“Unbroken”, Oscars, Egos, Presidents and Things

US President Barack Obama Visits The UK - Day One

What a competitive world. At one level Al Qaeda battling ISIS for popularity and exposure and, going from nightmare horror to the ridiculous, shows like Keeping Up With The Joneses – uh, that Kardashian ‘show’, if you can call it that; Idols, the X Factor, America’s Got Talent, outpicturing of Simon Cowell’s massive ego. Shows that have drawn furious criticism from greats like Elton John who said Cowell has destroyed the integrity of the music industry and who refused to be a judge on Idols because he wouldn’t descend to slagging performers.

Shows that have convinced musicians the world over that if you don’t win, your life and your [potential] performing career are over. Elton John said of Cowell’s empire that it’s “become boring… ***-paralysingly brain crippling.”

Man, people go to extreme lengths to compete. Politicians slaughtering each other in broad daylight at election time for, in too many cases, the coveted positions of not representing those they’re supposed to represent. The altered universe of brain washing aka advertising, making it impossible to go anywhere without some message, if not a gazillion of them, coming at you saying we’re better, we’re the best.

What about Angelina Jolie noticeably abandoning sexy outfits and power dressing [down] conservatively as she campaigns for the Oscars for her movie Unbroken and does her best to try and convince Hollywood, the Queen of England and the world that she’s not a drama queen but a serious filmmaker as in writer, director and producer and that Unbroken is a work of genius that didn’t deserve to be passed over for Golden Globe and Screen Actors’ Guild awards. Well, it did get a SAG nomination for its stunt ensemble and it opened on Christmas Day and grossed $15.6 million, which is the 3rd highest ever Christmas Day opening figure – if you don’t adjust for inflation, which no doubt Unbroken’s producers would rather we didn’t.

But that’s just good marketing, the big names the Cohen Brothers and Angeline Jolie (who, ironically, has always seduced the world with her sensuality) and a fantastic trailer. It was brilliantly executed; moving, exciting, inspiring. Enough so to convince the world that a great opus was about to be unleashed.

I wondered, though, whether they hadn’t just extracted the only worthy scenes in the whole film and strung them together cleverly. As it happens, Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 50% rating, down from 51% a week or so ago, the main criticism being that the film crawls and somehow never quite comes to life. Blame it partly on the script, I say. The famous and mightily well paid Cohen brothers adapted it from the [alleged] 300 page monstrosity that was written from the book by William Nicholson and Richard LaGravenese. It just goes to show something or other. My green-eyed monster jealousy more than anything else, probably. I’m sure they’re great guys, really…

I digress. Your own bitchiness will do that to you. My point is that it’s hard to get away from competitiveness at all levels of life. Leaving Al Qaeda and ISIS out of the story, I actually the like the spirit of it; the rough and tumble of engaging in life, aiming for the stars and doing everything you can to get as far as possible. Hey, competitiveness can drive you to overcome fear. Nothing bad about that so long as you’re not on a suicide bombing mission. So, good for Jolie for being smart enough to know what an effect her fashion statement makes on the world and for holding her head up high and going for gold despite the awards snubs.

Still, that rough and tumble tends to make the world one of chaos and din so it’s beautiful when somebody who has every reason to be driven by competitiveness and to have an inflated ego just isn’t (in his job; he is when he plays basketball) and doesn’t. But does have a great sense of humor. Enough to engage in a game of ping-pong with David Cameron against school kids and have a lot of fun.

American Presidents also love to play golf. If they’re any good at it, they let everybody know their scores. If they’re not so good, like Clinton, they claim Presidential Pardons for mulligans and gimmes, all in good fun of course. But Barack Obama sticks to the rules. He’s a pretty lousy golfer, which he readily and laughingly admits. Retired basketball great Michael Jordan, who’s crazy about golf, quipped that he wouldn’t choose Obama for his ideal foursome because “he’s a hack, man. It’d be all day playing with him.” Obama was quick to quip back. He’ll do it with a straight face so you can’t tell if he’s joking or not. Until he breaks out into that million dollar smile.

He isn’t a good golfer; he’s got lousy posture, for one, but he loves the game, so he plays. With a sense of humor about himself. There’s a whole lot of dignity in that and I’m sure it makes him fun to be around. And he is getting better, so that’s something.

Another golfer said of him that the way he plays gives the measure of him as a President. He’s honest, he keeps his cool through rank adversity, he smiles and he doesn’t give up. I raise my glass to that. And to Angelina Jolie, good luck with the Oscars. She has spirit in spades, that woman. As for the Coen Brothers, guys, you need me, I know what went wrong with your script… Hey, a girl can dream.

Piers Morgan Talks to Simon Cowell; & did Moussa Koussa try to con the West?

Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell

Piers Morgan interviewed Simon Cowell the other night.  I’ve never been a fan of either men – I hated how arrogant and rude Piers was on America’s Got Talent – or was he on Idols?   He seemed to take pleasure in being as rude and cutting as possible, and destroying people.  Simon Cowell has always just seemed like an empty-headed egotist to me.  No personality.

Sigh.  Prejudices always say much more about you than they do about your target, don’t they?    Well, I’ve seen a different side of Morgan since he’s taken over from Larry King.  He’s not afraid to ask straightforward questions, but he’s showing a different, more humane side of himself, more personally vulnerable.

As for Simon Cowell, I saw a man who didn’t fit at all into my prejudice box.  He didn’t seem like a huge egotist after all, just a man who knew what he couldn’t do, and what he could.  He certainly isn’t empty-headed!  He admitted he has absolutely no performing talent, but that his forte is recognizing people who do – or who have that star quality.  People like Lady Gaga, I guess.

He said it isn’t necessarily phenomenal talent that makes a person a star, it’s the individuality and the desire and ability to express it.  I like that.  My favorite part of the interview, though, was when he talked about how Elton John had allegedly criticized him for single-handedly destroying the music industry, because unless somebody makes it in his show now, they don’t have a chance.  Cowell’s reply was that Elton John has enough money and resources to help as many people to become stars as he wants, so why doesn’t he do it?

I think he has a point.  Elton John has so much clout, and is so well-respected, a man of real stature in the industry, for good reason.  Imagine if he got a few of his buddies together and created a kind of scholarship program, where they helped people achieve their dreams and aspirations.  And imagine if it became cool for celebrity performers to participate, so the program just grew and grew all around the world.

One more: imagine if they didn’t make it about age, but just about a person being ready to learn how to express themselves richly and fully.  Think how that would change the music industry and create a completely new kind of balance and perspective.  Maybe I should write to Elton John.  It must be possible to find a contact address somewhere, at least for his agent.

Libya – Did Moussa Koussa Try to Con the West?

When Moussa Koussa first came to Britain, this time round, something just didn’t seem right.  Gaddafi wasn’t bothered, and put out the word that Koussa was there with his blessing because he was a sick old man.  I don’t know what he was really doing in England, but when I heard the other day that he was saying Libya must unite, that civil war would turn it into another Somalia, and then that he wanted to be part of a new government, my hackles rose.

And now he’s gone, and probably won’t come back to face that questioning that was going to happen over Lockerbie etc.  Clever guy.  What was he really doing?  Trying to con the West into letting him play a major role in a new government, after which he could just bring his ol’ pal Gaddafi back into power and everything would be hunky dory.   Don’t trust a person who won’t say I’m responsible and I’m sorry for what I did.