Eminem ‘Space Bound’ in suicide video

For the most part – I love Eminem. It’s a conundrum, see, because I completely abhor his attitude to women and gays in general.

But I also find him to be a lyrical genius with a mastery of the language that is unparallelled in the world of hip hop. He’s a powerful voice and a powerful actor – and he also has a sense of drama that I find intoxicating.

Anyway, my fan-girl-ness aside… His new video for Space Bound is no exception to the rule. Much like with Love the Way You Lie (which is also directed by Joseph Khan) there’s a strong cinematic feel to the video. Violence, too, obviously – this is Eminem, after all, and the song is another cautionary tale of the line between love and domestic abuse.

The video starts with Eminem hitching a ride from the ridiculously beautiful former porn star Sasha Grey. In the car, Eminem splits into two versions of himself – a calmer one and an aggressive one (quite possibly a throw-back to his famous Slim Shady persona).

This continues through a scene in a diner – where Eminem check the lovely Sasha’s phone and discovers that she is, in fact, two-timing him – to a room where he attempts to choke Sasha to death, before she disappears in front of his eyes and he puts a gun to his chin. The entire story then plays itself backwards to show Em climbing into the car again.

Take what you will from it – he dreamed it, it’s a hallucination, it’s a cautionary tale, it all actually happened – it’s a powerful, powerful video.

Unsurprisingly, the watchdogs were up in arms – with anti-violence group Mothers Against Violence providing my favourite soundbyte: “Children are influenced by the things they see,” the group said. “If we feed violence, it becomes strong. Like an addiction.”

“It’s all about the money with these videos. Eminem isn’t thinking about the families affected. It’s selfish — it comes to a point when selfishness becomes evil.”

It’s shot largely in pallettes of dark hues and greys with some bright pops of colour – the neon sign, the condiments on the diner table, the door – and obviously the light that Em raps against . Khan uses intense close-ups – particularly of the actors’ faces and upper bodies – much as he did with Love the Way You Lie, which produces a sense of claustrophobia and that inescapable sense of being in-your-face that Eminem trades on. It’s gritty and intense – a great piece of directing.

Well, watch it below and see for yourself. I think it’s amazing. And that’s my Entertainment Ed voice talking, not my Eminem fan-girl voice.

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Reviewed: Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’

As always, originally published on iafrica.com.

“I promised that if I won this, I would announce the name of my new album. It’s called Born This Way.

At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards Lady Gaga picked up the Video of the Year Award and with those two lines – and the first public performance of the chorus to the album’s title track – sparked a media frenzy. The industry has been chomping at the bit since September last year for this album, and now that it’s out, does Born This Way deserve the hype? The answer: totally.

Born This Way

The cover for 'Born This Way'

Lady Gaga is the proverbial acid trip of the music world. In fact, she has an entire team – Haus of Gaga – to ensure that she keeps up the blinding kaleidoscope of her identity. So with everybody focusing on the meat dress, the crazy shoes and the Grammys egg, the album could only be one thing to succeed: obscenely over-the-top.

Sensory overload

Born This Way is a total sensory overload. It’s highly ambitious, in your face and completely excessive – and that’s why it works. There’s not a single low-energy moment; from the mood-setting opener of Marry the Night and into the iconic gay anthem Born This Way all the way through to the massive Euro-trance beats of Scheiβe and the incredible 80s/90s pop-rock feel of You and I and Edge of Glory.

Gaga and her team throw simply everything into this album. Not content to have a Bruce Springsteen-inspired sax riff in Edge of Glory, they bring out the Boss’ actually saxophonist, Clarence Clemons, to rock our socks off. And, in possibly the greatest moment of the entire album, Brian May rips into face-melting solo on the phenomenal You and I, which also samples the iconic beat from Queen’s We Will Rock You.

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Living on the ‘Edges’

So I went to see the musical Edges at the Kalk Bay Theatre last night. I took the Girls with me and we had a marvellous little excursion, which included cheese and wine and a full-on interrogation on my Wednesday night. (Girls’ Nights are dangerous, don’t let anybody fool you, boys.)

Anyway, it’s a marvellous show – all-music, no spoken dialogue – with a great and very pretty cast. It’s extremely funny, very clever (anybody who rhymes “verbal” with “gerbil” and manages to get “lupus” into a song gets two thumbs up from me) and also very moving (one song, Dispensible, almost had me in tears – I had one of those “It could have been written about me! *sob*” moments).

Edges

The cast of EDGES: David Fick, Luella Holland, Roland Perold and Shannyn Fourie. Pic by Andrew Brauteseth

I was chatting to our Lifestyle Ed this morning and I agree, it’s so great to see a quality production of a musical that we haven’t seen a thousand times before. The styling was fabulous (seriously, the clothes were amazing) and the set simple yet versatile. And the music was superb, with the cast of four supported by a wonderful pianist.

The four stars are fabulous – bursting with energy and sincerity – and they really did give it an absolute whirl.

The one thing that did irk me a little was how American they tried to make it. During the opening number the cast attempted strong American accents – but as the show progressed and they grew more comfortable, those accents disappeared. I was all for it – few things irritate me more than sketchy American accents. The show was originally written by two undergrads at the University of Michigan, so it’s obviously American enough by its very nature – I would have liked them to spend less energy on trying to keep the American accents up and rather just go with the flow.

Anyway, that aside – it’s fantastic fun. They’re at KBT until 25 June and will be travelling to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown – so look them up if you’re in the area.

* PS. Look at me go. Three posts in one day.

Review: ‘X-Men: First Class’

Just realised I hadn’t posted a movie review in a while. And this was a good one! As always, originally posted on iafrica.com.

Finally! A shining beacon of light in a movie season of bad sequels and pointless remakes!

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War – and eventually the Cuban Missile Crisis – X-Men: First Class looks back at the early days of the mutant storyline. We’re first introduced to telepath Charles Xavier and Polish Jew Erik Lehnsherr, who can manipulate magnetic fields, as boys in the later days of World War II.

X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class

Charles grows up in a rich home, convinced that he’s a freak of nature and the only one of his kind. He meets shape-shifter Raven (who later becomes Mystique) and the two forge a close foster-sibling relationship. Meanwhile, Erik suffers at the hands of the Nazis as they try to rein in his unique ability.

Flash forward twenty years to the early 1960s. The CIA are hot on the heels of Communist sympathiser Sebastian Shaw – but when it transpires that he and his accomplices have unique abilities, the CIA drafts in the leading expert in human mutation – Charles Xavier. Charles and Erik share a common enemy in Shaw, and together they team up to draft a small army of mutants to fight Shaw and his companions.

A human story

First Class is a wonderful blockbuster film, effortlessly blending massive special effects and thumping action sequences with a distinctly human element that makes it all the more engaging. It’s an extremely moving film – although it does hover on the edge of being overly sentimental at times – and is driven by a smart, witty script laced with clever and cheeky references (“You didn’t ask, I didn’t tell” provoked a great chuckle from the audience).

But it’s the performances that make this film so successful. Yes, First Class is a thumping action film – but at its heart it’s a human story, driven by its characters and their need for acceptance. Central to the film is the fascinating relationship between Charles and Erik – and these two leads provide sterling performances.

James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland) brings the quiet nobility and inner strength expected of Charles Xavier. But this is a younger Charles, one who tries to pick up girls using a pre-prepared chat-up speech and celebrates his graduation by downing a yard of ale at a pub. Meanwhile, Michael Fassbender (Jane Eyre) simmers with rage and a chilling sense of pragmatism as Erik. It’s remarkable how these two channel the older selves portrayed by Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Ian McKellen (Magneto) – their transformation into these giants is easily believable. Continue reading

Lady Gaga’s Judas video – A brief review

You know, there’s a fine line when artists/studios/labels balance when promoting a piece of work.

Too little publicity and your product will disappear among the masses, destined to either fade into obscurity or (if they’re very, very lucky) become a cult classic. Too much publicity and you over-stimulate your audience to the point where no matter how amazing your film/song/novel is, somebody else expected it to be better.

To me, this is what’s happened to Lady Gaga’s video for Judas. For weeks and weeks we’ve heard Gaga talk about how it was the most exciting artistic moment of her career. We’ve heard hype from her creative partner, seen leaked details splashed all over the media and then, of course, the controversy surrounding the track itself. And then, she premiered the video – which you can watch below. My 2c and the video itself after the jump…

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Lady Gaga’s Judas controversy

You didn’t really think I’d let this one slip through the cracks, did you?

Lady Gaga – never one to do something quietly – has released the audio for her new single Judas. Now, with a title like that you’re not going to do anything but offend the Christian community, really. So I’m pretty sure Gaga saw this one coming. If you want the background to the whole story, you can click here – but basically it boils down to this: Gaga sings about being in love with Judas. You know, the guy who betrayed Jesus to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver.

The president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights threw a small hissy fit on the matter, accusing her of “trying to rip off Christian idolatry to shore up her talentless, mundane and boring performances”.

“This is a stunt… Lady Gaga tries to continue to shock Catholics and Christians in general: she dresses as a nun… she swallows the rosary. She has now morphed into a caricature of herself”.

Let’s be honest – of course Gaga is trying to be controversial. It gets her sales. And attention. That’s how she rolls. Yes, I’m starting to feel that she’s trying way, way too hard to be “out there” – but it’s better than being vanilla, right?  And there is no better way of stirring up controversy than poking a stick at the Christian community and watching the feathers fly.

But surely, surely these people should realise that they’re being baited? When she dresses like a nun, or swallows a rosary, or covers herself in blood or sings about being in love with Judas, Gaga is trying to get a rise out of you.

And that’s okay. Her soul does not need to be “saved”.

She’s a musician, and much more of an artist than other mass-produced pop acts. If she wants to express herself in a particular way, then let her. Just as the person on the street is allowed to preach in favour of Christianity, she is allowed to use it to as a metaphor.

All of the religious rubbish aside – I’m not particularly impressed with this track. It’s a thumping dance track and is going to be a massive, massive club hit – it’s a powerful track. But it also sounds a hell of a lot like Bad Romance – and still has quite a solid early Madonna feel. But, much like every other song she’s ever written, it’s probably going to grow on me in a massive way.

I just can’t wait to see the video – she’s apparently starring as Mary Magdalene. That’s going to go down very well.

Reviewed: ‘Blue Valentine’

For a number of reasons, one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever had to write. Originally published on iafrica.com.

Blue Valentine“What’s the point of it all? I’m going to die alone, anyway.”

Possibly not the feeling the average cinemagoer want to have when leaving the theatre – and so seeing Blue Valentine on a day where you’re feeling a little down is probably not a great idea.

But despite the fact that it’s a melancholic, ultimately exhausting viewing experience, Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is one of the most hauntingly beautiful films of recent years.

The film traces the disintegrating marriage of Dean and Cindy, a working-class couple with a small daughter. Cindy is a hard-working nurse at a local hospital, Dean is a housepainter who cracks open his first beer at 8am. Within the first few shots of the couple and the way they interact, you’re already wondering what happened. How did they end up together, when it’s obvious that they’re so badly suited?

The film tells their past and present through a series of flashbacks, from their first tender dates to the moment they realise their marriage is over. It’s a slow disintegration from the heady days of an early love – and a rushed marriage – to a bizarre tryst in a seedy sex motel. Ryan Gosling strums along to his “goofy” rendition of You Always Hurt The One You Love, and it’s a tragic reminder of the future you know is coming.

That’s the overwhelming sense of the film – that you know what’s coming, the bitterness, the tiredness – it ultimately feels futile. Yet there’s still a part of the viewer who begs for a happy ending, some sort of cathartic resolution for the pair and their once beautiful love. Continue reading