Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dick Van Dyke's Accent Vs. Zombies!

The New York Sun, February 26, 2008, "They Came From Another Land" by Grady Hendrix.

A review of the new DVD release of The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue:

Ray Lovelock, sounding like he's been dubbed by Dick Van Dyke doing his "Mary Poppins" accent, plays George, an antiques dealer heading for his country house when a fragile young woman named Edna (Cristina Galbo) backs over his motorbike in a service station. She's on her way to see her photographer brother-in-law, who's holed up in a remote cottage trying to dry out his drug-addicted wife. George bullies Edna into giving him a ride, but their detour sends them crashing into a rapidly growing gaggle of corpses re-animated by an ultrasonic pest control machine and a fascist police inspector (the legendary character actor Arthur Kennedy).

Damn! Why am I not watching this movie right now?

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,8585 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

5 days

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Australian Says: "Dick Van Dyke's Accent Is Not As Bad As A Slit Throat."

The Age, February 21, 2008, "Warning: the following is rated MA15+" by Danny Katz

Even musicals have become MA15+. There was a time when musicals didn't get any more blood-curdling than Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent in Mary Poppins. But I took the kids to see the new Sweeney Todd movie at the George in St Kilda, and it was a full-throated, all-singing Sondheim masterpiece, accompanied by full-throated, all-slitting geysers of blood pumping out of necks, spurt-spurt-spurting like rotating golf-course sprinklers that you're not allowed to use any more.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,8580 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

12 days

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Kind Of" and "Sort Of" are The New "Um" and "Er"

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and one of my favorites is the Guardian's daily news podcast. Over the past year, I've noticed a new and irritating substitute for the pause -- the words "kind of" and "sort of". (My girlfriend, who is studying Speech Language Pathology, tells me these verbal placeholders are called "maze behaviors.") It tends to turn up in only in spoken (as opposed to written) British English, and is mostly occurs among younger people. Older Brits, no matter their social class, don't do this, but young journalists are all over this one, and it drives me nuts.

Now, mind you, there's nothing wrong with using "kind of" or "sort of" when you're presenting an analogy or a metaphor -- if you were to refer to your brain as a "kind of biological computer," that's a perfectly acceptable usage. It is a computer -- kind of -- and it is therefore, a kind of computer. Fine. The usage I object to is when the speaker sets one of these phrases off with wee verbal commas, "...your brain is a, kind of, biological computer..." When I hear that, I start to wonder if the speaker knows whether the brain is biological or not.

Here are some examples I collected last year. I could collect new examples, but I've been sitting on these for a while...

In May of last year, talking about the high prices of theme park admissions, Rebecca Smithers said:

"...you have to, kind of, look quite carefully at the figures, actually, I mean, the catch 22 is really on the, sort of, cutoff price for children..."

"...for the most popular rides, the real, sort of, white-knuckle rides..."

"...a fast track ticket, which is what Disneyland offers, which allows you to, sort of, jump right to the head of the queue..."

So was she talking about not looking carefully at something that isn't quite a cutoff price, a popular nearly exciting ride, and doing something resembling a jump to get to the head of the queue?

You get the idea.

Also in May of last year, Larry Elliott said:

"...inflation has remained pretty steady at between, sort of, two or three percent..."

"Sort of" two percent must be either one or three percent (but not actually two), and "sort of" three percent must be either two or four percent (but not actually three), yeah? So, let's see, it's now between one and four percent, but not two or three percent. I think.

Ugh. Good at maths, bad at Englishs, apparently.

The absolute nadir of the lot has to be Guardian movie critic Xan Brooks. Dear me. He hasn't been on the podcast much lately, but his spoken review last year of My Blueberry Nights, directed by Hong Kong film-maker Wong Kar Wai is the most astounding example of this verbal tic I've heard so far. Brace yourself.

"...(Wong Kar Wai) is a real, kind of, revered foreign language director, who is, basically, branching out and making this American film that also marks the screen debut of the singer Nora Jones, and she plays a, sort of, lovelorn twenty-something who, kind of, jets off in search of herself in classic, kind of, American road movie style."

"It's not a very demanding role, because she just, basically, kind of, has to look at a lot of things, and, kind of, smile and frown on command..."

"I found it a horrible, kind of, winsome, mash of American genre tropes, from the, sort of, smoky bars to the open-top sports car. It all felt a little bit, kind of, just, knocked off."

"...which is a really, kind of, admirable thing, and yet the actual, kind of, finished result, I think, falls into a lot of those same traps."

"It's got a, kind of, a charm to its, sort of, you know, unabashed romantic style, but it also has a few, kind of, cringy moments, and it never really has any, kind of, pace or drama. You feel that he's just, kind of, looking at things that he likes..."

"It doesn't have that, kind of, edginess that Mike Lee has. It's more, kind of, teenage poetry, kind of, improvisation. There's a lot of, kind of, heartfelt dialogs and, sort of, a lot of angst."

With so many wishy-washy modifiers, you have to wonder if he really watched the movie, or if he only kind of, sort of watched it.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Would-Be Romance Novelists Are Just as Snooty as Dick Van Dyke

The Guardian, February 9, 2008, "The Great Escape," by Kathryn Hughes

The publisher "Mills & Boon" is apparently the equivalent of "Harlequin Romance" in the States. Kathryn Hughes tried to write something for them, but she couldn't hide her contempt for the form, and M & B declined to publish it.

The would-be author pack was welcoming but realistic. Everyone thinks they can knock off a Mills & Boon, but it's harder than it looks. The really important thing, said the bumph sternly, was not to condescend to your readers. Clearly, the company had grown weary of submissions from smarty-pants who attempted to ventriloquise a mass-market fiction voice while failing to disguise that they felt it a bit beneath them, rather like Dick Van Dyke doing cockney.

I don't get even a hint from D.V.D.'s performance in Mary Poppins that he felt it was all a bit beneath him. He had a ball working on that movie; he just didn't know how to do a cockney accent. You know, when you ask an actor if he can ride a horse, he says "Yes" even if he can't.

Wouldn't it be a truly subtle performance if he had been hired to play a cockney, then they did it with contempt, managed to slip that past not only Walt Disney but also everyone who had seen it in theaters and on video for 40 years, and the first and only person to pick up on it was Kathryn Hughes in the Guardian?

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,8568 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

6 days

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Scottish Actors and American Producers Agree on Bad English Accents: "No One Cares."

Scotland on Sunday, February 3, 2008, "How Hitler conquered America. PROFILE: CRAIG FERGUSON"

His introduction to American TV wasn't as auspicious as he'd hoped, however. He was down to his last 29 cents when he got work on a sitcom starring Marie Osmond, which was quickly cancelled. But a year later he landed a role on another half-hour comedy called The Drew Carey Show, playing an unpleasant boss with an English accent that would bring a tear to the eye of Dick Van Dyke.

"They said that my character was an obnoxious idiot, so I said: 'Right, we'll make him English,'" noted Ferguson. "I did say it was a very bad accent, but the producer said: 'Ah, no one cares.' Anyway, I've watched English actors doing duff Scottish accents for years."

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,8562 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

6 days


Another mention of D.V.D. I've put off posting for a few days, because it wasn't really a media mention, just something in an online catalog.

Pearly King Cushions

Lots of places sell cushions decorated with the union jack motif, but these cushions are the first I’ve seen to celebrate this specific bit of English heritage, the cockney tradition of the Pearly King and Queen.

The Pearly King Cushions from Re-Found Objects are black square cushions decorated with hand-sewn pearl buttons. Available in two designs, Anchor or Good Luck, both are inspired by popular Pearly King costume designs.

Put aside memories of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins and buy your own piece of East End tradition. They cost £55 each and can be bought online from Re-Found Objects.

Apparently, English people can't think of black cushions decorated with pearl buttons without blurting out D.V.D.'s name. It's a very specific form of Tourette's: "Cushions! Buttons! Dick Van Dyke!"