Scott, To Be Certain


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Deserving Oscar Nominees... Am I Dreaming?

It's Oscar time again!

"How is that unlike any other time"

Well, for starters, it's the time of year where tragic Academy Award fanatics like myself almost exclusively focus on film-watching and bitching about shithouse/excellent movie stars.

So you're quite right, it's indistinguishable from any other time. Although I did take my fandom to a new level this year by staying up until 12.40am last Tuesday night to watch the nominations live online. It was entertaining to watch Salma Hayek simultaneously battle a runny nose and unpronouncable names - methinks she inhaled a little nasal helper since in LA it was 5.40am. She also unleashed an unexpected fist-clench and extremely loud "Yeeesss!" as Penelope Cruz's name was announced - Hispanic sister-girlfriends unite!

What really redoubles the pleasure of Oscar enthusiasts is the knowledge that this year there are some genuine contests. And even where there isn't one, like in Best Actress, we can at least be at peace in the knowledge that the winner and her fellow nominees are all deserving.

"What exactly are you insinuating"

All I'm saying is that the actresses nominated this year have all actually delivered award-worthy performances, including Dame Helen Mirren, the soon-to-be-winner. They can all additionally boast proportionate foreheads.

In fact, I can't remember a lovelier, more deserving, more age-diverse and forehead-proportionate final 5.

The median age in the category is 50.6 years, which is also refreshing (compared to 38.4 last year and 35.2 the year before, aka The Year of The Horse). It was certainly an excellent year in cinema for experienced actresses.

I was excited to learn recently that Helen Mirren's birth name is Ilyena Vasilievna Mirinova. I'd always had a strong sense that Dame Helen would be an extremely gifted tennis player or even SBS newsreader, without her ever having remotely explored those pursuits. Now I know why.

Elsewhere, the Best Picture race is, for the first time in many years, a bona fide competition.

There is no two-horse "Brokeback Mountain vs. Crash" potential egregious Hilary-style undeserved upset in the offing. Nor is there a boring, suspenseless pre-ordained Return of the King (deserved) or A Beautiful Mind (undeserved) style victory ahead.

Instead, the category is full of excellent and genuine contenders.

Babel took out the Golden Globe for Best Drama, while Little Miss Sunshine won the Producers Guild Award (a major precursor) - but it was beaten to Best Comedy/Musical at the Globes by Dreamgirls, which is conspicuously absent from the shortlist. In its place is Letters From Iwo Jima, the second of two war-themed films made by Clint Eastwood this year (unreleased here so far and so the only one I am yet to see). The Academy likes to imagine itself in a perpetual orgy with Clint, its face firmly nestled up his hairy, wrinkly arse - he already has 2 Best Director awards, in addition to another 2 for producing the films he won them for (Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven) - so don't count this one out either.

Add to that mix The Departed, which is the only major box office hit among the 5 and the 2nd most lauded film of the year, coming in only behind The Queen in total awards won (though most of the latter film's awards are Dame Helen's). In fact, The Queen is pretty much the only film you can confidently predict will lose the contest.

Surprises are good - bring it on.

As you may be aware, I have been moonlighting as an Oscar columnist on other similarly-sized web ventures featuring "BC" in the title. Click here to read the latest thrilling instalment.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tennis Goes Into Ova-Time

Like fallopian tubes in perpetual ovulation, the world tennis stage is veritably saturated with -ova.

Egged on by a chance at fame and fortune, young female tennis players with surnames ending in -ova are now ubiquitous; 14 alone can be found in the Top 100. Most of them hail from Russia, but occasionally these bitches also claim to be from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Belarus and even, implausibly, Israel.

To what do we owe this proliferation of saucy, racquet-wielding wenches?

Clearly the first, and best, of this maniacally vowel-obsessed set was Martina Navratilova, the winner of 9 Wimbledon singles crowns and in many ways the sport's greatest ever trend-setter.

Now, now Martina. No need to get dirty

It's true, she put forearm veins on the map. But she is most importantly responsible for infusing the previously dainty, elegant women's sport with a new and elite athletic dimension. The proliferation of tournaments now played on carpet may be her additional legacy.

It's safe to say that many of the current -ova set absolutely adore carpet.

Right back up at ya, Martina

Nadia Petrova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, pictured above, don't let being built like a convoy of Linfox trucks stand in their way of a good time.

However, neither of these women can hit winners to save themselves and were both accordingly bundled out of this year's Australian Open.

Instead, 2 marginally more photogenic -ova are still in the running. Their results suggest that in women's tennis, oestrogen is far from ova.

The first, Maria Sharapova, is the planet's most lucratively endorsed female athlete, and for good reason. They say sports marketing is all about sex - well, Maz has got the bedroom eyes down pat, imbues her game with a primal, sexual thrust by grunting like a mounted wildebeest on court, and has clearly rid herself of her gag reflex.

It's a pity that she has one of the most annoying girly laughs of all time. She also doesn't offer much by way of a decent play on words arising from her name. For this we must look to Olga Pouchkova, who sounds like something your grandma would knit for your pet kangaroo. Or perhaps the simple and effective Anna Smashnova (who for a time was additionally menacing as Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi).

Enter the other, Nicole Vaidisova.

Nicole Vaidisova, or N.Vaidisova for pun-tastic purposes. Such a sweet looking girl! And a very good player. I know you join me in wishing she would invite us over!

"That was fucking lame"

It assuredly was! As assured as N.Vaidisova's upcoming semi-final loss. Her opponent? Serena Williams.

Oops - guess I jumped the gun on the whole oestrogen thing.

Meanwhile, Sharapova will be playing a fellow Russian in her quarter-final - Anna Chakvetadaatdaatetavetadzedtze, notable for owning a 36-syllable name that incredibly ends in a vowel other than -a. Is that even legal

Anna is in good form, winning a tournament in Hobart the week before the Open (pictured above with the worst trophy known to mankind). It will be an interesting match-up.

Thanks to all of these characters, women's tennis is getting interesting again. With Serena and Hingis back on song, we just need Venus and nymphomaniac Jennifer Capriati to truly take it to the Bitches of the Eastern Bloc.

It on!


Oscar Rally

So it's that time of the month year again - Oscar nominations are upon us.

My increasingly prominent gut tells me that 5 of the 6 actors featured below will be toasting their Oscar short-listings come 5.30am Tuesday, LA time (12.30am Wednesday, Melbourne time).

If you want to catch a glimpse of my full predictions plastered over the web for posterity (and potential embarrassment), feel free to meander on over to the BBC news website for an edited-to-all-buggery short piece from yours truly.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

S2BC's Top 20 Songs of 2006 Prelude

It is with no risk of hyperbole that I say the following album represented a watershed moment for music this year.

The extent to which Justin is responsible for the return of the otherwise already rather ubiquitous "sexy" is, of course, debatable. But 2006 was the year in which he did, and quite emphatically, bring "Interludes" back. For those of you not "in the know", these used to be the innovative trademark of Janet Jackson back before she became about as enjoyable as an ectopic pregnancy.

And just to prove that JT didn't simply inhale the idea from Janet's festy nipple that day at the Superbowl, he's put his own twist on the theme: Preludes! He's been generous with his output this year, hasn't he?

"Just remember my head was in a box far before his"

Oh Gwynnie. If only Se7en had been a documentary.

"Fucking oath"

Yes, well, quite - but we really should get back to the matter at hand which, incidentally, isn't even albums. This post is not, for example, called "The Best Albums of 2006". In fact, as you may already be aware, S2BC is far more interested in individual songs - craftily executed pop with a memorable hook can sometimes, if only temporarily, redeem an artist's otherwise woeful output.

"That's encouraging"

I said sometimes, Tammy Faye. What was that album about, by the way? The gym?

"No - David Campbell's pants"

Whatever. We'll be hearing from you later, if you can tear yourself away from Venetta's twat for five minutes.

But first, before I launch the Top 20 countdown in earnest, let's get to the point of this not altogether concise blog entry - a tribute to JT by way of my own prelude of sorts: the runners-up.

Honourable mentions go to:

Carrie Underwood, "Before He Cheats"

Best lyric: "I dug my key into the side/Of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive"
Best other bit: The completely unironic disdain in the way she sings "Right now she's probably up singing some white trash version of Shania karaoke" at 01.10

Carrie is well on her way to making good on Simon Cowell's prediction that she would be the most famous and most successful of all Idols internationally, with a hugely successful debut album and several Grammy nominations chalked up already. This little gem was the pick of the crop on "Some Hearts", featuring some truly gorgeous rhyming couplets and her best, most exquisitely angst-ridden performance since she creamed Heart's "Alone" on her season of Idol.

Sarah McLeod, "He Doesn't Love You" (Hook N Sling Remix)

Best lyric: "You're taking the brunt of both of your lies/That's not the way you're supposed to compromise"
Best other bit: The repeated title hook introduced over a bare backbeat at 01.13 and looped to brilliant trance-like effect

She of the once-good band (Superjesus) and the mole-faced sister (Leah) released a solo album that no-one gave a shit about. But then Hook N Sling, an excellent Sydney music producer, got hold of Sarah's promising "He Doesn't Love You" and completely rebirthed it into a dancefloor smash that UK and US clubs totally ate up. The YouTube link above is her boring original version, but the principal hook is still quite impressive.

Paulini, "So Over You" (Cutfather & Joe Remix)

Best sister-girlfriend lyric: "All my ladies tell me do you feel me"
Best other bit: The Destiny's Child-esque "No no no no no" at 01.43, followed by a stripped-back middle 8 with muted vocal and bass guitar

At the risk of sounding like a shameful Idol groupie, I include this track with the following emphatic disclaimer: this song is world-class R&B and far better than at least the last 5 Destiny's Child singles. One of only two releases from her failed second album "Superwoman" (both bravely non-ballads), this track was criminally overlooked - all the more disappointing given the truly exhausting amount of indignant neck-swivelling Mrs Kong and her sister-girlfriends get up to in the video.

Beyoncé, "Irreplaceable"

"Nigga please" prize for best lyric: "If I bought it nigga, please don't touch!"
Other best lyric: "Keep talking that mess, that's fine/But could you walk and talk at the same time?"
"It goes without saying" prize for transcending pop culture lyrically: "To the left, to the left"

Not much to say about this one. This is Beyoncé's best contribution to pop music since "Crazy In Love" and the fact it can even be lumped with that classic is testament to its quality. A truly memorable, ballsy anthem of empowerment and disappointment from one of the world's best and most under-rated songwriters.

Nerina Pallot, "Everybody's Gone To War"

Best lyric: "If love is a drug, I guess we're all sober/If hope is a song, I guess it's all over/How to have faith when faith is a crime? I don't want to die..."
Best other bit: "Don't tell me it's a worthy cause - no cause could be so worthy"

Featuring by far the year's smartest, most resonant lyrics, this song was instantly memorable. The song's obvious anti-war message is potent without being laboured, while the vocal is distinct and strong (if at times a little bit assisted by the trusty vocoder). Nerina is a British singer-songwriter whose album failed to chart on first release, before being re-mastered and re-issued in more Pallot-able format a year later. Yay for us! (I couldn't resist.)

Stay tuned for the Top 20, to follow shortly.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Since She's Been Gone

It's sometimes easy to overlook the fact that Kelly Clarkson was once just some chick who liked nothing better than to slip her arms into a pair of pants.

Two hit albums and nine hit singles later, Kelly now sits proudly atop the pop food chain.

So comprehensive has her conquest been that in addition to being the collective Idol franchise's finest discovery, she also happens to be the owner of this decade's most imitated musical blueprint.

Now it's important, of course, to acknowledge that while Kelly is herself responsible for a number of impressive songwriting efforts on her last Cadbury-sponsored album, "Since U Been Gone" is not one of them. The kudos for its genius go instead to Max Martin, the Swedish wunderkind who, among a myriad of other things masterminded the lead singles off Britney's ludicrous first two albums...

...and in doing so, it's safe to say, single-handedly brought the ellipsis back.

What about the fucking forward slash

Well, quite. Why not both?

In any event, we must now turn from Justin to Kelly, this post's raison d'être.

Indeed, the time has come to cast a critical eye over recent pop music's most egregious coattail riding. That is to say, the Top 5 most flagrant rip-offs owing their entire existence and successes to the exquisite pop-rock stylings of "Since U Been Gone".

You know the format: sparse single guitar chord, quickly followed by a sparse drum beat, leading into a slowly building vocal lament that explodes at the first verse into a screamfest involving some type of affirmation, through to a middle 8 with lots of cymbals and even more self-affirming screams, before resolving into a soft, sparse conclusion.

It seems simple but this blueprint was not perfected until Kelly took the reins. Now everyone's doing it.

5. Kate DeAraugo, "Faded"

This song features at the bottom of the list by virtue of its quality - perhaps the best Kelly Clarkson song not sung or written by Kelly Clarkson, and indisputably the best song never recorded by the Veronicas. That this song features in the S2BC Top 20 Songs of 2006 is a testament to the blueprint's quality. That it is by a fellow Idol winner also fond of the odd hotdog or five on the beach is pure coincidence.

4. Paris Hilton, "Nothing In This World"

This was a decent stab, with quite a good video and some "da da, da da d'da das" for good measure, which was at least inventive. Although rumoured to be about what remains for Paris to vaginally insert, the song is apparently instead a reference to what the record-buying public were prepared to spend on her album. Oops.

3. Guy Sebastian, "Elevator Love"

Despite owning a discography that boasts "Out With My Baby", the truly excellent lead single off his sophomore album, Guy recently saw fit to ditch the R&B in favour of American pop-rock, right down to the yankified title of this blatant musical pilfering. That the video implies some type of liaison with Jennifer Hawkins is enough to bring up dinner.

2. Pink, "Who Knew"

If someone said three years from now Pink would be long gone, I'd wager that Australian wool growers were responsible. Suffice it to say that Pink's take on Since U Been Gone, also written by Max Martin, is so embarrassingly chord-for-chord in its mirrored structure that it even ends on the same wistful repetition of the song's title.

1. Stephanie McIntosh, "Mistake"

Steph is at least to be applauded for the refreshing post-modern irony of this atrocious song's titular self-reference. The blueprint for how to fail in an attempt to follow a blueprint, the song's video even borrows the "oh look I was forlorn and alone a moment ago and now suddenly I'm the main singer in this underground establishment" of Kelly's video. And she needs a vocoder to remain in tune. Woeful - abort career NOW.

And there you have it. As if to take a forward slash on all of her pretenders, Kelly dished out another classic pop-rock gem this year (the little heard "Go", used in a Ford advert in the US). And it wasn't even a single! (More on that in S2BC's Top 20 Songs of 2006.)

Hurry back please.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Lips' Service

There is a rubbish song doing the radio rounds at the moment about how angels' lips hinder one's ability to remain faithful, or some such.

"What about it"

Well, on my first listen of the song it dawned on me that it sounded awfully familiar, and not just because of its resemblance to the revolting output of utterly shithouse bands like Nickelback and Three Doors Down.

It turns out that it's called "Lips Of An Angel" by an appropriately named band called Hinder. Consider:

It's so exciting to have Hinder on the radio because their style is so fresh, there is absolutely no band producing this type of music at the moment.

To be fair, the one distinctive element of the song is the singer's voice, which has a memorable gravelly hue to it. However, this is exactly what I felt was most familiar about it. Whom does this singer sing like?

The never-unreliable Wikipedia tells us that Hinder's frontman is called Austin Winkler and that his voice is so unique "you can't really compare him to anyone".


Get a load of this:

That's brilliant 90s band The Catherine Wheel with one of the best songs of 1997, "Delicious" (possibly also about angels' lips). The singer is Rob Dickinson, who has a voice so unique you can't really compare him to anyone except Austin Winkler.

Am I alone on this?


Friday, January 05, 2007

Welcome, New Year, Make Yourself Comfortable

HEBNY to all - Happy Extremely Belated New Year.

With 2006 now behind us, 2007 will, by all accounts, succeed it.

In addition, 2007 is likely to bring:

Helen Mirren's 3rd Oscar nomination and her 1st win
Meryl Streep's 14th Oscar nomination and her 10th consecutive loss
Kate Winslet's 5th Oscar nomination and 5th consecutive loss

All of this is, of course, enough to warrant mass suicide knowing that Hilary's Wank is 2 for 2.

Million dollar babies don't cry*

*Unless they're undeserving - see also Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry

Apologies for the recent lack of posts - I have been hibernating within an energy-sapping post-holiday motivationless vortex which, I imagine, has not been helped by the fact I have now been alcohol- and caffeine-free for 5 ENTIRE DAYS.

Enter the trusty Oscar lead-up season to rejuvenate me! If, like me, you are a warped individual who ran to the computer first thing this morning to find out the Screen Actors Guild nominees, then please do yourself a favour and religiously check out Nathaniel's Film Experience, unquestionably the web's best and most enjoyable site devoted to film and Oscar season analysis.

S2BC will resume in earnest shortly with the Top 20 Songs of 2006, various other completely unnecessary lists and, perhaps, a film review or two.

In the meantime, what better way to end the year's first post than with an Oscar-themed pun: Please join me in applauding this very funny and very clever headline.

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