Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Top Ten Bunny Boilers

Hard to believe, but it’s been 25 years since Glenn Close callously stuffed Thumper into a Le Creuset hot-tub. With the term ‘bunny boiler’ now a part of our cultural lexicon, it’s easy to underestimate the impact that Adrian Lyne’s cautionary tale had on movie-going menfolk. Most importantly Fatal Attraction initiated a whole subgenre of films that characterised all women as psychologically unbalanced would-be murderers. So in honour of Fatal Attraction’s quarter-century anniversary, here’s a celebration of the women your mother warned you about.

The mistress
Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction

It’s hard to decide which is more terrifying – Glenn Close’s intense performance as a scorned mistress, or the perm she sports throughout Adrian Lyne’s stylish AIDS metaphor. She might be as mad as a box of learning-impaired frogs, but she makes up for it with her adventurous libido. Alex Forrest is never happier than when fucking in a lift, or showing Nanette Newman the best way of working through a pile of dirty dishes. Ever since Fatal Attraction, Michael Douglas has been tormented by aggressive and unbalanced women, so it’s really no surprise to learn that he’s finally given up on the fairer sex, and gone gay in a new Liberace biopic for Steven Soderbergh. Still, someone should probably warn him that it’s not going to be plain sailing, since his partner of choice is the Talented Mr Ripley.  

The maneater
Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction

More of a sociopath than a fully-fledged psycho, Linda Fiorentino’s sexy but ice-hearted Wendy Kroy confused a whole generation of men. As unapologetically aggressive in the sack (or alleyway) as she was in a call-centre, Wendy Kroy could command an erection even as she made your testicles shrivel into pistachios. This was a woman who could teach Lorena Bobbitt a thing or two about emasculation. Oddly enough, it wasn’t her murderous insurance scheme that really accentuated her chilly indifference, it was the way she dismissed her Designated Fuck’s grandmother as a woman who “can’t bake for shit.”

The au-pair
Rebecca DeMornay in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

Having inflamed the loins of many a teenage boy as the hooker with a heart in Risky Business, DeMornay came back with a vengeance (quite literally) as one of cinema’s most compelling villainesses. Following an agonising miscarriage, the glassy-eyed Mrs Mott reinvents herself as the altogether fluffier Peyton Flanders, in order to avenge the suicide of her glove-dropping obstetrician husband. Decked out in so many shades of pastel that she spends most of the film in a blur, this earring-choking, plunger-weilding, breast-pumping nut-job managed to look wholesome, even whilst breaking a child’s arm or telling the friendly handyman “Don’t fuck with me, retard.” Say what you like about the ethics of outsourced parenting, Peyton is a far more creative killer than most of her ilk. As well as carefully emptying a houseful of asthma inhalers, she even rigs a greenhouse to kill Julianne Moore, in the most shocking bout of green-fingered violence since the Blue Peter garden was vandalised.

The flatmate
Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female

We’ve all had difficult flatmates – I had one who left the iron on all day, so that when I came home from work I thought I’d taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up in a Turkish bath. But most of these issues can be resolved with the occasional house meeting, or stencilling your name on the milk carton. Unfortunately, if your roomie starts dressing like you, throws your puppy out the window, or stabs your boyfriend in the eye with a stiletto, it might be time to decide whether or not you can afford to lose the security deposit.

The jailbait
Alicia Silverstone in The Crush

A cautionary tale for the Jimmy Saviles of the world, this little-seen trashy timewaster, involves a teenage temptress making a play for Cary Elwes, who rents the room above her parents’ garage. Preciously talented, and blessed with a body beyond her years, the fourteen year-old Lolita-with-issues gives a debuting Alicia Silverstone plenty to sink her pouty mouth into. The director wisely used a body double for the film’s big nude scene, but that doesn’t make her underage striptease any less creepy. However, it does make you question why you bothered watching a film about a protagonist who’s stupid enough to find himself trapped in his tormentor’s closet. Extra points go to Darian’s creative use of bees in an attempted murder, and for finally being undone by an out-of-control carousel.

The sexpot
Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct

“Have you ever fucked on cocaine, Nick? It’s intense.” Catherine Tramell isn’t the most subtle pick-up artist, but you have to admire her front. Then again, it’s hard to miss when she keeps uncrossing her legs like that. The critics may argue that Casino was Sharon Stone’s finest role, but my vote goes to the ice-pick wielding bisexual novelist and sports car enthusiast in Paul Verhoeven’s profane thriller. “She's evil! She's brilliant!” shouts police psychologist Beth, when Michael Douglas admits his infatuation. Perhaps something of an overstatement, but at least Catherine’s smart enough to avoid wandering a dark hallway in a trenchcoat, armed with only a Bart Simpson key-fob.

The best friend
Rebecca Gayheart in Urban Legends

These days, curly-haired Rebecca is more famous for her druggy threesome home video, than she is for any appearances she might have actually been paid for. However, she can at least hold her head high for joining that most exclusive of film clubs – the female slasher. It’s a sparsely populated group, featuring Jason’s mother and the transgendered pre-teen from Sleepaway Camp. Brenda, on the other hand, is in a class of her own, thanks to her imaginative plundering of everyone’s favourite creepy apocryphal anecdotes. The killer in the backseat, the dog in the microwave – she even has a stab at the missing kidney in a bath of ice. In standard slasher form, her reveal as the film’s killer comes out of nowhere, since she’s been playing the potential victim for most of its run-time. At least she makes up for it by slipping straight into bug-eyed psycho mode, the minute we see who’s lurking inside that fur-lined parka.

The bad girl
Drew Barrymore in Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy was 17 year-old Drew Barrymore’s first chance to reveal her newly grown-up persona. Coming two years after her autobiography, Little Girl Lost, which revealed the full extent of her addiction issues, the role was shocking for a number of reasons. Given her much publicised battles with drug and alcohol abuse, the part of Ivy seemed uncomfortably close to home, since Drew seemed a natural fit as the girl who wasn’t just from the wrong side of the tracks, she was a full-blown train-wreck. For the fans who’d grown up with her, the shift from blonde, angelic moppet to thigh-baring bisexual murderess was even more of an eye-opener. The film itself disappeared swiftly on the big screen, but found its natural home on VHS, alongside other similarly tawdry exploitationers, filled with amoral temptresses in distressed leather jackets.

The shrew
Nicole Kidman in Malice

Although he’s most famous for the double whammy of The West Wing and Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin can also be relied upon to knock out a twist-heavy B-movie when the mood takes him. Malice is just such a film, with a massive Macguffin that misdirects the audience for the first half of the movie. Nicole Kidman plays a nice-as-pie kindergarten teacher, seemingly oblivious to the fact that her milquetoast hubby Bill Pullman is struggling to prove that he doesn’t spend his evenings raping and murdering his female students. Then, without much warning, there’s a miscarriage, a uterus removal, and a massive settlement, after which Nicole reveals her true colours. It turns out, she hates kids, engineered the miscarriage herself, and plans to live out her days fucking Alec Baldwin on a windswept cliff-top. By the end of the movie, she’s strangling a resuscitation dummy, thinking she’s actually getting rid of the 13 year-old witness in the house next door. 

The mother-in-law
Jessica Lange in Hush

In the early eighties, Jessica Lange achieved some notoriety for her role as a femme fatale who left some unsanitary impressions in the butter dish. But the frustrated housewife in The Postman Always Rings Twice wasn’t the only time that Lange got in touch with her murderous impulses. In 1999, she played the mother-in-law from hell, opposite a pre-Oscar Gwyneth Paltrow in Hush. Martha is a boozy Kentucky matriarch, who married well and murdered even better, once her affair with a horse wrangler was exposed. When her beloved son brings his pregnant fiancĂ© back to the home farm, Martha decides to induce the birth and bump off the cuckoo in her Oedipal nest. Unlike most psycho movies, the film dutifully avoids the usual knock-down-drag-out fight-to-the-death, but it’s no less overwrought. Legendary critic Roger Ebert characterized Hush as a Devouring Woman movie, where the villainess never plays a scene without a drink or a cigarette in her hand. For a more recent example, see Lindsay Lohan’s hilarious attempt at portraying Liz Taylor as a woman with such poor motor skills she was incapable of holding onto a vodka bottle. 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

No Laughing Matter

Well, it had to happen eventually. After missing countless opportunities to get this floundering show back on track, the right decision was finally made. But I’m concerned that it might be a case of too little, too late. The tabloids have been going nuts this week with stories of leaked voter results that suggest that Christopher has an unassailable lead on the other contestants. If you believe everything you read, Simon is already scrutinizing the small print of the winner’s contract, to see if he can drop them before the blood has even dried.

For all the blather about wanting the right act to triumph, Simon’s concerns boil down to one simple fact – if Christopher wins, the X-Factor is finished. Whatever point the people who are voting for him think they’re making, they’re ultimately signing the death warrant for their favourite show. The funny thing is, all those alternative campaigns to beat Cowell to the Christmas number one spot missed a trick. The best way to bring his empire down was to do it from the inside, and in the end, all it took was a quivering cabaret singer with a penchant for power ballads.

With all of this in mind, tonight’s results show took on a curiously downbeat mood, as if everyone in the studio knew that the outcome could determine the future of the show. Everyone wore their best game face, but it all just seemed a little lacking in commitment. Nicole was the only one who seemed to be making any effort at all, probably because we’re at the quarter-final stage and she’s still got all three of her acts. Spoiler warning: this is going to change within the hour. Still, she made an effort in a spectacular white hourglass gown that gave everyone an eyeful of her bra-less side-boob. Next to her, Tulisa looks like a mardy teenager applying for a job in Claire’s Accessories.

The group song is Viva La Vida, and once again acts as compelling proof of how poorly the contestants’ voices blend. It doesn’t help matters that Rylan comes in prematurely. Not to worry, it happens to everyone. Strangely, when the Union J boys join in, it’s clear that Jaymi has the best voice of anyone left in the competition, so it’s a shame that he’s stuck in a group.

The backstage action is equally uneventful. Louis is still wandering the corridors, lamenting the fate that befell “poor Fernando”. I can only assume that the lyrics touched a nerve – maybe he’s mourning a hairless houseboy who was recently deported. Christopher, meanwhile, says he doesn’t want to leave because he’s having the time of his life, which contradicts pretty much everything he’s been telling the press about the incessant bullying.

The first of tonight’s special guests is Bruno Mars, who’s singing his tuneless new mash up of Crying At The Discoteque and countless Police album tracks. The vocals sound impressive, but the echo effects make me wonder just how much of it is being performed live. Twitter exploded with people comparing him to Erik Estrada and Yoko Ono, but my vote goes to John Leguizamo. Dermot’s mind is clearly on other things, maybe the Jobs & Auditions pages in The Stage, because he asks Bruno when his new album comes out, right after he’s already bellowed the date in his ear.

After the break, he stops by for a quick catch up with the judges, but warns them that he hasn’t got much time. Which is a bit rich, considering how much of the show is repetitive filler. Louis gives Sharon Osbourne a shout-out, Tulisa thinks Christopher was creepy, Gary reckons Rylan’s in trouble and Nicole reminds us that James is ‘butter.’ From now on, I won’t be able to look at the angsty crooner without thinking of Douglas, the tromboning Lurpak mascot.

Fresh from her airborne hostage-taking adventure, during which she held a hundred journalists to ransom while Obama failed to scramble the NORAD jets, here’s Rihanna with the latest of her 69 number one singles. She’s wearing a tightly fitted negligee and singing in the rain. Diamonds is fairly inoffensive, but it’s more of a backing track than a fully-fledged song in its own right. As the song builds to, well, a whole lot of middle, the rain closes in. Suddenly, I’m less impressed by the staging and more concerned about the volts running through her soaking wet microphone. After churning out seven albums in as many years, this could be a cry for help. Three months in an ICU could offer just the break she needs.

Time for the results now, as the judges and their acts come out on stage. Meanwhile, poor old Tulisa is left sitting alone at the judges table. She’s probably kicking herself for not using the time to nip out for a fag, or pop down to the Esso garage to pick up some breath mints. James is first through and does his over zealous ‘Come On!!’ yelling. Christopher is also safe, which leaves Louis pulling a face that looks as if he accidentally swallowed his dentures. Thankfully, Jahmene is also safe, which means Rylan is in the bottom two. The nation breathes a collective sigh of relief, since the outcome of the impending sing-off is a forgone conclusion. Then again, even a potted palm would be feeling pretty confident right now if it was up against the Essex boy. 

Nicole seems to know what’s about to happen, as she introduces her act by saying “He’s done amazing to get this far. Show him some love.” With his hair slicked back and that neatly sculpted beard, I’m not sure whether he’s going to sing or command us to “Kneel before Zod.” Louis grins his way through the introduction to Union J, and even sings along with them as they belt their way through Run. Over the last few weeks they’ve developed into a pretty competent boyband, and you can take that as the faint praise it was intended to be.

Nicole saves her act, and Louis does the same, after stopping just short of asking Rylan out on a date. Gary tells Union J that they are the band that everyone is going to want to sign in this competition, seemingly forgetting that they’re the only band left in the show. As for Tulisa, she still thinks the guy’s name is Ryland, even though she’s had several months to learn it, before voting to send him home. For all his awfulness, the recap of Rylan’s journey reminds us why the producers have kept him in for so long. The Dubai shawl, the emotional breakdown, and poking Dermot’s eye out with a dangerously sharp epaulette. These aren’t moments we’ll be forgetting in a hurry. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Bacardi Breezers, girly teasers and crowd-pleasers

As my mother always warned me, larking about is all well and good, until someone gets hurt. And this week, it was Simon Cowell who was left licking his wounds after it all turned sour on the X-Factor. We all know he encourages the novelty acts, because they generate lots of lovely free PR. However, when James and Ella found themselves in the bottom two last Sunday, it was clear that Rylan and Christopher’s continued presence in the contest has become the joke that started the whole world crying. Worst of all, Simon will still have to follow through with a record contract if one of them actually wins this thing. Even so, I was surprised to see him appear on my Twitter timeline today, imploring: “To everyone voting in the uk tonight. Please vote for who you believe could be a star next year. It's in your hands.”

Reminding people to vote for the acts who can sing is clearly number one on tonight’s agenda, as every single VT refers to Ella’s shock eviction. “What happened last week?” asks Dermot, prompting Gary to respond with “People didn’t vote.” Later on in the show, Gary will be pointing out that the sun is hot, water has a damp feeling, and Rylan should’ve gone weeks ago. Tulisa is the first judge to have lost all her acts, and the expression on her face suggests she was in two minds about even turning up. “You know me Dermot, I’m always honest,” she says. Sure, like the time she took the vote to deadlock because she thought Rylan deserved to stay in the competition. With only five acts left, each of them will be singing two songs, as they manhandle the ABBA and Motown songbooks. I’m not sure why they felt the need for two different themes, since it’s not as if either of them have a limited back catalogue.

Since he’s the act we all love to hate, Rylan is opening the show. “Still here, week eight,” he boasts, like an orange stain that even a Vanish Powerstick couldn’t shift. This week, he’s decided to cook Nicole a Thanksgiving turkey, and figures that the whole thing can be cooked in 23 minutes – this could be the shortest live show on record. Although he’s singing Mamma Mia, the staging is more like something from Chess, suggesting that the producers have got their Benny and Bjorn references mixed up. “One more look and I forget everything,” he sings, but it’s going to take an aggressive course of hypnotherapy course to erase the memories of this monstrosity, all delivered in one long, flat note. Nicole tells him she’s like to be the gel in his hair, whereas I’d settle for the boot in his arse.

Union J are empathising with their recently departed friend: “It’s heartbreaking to see Ella like that, we’ve been in that position.” Except that they haven’t, because they’re still here. The boys are all supportive of Jaymi’s big coming out announcement, but the VT shows lots of shots of him leaning against a wall checking his phone. I guess Grindr got a new user this week. They’ve picked Winner Takes It All, probably because it’s mid-tempo and won’t require them to learn too much choreography, other than that crowd-sweeping hand-grab that all the acts seem to rely on. Tulisa is still trying to make ‘on point’ happen, which makes absolutely no sense. Gary thinks they’re on a roll and Nicole loves the way they focused on the girls in the audience. “Get used to it, that’s what your future is gonna look like,” she warns. Jaymi looks thrilled.  

Jahmene’s been out shopping with his mum, who’s come down to London for a makeover, as five thousand Toni & Guy stylists spontaneously decide to take the day off. In the end, they put her braids up in a bun and rinse her fringe, but it’s hardly a spectacular transformation. Jahmene sings I Have A Dream, and starts out in too low a key, which makes his voice wobble. As the performance goes on, it gets a lot better, if a little too gospelly, but the budget clearly can’t stretch to the sliding doors and a local backing choir – they’re saving that for the finals. The judges are mildly complementary, but wonder if nerves got the better of him. Jahmene admits to being a little overwhelmed, since he can see his mum’s hair in the audience. That’s hardly a surprise, since there are cosmonauts in the international space station who can see it.

Nicole is thrilled that James is still here, and he’s similarly over the moon. Unfortunately, his ‘over-the-moon’ face is a lot like mine when I realise the milk has turned after I’ve already stirred it into my coffee. Of course, much will be made of James putting his ‘unique’ spin on ABBA, but given the depth of tuneful melancholy in their songs, it shouldn’t actually be too hard for a miserablist troubadour to find something to connect with. He’s gone for S.O.S. and it works pretty well, with an insistent acoustic riff and an erratic tempo. I must be warming to him, because I don’t even mind the unnecessary changes he’s made to the melody. Here we go: Louis says “I never thought angst and ABBA would go so well together.” Has he never seen the video for One of Us? It’s like an Ingmar Bergman film, with two-part harmonies.

Gary tells us “Brace yourselves, it’s Christopher Maloney.” I’m not taking any chances, so I’ve got a ball-gag at the ready. As he coaches Christopher on Fernando, Gary reminds him “You know, I saw Agnetha about six weeks, so we’ve gotta get this right.” I’m not sure I understand the connection; does he owe her money? Christopher is another one who holds the tune well, but shouts the big notes and misses the key. The cameraman does a sterling job of keeping a steady eye on Christopher, when there’s clearly a spectacular set of boobs on one of the dancers that would make for far more compelling viewing. Louis says “It was like something from ABBA The Musical.” I think he means Mamma Mia, but with Louis you can never be too sure. Then he goes off on one, saying “There was something in the air that night. Where’s Fernando, where’s Fernando?” Tulisa needs to start mashing the pills into his food. Interestingly, Gary complements Christopher on his vocals, but carefully avoids mentioning whether he wants to see him in the final.

After the break, Union J are patiently listening to Louis run through a series of obvious statements: “It’s week eight and you’re still here. You’re the last boyband standing.” One of the boys says “If you’d have told us at the judge’s houses that we’d be in the final five, we’d never have believed you.” Which begs the question, why did you enter the competition? I’ll tell you what, there’s none of this
forced humility in the US version of the show. The contestants there are so hungry for it, I don’t think they’d bat an eyelid if they had to eat a live baby instead of facing the sing-off. As they croon their way through a thumping version of I’ll Be There, we see teenage girls making the love-heart sign with their hands. Well, I assume that’s what it is – they could be doing a goatse gesture, and I’d be none-the-wiser. Gary’s right on the money, referencing the history of boybands and Motown, and complaining that they could have done something more surprising. Louis is incensed and asks if Gary’s deaf. It’s a fair point; the poor guy’s been stuck in a recording studio with Christopher all week, so he’d be lucky to escape with a nasty bout of tinnitus.

Nicole can’t find the camera or the autocue, so it all goes a bit three-cocktail mental as she introduces James Arthur, when the next act up is actually Rylan. Their video is really just an extended plug for the Samsung tablet, as they recap some of Rylan’s past performances. Tonight, he’s singing a Supremes medley in a mustard suit with a single pink sleeve. It’s probably supposed to be a fashion statement, but it looks more like he just fisted a rhinoceros before coming on-stage. There’s also a giant cartoon caricature of Rylan on the big screen, which still manages to be more three-dimensional that the real thing. Nicole thinks he’s a breath of fresh air, whereas I’d suggest he’s more of a Bacardi Breezer burp.

Next up, it’s the real James Arthur, who’s begrudgingly taking part in another Samsung tablet ad, before planning his performance of Let’s Get It On. He says it’s the kind of song you’d put on if you wanted to “woo a lady”. To make his point, he takes Nicole and Tulisa’s hands as he sings, leaving Louis looking a little left out. The vocal is his strongest yet, because he’s not over-singing or trying to channel a restless spirit. Gary thinks that Ed Sheeran fans will buy James’ records, but only because those piracy reports suggest that none of them are actually spending their hard-earned on Ed’s. Nicole thinks that lots of babies will be conceived tonight - James Arthur, the one-man power-cut.

Jahmene’s happy about Motown week, since it’s the music he’s been listening to all his life. He’s doing Tracks Of My Tears, and although he can’t quite sell the line about “people say I’m the life of the party,” his voice is perfect for the song. He really does have the tone of a Smokey Robinson or Ben E King, so it’s nice to hear him in his comfort zone.

Gary and Christopher are looking back at how far he’s come since he was the wildcard choice. Not that far, to be honest, since he’s still wobbling like Hurricane Sandy is running up his trouser-leg, and he’s yet to pick a song that wouldn’t appear on Jeremy Clarkson’s iPod. That’s why, of all the amazing songs to choose from, he’s picked Dancing On The Ceiling by Lionel Richie. Tulisa says that she doesn’t believe his performance, but I think that’s a little harsh. I’ve always felt that he was a cruise ship singer, so I’m just picturing him doing cabaret on the Poseidon after the big wave hits. Nicole explores an elaborate breakfast cereal metaphor to say he sounded a bit too white, and Christopher promises that, if he gets to perform next week, he’ll come back trendy. Matalan won't know what hit it. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Hugo a-go-go

These days, TV is all about interactivity. Text voting, live phone-ins, studio audiences. So, in the hope that tonight will feature another revolting eating task, I’m going to be munching my way through a ramekin full of Mr Porky’s Scratchings as I watch. I’ve even picked out the hairiest ones to eat first, you know - the ones that are like chewing those disposable toothbrushes you can get from the men’s toilets in cheap pubs. I did also ask my neighbours to scream hysterically through the letterbox every time Helen appears on screen, but they seem to be busy practicing their bongos. But that’s East London living for you.

Today’s instalment starts with some bad news - Brian Conley has left on medical grounds. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders whether he’s holed up at the Versace Hotel with Lucy Spraggan, writing wryly amusing songs about hangovers. The rest of the camp is complaining about the fact that they’ve been handcuffed in pairs, and can’t move more than four feet from each other. This is the same basic premise as the early 90s sci-fi B-movie Wedlock, but without the head explosions if one of them goes out of range. Sadly. Hugo moans that the tethers are “the most annoying thing in the world” which suggests that he’s never had to listen to one of his own VTs. Limahl seems less concerned, since he’s lying in a darkened room in his underpants, looking a lot like that near-dead victim in Se7en.

As always, the main part of the show focuses on the Bushtucker Trial which, unsurprisingly, stars Helen. The viewing audience has clearly decided that she’s the one they want to break. That, or they’re hoping that she’ll get so agitated she’ll pop right out of that flimsy bikini top. This time around, she has to undertake the challenge with the rest of her campmates cheering her on.  David compares it to “having a child on sports day.” Just as I’m wondering whether that would get the sack all slimey, he clarifies his remark. Blame it on the poor syntax – he meant cheering on a child at their sports day, not crowning halfway through the egg and spoon race. With the support of her fellow celebrities, Helen doesn’t do too badly, even though she has to stick her hand into more dark, disgusting places than Christopher Timothy. In the end, she gets five stars out of a possible twelve, and then optimistically says “If I was a viewer, I’d like to see David do a trial.” Sadly, that’s not really how psychology works. Meanwhile, David tells us he’s looking forward to Helen’s trial tomorrow.

After the break, David decides to wind everyone up by telling them that they’re going to be shackled together for another week, when in fact the note he’s been given says that they’re free to disconnect themselves. Now that they’re all unshackled, Hugo’s fretting about how untidy the camp is. He’s probably spent most of his life coming home to a spotless apartment, but here in the camp he’s got to do more than stick thirty quid under the teapot and hide his jewellery.

Rosemary, who is probably less famous than the guy who does the trial dry-runs, comes to the Bush Telegraph and enthuses “How lucky am I to be in here with all these amazing people?” So she’s either a big Kajagoogoo groupie, or she’s already gone Colonel Kurtz after three days in the jungle. David keeps her amused by teaching her a few boxing moves, which prompts Ashley to vie for some attention of her own. Demonstrating her own ‘special skill’, all that’s missing is a garter belt stuffed with single notes. She needed the distraction, since she spends most of her time wondering what the hell everyone else is talking about. In particular, she’s finding it hard to understand Eric, Helen and Linda. Ant and Dec suggest that it’s because she’s American, but I’d argue that anyone with ears would struggle to get by. Half the time, it sounds like feeding time in an aviary – even Marlee Matlin would begging for ear-muffs after 48 hours in there.

Linda, Helen, Hugo, Rosemary, Nadine and David head off to compete in another afternoon trial that involves each of them being locked in a box with a load of magnets and electrics. David convinces them that their boxes are filled with ‘hornet cockroaches.’ It doesn’t take long for Nadine to scream “I’m a centipede, get me out of here.” Or, at least, that’s what it sounded like.  As David claims yet another victory, the others are punished with a surprise electrocution, and poor Rosemary looks as though she thinks she’s having a stroke. David tells us that Hugo came second, adding “He was hot on my tail.” Now there’s some bonus footage we won’t be seeing on ITV1.

The rest of the group is back in the camp, bitching about Hugo’s arrogance. Eric is not a fan, largely because he thinks Hugo was “born with a golden spoon up his arse” and has never heard of piles. Which is odd, because you’d assume that those two things would go hand-in-hand. You try spending time with cutlery stuck up your clacker and see if you don’t develop a nasty bunch of Emma Freuds.
Dinner time, and Rosemary attempts to fillet a bag-full of crocodile legs as Linda complains “Can’t we eat something that didn’t look like it was living once?” The panicking producers have got a helicopter on stand-by, ready to airlift in a hundredweight of Turkey Twizzlers into camp if it all kicks off. Hugo throws another childish strop and snaps at Rosemary, who soon kicks him into touch. He has another little cry and blames it on the smoke. By the time Ant and Dec enter the camp to announce who’s facing the last audience-voted trial, it’s clear that Hugo’s petulance has cost him dearly. On the upside, for the first time Helen gets to go a whole day without smudging her lip-gloss. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Vote For Me, Maybe

The Performances

This weekend the theme is Guilty Pleasures, as if the people who make X-Factor are qualified to be arbiters of taste in music. The very concept of guilty pleasures is anathema anyway, since taste is subjective. And since when did a pop song need acoustic guitars or a dubstep breakdown to be considered worthy? Nonetheless, Dermot comes out to ‘I Need A Hero’ then does a little Hammertime dance, before ripping off his tinfoil trousers. Five minutes in and the weirdness dial has already been cranked up to eleven. As we’re reintroduced to the judges, I notice that voice-over man has decided that Tulisa doesn’t need a last name. That, or he just can’t pronounce Contostavlos. Nicole has come dressed like a gift-wrapped sex doll, whereas Gary looks more like the cardboard box it came in.

The first of tonight’s acts is Union J, who’ve had a dramatic week after lead singer Jaymi came out to the tabloids. Apparently Louis encouraged him to be honest, in a staggering example of physician out thyself. Jaymi told The Sun that Louis said “put it this way, both of my big boybands had a gay member in them.” Repeatedly, by all accounts. There’s a lot of talk about the ‘battle of the boybands’, in which case I’d like to identify as a conscientious objector. The boys are excited about their trip to Disneyland Paris, where they tried out the rides and performed to 2,000 people. Jaymi complains that he had to sit next to JJ on Space Mountain, who ‘screamed like a girl’ the whole time, which is hardly surprising, since he looks like one. For their performance of Call Me Maybe, they’re decked out in natty grey suits. Their voices are pretty flat, and they’ve chosen to ad-lib notes, rather than stick to the melody, which is a canny way of throwing the audience off the scent if you can’t sing particularly well. Tulisa doesn’t like the song, but it’s not as if she’s got an impeccable back catalogue of songs to her name. Nicole tells them off for their dull staging, and says she doesn’t want to see them on another box. The lads concur and promise that, if they’re back next week, it’ll be a box-free zone. Based on this performance, it’s likely to be a tune-free zone as well.

Time for a close-up of the Eurostar. My mistake, it’s just Ella’s epic maw, as she bellows Firework at the Disney crowd in a pair of Minnie Mouse ears. For tonight’s theme she’s picked You’re The One That I Want, as though anyone could ever feel bad about enjoying Grease. Anyway, she’s chosen to do a stripped down acoustic arrangement of the song, and it works really well. Even so, I’d love to see whether she could pull off the same trick with all the shoo-wop-showaddywaddy-ippidy-boom-di-booms of We Go Together. Gary and Louis loved it; tell me about it, studs. Louis is still doing his feeble tea-leaf predictions, and makes the mistake of calling Tulisa a WAG. She indignantly barks back “Actually, I’m a WAF – was already famous.” Way to stay likeable, Contostavlos.

James has spent the week rekindling his bromance with Rylan, who’s taught him to see the ‘lighter side of life.’ I don’t like this chipper new side of James, I like him when he looks as though he’s fretting about the rising damp in his bedsit; I certainly don’t want to hear him using words like ‘magical’ and ‘glamorous.’ He’s doing a strummy acoustic version of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. It’s all predictably low-key, but at least he’s not screaming as though he’s trying to shit a park bench. The melody gets lost towards the end, but it’s probably the straightest performance he’s done all series. Tulisa bleats on about a ‘real cool credible artist down Camden’ and Gary tells James he wants him to win. Meanwhile, Nicole screams that he is ‘mooey inspirato’ but I’m not sure whether she’s speaking Spanish or Polari.

We’re already at the midway point, so Dermot stops by for a little filler chat with the judges. Ed Balls has been tweeting that Tulisa has it all wrong about Carly Rae Jepsen. Nice to know our politicians are weighing in on the issues that matter. Nicole gets excited about a man called balls, then starts quoting Push It. Louis tells us that his guilty pleasure is Take That, then laughs like Phyllis Pearce until he collapses on the judges’ table.

Rylan’s up next, and Nicole is trying to coach him for the week ahead, despite the fact that he’s wearing a giant blue romper suit. It takes a special kind of steely determination to keep a straight face when faced with a lanky gay smurf. After a few scenes of him taking people’s babies at Disneyland, he hits the stage to sing Girls On Film, in a pair of trousers with a set of flickering fluorescent strip-lights down the front of them. Louis can’t be arsed to say anything new, so he just recycles last week’s comments. Tulisa tells Rylan that Guilty Pleasures week was made for him, but in all honesty, he’d make Hallelujah sound like a Cheeky Girls b-side. Nicole describes him as ‘shamazeballs,’ which makes about as much sense as Rylan’s continued presence in the show.

Prepping for Saturday’s show, Gary and Christopher are laughing about the fact that “we’ve been guilty pleasuring every week.” There’s a sodden Fleshlight in Gary’s dressing room that can probably attest to that fact. After singing A Whole New World at Disneyland Paris, Christopher burbles about wanting to call Gary and tell him how well it went. Hope he won’t be too disheartened if it goes straight to voicemail. In keeping with his mid-eighties power ballad agenda, he’s decided to sing Total Eclipse of the Heart. And it sounds exactly how you’d imagine it would. The staging is very odd, as he’s trapped in a cage made of light, as if he’s going to be banished from Krypton into the Phantom Zone for crimes against light entertainment. The judges give their comments with a sense of weary resignation, as if they’ve seen the audience polls, and short of stabbing a panda to death on stage, they know there’s no way he won’t be here next week.

Tonight’s final performance comes from Nicole’s “fighting little lambchop”. I literally have no idea what to do with that remark, except wonder whether Shari Lewis missed a trick with her bleating sock-puppet. Jahmene is singing a soulful version of Don’t Leave Me This Way that picks up halfway through, while standing on what looks like a giant Tetris. Tulisa says that she’s running out of ways to kiss his butt – let’s hope she’s not got another video coming out.

Results Show

Remember in last night’s show, when Tulisa slated Call Me Maybe? Well, here to remind us what a true powerhouse pop song sounds like, our top six are singing her solo debut, We Are Young. The song might be about youthful exuberance, but Jahmene looks positively middle-aged in a shapeless polo shirt more suited to washing a Passat than performing on the UK’s favourite talent show. Backstage, he says “Hearing people shouting my name has reminded me why I’m doing this.” If that’s all he’s looking for, he could just spend a few nights in prison, as long as he doesn’t mind answering to “New Fish.”

The first of tonight’s special guests is Olly Murs, who’s usually hanging about backstage anyway. It looks as though he didn’t have time to get dressed properly, since he’s paired some smart trousers with thermal underwear. Oddly, even though the song was written for his voice, he can’t seem to settle on a key, so tries out a few different ones. In the end, it’s nice to know that his multi-platinum success hasn’t changed him – he’s still as insufferably smug as he was back when he was just another contestant.

Our other special guest is Alicia Keys, who’s responsible for one of the most frequently massacred songs in talent show history. So I suppose we should be thankful that she’s performing her new single instead. The staging is weird, with a giant gong, a Chinese dragon and a troupe of ninja dancers. Alicia is settling comfortably into diva-dom, relying on the dancers to help her negotiate five steps. It’s fine for a septuagenarian like Shirley Bassey, but seems like overkill for a woman in her thirties. No matter – she’s looking gorgeous and the song’s pretty strong.

There’s a whole hour to kill, so time for more VT footage of the contestant telling us how badly they want this. That just means lots of talk about ‘finding myself’ and ‘life lessons’. Christopher wants to put the sparkle back in his Nan’s eyes, so I guess he’ll use his winnings to pay for the cataract removal. And Jahmene says that he’s been feeling quite lost recently, but I’m not sure whether he’s speaking metaphorically, or if ASDA just changed the store layout without telling him.

It’s crunch time, and the first act safe is Union J, who seem to explode in different directions. Rylan is also safe, and has another weepy meltdown in his gold lame housecoat, followed swiftly by Jahmene. Brace yourself – time for a real upset now as Christopher goes through, leaving Ella and James to head into the commercial break wondering where it all started going wrong.

The judges are all in a state of shock, but it’s not hard to realise that, when you focus on controversial contestants, you end up making them the stars of the show. So they win votes. For the sing-off, Ella has picked Daniel Bedingfield’s If You’re Not The One. It’s a lovely song, and she sings it well, but unfortunately it shows up the same flaws in her voice that the Evanescence song did a few weeks ago – it’s in too high a key, and involves far too much warbly vibrato. Following that, Nicole is out of breath with emotion as she introduces “James Effing Arthur.” It’s no wonder he has a volatile relationship with his parents if that’s their idea of a middle name. Only minutes ago, I was writing about Alicia Keys’ Fallin’, and right on cue, here’s another painful version of it.

Tulisa gets angry and saves Ella, and Nicole’s nostrils flare so widely I half expect her nose to split in two before saving James. Louis says he’s in shock and waves his hands around while stating the obvious and saving Ella. Gary knew it would come to this, and seemingly forgets that his own cruise-ship act is sitting safely in the green room, as he picks James to stay. It’s yet another deadlock, and that means that Ella’s out. Unlike her fuming mentor, she’s pretty gracious in defeat, telling us that everyone deserves to be here.