Bogglebox

The ApprenticeDo you remember that old joke about the child (in some versions he is German, but I don’t think that’s essential) who doesn’t speak until the age of nine, when one evening at dinner he says “not enough salt” and his amazed parents say “you can speak! Why have you never spoken before?” and he says “Until now everything was satisfactory”?

Well, that’s where I’m at, more or less. Glad All Over has always been a blog about nothing, largely powered by my occasional need to rant about Things That Pissed Me Off. And nothing much has pissed me off recently, or at least nothing that merited more words than could easily fit into 140 characters. But a recent lifestyle adjustment has turned me into someone who watches TV, and it turns out there’s loads on TV that pisses me off. Yay!

Proudly topping the list is The Apprentice, which I have managed to avoid for the last decade, whilst still knowing quite a lot about it. I don’t know why I find its innate cynicism more offensive than that displayed by, say, The X Factor, except that X Factor has as a redeeming quality its contestants, who are by and large sweet and charming and easy to root for. (My favourites so far, in case you need to know, are Fleur and Andrea.) The Apprentice features famously awful people so there is nothing to distract me from the fact that it’s a horrible, lying, ugly programme. It teaches us that the way to get ahead in business is to be a bully; to relentlessly push one’s own agenda and to ignore or trample on anyone who gets in the way. That may well work for some people in some contexts, but it makes the world a nastier place, and having had more jobs than most I can assure you that being polite, respectful and knowledgeable works too, and doesn’t result in half the workforce being signed off with stress.

So it’s an unpleasant show, but it also treats us, the audience, like idiots. I am actively embarrassed every time Lord Sugar is presented like God, as though he isn’t as beholden to the production schedule and technical requirements of making the show as anyone else involved. I don’t mind being lied to in the name of entertainment so long as an attempt is made to make it entertaining, but this isn’t. It’s just silly. And practically speaking, the tasks are ridiculous. In last night’s show candidates were asked to come up with an item of wearable technology and pitch it to buyers from John Lewis, J.D. Sports and Firebox. I mean, honestly, can you think of a single item, wearable or otherwise, that those three retailers would all stock? So the premise was ridiculous and the criteria for success a nonsense. The week before, the winning team (and why split them, in this day and age, into a men’s team and a women’s team, FFS?) made something like £50 more than the losers, who were subjected to a torrent of contempt bordering on abuse as a result. £50. It’s a joke of a show. And if you were to ask the founders of the most successful companies launched in the last couple of decades whether their primary motivation was to make money, I doubt a single one of them would say yes. Here’s Mark Zuckerberg in a letter to shareholders two years ago:

“Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services. And we think this is a good way to build something.”

Anyone who thinks Alan Sugar is a better role model for success in the world of business today than Zuck probably deserves to – well, to be on The Apprentice.

I mean, I don’t mind silly TV shows. At the moment I am particularly enjoying The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Come Dine With Me and Gogglebox, all of which, in different ways, shine a light into something real and human and vulnerable. Shows about people need real people in them, and nobody and nothing in The Apprentice is real.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to install the X Factor voting app.

Oscar predictions

Alice Herz-Sommers

Only tangentially relevant, but I couldn’t resist the photo. Alice Herz-Sommers, who died today.

For the third year in a row, I will be attempting to stay up as late as possible this coming Saturday night in order to adjust my body clock such that I can liveblog the Oscars for MostlyFilm, and wonder again why they can’t hold the ceremony in New York or, ideally, London, so as to make the task less arduous for us European filmwatchers. Traditionally I have enlisted the assistance of sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks to keep me going, but what also helps is having an investment in the outcome and since YET AGAIN I haven’t been nominated in a single category, I am reduced to trying to beat my record for the highest number of correct predictions. And in order to stop me cheating, I am bringing you along for the ride…

Best picture

Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Philips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street

This is, I’m sure, between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave, and I think the latter will win because being accidentally turned into a slave in real life beats losing a fictional daughter in the heartstring-tugging stakes.

Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Matthew McConaughey ought to win; Chiwetel Ejiofor will, which I am also OK with because he is a Palace fan and we rarely win anything. (Leo, whom I love, is fantastic in WOWS, but it’s not a fantastic film and his character is so desperately unsympathetic that I don’t think he has a chance.)

Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August, Osage County)

Cate Blanchett has this nailed on, I think.

Supporting Actor

Nominees: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Philips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave), Jonah Hill (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

This is a really strong category. I’d be happy with a win for Abdi or Cooper, but Jared Leto‘s turn as Rayon in DBC is a career-best piece of loveliness and I hope he takes it. I would also like to point out that had Behind The Candelabra been eligible for Oscar nominations, Matt Damon and Rob Lowe would both have deserved nods in this category, as would Michael Douglas in Leading Actor.

Supporting Actress

Nominees: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave), Julia Roberts (August, Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska)

I didn’t love J-Law in American Hustle. Or maybe I mean I didn’t love her as much as I love her in Silver Linings Notebook or Real Life™ – but she will win this regardless.

Animated Feature

Nominees: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises

From the buzz it’s generated among under-eights of my acquaintance, I’m saying Frozen.

Cinematography

Nominees: The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners

I can’t imagine a world in which this won’t go to Gravity.

Costume Design

Nominees: The Grandmaster, American Hustle, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years A Slave

It should be nominated for hair and makeup but since it isn’t, I think American Hustle will take this one instead.

Director

Nominees: David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street)

Cuarón will lose out on Best Picture but I think he’ll pip McQueen to the winning post in this category.

Documentary Feature

Nominees: The Act Of Killing, Cutie And The Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square, 20 Feet From Stardom

I will admit to not having had the guts to watch The Act Of Killing when I had the opportunity, but everything I’ve heard and read about it makes me think it has to win out here.

Documentary Short

Nominees: CaveDigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall

How far ahead of the ceremony does voting happen? Only the cynic in me wants to say that since Alice Herz-Sommer, the 110-year-old holocaust survivor who is the subject of The Lady In Number 6, has just died, the already-good chances that it would win have just improved.

Film Editing

Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Philips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years A Slave

Gravity is so sparse and elegant and beautiful that again, I can’t imagine it not winning here.

Foreign Language Film

Nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, The Missing Picture, Omar

Right, so, uh, I was going to predict a win for Blue Is The Warmest Colour but I’ve just noticed it hasn’t been nominated. So in the absence of any other information I will employ my traditional method of closing my eyes and stabbing at the screen, which gives me The Broken Circle Breakdown. You heard it here first.

(One rule I have when I make my predictions, by the way, is that I can’t go googling for betting odds or anyone else’s views. It has to be based on my own knowledge. Which is why I am often wrong!)

Makeup and Hair

Nominees: Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger

I’ve only seen one of these, but Jared Leto is so breathtakingly beautiful in Dallas Buyers Club that I hope it wins. Mainly, though, I just hope Jackass doesn’t. There is a time and a place for Jackass, and the Oscars ain’t it.

Original Score

Nominees: The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr Banks

The rules are, when someone you know is nominated you have to say them. Now, nobody I know is nominated in this category, but someone I know knows someone who is, and so I’m going for Gravity (which also has a really good score).

Original Song

Nominees: Happy (Despicable Me 2), Let It Go (Frozen), The Moon Song (Her), Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom)

Yeah, I haven’t heard any of these. Also, when was Tangled? There’s a good song in that. Let’s say Frozen.

Production Design

Nominees: American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Her, 12 Years A Slave

Well actually this should definitely go to The Great Gatsby, but I think Gravity will win.

Animated Short

Nominees: Feral, Get A Horse!, Mr Hublot, Possessions, Room On The Broom

Cough. Well, Get A Horse! has the best name, right?

Live Action Short

Nominees: Aquel No Era Yo, Avant Que De Tour Perdre, Helium, Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?, The Voorman Problem

I wonder whether you tick a box or have to write in your answers, when you vote? Because nobody’s going to take the time to write out Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? by hand if they don’t have to. But it’s bound to be checkboxes, isn’t it? So let’s go with that. One day, when I grow up, I will be a person who watches the short films ahead of the Oscars (or even afterwards).

Sound Editing

Nominees: All Is Lost, Captain Philips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Lone Survivor

Sound Mixing

Nominees: Captain Philips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor

I think Gravity will take both of these.

Visual Effects

Nominees: Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness

I can’t remember whether the argument over possible or desirable punctuation in the name of the latest Star Trek movie came to a conclusion, so I’m leaving it out rather than get it wrong and risk the wrath of…well, you know. Obviously this will also go to Gravity.

Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Before Midnight, Captain Philips, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street

Before Midnight is an adaptation? Who knew? Well, the Academy, it would appear. I’m racing through these last few categories not because I want to go to bed, although I do, but because I think there’s barely any debate to be had about most of them. 12 Years A Slave will win this.

Original Screenplay

Nominees: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska

Whether he did or whether he didn’t, Woody will take this for Blue Jasmine, although I would give it to Dallas Buyers Club. But for some reason, nobody asked me. I know!

On Middle Eights

Gary Barlow

And we’ll be toge-he-ther…go on, you know you want to click.

I am, right this second, listening to a R4 programme on musical middle eights. It’s interesting, and you should listen to it when you get the chance, but it’s made me wonder what the definition of a “middle eight” really is. (I looked it up on the internet, but nobody on the internet agrees with anyone else on the internet.)

Obviously it needn’t be eight bars long (and if you feel sniffy about that, you can get around it by calling it a bridge), but it does probably need to be somewhere in the middle of the song, which is to say it can’t be the intro or the outro. And yet one of the first examples given by Helen Caddick, a composer and lecturer in songwriting at Goldsmith’s College, was Eleanor Rigby, which I don’t think has a middle eight at all, but Caddick thinks the “Ah, look at all the lonely people” section is a middle eight; and if your definition is that it’s not the verse or the chorus (I think that bit is part of the chorus, but I’m not a lecturer in songwriting) and that it has a different melody or theme from the rest of the piece, then I suppose she could be right.

But then her second example was Pulp’s Common People, and her middle eight was this section:

Rent a flat above a shop

Cut your hair and get a job

Smoke some fags and play some pool

Pretend you never went to school

Still you’ll never get it right

Cause when you’re laying in bed at night

Watching roaches climb the wall

If you call your dad he can stop it all

Now, the vocal is certainly different, and emotionally it’s the punchy centre of the song for sure, but the music playing behind it is (I’m going by memory, I can’t seem to be bothered to give it an actual listen; feel free to tell me I’m wrong) the same as the rest of the song.

So I’m still not sure what a middle eight is, but I do know what my favourite middle eight is (today). What are yours? And what’s your definition of a middle eight?

White Christmas, December 24: The King Of Soul

I have loved almost all of the recordings of White Christmas we’ve had this advent, but as soon as I heard this one I knew I was saving it for Christmas Eve, because it’s not someone singing the well-known Bing Crosby song; it’s a completely immersive reimagining of the original, and a glorious piece of music in its own right. Turn up the volume really loud before you begin. Happy Christmas!

White Christmas, December 23: A Treat

In the 1940s popular music often wasn’t immediately, or ever, associated with an individual performer – many versions of songs would be recorded, and the composer generally given the lasting credit. Which is why, I’m thrilled to be able to tell you, there were FOUR versions of White Christmas recorded and released in 1942, and here they all are in a playlist that I have made using science. It’s interesting that the first three (by, in order, Gordon Jenkins, Charlie Spivak and Freddy Martin, though in each case those are the names of the bandleaders rather than the singers, who feature as “guest vocalists”) are all quite like each other and not a great deal like Bing’s (and, because unfamiliar, much more instantly evocative of that era than Bing’s).

The version of Bing that we had on December 1, incidentally, was from the movie Holiday Inn, whereas this is the solo recording which you probably know better, so I tricked you when I said we were getting Bing over and done with at the beginning. Sorry.

White Christmas, December 20: The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys might even be my favourite band of all (not counting the Beatles and the Carpenters and the Pet Shop Boys and the Who and probably some others). This starts off so slowly that I keep thinking someone’s accidentally playing it at 33rpm rather than 45, but it’s a gloriously swooshy and whooshy version, with singing as luscious as you’d expect. Also, all Christmas songs should end with a sweep of violins, I have decided.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sleep for 48 hours. I think I am too aged for the Christmas party season.