Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

A Tim Burton movie without Tim Burton, glossed with nice fashionista touches and washed down with weak politics

Although classed as straightforward fantasy, really Imaginarium resides within a realm of magic realism, set against a grimy London backdrop less believable than that of a snow dome. It is difficult to criticize Terry Gilliam’s colossal film though because it grants itself such a dazzling carte blanche with regards to (brutally mainstream) experimentation and (largely unsustained) extended metaphors. Confused? You should be. This movie is hard work, and that’s not to say it’s particularly intelligent.

Thankfully Heath Ledger is as strong as ever, bringing together the linguistic craftsmanship that he first demonstrated in Brokeback Mountain and the atmospheric acupuncture that allured us all in The Dark Knight. Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell make a good collaborative job of the scenes Ledger sadly didn’t live to shoot, even if Farrell’s performance leaks a teeny Irish twang.

However one relative newcomer in Imaginarium, Andrew Garfield, disappoints. His performance looks at worst - improvised, and at best - like watching a rehearsal. Garfield’s movements are wooden and his lines are unconvincing. Luckily for him, the movie’s arthouse aspirations will perhaps allow him to pass off these weaknesses as deliberate. I certainly hope he makes a better job as Tommy in Never Let Me Go. I had such high hopes for him, oh well.

The immortal Vern Troyer will split audience opinions too. My opinion? I think 'Mini Me' is still too hard for Troyer to shake-off, he’s firmly type-cast within comedic roles, he’s demanding on viewers and his voice grates. Is that PC? I don’t know, but Troyer certainly ain’t.

The dream sequences are by far the strongest scenes of Imaginarium – amusing, exciting and thought-provoking. The graphics are really relishable as characters drift amongst oversized designer shoes, or scramble up never-ending ladders in a pastoral utopia.

All together, a Tim Burton movie without Tim Burton, glossed with fashionista touches and washed down with weak politics. Gilliam’s writing is nothing against Pratchett or Angela Carter.

Interestingly, it is supermodel Lily Cole who saves Imaginarium and rightly becomes its major focus. Her mesmerizing multi-million beauty carries her through a slow start, but by the second half the audience are hanging onto her every word, their wish is her face’s command. She doesn't rely on her looks in a Mena Suvari sense either, but cultivates her beauty to the extent that she almost enters Bette Davis territory. Good enough to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress? Probably not, but possibly.

I guess Tom Waits deserves a mention, musical genius and all that, but most popcorn scoffing movie-goers will probably think he was John Malkovich anyway.

For my first thoughts on Andrew Garfield, read this old post on Never Let Me Go (currently in post-production and due out next year) -

QT Look-Alikes

Jack of Hearts presents a bonus post... Can YOU match these characters to the panelists on last night's Question Time?

(From top left, clockwise) 1. Declan Donnelly, 2. The Penguin, 3. Buddha, 4. Kirsty Allsopp, 5. The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, 6. Sir Michael Parkinson.

P.s. If only Kirsty Allsopp was on Question Time last night!
"And on my left here is Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, who intends to exhile and evict millions of what he supposes to be immigrants. And on my right here, Kirsty Allsopp, the presenter of Location, Location, Location".

Yes Baroness: Sayeeda Warsi Stole The Show Tonight

Britain’s online community certainly has a collective flavour. There is an enjoyably scheduled sense of direction and topicality in blog posts, facebook updates and tweets isn’t there? So far on this drab October’s agenda there has been an interesting and unusual mix of celebritism and politics: Jan Moir’s unnatural column, Cheryl Cole’s solo efforts and now Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time.

In and around these almost organised uproars, I enjoy the quirky sideshows and tangents... How can Simon Cowell be so rich and have such bad hair? Is Nick Griffin a closet gay like Martin Webster inadvertently suggests? Is Bonnie Greer actually a brilliantly acted prosthetic make-up side-project of Germaine Greer?

What interested me most about Question Time this evening was the ever-emerging authority of Sayeeda “Baroness” Warsi, who I like to call The Waroness.

Tonight The Waroness, who is the Tory’s spokesman on community cohesion, gave such brilliantly articulate and naturally considerate answers you could almost hear the whoosh of her pay rise. Of course if David Cameron comes into power then The Waroness will no doubt become a senior minister.

She’s quite a political wild card too, being the first Muslim woman to be selected by the Conservatives. The Waroness must surely be empathetic and understanding towards minorities.

Yet in 2005 her supposed empathy-slash-impartiality towards minorities revealed itself to be somewhat wavering, when her election campaign in Yorkshire showcased ideas of a homophobic slance.

The Waroness disagreed with the equality and alignment of sexual age consent, as well as attacking what she believed to be the “pedalling” of homosexuality in schools.

It was refreshing, therefore, this evening to see Sayeeda Warsi confirm her support and acceptance of civil partnerships. Presenter David Dimbleby’s reiterative insistence on asking The Waroness for her views on gay relationships being legally recognised made it quite clear to the audience that he suspected her to be a bit behind the times and lacking a few colours in her rainbow.

Of course The Waroness knows better than to say a homophobic remark in the run-up to a national election, and consequently volunteer to be Jan Moir 2 in front of a colossal BBC audience. Also, since climbing a few rungs on the Tory ladder, The Waroness will have realised just how many of the party's MPs are a bit gay. You only need to look at their work experience shadows and interns! There are usually at least five having a cigarette outside KU Bar.

Still, hopefully, she is wiser now and has learned from the backlash to her insensitivities in 2005. I think that Warsi knows the role of politicians - to serve and support the public, not to dictate and attempt to reshape communities to fit their own personal preferences.

Admittedly, her vocalised support for civil partnerships was somewhat skeletal compared to the rest of her expansive and charismatic contributions to QT this evening. Of course the focus was on ostracising Nick Griffin from British politics, and so Dimbleby spared The Waroness the discomfort of resurfacing her mistakes from 2005.

Nevertheless, The Waroness gave an impressive political performance tonight. Collected, intelligent, diligent and understanding. I’m intrigued to see where Warsi’s strengths will take her next.

JLS: "New Single" - Old Sound, "All Single" - Sound Familiar?

Why is 4Music playing a Craig David album track? I wander into the lounge and realise that, in fact, they’re playing Everybody In Love, a new single by JLS. And let’s stick to the term single instead of song, because although the company is called Sony “Music”, really it should be called Sony Sales.

The video is a simulacrum of their last video. The boys stand in a square formation that slips in and out of being a line, while doing some serious knee bending, chest patting and takeaway-server winking. The chorus line is “Everybody in love, go on put your hands up”. Did i just spew a little bit of sick onto the sofa?

Let us now compile a list of pop songs that ask that their listeners put their hands up. Actually, on second thoughts, the unlimited space of the internet means that we probably don’t have enough room to do that.

JLS did come across very well on Jonathan Ross a few weeks ago. They were positive, friendly, polite, everything good boy scouts should be. They were filmed backstage jumping up and down on a bouncy castle while on looking band members of Kasabian turned beige with awkwardness and tried to diffuse into the greenroom sofa.

Ross was very warm-hearted to the JLS boys, who talked mainly about their mums in the interview, which for me shatters any glimpse of credible pop stardom instantaneously. Do you ever see Alison Goldfrapp, Gwen Stefani, Peaches, Calvin Harris or FrankMusik banging on about how their mum still dresses them? Okay, a few obligatory words in the album thanks, but no more. Aston did a live back flip on stage which is an impressive personal feat, but hardly television worthy.

I don’t have the energy to dislike JLS. All I’m saying is, they’re very very average, and I wish kids today had more exciting acts to compare these tame crooners to. JLS would not even stand a chance in the charts against other contemporary pop contenders like Cheryl Cole, Shakira and Dizzee Rascal if it wasn’t for the mass indoctrination published by girls mags like J17, Sugar and Bliss. Magazines that come wrapped in plastic and offer a free and very shit eye shadow. Magazines that dictate how girls will part with their parents' money. Magazines that are written in their entiriety in the time it takes me to write this blog post.

Incidentally, Dizzee Rascal’s new pop remake/reprisal of Money Talks (Dirty Cash) is quite frankly fantastic, and is sounding really sassy and decadent in clubs right now. The video is quite interesting too, with Diz himself bobbing around in a sinister top hat around a book-burning fire of debauched London revolutionaries.

Going back to JLS and their invasion of girls mags… the boys are all single of course, and none of them are gay, despite editorial teams up and down Britain having their own wagers on whether it’ll be Aston or JB. Aston’s the small perky one. (JB’s one of the two who isn’t the main one and isn’t Aston, I think?)

The 90s music comeback does have several peaks, such as the mass-scale rebirth of rave classics, which Dizzee’s new song is a good example of. I also welcome a revival of slightly looser jeans, and good bodies with tennis-toned muscles being celebrated again, I’m bored of the drug-skinny lithe wrecks who think they’re attractive. That tired 'Ket Noodles' look.

However, one trough of the 90s comeback is naff and indiscreetly manufactured pop acts wriggling up and down the charts. The colour-coordinated costume travesties are sore on the eye while the cheesey radio interviews full of flat-pack middle-of-the-road desexualised answers are just intolerably boring.

Let’s hope it’s not “forever and a day” that we have to wait until JLS reach their sell-by date and join the lacklustre ranks of those forgotten names on the backs of Now compilations.

Five things JLS doesn’t stand for, but should: Just Like Steps / Jesus Loves Syrup / Jug Loads of Sick / Jumpy Little Scrots / Justifiably Legitimising Satan

Front Line Fashion: Cheryl Cole Calls The Shots On Her Own

"While Posh has been a fashion icon since 1997, she has never quite managed to unite high fashion with high chart scores"

After an embarrassing start last year as the spare part in Will.I.Am’s Heartbreaker, Cheryl Cole has finally proved that she can ditch the bandwagon of Girls Aloud as well as rise above the bland WAG'on of being married to Ashley Cole. Instead, she is now driving her own successful solo career, and all Danni can do is look on wallowingly. The catchy and chart-sharp Fight For This Love couldn’t have been released at a better time. Cheryl used Cowell’s primetime TV X-Factor platform to perform the song tonight.

Chezza is living the pop dream that close friend WAG queen Victoria Beckham has strived for and vied for over the last decade in vain. For while Posh has been a fashion icon since 1997, she has never quite managed to unite high fashion with high chart scores.

In the video to Fight For This Love (directed by Ray Kay) we see Cheryl in a striking red Balmain military jacket, worn daringly over some eye-catching LNA Noir leggings. While Madonna’s militant American Life phase came across as a bit stark and bitingly Communist, Cheryl achieves an adorable bulletproof-chic that is more reminiscent of a chocolate soldier on a Christmas tree than a Vietnam veteran. Ray Kay's video is sassy, fashionable and modern-to-the-minute.

Also in the video Cheryl pairs a very fluid and Kylie-esque loose hooded top in red and black by Alexander McQueen with some straightforward but effective D&G sunglasses. Like Posh before her, Cheryl knows that the mega gay fashion combos like D&G with his royal highness McQueen never fail, unless you’re Lady Gaga obviously.

Landing L’Oreal’s major contract was a mighty fine PR move for Cheryl, timing itself perfectly in alignment with the new single. Having appeared on the cover of Elle and Vogue over the last few months, not to mention becoming Matthew Williamson’s muse, does she yet qualify as a supermodel?

She also changes L’Oreal’s timeless slogan “Because you’re worth it” to “Because WE’RE worth it” in the recent TV adverts. Although this grammatical alteration pushes Cheryl’s charming common-touch and status as an angel of the North, it also adds a new layer of cheese to what was already the advertising world’s most cringeworthy quip.

Whitney Houston performed her new single this evening too. The diva legend, who seemed to be wired up to a battery pack, stomped unevenly around the stage clutching her ill-fitting gown against her body as if she was answering the door wrapped up in her bed sheets. Whitney's head rolled around like a dislocated shop dummy while she belted out the new tune (which sounds a bit like Hall & Oates' 80s classic Out Of Touch)

X-Factor goss:

Ricky (the latest loser within the X-Factor tournament) put on a brave face tonight as he said his goodbyes to the general public. Cheryl (who was Ricky's mentor on the show) told Dermot O'Leary that she was gutted to see Ricky go. However, fellow contestant blond heartthrobLloyd Daniels was relieved to see Ricky leave tonight, a friend claimed. Lloyd had been sleeping all week downstairs on the sofa in their ITV accommodation instead of in the boys’ room because camp and imp-like Ricky had been creeping him out, offering late night massages. Hopefully Lloyd can get a good night's sleep now, assuming he's not Danyl's type.

Below: Cheryl rocks the McQueen stripes with D&G shades

Yohjistical: So Will Yamamoto Be Staying In Motels Now?

The New York Times declared that Yamamoto’s debt totalled $67 million at the end of August following a few “ill-timed store openings in Antwerp, New York and Paris.”

Wow. How do these designers manage to spiral into such debt? And especially ones like Yohji who, as far as I know, don’t own fleets of vintage speedboats and decorate their house with real boys. Surely high fashion isn’t a game of boom and bust, but mega profit, mega-mega profit and Sega-mega Super Sonic profit?

In ‘81 Yohji Yamamoto invaded the Paris fashion scene with his mystical and minimal garments which claimed to come not from sketches but from the inner recesses of his mind. Back then he was making only 2,400 items of clothing a year and 9 out of 10 were black. Alongside Commes Des Garçons (ran by his on/off lover Rei Kawakubo), they became a polarised fashion alliance that effectively conquered Europe and America.

The West loved the oriental mystery that Yamamoto emitted, and presumably Yamamoto loved that loud occidental ping of ringing tills? Wrong. Yamamoto has told several journalists throughout his career that he has never enjoyed the business and commerce of high fashion. His clothes bring this message across quite clearly, their subtlety and strong sense of inner rest are a fashion reaction to human exploitation and global unsustainability.

When Nicholas Coleridge interviewed Yohji for his 1980s hardback exposé The Fashion Conspiracy, he found a “Nepalese hippie hawking joss-sticks… Often [Yohji Yamamoto] meditates for twelve-hour stretches in his atelier, until his assistants worry he might never re-emerge.”

Yamamoto is so special as an individual, and so unique as a designer, that nothing can really dissolve him. Gianni Versace is possibly the only other famous 20th century designer who can be discussed as intellectually and in such philosophical depth.

When the newspapers like NYT announce that Yohji Yamamoto has filed for bankruptcy, what they mean is, the ugly conglomerate umbrella organisation that showcases and sells his designs is in financial trouble. I doubt Yohji himself cares. He’s probably studying the pond currents stirred by his koi fish, or preparing dinner for Azzedine Alaïa. Or have I too simply fallen into the trap of fashion fiction and orientalism?

As for the future of Ys…

Well, the collaborative project Y-3 is still around (although more in the Harvey Nics bargain buckets than on the racks) so perhaps Adidas will buy the brand out completely and energise it with their indestructible salability?

I’m sure this Topman/Primark dictation of wearing as many different bright colours as you have limbs is part of the climate that has threatened Yamamoto. Not that many teenagers previously bought his exclusive creations. Give it a couple of years, a staff turnover at a few fash mags, and I’m sure Yamamoto’s post-Hiroshima chic will be back in full nuclear force.

English Psycho: Is David Cameron in fact Patrick Bateman?

I quite enjoyed When Boris Met Dave on More4 last week, a theatrical biopic talking heads ensemble that gave a wishy-washy but entertaining comparison between Boris Johnson and David Cameron as students. The program offered humorous reconstructed sketches of Boris and ‘Dave’ at Eton together and then as undergraduates at Oxford.

The political insight of the drama was limited, focusing instead on sensationalising and propelling Etonian myths while also indulging in the wild life of privileged students (in the controversial Bullingdon club) at Oxford University during the mid-80s.

Some of the talking heads, however, were quite interesting, notably Boris’ sister Rachel Johnson who soothed the audience’s envy and wealth fantasy with her insistence that the Bullers was uncool and that everyone there was superficial, desperate and insecure.

However, what really struck me about When Boris Met Dave, was filmmaker Toby Young’s portrayal of David Cameron and its striking resemblance to Bret Easton Ellis’ most famous literary invention (or cultural amalgamation) Patrick Bateman. Some of you will have read American Psycho, and many of you will have seen Christian Bale in the film adaptation. The similarity between Cameron and Bateman in these two films is uncanny.

First of all is David Cameron’s looks. Actor Jonny Sweet, who plays Cameron, is leagues ahead in looks than the young Cameron himself actually was. This is surely deliberate, since Boris (who is actually quite arresting and eye-catching in archive photographs) is portrayed by a lumpy and lacklustre actor. Jonny Sweet is good lucking enough to be a successful model, just like in American Psycho where Bateman is constantly asked if he models.

David Cameron’s Bateman-esque vanity has a strong presence in the program. Hardly five minutes pass without a perverse and slightly sexualised rendition of a young Cameron, dancing around his room in very high tennis shorts, singing to himself innocently like a Brad Pitt type-cast, or flicking his hair seductively towards the camera with a slightly evil and knowing smile.

Some of the program’s descriptions of Cameron have a very American Psycho ring to them – how his immaculate presentation prevents other boys from knowing him, how he is both an outsider and very popular with girls, how nobody can quite put a finger on why he is so successful, how he is very well connected, how he escapes punishment for his criminality, and most importantly – how his surface appearance ensures that his true personality is indistinguishable. Like Bret Easton Ellis's psychopathic killer, everybody knew Cameron and yet nobody knew him.
Patrick Bateman, like David Cameron, adopts a quiet and calculated tortoise-hare approach to success, and yet both become paradoxically very successful at a young age.

And now for the really undeniable simulacrum: a passion for Phil Collins.

In American Psycho the sick(ly) narration of Bateman suddenly switches a third of the way through into an unprecedented and bizarre chapter about Phil Collins. Readers are given a concise yet thorough history of Phil Collins’ career with an in-depth look at his musical journey with Genesis. What is so odd about this chapter is its autistic detail and the mundanely mainstream nature of its subject. Easton Ellis uses Bateman’s fascination with Phil Collins to demonstrate his psychopathic tendencies to his readers.

Bateman’s clean and articulate connection with Phil Collins furthers the horror of his killings, his deep appreciation and affection for a bland pop group strengthens his inability to appreciate human life. Does David Cameron reside within a surface performance of irrelevant likes and dislikes that hides his inner thoughts and feelings? Does David Cameron project an image of himself that acts as a wall between his real personality and his peers?

Jonny Sweet’s portrayal of David Cameron is the same. We see him talking about Phil Collins in a psycho-analytical way (no pun intended), as he over analyses Genesis melodies and gives people mini lectures on the peculiarities of Phil Collins’ percussion. Surely this is too big a coincidence? American Psycho is too well established in contemporary literature and film criticism for Toby Young to be unaware of the artistic mirroring? Are we being warned subliminally that David Cameron is a dangerously unknown entity? Cameron was at Oxford obsessing over Phil Collins in exactly the same years that the emblem of ‘Patrick Bateman’ was lecturing girls on Phil Collins before savagely murdering, mutating and raping them.


St. Andrew's: A Quiet Life

I visited St. Andrew’s yesterday for the first time. “Why?!” you ask. Well partly to see an old friend, partly out of curiosity, but mainly because I was driving from Aberdeen to Leeds and so St. Andrew’s made a pleasant detour. What I found was a beautiful little town by the sea, with cobbled streets, a shop that sold only Christmas tree decorations, and posh boys who wore multiple scarves and held hands with their jodhpur-clad giddy-up girlfriends. No surprise really. We all know that St. Andrew’s is the picturesque university town of princes and Polo Ralph Lauren addicts (I’ve never understood why English gentry buy an American imitation of English gentry fashion instead of just raiding their Grandmother’s attic). But visiting St. A in the flesh is an entirely different experience. It is so claustrophobic and old-fashioned that I felt like walking into a thatched pub and screaming. St. A truly is Hogwarts without the magic. As I marched down the fairy-lit streets with my heavy-duty leather jacket and my platinum blond hair, I soon became accustomed to the double-take stares from rosy-cheeked redheads and groups of cherub-like academics in rugby kits. I realised what was bugging me (apart from all the people eye-buggering me)… St. A feels like school. The students even lurk around outside Tesco looking for an alcohol supplier! (N.B. – Scottish kids go to uni aged 17) St. A is a haven for those who cannot let go of that boarding school intimacy, endless mugs of tea and that innocent denial that somewhere, just possibly, there is a world. A world where people are poor, where people are hurt, where there are no affectionate choir masters or lusty matrons, just the police, bus drivers and A&E. St. A is like a haunting post-apocalypse world in which survivors recreated society using some salvaged Enid Blyton books as a guide. I drank cider in a startlingly small and low-ceilinged pub called The Raisin, which boys on the street recommended as “pretty buzzing” on a Tuesday night. We’d already walked out of another “buzzing” establishment called The Vic, which looked like a National Trust attraction’s coffee shop. Nevermind fit for a king, anyone who'd ever consumed so much as one vegetable in their childhood would never be able to fit in there. A conundrum, considering most of the boys in there looked like assorted vegetables and letted out their own gardens as farmland back home. It's something to do with smoking at a young age I feel. The dozen or so students inside The Raisin quite obviously knew I was no local, and one even plucked up the courage to ask me at the bar where I had come from. “Leeds” I replied. “Oh, yeah, it’s pretty cool there isn’t it?” he offers. “Yes” I reply “It’s a place.” Chatting later to a girl called Hattie, I mentioned the Sugababes line-up changes, after all HEAT magazine is a global language right, but no, not in St. A. People read the Jack Wills handbook, Tatler and York Notes. As I left The Raisin I noted a sign on the door that said “Vidi, Vici, Veni” …. A joke for Classics students… It was time to find the car. By all means, St. A is a lovely little place, where girls can bake tarts and take up the clarinet, where boys who didn’t make their school rugby team can finally take it up the (okay – immature sorry). Some people must relish the ‘everyone knows everyone’ atmosphere of St. A. The lovely ‘no one can hear you scream’ vibe. If I’d gone to a rough comprehensive in Felixstowe, then yeah, I can imagine how St. A must be one gorgeously soothing four-year massage, a sanctuary of hot chocolate and corduroys. But if I’d gone to study there myself, instead of Leeds University, there is no knowing what would have happened to me. Probably one of the following: 1) I would have packed in my dreams, suppressed my creativity, bought a Jack Wills tracksuit and prepared for a lovely life of marriages, mortgages, an illicit affair with my best man and then death by JCB. 2) I would have become an insane recluse and spent the nights dressed in a long white dress scrawling poetry around the walls of my room with pig’s blood. 3) I would have torn the place down, become the Aggy Deyn of St. A, thrown massively controversial beach parties and become the town’s number 1 drug dealer. 4) I would have dedicated my life to seducing people too polite to say no, knocking various Sebs and Quentins out on whiskey, pretending I own an estate somewhere and then making pathetic love to them all night under their duvets whilst trying to ignore the name labels on their socks. 5) I would have tied a rock to my ankle and walked slowly into the sea, looking back to catch one last glimpse of a Chinese girl writing a postcard to her family, before quoting Virginia Woolf to myself, gulping in the seawater and disappearing forever. Below: Prince William let's his hair down after years of solitude and bad surfing in St. Andrew's
Disclaimer. Although Jack was spooked out by St. Andrew's and received the impression that its students felt that the world owed them a favour while simultaneously denying that there was a world, he did not actually visit the university itself, just its surrounding habit, which is mostly within arms reach of the university. Jack studied at the University of Leeds and so is perhaps biased towards large cities with a rich and varied selection of galleries, live music, theatre, commerce and nightlife et cetera.