Children’s films from an adult perspective

It might sound controversial to say, but why can’t children’s films be for children? I’m sick and tired of taking my niece to the pictures to watch some mindless fluff involving a talking dog trying to save the world, when about fifty times throughout the film there are references – often gratuitous, sometimes subtle to all sorts of adult content, be it in-jokes, references to sex, or yet another scene stealing dialogue from hip, well-known films. I’ve seen Pulp Fiction a million times, the last thing I want is two bears to walk around in black suits like Jules and Vinny. In the time it took to cheekily nod at shooting Marvin in the face, they could have written ten more gags for their actual target audience – children, not eager parents and loving uncles who will go and see these films out of the kindness of their hearts.

I watched ‘The Rugrats Movie’ the other day (behave, it was a Wednesday morning and Pan’s Labyrinth had already been rented out.) Within the first twenty minutes there had been three penis jokes, and a thousand nods to sexual inadequacy, unemployed dads, and the slating of  ginger hair. Now I’m all for all of those things, but not in a kids film, and certainly not when I’m eager to find out whether Tommy and Chuckie are gonna save the rest of the rugrats from a killer dinosaur. This is an interesting point, as when I watch these films the story is all I genuinely care about, not whether the aforementioned duo are actually an allegory for gay rights. Serious issues have a time and a place to be discussed, but is a film aimed predominately at children really the place for it?

When I was a  young man settling down to watch Disney classic ‘The Jungle Book’ sporting my Yogi Bear jumper and permanent scowl, not for one moment did I assume that King Louie, the loveable jive talking monkey was a racist pop at African-Americans by the closed-minded Disney scriptwriters. Yet now, as an older man, with far less novelty sweaters I look back on films of that ilk and feel rather uncomfortable, especially considering at one point the King proceeds to sing ‘I Wanna Be Like You’. Under the umbrella of the racial strife and tension of America in the middle stages of the twentieth century, the song just about makes sense in a crude sort of way, but looking back now with opened eyes and with equality brewing through the world like a particularly fine mug of tea, it makes me feel rather sick.

So are all the old Disney classics tainted and smeared by the cruel hand of Father Disney? Walt Disney himself was a man of sketchy political views, and sensational moustache notwithstanding, was a plain man who rarely enjoyed fun. With this portrayal of the head honcho in mind, can we read more into the old Disney films we used to know and love? I’m unsure really, your Snow White’s, Cinderella’s and Sleeping Beauties are all films of their time, like say ‘Gone With The Wind’, or ‘Debbie Does Dallas’. That’s not to say casual racism is ever excusable, but if we once watched plastic robots fighting each other, and haggard Texan porn stars fucking each other, then who is anyone to complain really? As long as we realise that we are all equal then we can enjoy the great Disney fables as they were intended to be – stories for children to be enraptured with.

‘Up’ is a new film aimed at children which is also one of the saddest and emotional films I have ever seen. I won’t ruin it for anybody who hasn’t seen it, but the first ten minutes are filled with so much poignancy and poise that it makes so-called emotional films like ‘Juno’ and ‘The Hottie & the Nottie’ seem like the emotionally vacuous rubbish they are. It’s films like ‘Up’ which make me believe that you can appeal to both children and adults alike, not by patronising either group, just having the emotional delicacy, and wicked sense of humour that makes cinema – and especially children’s films so damn appealing.

Advertisements

Fashion Vs Football

I was sitting in my lonely bedroom a few weeks ago, when my flatmate, and a good friend of mine bounced in proudly displaying the latest ridiculous garments they had paid over the odds for, from a so called ‘fashionable’ East London boutique. Clocking my audible tutting sound, he turned to me and said “what would you know about getting excited about clothes, all you care about is sport.”

I was interested by this, because I remember when I was younger, my sister was madly into fashion and was tottering about in my mums high heels as she dipped a toddler toe into the fashion world. This was similar to me at a young age, crunching through the Autumnal leaves with my mini Doc Martens on, the Essex chill swirling around as I peered intensely into a sport’s shop wishing that the hallowed pair of Adidas Predators sitting subtly and let’s be honest, sexily, belonged to me, and that I was exactly like my hero at the time, the ex West Ham United legend Marco Boogers. From that young age, I was already beginning to notice that my interest in sport, and my sisters love of fashion were quite similar.

After my trip down memory lane, my mind began to think more about what my friend had said to me. His cutting comments about my love of sport hindering me from taking an interest in fashion perplexed me somewhat. He then confided to me that he saw most sports fans as uncultured, idiotic sloths who wasted their lives watching something that was essentially pointless. This magically correlated with my own opinions that folk who slave over the latest fashion are mostly self important dullards who impart the opinions of magazine writers as their own opinions to make up for the lack of anything relevant in their lives. The talk made me feel better, although after being kicked out of the flat and being in the position where I am now – writing this in-between a moody South London rudeboy telling his girlfriend how much he hates her, and a genteel Welsh woman snoring loudly, I have to wonder whether it was all worth it.

Then I began to examine the links between fashion – his passion, and football – my own, in a touch more detail. I started by examining the way models and footballers relate in terms of careers. One of the benefits of being at a fashion university is that I’ve met a lot of people, some warranted, and some not, who have wanted to get into the modelling business, so I have had a good insight into how difficult it is. This is very similar to the plight a footballer finds themselves in when they attempt to carve out a career for themselves, with the harsh face of stardom staring straight at them.

Both groups start out very young, in difficult situations, having to appeal to a wide range of people, be it agents, or managers, or even their fellow performers. Both face massive competition from their peers, and most are thrown out into the wayside like last seasons t-shirt. It’s an extremely tough world to get into for both parties, and even when you’re at the top it rarely lasts for more than a fleeting moment.

The temperamental nature of both football and fashion also interests me hugely. When I wore a younger mans clothes, the shop ‘Topshop’ to me was a place where two groups of people went: shoplifters, and idiots who wore pedal pushers. These days, the shoplifters remain, but along with a different kind of idiot, the fashion conscious idiot. The rise of Topshop has been greatly aided by multi-billionaire owner Sir Phillip Green who has pushed the company forward amidst an uncertain economical world via slick advertisement, clever business ideals and inspired signings, for example the acquisition of Kate Moss as a designer which gave the brand relevance and integrity.

The same could be said of Chelsea football club, who in the last five years have gone from being a financially struggling team with their backs to the wall, to an established world-wide brand, aided by billionaire owner, the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. After Abramovich obtained the team, he quickly moved them forwards, using the same techniques that Green used for Topshop – the same tricks, and the same inspired signings. For Kate Moss, see Didier Drogba – perhaps the first time a stick thin model from Croydon has been compared to a burly crybaby from the Ivory Coast.

I spoke to two University of the Arts students in relation to my thoughts. Alex O’Brien, a fashion student at St. Martins told me his opinions. “My interest in fashion grew as my interest in sports waned”, he mused, clad in black boots and women’s skinny jeans. He added that he naively thought that women would be a lot easier to come by if he took an interest in what they were wearing. “Guess how that turned out” he grinned, a gleam in his eye as he showed me his latest text message containing the latest twists of his love life. I asked if his focus on jumpers as opposed to goalposts made him feel less masculine. “Perhaps,” he replied, “but I feel much more comfortable at a fashion shoot than I do at a football match these days.” Sure, the fact he used to be a Portsmouth supporter may cloud his judgement somewhat, but maybe he does have a point about the stereotypical football fan.

It was an opinion shared by Karl Askill, a graphic designer at LCC. A keen sports fan, as well as being well dressed, he told me that he too felt that the typical sports fan was someone he was unsure about being associated with. “I’d be more wary about talking about fashion to a football fan than I would talking about football to someone with an interest in fashion”, he said, before adding that “people who like sports are more closed minded because it’s in their culture.” An interesting point, and a salient one for me considering my experience in Peckham when I complimented a shapely market worker on his Inter Milan jersey as I purchased some winter essentials. His curt reply sadly can’t be repeated in a family paper, but it certainly left me down in the dumps. Still, the gloves were lovely – who says that pink and fluffy don’t work well with a football fan?

Ultimately, without wishing to sound like a bizarre mixture of Mr Motivator and a slightly better dressed Dalai Lama, why can’t we all just get along? Leggings and football socks, football boots and brogues, ill fitting football shirts, and ruffled blouses on boys – we all have our quirks, and we all have our interests. Let’s all learn to love each other, and if we can’t do that let us all just agree that football is the most cultured and beautiful religion on earth, whereas fashion is the equivalent of dropping gorgeous toast on the floor butter side down. And then being told that your t-shirt is so last season.

My favourite episode of a show ever

Early D0ors, Series One, Episode Six.

One of the few things coming from the north of England that I can actually stomach, ‘Early Doors’ was a comedy set in a pub which aired on the BBC for two series in the middle of this decade. I liked the show because it showcased the every man, the underdogs and the underachievers in a subdued and tasteful manner, all the while making me laugh out loud every thirty seconds.

A day out for the inhabitants of the pub (which includes the classic laddish traits of strippers, horse racing and alcohol) is never shown, instead we see the characters get ready in the pub in the morning consuming beer, full English breakfasts and cigarettes, and also them coming back at night, consuming more beer, crisps, and executive cigars.

It’s not the baudiness, or the sing-songs which really make this episode live long in the memory years after it first aired. Instead it’s the understated, often unassuming sense of sadness that envelopes Early Doors, and threatens to consume it whole at points.

Whether it’s the landlord Ken fretting about whether his adopted daughter will love her new found surrogate father more than him, or Joe wondering when the best time is to tell his best mate Duffy that Duffy’s wife is cheating on him, the bad news threatens to entomb the group, but never does due to the strong sense of humour and camaraderie that keeps everyone together, and presumably keeps them all from topping themselves.

I find it hard, and often irrelvant to write about popular culture, be it a play, a CD or a Wagon Wheel biscuit, because I feel that all that is needed to be said can be found in the theatre, or in the music, or even in the delicious crumbly biscuit, and that any attempt to place something above its station (‘World Class!! Breaking the mould!!!) usually ends up as mindless hyperbole, but I just feel that everyone needs to see this episode.

It requires no previous viewings of the show (although that of course will help) but from the classic opening credits one can immerse themselves into the show without any effort at all. If you’ve ever sat in a pub with your mates drinking and smoking into oblivion you’ll relate to this, hell if you’ve ever experienced talking to anybody you will relate to this in many different ways.

In thirty minutes you’re guided through a mixture of genuine laughs, pangs of sadness, and probably extreme hunger as you view a farms worth of sausages, eggs and bacon get ploughed down by middle aged men eating like they’ll never eat again. Add in the water in your eyes creeping down your tear-ducts at the episode climaxes, and you’ve got the perfect television, and memories that will last you a lifetime. To the regiment…

V Festival Review

I never thought I’d have the gall, or even the balls to compare myself to a soldier, but lying in a tent, in the freezing cold at 3 in the morning whilst hearing a gaggle of pilled up girls debate whether to ransack your tent for a plate to cut up some cocaine really made me connect with some of the brave boys and girls fighting our corner in the Middle East. Putting up with bullets vs putting up with ‘Bonkers’ being sang literally all night – it’s hard to choose exactly which is worse.

And it all started so well. A quick jaunt over the Essex Riviera from Southend to Chelmsford took a mere thirty minutes. The gang were all in the car, few tunes on the radio – the weather was heroic, all seemed well. But then you get there, you pitch your tent (or in my case, stand around wearing sunglasses whilst everyone else does all the donkey work), and then you realise that it’s 11am on a Friday, with literally 24 hours until the first band comes on.

Luckily, my trusty radio came in hand, and much enjoyment was made listening to the Ashes on the wireless, all the while ignoring various offers for drugs, and alcohol. After somehow making it through the day I fell asleep around 1am. Now, I can’t sleep in silence, I always have a radio on, and so this annoyed some fellow campers surrounding our tent. Some crack addict cunt made a joke that ‘most people can sleep in silence.’ I just stared at the dickhead, should have said ‘most people aren’t forty year old men smoking crack and hanging out with 20 year old girls cos they’ve taken pity on you’, but I was too weak, roasting in the hot summer sun like an Asian design major.

Finally the bands came, opening with Mcfly who stormed the main stage with all their decent tunes. Mcfly get a lot of criticism from people, but I find the folk who lay into them are usually joyless fuckers, wearing far too tight jeans, closing their minds to all but the obtuse of music whilst wanking into their empty beds in the morning wishing they had a girlfriend. Starsailor followed, and they soon realised that this wasn’t 2002. “If you know any of our songs, you’ll know this one”, James Walsh said which isn’t the most confident of approaches.

After that, I can’t really remember – saw a bit of Taylor Swift singing like a mule, before going old skool to watch Dizzee Rascal tear the 4 Music stage up. He’s a one trick pony is Dizzee – rap a 16 bar line before a sampled chorus, but what a one trick. For a guy who has only been seriously gigging for about two years, he had the massive crowd eating out of his hand, and is a good bet to be headlining this time next year.

The Specials – good thirty years ago, antiquated now. Sure, ‘Ghost Town’ is a tune, but getting Amy Winehouse on stage was just torturous, if only for the forty year old woman straining for a few of Winehouse whilst shouting in my ear pure filth. Razorlight followed, and were actually pretty decent although Johnny Borrell has turned into even more of an arrogant prick. I guess the less success his band get, the more odious he becomes. Finally, we fucked the Killers off and went to watch Pete Doherty, who was actually pretty decent.

Struggled with sleep Saturday night, tossed and turned for about five hours waiting for daylight to break whilst listening to a French themed phone in. Finally got up and went to help my brother put his tent down and to find the car we were going home in so we could fuck off straight after Oasis. It took ages – putting down a tent is a lot like putting down a dog, at first you’re gentle, tender and in a positive mood (‘it’s for the best’) but after ten minutes you just get overly emotional. The only thing keeping me sane was the hot summer sun tanning me up like a bronzed chicken.

Getting Snow Patrol to play an extended set is like getting racially abused for ten minutes, before being given the opportunity to then get whipped and beaten for a further two hours.

All that palaver finished, me and my brother enjoyed Ocean Colour Scene rolling back the years. Alas, the cheerful feeling soon oblitarated when a message flagged up on the big screen. ‘Oasis are cancelling tonight due to illness’. I genuinely thought it was a joke – but it wasn’t. The band I’d paid 160 green queens to see had cancelled on me like a particularly cruel mistress. The weirdest thing was, the audience response was more of a muted sigh than anger. Maybe the rumours of the split are true after all.

Rubbish day Sunday, always fucking hated them. Only Seth Lakeman was any good, getting a surprisingly good pop for his folk fiddle. The rest of the day is a blur of despair, anger and about 50 bottles of Sprite. I don’t really know what I was expecting from V, but it was more than sluts pissing in the middle of a crowd, throwing cups up into the air, and the attempted rape made on me by a gallant young men in a stetson.

Overall, I’d only recommend V Festival if you’re a cunt.

Walsall 2, Southend 2

What’s worse, seeing your side concede a late equaliser or having to find out from miles away. Southend correspondant Martin Hines is miserable either way.

I’m sitting on a bus in Central London with a good pal of mine, when I just can’t take it any more.

It’s 4.40 on a Saturday afternoon, and sick of not being able to know the score I ask my mate to check what the Southend score is on his glamorous portable phone. It’s 2-1 to Southend he says with a wicked gleam in his eye, ‘Barnard and Freedman’. I punched the air like Tim Henman after a glorious ground-stroke.

But five minutes later…’Please just check once more! Let me know we’ve wrapped up the points!’ He sighed, and browsed his phone again before the look of panic in his eyes confirmed what he couldn’t emit from his mouth.

We’ve drawn 2-2 with the ten men of Walsall to a Sam Parkin penalty. The air punch was looking like an impotent boxer on steroids, absolutely pathetic.

It just wrapped up a pretty miserable week for me.

Bad week

My last blog on here was met with a barrage of abuse by certain so called ‘fans’ of my wonderful football team, slating my own opinions because they disagreed with their own.

I’m sure most of us are old enough and wise enough to realise that someone not liking another player isn’t tantamount to being say, a Colchester United fan, so we can’t we all just get along? Macca is still rubbish though.

Millwall up next on Friday night, unfortunately for me I will be sitting in a tent in Chelmsford Essex waiting for V Festival to start.

Having lived five minutes away from The Den for the last year I will be hoping we can tame the Lions on our own turf, and continue our undefeated start to the season.

Hopefully by the time The Killers have kicked off their headlining set we will have three more points in the bag, and then we can all look on the Mr. Brightside a little bit more.

Southend United 2, Huddersfield Town 2

http://www.skysports.com/fanzone/blogs/story/0,24015,16667_5487001,00.html

The 2-2 draw was satisfactory, but the same could not be said of Alan McCormack’s display according toFanzone correspondent Martin Hines…

A pulsating first game of the season clash with moneybags Huddersfield ended in a 2-2 draw in front of 8,000 feverish football supporters at Roots Hall.

Huddersfield, captained by ex-Southend stalwart Peter Clarke started the match brightly in front of an impressive travelling army of fans, before a Lee Barnard penalty in the 14th minute eased the nerves of the Shrimper faithful. Further chances fell for both teams as the first half progressed, but no further dent in the scoreline was made until the second half.

Dirty tactics

Franck Moussa heralded in the ‘year of the Mousse’ by coolly slotting home a placed shot on 56 minutes which led to the stadium erupting akin to Mount Vesuvius’ mightily cascading. Still though, Huddersfield’s dirty tactics were affecting the Blues, who had already seen exciting striker Francis Laurent stretchered off early in the first half from a horror tackle.

The fear hit the defence, as Anthony Pilkinton rifled home on 71 minutes, and an equaliser was obtained via substitute Jordan Rhodes on 79 minutes. Huddersfield’s strong challenges and general bad sportsmanship eventually resulted in a red card for Michael Collins on 82 minutes, but it sadly wasn’t enough to result in a Shrimper fightback.

Still though, plenty of positives to take from the game. John White, a beanpole left back borrowed from rivals Colchester United ran the show from the left side of defence, linking well with the official man of the match Franck Moussa. Matt Heath, another loanee from Colchester, also showed plenty of fight and grit at the back.

Headless chicken

One minor gripe – and I do hate to moan, but Alan McCormack has to be one of the worst players I’ve ever seen in a Southend shirt for quite some time. Ludicrously overrated by certain parts of our support, he can’t pass five yards, let alone the Hollywood balls he frequently fires out of play in an attempt to look cultured. If I wanted someone to run around like a headless chicken, I’d get Dwain Chambers in, or maybe an actual headless chicken – he’d probably be able to nod in the headed effort that ‘Macca’ hit the bar with at 2-1 up.

Even so, 2-2 with Huddersfield isn’t the end of the world – it’s not quite the tonking Norwich or Swindon received, but it’s proof we can mix it with the big boys in a league full of giants.

Southend United preview

I’m lucky enough to be writing about Southend United on the Sky Sports Fanzone website this season, so I’ll just be copying my articles for them on here to ensure that they don’t get lost.

http://www.skysports.com/fanzone/blogs/story/0,24015,16667_5475157,00.html

League One is a tough league at the best of times, Southend correspondent Martin Hines is hoping that the Shrimpers can overcome obstacles of their own making first.

No money. No transfers. A new ground that has been in the pipeline for what seems like the last twenty years. Five million quid in debt.

And yet we don’t despair. In Steve Tilson we have a local hero as our manager, a man who rescued us from the pitfalls of relegation into the conference one year, to promotion into League One the next year. And then, unbelievably winners of League One the next.

Sure, things haven’t gone great since then, but maybe this is the season for it. With the veteran Dougie Freedman leading from the front, with club captain and Essex boy Adam Barrett shoring things up from defence, and Lee Sawyer, the exciting loanee from Chelsea pulling the strings in midfield.

And let’s not forget it’s the year of the ‘Mousse’. Franck Moussa, the twenty year old Belgian who set shrimper hearts fluttering with the winning goal against arch-rivals and general scum Colchester United in their own ground, in front of the poorest excuse of an audience I’ve seen since Susan Boyle’s bedroom.

Struggle

League One is a tough tough league to get out of.

You have the teams who were once great but now struggle to come to terms with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom – like Leeds and Southampton.

Then you have the newly minted boys who are looking to buy themselves out of the league – Huddersfield and Swindon, and also the most disgusting group of yokels ever conceived – Colchester United, and their goofy sidekicks Leyton Orient.

Still though, with Southend being the most family friendly club in the league, at least we’ll be the best at painting kids faces and ruffling their hair, which may come in useful considering our ever youthful side.

If it sounds like I’m moaning I’m really not – the joys of supporting a lower league club is second to none. Perhaps this season we’ll have memories to savour like the last minute equaliser against Chelsea last year, or Freddy Eastwood knocking Manchester United out of the league cup in 2006.

Overall, this could be one of the most open seasons of all time. We could go up, we could go down but always they’ll be the buzz, the spirit and the sheer pleasure that comes from supporting Southend United, truly the one team in Essex.