BRIT Awards 2013: Predictions

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British Breakthrough Act

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Ben Howard
Jake Bugg
Jessie Ware
Rita Ora

As has been the case over the past decade, the girls sweep up at the BRITS, and we predict this one will be a close call between the two London ladies here. Although Jessie Ware’s momentum has grown hugely from an underground buzz in 2012 to that of a household name, Rita Ora should secure this one.

British Female

Amy Winehouse
Bat for Lashes
Emeli Sandé
Jessie Ware
Paloma Faith

Considering Amy Winehouse bagged this prize (her only BRIT) in 2007, they won’t feel compelled to give her this posthumous prize. Jessie Ware isn’t big enough yet to win this, and it would be a considerable triumph for Paloma Faith to earn it too. It’s almost a given that Emeli Sandé will take this prize, considering how she has taken up the British female baton after Adele’s 21 success.

British Group

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Mumford and Sons
Muse
One Direction
The xx

In 2012, One Direction have been the most successful group commercially – provoking a Beatlemania style response in the US –  but The xx would be the popular alternative choice. Given their own international success this year, and their musical credibility, we predict that Mumford and Sons could be the happy medium winner here.

British Live Act

Rolling Stones
Coldplay
Mumford and Sons
Muse
Vaccines

This could go to the Rolling Stones – for old time’s sake – but based on the strength of their Mylo Xyloto tour in 2012, proving their unrivalled skill for stadium shows, Coldplay should get this one.

British Male

Ben Howard
Calvin Harris
Olly Murs
Richard Hawley
Plan B

Much credit has to go to Olly Murs for his success touring with One Direction, hosting the Xtra Factor, beating Girls Aloud to number one, and being a generally all-round nice bloke. Plan B has had a great year too, with the acclaimed Ill Manors. But as with Mark Ronson in 2008, we predict this prize will go to a man who has had a successful year as a producer – Calvin Harris.

Global Success

Mumford and Sons
Adele
One Direction

Adele doesn’t really need any more awards – with the Academy Award practically already on its way – and it looks as though One Direction may lose out elsewhere in the show, so this special award is probably something of a consolation prize to congratulate the boys, and appease their die-hard fan base.

British Producer

Damon Albarn
Jake Gosling
Paul Epworth

Although Paul Epworth made the incredible ‘Skyfall‘ for Adele this year, this is more likely to go to Jake Gosling, a seasoned producer who, last year, was the man behind the music for Ed Sheeran, One Direction and Paloma Faith.

British Single

Adele, Skyfall
Alex Clare, Too Close
Coldplay + Rihanna, Princess of China
Rita Ora/DJ Fresh, Hot Right Now
Emeli Sandé, Next To Me
Florence+ the Machine, Spectrum
James Arthur, Impossible
Jessie J, Domino
Labrinth ft. Emeli Sandé, Beneath Your Beautiful
Olly Murs, Troublemaker
Rita Ora, RIP
Rizzle Kicks, Mama Do The Hump
Robbie Williams, Candy
Rudimental, Feel the Love
Stooshe, Black Heart

This long list will probably come down to ‘Skyfall’, ‘Next To Me’, ‘Domino’, ‘R.I.P.’ and ‘Mama Do The Hump’. Although ‘Skyfall’ could be a close competitor, this one looks set for Jessie J, considering she missed out on her nominations last year, and that Domino was the biggest selling on the list – also boasting over 100 million views on YouTube.

International Female

Rihanna
Alicia Keys
Cat Power
Lana del Rey
Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has made huge gains in the British mainstream in 2012, and Lana del Rey has continued to secure her music and style on the airwaves and magazine covers. But having beaten off Beyoncé and Lady Gaga to win in 2011 and 2012, we see no reason why this won’t complete a hat trick for Rihanna.

International Group

Alabama Shakes
Black Keys
Fun
Killers
The Script

The Script have had a bit of a revival following Danny’s appearance on The Voice, but this one is set to belong to Fun.

International Male

Bruce Springsteen
Frank Ocean
Gotye
Jack White
Michael Bublé

Although he’s the least likely to win, Michael Bublé outsells the others in this category massively, and is a commercial favourite. Frank Ocean is the big name to drop at the moment, following the critical success of Channel Orange, he looks set to clean up at the Grammys. But considering the success of his comeback album, Wrecking Ball,and his UK tour last summer, this one should go to the legendary Bruce Springsteen.

British Album

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Emeli Sandé
Mumford and Sons
Paloma Faith
Plan B

This is the big one. The cream of the crop. The one that everyone cares about. There’s a sliver of possibility that this might go to Mumford and Sons, but considering it’s the best selling album of the year, and has been promoted like a global religion, this one is most likely going to be the finale of wins for Emeli Sandé.

The BRIT Awards will be held on 20th February at the O2 Arena, London. This article originally appeared on SoSoGay.co.uk

Do musicals work as films?

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The movie musical holds a special place in the history of cinema. It has created some of popular culture’s most iconic images. Whether it’s Julie Andrews’ triumphant spin at the opening of The Sound Of Music, a young Mark Lester asking for some more food as Oliver!, or Liza Minnelli straddling her stool as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. In my humble opinion, Anne Hathaway’s performance of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ will soon join that list. But as Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables marches towards Oscar glory next month, it’s important to remember that although musicals have always been hits at the box office, their success at the Academy Awards has become less certain.

Consider the musicals which have won the coveted top prize of Best Picture, and in which years: The Broadway Melody (1930), Going My Way (1945), An American In Paris (1952), Gigi (1959), West Side Story (1962), My Fair Lady (1965), The Sound of Music, (1966) Oliver! (1969), and Chicago (2003). Spot the gap? From the inception of the Academy Awards in 1929, multiple musicals would regularly garner several nominations each year, with at least one musical nominated for Best Picture at every ceremony. This reflected the vogue for big productions with music, following the first inclusion of sound in film in 1927.

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As time went on, popular stage shows would be adapted into movies, with their rich and exotic settings capable of being portrayed in all their glory on the big screen. In the 50s and 60s particularly, so rich did the quality of musicals become, we can now look back and see that many of the musicals in competition with one another would all go on to become classics. 1954 saw Seven Brides for Seven Brothers triumph over five other musicals, including A Star Is Born and There’s No Business Like Show Business. In 1955,Oklahoma! went head to head with Guys and DollsGigi took Best Picture in 1958, leaving South Pacific out in the cold. And in 1964, the 12 time nominated My Fair Lady took 8 awards, including Best Picture, leaving 5 for Mary Poppins. Yes, once upon a time, the musical regularly reigned supreme, and reflected public popularity. Then, something happened. A turning point can be highlighted with Cabaret in 1972. Nominated for 10 awards and winning 8, the musical was rich with historical commentary as well as a great score and dance numbers. But it was to be the last big win for a musical for a remarkable 30 years. So what happened?

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The 70s and 80s produced many popular dance musicals. Among those overlooked by the Academy in these years were Grease, All That Jazz, Fame, Annie, Footloose, A Chorus Line and Dirty Dancing. These are all movies that either came from stage shows, or have since been transformed into them, and have enjoyed commercial success in both forms. To us, they are classics, firmly embedded in the musical canon. We hold these musical movies to be as culturally significant as previous generations did for the MGM musicals and the golden age of Rogers & Hammerstein. Perhaps it was a lack of stand out individual performances, or music that verged too close to being standard pop, but certainly a degree of snobbery in the Academy deemed them unworthy winners.

evitaIn the 1990s the only musicals that registered on the radar were those of the Disney revival: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, etc. The Oscars only rewarded them for their music – which was good if you were Alan Menken, who picked up 8 Oscars for writing songs like ‘A Whole New World’. Although this was a decade with a lack of conventional movie musicals – 1996 produced the long-awaited movie adaptation of Evita. Written by Oliver Stone and directed by Alan Parker, it was the stuff that Oscar wins were made of. Although the casting of Madonna in the lead role raised a few eyebrows (it was a role sought after by Meryl Streep, Cher, Barbara Streisand and Glenn Close), her performance was widely praised, and classed as the highlight of a dubious acting career. It’s a landmark movie musical, glorious to watch, with outstanding music. She won the Golden Globe, but in one of the Academy’s famous snubs, wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar. A dislike for the adaptations of Lloyd Webber musicals, and an obvious distaste for the acting of Madonna, are factors accredited to this loss. There was something of a false start with Baz Luhrman’s edgy, yet hugely popular Moulin Rouge! in 2001, which was nominated for 8 awards including Best Picture, but only won 2 minor awards. Then, along came Chicago.

Nominated for 13 awards and winning 6, including the coveted Best Picture, Chicago put zetamusicals back on the map in 2003. It shouldn’t be ignored that Cabaret and Chicago – whose successes bookend these 30 years of musicals in the wilderness – were both written by Kander & Ebb, and choreographed by Bob Fosse. Perhaps a touch of nostalgia was all it took to reunite the praise of the public and the critics. However, similar musical adaptations in the 00s like The Phantom Of the Opera, Sweeney Todd, Hairspray and Nine, had modest commercial success and nothing from the Academy. Meanwhile, the record breaking success of Mamma Mia! – now the best selling DVD in UK history – didn’t even register at the Oscars, despite its huge popular appeal and cast of leading actors. But another trend did emerge. The musical biopic experienced a revival in the 2000s. Although never treading into Best Picture territory, they did win some of the big acting prizes. In 2005, Jamie Foxx won Best Actor for his portrayal of Ray Charles; in 2006, Reese Witherspoon won Best Actress for playing June Carter Cash in Walk The Line; and in 2008, Marion Cotillard won Best Actress for her depiction of Edith Piaf in La Vie en rose. Here, the combination of an interesting artist, a great back catalogue, and a stellar impersonation made for a whole new type of musical movie.

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So we have always loved movie musicals. They’re usually shows we’ve seen on stage, with songs we’ve experienced elsewhere in popular culture, with big name stars placed on top of a great production to polish it off. Before 1972, this was all more than enough to manage Oscar success too, but as we’ve seen, that’s been harder to predict in recent years. Les Miserables looks set to be another turning point in the story. Like Chicago, it’s a popular favourite that ticks all the award winning boxes too. It will certainly win a few of its 8 nominations, but whether it can once again secure the top acting prizes and the coveted Best Picture, will be interesting to see.

And what next for the movie musical? There’s plenty more room for it to flourish. Cameron Mackintosh has promised a movie of Miss Saigon, based on the success of Les Misérables, and Sondheim’s Into The Woods is being developed by Disney with some big names lined up for it including Meryl Streep and James Corden. The rights toWicked have been purchased, and the Jersey Boys jukebox musical is hotly tipped to make it to the big screen too. Andrew Lloyd Webber has long claimed to want Madonna for a new movie version of Sunset Boulevard, but if history has taught us anything, you can rest assure that’s one movie musical that won’t be destined for Oscar glory…

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This article originally appeared in SoSoGay Magazine.

Midnight’s Children

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Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is generally accepted as one of the most important pieces of literature of the 20th century. Since winning the Man Booker Prize in 1981, it has enjoyed massive critical acclaim, ensured the enduring fame of its author, and was named the best ever winner of the 40-year-old Booker Prize. A film adaptation has been on the cards for years, but hasn’t come to light until now. The narrative is in safe hands – the screenplay was written by Rushdie himself.

Midnight’s Children tells the story of Saleem Sinai, born at the exact moment of India’s independence in 1947, forever linking his life to the historical path of his country. His development becomes a strange metaphor for the ever-changing social and political situations in India, which he often happens to inadvertently play a part in. As if that’s not enough, Saleem becomes the telepathic hub for the 1,000 children born within the first hour of independence, who all have their own magical powers – the midnight’s children in question.

Giles Nuttgen’s cinematography is beautiful, making India dazzle on the screen. Whether it’s the costumes or the weather, the grand colonial-era houses or the energy and life of the slums, the images are mesmerising. The literary genre of magical realism – where seemingly illogical events happen in the real world – is a difficult one to translate from the page to the screen, but it is well conveyed in parts. When Indira Ghandi rules by decree for two year in the 1970s, ‘the emergency’ is depicted with darkness cast large over India, until it ends and the sun immediately shines again. The creation of Bangladesh is more obvious in the movie than it was in the book, but this makes the vast cast of colourful characters are a little easier to keep up with when you can see them in action, as opposed to reading their names on a page.

Midnight’s Children is the kind of book you’d love to see on screen but could never imagine how it would be done. Obviously great effort has gone in to making this adaptation, as it manages to capture the essence of the book perfectly without losing any of its intricate plot. It’s also likely that watching this film will make people want to read the book, which will subsequently be much more accessible to them. The novel is epic, and should still be enjoyed as a reading experience, but here it has finally been magnificently captured on screen, and it was well worth the wait.

This article originally appeared in SoSoGay magazine.

My favourite festive song: Fairytale of New York

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Irish traditional music with dark lyrics about addiction and domestic violence isn’t typical festive material. Yet 25 years on, ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl is often cited as the nation’s favourite Christmas song. It’s even hard to believe the Pet Shop Boys beat it to Christmas number one.

If you look beneath its surface, it’s surprising we came to love it so much. The whole song is lined with sadness. The opening piano part is undeniably melancholic, and when Shane MacGowan begins singing the verses, he’s telling the experience of a failed Irish immigrant in America. Lazily slurring his way through the lines, he’s a very believable drunk – a true storyteller, speaking from the heart.

The track deals with the recurrent Christmas theme of counting your blessings. MacGowan pities the old man singing in the drunk tank with him, unlikely to live out the year; and yet, listening to his narrative, we pity MacGowan. It reminds me of that harsh line in ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, that Bono didn’t want to sing, but which resonates stronger than any other in the song: ‘Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.’

But once the band kicks in, it’s joyous and uplifting. As an Irishman, it takes me back to home and a time long since past – like everything we enjoy at Christmas, it’s hugely nostalgic. The jig is wistful, the monochrome video is classic, and the line ‘Sinatra was swinging’ takes us right back to the glamorous 1940s. On top of that, there’s no better place to set Christmas than in New York – a cityscape draped in blankets of snow,  infused with neon lights, filled with magic and possibility. As the location of jazz standards and Hollywood movies since time began, it’s always been a city of fantasy and dreams for people around the world – but in this song, the singers face the harsh realities of life against the ‘fairytale’ setting of the city.

Despite the broken relationship depicted through the song’s dialogue, there’s a resolution in the line ‘and the bells were ringing out for Christmas day’. It’s not just a background to their squabbling. Christmas somehow softens the blow of their failed dreams; and of course, by it’s true meaning, Christmas is a time of new beginnings. Even the untimely passing of Kirsty MacColl herself brings a new sense of poignancy to the song. If I had to sum up its tone in one word, it’s bittersweet. That’s why you’ll find yourself singing along with a smile on your face, but also maybe with a tear in your eye.

This article originally appeared in SoSoGay magazine.