Category Archives: entertainment

A winter warmer

Chloe Live at Robert Johnson Vol 1

While those slightly behind the times may still see minimal as the sound of the underground, they’re the same that probably think Berlin is the sole arbiter of teuton cool. Robert Johnson, the pint-sized Frankfurt club, nestled in Offenbach, is one of many reasons to refute this. It has been busy getting on with its thing, long before Berlin became the place-du-jour, and 2009 sees it launch its first mix series. And it’s been worth the wait. My sneak preview of Chloe’s Live at Robert Johnson Vol 1 left me utterly inspired and in awe of the most aurally pleasurable house music I’ve heard in a long time. No fanfare, no big branding, just sumptuous music. And, being those paragons of design, there’s even a limited edition for the chin-strokers. Bliss.

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How to get ahead in Russia

Marry an oligarch, then get him to publish an exclusive book to publicise his love and admiration for you. Or, more specifically, if you’re Olga Rodionova, pose in a series of ‘edgy’ photos with not much more than a smile to announce yourself to the world. An article in today’s Observer Woman monthly tries to shed more light on one of the new Russia’s fastest-rising females.

The Book of Olga

In this post-feminist world, perhaps this is the newest (or is it oldest?) form of empowerment, and you have to admire the sheer audacity of it (not to mention Rodionova’s attitude to, shall we say, self-promotion) but isn’t it a bit depressing that the one of the best ways to carve attention and impact still seems to involve disrobing? Or is it really that black and white? While Olga and Sergey epitomise in many ways the ostentatiousness of the new Russia – money, sex, glamour – they’re not as clear-cut or textbook as first appears. This isn’t the first time her husband has indulged her fantasies and put them into print. Far from it. It started a decade ago, the oft-asked question from photographer to aspiring subject: ‘why don’t you try it naked’? But she is hardly the usual subject either. Unlike many of their contemporaries, they shun the limelight, (though with that sort of hobby, it’s unlikely that in a country that’s still conservative, even as it changes, that high society would welcome them with open arms) and she sees this as a noble act of expression, of strength, even if it’s of the most unreconstructed kind.

Olga Rodionova

There’s no doubt that Bettina Rheims’ images are far more than simple tacky puff pieces, in fact we can only estimate the money that went to into their manufacture was at least sizeable. But what is their aim? They’re certainly explicit enough to at least match, if not eclipse the famous (and now rather dated) Sex that added another level of notoriety to Madonna’s already gargantuan profile, even if Rodionova doesn’t have the existing image to begin with, but as an act of self-promotion it can’t really be beaten. For the record, Olga is pragmatic about the collection. “We decided to do something that will go down in history” she states, though where this fits in with the Iraq War and Mumbai bombings I’m not sure. Her confidence and attitude aren’t in question though. As is her almost detachment from the images: “People don’t understand here, they can be primitive: they confuse the image with the person.” So, if they’re not her, then what do they really represent? Her husband, Sergey, sees them as art.

“This is about the freedom of a woman who dares to appear the way the artist sees her and who is aware of her beauty and strength…. It is also about the freedom of a man who is so sure in his feelings, in his family and in his relationship with his woman that he fully approves of her self-expression. I would be proud if this book occupies a place in the history of art.” I’m not so sure everyone that would purchase book would see it with such lofty ideals. It’s certainly yet another way to set the couple apart from the rest of their money-laden contemporaries.

The book won’t be onsale in Russia. “Our society is not ready for such things” Olga sagely notes. “Men prefer their wives to stay at home under lock and key. No one wants feminism here.” But is it feminism? Or is it ‘art’ wrapped up in exploitation, in high-class pornography. Maybe it says as much about the country they inhabit as the pair themselves. That is more easy to conclude than the motives and merit of the book, but you have to at least take your hat off to the Rodionovas. They know how to make an entrance, and they will at least shake up the system. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people waiting for the sequel as well….

Cheryl Cole, every woman’s style idol

Cheryl Cole Kate Moss

Or so she should be, if the Observer Woman monthly is anything to go by. In its awards leader this weekend, it selected the Girls Aloud star as its Icon of the Year. For those that are, like myself, aware of her standing in showbiz, her mentor/judge role on X-Factor (something I admit I don’t really give a lot of my weekend to), as well as her marriage to that shining advert for the modern football player Ashely Cole, this may seem a little confusing. Now, yes, this is a style award, and it’s arguable that she has come on leaps since her early chavved-up casual wear days, but seriously….? There’s hundreds of far more stylish, and more elegant women around, or is this really a transformation award? Maybe I’m just missing the point, (and let’s be fair, the supplement is hardly aimed at me) but exclaiming that “No one pulls off a pocketed fuchsia minidress on primetime TV better than Cheryl” leaves me mystified (they gave the overhyped and bland American Apparel its label of the year – one that’s worshipped by such luminaries as Johnny ‘you’re not Jim Morrison’ Borrell and run by that friend of females everywhere, Dov Charney, so god knows…) Maybe old-fashioned grace, understated style and classic design just don’t cut it any more. Maybe I’m just a dinosaur… but I’ll take the effortless Moss of over Cheryl in the style stakes every time. Isn’t that boring and predictable eh?

Off with their heads?

I have to admit, I’m hardly a fan of Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross. The former is a whiny, shouty, loudmouth whose primary form of comedy is speaking like a 3 year-old, very fast (he’s actually a decent writer, if the rest of his Dickensian persona didn’t get in the way), and the latter an over-the-hill illiterate whose interview ‘technique’ consists of being nasty to people he doesn’t like and inserting his tongue up the anus of those he does. Hardly paragons of this country’s comic traditions.

But still, the furore over their radio show? I mean, is it really worthy of the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition’s comment? Their original series of phone calls were crass, pathetic, unfunny (most importantly) and actually embarrassing, like a couple of schoolboys egging each other on. I’m sure the granddaughter doesn’t care (in fact, she’s probably offended by being linked sexually to either) but Andrew Sachs deserved an apology. He got one, from bot (the granddaughter has since called for their sacking, though whether this was a reaction to the reaction isn’t clear).

But the shitstorm that’s now calling for their sacking, and being front page news. I mean, is it really that much of an issue? Comedians overstep the mark all the time. It seems more that it’s the BBC, therefore paid for by our tax, and also the disclosure of Ross’ inflated (insane) salary that is the issue here. The skit was recorded, then vetted and passed by a producer, and because it’s the Beeb, it’s now thrown into issues of correct use of taxpayer’s money, broadcasting standards, and the like. The truth is, it was out of line, but that should’ve been the end of it ater an apology, and possibly discipline of the producer that approved it. The fact there were 2 complaints before the press game started, and now there are 10,000 says everything you need to know about how we act as a society.

One thing we shoudl be defending in all of this is the right to free speech. Comedians take risks about all sorts of subject matter, and they should be applauded for it, even when it’s this terrible and unfunny. But if anyone needs sacking, it’s the producer that approved it, on quality grounds alone if nothing else, and not the idiots that said it.

Sweeney? Gone for a Burton….

One of the few joys of transatlantic flight are at least catching up on films you’ve missed in the last 12 months. So, for a roll call, here’s my list: 

American Gangster (cracking) 

Juno (utterly brilliant)

Atonement (overblown sentimentalist posho semi-nonsense)

The Kite Runner (good but not great. Maybe I was in the wrong mood, ie. comatose)

I Am Legend (watchable pulp)

We Own The Night (at 4am it was alright)

I’m Not There (wonderful for the 25 mins I grabbed before the video system on Quantas died on its arse grrr)

Which brings me to the final choice. Sweeney Todd. Now, this should be right up my street – Depp, Bonham-Carter, Spall, Rickman, Baron Cohen, and all helmed by the legendary Tim Burton. But it isn’t, you see. Depp’s entertaining Jack Sparrow accent becomes irritating when he’s not a drunk pirate, Bonham-Carter is great, but Mrs Lovett’s no Marla Singer. Rickman’s good, but the character is a bit wafer-thin, Baron-Cohen is pretty good, and Timothy Spall is his slime-covered best. 

But it’s the singing. It grates. And while I know building a set of dark and dingy London isn’t easy, so much CGI just made parts like a cartoon. But it’s just the SINGING. God, I’m not a massive musicals fan, but I’m not a hater of them either, but I wanted to cringe every time someone broke into song. In fact, I wanted all of the songs to end with a stint in the barber’s chair. 

This really is something that seemed a great idea turned into a terrible film. I’m sure it went down a storm in America though. Very ‘quaint’.