Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy’

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notorious. (a review of sorts)

September 8, 2009

Yes, I am very late but I only picked up the DVD to Notorious yesterday, because Tesco finally had it on sale and I had been interested to watch but never managed to catch it during its run at the cinema, and wasn’t about to pay £14-20 just to get the DVD straight when it came out.  So I bade my time and finally I watched it tonight.  I’m not going to give a very in-depth review, because we all know the story – Biggie gets into drugs, gets put in jail, comes out of jail, comes close to being put in jail again but his friend takes the rap (hah!) so that Christopher Wallace can fulfil his budding rap talent and become Notorious B.I.G. All goes well as Biggie takes Lil’ Kim along with him for the ride, then meets Faith Evans and wifes her up, all while keeping his first baby mama on the backburner the whole time.  A friendship with Tupac Shakur turns sour, misunderstandings occur and both rappers end up dead, 2pac 25, Biggie 24.  That’s the plot in a nutshell.

I’m not even going to attempt to address the 2pac vs. Biggie controversy.  I have both of B.I.G.’s albums on my iPod (I prefer Ready To Die, but only because I’m much more familiar with the songs – I need to study Life After Death more tbh), whereas I only have one of 2pac’s (All Eyez On Me), which again I have only listened to a couple of times.  Both were influential and towering talents, but I’m not about to compare one to another because I’m nowhere near informed enough to have a valid opinion, and I would need to research more of their material.  Again, I have no conspiracy theory about who shot either of them, nor what role Suge Knight may or may not have played in the whole business – I’m no detective, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to say something on the subject that hasn’t already been said.  The only perspective I have on 2pac and on Biggie is retrospective, because in 1997 I was only 11 years old and barely musically awakening (I received Mariah Carey’s Butterfly for my 12th birthday later that year, which is possibly when I really opened my eyes, ears and heart musically) so I didn’t really have any acquaintance with rap music past what I would hear on the radio and see on MTV and The Box.

I was pleasantly surprised with the film: as I said, I already knew the plot and yet I still found it an interesting watch.  The only character I found unbelievable was Sean “Puffy” Combs, because the guy playing him neither looked nor sounded like Puff Daddy, in my opinion.  I only caught passing glimpses of a resemblance between the two in terms of mannerisms and vocal tics, whereas most of the others nailed it at least a fair amount of the time.  Jamal Woolard did a great, great job playing Christopher Wallace himself; Naturi Naughton was a fiery if inaccurate Lil’ Kim (but more about that in a moment), but Naturi herself did a fine job and displayed a fearlessness in her acting; Angela Bassett was supreme as usual; Antonique Smith was an astonishing Faith Evans, looking the spitting image of her and displaying a similar blend of sophistication and grit.  Not knowing much about Voletta Wallace herself, other than that she played a large part in the creation, vision and focus of the whole film, I found it hard to believe that she was as naive about her son’s imperfections as she appeared to be (confusing crack with mashed potatoes?  Come on now… how long you been living in Brooklyn?). But then again the film was not as rose-tinted as I had heard it was: Biggie displayed extraordinary passion and talent, but he was also a serial womaniser and acted childishly at some points and plain idiotic at others.  So that was somewhat refreshing.

Faith Evans was portrayed as an almost angelic beauty who still kicked one of Biggie’s jump-off’s down when she found out that he’d cheated on her not long after their marriage (again, she really should have known better than to believe he would be faithful to her).  In contrast, Lil’ Kim was similarly painted as naively believing that her and B.I.G. would last forever (his marriage to Faith was quite a sore point in the film as in real life), but her part in Biggie’s life was massively downplayed; she appeared for a fraction of a second in the funeral montage whilst the photo of her weeping with Mary J. Blige outside the funeral service is one of the defining images of that era. Her talent, her look and her persona was portrayed as completely fabricated by Biggie in a post-coital brainstorm, and according to the film, Lil’ Kim was essentially nothing but a slut who fucked for tracks. Her enduring success and establishment as the premiere female MC surely contradicts this portrayal.  To quote the review from Pajiba (who put it much better than me, and in more entertaining language):

“The person who takes it up the ass the hardest is Lil Kim. Lil Kim’s always bukakked with the reputation of being the nastiest bitch, the stripper who’s empowered by her sexuality because she can use her snappin’ pussy to get all the diamonds and the rings and the bling and have any dick she chooses. (Under ten inches — ENNNT — sorry.) In Notorious, she bangs Biggie and asks if he’s got a girlfriend later. Then, her entire rap persona is supposedly imagineered by Biggie, who says men don’t want to hear about gangsta chicks but rather want girls who’ll fuck them with the lyrics. He turns her into a whore, his whore, who turns petty and jealous when he marries the sainted Faith, and basically spends the rest of the movie like a jealous psycho starting fights and trouble. Of course, when Biggie died, Lil’ Kim went into an almost two year depression. Faith Evans and Puffy remixed a Police song and essentially lived off the fatted calf of Biggie’s corpse for the same period. So you do the math. Or don’t. Both Lil’ Kim and Faith Evans have memoir/tell-alls due out sometime in the coming year.”

Being a Lil’ Kim fan, I have appreciated her at her highest peaks as well as in her tackier moments, throughout her up and down surgeries and provocative outfits, and even lamenting her stint on Dancing With The Stars whilst being glad that it was helping to rehabilitate her career.  I wrote a blog about her daring performance of “Time After Time / Lighters Up” with Cyndi Lauper recently. At the heart of it, she is a talented rapper with consistent flow, entertaining lyrics and song concepts, and buckets of sexuality, raw passion and hard-earned grit.  I’d be interested to see her movie and compare and contrast the two portrayals of Lil’ Kim… I guess we’ll have to wait and see if such a project ever materialises.

In short, I enjoyed Notorious more than I expected to.  I didn’t find anything out that I didn’t already know, and I am not educated enough in the music nor in the history of Biggie’s life to have any valuable opinion or counter-opinion.  But there was striking characterisation, solid acting and a couple of sticking points that held my interest and attention throughout.  And it’s got me listening to Ready To Die on my iPod once again.  I guess at the end of the day, even though we’ll never know everything about what happened to Biggie, if such a film gets us to re-appreciate and re-evaluate his music and legacy, and despite his moral and intellectual shortcomings, if we can admire his passion and talent, then that is definitely something valuable.

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imbecilic.

August 16, 2009

Another thing from the wedding yesterday that I wanted to touch upon was the fact that depending on whom you are surrounded by, your every action can be made into a big mistake or faux pas.  For example, we were lining up for wedding photos, and I somehow ended up at the front (which was not where I wanted to be, nor where I thought was appropriate for me to be).  Other people weren’t really getting the hint that we were assembling for this mass photo, so for a while I was stood at the front by myself, because I am one of the tallest and therefore stood on the front / lowest step.  After a while, Aiman (the bride) stood next to me, and I said “I shouldn’t be standing next to you!!!” Everyone was like “OMG WHY?” My response: “Because that is Phil’s place, not mine! He’s her husband!!!” It makes sense, non?  So I tried to step backwards, despite people being stood behind me, and some of my friends were like “Alan, what are you doing?” a) My bag was quite robust, filled with my necessary stuff, and it was that, more than me, which was hitting their feet.  And b) It should have been pretty obvious what I was doing: I was trying to get out of the way of being right at the front of the picture, and allowing the focus to be on whom it really should have been on, considering it was not my wedding day.  So why was I made out to feel foolish and melodramatic?  Was my train of thought really so illogical, so difficult to understand?  I don’t think so, and even typing out this paragraph, it makes sense to me.

My university friends, by and large, make fun of: my proclivity for designer things and large black sunglasses (two of my friends laughed when I put them on.  I pointed at the emerging sun, and then also at another guest across the car park who was also wearing sunglasses.  Nobody was laughing at him.); my vanity; my ability to spend money.  They genuinely think that I am funny (and they also laugh at the joke-ish things I do on purpose), but I don’t think they realise that they sometimes hurt my feelings.  This is the way that I am, and I’m not constantly trying to amuse anybody.  It doesn’t seem to strike any of my other (read: Bristol) friends as hilarious that I put Prada sunglasses on when the sun is shining, nor that I get nervous anticipating an important life event for one of my friends.  It’s just me, and I don’t know why, coming from Oxford university, some people are so insecure that they want to try and put me down to feed into their own intelligence.  I know that I’m not bookish, but I also know that I’m not stupid.  So why does making me feel bad (or trying to) make them feel good?

Today I met up with two of my friends whom I haven’t seen for a good while: Mel and Erum.  They’re both making moves: Mel is in the middle of her Scandinavian Studies degree and currently working in the Cabinet Office on a summer internship; Erum is a law graduate about to start her LPC.  We were in Starbucks pondering school, relationships, jobs, politics, the economy & swine flu, among other things.  We also discussed current fashion, including those ridiculous visor sunglasses as worn (but not invented) by Kanye West.  In case you don’t know what I am referring to, I illustrate:

Okay, they are impractical, which is a major con.  But then so are Beyoncé’s “Diva” sunglasses which employ gold tassels hanging from a minimal frame, and I like those (plus, the fact that they hang vertically and move with the body means that you do have more of a chance of seeing where you’re going).  What I don’t like about these is that a) they are really quite ugly, and b) they are being sold everywhere as the “new biggest trend”.  Not just in white, but in neon colours.  People are wearing these to clubs (I have seen pictorial evidence, as well as witnessing it myself) where normal sunglasses would be ridiculed, despite the fact that normal sunglasses generally look 100% better.  And just because Kanye West wears them?  I have of course been inspired by various celebrity fashion statements, and seeking to copy that is perfectly understandable and acceptable; that’s what inspiration is.  But this is something else; it’s taking something quite clearly idiotic and pretending that it is cool and intelligent.  It feels like a conspiracy that everyone is in on, and I take a stand against that because if I don’t like something, I am not going to wear it and that’s that.  But don’t ridicule me for wearing fashionable designer glasses that look great, when there are people wearing these venetian blind things who can’t even see where they’re going!  I mean, wtf?

Who decides what is “foolish” and what “isn’t”?  I do what I like, and I use my common sense, and I think that everybody is entitled to do that.  But what irritates me is when I make decisions that to me seem logical, and others want to pick on that for whatever reason, but they are quite happy to ignore / accept other things that are clearly beyond sensible.  Are we, as the general public, really that insecure that we’re willing to knock down one person just to make ourselves feel better, but then able to pass an imbecilic trend just because it was started / revived by a celebrity who has more money / status than the majority of us, the general public?  If Madonna jumped off the Empire State Building, would we all climb up there to follow?  (The paparazzi would certainly be crowded around at the bottom, snapping the impact point to make numerous tributes in special-edition magazines… just look at Michael Jackson).  I guess that it all depends on how caught up we are in appearances, and I am very conscious of the way that I look.  But the final decision is made by me, and if others want to try and knock me down for doing something that I choose, or for not following a herd of sheep, then let them; I have my insecurities, but one of them is not following the crowd when I would prefer to follow my instincts.