Sunday, 26 January 2014

Top 10 Kids Movies (that aren't for kids)


10. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
Genius, successful industrialist, hates "elf n' safety".
(Pic : Time Magazine)


I suppose it taught children they shouldn't be a brat. It also teaches them they're dispensable with few consequences. The chocolate factory was some sort of torture dungeon, run off the back of slave labour, and Willy Wonka has the health and safety awareness of a Victorian mill owner. If he were around today, he would be called Sheikh al-Wanka and building venues for the FIFA World Cup. In the real world, children seeming to die at your factory in horrible industrial accidents would've led to strikes and Guardian articles. The book made it very clear the children were alright afterwards, but Gene Wilder was too busy travelling in a lift that went so fast it crashed through the roof ("elf-n-safety!") to point that out.

9. The Shrek Series (2001-2010)

Rule 34?
(Pic : huskiesinwonderland.wordpress.com)
It's not unusual for some kids/family films contain jokes ony grown-ups would understand, but I can't believe some of the things Shrek got away with. "Lord Farquaad" for one, the water boarding illusion, some sort of Rule 34 thing between Donkey and the dragon, references to alcohol....

8. Apaches (1977)
                          

Not quite a movie, but certainly aimed at children. This "delight" was about preventing children dying on farms. I was shown a different version that I can't remember the name of. Farms aren't exactly at the top of my list of "safe places to raise a child" as practically everything can kill you. Apaches demonstrates this to great effect – being crushed by a gate, drinking chemicals and dying screaming in agony in the middle on the night, crashing a tractor down a hill. The best though was drowning in fermenting animal shit.

7. Labyrinth (1986)

(Pic : Entertainment Weekly)
Jim Henson and George Lucas – well there's a family-friendly pairing if ever there was one. Wrong! David Bowie plays someone trying to effectively rape a teenage girl, kidnapping her brother and goading her into traps overseen by a heavy metal version of The Muppets.

=5. The Terminator/Terminator 2 & Robocop (1984, 1991, 1987)

Now show the kids how Murphy got in to that suit....
(Pic : thepoptopshop.com)

OK, I'm cheating a little bit. It's fairly obvious none of these was suitable for children - the latter featuring at least two of the most brutal deaths in cinematic history. There's something about cyborgs and future wars that speaks to the inner boy. However the amount of merchandise and advertising aimed at children (Robocop even spawned a cartoon) - who wouldn't have been able to see them in a cinema - probably makes them the best example, but not an "official" one.

4. Ghostbusters (1984)

                        

This is a straight-up adult-ish film that just so happened to be rated low enough for children. First off there's the references to menstruation, then ghostly blow-jobs and this man not having a dick. Who hasn't jumped at the librarian scene?

3. Return to Oz (1985)

                        


A slightly obscure cult film and sequel to The Wizard of Oz that people will probably remember when reminded of but not off the top of their head – for good reason. First, it starts with Dorothy being treated in a mental hospital. You can see where this is going? The Wheelers are just - even as a concept - quite terrifying. Talking bodiless heads. The costumes of the main characters are pretty out there, and that's before mentioning people turning to stone and a pumpkinhead man almost getting eaten by a giant man-mountain. It's every worst childhood nightmare wrapped in one film.

2. The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985)


                       

I haven't actually seen all of this, but the above five minute segment - in its own right - instantly launches this towards the top. Even if it's an adaption of Twain's short story, Mysterious Stranger, it's one of the most disturbing sequences you'll find – however truthful it is. When dealing with an audience of children, the subject of the nature of reality and good vs evil can be approached in a manner that's a little less on the nose.

1. Watership Down (1978)

Rated U
(Pic : thegloss.com)
Game of Thrones with rabbits. The Animals of Farthing Wood also deserves a shout-out here for the same reasons, but it's not a film. It's fine to teach kids survival of the fittest and natural selection but this probably isn't the best way to broach the subject. Monty Python weren't kidding.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Modern Football's Greatest Pelanties

My diamond lights,
I'll always want you.

(Pic : greenblog.co.uk)

Following Jason "He Shit's When He Wants" Puncheon's magnificent attempt at bringing down a satellite at Tottenham the other week, it's worth looking back at some of the best "strategically misplaced penalties" in recent years, or "pelanty" as I'm going to call them.

Paul Bodin's effort is too painful a memory, so why not laugh at England instead? Who better to start with than Mr "Pelanty" himself, Chris Waddle? He's lucky the Soviet Union had gone, or they could've mistaken that for an incoming "missule" :

                             

The 1994 World Cup is the first World Cup I remember properly, which isn't great as it was a bit crap. During the opening ceremony, that famous athlete with a rifle of a right foot, Diana Ross, somehow managed to miss a 24-foot target that was brought about 8 yards closer than it otherwise would have been. She doesn't seem to care though. Puncheon's was still worse :

                             

Definite foreshadowing there, as a missed penalty is perhaps the abiding memory of that World Cup – Roberto Baggio, of course. If I missed a crucial penalty in a World Cup Final, I'd probably start digging and keep going until I hit magma :

                            

It wouldn't be fair to leave out The Arsenal. Dennis Bergkamp's miss against Man United in the 1999 FA Cup semi final still ranks amongst my most painful football memories – probably for "that" Giggs goal later on. Davor Suker's in the 2000 UEFA Cup Final was also pretty galling, but this is supposed to be funny after all.

Thierry Henry and Bobby Pires conspired to reproduce a Johan Cruyff penalty from 1982 against Man City in 2006. They produced something more fitting of Jacques Tati instead :

                             

Partially dismissing the Bergkamp memory, there's St Keown's Day/The Battle of Old Trafford. 21st September 2003, back in the good old days when Arsenal actually won things and Man United were genuinely feared.

Ruud van Nistelrooy had just managed to get Patrick Vieira sent off for a non-existent kick, which he reacted to as if coming across a coiled viper. Then, in the dying moments with the score 0-0, Diego Forlan was brought down in the box. Van Nistelrooy – who rarely missed pelanties – ran up to take the spot kick....

                             

The Turd Sandwich vs Douche Champions League Final in 2008. It was actually Nicholas Anelka's miss that cost Chelsea the trophy, but I'm sure we all remember John Terry's slip. Like sweet, sweet tears in rain :

                            

Whenever someone tries to showboat by doing the whole "chip the ball down the middle" thing, I automatically think ,"What a twat!" It's absolutely hilarious when it goes wrong, as Francesco Totti demonstrates :

                            

I realise this is supposed to be about football. However, there's novelty value to the rugby union pelanty shoot-out, as demonstrate during Cardiff Blues vs Leicester in 2009 – the only time it's ever happened as far as I can tell. Martyn Williams does a Waddle (09:18) :

                            

This though is perhaps the worst I could find though, from Amir Sayoud:

                            

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Life without Theo

The Tomb of the Injured Gooner
(Pic : wjpbr.com)

There he was, carried from the pitch like a Roman emperor or a French dandy, reminding the scum of the score. Little did we know that with his cheeky grin, beneath an avalanche of coins, Theo Walcott's face betrayed a fucked knee.

I'm sure all Arsenal supporters dread a key player going down and staying down. It's becoming a once or twice a season event.

They should build a monument like the Vietnam memorial in Washington FC - "The Tomb of the Injured Gooner". An unidentified, screaming player clutches their leg, with a list of every injury and time out of action carved into a wall of black marble.

Bob Pires suffered a serious cruciate knee ligament injury during the 2001-02 title run-in – albeit late in the season. During the 2007-08 season, Eduardo's catastrophic leg break at Birmingham impacted the players so much that a title challenge faded. Similarly, in 2009-10, Arsenal were going to "Do it for Rambo" – finishing fourth and trophy less. Then there's the injury record of The Manco-Dutch Traitor.
Could the reason Arsenal pick up so many injuries be that
players are - quite literally - too light?
(Pic : Daily Mail)

There are loads of theories as to why Arsenal suffer so many injuries.

My suspicion is that Arsene Wenger views dairy products as a bad thing for players to injest, because they're high in energy and mean players put weight on easily. He prefers players who are thin, quick and nimble.

Being thin and light could make joints and muscles more susceptible to injuries from tackles, but the player's diet could result in calcium deficiencies – calcium being important in bone and muscle metabolism, lack of which leading to things like cramps and making pre-existing weaknesses and imbalances worse. I'm not a physio though, and I'm confident Arsenal's backroom staff ensure players have a properly balanced diet.

Another theory is that Wenger prefers the team to practice technique instead of things like strength conditioning - meaning players lack built up muscles, so their quick but brittle.

Arsenal have often been reliant on that explosive pace, putting more pressure on muscles, meaning more twinges, which develop into pulls and tears. Then there's the legacy of serious injuries and playing too many games in too little time with too small a squad.

Theo Walcott had already suffered two lengthy injuries this season, but whenever he played he's been effective, scoring 6 goals and creating chances from nothing. This injury will either be a season-killing "Eduardo" or a call-to-arms "Pires". Now that Arsenal are short on striking options, Theo will have to be replaced....somehow.

So, who will be 2013-14's Christopher Wreh?

The typical Wenger option would be to promote from within – Serge Gnabry and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain waiting in the wings.
Will Walcott's injury prompt an earlier than expected move
from Arsenal for Schalke's Julian Draxler?
(Pic : ITV)
Rumour has it there's some bloke called Park Chu-Young at Arsenal – a South Korean international striker no less. I believe it's a conspiracy theory to sell shirts. He doesn't really exist, or is actually a North Korean defector being protected in England.

Then there's the eccentric suggestion that Arsenal might spend some money in January, whether that's to bring someone in on a short term deal or bring a summer transfer forward.

Schalke's wunderkind Julian Draxler has long been linked to Arsenal and is apparently high up the list of targets for this summer. It would be unlike Wenger to bring a transfer like that forward, plus he's carrying a hamstring injury.

Diego Costa – who looks like Eduardo but bigger - has also been mentioned, and has a release clause that would be at the top end of Arsenal's budget. With Athletico Madrid mounting a title challenge in La Liga, nothing's likely to happen until the summer – if at all.

Real Sociedad's Antoine Griezmann, who'se scored 25 goals in 14 appearances this season - is another mention. French – check. Young – check. Cheap – compared to the other options, check. This is perhaps the most likely to happen of the permanent moves. However, he's cup-tied for the Champions League.

An Arsenal transfer window wouldn't be an Arsenal transfer window without the obligatory link to Yoann Gourcuff. Short-term options include Lazio's German international legend, Miroslav Klose, and Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov. I wouldn't mind either of them, but I suspect they're too old.

Last but not least there's talk of a loan deal for Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata. He has an impressive goalscoring record at under-21 level for Spain, being compared to Fernando Morientes and Raul – which is no bad thing. His lack of experience at the top level might mean he isn't ready to lead an attack yet. I wouldn't mind a loan move though.


Monday, 6 January 2014

So long Uncle Phil



Obituaries are usually sombre affairs, but James Avery deserves a celebration.

He might seem a random person to pay tribute to, but he played two of the most iconic characters of 90s television - the Fresh Prince of Bel Air's Philip Banks, and Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which, goes without saying, was a phenomenon at the time).

He was also – because he was such a large bloke and a Vietnam veteran – physically suited to playing a Klingon, which he eventually did on Star Trek Enterprise.

He'll be remembered above all else for Philip Banks though.

Fresh Prince was, in many ways, a deeply conservative show – a 90s version of Leave It To Beaver or the Brady Bunch. It was anchored in an upper-middle class nuclear family, Philip Banks was portrayed as a Republican – a lawyer and judge no less – while his wife was a university lecturer. The children were very much spoilt overachievers, who had connections, and who were pushed to achieve.

Uncle Phil was a positive male role model - which have often been missing - and perhaps more importantly, a positive black father figure (alongside the likes of Bill Crosby and Ben Sisko from Star Trek : DS9), which is a rare thing to find in the media, even today. Philip Banks is perhaps one of the best fathers ever portrayed on television full stop.

                        

Absentee fathers in African American homes are something of a trope and perhaps an exaggeration of the truth. However, it remains an issue, forming a backdrop – memorably – to several plot lines in Fresh Prince, channelling parts of Avery's own upbringing.

Fresh Prince turned stereotypes of black people on American television (perhaps all television in the Anglosphere) on their head. James Avery's performance as Uncle Phil was absolutely crucial in enabling it to do so. He was a completely believable well-spoken, well-adjusted black man in an era where black men and boys were (and perhaps still are) portrayed as either grizzled/flawed anti-heroes (like in The Wire) or street-wise chancers with chips on their shoulders.

But it wasn't all some Reaganite utopia. Philip Banks was played as a veteran of the civil rights movement, and slapped Will Smith's character down a few times for thinking that there was nothing authentic about the Banks family because they were rich and successful, as though they diminished their "blackness" by "trying to be a WASP" :

                        

It was flipped 180 when Will and Carlton are pulled over by police due to racial profiling. There was only one person who would've had the gravitas to rip the police a new arsehole :

                        

Fresh Prince was a vehicle for Will Smith, who went on to become a global star. But James Avery (and to a lesser extent Alfonso Ribeiro and Janet Hubert [the first Aunt Viv]) made the show what it was, and he's the reason why it remains memorable to this very day.

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