Robin Brown

Journo. Editor. Tutor. Dour northerner.

Archive for January, 2010

Adrian Chiles ‘ordered to shave beard by BBC’ – Beeb paranoia or PR stunt?

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Truly has the world gone mad. What started off as quite an amusing aside relating to the unsightly stubble on Adrian Chiles’ face has turned into something of a media mini-storm, with the news that the Beeb has ordered Chiles to shave off his beard.

Bizarrely, famous beardies such as Noel Edmonds, David Blunkett and Justin Lee Collins have come out the woodwork to support the Brummie workaholic, who fronts The One Show, Match of the Day 2 and The Apprentice: You’re Fired.

What’s not clear is whether all of this is a bit of canny marketing or more evidence of a jittery BBC worrying about upsetting, well, anyone in a post-Sachsgate world.

Exactly what sort of problem sporting a beard poses is not especially clear to me, a beard-wearer for the best part of a decade. Telling a man his face au naturel is unsuitable for the workplace seems dangerously close to me to telling a woman to go home and put some make-up on, unless she wants a disciplinary.

But the fact that Chiles is rumoured to be in poll position to take over Jonathan Ross’ chat show, pretty much the strongest piece of showbiz real estate at the Big British Castle is interesting. It’s a good bit of exposure for Chiles at what could be a fairly crucial point in his career.

Chiles’ reaction to beardgate? “Women and many gay men have told me it looks good, so it’s staying.” Wonder what Christine thinks of it.

Stay or go? Vote in my poll!

Written by Robin Brown

January 20th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Avatar reinvents a genre, and perhaps creates another

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Fittingly Avatar seems to have become more of a phenomenon than a film, with a surrounding media clusterfuck/shitstorm depending on where you get your news.

I say fittingly because, as a film, there’s not a huge amount to Avatar. Its narrative and script are a hodge-podge of more influences than I could initially nail down, but there are bits of Aliens, Dances With Wolves, Braveheart, The Emerald Forest, Ferngully and Pocahontos in there.

I don’t think this matters though, the plot is a fairly loose framework that the greatest movie spectacle of all time sits on, and inevitably this overshadows everything else.

I think Avatar is more an experience than a film as such, and the mind-boggling FX combined with 3D make it an experience unlike any other. As such, it’s more immersive than any other film I can think of, and it blurs the boundaries between movie media and gaming more successfully than any video game port.

Its set-up of introducing a human into an alien species via, well, an avatar that looks exactly like the blue animal people of Pandora smacks of a number of gaming set-ups, and the extended section where protagonist Jake learns how to control his avatar and learn the ways of the Na’vi people straight out of a gaming tutorial. Nothing really happens for about 45 minutes, it’s almost sandbox-y. When he’s sufficiently well-versed in the physical and mental demands of his new life, the adventure proper begins.

I suspect this is why Avatar seems to have had such a strange effect on people. There are stories in the press about people feeling suicidal having seen the film, when confronted with the mundanity of their own existence. And there’s an effort to set up a community based on the ways of the Na’vi tribe. People who have seen the film seem to displaying some sort of separation anxiety from the film, its alien people and their beguiling world.

Is this because of the immersive nature of the film and its 3D world? Or is it more about the disconnect between people’s aspirations and their real lives – a form of Marxist alienation made explicit by the themes and style of the film. It’s also tempting to ponder whether Avatar speaks to people on a much more insidious level concerning nature, instinct and id.

Inevitably, Avatar has been labelled variously as patronising, racist and dangerously subversive. It’s easy to understand why, there’s a hefty anti-colonialism anti-capitalist theme running through the film, and though it generally shies away from making associations with specific situations or races explicit there are some clunking lines that make the War on Terror its most obvious target.

Frankly I think most of the criticism of the film is borne of the inherent ideological threat, or stems from the modern bane of movie reviewers – the wannabe-iconoclast (Will Heaven’s witless articles actually display both) as all of the criticism I’ve read fails to land any meaningful blows on these scores.

Beyond that, sure it’s thin on plot and its politics hardly subtle, but as a cinema experience it’s in a league of its own.

I’ve always been a Cameron mark, barring a couple of travesties, because of his ability to transcend genres and redefine them. Aliens and the Terminator films all showed what could be done with a fine nose for pacing, timing and a sense of how to manipulate an audience.

And after what he’s done with Avatar – no film of a similar stripe can ever really be the same again, no Transformers or Terminator rehash can stand up to something like Avatar. The typical Cameron tropes of what makes a successful action film and cutting-edge SFX are present and correct in such a way that Avatar is affecting film-goes in a way never before seen, married to a relevant and pretty subversive message.

So, is Avatar a good film? I’m not sure yet, but it’s an unforgettable and entirely novel experience. Cameron has again reinvented a genre, and perhaps created another one.

Written by Robin Brown

January 19th, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Film

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What does Adrian Chiles look like?

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Adrian Chiles seems be the word on everyone’s lips at the moment, with rumours abounding about his personal life and the MOTD2 and One Show frontman’s extraordinary facial hair pinging around the web.

Personally I like Chiles – even though he’s horribly overexposed and The One Show is beyond critical description – and have done ever since he made business news compelling viewing on Working Lunch about 15 years ago.

But his gingery, unkempt beard seems to have been the final straw for many people, who are busy voicing their displeasure on social networks across the land.

‘Tramp’ is the word that most frequently occurs in relation to the hirsute Chiles, and it’s probably the kindest. As a fellow beard-sporter I sympathise with him.

But as a human being I cannot help but recoil in horror at the reddish monstrosity nesting on his face. To my eyes he looks like an arctic explorer, lost and feral, forced to feed on the blubber from a whale carcass. What do you think?

Here’s some suggestions from around the web (the first three, and among the best, are from mates of mine) as to what the beardy Chiles looks like:

• Come on Chiles, have a shave. You look a mess, man. Far from the intended ‘rugged’, it’s more ‘hungover bear’.

• Flicked to MOTD2 during break in the snooker – aaaargh. Adrian Chiles has a beard. He looks like a homeless Henry VIII.

• Adrian Chiles’ beard makes him look like the violent alcoholic captain of a Victorian steamship.

• Adrian Chiles’ beard is ridiculous….is homeless? kipping on a mates couch? he looks like the leader of his own cult

• The unshaved look may be fashionable, but it still looks crap in orange on a chubby bloke

• Oh Adrian Chiles, with your big comforting face. It’s as if you have a massive battered old armchair instead of a head.

• Watching #MOTD2 wondering why Adrian Chiles has a beard? He looks like an obese bear grylls!!

• Adrian Chiles looks like he’s gone feral!

• I actually like Adrian Chiles, but he looks even more like a scrotum with that beard

• Also, #MotD2 appear to have dragged Adrian Chiles out of hibernation. WTF, dude? Don’t you wash before going on tv? Sheesh…

• I think Adrian Chiles has really got into #wallander – he’s looking more like Kurt every week

• Not at all sure about Adrian Chiles facial fuzz on #motd2 He looks like Oliver Reed in Castaway but without Amanda Donohoe in the nip.

• Adrian chiles beard on match of the day 2, what the fuck? Looks like a care bear sex offender.

• Adrian chiles’ beard makes him look like an ewok.

• Adrian chiles, sort your facial hair out, quite frankly, you look like a tit!

• Adrian Chiles’s head looks like a potato carved by an idiot.

UPDATE: Dave Quinn ups the ante:

• Adrian Chiles still has a beard. His head looks like a partly deflated volley ball that’s fallen into a Hoover bag.

UPDATE 2: Another!

• Is it just me, or is Adrian Chiles starting to look like a fat version of General Madine?

Written by Robin Brown

January 18th, 2010 at 10:20 am

New forehead, new danger

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This is my entry for the David Cameron – Airbrushed for Change website, which has been busy adapting Conservative Party print and billboard ads that showed a somewhat digitally-enhanced Cameron. The spoofs picture Call-Me-Dave Cameron next to a series of doctored slogans unlikely to feature in official Tory Party ad campaigns.

A slew of spoofs have hit the web to mock Cameron and Tory party policy, though it all seems to be in good fooling. Gordon Brown certainly seemed to think so when he unexpectedly slaughtered Dave over the poster on PMQs.

Those with a spot of historical election knowledge will spot the reference in mine to Saatchi & Saatchi’s infamous Demon Eyes ad from 1997. It seemed appropriate to adapt that original Conservative attack ad in having a pop back at Dave.