Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Mistake

When I first saw this dreadful advert, in all honesty I didn’t pay any attention to it all, what with how cheap and bland it is. However, when I did finally notice it, I saw the mistake and thought it was hilarious. Signs and billboards all over London, some massive, had a huge glaring error on them. Amazing.

Of course I subsequently discovered that the man on the poster is José Mourinho, wealthy enigmatic football managing git. And that mistake is actually to do with his slightly imperfect grasp of the English language.

So it’s not a typo, it’s a direct, genuine, unaltered quote. Reproduced in full*.

So it’s all right then isn’t it? Good ole José with his charmingly endearing, but not quite right sentences. He’s a good, well known football manager, and therefore, by associating themselves with him, this company, Henderson's, can trade on his credibility and claim themselves to be the other ‘Special Manager’. Awesome innovative concept eh?

Of course everyone knows who José Mourinho is, don’t they? I mean, surely there’s no one else like me who doesn’t know who this man is and is going to think that this supposedly professional company has seriously f****d up their advert. No one could possibly think that.

It’s also a really good idea to highlight the fact that someone who is endorsing your business may not have the most perfect grasp of the language. After all, no one ever gets irritated when you point out their mistakes. Especially when they’ve taken the time to learn the language of a country where most people don’t even take the time to learn a foreign language.

But it’s good old José; and this is one of the things we know and love him for. These little language mistakes are so endearing, and this advert certainly isn’t patronising him at all.

And there’s no possible way that anyone looking at this mistake might find a second meaning in the phrase ‘special manager’. As it’s highlighted in red, the word doesn’t stand out any more than any other does it?

Let’s just hope they’re better with numbers…

* It’s just occurred to me that someone may have actually written this for the advert, rather than taken it as a direct quote. The mistake may actually have been intentional.

How depressing.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Word of the Week

Zugzwang - noun, Chess. A situation in which a player is limited to moves that cost pieces or have a damaging positional effect.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Worst Idea for a TV Show Ever?

Well obviously not, there's obviously been worse*. Nevertheless, this is not an appealing concept:


Cleverdicks is the exciting new quiz hosted by the formidably intelligent former politician Ann Widdecombe, who will bring her uniquely witty charm to the proceedings.

In each show, four supremely intelligent contestants will battle it out in four rounds to try and prove that they really are as clever as they say.

The show will take place daytimes & evenings during November at The Sky Studios in West London.

So if you would like to join Ann & some knowledgeable know-it-all's in November at Sky Studios, then apply now!

Somehow, I don't think I'll be applying for tickets for this one. Charismatic a character Anne Widdecombe is....

* Personal favourites include: Who's Your Daddy, where a contestant, given up for adoption as a child, had to pick their real father from a group of 25 men; Man vs. Beast in which humans face off against animals in a variety of physical challenges; and of course, Heil Honey I'm Home, the wacky domestic antics of Adolf Hitler and his jewish next door neighbours.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Word of the Week

Wodge: 1. a lump, chunk, or wad.
             2. an object having a lumpy, bulgy shape.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

October Film Highlights

Have you visited the 50 Word Film Reviews blog yet? Well have you?

The Three Musketeers (2011) Logan Lerman, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Christoph Waltz, Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich, Matthew Macfadyen. Dir: Paul W. S. Anderson.

The Musketeers must stop Richlieu from provoking war with England. Challenges you to suspend your disbelief further than you've suspended it before. Sherlock Holmes was far-fetched but that had a sense of proportion - and wit. All the energy and enthusiasm isn't enough to stop you thinking "what the f**k?"


Our Hospitality (1923) Buster Keaton, Joe Roberts, Ralph Bushman, Craig Ward. Dir: Buster Keaton, John G. Blystone.

Buster inadvertently reawakens an old family feud, but his enemies can’t kill him while he’s a guest in their house. After practicing with feature-length in Three Ages, Buster hits his stride. A little slow off the ground, but enters into a level of sustained silliness, culminating in a gob-smackingly dangerous climax.


In Time (2011) Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser, Olivia Wilde. Dir: Andew Niccol.

In the future time is currency and lifespan depends on your wealth. Good concept wasted – clumsily draws allegories to capitalism, but all exposition falls flat, so throws excruciating puns at you instead. Timberlake’s a character looking for a personality and Seyfried looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Rubbish.


Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) Katie Featherston, Chloe Csengery, Sprague Grayden, Jessica Tyler Brown, Brian Boland. Dir: Ariel Schulman,Henry Joost.

Footage of Katie and Kristi’s first encounter with the paranormal. Not bad for the third entry in a franchise, and an improvement on the previous. Fun’s had tricking the audience’s expectations, though attempts to invent new ghostly events miss as often as they hit. You’ll never believe it’s the 80s.


Batman (1989) Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Michael Gough, Jack Palance. Dir: Tim Burton.

Batman must fight the Joker while developing a relationship with a photographer. Uninvolving and lacking in suspense. Nicholson’s good, but has no motives and never seems a real threat, while Keaton has very little to work with. Lots of set pieces, no character development. Handsome, but quite shallow.


Howard the Duck (1986) Chip Zien, Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins, Jeffrey Jones, David Paymer. Dir:Willard Huyck.
A talking duck from another planet is accidentally transported to earth. Not deserving of its reputation. It's clearly trying to parody friendly creature features, it’s just that it gets caught up in the action it’s supposedly making fun of. And some mis-judged adult material feels uneasily out of place.


Drive (2011) Ryan Gosling, Brian Cranston, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks. Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn.

A stunt and part-time getaway driver gets into trouble when he helps a neighbour he’s in love with. Atmospheric, cool car noir that’s less about thrilling chases (there are some) and more about a man’s loneliness. Some interesting casting choices and a killer soundtrack help makes this an exceptional thriller.


Island of Lost Souls (1933) Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Bela Lugosi, Kathleen Burke. Dir: Erle C. Kenton.
On an uncharted island, a mad genius has created a race of evolved human/animal creations. Edgy for its time and still pretty dark - and pervy. Laughton’s never been slimier as the despicable scientist, who gets comeuppance in a startling sequence as his creations drag him to the “House of Pain”.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Words of Hate: Chops

It's sometimes easy to understand why a phrase or saying becomes popular. Often it’s pure zeitgeist – like all those social media terms that sprung up in the wake of Facebook, Twitter and so on. Other times a phrase coined suddenly seems to just fit a certain phenomenon, like Britpop or chavs, giving something a suitable name that it lacked before.

Sometimes, however, it's just a mystery. I'm not sure where I first heard the phrase chops, as in: he hasn't earned his acting chops, or, he's got business chops, or not enough comedy chops. I think it may have been during a rant uttered by the Doctor Cox character in Scrubs. But wherever it was, I didn't like it then and I don't like it now.

It pops-up a lot in movie reviews, usually when trying vaguely to describe why an actor was a poor choice for a particular part, or why an actor was actually a good choice for a role, because of their past experience, or their particular talents, or something; it really isn’t very clear.

Apparently meat has nothing to do with chops.
The etymology of this bizarre saying is unclear. I had assumed that it was something to do with meat, that someone working in a household would be rewarded with the best cut of meat having reached a certain level of accomplishment amongst their peers.

Actually the phrase is likely to be related to music; chops being a slang term for mouth. To earn ones chops would be to develop the facial muscles in the mouth to become skilled at playing certain wind and brass instruments. However, this is just the most likely origin; there is no definitive known answer.

Wherever it comes from, it’s a very ugly and unspecific term. It seems to stand for a slightly uneasy blend of being experienced and somehow proving your worth, I think. Maybe.

In an effort to get to the bottom of this mystery, let’s look at some real examples from the web.

Being experienced definitely seems to be key to the phrase’s meaning. Let’s look at this quote from a BBC review of band Biffy Clyro playing at Glastonbury:

“No longer the young up-and-comers among the rock elite, the Kilmarnock trio have well and truly earned their chops and sit comfortable at the top of festival bills across the summer season.”

From that we would could assume that this Scottish band have worked hard and built themselves a career of high-charting recordings and touring that has taken them to the big leagues of popular music.

But what if, say, they hadn’t become a hit band capable of top 10 album successes? Say they’d never made it big, but had toured year after year, and played hundreds of gigs over their 15-plus years together as a band – would they then have earned their chops?

They wouldn’t have had the same success, but you couldn’t say they weren’t experienced. Maybe they’d had acclaimed albums, but never been a big chart success (the truth for many bands now revered), would they have earned their chops then? In this context, I think not.

Now let’s take this next sentence discussing The OWN Documentary Club, a feature on the Oprah Winfrey Network that aims to do for documentary films what her Book Club did for selected books:

“Along with Family Affair, OWN's Documentary Club will show Sons of Perdition, Life 2.0, One Lucky Elephant, 65 Red Roses, Most Valuable Players -- all have already earned their chops on the festival circuit and should be seen by wider audiences.”

Now I don’t think you can call a documentary experienced. What I think we’re bordering on here is a matter of reputation. Biffy Clyro and the following documentaries have built-up a reputation doing what it is they do. But I think more than that, I think we’re talking about buzz or presence, or maybe even star quality.

Here’s another example – this time from Empire Online, from their review of recent hit movie, The Debt:

“If there’s a weak link among the acting ensemble it’s (Sam) Worthington — while he can handle David’s burning desire for duty, his accent is often atrocious, and he doesn’t quite have the chops to stand alongside the others.”

Though having appeared in a number of films, Worthington is still, I would say, an actor still to really establish himself as a major star. And in a film which also stars weighty talents like Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds, and 8-films-in-a-year, awarding-winning, up-and-comer Jessica Chastain, it’s easy to see how Worthington could seem swamped in serious heavy-weight talents.

Sam Worthington - clearly a man
without chops
But is it a matter of experience? Stars can be made overnight with the right attention-getting role. Worthington’s been in films since 2000, and won some awards too – including a nomination from Empire for Best Actor in 2009. Maybe he just wasn’t right for the part, or doesn’t have the presence amongst the heavyweights. Or is it the experience thing after all?

Anyway, so far we could perhaps assume that earned their chops refers to someone, or something, who/that has acquired the necessary experience, and has established a certain reputation and presence, that proves they/it is worthy of performing a certain task, or deserves your attention.

Well that’s clear isn’t it? Or can we make it even more complicated? We’ve already had one example from Empire Online - to my mind by far the worst chops offender - so let’s have some more examples.

…Ryan Gosling, showing sly comedy chops and about 54 abdominal muscles…

Doesn’t really fit in with the theory does it? This seems to suggest chops refers to skills, talents, or maybe credentials.

Pitt's perfect features and often underestimated acting chops work so well when contrasted with the depravity of Seven…

So in this context it’s definitely just talents/skills. After all, we don’t need to be told that Brad Pitt has got star presence, a huge reputation or loads of acting experience (more than 20 years on screen). So chops doesn’t have to refer to any of those things after all.

Happily, the movie also has cinematic chops.

You what now? So in this case, it’s just credentials, nothing to do with skills, reputation, or experience – because a film can’t have any of those things, it’s not a person or a brand in itself. And can you have cinematic presence? Well, probably in film criticism I suppose.

So what does earned their chops and all its various iterations mean? A mixture of experience, presence, credentials, skills, star quality and talent, delete as appropriate?

It really doesn’t make any sense when you look at it closely. I can appreciate sometimes that a newly popular word or phrase can come into being, and that it can sometimes be annoying, but if it fills a gap that no other word or phrase fills, or captures a certain sound or feeling better than the pre-existing  terms, then, generally it's a good thing and I'm for it. But just what is this term bringing to world of language? What purpose does it fulfill?

Personally, I think it’s just lazy. A term that allows you to get out of explaining that something is either right or something is either wrong; something is in the right place, or something is in the wrong place; that something can do something or it can’t.

Even if there were a reasonable good application of this slippery term, it should still never be used. Because you’ll never be able to stop people thinking of pork and cheeks.

So if you’re ever tempted to use this damn awful term, why not just stop, sit back, and think: what it is you actually mean? And then, why not write that instead?