And now welcome back to the just-about-weekly feature in which I, Mark Watson, invite you the readers to review a large number of things which I’ve either failed to discover for myself, or am struggling to form an opinion on, or just want to stir up some debate about. There was a tremendous response once more to last week’s call for criticism. Once again, I’ve not been able to include all the great critics by name, but I’ve mentioned a fair few. As ever, each item has been given a ’Marksensus’ based on averaging out your findings, and a score. In this show (not really a show, a blog, but you can see what I’ve done here) we’ll be taking a look at what you thought of – among others – Gorillaz’s new album, guinea pigs, and Toblerone. But first…
CLAUDIA WINKLEMAN – ‘Oddly annoying, big face, secretly tall, this woman is hard to get a grasp on,‘ remarked Josh, summarizing the feelings of many. Likewise, Jamie, in one of my favourite comments of the week: ‘At first I found her quite irritating, but then I’m a sucker for irritating women so I started to like her.’
The hyperactive, bug-eyed host found quite a lot of friends on our panel, including Linsey who vowed that she ‘loved her, and would defend her to the last’. Beth, and many others, reported ‘a happy, fuzzy feeling’ when Winkleman appears on the box. Steph fantasised about having her as a personal cheerleader. However, some, including Anna, complained about her habit of playing dumb, or her excessive zaniness; some were alarmed by her general level of enthusiasm, with Adele predicting that she would explode one day; and there was a strong feeling that her fringe is impractically long. ‘It’s always in her eyes, does that not bother her?’ lamented Sarah. A couple bemoaned her appointment as Film 2010 host, but others countered that for a long time, Film 2010 has been the frothiest and most sycophantic of shows anyway. There were two comments about her allegedly liking to lick people’s faces. The harshest review was from John who longed to ‘pop her in a vacuous idiot bin’. Overall, then, a far from united front on Winkleman, but a pretty good overall score (for what it‘s worth, I‘ve met her a couple of times, and I think she deserves it).
After you’ve read the rest of this, why not check out Rick Procter’s Youtube channel (as advertised last week) where he’s gone one better with a video piece on Winkleman’s Film 2010 appointment.
Marksensus: An unsettling, slightly full-on, sometimes irritating, but overall likeable presenter and person. With a very long fringe. Marksensus Score (MS): 7.2/10 (NB As I said last week, rating a person out of ten can feel a bit unfair. But as a comedian it happens to me constantly. So I think celebrities can take it.)
MOON – A film I’ve often resolved to watch only for circumstances to get in the way, but a series of glowing reviews confirmed that I will have to make an extra effort. It bagged no fewer than five 10/10 ratings and was praised for ‘making you want to have a serious discussion’ (Nicki), being an ‘amazing first feature’ (Megan), and even ‘being only 90 minutes long, which is much appreciated as I am an old woman with two children and hardly ever have two hours to myself’ (the 33-year-old Amanda). Not everyone thought it perfect, but almost everyone agreed it was well worth seeing (with only one finding it disappointing), and it becomes the highest-scoring Very Late Review candidate to date.
Marksensus: Atmospheric, thought-provoking and highly enjoyable latter-day sci-fi movie. MS: 8.3/10.
BUNGEE-JUMPING – Not surprisingly, a big division between those who describe it as ‘something everyone should have the opportunity to do’ (Dave, who did it in NZ, ‘the land of almost killing yourself for fun‘) and those who condemn as it the practice of mentalists. Among these, Joelle went so far as to give it minus one hundred out of ten, which was adjusted to zero in the interests of fairness and consistency. Corey, for his ten-year challenge, is planning to do the world’s biggest bungee jump, in Hong Kong, but on the other hand Emma ‘would take some persuading to do it again’. Naturally, some people’s opinions were based on speculation – Hannah gave it 7/10 based on having seen people do it on ‘Coach Trip – but thanks to the slightly stupid democracy of The Very Late Review, their opinions count just as much as bungee veteran Rick, who warned that it’s ‘over very quickly’, although the ‘I’m-going-to-die rush’ is pretty strong while it lasts. A couple of people said it wasn’t as good as sky-diving.
Marksensus: Most people who’ve done it loved it, but a majority of people will almost definitely never do it. Adrenalin-heavy but unwise. MS: 6.0/10.
GUINEA-PIGS: An emotive area. Pandora raised the stakes right at the start by posting a cute picture and wowing neutrals with the name Notorious P.I.G. But soon afterwards, a furious Matt raged that these squeaky creatures were ‘odious creatures’ and ‘the most demoralizing pets imaginable’. He criticized guinea-pigs for ‘not doing anything interactive’, in contrast to Ben Draper and several others who rated them above hamsters in that regard. Debate continued to rage. Joanna crushingly described the guinea pig as the ‘poor man’s rabbit’, in one of the week’s best put-downs, and Alf even suggested cutting the ears off a rabbit to make one. Biffolot wasn’t a huge fan, but also prefaced every other review with ‘not a huge fan’. But then Bloomability hailed them as ‘by far the awesomest creatures to roam the earth’. There were some balanced reviews, like the one from Alex who applauded them but warned that they ‘take about five years to realise you’re not going to kill them when you pick them up’, but most people came down strongly one side or the other. Overall, there were just about more in favour than against.
Marksensus: Agreeable alternative to hamsters, occasionally boring, but armed with a charming squeak; liable to die quickly. MS: 6.8/10
PLASTIC BEACH by Gorillaz – The latest outing of Damon Albarn’s ingenious cartoon-pop concept ‘band’ scored top marks from a few listeners, like Rose who called it ‘the dog’s testicles’ and Ben Draper who saw it as a ‘master class in eclecticism’. (I’m also grateful to critics who pointed out that there’s a track with Gruff from Super Furry Animals on it, making it mandatory for me to buy it, although I would have anyway, probably.) Magnificent Josh slapped a 9.6 rating on it and provided a link to a more in-depth review, which I recommend. But its overall rating was kneecapped by a couple of 3/10s from listeners who found it had passed them by. Perhaps a bit unfair, as all Gorillaz albums (arguably, all albums full stop) tend to require repeated hearing to get into, but hey, that’s the game.
Marksensus: Typically adventurous, eclectic digi-pop album which will impress many, but leave a few cold. MS 7.2/10
AN EDUCATION – Surprisingly few reviews of this much-talked-about film, and the ones there were, although generally positive, weren’t gushing: Deanna began by saying she ‘really liked it’, but ended up by saying she ‘wouldn’t go out of her way to see it’. In what may be a sign of a good-rather-than-great movie, reviewers admitted external factors had influenced them – one said she’d enjoyed it partly because she was in a good mood and saw it at a nice cinema, another marked it down slightly for being hard to watch while babysitting. But there was high praise from John for its successfully 60s ambience and its portrayal of lots of smoking.
Marksensus: Well-executed coming-of-age film which falls short of greatness. MS 7.5/10
AMERICAN DAD: Our critics, for the most part, rounded savagely on this latest imported family cartoon, many agreeing with Seamus’s heavy judgement that ‘other than money, there is no reason for it to exist’. Seamus was so angry about American Dad that he blamed it for grammatical errors in his post, and he was not the only one moved to fury. ‘A Family Guy ripoff with obnoxious characters,’ said Sarah, and others were equally free with the ’rip-off’ tag. ’What Family Guy would be if it was shit,’ sneered Rick. ’Words cannot convey how much I like this programme,’ blasted Tom Beasley, labelling it an ’abomination’. Seth Macfarlane came in for criticism for rehashing a successful format and for ‘being paid too much’. Some came to the cartoon’s defence, Amycool awarding it a 7 even though she is ’looking forward to a week with something I hate’, and Pandora declaring that she ’genuinely loves it’. But these were in the minority, and all connected with ‘American Dad’ will surely be wincing when this blog appears.
Marksensus: Inferior ‘Family Guy’ copycat, unsatisfactory in most eyes, and criminally so in some. MS 3.4/10.
TOBLERONE: Something of a departure from tradition here, as I have had Toblerone before; I decided to throw it in all the same because it tends to stir up strong feelings. Little did I imagine, though, the depth of some people’s opposition to the oddly-shaped confection. ’Short of putting fruit in it, this is probably the worst use of chocolate,’ judged Sarah. ‘Weak chocolate,’ was Paul O’Regan’s view. It was criticized for sticking in your teeth, for being potentially dangerous to eat, and for its gimmicky shape, which some even found sinister. EllieCat dropped hints that it was sexually aggressive before summarizing ‘in my view, it tastes a bit rubbish’. Even fan Glamlovinkitty found it ‘delicious, but evil’. It was accused of giving Nicky B a migraine, some feat for a chocolate bar.
But Toblerone’s supporters, although less numerous, were equally vocal. ’The world’s best triangular foodstuff,’ raved Ben Draper, who also claimed that Einstein had signed the patent for it. Katie classed it among ‘the wonderful things on this earth’. Mud Man went so far as to say that there was ‘no food that doesn’t taste better as a triangle’. Quite a few people were impressed to the tune of seven or eight out of ten. Overall, though, the novelty Swiss sweet fared badly, departing with insults like ’insane triangular shit’ ringing in its ears.
Marksensus: Eccentically-shaped, gimmicky, sometimes harmful chocolate product. MS: 5.1/10
…and that passionate discussion brings us to the end of this episode. Please keep getting involved, remembering to give a mark out of 10 as well as a review which can be of any length and integrity. I’m slightly reducing the number of categories this week, to cut down the admin for myself, but only slightly. So, get your critical teeth into these:
THE JONAS BROTHERS (band/TV show/general phenomenon that’s happened while I wasn’t concentrating)
I’M NOT THERE (Bob Dylan-themed film)
GOK WAN (person)
DORITOS (corn snacks)
ECSTASY (drug; I’ve never done it)
TWO AND A HALF MEN (TV show)
…and JERUSALEM (the play, not the hymn or the troubled city) stays open because it only attracted two reviews last time out.