Tag Archives: Video

Eurovision Song Contest

Grant and I were dressed for the part. Grant is wearing a Pirate Bay Party t-shirt, while I am wearing a Swedish football team t-shirt.

There was a time not so long ago when I used to host an annual Eurovision Song Contest party. A whole bunch of us would gather together. We had score sheets. We had trophies. We had snack food based around different European cuisines. We revelled in the trashiness of it all. We constantly tried to outdo each other with smart-arse, bitchy comments. As the years went on I felt less inclined to hold these parties. There was a certain sameness to it every year. The longer the contest, the more difficult it became to go to work on the Monday morning. But the killer for me was I started to take Eurovision seriously.

I started to see through the “trashiness” of it all, what I call the “Woganification” of Eurovision, to see something really worthwhile and enjoyable, that you could enjoy without the need to trash it. I used to love Terry Wogan’s commentary, but over the last few years I’ve begun to realise the really negative impact he’s had on Eurovision in the UK directly, and in Australia indirectly. In the UK, his constant trashing of the entries (with a heavy dose of UK-centrism and some degree of xenophobia) has indirectly led to a situation where the contest isn’t taken seriously, and why they keep putting up such awful acts, in my view. Indirectly, the years of his commentary being shown in Australia has led to something similar: a situation where Eurovision is defined in the public discourse only through the glitter, the camp, the trashy.

I’m not denying the glitter, the camp, and the trashy (as they’re elements of Eurovision I really love), but I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with the half-arsed lame, sledging comments on places like Twitter. Every many (with a Twitter account) and his dog watching Eurovision seems to think they’re the funniest new comedian or bitchiest new drag queen on the block. I’m also completely sick and tired of the SBS coverage where it’s become the Sam and Julia show. The killer for me, this year, was during the second semi-final when they actually began making comments OVER the song.

So this year I decided to avoid all of the shenanigans of a Sunday night watching the delayed SBS commentary. Instead, I got up early yesterday morning and watched the live coverage from SVT. As it was in real-time I didn’t have to worry about the stupid all day Sunday media blockout, avoiding the results. I also got to enjoy a coverage which was amusing and with affection, and where the commentators didn’t speak over the top of the songs, nor over the top of important parts of the show, and where it wasn’t all about them.

With that rant out of the way, these were my Top 3 this year.

1/ The Winner – Conchita Wurst : A great song, performed with passion, and with a great novelty act.

2/ The Wooden Spoon – Twin Twin : Despite the fact this song finished last, I thought it was great fun, had a good tune, and I really loved the fact it was the only song in the final not in English. This is the video version, by the way, since their live performance was rather dull, and out of tune.

3/ Sweden (of course) – Sanna Nielson : I actually think the song is rather boring, but when you support Team Sweden, you have to support the team.

Having been to Melodifestivalen (the Swedish finals) on a couple of occasions over the last few years, where the Swedes take it seriously, where they genuinely try to compete with a great song and a great performance, and where the public really looks up to those who enter the contest, I’ve begun to realise there’s another way of seeing Eurovision. It’s the difference between laughing WITH them (which is what the Europeans do) rather than AT them (which is what the UK and Australians seem to do).

Travel Thoughts

Ice on the beach near the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in southeast Iceland.

Once again my thoughts have turned to travel. I think it’s the end of daylight saving that’s brought it on. Whereas last week I was still arriving home in daylight, it’s now well and truly dark by the time I walk in the door. That means only one thing: winter is on the way.

I’m not averse the cold, as lots of photographs on this site attest. In fact, I really love snow, and a year ago this week I was visiting Iceland where I experienced four seasons in one day. What started off as a bright sunny day turned into a fairly heavy snowstorm on the beach.

In contrast, winter in Sydney is very mild, and I shouldn’t complain. But there’s something about the long stretch from April until the end of July that causes me to become a little grumpy, and a little reclusive and make me want to head somewhere a little further north.

I’m heading to China for a couple of weeks in May, and so hopefully that will help. Deep down, though, I’d like to do something in the cold heart depth of July.

The wunderlust hasn’t been helped by the fact a close colleague is now counting down the days to her three months of long service leave. To make matters worse, she’s actually going to Sweden at the end of July. To the far north of Sweden, in fact, in what looks like an incredibly beautiful area, to attend a wedding of another colleague of ours. I’ve been invited to the wedding also, and at the moment, I’m erring on the side of financial caution, though I might assess my finances after China, and you never know, as the wedding is just days before Stockholm Pride. Hmmm…

Welcome To Sweden

welcometosweden

For a few years I’ve toyed with the idea of living in Sweden for a year or two. However, there are a few reasons which have stopped me. Money is, of course, an issue. The fact that I’m 48 years old is also an issue. But there’s also been a fear it could all turn out to go terribly wrong.

I’ve read blogs and have spoken to a number of people who’ve told me it’s not as easy as it seems on the surface, even if I could overcome some of those issues. Although Swedes speak exceptional English, there are lots of cultural subtleties and a lot of unspoken cultural barriers which means it’s not always easy for someone from another country to settle there.

Or maybe I’m just over-thinking things?

So it’s with some interest that I’ve watched the first two episodes of “Welcome To Sweden”, the new TV4/NBC program which has commenced. Curiously, the program is based around the life story of Greg Poehler (brother of Amy from Saturday Night Live). Bruce made the decision to move to Sweden a few years ago, and has made a career doing stand-up. The fact his sister is Amy (and she was the program’s producer) undoubtedly helped pitch the idea of a program about a bloke who moves to Sweden both to Swedish TV and to NBC. I’m sure it also helped with guest appearances by the likes of Will Ferrell.

But all of that said, it’s also a very funny program. I’ve watched the first two episodes so far and have laughed out loud on many occasions. Having a knowledge of some of the quirkiness of Swedish culture has definitely helped. Noticeably, the humour is affectionate, as the lead character called Bruce learns about Swedish character.

Hopefully, the programme transcends the Swedishness of it all when it makes a debut on NBC later in the year. That said, there’s a lot of Swedish language in the program, which undoubtedly will be eliminated when it appears on American TV. I can imagine there’ll be the occasional word or phrase here or there, but the Swedish version of the program contains probably far too much (requiring subtitles) for a mainstream US audience.

Walking In The Rain

I first heard/saw the song “Walking In The Rain” when the video clip of Grace Jones performing the song was first played on Countdown. I was about seventeen years old at the time and was completely blown away by the clip. In particular, the strong androgynous imagery of Grace Jones echoed by the song line “Feeling like a woman, looking like a man”.

For me, Grace Jones’ version has always been the definitive version, even though it was first performed (and written) by the Australian group, “Flash & The Pan”. But today on the radio, I heard Doc Neeson’s version. I’ve never been a big fan of Doc Neeson and his band. “The Angels”, but this version really stood out. It has a Nick Cave feel about it. Also a later Johnny Cash feel to it. I love the brass, I love Doc’s deliberate style.

So, I thought it would be worth sharing these three versions (that I’m aware of) with you.

1979 – Flash & The Pan

1981 – Grace Jones

2014 – Doc Neeson

Charlie Hides

Charlie Hides as Cher

Charlie Hides has one of the funniest live shows I’ve seen in ages. He’s an English comedian – though originally from the United States – who dresses up and impersonates (with humour and affection) some of the great modern pop divas, including Cher, Madonna and Lady GaGa.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been enthusiastically sharing his Youtube videos with friends. The first one that made me laugh was a sketch about the apparent rivalry between Madonna and Lady GaGa. Since then, he’s gone on to incorporate a bunch of other characters including Lana Delray, Joan Rivers and others with the same level of affection and humour. Unlike many other comedians, I don’t think there’s anything nasty or malicious behind his humour.

In the last year or so he’s been doing live shows in London, and I’ve read about this development with a sense of longing and wonder. “There has to be a lot of video in his live shows to achieve what he does”, I whispered to Graeme in the minutes before his live show at Sydney’s “Gingers” began. There is. There are also lots of costumes changes, and a comedy routine which continues to shock and surprise over the course of about ninety minutes. He works hard.

The comedy of his live show was far more cutting edge, and definitely less politically correct, than you see on the Youtube clips. Overall it was a fantastic night which we both enjoyed very much. Hopefully he’ll be back for Mardi Gras again next year.

Croc-a-Dyke Dundee

Dawn O'Donnell - still taken from movie trailer

Years ago I remember watching a really fantastic documentary about the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras called, Feed Them to the Cannibals. As I recall, the title was a reference to the words of an Australian government official, who was asked what he thought should be done with those engaging in homosexual behaviour in the early days of European settlement here.

For me, that 1993 film was also an introduction to the larger-than-life character of Dawn O’Donnell, the subject of the movie I saw tonight, Croc-a-Dyke Dundee. For many years, a friend and I developed quite a routine between ourselves, as we remembered and laughed about some of the classic lines delivered by Dawn in that early film.

Co-incidentally both films were made by the same person, Fiona Cunningham-Reid. At tonight’s screening she mentioned how she had asked Dawn many years ago if she would participate in a follow-up documentary about her own life story. For many years, Dawn and her partner, Aniek Baton both refused.

At the Q&A session which followed tonight’s screening, Aniek explained what finally brought her around, was recognition the telling the story of Dawn’s life goes some way to telling the history of Gay & Lesbian life in Sydney in the last fifty years or so.

That said, the film also gives a really lovely insight into her life before she became a nightclub owner on Oxford Street. The film explains she was the daughter of a single parent, growing up in Sydney in reasonably rough circumstances, until she was sent to a convent school to “smooth off the edges”. She had an early passion for ice-skating, which eventually took her to live in both London and Paris, until an accident cut short her career.

On returning to Australia she married a man which, in the film she says, “lasted for about two months”.The film then goes on to explain how she made her career mostly in real estate, and then later in nightclubs.

The film doesn’t shy away from the more suspect parts of Dawn’s life. The film talks about her connections with the convicted criminal, Abe Saffron; the many allegations of nightclub arson; and even the suggestion she murdered someone. The film offers no new evidence on any of these allegations, but that’s okay, it wasn’t that type of film.

For me the really interesting insight into Dawn’s life, of course, came from Aniek, Dawn’s partner. They were together thirty years, and it sounds like they had an amazing series of adventures together, particularly the travel. Dawn died five or six years ago, and Aniek was left out of the will. At tonight’s screening she said she was still involved in a complex legal battle tonight which was “ongoing and private”.

Though the film wasn’t as ground-breaking and as memorable for me as “Feed Them To The Cannibals”, I really enjoyed it. I hope one day it will get a television screening as well.

Melodifestivalen 2014 #2

Little Great Things, featuring Charlie and Felix Grönvall
Nanne Gronvall och jag

Nanne Gronvall och jag

There was a real sense of déjà vu in the second heat of this year’s Melodifestivalen, the contest which decides which act will represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest.

In 2005, in controversial circumstances, Sweden chose Martin Stenmarck with his song “Las Vegas” (which I liked a lot) over Nanne Grönvall with her song “Håll om mig” (which I liked a lot more). Nanne had the popular vote (chosen by viewers), but was trumped by Martin who had the jury vote (chosen by a group of experts). There was a public outcry over the result, and the rules surrounding Melodifestivalen have since changed.

Nanne is a fantastic performer who I’ve seen perform on a few occasions and actually met once at a shopping centre performance in Stockholm. I shot this Youtube clip at Stockholm’s Paradise nightclub.

Martin Stenmark is back as a contender in Melodifestivalen this year.

Little Great Things, featuring Charlie and Felix  Grönvall

Little Great Things, featuring Charlie and Felix Grönvall

But so too was Nanne. Or to be precise, her sons Charlie and Felix and their band “Little Great Things” were competing against Martin Stenmarck and several others in the second heat of this year’s Melodifestivalen. Or to add to the sense of the musical dynasty Charlie and Felix came from, their father is Peter (who was an 80s/90s pop star in Sweden), and their paternal grandfather is Benny Andersson from ABBA.

In the end, their song wasn’t that great and never made it through to the final (while Martin Stenmarck did).

After my disappointment with last week’s heat, I was slightly more impressed with this week’s contenders, though I still don’t think there’s been a serious contender for Eurovision yet

Pink Pistols, Sanna Nielsen and  Little Great Things

Pink Pistols, Sanna Nielsen and Little Great Things

Sanna Nielson was back with another predictable Frederik Kempe ballad (though she performed it extraordinarily well, I thought). There was some nameless country music act. There was a dance number written by Thomas G:son (who wrote the Eurovision-winning Euphoria). There was also a band called Pink Pistols (which included two drag queens and a guy called Mikael – who I’ve also met – from the band Hallå hela pressen) which I thought were okay. But with the exception of Pink Pistols and the band, Panetoz and their rap/reggae number “Efter solsken” (After sunshine), it’s all very safe, predictable and rather boring. Panetoz, by the way is a band with members originating from Gambia, Ethiopia, Angola, Congo and Finland-Sweden.

So in summary, Heat 2 was better than Heat 1 (though the show’s hosts haven’t improved), but there’s still nothing which I think stands a serious chance of representing Sweden at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

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