Celebrity news & gossip from the world’s showbiz and glamour magazines (OK!, Hello, National Enquirer and more). We read them so you don’t have to, picking the best bits from the showbiz world’s maw and spitting it back at them. Expect lots of sarcasm.
CELEBRITY does really peculiar things to people and one of the most noticeable is any kind of body dysmorphia. Famous people crash diet under huge scrutiny and, sometimes very visibly, have a load of plastic surgery done.
But they’re all really rich, so sod ’em! Let’s laugh at ’em! HAHAHAHA!
Michael Jackson was one superstar who just couldn’t identify with the body he woke up with every morning. Such was his dependency on surgical procedures and medication, it ultimately killed him. And it was terrifically sad to watch a man who was such a super human, dissolve before our very eyes.
IMAGINE you’re a kid, it’s 1978 and you’re opening birthday presents. Your heart is full of optimism and joy in anticipation of what lies underneath the festive wrapping. As you tear away the paper, your smile fades to an expression of horror. “A Love Boat action figure?” Surely, this cannot be. No one would be insane enough to bypass the Star Wars figures and get this abomination instead… or would they?
Indeed, an untold number of children of the 70s wound up with exactly the worst sorts of action figures imaginable – the kind that make you wonder what sort of sick mind conceived of making them in the first place. Star Wars lends itself perfectly to the action figure business, as do comic book heroes. The Love Boat, not so much. Here are 10 such figures (in no particular order) which must have been bitter disappointments.
1. SET A COURSE FOR DISAPPOINTMENT
You could’ve had the Darth Vader action figure, but instead you got Captain Stubing. I suppose, in many ways they were similar: They both captained massive ships, both had family issues, and both were part robot. (Okay, I’m not sure that last one applies to Stubing, but you can’t prove he wasn’t.) Regardless, an Isaac the Bartender figure would’ve been cooler than either one.
BANDS are forever being banned from various countries. One thing seems to be more prevalent than others – these acts are usually hip hop outfits.
And again, New Zealand immigration authorities have decided to ban Odd Future from entering the country. Why? They have come to the conclusion that they’re a threat to public order.
Who knew that New Zealand was jumpier than China?
IN America, race is a particularly thorny topic (mainly because the Americans don’t have a recognised class system yet, because they’re still working on the old ‘if you’re not white, you’re considered black’ system). The police come under heavy criticism for profiling People of Colour and the justice system seems to be two-tiered – the white and/or wealthy get this treatment, everyone else can whistle.
When George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, America (and in turn, the world), erupted. Worse still, was that Zimmerman got off with it too.
IN this episode of ‘They all look alike regardless of facial features, height, age, skin tones, hair voices and bodies’ the Lambeth Weekender salutes Forest Gate’s Chiwetel Ejiofor for his work on the film 12 Years A Slave.
RADIOHEAD, sulkiest of the sulky, a band so pious that they’ve had their blood replaced with sour grape juice, have released a new thing. They’ve not bothered with vinyl or CD or even a download which pretends to be free. No, they’ve worked with studio Universal Everything to create a ‘living, breathing, growing touchscreen environment’.
It is called the PolyFauna app, which can download for nothing on your phone and has been made as a collab with the band, Universal Everything, producer Nigel Godrich and artist Stanley Donwood.
When You Wish Upon A Star: Exploring the Spirituality of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
THE second-highest grossing film of 1977 (right behind George Lucas’s Star Wars) was Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of The Third Kind, a science fiction film concerning mankind’s first official contact with alien life-forms.
Close Encounter’s narrative also involves the mystery behind alien abductions and the truth regarding a government conspiracy to keep the existence of UFOs a secret.
Throughout the film Spielberg cross-cuts between two major plot-lines: a scientist’s (Francois Truffaut’s) efforts to develop a language so as to communicate with the visiting aliens, and one blue-collar worker’s (Richard Dreyfuss) personal journey to better understand their uncomfortable — but growing — presence in his daily life…and inside his very head.
Importantly, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) was described by Science Digest as a film that is “tantamount to faith.”
The same publication noted too that Close Encounters’ sense of faith, so “wondrous and thoroughly spiritual – is registered in nearly every frame, reaching a climax in its messianic ending.”(Joy Boyom, Feb 1978, p.17).
Similarly, Gregory Richards’ monograph, Science Fiction Movies (Gallery Books, 1984, p.61) contextualizes Spielberg’s disco-decade UFO epic “as more of a religious film than a science fiction one.”
So the primary question that viewers must reckon with regarding this cult classic is: why have so many reviewers contextualized the Spielberg film as one of an overtly religious nature? Does an understanding of the religious allegory open up new avenues for understanding this work of art?
Or contrarily, does the religious explanation of Close Encounters only serve to cloud the secular, humanist message beating at the movie’s heart?
Close Encounters as Religious Allegory
In part, the categorization of Close Encounters of the Third Kind as a film about spirituality and faith arises because Steven Spielberg’s movie so abundantly features what David A Cook, author of Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970 – 1979, calls “an aura of religious mystery.” (University of California Press, 2000, p.47).
Roy Neary — much like the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus according to Paul Flesher and Robert Torry in Film and Religion: An Introduction — experiences a kind of spiritual dawning or awakening.
In particular, Neary sees a UFO and hears the call of the aliens (transmitted via a telepathically implanted, subconscious “message” or “vision.”)
At first he does not understand the alien message. What is the meaning of the strange thoughts in his head? Why does he feel compelled to undertake a pilgrimage –– a journey to a location of great importance to one’s faith — to some mountain he has witnessed seen only in his mind?
Eventually, however, Neary surrenders to the vision, to his faith. He forsakes all his worldly belongings and connections — including his family — in a devoted (and perhaps mad…) attempt to understand why he has been “chosen” to hear this call from a (literally) Higher Power.
Clearly, Neary seeks communion with the message’s sender…with a stand-in for God. His quest in Close Encounters thus reflects Scripture and Romans in particular. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Here, Neary has heard and honored that word, but it is the words of the aliens.
Neary’s hardship and trials are eventually vindicated. At last, he meets the aliens at the mountain of his vision (ironically at a place called Devil’s Tower), and then watches as a version of the second coming of Christ is re-enacted before his eyes.
According to Flesher and Torry (Abindgon Press, 2007, p.200), the returned abductees whom the aliens release from their landed mother ship symbolically represent the dead rising, or the resurrection of the dead as foretold in Scripture. And furthermore, the ascent of the alien craft to outer space with one of the faithful (Neary) ensconced aboard it similarly represents the Christian rapture, the trip to Heaven, essentially.
Even the physical appearance of the aliens in Close Encounters might be readily interpreted as strongly reflecting Christian apotheosis.
In form, the extra-terrestrial bodies “have no clear blemishes or gender, suggesting that superior beings transcend the normal categories of physical existence and approach the ethereal qualities associated with spirits and angels,” notes scholar Eric Michael Mazur, (Encyclopedia of Religion and Faith (ABLC-CLIO, LLC 2011, page 388).
In his final ascent to the stars, to Heaven, Roy Neary is wholly affirmed in his unyielding faith and belief in the vision he received, over his wife’s cynicism and stubborn skepticism, and over the U.S. Government’s attempt to “control” the meeting of man and alien.
In some sense, Close Encounters is all about taking a leap of faith, and that very idea finds resonance in one of Spielberg’s compositions. Confronted with the government lie about a deadly and toxic nerve gas spill in Wyoming (near Devil’s Tower), Neary chooses to “believe” his own narrative instead. He rips off his protective gas mask and breaths the purportedly contaminated air. But he is proven right…he survives, and his faith is replenished.
Given the alien angels, the metaphor for the Second Coming and even this leap of faith, the overall effect, therefore, of this cinematic journey is indeed, well, rapturous.
Strangely, however, there is a dark aspect to this story of religious awakening that one must also weigh.
While it is true that Roy Neary transitions from an unhappy and spiritually bereft life to one of faith and purpose, the cost of such knowledge of God (or God surrogate, in this case) is his very family. In the act of proving his faith and his worthiness of being “born again” in the stars, Roy abandons his family on Earth. This abandonment is literal, not metaphorical.
The non-believers — including his children — get “left behind” to toil in the world without his guidance or even presence. And again, the message could be interpreted as strongly religious.
If you don’t “believe,” you don’t get saved.
Lastly, even Close Encounters’ famous tag-line “We Are Not Alone,” could be easily parsed in a religious, “God is my co-pilot” sense.
Close Encounters as a Secular Film about Self-Fulfillment
An alternate reading of Close Encounters suggests this cinematic work of art from Spielberg is actually a humanist film, the secular tale of a man who chooses to no longer be enslaved to society’s destructive constructs (including government, career, and family), and to follow his own individual path instead.
The story, again, is of Neary breaking free of constraints, but the breaking free in this reading is from a society that lies, cover-ups, and demands his perpetual unhappiness for its continuance.
The fact that Spielberg plays the song “When You Wish Upon a Star” at the conclusion of Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the primary support for this reading.
One lyric in that composition suggests a direct rebuke of faith, or religious identification. When you wish upon a star it “makes no difference who you are,” the song goes. In other words, you need not be affiliated with any particular group or belief system if you hope to achieve your dreams. You need not believe in God or a higher power. Instead, if you must merely “wish” and voice your “dreams,” you will be rewarded for following the best angels of your — human — nature.
In terms of history, Close Encounters of the Third Kind followed closely on many frissons in American politics, and this context, likewise, suggests a more humanist reading.
President Richard Nixon had been toppled in the Watergate Scandal in 1974, for example. His resignation and culpability in illegal activity suggested that “faith” or “belief” in the pillar of leadership was not such a good idea.
Similarly, the Vietnam War had ended in ignominy for the U.S. in 1975. The cause that so many Americans fought for (and died for…) was lost, and this very idea seems reflected in Close Encounters’ final scene.
There, a line of carefully vetted and approved government officials (surrogates for soldiers in Vietnam?) are overlooked by the aliens in favor of the “Everyman,” Roy Neary.
By contrast to these seemingly emotionless, expressionless, thoughtless drones, he is a man who chose explicitly not to believe the fairy tales his government was peddling. He has thus established his independence and his resourcefulness outside of Earthly and national considerations.
In this reading, the “leap of faith” of taking off the gas mask is actually the dawning awareness that — because of Watergate and Vietnam — the U.S. Government could no longer be trusted, or be considered an agent for honesty.
But again, in this reading of Close Encounters, one must reckon with Neary’s pure selfishness, his very questionable decision to leave his children and wife behind for his own individual “self-fulfillment.” And again, one must note that very idea of “sweet fulfillment” is explicitly voiced in the lyrics to the song “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
Yet I would suggest that Neary’s act of leaving his family (and his government, and his job…) behind in 1977 would not have been looked at by many audience members as purely a bad thing.
One must recall that the 1970s was determinedly the decade of the “self,” a fact reflected in the hedonism of disco music, and the blazing ascent in popularity of the “self-help” book genre. Popular buzz-words of the day included “self-realization” and — sound familiar? — “self-fulfillment.”
Yet as the movement of “self” grew in the late 1970s, many people were concerned that the new ethos was merely one of “self-involvement. The consumption-oriented life-style of immediate gratification soon gave rise to President Carter’s notorious 1979 “Crisis of Confidence” speech, which warned against judging success on material wealth rather than intrinsic human qualities of character and morality.
Meanwhile, the nation kept building more shopping malls, and imagined worlds futuristic (Logan’s Run) and apocalyptic (Dawn of the Dead) set at these new shrines to materialism. he 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake deals explicitly with this notion too, of the idea of people “moving in and out of relationships too fast” because they wanted to be happy and fulfilled, all the time.
But in a way, this is what Close Encounters concerns as well. Roy Neary helps himself, finally, to achieve his “dream,” even if his family can’t share in that dream. He gets what he wants — to go with the benevolent aliens to the stars — and in the late 1970s, this result is what qualified as a happy ending.
In his text How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity (Three Rivers Press, 1997, page 291) author Bruce Bawer wrote of Close Encounters of the Third Kind that “salvation, meaning, and transcendence come down from the Heavens in a spaceship.” The question to ponder today involves the brand of salvation and transcendence.
Is it a spiritual reckoning, or a secular one that the alien spaceship brings with it?
It is a testament to Spielberg’s skill, perhaps, as a filmmaker and storyteller, that Close Encounters can be interpreted through two such opposite lenses or world-views.
MILEY Cyrus has become a punchline, it’s true. However, the former Disney employee is slowly growing into a woman and making some clunky mistakes along the way, as well as some roaring successes. Recent photoshoots have shown a woman growing in confidence, less likely to rely on an awkward tongue sticking out, and on record she’s made some wonderful, sophisticated trappish ballads, masked by the behemoth – and not that brilliant, but neither that awful – hit, Wrecking Ball.
Fact is, she’s still working out who she is and, with that, she’s going to fu*k-up now and then.
Her father, on the other hand, is old enough to know better. However, he doesn’t and has, without doubt, contributed to the worst song of 2014 and, once you hear it, you’ll know that it is unlikely to be worsened by anyone else this year.
Billy Ray Cyrus has released a rap version of his 1992 hit Achy Breaky Heart.
Achy Breaky 2 features a rapper named Buck 22. His Twitter page says something about: “the new revolution of Country Music mixed with Hip-Hop. Join the movement.”
Someone’s heard Avicii’s ‘Country House’ (and we all know, nothing called ‘Country House’ is ever pleasing on the ear) and thought: ‘WE’LL HAVE SOME OF THAT!’
Anyway, Achy Breaky 2 takes something as wonderful as country and mixes it with something as wonderful has hip hop… but like someone mixing custard and sausages, the two wonderful things show that great things don’t necessarily go together.
The promo video kicks off with Larry King announcing “an unidentified flying object seen transcending over Europe,” before Cyrus and Buck 22 appear, only to be abducted by a spaceship filled with sexy aliens.
They then butcher music itself while some people twerk (they don’t actually ‘twerk’, but rather, ‘dance provocatively’, but people can’t be bothered finding out what’s different between ‘twerking’, ‘bogling’, doing the butterfly and all the other dances).
Enough chat. Dive straight in to the worst song you’ll hear this year.
Photos: The wonderful 14
ON this day in history – 1970: John Lennon performed his solo single Instant Karma! on Top Of The Pops.
“WHEN I entertain formally, it’s a place-card affair,” said Natalie Wood in 1966. She’d just finished filming Penelope. She was between her to marriages to Robert Wagner. Talking to The Press Courier, she added: “I seem to do most of my cooking on boats… I often whip up eggs ranchero.” In 1981, Natalie Wood drowned when she fell from a boat.
But at her Bel Air mansion, Wood made splendid dinners served in the buffet fashion. There were tiny quiche lorraine, piroshki and pelmeny. And there was her famous beef stroganoff:
“I BELIEVE that tape is going to have a life of it’s own”
And so spake KTLA reporter, Sam Rubin, after dropping a bollock so large in his new job, that everyone’s toes curled so hard, that the entire universe now has clubbed feet.
EVERYBODY knows that Mary Quant invented the mini-skirt. Except she didn’t. In reality nobody really knows for sure who produced the diminutive garment first. Some say it was John Bates, famous for dressing Diana Rigg so memorably in The Avengers, while others say it was the French designer Andre Courreges, although Quant would later write: “Maybe Courreges did do mini-skirts first, but if he did, no one wore them.” There’s no doubt, however, that skirts were getting shorter each year in the early to mid-sixties but this was almost certainly to do with technological advances that enabled tights to be produced relatively cheaply more than anything else. Although Mary Quant is often credited with inventing, or at least popularising, coloured and patterned tights too.
THE greatest unanswered question of human life is, paradoxically, about death.
What follows our duration on this mortal coil?
APART from sex scandals and tapping people’s phones, there’s little more the newspapers like doing than reporting on non-news. Now, that’s not to say they write about things that some might find uninteresting, but rather, stories about things that the stars won’t be doing.
So what’s the latest?
SINGER IceJJFish sings On The Floor in the manner of the Bar Mitzvah boy who voice broke mind verse.
It’s out latest instalment of World’s Got Talent. Previous hits for the compilation album are here.
ON January 19, 1984, 16-year-old Tracy Nolan met top pop act Duran Duran. Smash Hits magazine was there to record the “Special Night Out”.
Things we learn:
FOR some reason, it became a thing of pride for 1970s rock musicians to look as homeless and ungroomed as humanely possible. We may have chided the ’90s grunge bands for wallowing in filth, but that was nothing compared to the unwashed hordes of unkempt ’70s rock bands.
WATCHING Manchester United’s Premier League match with (there’s only one ‘f’ in) Fulham, Anorak was struck by a figure in the crowd. Seated alongside Sir Alex Ferguson was flame-haired crooner Mick Hucknall. We couldn’t help but notice that Hucknall looks a lot like the late comedian Charlie Drake. His catchphrase was ‘Hello, my darlings’. It’s known that Hucknall has a way with the women, too. Can they be related?
THIS might be the world’s worst Beatles tribute. In 1977, Rolling Stone Magazine booked Ted Neeley (Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar), Patti Labelle, Ritchie Havens, Yvonne Elliman (she was Christ’s Mary Magdalene) and more for A Day In The Decade, a rendering of A Day In The Life. The show begins with Neeley (bigger than Jesus?) singing about himself getting out of bed, dragging a comb across his head, looking up, realising he was late…
RETRO tunes on retro machines: Ed Cobb’s Tainted Love played by 13 Floppy Disc Drives and one Hard Disk Drive. Stand down the kazoo orchestra:
WHEN Pharrell Williams stepped out at the Grammies in a big hat, the fashion world cooed and ahed. America’s Headwear Association named Williams Hat Person of the Year. (Sadly, Williams has not been inducted into the 2014 Headwear Hall of Fame – this year’s honours go to Sophia Loren, Diane Keaton, Queen Elizabeth II, Bruno Mars, Spike Lee and Elton John. But next year, he is surely a shoo-in for the cloche corridor.)
OF course, The Fab Four’s time in America is very well documented. No-one needs to know more about the whole Bigger Than Jesus thing and George Harrison’s ‘spotty youths’ comment when he visited the hippies on the West Coast.
However, less well documented are the mop-top knock-offs that The Beatles created. Garage bands and frat beat groups sprung up all over America after the mop tops played Ed Sullivan.
So, here’s 10 of the best American Beatle Bands or Fab Four rip-off records… and by the way, being a Beatle rip-off band is no bad thing at all! Feel free to chime in with your own!
1. The Byrds
The Byrds hit the jackpot when they took Dylan’s folk music and turned it into a Beatle beat. Perfect for the US market – homegrown lads (not like those British Invasion swine!) making Dylan’s nasal drawl more palatable. ‘Feel A Whole Lot Better’ is the choice here, but in fairness, it could’ve been picked from two dozen songs!
ALFRED Hitchcock once remarked that every person understands fear, because everyone was once a child. “After all,” he declared, “weren’t we all afraid as children?”.
According to the authors of Monsters under the Bed and Other Childhood Fears (Random House; 1993, page 1), “childhood is a time of many fears” and children between the ages of six and twelve “experience an average of seven different fears.”