Saturday, November 29, 2008

And the award for the most boring award show goes to…

People continue to watch award shows. We continue to wonder why...

The Show

"Hollywood has its Oscars. Television has its Emmys. Broadway has its Tonys. And advertising has its Clios. And its Andys, Addys, Effies and Obies. And 117 other assorted Awards. And those are just the big ones." – Joanne Lipman

Award shows are usually described as events in which the rich and famous get together and congratulate each other on being rich and famous. By and large entertainment-free, these shows provide celebrities the chance to pat each other on the back, because apparently creating a piece of art, selling thousands of records, or being recognized worldwide and having a legion of fans who worship you isn’t reward enough in itself. Who needs intrinsic fulfilment when you can get a trophy to keep on your mantelpiece?

For even more ego massaging, such shows are televised so that the rest of the population can see how much more important celebrities are compared to the rest of us and how their jobs deserve much more accolade than that of an Average Joe.

But here’s the good thing about award shows: they guarantee that nothing fun will happen on tele during the four hours that the show is being aired, so they provide you with the chance to give your undivided attention to something more important – like actually watching the best movie of the year … twice – without wondering what’s on tele.

While one can sincerely hope that these shows get their ratings (which are declining, we’re glad to hear) based on TV sets people forgot to turn off, it does appear that millions of people around the world continue to watch something that will have absolutely no bearing on their lives. Why do people do that? I’m not sure, so I asked one of my friends, who replied: “I dunno, people do lots of stupid things, I can never understand why!”. So you can see why I like my friends. As for the reason why people watch award shows, I’m guessing it could be one of the following:

· To see how badly they’ll mess the event up: We like the way you think. Continue watching.
· Idle curiosity: Understandable, although your purpose can be served just as well by clips off YouTube; will help save many hours of your life.
· Because you have nothing better to do with your time: Consider yourself disapprovingly glared at, and adopt a new hobby NOW. We suggest soccer. It involves kicking a ball around a field with hopes that it will eventually end up in a goal. It might be just as pointless, but it sure as heck is more fun!
· To validate your low self-image by looking at others with over-inflated egos: Now that’s just sad. Seek therapy immediately.
· Because you genuinely want a program or movie or band to win: What? Seriously? WHY?!!

The Host

“When Laura Ziskin called, I was thrilled. There’s two things I’ve always wanted to do in my life. One is to host the Oscars. The second is to get a call from Laura Ziskin. You can imagine that day’s diary entry.” – Ellen DeGeneres

The host of the award show is the person who has the job of being funny, only he/she usually isn’t. So the host pretends to be funny, as the guests pretend to laugh, and the viewers pretend to watch. At best you’ll get half a dozen one liners which you don’t need to waste three or four hours for – you’ll conveniently find them online the next morning in an article that will point out why the show was the worst thing that has ever happened to television-watching humanity.

If, by some astronomical chance, the host is genuinely funny, rest assured that the celebrities in attendance won’t be amused, so the whole event will just be awkward at best. Expect uneasy smiles and forced chuckles. Hollywood appreciates easy, non-confrontational humour, and musicians particularly dislike laughing at themselves or their hypocrisy.

The Ceremony

"Two hours of sparkling entertainment, spread over four hours" - Johnny Carson

The award ceremony is the part of the show after which the celebrities will proceed to have a huge party and get lots of expensive gifts. The stars, clad in expensive clothes that will appear on fashion pages around the world the next morning, first walk down the red carpet where they give short interviews and tell the world which designer’s insanely expensive creation they’re wearing. Those of the local variety come complete with pretentious red carpet interviews where the celebrities (read: people who are under the illusion of being famous although ninety percent of our population doesn’t know who they are) pretend to act like they’re part of a show that will feature actual applause instead of fake one that’s added later.

The ceremony may include musical performances, commemorative bits, and – if time permits – handing out of awards. Awards are presented by presenters whose only job is to read off a teleprompter and hand the award to the winner. Very hard to mess up, you’d think, but the celebrities of the world are on a quest to prove you wrong. Expect flubs, off-the-point ramblings, and don’t be surprised if they forget to mention who the nominees are altogether!

The Performances

“Was that incredible? Britney Spears, everyone! Wow, she is amazing. She is 25 years old and she's already accomplished everything she's going to accomplish in her life. It's mind blowing.” – Sarah Silverman (MTV Video Music Awards, 2007)

In an effort to drag half an hour of proceedings to multiple hours, musical performances are added to award ceremonies in the form of artists lip-syncing singing songs that they’re sick of performing. Their lip-syncing performances might be accompanied by dance routines, choreographed to take the attention away from their lack of lip-syncing singing skills. This part of the show will also help the artists to validate their mediocrity, while giving you – the viewer – the chance to see what shows are on other channels and what you should be watching instead of the awards. Try seeing if a soccer match is in progress; there usually is.

The Awards

“I don’t know why we are so fascinated with actors. Playing dress up and repeating lines written for you in not genius. Roll the cameras, put on these clothes and pretend to be somebody else. Now say what we told you to say. This is not genius.” – Jerry Seinfeld (American Comedian Awards)

No one is quite sure how the nominees are selected, including the people who select the nominees. The winners, however, are usually chosen based on the following question: how ironic would it be to give the award to a person for a specific piece of work? The more the irony, the higher the chances of winning an award.

Occasionally, but not very often, the awards are accidentally given to people who actually did make an admirable piece of art, but such mistakes are deeply regretted by the award-givers. There is also speculation that the choice of winner is based on how badly messed up the life of the celebrity is, although these rumours have yet to be confirmed. The winners may be chosen by their peers, critics, the public, or through a lucky draw, depending on the award show. While the winner is ecstatic over winning a statuette, the losers can always take comfort in the fact that since their album/movie/TV show did not win an award, it must actually be good.

The Acceptance Speeches

"It's now official. There is no one left to thank in New Zealand." – Billy Crystal (Academy Awards, 2004)

Acceptance speeches are long-winded, self-indulgent tirades loaded with vanity remarks, uttered by those who receive awards. But what most people don’t know is that the acceptance speech is an experiment designed to show how much a person can embarrass themselves in one minute. Acceptance speech givers usually fall in one of the following categories:

· The forgetters: Will thank the entire population of Britain but will forget to mention their spouse. Expect divorce proceedings to begin by the end of the month.
· The criers: Are overwhelmed by the award. Or possibly saddened.
· The the-world-revolves-around-me types: See Kanye West.
· The humble: They try to pretend but are not very good at it.
· The just-won’t-shut-up-ers: Their speeches usually begin with the words “I will keep this brief…”.

The recipients are expected to speak for no more than – and this is the best part! – 45 seconds! A three or four hour ceremony and less than a minute to make your acceptance speech! Brilliant.

The Aftermath

“It’s a funny thing about winning an Academy Award, this will always be sort of synonymous with your name from here on. Oscar-winner George Clooney, sexiest man alive 1997, ‘Batman,’ died today in a freak accident.” – George Clooney (Academy Awards, 2006)

After the awards are handed out, the transmission concluded, the after-party over, the world will have a list of artists who have now increased their award count to mull over. Should that list matter? If it’s art, then should we be influenced by someone else’s judgement of it? Yes, there may be a part of us that wants our favourite movie/album/TV show to win, but the fact remains that we won’t like it any less if it doesn’t. And just because something or someone wins an award, we won’t – and shouldn’t – start liking it just based on the fact that it won an award. An actor or a musician should not be defined by the awards they get, and it’s sad if they are, because award shows are nothing more than self-satisfying gimmicks and publicity tools feeding off the world’s celebrity obsession. George C. Scott once described them as “a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons”, and one can’t help but agree with that assessment; at least it helps to explain why they call it ‘show “business”’!

The Other Side

While we’ve had a ball making fun of award shows, we (very reluctantly) decided to give musicians a chance to have their say on the topic. Do they agree with us? Read on to find out:

§ Abbas Ali Khan: It’s good to be rewarded for something that you have put your effort in. Award shows by Indus Network are getting mature every year as they are the pioneers of music awards in Pakistan, especially with MTV awards they are following the international pattern, so it’s much more professional. But otherwise most of the awards are biased and don't make any sense. By that I mean that categories and the nominations are absurd. Commercial artist are mixed up with alternative artists, and then they make the category “viewers choice” so who is suppose to get the award? The person who has a huge fan following despite average music or the person that has a niche but the music is great? Everybody should get a chance but then the categories should be specialized and not, for example, have musicians in the same category just because they both use guitars.

§ Umar Mansoor (Kain): In my opinion award ceremonies are pointless, because you only see actors, musicians, models and socialists showing off in front of the media. The jury is not fair most of the time. Mostly awards are given by votes or favouritism. Last but not least, to spice up these ceremonies dance numbers are choreographed which is totally pointless. It’s better to a little modest and organize a big private party instead of showing off like this.

§ Sam (Akash): I’m not in favour of awards, especially here in Pakistan, because here a style guru will be in the jury and judging a musician when he doesn’t know anything about the music. Mostly people in the jury give awards to the people they know, not just awards but even nominees as well. And our national awards…they don’t even know what is happening in the Pakistani music industry, so it’s better not to think about the awards!

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 28th November, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mamma Mia!

movie review

A lot of hype accompanied the release of ‘Mamma Mia!’ – a movie based on the stage musical featuring the songs of the hugely successful Swedish pop band ABBA. With an all-star cast and music that still remains popular after more than three decades, the film seemed like a good idea theoretically. Then something went amiss: the movie was actually made.

Bound by possibly the flimsiest plot in the history of musicals, ‘Mamma Mia!’ is the story of Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) who is engaged to Sky (Dominic Cooper) and doesn’t known who her father is, so she invites the three possible candidates Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) and Harry (Colin Firth) to her forthcoming wedding, without telling her mother Donna (Meryl Streep). They all like to sing ABBA songs, it turns out, and that’s what they do throughout the film. Only, most of them – with the surprising exception of relative newcomer Amanda Seyfried (of ‘Veronica Mars’ fame) – can’t really sing (and by the looks of it can’t really act either). Everything from Meryl Streep’s overacting to Pierce Brosnan’s attempts at singing (appalling!!) lead one to the conclusion that a world where people break into song, that too of the ABBA variety, every two minutes would be a very VERY scary place!

In an attempt to seem fun, the movie goes for being campy and in the process collapses on its own ridiculousness. The plot – if you can call it that – has so many holes in it that it puts a sieve to shame. The costumes are unflattering, the direction lacking, the whole project so flat that Stellan Skarsgård seems to have given up on the whole thing and Colin Firth just seems embarrassed to be there.

Am I being too hard on the film? Perhaps. But that’s only because I expected so much more of it. By the end, it is fairly obvious that the only point of the movie was to make lots of money off the success of ABBA, which seems to have worked seeing how much the movie has grossed. Why the success? Possibly because if you choose to ignore all that’s wrong with it and take it for what it is – an elaborate excuse to sing ABBA tunes – you will find yourself enjoying the happenings and singing along to songs you had no idea you knew the words to, and are quite likely to be mesmerized by the enchanting Greek islands the movie was filmed on. So yes, if you’re looking for something campy and fun in an over the top way, then ‘Mamma Mia!’ was made for you. Everyone else, expect to be underwhelmed.

– By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 14th November, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What Happens In Vegas

movie review

If someone tells you that there’s a new movie out and it stars Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, you’d probably think the movie would be a heap of fun. I thought so too. I was wrong. ‘What Happens In Vegas’ is a cinematic example of why what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas. The makers of the movie seem to have set out to make a comedy; only, they forgot about this somewhere along the way, and decided to settle for lame instead. The plot (if I dare call it that) revolves around the inebriated marriage of two people who meet in Vegas, win a three million dollar jackpot, and have to stay married for six months or else their winnings will be confiscated. They then decide to make each others lives miserable, but instead end up inflicting this misery on the viewer, who is likely to spend the duration of the film thinking of all the things they could’ve done in ninety nine minutes that would’ve been so much more fun than suffering through this movie, like watching paint dry for instance. The acting is strained, the script devoid of that thing which makes a film funny (that is, humour), and the plot lacking what might be generally referred to as common sense. In short, ‘What Happens In Vegas’ is excruciatingly lame, mindnumbingly stupid, and disappointingly forgettable.

- By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 7th November, 2008