It’s the freaking weekend – links round-up

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Here is a selection of the best things that I have come across on the internet this week:

19 Successful People Who Had A Rough Time In Their Twenties [Buzzfeed] – an inspirational list of famous people who hit a low point during their twenties and went on to greatness later in life. Number one on the list is Jon Hamm, who was dropped by the William Morris Agency aged 27 after he struggled to land acting work. The list doesn’t mention that by the time he was 21, he had lost both of his parents, which is so unimaginably awful that I don’t know how he manages to get out of bed in the morning, much less go out onto the world stage every day and entertain us with his wonderful acting skills and lovely face and aversion to wearing underpants. If you’re a twenty-something who is going through a hard time, keep your chin up, work hard and one day your penis could have its own Tumblr. It’s the American Dream.

… and if things go really, really well, you could end up being so successful that you can get away with making unusual requests of your co-workers – like Marlon Brando, who demanded ‘a bucket hat and a personal dwarf’ during the filming of The Island Of Dr Moreau. Alternatively, why not take a leaf out of Lindsay Lohan’s book (#WWLLD?, as I ask myself every day), who refused to strip naked to film a ‘pivotal orgy scene’ (is there any other kind?) with America’s Sweetheart James Deen unless the film crew took all their clothes off too? Read The 5 Most Hilarious Actor Meltdowns Behind Famous Movies [Cracked] for more great tips.

A couple more little treasures:

The Homer Car From ‘The Simpsons’ Is Now A Magnificent Reality [Uproxx]

Cher Says That Tom Cruise Is in Her Top 5 of All-Time Best Lovers [Gawker]

… and the sadface emoticon of the week goes to the ongoing New Kids On The Block/Backstreet Boys turf wars. Stay safe out there guys 😦

Paris Jackson, Amanda Bynes and Stephen Fry: the answer we’re all looking for

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Paris Michael Katherine Jackson

According to recent news reports, a judge is ‘demanding answers about suicidal Paris Jackson’s state of mind’, and he’s not the only one. Since Wednesday the Mail Online has been playing sidebar psychiatrist and has published over 20 articles on the subject, trying to work out why a teenage girl they have never met would attempt to take her own life.

The Mail Online asks ‘Did a threat to reveal Michael Jackson WASN’T her father drive Paris over the edge?‘ Or was it because she ‘was under huge strain after being forced to defend her new-found relationship with her mom Debbie Rowe‘? Is it something to do with the fact that she allegedly ‘asked for emancipation from her family before suicide attempt‘? Or is it just yet another example of ‘the terrible proof fame corrodes all it touches‘? A cry for help? An argument with her brother Prince? A delayed reaction to the death of her beloved father? Legendarily shitty guardians (with Uncle TJ having moved far away)?

Same goes for poor Amanda Bynes. While her antics are becoming increasingly predictable (Amanda Bynes calls random celebrity ugly/tweets pictures of herself half-dressed in a raggedy-ass wig/goes to a public exercise class wearing something inappropriate something something Drake SHOCKER), there’s plenty more media mileage in an analysing her every tweet in order to make an expert diagnosis. Is it drugs and alcohol? Amanda says she’s allergic to both. Narcissistic personality disorder? She does love to remind other people of how much more beautiful she is than them. Schizophrenia? She claims there’s an imposter running around New York pretending to be her. The high price of child fame? Possibly.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to see the coverage this week on the news that Stephen Fry attempted suicide last year. If you aren’t familiar with the life and times of Stephen Fry, imagine that the Queen Mother had a baby with Oscar Wilde and that baby grew up to be a lanky genius who knows everything about everything. He knows whether there’s life on Mars. He knows how many roads a man must walk down before you can call him a man. He knows that I’m lying in bed right now eating handfuls of Everyday Value cornflakes and listening to Earth Song. He knows why the answer to the Great Question Of Life, the Universe, and Everything… is forty-two. (Yes. Seriously. He actually does.) But even he doesn’t know what would cause a person to attempt suicide.

For years he has spoken frankly about living with bipolar disorder, and is president of the mental health charity Mind. This week he told the press that there was “no reason” for someone wanting to take their own life. “There is no ‘why’, it’s not the right question. There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life.”

Wouldn’t life be so easy if all incidences of mental illness could be traced back to a single cause? If we could all just scan through the Daily Mail sidebar of shame, tot up the headlines and say to ourselves ‘ok, I won’t sell my children into Amanda Bynes-style Nickelodeon superstardom. I’ll let them know who their biological parents are and try not to get accidentally murdered by Dr Conrad Murray’ and that that would be enough to guard ourselves against the unthinkable? The fact is, 5% of all people attempt suicide at some point in their lives. It’s not just Michael Jackson’s daughter and Sherlock Holmes’ brother. Sometimes people’s brains just don’t work properly.

On reviews, reviewers and reviewing things

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This week one of my favourite writers, Nicole Cliffe from The Hairpin, has been discussing what makes a good review.  As a guest reviewer of the ‘Critical Hit Awards’ at Electric Literature, she wrote: 

I believe it is very difficult to succeed with a book review if you lack generosity of spirit and a genuine love of books. There are plenty of terrible books, there are far more mediocre books, there are many good ones, and there are some that are great. Books that are terrible or mediocre are rarely worth your time to review. Which is not to say that a negative review has no place in your arsenal, but when I am reviewing a book, I try to imagine that I am speaking to the author, that that author wants to have written a good book and has proceeded with that desire in good faith.

Linking to the article on The Hairpin, Nicole reflected:

But then, when I think about some of the book reviews which have really stayed with me, some of them are mean and brilliant. And I greatly prefer Anthony Lane’s more withering movie reviews to ones that are all, oh, Jessica Chastain is a revelation. So, hm, who knows?’

For me, the distinction isn’t between positive and negative reviews.  Whether it’s affectionate yet clear-slighted love like Nicole’s Cliffe’s own Classic Trash, where our heroine takes us on a personal journey through her experiences with the best trashy literature through the decades, or vicious slamdowns (there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t shed a tear for the untimely hiatus of Videogum’s ‘Worst Movie of All Time’ reviews), I believe that the best reviews are highly personal and passionate ones.

We all have different experiences and worldviews and different reasons for loving what we love, and hating what we hate.  When I used to write about music for another site, the editor would send me singles and albums to review.  My biggest problem was never not liking them, but being able to acknowledge that they were good, but just not to my taste.  How do you critically assess something like that?  All the noises sounded good in my ears and everything, but once the review was written, I would never listen to them again.  I was never particularly proud of those reviews – I would much rather write about something that provoked a strong response in me, one way or another.    

I think that there’s a huge gulf between loving something and acknowledging that something is very good with few, if any, flaws, and not a lot of traditional reviewers cover that space.  How often does Roger Ebert write reviews like “Terrence Malick’s new film is a profound and stunningly accurate examination of the human experience with a first-rate script, career-best performances from the world’s greatest actors and flawless direction, but I could have watched White Chicks twice during its 280 minute run time, and would much rather have done so”? (and he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, so he should know the joys of great trash better than anyone). 

That isn’t a problem – that is where bloggers can come in and win hearts and minds with their ‘OMFG guys, you just have to watch this movie right now’ views.  (To quote John Cheese from Cracked.com: ‘If I have to explain who Leslie Nielsen is, you need to stop what you’re doing right now and go watch the Airplane and Naked Gun movies, and the Police Squad! TV show. Call in a sick day to work or school, explaining that you just discovered his body of work. They’ll understand. In fact, the only punishment you might receive would be a dock in pay or grades for not having done it sooner.’)  There are a huge number of reviewers out there, in print and online, so what can set you apart is having a unique perspective and a story to tell.  What can you see that no-one else can?  Do you still love a much mocked movie because it came along at just the right time in your life when you could appreciate it?  Do you love Freddy Got Fingered and hate The Godfather?  Tell me why!