Monday, 30 March 2015

the independent vs youtube (or leave zoella alone...)

so on monday the independent ran a story with this headline -

on the front page too, if i'm not mistaken. basically, they carried out an investigation (and by investigation i mean they sat and watched several hours of youtube and got paid for it) that revealed that the adverts on top youtube videos were for sweets and  gambling and bad things, and that kids watch youtube so vloggers are therefore evil.

i'm not even exagerating all that much. they also linked to the article with this tweet -

now i get that there may be a discussion to be had around how youtube advertises and how children interact with youtube, yes, a parent could well allow an eleven-year-old to watch zoella's videos thinking they are perfectly harmless and not realising their child is seeing ads for sweets and gambling (and of course, that parent will then have no choice but to buy their child sweets and take them to the nearest casino immediately). what i'm saying is, i concede that there are issues here and they are issues that would benefit from a discussion in a public forum.

however, there are elements of the article that i find troubling.

for a start, the choice of the word 'harming' in the above tweet implies some sort of intention, like zoella posts a video knowing that kids will be harmed as a result. and yet the article itself clearly states that youtubers may not know what is advertised on their videos and that they have yet to verify this. of course they don't fucking know what's advertised before their videos! i doubt any of the producers of programmes on itv or channel 4 care that much either. but for most people reading the article and especially that tweet, the fact that it's not verified will not matter. the idea of vloggers as villains has been planted.

then there's the fact that zoella owns a £1m mansion. what relevance does this have? yes, vloggers sometimes make money from their videos, zoella has clearly made a lot of money but this is like sneering at someone because they're good at their job. the point of mentioning the mansion is to further demonise youtubers. most people reading will not be youtube fans and they will look at this and maybe watch a video and think 'what? she talks about make-up for ten minutes and they give her a mansion? what's the world coming to?' because most people are idiots and can't think for themselves. this article is appealing to those people.

i'm about to make a wild comparison here, but there's something in the way the independent writes about zoella that reminds me of the banning of the video nasties in the 1980s (i wrote an essay on this when i was at uni). with the video nasties, it seemed like people outside the intended audience for horror movies heard about a few of them, decided parents were likely allowing their kids to watch them because parents are obviously rubbish, and then started banning things. many of those things were pretty awful to begin with, but there were some genuine art pieces were included in that as well, like matt cimber's the witch who came from the sea - there's a film that should never have been banned.

it's not so extreme yet, but the reaction here is remarkably similar. my concern is that if the media at large take an attitude that youtubers are corrupting the nation's youth, how long will it be before tighter regulations are imposed? right now, anyone can say pretty much anything on youtube and that's fantastic. if the cynicism and general negativity of the independent article is indicative of a growing concern then i wonder how long youtubers will really be free to say what they want.

maybe it's nothing; maybe i'm being paranoid. i just read articles like this and see a journalist preying on the prejudices of ill-informed people. i don't think zoella's fans or anyone in the youtube community will really care. i just hope this isn't the first of many articles like this one. and while not wanting to turn into a much ridiculed internet meme, i do wish they'd leave zoella alone. they could have chosen from a million youtubers for this article, they could have written about one of the hundreds of minecraft channels which are intentionally appealing directly to kids, but instead they go for the most public profile because they're an easy target and journalists think that being financially successful means you don't give a fuck about bullies anymore.

by the way, i just watched a zoella video to test it out, i got an advert for universal studios in orlando. i've already booked my ticket. damn those adverts, how i wish i had some sort of, you know, choice or something. i'm going to go borrow money off my dad for the flight. parents pay for shit like that all the time, right?

Thursday, 26 March 2015

american horror story: asylum

i don't like being negative, there's enough of that online already and if i don't like something i'd rather just move onto the next thing and not spend any more time on it. but sometimes i see something that seems like it's going to be the best thing ever, and then it falls apart and it's super frustrating and i want to talk about it. that's what happened with american horror story: asylum.

so the deal is, it's a brand new story with some of the same actors from season one. the story is about an asylum in 1964 and follows the exploits of both the inmates and the people who run the place. there are too many things going on to explain here, but the storyline includes a possessed nun, a serial killer called bloody face, aliens and a nazi doctor among others.

i was in love with this season for the first few episodes. there are so many things that are great about it. the performances are amazing, particular sarah paulson and jessica lange who both play more interesting characters in this season. the set is fantastic, so good that i didn't realise it was a set and assumed it was a real building. and the atmosphere is intensely creepy. after the first couple of episodes i was scared to turn the lights off before i went to bed, it was that creepy. every episode was kind of unpleasant to watch because the characters were so appealing and yet nothing good ever happened to them, but at the same time the storylines made it totally compelling. also, props again for a wealth of interesting female characters.

but around episode seven or eight, it kind of started to go wrong for me. the show had done a great job balancing all these conflicting storylines; connecting the strands in a way that made it seem meticulously planned. it looked like it was all heading towards an epic conclusion where all the characters and storylines would clash in one almighty finale. instead, the writers just started resolving storylines from episode seven onwards. that would have been kind of okay but they weren't resolved in particularly satisfying ways. one formidable character kills himself, another is easily dispatched when she is pushed down some stairs. the villains kind of just quit.

the last couple of episodes are then these jumbled, rambling efforts to tie up loose ends, some of which didn't need tying up. sure, there are a couple of nice moments, but it all feels like filler. the climax of a series should not feel like filler.

there's an argument to say that really, this is a story about sarah paulson's character and that story does play out to the end. but it had so much potential to smash these amazing, monstrous characters up against each other that i felt more and more disappointed in those last few episodes.

like i said, i don't like complaining about stuff and there is so much to appreciate and enjoy in this series that you should still check it out if you haven't seen it. it's just a shame it wasn't the series i wanted it to be, because it was so close to being amazing.

oh well, game of thrones starts again soon...

Sunday, 22 March 2015

paz vs youtube - part four - bianca allaine

so i am planning to start my own youtube channel later this year but i have lots of questions about how to do it and what to make videos about. i thought it might be useful to ask other youtubers these questions and then i thought everyone else might be interested in the answers too. so far i've interviewed morgan gleave, amber goluckie and iamGeorgeTown. my fourth interview is with actor and horror host bianca allaine.

bianca has starred in a number of horror movies including albino farm, which we talk about below. she also has her own youtube channel where she posts reviews of horror movies. if you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know i'm a huge horror fan and used to consider myself something of an expert on the genre. after watching bianca's videos i've realised i have a bit more work to do before i can really call myself an expert. i'd never heard of half the movies she's reviewed, but watching her videos it's clear these are movies that should be in my collection. what's also great about her videos is seeing an actor review films because she brings an energy to her reviews that you don't often get from horror fans. here's what bianca had to say about her channel...

what made you decide to start your own youtube channel?

I started my Youtube Channel so that I could showcase my vidcast, Watch These Films with Bianca Barnett (though, now I go by Bianca Allaine). Originally, the show was hosted on a website called The Horror Palace, but that site is now sadly defunct. I am still looking for a website, or websites, that would like to host my show for the next season, but I will definitely keep it on Youtube as well.

how would you describe your videos?

The first season of the show was very experimental. Honestly, it has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had working on camera. I think it is because I can be silly and just have fun. I grew up loving shows like Mystery Science 3000 and Elvira’s Macabre Theater, so my show is a tribute to those great works.

what type of camera do you use and what do you edit on?

My husband edits the episode by splicing portions of the video in with my dialogue. Sometimes it is planned in advance and other times he completely surprises me. We had so much fun watching the episodes together, just cracking each other up. I think the fact that we are both having a great time making the show really shows and it might be the reason people like the show.

this isn't specifically to do with your channel, but as a horror fan i have to ask - how long were you in the make-up chair for the character you played in albino farm? it looked insane!

It was insane!!! I think I was in the chair for about four hours each time, but it really depended on what shots they needed of me as Pig Bitch. To get ready for her close up, it took four or more hours and the makeup stayed on for 12 to 15 hours at a time. It weighed at least 5 pounds and took over 30 minutes to remove each day. It was a tough shoot, but really worth it!

your movie reviews seem to target really specific areas within the horror genre e.g. heavy metal horror films. was this a conscious decision to review something different from the movies everyone else was already talking about?

It was a conscious decision but honestly, it just melded two of my favorite things. I am a huge fan of heavy metal- everything from thrash metal to glam- and of course, I love horror flicks! The next season will highlight cult films but I plan on branching out into modern indie films and other genres. I would also like to interview film makers and other artists.

i consider myself to be pretty clued up on horror, but i hadn't heard of at least half the films you've reviewed. how do you track these films down? and are most of them available on dvd or are they on vhs?

I think some were available through Netflix. But, I had actually seen some before because hunting down obscure horror and cult films is a hobby of mine! I am pretty sure that all of the films are available on VHS and DVD, but I bet some can be found on Youtube!

one movie you reviewed i have seen is hard rock zombies. i'm kind of obsessed with that movie, i mean what were these people thinking when they walked onto set everyday? have you ever had any contact or feedback from anyone involved with any of the movies you've reviewed? 

First, let me state that I am completely obsessed with Hard Rock Zombies, too! I hope that they had fun making the film. The coolest feedback I have had so far was from one of the writers of Frankenhooker, Robert Martin, who contacted me after he saw the review and loved it! I was on cloud nine and so flattered. I really can’t explain how great that was!

i have to interject here to say if you haven't seen hard rock zombies you should do so immediately. if you're not already convinced, it's a movie where this happens -

following on from that, i would love to get the inside scoop on the more obscure horror movies. have you thought about expanding into doing interviews with horror filmmakers and actors?

Definitely! I want to expand to different genres of film, as well!

what do you think of the contemporary horror scene? have you seen anything that impressed you recently?

I think it is really hit or miss. There are so many films being made, but only a few are really worth watching. Some recent flicks that I saw and loved are The Babadook and the WUNF Halloween Special.

do you have any advice for youtubers just starting out?

Keep going for it and don’t let anything hold you back. The world needs more creativity and there is a market for everything out there, really.

can you recommend an unsung piece of art (book, film, videogame - whatever) you love that people may not have heard of?

Yes! My husband directed a film called Web of Deceit which stars me. It is a psycho-sexual thriller and really twisted. We plan on making more films together in the near future.

what can we expect from your channel in 2015?

The second season of Watch These Films and a new experimental comedy skit show that I producing with my husband!

can you nominate a fellow youtuber for my next interview?

Yes! Please check out my friend, the film maker Mark Colegrove and his company, Dire Wit Films

subscribe to Bianca Allaine, follow bianca on twitter, and check out her website.


thanks to bianca for taking the time to answer my questions!

if you have your own youtube channel and would like to be interviewed you can e-mail me at pazvsstuff[at] or find me on twitter @pazvsstuff

Friday, 20 March 2015

man of the west

i often hear people complain that they don't like westerns, i guess because with each passing decade the western environment seems more and more alien and distant and i think there's also an idea that the themes handled by westerns are somehow outdated. the thing is, that's so not the case. like all films, westerns are about everything. they're about life. man of the west is a perfect example of that.

the film opens like many westerns do, with a stranger arriving in town. in this case the stranger is link jones, played by gary cooper. gary cooper was one of the great western icons and is probably most famous for high noon. if you haven't seen high noon stop reading this right now, go watch high noon and then come back. seriously, high noon is one of the most left-wing, rebellious, revolutionary movies ever made. i could go on about high noon forever, but back to this film...

so link turns up and all we know about him is that he has a bag of money and a gun, both of which he conceals. he's catching a train across country and when a travelling businessman asks what his plans are he claims he needs to hire a school teacher to work in his home town, except we don't entirely believe him. cooper plays link as a man with something to hide, and we later find out that he really does.

link catches a train, and on the way the train is robbed by bandits. three passengers make it off - link, the businessman and a saloon singer named billie ellis, played by julie london. this julie london -

stranded, the three of them decide to walk to the nearest town and along the way they come across a cabin. link decides to check it out because they need shelter, and it's never clear whether he knows what's waiting for him in that cabin or not. when he opens the door he is confronted by his old gang, led by aging outlaw dock tobin.

what follows is a series of unfortunate events that continuously put link in a position where has no choice but to join up with the gang for one last heist.

what doesn't come across in what i've described is how dark, moody and existential this film is. link is a man haunted by his past; a man who desperately doesn't want to kill again. at the same time there is a sense that it's not a case of his past catching up with him, but that he caught up with his past; that there's an inevitability about what happens to him and how the story plays out.

cooper plays the torment perfectly, because throughout the film he is in a position where he either has to go along with the bandits and become what he was before, or kill them all to escape and become something worse. at the same time he has to protect billie from the gang and this creates a constant tension. there is one excruciating scene in which one of the gangmembers puts a knife to link's throat, pressing it in so hard it draws blood, and orders billie to strip for them while link is forced to watch.

perhaps even more tense is the scene in which link gets some payback against this particular thug and the rage coarsing through him as the beats the crap out of this monster is palpable. it reminded me of jack nicholso's character in the last detail and how he just has this capacity for violence boiling inside him at all times.

i'll be honest, my only issue with the film is that julie london has a particularly thankless task playing billie and it was a shame she didn't get to do more. later there's an implication she has been raped by one of the characters, but because this happens off screen it makes it seem more unnecessary. i'm not a big fan of the rape-revenge movie at all, but it would have been nice to see billie kick some ass.

that said, no one in this film comes off well. even link is portrayed as a terrible person and in those moments where his rage and killer instinct somes through it's never heroic. the fistfights and shootouts in this film are messy and raw; the violence never glorified.

man of the west is not an easy watch, but then anthony mann's grim westerns never are. that said, there is so much that makes this worthwhile, from the extreme tension created in the setpieces to the twists and turns in the story and not forgetting cooper's permanently haunted performance. if you like westerns you will love it, and if you don't then you should watch it anyway because it may just convince you that there is more to the genre than men with guns shooting at each other.

man of the west is released on 23 march 2015 on blu-ray and dvd.

for further details check out the eureka website.

Monday, 9 March 2015

american horror story season 1

i don't watch much tv, but i like horror and something about the one-off story per season nature of american horror story appealed to me, so i gave it a go.

season one, also referred to as murder house, is about a family who move into a new home to recover from tragedy, except the house they move into is haunted. because it's tv and the producers need to sustain a season this isn't a single tragedy house but rather everyone who ever lived in the house died a tragic death, and anyone who dies there comes back to haunt it.

there are many things about american horror story i really enjoyed, particularly the performances. much has been written about jessica lange's standout turn as slightly deranged neighbour, constance, but i thought the real stars were connie britton and dylan mcdermott. their performances as a couple struggling to save their marriage whilst also dealing with ghosts and possible mental breakdown was understated and compelling throughout the series. which is good, because i wasn't all that into the story as a whole.

the thing is, ghosts stop being scary when they're hanging out chatting about stuff as if they're basically human. there are rules about what the ghosts can and can't do but they're always a bit sketchy and by the end of the series there's a ghost in every room. they don't really do much haunting; they mostly just have a bit of a whinge.

that said, there were some cool twists and the baby in the basement was fucking terrifying. i also loved that there were so many female characters in the show and it was refreshing to see women of a variety of ages getting so much screen time.

i suppose i just wanted more traditional horror film type stuff. you know, trying to figure out what the ghosts want, getting it wrong, realising how truly fucked you are. really, i suppose i'm not that into the hanging out and talking type of ghost, i prefer the m.r. james once you've seen it you're fucked type of ghost, also seen in the best j-horrors. this was all a bit casper.

still, i really love the concept and i'm already enjoying season two much more. i was actually afraid to turn the lights off after one episode in season two, but more on that later.