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132. Glitter (-#18)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Stacy Grouden, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Vondie Curtis-Hall’s Glitter.

Spotted as a back-up vocalist by fly D.J. Julian “Dice” Black, singer Billie Frank finds herself whisked away into a world of stardom and celebrity. However, Billie quickly discovers that fame and fortune do not offer the comfort and security that she has always craved.

At time of recording, it was ranked 18th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the worst movies of all-time.

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“Maybe It’s Time To Let the Old Ways Die…”: “A Star Is Born” and Baby Boomer Rock Nostalgia…

It takes a lot to change, it takes a lot to try,

Baby, it’s time to let the old ways die.

A Star is Born would seem to be a massive success, before it has even been released.

The film has an impressive score on both Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic. The film has also been named as the presumptive Best Picture frontrunner by publications as diverse as Forbes, Playlist, Vulture and Vanity Fair. Of course, that may not actually mean much; presumptive Best Picture frontrunner status doesn’t always translate into ownership of that little gold statue. Just ask La La Land, the presumptive Best Picture frontrunner from two awards seasons back, a film that literally had the award snatched out of its hand by the underdog that could, Moonlight.

The comparison to La La Land is interesting. In many ways, A Star is Born is effectively the movie that many critics claimed to see in La La Land. By its nature, La La Land evoked nostalgia for a long-lost version of Hollywood, blending a story of an ascendant star with a cynical hipster, filtered through the lens of old-school musicals. Many read the film as the ill-judged story of a white guy saving jazz, glossing over the fact that it was instead a tragic story about a guy who kept an outdated notion of jazz alive in a basement club while shunning the opportunity to work with an African American artist to bring it to the masses.

What is striking about A Star is Born is how it embraces many of the controversial aspects of La La Land and pursues them with uncritical earnestness. A Star is Born is a film steeped in seventies notions of authenticity, reflected not only in the past-his-glory stylings of rock daddy Jackson Maine, but also in the stylistic influences of Bradley Cooper who aspires towards the glory days of the New Hollywood movement. At the core of A Star is Born is a suggestion that popular culture was never more “real” than it was during the seventies, and that modern artists should look back to that authenticity, not craft their own identities.

A Star is Born is inevitably going to be nostalgic. It is the forth iteration of this particular fairytale to use the title, although the story itself has been reworked and reimagined in countless iterations over the past century. Fans were already identifying callbacks and homages to early versions of the story from the trailer. Much was made of the the passing of the torch, whether it was Kris Kristofferson allowing Bradley Cooper to use his set at Glastonbury to film a key sequence from the movie, or his and Barbra Streisand’s visit to the set. Nostalgia was woven into the fabric of A Star is Born.

However, A Star is Born is in theory about more than nostalgia. It is about evolution. It is about a dying star elevating a new voice from obscurity, providing a young artist with a platform from which they might launch themselves. A Star is Born is a tale of succession, of perpetual reinvention, of the passing of the torch from one generation of celebrity to another. This is why the story inevitably focuses on an over-the-hill rocker who discovers a startling young talent. It is a story about how celebrity changes and evolves. It is about acknowledging the future, and allowing the past to legitimise that future.

There are certainly shades of that in A Star is Born. There are certain songs that recur throughout the film, suggesting both potential hit singles from the soundtrack and important thematic markers. Shallow is one hell of a pop-rock love ballad, full of power and emotion. However, Jackson Maine keeps coming back to his own folksy country ballad Maybe It’s Time to Let the Old Ways Die. It seems like an important statement of purpose for the film, an exploration of what is actually happening when this aging crooner plucks young Ally out of obscurity and pushes her towards celebrity.

Unfortunately, the movie itself seems less concerned about letting the old ways die, and instead is much more anxious about what it sees as the lack of authenticity within popular culture. When A Star is Born positions Jackson Maine as an aging rock god, it is entirely sincere. It might accept the man’s flaws, but it heralds his message. A Star is Born is a story about how “real” celebrity looks like a bearded rocker with a guitar thrown over his shoulder singing about lost love, while more stylised modern pop culture is just vacuous nonsense. A Star is Born is a prestige picture celebration of baby boomer rock nostalgia.

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“Mulder and Scully” by Catatonia (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Things are getting strange, I’m starting to worry

this could be a case for Mulder and Scully…

If you needed proof that The X-Files was a cultural juggernaut in the mid-to-late nineties, look no further than Mulder and Scully.

The first single off Catatonia’s International Velvet propelled the band to new heights of fame and fortune. Before the release of Mulder and Scully, the band had skulked around the bottom of the British charts; their biggest success before that point had been You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For, a song lucky to scrape the top forty. Indeed, reaching the third position in the United Kingdom charts, Mulder and Scully easily became the Welsh band’s largest pop hit. A month after the release of Mulder and Scully, its parent album would reach the top of the international charts.

catatonia-mulderandscully3

Having a Wales of a time…

Indeed, it could be argued that Catatonia’s success overlapped quite neatly with that of The X-Files. The core of the band’s “classic” line-up, Cerys Matthews and Mark Roberts, began writing songs together in 1992. The single Mulder and Scully and the album International Velvet represented the peak of their success. The band would release two more albums building off the success of International Velvet, before formally announcing the dissolution of the band in September 2001. It is an arc that roughly mirrors that of The X-Files – suggesting Catatonia were another nineties artifact.

Although Mulder and Scully was Catatonia’s biggest success, it is worth noting The X-Files had enjoyed a great deal of success in the British charts. Late in the show’s third season, the theme song had been released as a single in its own right. Mark Snow’s iconic opening credits music had climbed all the way to the number two slot. Nevertheless, Mulder and Scully is interesting because it is a massive hit about the show that came from outside the production office. The X-Files had conquered television, now it seemed to be laying claim to both cinema and the pop charts.

Sing when you're winning...

Sing when you’re winning…

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