The Halloween Charts

Happy Halloween! I’m going to a series of house parties tonight and then a club in town, I won’t reveal which one, after all I have so many avid fans. My costume? A viscerate transvestite prostitute, risen from the dead of course. As a treat for you, here are my Top 7 Halloween Inspirations:

1.Marilyn Manson – everyday is Halloween for this mock-shock-frock-rock star. How does he get his white foundation so good? I suppose he has an entourage. The queen of disposable teens comes in at number one. Well done Marilyn.

2.Christopher Lee – whether he is Dracula, Saruman, a James Bond villain or Lord Summerisle from the Wicker Man: Mr. Lee never fails to terrify. 86 and still going strong, a living silver screen legend.

3.Grace Jones – Pull up to the bumper in your long black limousine. She's sitting in a car outside your house right now.

4.Donnie Darko – the house party outfit that inspired a generation. No one can beat the way Jake pulls off the skeleton top and grey hoodie though. And Frank has to be the coolest accesory for the mentally infirm.

5.Alice Glass – the lead singer of Crystal Castles, she only shops twice a year from Salvation Army and so inevitably looks the part for Halloween in her ripped red tights and faded black Ts. Sex symbol, indefinitely, just Tell me what to swallow.

6.Jade Goody – Is there anything more disgusting? Possibly what is more disgusting is when TV shows us the orifices of drunk, over-weight, argumentative, illiterate girls...oh no wait...

7.Greggs – admit it people, Greggs is very scary. Apparently the third most common nightmare after falling and being chased is going into a town where Greggs is the only eating option. The beef and onion pies are COMING TO GET YOU!

Check out this Halloween Bearbrick below. So cute.

Words: Jack Cullen

Woss The Problem?

Jonathan Ross ‘offends’ people. Who? Who does he offend? And what else is he paid for? We can go on Wikipedia if we want to know the banalities of a celebrity’s life. That's why we stopped buying Smash Hits magazine when we turned 13. Nobody is interested in Kelly Brook's favourite month and why. Well, perhaps Parkinson would have been, may he retire in peace.

The Telegraph felt Ross was rude to Gwyneth Paltrow in April when he asked her if they could have sex and then suggested she was “gagging for it”. Ultimately most of these celebrities go on chat shows for their own publicity and consequent demise anyway. They all take offence too easily as well. Do you see Patti Smith appearing on Jonathan Ross’s show? Of course not, she has integrity and talent that cannot benefit any further by soft evening television.
He once asked David Cameron if he ever masturbated as a teenager thinking of Margaret Thatcher in stockings. I thought it was quite a witty question really, and revealed sharp interview acumen. Politicians are puppets in a crap pantomime anyway, are we supposed to pretend those fat boys in parliament had no adolescent masturbatory experiences? Nobody cares what David Cameron has to say on TV about ‘real’ matters like education or the NHS. All a politician can say at best is ineffectual jargon, which is why I am all in favour of punchy and obscure questions, these tangents can often create a more accurate image and lead towards some sort of truth.

When Ross boasted that his £6 million annual salary was worth "1,000 BBC journalists'', just after 2,000 job cuts had been announced, again The Telegraph documented how ‘offensive’ this was. Really though? Being paid £6 million for chatting shit on a show is of course a joke, but we the viewers are the butt of that joke. Can we expect Ross to decline constant pay rises? He has been in the business a long time too, and has genuinely worked his way up through innumerable TV programs. If we all went for country walks and played Connect 4, then sure, his ratings would sink and so would his wages. But fortunately for him we are all really, really sad, and want to hear about how Sienna Miller opts out of knickers.

Jonathan Ross is a talent, he is also a part of Britain’s extended family. So if you imagine a fiver from your uncle in a birthday card, and then multiply that by the country – you get Jonathan Ross’s wages. I’d rather my taxes paid for his swimming pool to be licked clean while his kids go skiing than for the purchase of landmines or feeding Ian Brady in prison.
One bone to pick with Ross though: Did you really need to spend £2million in auction for the car registration plate RO55? Would you not have felt better maybe doing something for charity? Something for the thousands of citizens too poor to watch you mildly offend people.

Words: Jack Cullen

Sugababes: Round 6

Sugababes make good quality pop music seem so easy. Their hazy harmonies and tight rhythm ensure that they deliver each and every time. I have nothing against Girls Aloud, but it is pointless making comparisons. Cheryl Cole’s crew make leggy, lippy relentless dance floor pop, which has its place, but Sugababes offer an entirely different package that is more chilled out, classier and effortlessly cooler. Here are my first favourite tracks from their fresh and zesty 6th album Catfights and Spotlights:

Side Chick: A great number from Robyn’s writer Klas Ahlund. The Sugababes sound is really strong here, effective circling piano chords, all nestled around light and summery percussion. “If you want a sly chick – on the side chick – It’s not you and I boy – you better get your head checked”. Seriously catchy.

Unbreakable Heart: A panoramic and fateful ballad with sweeping guitar synths that evoke those sped-up shots of clouds rapidly passing through the sky. Some classic Sugababes descants appear towards the end, maybe not to the extent that I would have liked though. (Keisha joked how one of their production team suggested ‘Earth’ as a title for this album – admittedly a shit name, but I kind of see where they were coming from with this track).

Beware: A strong Bond-theme sound here, Bassey-esque grandeur and heavy clockwork-like percussion. Amelle takes the lead, showing off her huskier and darker voice, revealing her unique offering to the trio in its current climate.

Sound of Goodbye: Again a very awe-inspiring and epic song that builds this worldly sense that Sugababes are on a quest to destroy the one ring! Nice backing vocal arrangements.

Bad track? Hanging on a Star: The ranting-chanting parts at the beginning are too far into Fergie's territory and the chorus melody is camper than David Schwimmer, I can just imagine Red Coats devising dance routines on their bunk beds.

The only other disappointing part of the album is Taio Cruz chirping away on She’s Like A Star. I like my Sugababes chic and sour, too cool to collaborate with random R’n’B personalities and too cliquey to have guests on their album. I suppose everyone has to do their bit for charity, but surely summer smash Come On Girl is still paying his bills?

Words: Jack Cullen

D / K / ‘n’ / Why?

While reclining on the sofa earlier I pondered over the famous ‘things come in threes’ concept that plebeians and TV adverts bang on about all the time. For example, good-bad-ugly, beginning-middle-end, father-son-holy ghost, the brass monkeys, Sugababes, lions, Olympic medals etc. Well I wanted to find my own personal trio of something, to contribute personally to this pointless numerical speculation, and I came up with DK:

Dorling Kindersley, Donkey Kong and Donna Karan.

To me these three characters operate symbolically as childhood, adolescence and now. They represent learning, playing and yearning. They express the embryonic stages of my mind, the nihilism and unproductive time inflicted by Nintendo, and finally the oddity of young adulthood.

Dorling Kindersley brings fond childhood memories of school, rooms filled with lots of light, and bookcases packed full of those big white non-fiction entities. Jungle animals, oceans, space stations, tanks, ancient Egypt… you name it. I remember a boy called Harry who was absolutely besotted with his DK cross-section of a ship book, it was bizarre. But importantly, I remember looking at DK books and realising that they were not for me. There was something I found so nauseating and sterile about their factual content and their strive to inform. I was slightly scared by the overall view of life as a banal infrastructure, with dull little cartoon crowds lifting pyramidal megaliths or a faceless person standing absent-mindedly next to a blue whale to provide scale. DK helped me to understand that I was different. Unlike most boys, steam engines didn’t do it for me; C.S.Lewis had already won me over.

Donkey Kong was the pinnacle of childhood cool, but like Dorling Kindersley, I was never a subscribed member of Donkey Kong's following. My parents never permitted me computer game consoles (something that I now appreciate as an insuperable blessing) although consoles have featured throughout my life in school common rooms, friends’ houses and later student lets at university. I remember sitting upstairs in my cousin’s bedroom playing Donkey Kong on her Game Boy one Christmas and feeling so rebellious because I knew that I was supposed to be chatting to my senior relatives. There was something so tropical and absorbing about smashing barrels against a background of green palm trees, the cheery and sonorous Nintendo music, and the wealth fantasy of obtaining all of the golden letters. I also remember sitting in the back of a car with my friend TJ playing Donkey Kong on the way to Alton Towers. I loved the Warhol ubiquity of DK too. The kids of billionaires sit on beanbags by their swimming pools playing the same Donkey Kong that kids on rough council estates play.

Donna Karan is the final part of my DK trilogy. What I like about her is her success story: how she started out picking pins up for Calvin Klein and then built herself up to be one of the world’s biggest labels. She has won an unprecedented seven CFDA awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award upon her 20th anniversary. Although Donna is still the chief designer at DKNY she sold the company to luxury conglomerate LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton) for a reported 643 million US-$. Despite the admirable nature of this success though, Donna Karan perhaps embodies for me the closing of childhood’s golden gates. The realisation that something big is going to happen. Despite Dorling Kindersley's non-fiction mission - his books are actually quite unreal. Similarly the sapphire-blue skyscapes that Donkey Kong flings himself across do not exist. Donna Karan does though. She's empirical and very real.


Words: Jack Cullen

Burn After Watching?



Some viewers will be impressed with John Malkovich’s performance, where as others will be left wondering what Victor Meldrew is doing in a Hollywood blockbuster
......................................
Often depending on a heavy orchestral soundtrack, energised by dramatic and barbaric percussion, to strengthen the film’s attempt to be a thriller, Tilda Swinton is the only actress to cut the mustard in Burn After Reading: dominating all of her scenes, she is easily the most masculine character. Her performance as the over-stressed, power-dressed and machinistic divorcee-mess makes the film worth watching. Her authoritive ease with language and perfect delivery of expression is invariably strong.

Unfortunately the weak script full of cavitous humour begins to singe Burn After Reading, it is riddled with “Oh my God!”s and “”What the fuck!”s, too many easy laughs are cashed-in on with a two-dimensional satirisation of contemporary America with its high-energy TV personalities and plastic surgery fixation. What is enjoyable is the momentary attention paid towards nostalgia and kleptomania in relation to identity, the whole picture is riddled with references towards the paraphernalia inside wallets, college photos that depict innocence and the individuality brought about by sartorial choice.

Brad Pitt comes across as problematic, relying on his instant popularity with mainstream viewers, his acting hides behind humour but seems almost amateur in places. Is he self-consciously casting himself as a loser in films these days? Perhaps it's his own way of counter-acting ageing and diminishing beauty, if only he could grow into some mature actor shoes like DiCaprio has managed to do successfully in recent projects. Burn After Reading treats its viewers to at least three scenes with Pitt dancing without inhibitions to music in his headphones, and the popcorn-scoffing ladies in the audience burst into annoying erratic laughter each time.
The Coen brothers are well-known for their films in which genres blend together. Burn After Reading is certainly enjoyable, Emanuel Lubezki’s assistance with cinematography is a major attribute, as are McDormand’s and Swinton’s performances, but the film struggles to combine the comedic with the sincere, instead holding an unsatisfying grip of either. Having said this, I did enjoy the film, and would possibly give it a second chance when I have more time. (7/10)
I DONT BELIEVE IT: Not only does Victor Meldrew look like John Malkovich but he pre-empts Burberry's Autumn/Winter 2007 collection.
Review and Words by Jack Cullen

The Lion, the Kitsch and the Warhol

Like every good citizen, I love Crystal Castles. Their album was a soundtrack to my summer and looks well set to still frequent my headphones this winter as I march about to lectures in the dark. I relished their razor-sharp appearance in the woods at Latitude festival too, I’ve never felt so young, and my photo of lead-shouter Alice Glass is incredible!


I’m not sure where I stand on the whole plagiarism/theft/sampling debate though. Lots of indie kids’ fingers have clearly been at hard work typing their plight of Timbaland’s ‘illegal’ sampling of the CC song Courtship Dating for the intro of 50 Cent’s Ayo Technology. I think both tracks are great, and different, but more importantly – Crystal Castles utilise masses of other people’s ideas.

Firstly, they use Chanel’s logo. There probably are a few hundred adolescents who are oblivious to the logos’s high fashion origin, but no matter how much I love CC’s raw electro pop music, I don’t quite see them succeeding Chanel in the product-recognition stakes. There are thousands of aspiring graphic artists out there, all desperate and poor, so why don’t CC commission their own logo? Unless I am incorrect and Crystal Castles members Alice Glass and Ethan Kath are actually in their old age, have been around underground for decades, look fantastic thanks to Nivea, and have actually had their logo stolen yonks ago by Chanel. I can just picture Karl Lagerfeld in his youth, clad in a then-pioneering fluorescent new-rave anorak over a BORN IN THE 1880s t-shirt, gripping a Smirnoff Ice as he head-bangs to Crimewave in a disused railway tunnel, circa 1952. (Below is a photo of Karl Lagerfeld at a Chanel launch with the Crystal Castle's logo hanging from the wall with Third Reich glamour)


Secondly, the Madonna-and-bleeding-eye image on the front of their album (pictured below). I’m sure this is meant to carry some kind of wafery anti-establishment relevance, but Crystal Castles forget that Madonna was once an enfant-terrible herself, breaking into Sire Records and yelling “make me a star”, and then going on to flog millions of records about abortions and virginity.

Finally there are all the Game Boy tunes that Crystal Castles sample. I have no problem with this. Nintendo music is a deeply rooted part of our childhood indoctrination that everybody should be free to reproduce if they so wish.
I wish all the fourteen year olds on MySpace would calm down about sampling disputes though, they should be doing their homework instead of claiming to understand Daft Punk’s Homework. Plus many of the songs they angrily cite as ‘the original’ are also well-known covers or samples. It’s all part of Andy Warhol’s legacy anyway. Even Karl Lagerfeld borrows from Andy Warhol's legacy like, erm, oh yeah - his whole look.



More information: www.myspace.com/crystalcastles / http://www.chanel.com/ / http://www.warhol.org/ /

Jack of Hearts is an informal but dedicated blog written by Jack Cullen - owgigi@hotmail.com

Revolutionary Road, Traditional Cast

Richard Yates’ novel Revolutionary Road which won the National Book Award in 1962 is coming to our cinemas in January, starring (and reuniting) Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

Director Sam Mendes has already swooped Oscars for American Beauty. He’s also married to Kate Winslet, which probably came in handy for Kate when she auditioned. I wonder how Mendes feels about Leo sleeping with Kate all those years ago though, when she was more beautiful, not to mention the intense sex in the back of a stored car onboard the Titanic.
Leo famously sleeps with all his female co-stars. He threatened to pull out from the film adaptation of Alex Garland’s The Beach unless the screenplay permitted sex scenes with Tilda Swinton’s character Sel as well as the hot French girl.

Still, director Sam Mendes is probably cool in the knowledge that Leo got to Kate first. Mendes has enjoyed his fair share of celebrity flings, including Cameron Diaz and Jane Horrocks. Unlike most Hollywood sugar-daddies, I like Mendes, he’s only 44 and is a brilliant director, American Beauty and Jarhead are great films, not to mention his stage directing – like 1998’s production of David Hare’s The Blue Room with Nicole Kidman.
Revolutionary Road is a 1950s drama set in suburban Connecticut about a struggling couple, Frank and April, who feel they have more to offer the world than the others in their depressing neighbourhood. April has fantasies of moving to Paris that are never quite materialised. It’s a fantastic novel. Fingers crossed for the film, but you can bet it’ll be fantastic too. Mendes is great, Leo has become a strong actor now who can really tackle mature role, Winslet has always been fine, at least on the screen.
Coincidentally my housemate Leo's girlfriend is called Kate (pictured below). They're a much better looking Leo & Kate than DiCaprio and Winslet don't you think? Also, my Leo can fly planes and my Kate has a scar from a horse that chomped her, beat that Hollywood.

Words: Jack Cullen

Somali want a cracker?


Captain Pugwash would never get caught up in a psychopathic Somalian shipping scenario like this.

The BBC announced tonight that Somali pirates are holding a ship carrying a cargo of military tanks ransom for £12 million! A spokesperson from the group of pirates has threatened to blow up the ship, including themselves and the crew, unless the ransom is paid within three days…
It’s one of those situations where we usually depend on Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis to sort things out, but unfortunately this case is real and not pretend. Besides, Tom Cruise wouldn’t get out of bed and penetrate an adolescent gardener for that sort of money. As for Bruce Willis - he’s only made one public appearance in the last month and that was buying his daughter Rumer some Christian Louboutin shoes for her 20th birthday, not exactly action-packed stuff.

What fascinates me most about this Ukrainian hostage situation is how we still use the word ‘pirates’ to indicate fire-armed thugs stealing 33 tanks. Surely they’re terrorists, or international criminals? Captain Pugwash would never get caught up in a psychopathic Somalian shipping scenario like this.

Apparently US warships have surrounded the MV Faina and a Russian frigate is on its way to help in the operation. I think America would have been better off sending Johnny Depp in there, swinging wildly on a pulley rope in Boho jewellery, someone who understands the ways of pirates.
The worrying part of the story though is the BBC’s last line “Somalia has lacked a functional central government since 1991 and has been afflicted by continual civil strife”ALARM BELLS go off in my head when I read this, it basically says “Yeah, by the way, why don’t we go to war with Somalia, they obviously need a bit of the good old western intervention”.
I don’t see Somalian newspapers talking about the hundreds of knife-crime victims the UK has had recently, and proposing to come over and sort out our “continual civil strife” (not that I read many Somalian newspapers, but I'm sure you take my point).

Maybe the whole story is made up. Who knows? It’s not as if we go swimming off the Somalian coast every weekend. Could anyone really be stupid enough to hold a military ship ransom? So - what - the Ukrainian government hand over a check and off the terrorists sail happily into the horizon, swigging rum and internet shopping for Comme Des Garcons on their wireless laptops…! ??

Talking of which, Commes Des Garcons (who are Japanese, I'd like to take this oppurtunity to educate seemingly everyone who thinks they are a French fashion house) have released their own Bearbrick (pictured below), and I really really want it. I collect Bearbricks, and have 23 to date. Thing is, they cost quite a lot. Especially limited edition ones. I wonder how I could find some cash quick. Anyone got an eye-patch I can borrow?


Words: Jack Cullen

Break the Washing Machine Vs. Break the Dawn


Our washing machine just broke, flooding the kitchen and causing all round hydrological drama. The plumber gave important instructions to my housemate Ben while I raced around trying to get a good photo for the blog. However, in the end the whole saga was upstaged by some unavoidable and massive news….

Michelle Williams’ new album is out!

Miracles really can happen. The member of Destiny’s Child that nobody cared about has hit us all with some brand new material, and lead single ‘We Break The Dawn’ seems set to be a big hit. I wonder if Michelle deliberately decided to sneak her album out on the sly during the quiet before the storm (A.K.A. a couple of months before round three of Beyonce’s indestructible solo career), or perhaps Beyonce rang Michelle up from her breakfast bar one morning like “listen up bitch, you better spew out your pathetic attempt-to-be-me THIS month or I really WILL give you something to warble about”

Michelle has already enjoyed success though, selling more than 500,000 copies of her gospel albums (The equivalent of Beyonce's record sales in the Shetlands). Michelle was the first member of DC to go solo too, recording her own stuff while the girls were still together, probably because they always let her go home early from the video shoots. I’ve done some research and she appears on her own for about 14 seconds in most DC song videos, which is seemingly about 3% of the camera attention that Beyonce’s breasts receive.
The new album Unexpected sounds good though, the beats are very now, it's chart friendly, sexy and relatively harmless. The overall sound is very much like a Jamelia album with slightly more gremlin-esque vocals and a distinctly US urban production sound. Hopefully the album will remind people who Michelle is, what with Heath Ledger's death and this year's Oscars - the white Michelle Williams has raced ahead in the google-image-search league tables.
I was going to attach the video to her new song, but nothing beats this classic clip:
She's so vexed. If it wasn't for Beyonce she'd still be working at BT Cellnet innit.
Words: Jack Cullen

Set Change


Today's blog offering comes in the bold, bald and Brummy form of a famous comedian and writer.

Yesterday I asked ten people what sprang to mind when I mentioned those two jingly and warm words 'Lenny Henry'. The response was almost unanimously "Dawn French's husband" (one taciturn layperson paused and then asked Is he the one in the Travelodge adverts?).

But the reason Lenry Henry is hot on my lips is because he is soon to make his stage-acting debut, and quite locally too at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. But the incredulity continues - he is going to be playing Othello! This mildly outlandish casting decision is clearly going to shift a lot of tickets for the forthcoming production. Although large Shakespeare productions always find large audiences. I can already smell the queues of school classes and OAPs.

Lenny Henry has had a varied and most successful career, yet I can't help feeling that the production is a bit of a cash-in and a step backwards in the sense that so much of our country's theatre is drowned in its overwhelming sense of commodity.

Although we are used to Mr. Henry's grins and comedic charm he is apparently going to take this project very seriously and approach the tragedy with the sincerity its demands. For me though it still doesn't quite cut the mustard. I wish I was around in the 'good old days' to see Laurence Olivier or Chiwetel Ejiofo in their acclaimed turns at the lead role. I suppose I'm just jealous.


Words: Jack Cullen

Without a Woman on a Bed


It seems Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana are back together again, having ended their romantic relationship three years ago, and I’m pleased for them.
2005 was a phenomenal year for the fashion duo, with D&G turning over £597 million. Mere mortals like ourselves cannot even begin to imagine the levels of intensity and pressure that must come with being at the top of such an omnipotent and globe-conquering institution. I can, however, understand how a serious relationship crisis can emerge when one is busy steering the fashion world forwards and at the same time supplying the rest of the world with their underwear, plus the added responsibility of designing Italy’s official football kits, not to mention the fickle strains of fidelity that arise when you spend your days co-existing in illustrious sunny splendour amongst the world’s most sexually alluring supermodels.
Pioneering fashion can lead into dangerous waters too. In 2007 the D&G house were attacked by governments for an advertising campaign in which the models brandished knives. Although most media figures worth paying attention to had the common sense to see that the case was quite ridiculous. Computer games that promote killing? Yes. Military adverts that promote killing? Possibly. 17 year-old waxed models holding knives in silver jumpsuits and purple Y-fronts that promote killing? Somehow I don’t think so, unless you mean killing calories through adoration-driven envy. The models probably had knives in order to cut the promo tags off their photo shoot freebies.
Of course the main reason why it pleases us to see Domenico and Stefano back together is because it further consolidates the powerful symbol that they represent. Critics will always moan about the price of high fashion, and let’s be honest, not many of us can afford it. But you don’t need to own D&G to understand the underlying message of their vision.
Through advertising, commerce, culture, sport, politics and sex – Dolce & Gabbana represent and strengthen an artistic and breath-taking perception of gender equality, sexual liberation and the changing face of masculinity.
You might catch the adolescent models with their pants down but the only force capable of de-bagging D&G themselves is the success-induced weight of their pockets.
Words: Jack Cullen