I need a new female crush…

March 21, 2009

…to counteract all these man-crushes I’m experiencing. Latest object of my oh-so-hetero-and-platonic affections? This guy:

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It may be several days late and several bucks short, but here’s a chat I had with Russell Brand a few months ago. In a pleasant coincidence, Mr Brand happens to have a cousin named…Guy Davis. It’s not me.

My theory about you, Russell, is that people connect with you because you seem genuinely curious about the world and everything in it rather than bemused or blindly angry at the state of things.

Mostly, yes. This is your theory: people connect with me because of a lack of fury and because I seem approachable and nice.

Well, you seem approachable and nice…so far. But primarily it’s because you seem to want to understand what’s going on in the world rather than just rail against stuff.

Yes, I think I am a quizzical gent, and I think your theory holds water. It will go down as one of the great theories, it’ll rank alongside the works of Pythagoras.

Thanks for that. Hey, when you did you realise you were funny?

There are key moments. I remember doing an impression of Frank Spencer when I was seven and everyone in the room laughed and said ‘Do it again! Do it again!’ And I did it again and my Nan said ‘Nah, wasn’t as good that time’. I was only little! But that was quite funny the first time, not so good the second. I wanted to be a serious actor. I don’t like to resist showing off, I found it hard to resist saying things I thought were deadly funny. When I was at school at 11, this woman goes [Joyce Grenfell voice] ‘Russell…’ – that was the teacher! Actually, that’s why I now fancy women who are teachers. If I’m with a woman who’s a teacher, it’s all ‘My God, I’ve managed to turn this situation around! There’s been a dramatic paradigm shift and now I will teach you! I will be the didact.’

Better that than an auto-didact, I guess.

Yes, too much of that goes on in my life. But what happened was I was late and the teacher asked why I was late. ‘Well, there was this…spaceship.’ And everyone really, really laughed. That was a good response. Then when I was at drama school, I remember talking about some embarrassing situation with a jacket and some bloke goes [thick regional accent] ‘You should do that as your fookin’ job! You should have a spot on the television where you go on and say stuff like that!’ He was from Newcastle, by the way. He wasn’t ill or anything. While I was at that drama school and I was tackling things like Moliere and Shakespeare and Brecht and learning about the origins of tragedy in Greek theatre , and it was dense and academic and beautiful, the stuff I really enjoyed was when we were improvising and muckin’ about. And I also knew I was funny when I did a school play at 15 – Bugsy Malone. So there are loads of little incidents. But stand-up happened when there was nowhere else left to go, really.

You seem to be wearing many different hats these days. How would you describe yourself?

Comedian, definitely, and I’ll tell you why: the autonomy of it. I could do it right here if I needed to. I don’t need a producer or director or nobody. I could just turn up someplace and make people laugh. Noel Gallagher is my friend, and he says mental things but when I say stuff I get in much more trouble. I’d be hanged if I said some of the things he says. But he can get away with it because Oasis has an unimpeachable place in culture which they’ve earned through their brilliant music. And he’s got enough in the bank but he also said ‘As long as I’ve got a guitar, I know I can put on a show someplace and people will turn up and I’ll be able to make a bit of money. So the media and all those can fuck off’. My equivalent of that is staying true and faithful to stand-up comedy, working hard and not turning into a wanker. If I stay true to it, I’ll always be able to tell people what I think and make them laugh.

Is turning into a wanker something you fear?

Not too much. I’m a wanker for about an hour a day anyway. It’s an episodic wank throughout the day. There’ll be a bit of every day where I’ll think ‘Oh, that was a silly thing to do or say’. But I’m constantly monitoring my conduct as part of my program of recovery from drugs and alcohol. I am obliged to watch myself.

Let’s talk about your internal editor. Is it is a full-time position? Is there danger pay involved?

I’ve sacked him. There is no internal editor. I’ve outsourced that job.

We’re here today to talk about a TV show called Ponderland. Why should I forego the cricket to watch it?

Do you like cricket a lot?

Not really, no.

This is better. It’s me talking about a subject I find interesting. My mates, who have produced the program, watch loads and loads of old TV shows – mostly documentaries but generally loads and loads of stuff. Sometimes they’ll see something that’ll make them go ‘That’s fucking ridiculous’. And it might not even be a major part of the show – it’ll be someone in the background or someone making a bizarre throwaway comment. When television is made, it’s about narrative, innit? It’s about information being delivered in a certain fashion – ‘We’re trying to take you to this place’ – but when it’s outside this normal linear journey, that’s when it gets funny. One of my favourite bits is on the ‘Pets’ episode: it’s this woman who has sex with animals. One of the things I like about the clip is that this married woman has had sex with a dog, wants to have sex with a horse, and all the culpability lies with her husband, the dog and the horse! All of them are to blame, not the one consistent factor…which is you! It’s a severe test of my liberalism. Let’s open our minds real wide!

You have a very distinctive look, Russell. Does it reflect the inner you?

Yes, and that’s why it works. Like Morrissey said: Black on the outside because black is how I feel inside. The way I dress, the way I talk, the things I say – they’re all in alignment with one another. I think my external condition is a fair representation of the way I feel inside: spindly, confused and a bit sexy.

When my mum calls to check up on me and asks who I’ve spoken with today, and I tell her Russell Brand, she may well ask who that is. What should I tell her?

Say he’s a spiritual gent. Emphasis on gent. ‘God, he’s misunderstood. I could have followed him to the ends of the earth. I could have kissed him.’ And please indicate that in spite of my superficial renegade status, I’m a deeply spiritual and moral man. My moral codes are authentic, not based on arbitrary conformist mechanisms. She’ll probably be quite into me, your mum. If you ask me what you should tell your wife or your 20-year-old lover, then the answers would have been different.

I will require answers for both of those.

I’ll give them to you off the record.

Props to the ace Kelly Black from Seven and the badass Daniel Weiner for setting up this chat. And to Mr Brand, of course.


As if you needed further proof that I’m a big old nerd

March 17, 2009

I can’t wait to see this:

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Why? Because it’s Jesus H. Caviezel and his Viking pals versus a bloodthirsty dragon-alien from outer space, that’s why.

Okay, it’s cheese. But it appears to be a self-aware but sincere sort of cheese (sometimes the best kind!). I mean, look at that DVD cover – reeks of ’80s VHS, doesn’t it? (And I love how Jim Caviezel is crouching like he’s constricted by the box’s dimensions and can’t stand up straight.)

Available May 19. That date can’t come soon enough.


“When you’re down here with me…YOU’LL FLOAT TOO!”

March 16, 2009

Just when you thought it was once again safe to accept a balloon from a clown lurking down a storm drain…

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…comes the news that Warner Bros is moving ahead on a big-screen version of Stephen King’s IT.

I’m a big fan of this book – in fact, I’m more excited about the possibility of a good screen adaptation of IT than I ever was about a WATCHMEN movie (and I was pretty darn excited about WATCHMEN). So expect further musings on this in the days to come. In the meantime, check out what my man Brendan Leonard had to say on the issue here.


If you’re not watching EASTBOUND & DOWN…

March 16, 2009

…you deserve a midnight visit from this guy.

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Get with the program. It started out as hilarious, and it has become something so much more in the four episodes I’ve seen so far. Brilliant.

Here are my initial thoughts on the show from my Trailer Trash column in Inpress:

“…it chronicles the downward spiral of one Kenny Powers, former baseball great (his catchphrase: “You’re fuckin’ out!”) who blew his big-time career in a whirlwind of coke, steroids and egomaniacal, racially-insensitive statements to the media. Forced to move back to the suburbs and shack up with his big brother’s family, Kenny finds himself scratching out a living by teaching PE (no, not Public Enemy) at his former high school. It would seem like he’s hit rock-bottom but Kenny lives by a mantra that only years of entitlement can engender: “I am better than everybody else.” And despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he’s going to make sure no one forgets that.

Kenny is played by the magical and awe-inspiring Danny McBride, who basically picked up and walked away with any moments of Pineapple Express that James Franco hadn’t already stolen. He and collaborators Jody Hill and Ben Best (their low-budget comedy The Foot Fist Way brought them to the attention of Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow) are definitely testing a few boundaries with Eastbound & Down – it’s all very well to have a central figure who’s a buffoon (cases in point: David Brent, Alan Partridge) or a snarky bastard (paging TV’s Dr House) but Kenny is a full-throttle, all-American asshole who seems close to irredeemable. There are only a couple of scenes in the Eastbound & Down pilot that give any indication that he’s someone worth spending any time with. But McBride has an unruly charm that can’t be denied, not to mention an underlying sweetness that can’t stay completely buried. (One online pundit made a very astute observation: picture him as The Wizard of Oz’s Cowardly Lion. Works, doesn’t it?) Combine that with his utterly uncompromising performance – the first episode has him yelling insults at little kids, snorting lines of coke, insulting a variety of minorities and tossing a topless woman from his jet-ski (not a euphemism) – and you’ve got an anti-hero for the ages. Or at least the first half of ’09.”

And it must be said that the upward trajectory of Eastbound & Down makes me extra psyched for this little gem (brought to you by the same people):

You’ve got Faris, LIOTTA and a when-did-this-guy-become-piss-funny Michael Pena. You’ve got some jet-black Rogen. And you’ve got mo’ McBride. Be there.

ITEM! The New York Observer seems to think poor taste is something to brag about. Chumps.


Late To The Party: ‘The Fear’ by Lily Allen

March 16, 2009

First of all, some clarification about the whole ‘Late to the Party’ thing.

I like to imagine myself as a cutting-edge kind of cat, someone who’s down with the latest and possibly greatest, but the fact of the matter is that in a great many situations I’ve been trailing the zeitgeist by a few steps since…hmmm, the mid-Eighties, perhaps?

I say a great many situations. Not all, though. I like to think I’m relatively up to speed when it comes to certain things – film and TV, for instance. Even there, though, there are still gaps in my education. Gaps that I aim to fill…and lucky you, you’ll be there as that happens if you drop in on Remorse Code every once in a while. So stick around, it could be kinda interesting.

Back to ‘Late to the Party’, and the fact that I’ve often got a little catching up to do when it comes to music or literature or social trends or even delightful desserts that are available RIGHT NOW in the freezer section of your local supermarket (seriously, have you tried Borg’s Continental Desserts? Specifically the ‘European style ricotta with lemon & orange peel’? They’ll change your goddamn life).

Every once in a while (actually, I’d say pretty bloody infrequently given how often I’ve updated this blog in the past), I’ll jot down a few words in appreciation of something or someone who has tickled my fancy long after everyone else’s has been tickled. Your thoughts about this topic will probably have been well and truly formed by this time. But, hey, it can’t hurt to add another opinion to the mix, right? And if you disagree with that statement, fuck off.

First topic of discussion? This little lady.

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I could take or leave Lily Allen when she broke out with ‘Smile’ a couple of years back. The song was an appealing burst of sardonic sunshine but it didn’t necessarily push my buttons in the right combination, and Allen herself seemed to be a calculated combo of cheeky and cool. Sure, I wouldn’t switch stations when her song came on and I was perfectly happy to visit websites that featured paparazzi shots of her with her shirt off, but buying her album? Pass.

Cut to…now! Okay, a couple of months ago. And ‘The Fear’, the first single from Allen’s second album It’s Not Me, It’s You, creeps in through my eardrums and starts sneaking around in my head, refusing to budge. Why did I dig this more than Lily’s previous work? 

The main reason was that she had earned the right to convey the casual cynicism, the world-weariness and the mix of amusement and bemusement the song expresses. Having gone through various personal and professional crises of varying degrees of magnitude, having snarked and been snarked upon (snarked about, maybe?), having enjoyed and endured the highs and lows of the showbiz machinery, Allen could sing about the sweet superficiality of modern celebrity/notoriety with understanding and authority. And the fact that she added a wickedly understated sense of humour to her performance only enhanced the experience.

I like the tune, and I love the lyrics, whether they’re mildly oblique (“I look at the sun and I look in the mirror”), fun with puns (“I am a weapon of massive consumption”) or cutting in their simplicity (“I want loads of clothes/and fuckloads of diamonds/I heard people die while they’re trying to find them”).

ITEM! A smart chap named Chris Wade worded me up that the sun/mirror bit refers to Brit tabloids The Sun and The Daily Mirror. That’s pretty fucking clever, if you ask me.

My friend Justine has lent me It’s Not Me, It’s You (she also lent me Tim Buckley’s Greetings From L.A., and how the hell did I got my whole life without hearing this fucking guy? But that’s a subject for another Late to the Party), but I haven’t had a chance to listen to it properly yet, mainly because I’ve been playing Ladyhawke’s self-titled album non-stop for the last few days (seriously, have you tried this album? Specifically track #9 – ‘Professional Suicide’? Change your goddamn life). But I’m gonna give Lily Allen another shot, partly because she’s delivered a song I really like and partly because it’s hard not to like a girl who’ll voluntarily circulate shots like this:

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Cool.