30 March, 2012

The Apprentice Corner - Episode Two

I've been ill all week so will be making this week's Apprentice Corner a bit short! In a week that had great quotes such as 'it is a bit difficult to separate recycling', 'people tend to underestimate me... but it's a load of crap' and 'let's be honest it was a mess in there', we saw Sugar's disgust manifest itself into hatred for all women, and we saw a contestant fall asleep. Basically everyone's a moron. Poor show guys, poor show.

The fake-phonecall began the episode, in which contestants were given '15 minutes' to get ready to leave - but noone seemed to rush and then everyone looked pretty good all episode. The project managers became Jane and Azhar, who is 'like the killer-whale of the sea world' for a variety of reasons he explained, but that I couldn't hear because they were ridiculous.

This week's task was to create a household item, for the bathroom, the kitchen, the lounge or basically anywhere. Despite the wide range of options available, BOTH PRODUCTS WERE SHIT. That's not to say that the other ideas were bad - I mean one candidate suggested oven gloves that have sponges on. An indispensable household item I'm sure you can agree - one that wouldn't wear down the skin on your hands and give you no chance to actually clean your washing up, OOOH NO.

The girls went for a 'splashboard', which was torn down by ACTUAL REAL-LIFE MOTHERS but hey-ho they wouldn't let that bother them. Admittedly, the final product would be fun in the bath - I'm considering buying one - but don't advertise it as a splashguard you IDIOTS that's FOOLISH. The boys made a cafetiere for vegetable peelings. Basically, we're dealing with idiots.

Maria fell asleep in the car. There are no more words to say about this - it was brilliant. The other girls then stored this away, ready for ammo in the boardroom. Grand.

Oh and Jane asked Amazon for a million orders. A MILLION. This was literally mental - I have never seen anyone deadpan a ridiculous figure more seriously.

In the end, the girls now can say 'I'll have my regular' in the Bridge Cafe, as they are essentially domiciled in there, and Maria was fired for her failure to not be a total massive bellend. I'm off now because I need to nap to get rid of this life-ending man flu.

Regards, @Jakeshaker

Who should win? Katie because her utter contempt for every other contestant is fantastic.

29 March, 2012

Skins - Everyone - It's Over!

Skins is over! Save those three 'specials' we're getting in 2013, Skins as we know it is done and dusted - but did it bow out spectacularly or did it trundle to a stop? Did Frankie finally stop being a 'headfuck'? And did Grace finally piss off to the afterlife? Here's what went down.

The episode was very Frankie-heavy, and as such was pretty annoying. She, once again, couldn't decide between her feelings for Nick and Matty, couldn't cope with the outcomes of situations she created, and acted a bit mental all the time. Near the start of the episode, she hitchhiked with the mechanic from The Inbetweeners, because lorry drivers from Bristol are notoriously trustworthy people, to her social worker from before she was adopted. From here, she found her mum's address, found her sister and by the end of the episode, her mum aswell - which, for such a bitch of a character, is quite a lovely ending. She also told Nick and Matty she loves them both, and a relationship with either would not work, like we've been telling her for two series now. Oh and she also threw herself out of a moving truck which is possibly the stupidest thing anyone's ever done in Skins, and this is a series where we've had EFFY. EFFY. She doesn't learn does she our Frankie.

Nick and Matty were reduced to essentially being backing dancers for Frankie this episode, their legacy being that they have followed Frankie to Birmingham by 'tracking her on Nick's phone' as if that's something that we can do now. After spending so much of the episode in a Frankie plotline that, quite literally, noone cares about, other characters had to be given hastily thrown-together subplots to end their stories. Alex decided to 'go to Thailand', Liv may have gone to Uni but who knows, and Rich got into Cambridge but told noone about it. Nick and Matty basically didn't have an ending, their only resolution being that they are friends again. Cute.

Mini wasn't conscious at the beginning of the episode, but by the end was at a pool party all night and then gave birth - and still, we're expected to believe that she and Alo would be happy to have a baby together. This would all be quite nice, IF we believed they like each other - I for one don't. Rich ended the episode by looking at the camera to say 'bye' - a bye to Grace, hanging around literally forever, and a bye to the audience who are free, after having sat through two very mediocre series of Skins. Imagine if you watched this series on DVD, and you watched all ten episodes in one. IMAGINE.

The good points to the episode - the final track playing over the 'ending montage' was pretty nice because I'm a sucker for some slow-mo acoustic montage, and Alex's pool party was the kind of 'cool Skins party' that you always wish actually happened when you were fourteen. Alo's phrase about the party tickets - 'ours are free, cos you know... We're amazeballs' was grand, and the underwater Grace/Rich goodbye was the kind of interesting Skins camera-work that we'd have liked to have seen all series.

Frankly, the series hasn't been up to much, and it's probably for the best that we'll get a few specials to remind us of how good Skins used to be, and then it'll be over. If I'd have cared much for any of these characters, I think I'd have been disappointed with the finale. But with my current levels of interest in the series (pretty low I can tell you), it was a pretty average ending. Skins is no longer the good ensemble drama it once was - now let's finish the legacy on a high, and then leave the first two series to stand the test of time, because Tony's lot were bloody excellent.

Written for Great and Gold

26 March, 2012

The Woman in Black (12A)

Wrote this a while ago - finally putting it up. Enjoy!

'The Woman in Black' had a phenomenal couple of weeks' opening at the box office - but is Daniel Radcliffe's horror classic worth the hype?

The film contains what a friend of mine has coined as Daniel Radcliffe's first proper 'Post-Potter Part'. That is to say, Radcliffe has a lot riding on the film's success and perception. He has said that the film is as 'far away from Potter' as he could go - but is it actually scary in a cinema setting? The film is based around Susan Hill's eponymous 'The Woman in Black' novella, and on the stage show which succeeded it, but on merit alone as a film, does it deserve its success?

The film's aim, clearly, is to scare audiences - no, scratch that, to terrify them. In telling the story of Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer thrust out to Eel Marsh House to prove his abilities, the film builds rhythmically to a crescendo of pure terror. All of the jumps and crashes are produced skilfully with sound and visual mixed to get the biggest shocks possible. But these moments are rare - the majority of the film is hallway-stalking and door-opening - at times, it does feel like the whole film is carried on Radcliffe's ability to breathe loudly. But luckily the film does become about more than terror - in the final scenes, there is some genuinely face-shielding moments, and the film's climax has some truly touching, thought-provoking scenes.

The cast were a strange mix. Props to Daniel Radcliffe for what was, under tough scrutiny, a relatively strong performance. The first few scenes (with Kipps' son) of his were stilted and awkward - a problem I can only attribute to the fact that Radcliffe is TWENTY-TWO and not a father. Janet McTeer, who played Mrs Daily, was a stand-out for me - her performance was the perfect tone of awkwardness, creepiness to evoke sympathy. The production team did a great job at rounding up some creepy, creepy kids - seriously scary, scary stuff. However, many of the townsfolk were bland, surface-depth characters who failed to be sufficiently creepy for what they were meant to be - raising laughs from the audience at times.

Now there's something to be said for the cinema experience... the stickiness, the nascent smell of secret sex, the morose staff. But for some films, it just isn't that great, and 'The Woman in Black' is one of them. The natural reaction to shocking and horrifying moments is a brief moment of panic, and then uneasy laughing. Magnify this by 300, and you have my experience - most of my screening began to laugh continuously in anticipation of upcoming terror, and this ruined the film's tone.

But how did Dan do? Radcliffe has said that he could not have picked a part further away from his Potter character than the role of Arthur Kipps. Towards the end of the film, Kipps pleads with Mr Daily that he MUST restore the child's body to the woman in black, and that if he can reunite them, the curse would end. Now, ignoring the PREPOSTEROUS scene in which a carriage, missing for decades, is pulled out of the marsh two feet away from the main road, has a dead body fully-in-tact upon it and is pulled up by a CAR, this idea is reminiscent of every Potter film since about the second year at Hogwarts. D-Rad has to do something to save everyone and end the current hardship - classic. Now, to see him in a comedy, or some kind of family comedy-drama would be a change in direction - this, is not. Still, fairly strong stuff in here D-Rad - kudos.

Coming from someone who's not a fan of the generic 'horror' genre, 'The Woman in Black' is still worth a watch. It's lively, haunting and terrifying at times. Has D-Rad succeeded at pulling away from the Potter franchise? Not really, but that was never going to happen over the course of one film. For now, let's just enjoy the fact that he can give attention to films that, let's be honest, wouldn't have half as many people watching without him as the star. Surely that's good for British cinema?

Jill - Philip Larkin

So, I hear you cry, what is Jakeshaker reading!? Well I'll tell you - Larkin. I'm a fairly big fan of Larkin's work, but hadn't read any of his fiction. So I set to it.

'Jill' centres on John Kemp, an undergraduate at Oxford during Wartime Britain. Whilst Larkin later described the book as juvenile, it is considered, according to the book jacket, as 'a classic of its kind', and is possibly one of the first in the Campus novel genre. Larkin wrote the book when he himself was at Oxford in 1943/44, at the age of twenty-one, and so the book can be seen as, to a large extent, autobiographical.

What struck me about the brilliance of the novel, even on what I remember was the second or third page, was the ease with which Larkin encapsulates the nervousness and anxiety of being young. For the very first time in literature, somebody has captured the social inexperience of youth, which pretty much imposes itself on most of us and restricts us from being the 'adults' we crave to be. Through humour, pathos and very concise prose, Larkin creates situations around Kemp that occur naturally, but with which he cannot cope and falls apart.

The divide in this novel, which was probably rife during Wartime Britain, is the separation between those who fight and those at home, and the difference between each social class' contribution to the war effort. The idea of contrast between the strongly working-class Coventry-based Kemp, versus the London-bred Walker and his friends is intrinsic to the novel's tone. The social awkwardness surrounding the boys' servant is palpable, and Larkin exhibits the point that conscription can put a halt to some peoples' lives, whilst others continue as they were. There is a sense that not everybody is cutting back in the War period - Walker seems to live a life of luxury. Whilst not truly a 'war book', the backdrop of war contrasts to the privileged few - Walker, Elizabeth - who go about as they like, whilst Kemp struggles to luxuriate at such an important point in history, in which others are enduring much worse.

What a hunk.
 'Jill' is considered to be about the art of writing, about 'discovering a literary personality' but to me, the theme is more universal. The novel presents itself as a sort of manifesto (well, not a manifesto because I hate that word in relation to Literature) for hard work, achievement and dedication. In so much as it can be considered a coming-of-age novel, it is also about maturity in the strictest dictionary-definition sense of the word. Larkin explores just what maturity actually entails - the importance of choosing a career, being strong and honing your craft by dedication and effort. In the Kemp/Walker conflict, Larkin presents 'old money' (Walker) in a war with hard work (Kemp), siding favourably with Kemp. In the way that Walker has had money passed on to him, Kemp has had knowledge passed to him by Mr Crouch, his ex-teacher. Despite his inherent social awkwardness, Kemp ultimately gets a better deal of it, Larkin seems to suggest.

Along with 'Lolita' and 'Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit', this is another of the books I have read in March and which have become firm all-time favourites. Larkin's heart and his memory may belong to his poetry, but give the novels a try - you'll be very pleasantly surprised, and sorrowed there are but three in existence.

Katy Perry - Part of Me - AMVD

[My new feature that will not happen regularly, just when artists release shit music videos. AMVD stands for A Music Video Deconstructed because who doesn't love a pretentious column title?]

Katy Perry had all that success with 'Teenage Dream' and like a prom queen hanging onto her high school success, she is re-releasing the album as 'Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection' with three new tracks, one of which is 'Part of Me'. She's split from Russell Brand, died her hair some God-awful shade of bluey-purple and released a track that's been lying around her tour bus for a couple of years - what a joker.

The song's been A-listed on Radio 1 for a while, and owing to that cringe-inducing Live Lounge and the just-plain-bad Sports Relief performance, the song shot to Number One. Just before this happened in the UK, she released the video...

Someone in the comments (the most-thumbed comment, actually), explains how her, as a woman, joining the army is 'the IDEA. the high concept'. Amazing. High-concept this is not.

0.00 - 0.11 Katy Perry sits in a car, listening to a radio show about her own life which is a bit weird and admittedly a bit 'high-concept'

0.13 She can hardly move in that denim jacket but storms in to confront 'her man' anyway

0.21 - 0.28 Katy attempts to act and a man has an overdramatic reaction to paper-throwing.

0.39 - 0.41 Some serious lip-biting action if you're in to that kind of thing

0.57 - 1.07 Awkward noticeboard epiphany.

1.12 In a standard, logical 'we've just broken up' mood, Katy cuts off most of her hair and dresses like a boy and gets a knicker shot in 'for the lads'. Just look how dramatically she cuts that wig.


1.41 But none of this makes any sense BECAUSE all the woman in her quadrant/section/girl group have long hair. Heck, even the sergeant's got a ponytail. That's why it's all a bit stupid.

1.49 This is all quite big-budget

2.01 - 2.02 They seriously missed a trick here by not having the clown balloon exploding as the chorus kicked in. Seriously.

2.06 - There's an awful lot of noise here which is probably to prevent us all ripping the audio from the youtube video *sigh*

2.25 It all gets a bit weird here, because we keep cutting from men to women all the time and Katy Perry IS a woman, but she's dressed a bit like a man, but she still looks like a woman because it's Katy Perry. WHAT is she saying about gender roles and the army? WHAT comment does she make on Don't Ask Don't Tell? OR is she just using this whole war thing to her own gain to make a 'LOLtastic' video? Let's look at the Youtube comments:

''Woman or no, this video purports strength of character = fear, hate and 
ultimately war. It's propaganda disguised as empowerment for 
gender equality.
And you fell for it.'' - Matttriano


2.36 - 2.39 Katy Perry does not belong in the army.

2.44 A letter from the ex. Because, yes, I'm sure she forwarded her details to the ex-boyfriend who cheated on her, 'just in case'.

2.47 Obligatory Perry in bathtub shot

3.03 - 3.06 This bath/war double shot thing's quite good.

3.08 This dancing under a banner thing's all quite bad.

It all gets a bit boring here until


As you can see, this was all quite meaningful - please take some time to digest what you have just witnessed.

Oh and please watch  this where you can see Perry do 'her thing' - her thing is 'hitting bum notes' - at 1.51. 
1.51 is the best comedy you will see on the BBC this year.

25 March, 2012

ITV's Titanic (Episode 1/4)

I've just finished watching the first in ITV's big-budget period drama 'Titanic', and 'this programme's a shipwreck' and 'the cast took off after 40 minutes - who can blame them?' jokes aside, the programme was a bit rubbish, despite the strong credits of Julian Fellowes (the series' writer).

The series, predictably, given its title, revolves around the passengers on the doomed Titanic ship, as the boat sets sail leaving behind Southampton for the bright futures of New York city. However, given the importance afforded to History in the British school curriculum, we all know how this story is going to end. There exist countless dramatisations, in all different forms, of the story (the most famous being Cameron's 'Titanic' film of '97) and so each new reissue must bring something new to the table - this didn't. The episode featured a surprisingly weighted 50/50ish split between pre- and post- crash scenes, and Twitter exploded in a furore of 'they've crashed ALREADY? The iceberg has ALREADY APPEARED?'

However, given the 'Next time on the Titanic' trailer (and a cheeky stalk of the Guardian review pages), it seems that each episode will focus on a new set of characters, their experience of the crash, and the stories of everybody will come to a head in episode four. This is all well and good, but I don't think this style works on an episodic level anyway. To rush through twenty back stories in as many minutes, to make way for dubious CGI-heavy 'money shots for the adverts' seems contradictory to the essence of good storytelling. If this was going to be a story about 'the crashing of the Titanic', as opposed to the entire saga, then why bother setting up your characters in such a linear way anyway? The entire pacing of the episode seemed out of place, and it seems this went into production because it is 'THE TITANIC' and an anniversary of the sinking, not because of a necessarily strong script.


This is not to say the episode was unwatchable - it wasn't. But what made it passable for me is the strong grounding our culture has in the stories of the Titanic. The drama and tension of the situation came from a pre-existing idea of the terror that would be the Titanic's sinking - I didn't feel this came to me from the programme itself. Production values were high - for a British TV show, they were rather good - but that means nothing if viewers don't care who lives or who dies. Any fear we, the viewer, had for the ourselves was intrinsic fear of the Titanic itself, none coming from this Titanic, and as the characters had been brushed over so deftly in the initial twenty minutes of the script, there was little angst over their fates.
Julian Fellowes is the current ITV cash-cow (a post previously held by Ant and Dec, Parkinson and Nikki Chapman) and if 'Titanic' has taught them one thing, I hope it's that you should never give your star free reign to do whatever the hell they like. There should be meritocracy in commission - and whilst many channels (and many networks - I'm looking at you, Fox) are guilty of such practises, a big name writer does not guarantee a successful show - just look at this episode's hashtag (#Drownton, in case you were wondering) to see what people thought.

I wouldn't say that much of the cast showed many advanced acting skills this episode - the dialogue was very straightforward, and the names of the characters were spoken so quickly I couldn't even get actor names from IMDB if I tried. Given the brevity of the scenes, it felt a little too much like an ensemble cast that vie for attention in which noone had the space to shine. Given the spotlight put upon Jenna-Louise Coleman (recently announced as the Doctor's next companion), there was little evidence upon which to judge her acting abilities, but hopefully these will increase in future episodes as I presume she attends to many different staff we are yet to meet.

Some other problems I had - at least two characters 'couldn't swim'. I don't know much about the pre-WW1 era but surely, if anything, there was more urgence put upon swimming ability at that time? Also, there was little to no mention of who was actually in charge of the boat. There was that mysterious man that 'stayed down below' but everything went too fast to catch his title - and even if this was the captain, there was still little talk of precautions and activity of those in charge - we saw a set of passengers, dying at the hand of absolutely no outside activity except 'that big CGI iceberg' and just accepting their fates without a fight.

What this episode showed me is just how great 'Titanic', the Rose/Jack love story of class and corruption actually is. The disunity of the characters in this episode was just that - disunited, and whilst art can exist to make parallels and connections between differing sides, and suggest a coherence and pattern to life, this just didn't achieve it. The series works as a homage to the Cameron film, a kind of 'what the others were doing' BBC3 companion movie, in that I'm pretending we're on the Winslet boat, and somewhere else, some interesting drama is unfolding - a shame, as the Titanic story is full of great potential. I'm off - I need to book my ticket for Titanic: 3D. 


22 March, 2012

The Apprentice Corner - Series Eight, Episode 1

It's back. Just when you thought the UK had used up every single arsehole we have, we've found another reserve deep in Canary Wharf, and here are another sixteen - including a pro-wrestler, an architect and the token 'entrepreneur'. God bless BBC1.

In the 'dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun duuuuuh' scenes which begin every episode, we saw them take the train, tube, escalator, lift, tram, segway, where the candidates ran, walked, crawled and swam to the boardroom. Amongst the best 'shocking-first-quotes-of-the-series' we had 'I can be like an animal and I will literally roar my way to the top' because that's how the Animal Kingdom works - loudest roar wins, according to Gabrielle. We had 'they call me the master puppeteer' which is a funny way for your friends to pronounce 'bellend', Azhar. But winner of the 'I'm a twat' award went to Ricky Martin, firstly for being named after the Livin La Vida Loca superstar, and not capitalising on it, but also for saying 'I truly am the reflection of perfection'. Outstanding.

The candidates for the 2012 series are an odd bunch - none pop out immediately as naturally charismatic, they all (more than ever before) seem attention-seeking and useless, and it will be interesting to see if this adds to, or reduces the quality of the series. What I noticed about this series' applicants, is that Sugar decided to choose some of the best professional look-alikes, then make them PRETEND that they had other day jobs and were ACTUALLY and LITERALLY business-minded. What a lark! We were greeted by the following jokers (I've provided photos of their celeb counterparts, for ease of reference).

'Ricky Martin'

Karofsky off of Glee

Jenna Whittingham

Carol Mcgiffin


Gabrielle Omar   

Michelle Rodriguez     

Mario O'Connor

An actual prostitute

Sugar reads 'this is not about a job anymore' (not surprising, seeing as all past winners have quit or 'separated from the company') over the slick and catchy shots of high-rise London, as we learn about Sugar's 'success story from a market stall' yawn yawn yawn get over the market stall, Alan. In this recap of the next twelve weeks, nothing much seems to happen. Noone even got covered in ice-cream mix or ANYTHING! Poor show, guys. And Sugar's new 'You're fired, you're fired, *blah blah blah* you're fired!' for this series is revealed. 'This is my boardroom and by the way this is my money - you're fired'. And my hopes for Sugar's classic one-liners goes down the toilet because IT'S ALL GOT A BIT SERIOUS.

Now, The Apprentice has got further and further away from actually revealing how the task is to work, and this episode was no exception. The basic brief was 'you've got to run a print business where stuff gets printed on and you sell it'. Now, this isn't really OK because you can't judge someone's performance on a task if you don't know what they're supposed to be doing. The boys were discussing what to print and I think everyone was yelling at the TV 'WHERE ARE YOU SELLING AND WHO ARE YOU SELLING TO'. If this had been laid out clearly, we'd all have been on the same page for saying how shit these people were on Twitter. If this happens in every episode this series, it really will push this programme further and further away from serious 'business', and Twitter will be too confusing. We can't have that.

Now, I'm not saying I want bare-knuckle gypsy fighting or illegal dogfighting rings, but there really could have been more competition for naming the groups this episode - we only get the joys of people saying 'Team animal cos we're like animals!' with straight faces once a year. The boys all settled on 'Phoenix' and the girls settled on 'Sterling' - two of the most God-awful names ever chosen I think you can agree. I wanted Nick to yell across the table 'CALL YOURSELF THE NOISETTES BECAUSE YOU'RE MAKING NOISE IN THE BUSINESS WORLD' and for Karren to make lewd bawdy jokes, but now we're stuck with 'Phoenix' and 'Sterling'. This situation is not sterling.

Now, as the episode progressed, I almost switched off. The girls had cute designs, but the boys had made rubbish BUS BAGS - I think we all knew who was going to win. As usual, the girl group couldn't harmonize, and fell out during sales, and we had an Irish girl yelling out everyone's mistakes but her own. The boys seemingly were doing rubbish because their fist-sized bears were fifteen bloody quid!

As we got into the boardroom, past a new fake secretary, pretending to write with a fake pen next to a fake computer, Alan criticised the bus designs, and everyone praised Nick - the project manager. Not Nick Hewer, Lord Sugar's aide. Oh imagine the confusion. What fun we will have with this 'situation'. IMAGINE THE JOKES.

Surprisingly, the girls lost - even though I hate tote bags, they were pretty good tote bags,as tote bags go. This outcome was quite surprising to everyone involved but - thank heavens - we could frequent the Bridge Cafe to discuss! As this descended into political CHAOS, an unnamed source (probably the production team - imagine spending time with these girls) yelled 'SHUT UP' to quieten down the rabble, and this did the trick. The girls did sneak off outside for some to-camera bitching though. Sneaky.

The first boardroom of the series. There's normally one idiot that is sure to go, and everyone treads on eggshells trying to second guess Alan - NOT THIS YEAR BABY. Bilyana seemed to make a bet with the fake secretary outside, whereby she'd get paid 20p for every single word she said in the boardroom. All I could think was that Sugar probably hasn't spoken this much in eight series of the show. This wound up little Al so he fired him, after almost pointing the finger at Katie, and as she got a solitary taxi back home, the rest of the candidates pretended to be thrilled that these people they barely know and are competing against are still in the competition. Yaaay!

See you next week for more failings from the business world! Might even live-tweet the episode from @Jakeshaker if you're lucky.

Who should win?: Ricky Martin because it's too early to call but he is Livin La Vida Loca.

Written for Great and Gold.

20 March, 2012

Skins - Mini and Frankie - Character Motivations

This week's 'Skins' (as you can probably expect by now) had some good and some bad aspects. The episode revolved around Mini and Frankie's burgeoning friendship and Mini's impending parenthood - it was a long, drawn-out affair focusing on Mini's pregnancy, and was full of dubious character motivations.

One of the first scenes was what I have coined 'the most awkward hospital waiting room of all time'. Alo and Mini's mum both discover her impending motherhood, Nick fought with everyone and the whole gang swore and argued in a public place. It was magnificent - if only waiting rooms were usually this entertaining.

But after this scene, it all went a bit wrong. 'Skins' is at its best, in my opinion, when it's outside the realms of normal life, but it contains exaggerated versions of true events, to which characters react as you or I would in 'real life'. Instead, the episode saw Frankie and Mini plotting to run away to tour the world with Mini's baby rather than give it up for adoption, which noone was forcing her to do anyway.

Also, Mini and Frankie used to despise one another, and now suddenly they are supposedly the best and only friends in the group? There is definitely some sort of lesbian subtext to the episode, but once again, like all the characters say, Frankie is being a 'mindfuck'. There is definitely more to her behaviour than we can see - the running away was definitely more for her own secret benefit than Mini's - but will she reveal why next week?

Alo is the only character behaving as one would expect - he goes absolutely out of his mind at the thought of a baby, as I think anyone would. And Rich finally got a scene! I think that the Alo and Rich friendship has been massively underused this season, and has been one of the truest and most natural friendships of all Skins' characters - despite the fact that I don't think highly of either character individually, together, they are very realistic.

Some notes:
-Found myself watching the entire episode saying 'It's going to be an actual baby, not a new coat - you should probably be taking this more seriously'.

-Someone should probably put an end to Grace's phone contract because that money is just being wasted.

-Doctors don't say 'This blood pressure stuff can be a bit of a fucker'. They don't.

-Frankie literally didn't wear trousers/proper clothes all episode. Or even a skirt. I saw more of Frankie's thighs yesterday than I've ever seen my own. She lives in Bristol, not Miami.

-Mini quite literally pissed in a sink, in front of Frankie. Boundaries.

The episode ended in a lovely little Mini/Alo (Mino?) scene, in which they decided that they love one another, and they'll reunite and live together with a baby. All very lovely (the Can't Touch Me scene was very funny) but at what point did this become about love for either of them? They were, to use the vernacular, 'banging', and it is conceivable that Alo would fall for Mini, but the other way around? I don't buy it. And, the ending (spoilers now) - Skins couldn't just leave its characters happy could it? It also couldn't pick an original storyline could it? The episode ended with one of the most obvious 'oh no!' turns the plot could have taken. Shame on Skins.
In summary, whilst the characters of this generation and their behaviours are still a mystery to everyone but the writers, the episode did enthrall me somewhat - Mini's mum, whilst unbearable to start with, did mellow and the episode had an interesting, if unbelievable plot. The contrast in the final scene, between the music and the visuals, was expertly manufactured for maximum shock. But judging from next week's trailer, this will be followed by one of the oddest and most disjointed season finales of all time - good luck to them.

Written for: Great & Gold

17 March, 2012

Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes

Read This Book.

Sci-fi, in the general use of the term, is not something I am generally partial to. I like Doctor Who, and Primeval, because they are good stories with good characters, which HAPPEN to include sci-fi elements, without being reliant upon them. Keye's 'Flowers for Algernon' is another such creation - pigeonholed as sci-fi, but is so much more. The story is a love story, a classic tragedy and a thriller. It is excellent.

The story follows Charlie Gordon, IQ of 68, as he undergoes experimental surgery to improve his intelligence. The book's language use incorporates the technical aspects of his transformation, and the emotional resonance of such an impactful surgery. Keyes' use of language follows Gordon from his almost-illiterate beginnings through his ascension through literacy. The use of spelling, punctuation and grammar create a character whose intelligence alters, but who resonates distinctly as the same person throughout.

The novel's most interesting motif is that of light and dark, which plays seamlessly into the novel's overwhelming use of doubles. In that it plays out as a tragedy, a comedy and psychological thriller, it also merges Gothic elements reminiscent of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The idea of a 'dark cell' and a 'cave' along with the light, the idea of entering the light, of acquiring intelligence and of loving, contrast throughout the novel. But interestingly, the epitaphs of lightness and dark are transferred between different contrasts, leaving us with the question of just how enlightened we are by our intelligence, and our emotional intelligence. The idea of former and present attitudes to intelligence resonates in Keyes' ideas on the mal-treatment of the mentally disabled and his mother's strong opinions on asylums. The relentless Adam, Eve and Eden references talk about the boundaries of humanity but also reference changing attitudes - the church continues to change and adapt, and we do, but as is evident in the recent gay marriage debate, at different speeds and in differing directions. Keyes seems to make the point that there is no one objective 'word' on any one subject.

Literally all the covers are disgusting.
Doubling continues as a technique in a war between new Charlie and old Charlie, through which elements of the past and future are present for both, wherein we are never clearly the nature of old Charlie's presence in new Charlie's life. The idea of motherhood, family and the past give us a sense of just how much one can be tied to their past, and the transient nature of change. In the sense of a thriller, there is a momentum in the last third of the book, of hurtling towards a climax, a war between the new and the old.

The tragic nature of the story is what fascinated me most. The story fits into the classic Tragic conventions, but subverts them (arguably, Charlie becomes great, not just has potential to), and the tragic nature is compounded by the fact that Charlie rises, then falls to where he began, not further down. To see the blessing of intelligence handed out but then ripped from him, and to see him becoming acutely less aware of what is happening to him, is tragic, and plays with the very nature of perceptions of intelligence and emotion.

This is hilarious if you've read it. If not, SPOILER WARNINGS.

The story is inextricably linked to sex, love, tragedy, intelligence and humanity. The boundaries of science versus the natural world and musings on the ultimate weakness of the human race are plentiful in the book. The title might not seem clear until the end of the novel, but when you read the final lines of this book, you'll probably be deeply moved, absorbed, and fascinated by this wonderful book, which is excellently poignant for the current era.

13 March, 2012

Reality TV Rollcall

Its a week of Scandal on Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, which we'll shorten to BFGW like the travellers continuously shorten the amount of time they take between birth and marriage.

One of the travellers ran off and 'spent the night' (yes, they banged) with her fiancé, and it is imperative that the couple get married as soon as possible - because god forbid they are considered 'unclean', says the family walking around in denim shorts and literally the least clothes I have ever seen outside of an 18-30s holiday. This is the greatest irony of a traveller's life.

Over in some other caravan, Priscilla says she will go to Poland to get the breast enlargment and tummy tuck she's 'always dreamed of'. Yes, because at the age of 3, that was definitely uppermost in your mind. We also find out that this will be her second boob job. Her SECOND. Were I not a reviewer, there would literally be no words. I'm going to use one word, and one only: hooker.

Next we skim to Paddy Doherty, serial television star and 'hard man', who has an issue with defending his 'honour'. He has 'spent his whole life defending the family honour', and in this spirit, decides to put on a vest much too small for his enormous tattoed frame, and fight illegally in a boxing ring on national television. Figures.

After this, some absolute heffa called Roseanna put on a neon pink dress ready to become a respectable travellers' wife and a child of about 8 was given champagne and yelled ''I'm gonna get DRUNK'' out of a white limo. At this point I switched off and stopped writing because I'm only human and this programme is TOO FUNNY.

It was a week of Geordie Shore with a calm first half hour and a BLOODY MESSY second half as the Prodigal LADS returned to the house. As Ricci and Gary (now best banter lad friends, despite tearing each other's faces off two episodes ago) spraytanned two conveniently bookable strippers with the worst faces I've seen this side of Newcastle, Gary says 'nice tits... nice arse... I even got a semi'. And I just think - are your parents watching this? Like, genuinely, you're okay at going on TV and doing this? Really? Seriously? Right. Same goes for Rebecca, the 19-year old nymph slut who joined the cast this series, who unleashed her party trick upon the house this week. I can't even write those words down (please dear, we're British) but suffice to say it was the most uncomfortable thing I've seen on TV.

The Ricci/Vicki (Ricki) RELATIONSHIP (he called her his girlfriend, he seems to just be 'Ricks' to her... totes awks!) trundled onwards this week, destination HORROR. Ricci, like other lads, just wanted to be a lad, and go out with the lads, to do lad things like be a lad with the lads. If you think I'm saying lad a lot, you should see Ricci's interview. He took Vicki out for posh grub and then asked if he could skip the rest of their night and go to a strip joint. Vicki, through a combination of go fuck yourselfs and hilarious post-event interview clips shot him down and dumped him, without him really realising for the rest of the episode. Superb.

The sabotage at the end of the episode was great - girl power empowerment etc etc. James stepped into the limelight this week (well he's always had an interest in amateur theatre) which started with his great line 'them's nice flowers though'. He also managed to copy every single thing Jay said in the episode, whilst staring at Jay's eyes. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm referencing the fact that James is definitely GAY.  James is playing a dangerous game with 'the ladz' though - he is not one of them, as we have seen many-a-time in his failed pulling attempts and THUS needs to keep the girls on his side - who else will he bitch about the boys with?