Author Archives: Dale Smurthwaite

Eurovision – Cheese or Serious Music?


The Eurovision Song Contest; that annual event that is Marmite to music lovers all over the world. With two semi-finals and a grand final being hosted every May in the country that won the previous competition, it has found it’s popularity in the UK rise and fall over the years since it began in 1956…

10169179_705962786132773_1048676149_nWhen May comes around each year, I start posting my blogs on the Eurovision Song Contest. I have always liked this competition and I think it is something that a lot more people, particularly in this country should give a lot more support to. It splits opinion every year and every year I try to justify its existence in today’s entertainment industry. Here are my reasons why.

Firstly, I enjoy the voting at the end of the whole process. Some people say that the whole thing is politically motivated and I have to agree that there is still an element of this. Cyrpus and Greece always exchange good points, as do Moldova and Romania. The re-introduction of the jury voting has stemmed the amount of neighbourly voting that went on in order to get a winner, but in the end when it comes down to it, there is no way you will ever stop that from happening.

Secondly, I enjoy writing about the contest. It gives me an opportunity to express my opinion about music that might not otherwise get read or listened to. I have blogged about Eurovision for the last four years on my own blog Smurfin’ the Web and although I do sometimes feel rushed to get my posts done on time due to a busy work and home life, they are there for all to read and its interesting for me to see if anyone has the same opinions as myself. I would like some more comments though 😉

Thirdly and this is probably the nub of the matter – I enjoy the music. Finding some music from other countries is an enjoyable experience for me. There are always about half a dozen songs from the whole contest that I really like and will continue to listen to well after the Euro-fever has abated. Eurovision is simply NOT the “cheesefest” that many people think that it is, but that opinion is mainly saved for the UK public who think that because we haven’t won it for years then we shouldn’t enter it again or even consider backing it financially. That attitude is saved for those people who think that other countries aren’t capable of producing good music and that right is reserved for Great Britain and the USA alone. They could not be farther from the truth. There is PLENTY of great music elsewhere in the world and Eurovision is one way for these artists to gain some publicity for themselves and also their country.

If more people would even just give one listen to all of the songs in the Eurovision Song Contest, I bet that there would be at least two of them that they liked, and that for me, is good enough. Yes, there are still countries that enter the “comedy” act and they have their place, but for the most-part, I think most countries take the contest very seriously and so do the fans that watch it and blog about it like myself. On the subject of my own country, the UK, the reason we haven’t won it for so long is quite simply because we have entered utter garbage into the contest. Scooch, Gemini and Daz Sampson are three very good examples of this and in more recent years we have tried other avenues like the stars of yester-year that are famous, but not current enough to be considered popular enough to win the contest for us. This year, for the first year in a very long time, I have high expectations for our entry “Children of the Universe” by Molly and it marks a step in the right direction for the UK.

577722_10152754455665386_1459513467_nAnyone who thinks Eurovision is filled with cheesy pop need only go and listen to the winner of the 2006 contest. That year, Finland romped all the way to the winner’s podium with Lordi performing Hard Rock Hallelujah. That’s right, a hard rock band wearing laytex monster masks won it. You don’t get any further from cheesy pop than that!

OK, so they were a bit of a novelty, but nobody could deny that Finland took the competition seriously and sent their A-game – they were represented by an established and popular group with a totally rockin’ tune and they gave a top-notch performance on the night. Don’t forget, the songs are performed LIVE in front of a huge audience right there in front of them, as well as millions of viewers tuning in worldwide.

That’s right, MILLIONS of viewers. All over the world!

Yes, some of the acts that are entered are cheesy. Yes, some of them are novelty acts. Yes, some of them are utterly crap. Unfortunately, it’s usually the UK entry that embodies those *ahem* qualities.

Still, sometimes we get it right, In 1997, we hooked Katrina and the Waves to perform Love Shine a Light on behalf of the UK and it was fantastic. It was the last time we won, and we’ve been languishing, ever since, near the bottom of the score board, occasionally being awarded the dreaded Nil Points *shudder*. This year, Molly is giving us our best chance since then with Children of the Universe, and it’s been marketed all over Europe, and proven quite popular, so for once, I think we’ll be finishing on the left hand side of the board, and possibly even in the upper half of it!

I love Eurovision. In fact, I’ve not missed a single final since the early 90s, and since the introduction of the semi-finals, I’ve only missed a couple of the precursors, and only in the last couple of years when I was working evenings and could only get one or the other night off as well as the final (which I would never miss if it could be helped!).

In recent years, Eurovision has seriously upped its game and has become a great showcase of European music, and it’s a chance most people in the UK don’t usually get, to sample that music and perhaps find something new that they will enjoy.

When Dale and I had only been together a couple of months, Eurovision was on, and when he said he watched and enjoyed the show as much as I do, it was kind of a deal-maker for me. I was already crazy about him, but we moved in together a few weeks later. I don’t think I could be with someone who didn’t like Eurovision, because to discount Eurovision is to discount the music offered up by the rest of our continent, and that’s a very close-minded view to take.

To anyone who worries that it’s all a bit camp and cheesy, I say, embrace the campness, chow down on the cheese, and look beyond the surface. Give it a try this year and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised!

THE VERDICT: For once, we are in happy accord. We both love Eurovision, both for the camp fun of it AND the serious musical side of things. And I don’t see that changing any time soon. Long live Eurovision! Best of luck to Molly as she represents the UK this year!

So, the Eurovision Song Contest – love it, or loathe it?
We’d love to hear your views, so leave a comment below!

V For Vendetta

VV For Vendetta (2005)
Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Rupert Graves, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Sinéad Cusack
Set against the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain, this tense thriller tells the story of a mild-mannered young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) who is rescued from a life-and-death situation by a masked man (Hugo Weaving) known only as ‘V’. Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, V ignites a revolution when he urges his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression. As Evey uncovers the truth about V’s mysterious background, she also discovers the truth about herself – and emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plan to bring freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.

10169179_705962786132773_1048676149_nHE SAID:
This unusual superhero movie is an adaptation of a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. It tells the story of a dystopian United Kingdom set in a near future. With a reasonably small cast and relatively small budget, the film was a commercial success and its a movie that splits opinion.

It is very definitely a movie that I love. In fact, this could be the Marmite of the movie world, you either love it or you hate it. I think there is just something very unique about this particular film, V For Vendetta.

It’s writing is excellent and the way lead actor Hugo Weaving delivers the lines is truly sublime. he has many self indulging soliloquies and he makes every word of them count. the other thing I liked about the movie is of course we don’t see Weaving’s face for the entire film.

Set in a Britain where the entire political system is tyrannical, this movie about the cause of one freedom fighter’s plans to overthrow the Government with the help of the people is very Orson Welles’ 1984 in its style, but I think it does a better job at making the audience understand its point. I found 1984 much more high brow and sometimes I think that some movies should try to be more on a level with the audience, but still convey an intellectual message. V For Vendetta did that for me

The movie is written by the Wachowski siblings (as one is now of the opposite sex), and I think it is probably their best offering to date. I mean I liked The Matrix and it was original, but this take on the Guy Fawkes character being responsible for the overthrowing of the Government is excellent. They manage to blend the two storylines together extremely well and the cast is the glue that keep them together. As I said, Weaving is the highlight of the film, but his supporting cast members are really good as well. Natalie Portman plays Evey who feels that she can help in some way but she has to really believe that nothing can scare her enough to back down.

The rest of the supporting cast includes Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, Roger Allam and Tim Pigott-Smith and they all do very fine jobs to make the fringe storylines an integral part of the main story in the end. I would really give this a whirl if you have been undecided on it thus far. I think if you are a fan of the history of Guy Fawkes you might enjoy this, but I just love the way its brought right up to date with a new set of characters, but the same storyline of blowing up the Government in some way. Weaving puts on a truly stupendous performance and for that alone its worth it. V For Vendetta makes you ask questions about our own Governments past and present and what might happen if the British people rose up against the powers that be in a similar way.

Fun Fact: The reason the secret police are called “Fingermen” is because the New Order was arranged on the model of the human body. The Chancellor was the Head; the television station BTN was the mouth; visual and audio surveillance were the Eye and the Ear; Inspector Finch was part of The Nose, the police force, and Creedy’s secret police were the Hand.

577722_10152754455665386_1459513467_nSHE SAID:
There are guy films and there are girlie films. Guy films usually feature comic book heroes, guns, explosions, and a sexy female. Girlie films, on the other hand usually have music by Abba, make you cry, and star someone like Ryan Gosling. Women don’t expect men to like girlie films, so men shouldn’t expect women to like guy films.

I don’t tend to like girlie films. Unless they star Ryan Gosling, I mean, come on, that guy is hot! Did you see him in The Notebook? I cried my eyes out and he was completely dreamy!

Sorry, I got kinda carried away there – it happens when Ryan Gosling is in the picture.

Anyway, I’m a woman who tends to like guy films. I love a great action sequence and I’ve always been a bit of a comic book geek. Furthermore, I LOVE Alan Moore’s work. So, why don’t I like V For Vendetta?

It’s a puzzle, really. On the surface of things, it should be a movie I love – it has everything I usually look for in a good movie – great cast that reads like a who’s who of British talent (come on, Stephen Fry is in it, and that man is never wrong!); an excellent plot that is equal part intrigue and espionage; a dark, exciting atmosphere; and faithfulness to the spirit of the source material. Still, I just never liked this film very much.

I think it’s largely due to Hugo Weaving essentially repeating his performance from The Matrix (1999), which, incidentally, I also dislike immensely. The way his voice drawls is almost identical to his portrayal of Agent Smith in the movie trilogy that started six years before V For Vendetta being released. It felt like a total cop-out from a very talented performer and sounds like he’s chewing his own face off every time he drags his heels over one of those damned soliloquies, so right off the bat, I was disappointed. Perhaps it’s also because there was a spate of dark, dystopian comic book movies released around the same time (Sin City was also released in 2005, based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name – another one I didn’t like very much – what on earth is wrong with me?), and I was reading a lot of dystopian fiction at the time, so maybe I was just all dystopianed-out.

Subsequent viewings have done nothing to improve my opinion of it. I really can’t fathom why I dislike it so much – it’s one of those mysteries that I suspect may never be solved, but I just don’t enjoy V For Vendetta and I suspect I never will. I confess, every time I’m flicking through channels and see that it is on television, I cringe a little and pass it as quickly as I can whilst trying to suppress that internal shudder of revulsion.

In conclusion, V For Vendetta does not suck. It’s a slick, clever film with a great plot and it’s visually stunning. I just don’t like it.

THE VERDICT:Agree to disagree. One of us is destined to always watch this film without the other, as the other really cannot stand the thought of sitting through it ever again, despite being able to see that she should think it’s the biz.