Saturday, July 31, 2004

The (original) Stepford Wives is one of my favourite films. Of all the films I review at my other website. it's the one that I get the most email about for some reason. So I was interested in the remake starring Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick. Even though the reviews were bad, I ignored them - I tend to disagree with other people's reviews anyway.

However, this time they were right. Watching the remake was like listening to someone sing my favourite song really badly in a way to intentionally annoy me. Rather than the feminist message, dark undertones and growing sense of paranoia which made the original so unforgettable and different, the remake ditches all that for campy humour, cartoonish characters and a few cheap one-liners. The last 15 minutes are particularly soul-destroying. I advise viewers to leave at the end of the scene in the supermarket - where the original film ends. Nothing is gained and everything is lost from an absolutely farcical "twist" ending that looks badly tacked on. Spoiler ahead - miss out the next paragraph if you haven't seen the film.

Having Glenn Close as the crazed "mastermind" behind the Stepford Wives - she's going to turn the husbands into robots at some point too, robs the film of so much. It no longer becomes an evil male conspiracy but just the psychotic fantasy of a woman! Having Matthew Broderick do the right thing (doesn't he always!) and not turn his wife into a robot smacks of dumbed down sentimentality. Having the three "heroes" interviewed by Larry King now that they are all famous is just embarrassing, and reveals the mindset that becoming a celebrity is the best "happy ending" we can hope for today.

And as for the camp/butch gay couple - while it's nice to acknowledge that not everyone in the world is heterosexual, I was left confused about what the film was trying to get across about gay identity. Not counting men over 60, I don't really know many gay couples where there's one camp and one butch partner resembling a heterosexual married couple. I couldn't work out whether the film was advocating that being a camp sterotype was better or worse than being a butch one.

I left feeling dejected and robbed. Why aren't intelligent films with unhappy endings allowed to get made any more? Why are "messages" a bad thing now? I've believed that overall the world's population is slowly getting more intelligent and discerning over time. But I may be wrong. I intend to watch the original and best Stepford Wives along with Rosemary's Baby and The Whicker Man in order to detox my brain of that candyfloss crap.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

I couldn't resist.
Just back from a few days in Bournemouth. I am 32, but it's never too early to look for places to retire to - and I had pegged Bournemouth as a good place. It's on the south coast, so it gets better weather and is a seaside resort, which means it's probably quite old fashioned and kitsch. I was right. And even the Queen came on an offical visit while I was there - she follows me around everywhere - it gets embarrassing at times - perhaps she is thinking of somewhere to retire to as well. Saw Spiderman II (I'd forgotten what happened in Spiderman I - although I was able to get the gist), got a suntan, walked along the prom etc. All very relaxing - so Bournemouth is still on my retirement list. It's like Brighton but without all of that "alternative" stuff that can get quite off-putting at times.

Last night's Sleeping with the Au Pair was like Trisha for the middle-classes. It told of posh Alice, the Marquis of Queensbury's daughter - who, presumably, like her ancestor Boysie, has a penchant for masculine bits of rough - and ended up marrying Simon Melia, a handsome chap who was serving a 10 year prison sentence for armed robbery. He ended up having sex with their au pair - she found out, and threw him out. However, she took him back - first as a paid au pair for their children. And then, oh the irony, she ended up sleeping with him herself. It all could have been a Marianne Faithfull song - "you stole my heart Johnnie, you're such a rat Johnnie, I hate you so Johnnie, but I still love you..." I wish them every success and happiness. Especially her.

Some yobs shouted "Nadia's a man!" over the Big Brother wall. I suspect they worked for a newspaper. Or Endemol, the company who produce Big Brother. Poor Nadia didn't know where to put her face. The other housemates kindly pretended they hadn't heard. Nadia, with her nicotine addiction, crazy laugh and outrageous accent is a modern-day Mae West. She must win.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

While I was in Hong Kong I took Marianne Faithfull's well-thumbed autobiography with me, and enjoyed reacquainting myself with her life story.  Marianne first came to my attention as a cameo in Absolutely Fabulous where she played God during a dream sequence. "You should do an AMEX ad, you could be big, who does your PR?" Edina asked her. "I am big. I exist. Real things don't need PR" Marianne said wisely. I fell in love with her and it made it a life goal to watch her stupid early films Girl on a Motorcycle and I'll Never Forget Whatshisname, as well as acquainting myself with her back catalogue of music.

When Marianne was young she had the voice and looks of an angel. However, heavy drug addiction, cigarettes and interesting fashion choices have conspired to now make her sound somewhat ravaged - yet still beautiful. When she was in drug rehab, they got her to talk to the new residents as her voice calmed people down. I can see why. My favourite Marianne songs are "Why'd ya do it?" which has such lovely lines as "Every time I see your cock I see her cunt in my bed" and Sister Morphine which is a homage to a car accident where the protaganist dies in hospital and has his "blood-soaked sheets stained red". Marianne's friends are equally entertaining - especially the totally mad Anita Pallenberg who was in two of my favourite 60s films, Barbarella and Performance. Anita can say "fuck off" in six languages, has had sex with most of the Rolling Stones and was denounced as a witch by the Vatican. My favourite bits of Marianne's autobiography involve the scandal of the Redlands House drug bust - where she was discovered by shocked yet titillated police wearing a fur rug and a confident smile. I also like the part where she goes and lives on a bombed out wall in Soho for a year or so during her worst heroin-addict low. Her life should be immediately filmed and/or made into a musical.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The other day my Sky digical box broke. And you know what, I haven't missed it. So I've cancelled my subscription to Sky - I never watch the movie channels or Film Four. I don't particularly WANT to have dozens of shopping channels and crap music stations showing the same pop video. As long as I can watch Naomi Cleaver's acid tongue on Channel 4 I'll be happy. I'm also angry at E4 because they're not showing Big Brother America this year. Last year it was like watching someone push a drum full of snakes down a hill. Fortunately, it's now possible to watch it via the internet and it's just as fab. This year's hokey "theme" is DNA which means that a geeky goth girl and a geeky cowboy turn out to be brother and sister who've never met. There's also a twin situation - where every couple of days twins switch places and everyone thinks they're only one person. Most of the males are horrible fraternity-house body-obsessed homophobic jock types - very Hitler Youthesque. The girls are all interchangeable at the moment, except for Holly - a vaccuous model who tells us that she made a promise to herself "and my cats" before she came into the house that she was going to win. So far it's like watching a Tommy Hilfiger advert where everyone has rabies.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Coming to the end of my 2 weeks here in Hong Kong, here are some things, in no particular order that I'll always remember:

Neon signs. This place is obsessed with neon. It's like Vegas only more tacky. Early on, I decided that Hong Kong was inspiration for the city of Sogo in Barbarella. Although the buildings here are small fry compared to New York (about 16 stories high), the streets are narrow so you feel very hemmed in all the time. This, coupled with jet-lag and the resulting staying up all night and sleeping most of the day has meant that neon has replaced sunlight for me.

Bamboo scaffolding - it looks like an industrial tribunal waiting to happen, but I haven't seen any of it collapse yet.

Faces - it's bizarre to be in an ethnic minority. At the moment, I'm so used to seeing different facial features in people around me that my own face looks exotic to me in the mirror.

Language - in Hong Kong there is the phenomenon, rather racistly called "Chinglish" which consists of phrases like "All be happy and surely you shall be blessed with stars." I love it and think that we could learn a lot from them.

Chungking Mansions - don't let the name fool you. Nothing that's called a mansion is actually one in Hong Kong. Chungking Mansions is this delapidated, ugly, scary, massive flophouse-type building next door to my hotel. It's a total fleapit/dive, lots of seedy types hanging outside - my guidebook makes it sound like Hell. It's very cheap. Needless to say, I am fascinated by it and desperate to go inside to smell the potent mixture of grease, sweat and shit which apparently enamates everywhere.

People who are of normal size. It's so refreshing but there are no obese or morbidly obese people in Hong Kong (that's an exaggeration, but their levels of fatness are similar to the UK in the 1960s I'd guess). It really does make me realise how fucked up the UK and America have become when it comes to food - and how the west is digging its own grave with a massive knife and fork.

Where have the chavies gone? Similarly, I can't spot who are the chavs and who aren't. In the UK they make themselves apparent with their football shirts, bling-bling gold jewellery, baseball caps, etc. I'm sure there are chavs in Hong Kong, but I can't spot them - in this hot weather everyone dresses pretty much the same. Even the millions of maids who cluster round Hong Kong Island on their day off look respectable and normal.

Sex - despite the "west" being more permissive, Hong Kong beats it hands down. There are loads of gay bars, about 20 gay saunas and many more straight ones which offer "massage" i.e. brothels. Porn is routinely available everywhere. Yet there is none of the threatening sexuality you get in other cities. Even blonde women don't seem to be particularly remarked upon here. Needless to say, the gay scene is EXACTLY the same as the west. I am judged here on my ethnicity first and foremost. And as a tall, white man I am exotic. A good proportion of gay men look straight through me, others are incredibly aggressive and persistent. Still, it's nice to be continually told you look in your early 20s, even if you know it's not remotely true.

Teenagers - one of the cool places for the hip middle-class HK teen to gather is the Haagen Dazs restaurant opposite my hotel. They appear in groups of 5 and 6 - girls vastly outnumber the boys. They all giggle and chatter away, and take photos of each other on their mobile phones. It's all very nice and innocent.

Air conditioning - it's everywhere, except outside. You often get rained on from the excess water streaming out of tall buildings.

Strange fruit - I've tried so many fruits I've never even heard of before. It makes the "exotic fruits" section of Sainsburys seem mundane by comparison.

Friday, July 09, 2004

With the food poisoning over I feel ravenous and have been eating everything in sight - there's a huge Haagen Daaz shop near the hotel so I've paid a few visits as well as buying a load of clothes. I went into "Hysteric Glamour" yesterday - fascinating - loads of clothes with the word FUCK scribbled across them, assistants with attitude - kind of western rebellion meets eastern kitsch. I also discovered that there's a children's branch of Hysteric Glamour in the same mall. I wonder if they have the equivalent - little romper suits with the words "poo" written on them?

Watched a load of flamingos in a park yesterday. They're damn classy, but in a tacky sort of way. I'd like to have one as a pet.

One thing that has kind of disturbed me while here is the amount of western imagery, which is ubiquitous. Practically every shop has some white-faced, big-eyed Gap model grinning back at you. That's fine if you look like me - but it must result in an identity crisis for most of the indigenous population - especially for the young. I've never seen so many bad hair dye jobs in my life.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

For once last night I got to sleep at midnight - I was so pleased, my jetlag's over! However, it was just my body lulling me into a false sense of security. I woke up at 4 - with pains from my stomach. Why is it that every time I travel out of Europe I get food poisoning? I wasted no time and phoned for a doctor. He said it was probably a salad I ate at Pret A Manger - apparently due to the hot weather here a lot of food is "going off". I've been told not to eat any more salads - which is hard when you're vegetarian. I've been prescribed some tablets, which don't seem to be working - this morning I vomitted up a whole lasagne. There's no way of getting past it - vomitting is horrible whichever way you look at it. I'm trying to look on the bright side (at least I won't be putting weight on) - but really, today was utterly miserable. There's something very demoralising about being alone, on the other side of the world, ill, yet you still have to teach a class of students every day.

Monday, July 05, 2004

I have been in Hong Kong (work unfortunately) since Thursday. It's my first time here. I was warned it would be hot, but nothing prepared me for the sheer hairdryer quality of the weather. I'm going through several shirts a day which is humiliating. I'm also having trouble coping with the jetlag - waking at midday and getting off to sleep at 6 in the morning. I feel like the guy in Lost in Translation except that was Japan and I don't have a fey young woman to talk to.

Everywhere I go, men on street corners are trying to sell me fake Rolexes or suits. It gets a bit annoying after a while. The other day I turned on one in a rage - "Do you know how many times someone's tried to sell me a rolex? 100! LEAVE ME ALONE!"

Most people I know would be relishing a chance like this to explore a different culture, sample new foods, make new friends etc. Not me - I've absorbed too much newness in the last four days and now I just want to surround myself with familiar things and routines. All I can say is thank god that laptops have DVD players on them these days. Still, I did pass a shop today called Hysteric Glamour - keyword pink.