TBT – Zoolander (2001)

Ben Stiller, David Bowie, fucking funny, Owen Wilson, TBT, Will Ferrell

It’s hard to believe now that, upon its release in 2001, Zoolander wasn’t a great success. It suffered mostly from bad timing as it came out only a matter of weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Critics weren’t exactly wowed and audiences just didn’t flock to see it. However, it eventually made enough of an impact to become a much-loved classic. My friends and I are huge fans and have been for many years. We left our school leaver’s ball, aged 16, to go home and watch it. I really love the film. So when I found out that my work friend hated it I really didn’t know what to do. Especially when she told me her reason was that it’s “too silly”. What the fuck was she expecting? Hating Zoolander for being too wacky is like hating Jaws for having too much shark. It’s the whole fucking point of the film. So, I may have lost a new friend but it did give me an excuse to rewatch this classic.

Zoolander is Ben Stiller’s satirical look at the fashion industry and is absolutely hilarious thanks to its insights. The narrative follows veteran fashion model, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) as he comes up against newcomer, Hansel (Owen Wilson) and finds himself embroiled in a murder plot, whilst still trying to perfect his new look Magnum. There’s also a love interest, his coal-mining father, and a psychotic fashion designer involved but the plot is really by-the-by.  

What matters here is how Stiller and co. represent the industry that they are trying so hard to dissect, He and Owen Wilson nail the two male models at the centre of the story and Will Ferrell some of the most memorable moments thanks to his exaggerated fashion designer, Mugatu. Derek and Hansel were born out of that breed of 90s male fashion models known for their vacuous and vain sensibilities. It’s cruel in its own way but it’s incredibly funny nonetheless.

 Zoolander is a wacky and silly concept, it’s true. but it also offers some of the funniest writing Stiller has ever written. The results are often patchy but more jokes hit than they miss. The duds really don’t matter when the successes are as quotable and hilarious as these ones. Unlike the titular character, there is more to Zoolander than meets the eye and the seemingly stupid comedy has a darker and biting undertone to it. Everything on screen is based in some aspect of reality … but at least 3 times bigger.

The plot is perhaps pathcier and more rambling than it really wanted to be and feels like a bunch of shorts stitched together instead of a standalone narrative. The overall assassination plot is fun but it is at odds with much of the other work Stiller is bringing to the table. To say it’s only about 90 minutes long, this film feels too full whilst still managing to stretch its meagre plot to breaking point. It often just relies on celebrity cameos and quirky humour to get through. Had the film been a completely satirical look at the fashion industry it might have felt like a slicker film. However, it probably wouldn’t have been as funny.

Because, despite all of it’s problems, Zoolander is an incredibly funny and charming film. That’s mainly down to the cast of characters and the obvious love that went into making it. Just like Derek himself, you can’t help but love this film despite all of its obvious flaws. The chemistry between Stiller and Wilson and Will Ferrell in general are what has allowed this film to rise above it’s disappointing release and become the classic is deserved to be.

TOP 10 WEN-SDAY – TOP TEN David Bowie Songs

David Bowie, in memoriam, list, Top 10

After what seems like the longest January since time began, we’ve arrived in February. It’s fucking freezing outside and I never want to go outside again. Unfortunately, I have to leave the house for my stupid job. I tend to be outside pre-7 am so it’s even more miserable and cold. To cheer myself up I’ve been listening to David Bowie songs for a while now. It does make the mornings go a little better. Of course, I’ve been drawn to Bowie a lot after his death and took it as an opportunity to indulge in the music of a great man. At university I made a list of my top 10 favourite songs for a stupid Facebook thing and it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I actually did it again a year later for some reason but that’s beside the point. What I remember about it is that Rebel Rebel was on there as my favourite Bowie song. I still love that song but, since that time, I’ve realised my loyalties lie elsewhere. So, in order to make things official, I think it’s time to make a note of my top 10 Bowie songs. I’m sure it’s what the great man would have wanted.

     Ten: Here Comes The Night

From his Pin Ups album, this cover of the Them (and Lulu) song is one of my all time favourite songs. It’s just a fantastic arrangement and I think Bowie is phenomenal on the track. However, I couldn’t, in all good consciousness, give one of the higher spots to a song that wasn’t originally Bowie’s. Still, this song always makes me feel good.

     Nine: Fashion

Maybe not the first song that comes to mind when you list Bowie songs but I love it. Of course, that could do with the fact that it’s used in the movie Clueless but I reckon it’s got more to do with the fact that it’s so fucking great. An easy addition to the list.

     Eight: Sound and Vision

Classic Bowie. With an uplifting backing track, the singer really excels here. It’s a fantastic song that it’s almost impossible not to sing along to.

     Seven: Heroes

I was never that sure about Heroes and I think it has something to do with Moulin Rouge. However, this is Bowie at his greatest. With fantastic lyrics and a great tune, it really highlights the great partnership of Bowie and Brian Eno. It’s no wonder it’s one of his most covered songs.

     Six: Oh! You Pretty Things

After Bowie’s death I’ve thought about this list non-stop and had several conversations with colleagues about which song would come top. I nearly always said this one, which makes it weird it only made it to number 6. This is a great song but after listening to Bowie songs for weeks I’ve realised I kind of prefer Au Revoir Simone’s cover. I’m sure that’s sacrilege but it’s the truth.

     Five: Under Pressure 

If I’m honest the version of this that I love the most is actually the RAH mix because it’s fucking awesome but it can’t be denied that even in its original form this song was epic. Taking two great voices like David Bowie’s and Freddie Mercury’s and mixing them together was utter genius. This has always been one of my favourite Queen songs (which, to be honest, isn’t saying much) and, in my heart, it’s one of my top Bowie tracks too.

     Four: The Man Who Sold The World

Obviously, fucking Kurt Cobain has sort of claimed this song as his own and his version is remarkable. Awful teenage me would probably be trying to convince you that it’s the definitive version or something. However, Bowie’s voice makes this song incredible. It’s such a powerful song in his hands and I love it.

     Three: Ziggy Stardust

Ziggy Stardust is one of Bowie’s biggest alter egos and the concept album about his fictional biography contains some great songs. Non more so than Ziggy Stardust.

     Two: Changes

I love this song. I really do. I love Bowie’s original and I love the version included on the Shrek 2 soundtrack. I realise this would probably piss off all Bowie fans but it’s a fantastic cover. Bowie sounds great and there’s a nice mix of voices in there. It’s part of the reason this ranks so highly. Watching the film gave me a new respect for this track.

     One: Golden Years

I’ve had this song in my head since Bowie died. It’s so addictive and fucking brilliant. I probably first grew to love this song thanks to The Knight’s Tale dance scene but in my adulthood I’ve only come to realise it’s a true masterpiece. There was really no other choice for my number 1.

TBT: Labyrinth (1986)

cult, David Bowie, Jim Henson, puppets, TBT

On Monday the world received some devastating news. It was announced that David Bowie, the legend, had died of cancer. I genuinely felt numb when I found out. Now I try not to get too crazy when it comes to showing grief about the death of a famous person. However, David Bowie was one of those people that actually did have a profound effect on people’s lives. He was a true artist who constantly evolved and always feels relevant. There can never be another person like him and he will never be forgotten. His death has prompted me, like everyone else who was similarly aggrieved by the news, to repeatedly listen to his entire music collection. But David Bowie was so much more than a singer. The man was an artist. He made so many great things for mankind to enjoy.

A couple of years ago, an ex-colleague of mine told me he had discovered the greatest movie he’d ever seen. It was a strange 80s film called Labyrinth. I had to laugh at his naivety. Imagine thinking I, a massive lover of all things weird and Bowie, had never seen it. I fucking love it. It’s a film that has to be seen to be believed and will never leave you looking at the world in the same way again. And I’m not just talking in relation to David’s crotch.

Labyrinth wasn’t exactly a success when it was first released in the 80s. Still, like most batshit crazy things from that era, the film gained a huge cult following and it still beloved by fans to this day. It’s easy to see why. Directed by Jim Henson, the Muppet marvel, Labyrinth’s cast is mostly made up of a ragtag bunch of puppets. Henson teamed up with Brian Froud, who had provided the concept art for his earlier film The Dark Crystal. Henson created a world that is weird, creepy and totally amazing.

Unfortunately, the story is less inspiring, It follows Sarah, a fifteen year old girl who is sick of her stepmother and annoying half-brother, Toby. Thankfully, her despair is noticed by Jareth, the Goblin King, who takes the baby back to his castle to turn it into a goblin. In order to rescue her family, Sarah must find her way through the Labyrinth to reach the castle and say the magic words to defeat him.

Boasting a script from Monthy Python’s own Terry Jones and original music from Bowie and composer Trevor Jones, Labyrinth more than makes up for the lacklustre story by creating a world that is completely engaging. The puppetry continues to be impressive even in 2016 and the creatures themselves are grotesque but fantastic beasts. The film is exciting and has something to offer people of all ages. Terry Jones’ script manages to make all of the familiar elements seem fresh and brings his own brand of wit and originality to the proceedings. I genuinely cannot praise the making of this film enough.

Then you get to the casting. Obviously humans are a bit of a luxury here so they do stand out a bit more than usual. However, I don’t think anyone can deny that the casting of David Bowie as the Goblin King has to be the best fucking decision ever made. Bowie wasn’t the only person in the running for the job with singers like Sting, Prince, Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson all being considered for the part. It’s easy to say this now but I just can’t imagine the film working as well as it did with someone else in this vital role. Bowie encapsulates Jareth and manages to bring a dangerous and seductive aspect to him whilst still being child friendly. Unlike the content of his trousers which is very un-child friendly.

Bowie was drawn to the film because of its humour and its heart. It can’t be denied that, despite its creepy visuals, Labyrinth has a great message at its centre. It has a lot to show about love, family and friendship. It ended up being Jim Henson’s last feature film before his death in 1990. Unfortunately, it was a commercial failure and was a difficult thing for Henson to take. Although now it’s easy to see that the film has had such a huge impact on so many people. Something that, according to Brian Henson, Jim was able to see before he died. It has brought so much joy to so many people in a way that only Jim Henson films only can.

I don’t know why but every now and again in my life, for no reason at all, I need this film. It’s a joy that always makes me feel like a kid. Although, nowadays I’m way more uncomfortable with the Sarah/Jareth romance. Especially when you consider how in her face Bowie’s package really was. Still, Labyrinth is never going to be on anyone’s list of Greatest Films Ever made in terms of overall quality and originality. Favourite film ever made? Well that’s a completely different story. It’s an honest to goodness classic children’s film in the 80s tradition of kidnapping and paedophilia. It’s the perfect entertainment.

So, if you’re feeling depressed at the thought of a Bowie-less world then there is one place you can always go to find a friend… should you need them.