of genuine criticism. Yet we don’t mention him on here, which is a bit weird seeing as I’m betting that most of us watched Screenwipe on Tuesday night and found it fucking funny. Why do we dare not speak his name? A sense of pride? Jealousy? Competitiveness?

Brooker has two weekly columns in The Guardian, his own TV show and is turning into a bit of a celeb. He’s fucking won already. Pretending he doesn’t exist (and we do whether you acknowledge it or not) is bizarre.

Here I go then. Firstly, this series isn’t as good as the last one.

Already I am putting myself in the firing line by suggesting Brooker has lost it, is past it, is somehow not as good as he was, when I’m merely saying he’s going over similar ground from series one and the first time round it was funnier. That’s all.

In the first series there was something self-deprecating about the way he presented himself. Innocence, if you will. He was clearly uncomfortable being filmed yelling at the TV and couldn’t help smirking at his own overacted rages. There was something rather, well, endearing about it and about him, like Stephen Fry crying himself to sleep.

Now Brooker has had a second series commissioned and probably a third because it’s jolly good, it leads one to thinking that all of his ‘oh isn’t the TV biz awful’ stuff is a tad misleading, even divisive. I mean he whacks off in perpetuity about how shit it is getting into TV, yet there he is on TV after essentially getting known through a short Saturday column in one of the less popular broadsheets. Indeed, my brother was a runner for about a year before ending up with a great job at the BBC as an editor a few months back. Yes, it can be a bit shit but doing anything for the greater good is, right?

Brooker is now becoming a pastiche of himself. Now, this needn’t be a bad thing. To be frank it’ll probably work out well but at the moment I’m still watching the transition. He’s polarised between the real Charlie, a funny defamatory TV critic, and Brooker, the shouting TV comedy reviewer actor-clown. Christ – he even tried slapstick last night.

So, this series isn’t quite as good as the last one. So what? Despite a few niggles, it’s by far and away one of the best, and funniest, shows on TV.