Worst Words of 2014

6 Jan

Another year has passed, a year that brought us such spectacular highs as fried chicken corsages, movies about zombie beavers, and the Norwegian curling team’s Olympic Games uniforms. And as you are no doubt aware, as mandated by international law, it is illegal to have a blog and not do some sort of ‘best of’ list to signify the end of a year.

Wanting to avoid the usual drivel, I thought I would talk about something I stumbled on the other day: a list released by the Plain English Foundation. The PEF is an Australian organisation that promotes speaking plainly, and avoiding unnecessary jargon, confusing euphemisms, and flat out deceptive corporate and political speak. Sadly – but unsurprisingly – 2014 saw plenty of examples of the English language being mangled in the most appalling of ways.

So it is that Hesaidwhatnow? brings, courtesy of the PEF, the worst words of 2014.

Winner

Conscious Uncoupling

The overall winner for the worst words of the year was this cringe-worthy pair of nothing words from Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. The former husband and wife did not split up, nor did they divorce. They didn’t even decide to go their separate ways. Rather they had a “conscious uncoupling”, which couldn’t sound more pretentious if it had a fake upper class accent. In fact it is so vomit inducing, just reading the words will make your stomach and your lunch want to have a conscious uncoupling of their own.

I can't believe the parents of Apple and Moses could have come up with such stupid words.

I can’t believe the parents of Apple and Moses could have come up with such stupid words.

Corporate Spin

Appropriate Financial Envelope

Big corporations are the worst. Microsoft emailed its employees, stating that its “device strategy must reflect Microsoft’s strategy and must be accomplished within an appropriate financial envelope.” I’d imagine most employees’ reactions would have been, ‘Whuh?’ Luckily the 11th paragraph of the email finally got to the point and explained what accomplishing Microsoft’s strategy within an appropriate financial envelope meant: 12,500 employees were being sacked. I don’t know how these companies can’t understand that inane corporate spin only makes things worse.

Open Cut Event

Residents of a town in Victoria, Australia, were forced to breathe in foul smelling smoke for over a fortnight due to the actions of a multinational mining company. The problem was, the mine they were operating had an “open cut event”. Translation: they accidentally started a fire that could not be controlled for a month. In order to explain it more clearly, they stated that “inversion conditions” led to a “reversion” in air quality, while fire fighters struggled to bring the blaze “to its totality”. I think who ever drafted the press release should be forced to stay in the mine and enjoy the open cut event.

Euphemism

Rapid Disassembly

I thought rapid disassembly was something I used to do as an 8-year-old when I heard my parents coming to check I was in bed and not playing with my Lego. Apparently that’s not what it means, as demonstrated when 14 million vehicles had to be recalled due to their Takata airbags tending to suffer “rapid disassembly”. In other words, they would randomly explode. Not what you typically want from a safety device.

Pavement Failure

Being stranded on a plane for an hour waiting to take off is frustrating, but even more so for one particular group of Qantas passengers. That’s because when they asked about the delay they were told there was a “pavement failure”. The true failure, of course, was in not just admitting there was a pothole on the runway that needed to be filled before the plane could take off.

Political Spin

High Value Targeting

A particularly cynical bit of political spin, “high value targeting” is a term used by the CIA to describe killing important people. Its use was revealed by WikiLeaks in December, the same month a US Senate Intelligence Committee report highlighted the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”, or what you or I would call “torture”.

Efficiency Dividend

The Australian Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann, announced that the funding cuts to the Australian public broadcaster, the ABC, was in fact an “efficiency dividend”. He went so far as clarifying that the government was “not making cuts”. Later, of course, he further clarified that they were, in fact, making cuts. To avoid all of the confusion he should have just said that the ABC needed to operate within an appropriate financial envelope.

Non-Apology

Physical Result of a Bite

Easily the best non-apology of the year came from Luis Suarez during the Football World Cup. After allegations were made that he bit Italian rival Giorgio Chiellini during a match, Suarez noted that the dozens of cameras that caught the incident and the teeth marks on Chiellini’s skin were, in fact, wrong. He did not bite anyone. Rather, according to Suarez, “[t]he truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me.” He’d better be careful, otherwise next time he plays Italy he might find he suffers the physical result of a punch to the face from Chiellini.

"Oi ref!  I've just suffered the physical result of a bite!!!"

“Oi ref! I’ve just suffered the physical result of a bite!!!”

Silly Sign

Potential for Dangerous Aquatic Organisms

The Gold Coast City Council, in Australia, erected a useful sign to help beachgoers. It warned about the “potential for dangerous aquatic organisms”, easily the simplest way to explain the dangers to swimmers that frequent the Gold Coast, including the many non-English speaking tourists. Luckily the sign also included a picture, although I’m guessing it was an equally useful piece of surrealist art.

Frankenwords

Collabition

‘Collabition’ is what happens when you combine ‘collaboration’ and ‘competition’. It is also what happens when you combine ‘dodgy company directors’ and ‘marketers’.

Couplies

What could be worse than ‘selfies’? Couplies, which are what couples do when they want to be narcissistic together.

Marketing Buzzword

Normcore

I’ll let you figure this out. “Normcore seeks the freedom that comes with non-exclusivity. It finds liberation in being nothing special, and realizes that adaptability leads to belonging. Normcore is a path to a more peaceful life.”

So what it “normcore”? It’s a fashion term that describes wearing unpretentious, plain, average-looking clothing. In other words, someone has managed to make unpretentious clothing pretentious. Congratulations.

Mixed Metaphor

Let’s fix our roof while the sun is shining because we’re on a course to hit the rocks and we have to fix it.

They’re the words of Australian National Commission of Audit member Amanda Vanstone helpfully clarifying that Australia’s “budget emergency” is a houseboat.

Hit the ground with a bit of wind in their sails

Another mixed sea metaphor came from sport show co-host Paul Kent, explaining a rugby league team’s chances for success. I think he meant it as a positive, and not as a ship crashing headlong into rocky shores.

Grammatical Error

Sorry for any incontinence caused

Finally, an East London Tesco store posted an unusual apology when its freezers broke in the middle of the English summer: “We are trying to get this problem fix as soon as possible and are really sorry for any incontinence caused. Management.” That’s what you call accidentally accurate.

 

Did you hear or read any other examples of the worst words of 2014? Share them in the comments below!

Harry Potter and the Chinese Knockoffs

11 Dec

Can you believe that it’s been seven years since the final book in the Harry Potter series was released?  That fact not only makes me feel old, but also a little bit nostalgic for some more stories on the adventures of Harry and the gang.  If only there were some more Harry Potter novels out there I could read.

Thanks to China’s blatant disregard of international copyright laws, there is!

That’s right, over the years various dodgy Chinese publishers have released a whole bunch of knockoff Harry Potter books for the paying public to enjoy.  If you like plagiarism, misplaced creativity, and hilarious translation errors, you’ll love these books even more than the originals!

SPOILER ALERT: This post gives away plots to several Chinese Harry Potter knockoffs, but also the ACTUAL Harry Potter series.  But seriously, if you haven’t read them already, there’s something wrong with you.

And yes, these are honest to god books and their actual plots.

Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up to Dragon

XYZ

Looks authentic.

There are many things to love about this knockoff besides the confusingly translated title.  The cover is great, because not only is Harry riding a centaur, but that centaur is about to punch a dragon who looks suspiciously like Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. But if you open the cover and have a read, you’ll find a knockoff double play.  That’s because Leopard Walk Up to Dragon not only rips off Harry Potter, but The Hobbit as well.  Allow me to explain.

It starts off enough like a Harry Potter tale – he goes from his usually summer stay at the Dudleys to Hogwarts where he meets up with Hermione and Ron.  Then things get a little strange.  An eerie voice announces that Harry’s nightmare is about to start, which lures them outside (which is probably the opposite of what you should do if a spooky, ethereal voice starts threatening you).  Once outside they are caught in a rain that is bizarre even in the world of Hogwarts.  Not only does it instantly soak the trio to the core, but it is sweet and sour, like so many of your favourite Chinese dishes. Even crazier than that, it transforms Harry into a hairy dwarf and transports him to Middle Earth for an epic cross over!

From there, it is essentially The Hobbit, only with the names changed to the names of Harry and his friends.  The only Hobbit character who isn’t appropriated as a Potter character is Gandalf, who remains Gandalf.  This might be the most confusing part of the whole story, as if ever a character could be easily converted to J.K. Rowling’s world, it would be the kindly, bearded, old mentor who is also the most powerful wizard going around.  At least call him Ganbledore.

Harry Potter and the Chinese Overseas Students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

What a catchy title!  So pithy and exciting.  And I’m glad that, to avoid any confusion, it points out that Chinese kids studying in Britain are from overseas.

In this one, Dumbledore grows fearful when he discovers the threat of the Black Monster who, with a name like that, has no option other than to be evil.  Dumbledore knows that as a pathetic Westerner, he is no match for such an opponent, and reaches out to Nine Mysteries – the Chinese equivalent of Hogwarts – for assistance.  They send over six students, who amaze the pathetic students of Hogwarts with their mysterious magical arts and transform the lives of Harry and his friends.

Thanks to the sheer awesomeness of the Chinese students, not only do Harry, Hermione and Ron muster up the courage to face Voldemort, but Draco frees himself from the shadow of his family.  All seems well, until the magical protections of Hogwarts fail and Voldemort attacks, bringing with him Death Eaters, werewolves, dementors, and giants.  Can Harry and the gang defeat them?  Of course they can!  They now have six Chinese students to help!

This sounds like the most pro-Chinese propaganda story of the lot, and I’m a little disappointed we didn’t hear more about the Black Monster.

Harry Potter and the Waterproof Pearl

XYZ

Is it just me, or does Harry look normal, normal, normal, shoes?

Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up to Dragon must have been a success, because in Waterproof Pearl Gandalf is back!  Along with some champ named Peter and the ‘little warriors’, Harry and Gandalf find a sea city in the desert through a magic keyhole.  There’s every chance that the little warriors are hobbits, or dwarves, or some other Tolkien creation, but whoever they are, Harry and the crew get gold armour and kill the head of the monsters.  However, when they return to Hogwarts, they discover that Hermione has been kidnapped by the Dragon King, and only one thing can save her: the waterproof pearl, an item that must be incredibly powerful, because unlike every other pearl that has ever existed, it is waterproof!

Harry finds the pearl, defeats the Dragon King and rescues Hermione.  I’m not sure what happens after that, but I’m guessing Gandalf steps out into a soy sauce rain so he can be transported to Middle Earth.

Harry Potter and the Chinese Empire

The isn’t much info out there on the plot of this one, other than the story takes place at Hogwarts and involves Harry and his friends, various characters from Chinese literature, and cut and pastes text from – no surprises – Lord of the Rings, as well as from multiple martial arts epics.  In my mind the story involves at least one kung fu fight between Saruman and Neville Longbottom.

Ten of the Weirdest, Most Distracting, and Accidentally Funny Movie Extras

31 Oct

The other day I caught a bit of The Dark Knight Rises on TV, trying to understand Bale’s weird voice, and wondering when Batman would lose his.  Then I spotted something in the background: an extra doing something accidentally hilarious and stealing the scene. I YouTubed it later to make sure I wasn’t imagining things, and yep, it happened – unintentional comedy at its finest. I know that every time I watch The Dark Knight Rises from now on I won’t be able to help spotting that extra.

It got me thinking about some other movies involving extras doing things that steal the scene, and next thing you know I had a blog post. Enjoy, but be warned: you’ll never watch these films again without being distracted by these extras.

The Dark Knight Rises

The movie that started this whole thing. The scene involves Batman and Catwoman on a rooftop, forced to fight side by side against a bunch of crims in order to get out alive. The job is made that much easier by the scene’s Star Extra, who gives the Dark Knight and his love interest a helping hand. Watch on the left of your screen above Batman’s shoulder and see if you can spot Star Extra doing something odd:

Yep: unless there was an unseen sniper somewhere, Anonymous Villain #3 just got floored by a ghost. Great stuff. Although in his defence, crumpling to the floor untouched is probably a better option than getting punched in the face by Batman.

Star Wars: A New Hope

Possibly the most famous example of an extra stealing a scene, in this passage from Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Extra is one of several storm troopers entering a room on the Deathstar in search of Skywalker, Solo and Leia. Unfortunately he was so focussed on searching for the rebels that he didn’t pay quite enough attention to his surroundings:

Someone had better report that to Darth Vader as an OH&S issue. The scene became so famous that when George Lucas made a number of changes to the film for his updated special edition, one of the few good ones (let’s not delve into Did Han Shoot First here) was to add a thud to emphasise Star Extra smacking his head. Nice touch.

Back to the Future: Part III 

Another famous scene involving an extra comes from the third instalment of the fantastic Back to the Future series. Watch the younger of the two boys on Doc’s time travelling train, as he’s going to do something a little weird.

WTF indeed. The prevailing theory is that the boy was trying to indicate that he had an urgent need to go to the bathroom, although another theory is that director Robert Zemeckis told the kid he could help direct the scene. Judging by the look on his face, I’m sticking with option one. He should’ve listened to Doc and gone before they left. After all, a journey from 1885 to 1985 is a heck of a trip.

Teen Wolf

Also starring Michael J Fox, this documentary about a 5’6” high school student turned werewolf winning a basketball championship is fantastic. During the climactic scene the crowd stand up and cheer their winning team. One Star Extra, however, wished they didn’t jump to their feet so quickly.

Yep, Star Extra just got caught with their pants down. I’m not sure if Star Extra is a man or a woman, but either way, I think they misunderstood what is meant by a movie’s climax.

Ghostbusters 

Enthusiasm is a good thing. Over enthusiasm, not so much, especially when your role in a movie is Random Guy #47. Do your job, blend into the background, and let the stars do their thing. In other words, don’t do what this screaming lunatic does at about the 1.30 mark.

I know the Ghostbusters are awesome, but relax pal.

Million Dollar Baby 

Speaking of over enthusiasm, this Star Extra is worse than the Ghostbusters guy. See if you can spot him. Clue: he is really, really, excited about the boxing match.

He’s lucky Hilary Swank didn’t jump the rope and clock him.  I think that comically over-exaggerated high five was just funny enough to have saved him.

Everything Must Go

You know, you actually can do your job too well as an extra. Take these kids. Clearly the director told them to keep still in the background.

There’s still, and then there’s ‘are we sure they’re still breathing?’ still.

You Only Live Twice 

Sometimes, a Star Extra doesn’t even have to be human. They can be a very scared cat that really, really doesn’t want to be in the scene.

‘The roof just exploded!  Why are you just standing there?!?  Run!  RUUUUNNN!!!  MEEEOOOWWW!!!’

North by Northwest

Even though he pretty much ruins the suspense for any person who notices him in the iconic Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest, I kind of empathise with this Star Extra. Tensions are high when Eva Marie Saint’s character, Eve, draws a gun. But will she actually use it?  Will she be able to pull the trigger or is it an empty threat?  Ask the kid behind her in the blue top.

One glance at Star Extra and we all know what’s coming. Can’t blame him from protecting his ears though. Maybe if the victim had have seen him the scene would’ve ended up quite differently.

The Last Samurai

Finally, if I empathise somewhat with the last kid, I downright feel bad for this Star Extra who isn’t even responsible for stealing his scene. One of countless samurai waiting in formation for Tom Cruise to arrive, he happens to be standing in the wrong place when Cruise dismounts his horse.

I’m not sure if he badmouthed scientology or had the audacity to look Cruise directly in the eye, but he sure copped it. Kudos for returning into an upright position as soon as he did – that is no mean feat. Especially after colliding with Cruise’s mean feet.

Do you have any favourite scene stealing extras?  Let us know in the comments section below!

The 30 Best Movie Songs of the Last 40 Years – Part III

17 Aug

The 30 Best Movie Songs of the Last 40 Years – The Meryl Streep Tier (10 – 1)

Oh boy, we’ve made it to the ten best songs made for movies in the last 40 years. The anticipation is almost too much. It makes me want to express myself through song. Who will take the crown? Click below to find out… (Or click here to go back to see the start of the list.)

10. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, by Bryan Adams, from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Any time a song’s Wikipedia page starts with the descriptor “a soft rock power ballad by Canadian singer Bryan Adams”, you know you’re on to a winner. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, from the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack, was an absolute powerhouse, with Adams robbing chart position from the rich and giving it to himself. It was a mainstay in the number 1 position all over the globe, spending a Little John sized 16 consecutive weeks at the top in the UK and being the biggest US single of the year.

Stats: Number 1 in the US, UK, and Australia; Grammy win; Academy Award nomination; Golden Globe nomination.

Penalty Points: It doesn’t feature a Morgan Freeman spoken interlude.

Bonus Points: It doesn’t feature a Kevin Costner chorus.

9. Lose Yourself, by Eminem, from 8 Mile (2002)

If you had one shot, one opportunity, to release a lead single from your debut film, would you capture it? Eminem certainly did with the release of Lose Yourself, a record breaking song argued by many as Eminem’s best ever. After being number 1 in 24 countries, including 12 week stints atop the US and Australian charts, Lose Yourself became the first rap song to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It might also have been the first rap song to use the phrase “mom’s spaghetti”.

Stats: Number 1 in the US, UK, and Australia; Grammy win; Academy Award nomination; Golden Globe nomination.

Penalty Points: Eminem will need a new sweater.

Bonus Points: Sung the song and starred in the film; Eminem wrote the song during breaks on set, and you can see his actual notes as his character, B-Rabbit, is writing raps in the film. Pretty cool.  (The name B-Rabbit?  Not so much.)

8. End of the Road, by Boyz II Men, from Boomerang (1991)

Boyz II Men’s mega hit spent so much time at number one on charts around the world that one could be forgiven for thinking that the end of the road was never going to come for the song. Incredibly, End of the Road became Motown’s biggest hit ever, overtaking song 22 on this list, after setting a record for the most weeks at number 1 on the US charts with 13, breaking Elvis Presley’s 36 year record. (Spoiler alert: this record would be broken by the song that would reach number one only 2 weeks later. A song that may or may not make a forthcoming appearance on this list…) A heart wrenching, emotional journey, End of the Road remains a favourite of karaoke singers, anybody doing a musical salute to the end of an era, and people who love performing rumbling, deep bass spoken interludes.

Stats: Number 1 in the US, UK, and Australia.

Penalty Points: Ten bucks says you didn’t know what film End of the Road came from.

Bonus Points: The spoken interlude by band member Michael McCary; The music video is magic!  It should be called, ‘Four Guys With Flattops, in Various Matching Outfits, Getting Insanely Emotional.’  What the hell are they wearing at the 2.20 mark?!?!

7.  Flashdance…What a Feeling, by Irene Cara, from Flashdance (1983)

Irene Cara only ever had a single number one track, but what a barnstormer it was. The soundtrack to Flashdance, the film about a female welder/stripper named Alex who wants to dance for a living (we’ve all been there), was hugely successful and produced several hits, including Maniac, but Flashdance…What a Feeling was the enduring success. It’s played at the beginning of the film, but it will always be remembered for its use at the movie’s climax, where Alex auditions for dance school. When she totally nails it? What a feeling!

Stats: Number 1 in the US and Australia, number 2 in the UK; Academy Award win; Golden Globe win.

Penalty Points: Did we really need the word ‘Flashdance’ in the title when it’s not even a lyric in the song? We know what movie it’s from. (Maybe Boyz II Men should have named their track ‘Boomerang…End of the Road’?)

Bonus Points: Phenomenal spoofability; phenomenal leg warmers.

6.  Don’t You Forget About Me, by Simple Minds, from The Breakfast Club (1985)

Don’t You Forget About Me and The Breakfast Club are as synonymous as a movie and its signature song can be, to the point where some call the track ‘The Breakfast Club Theme Song’. One of legendary ‘80s writer/director John Hughes’ most loved works, The Breakfast Club is a comedy drama about a bunch of teens from different walks of life stuck in detention together and slowly realising that they have more in common than they would have thought. (A film that, were it made today, would just be 90 minutes of kids on their smartphones not talking to each other.) Billy Idol was asked to record the song but declined, and eventually the gig was given to Simple Minds, who took some convincing to accept the job. In fact, even after the song became their biggest hit they distanced themselves from it, not even featuring it on their album (they finally put in on their greatest hits album Glittering Prize 81/92 in 1992). No matter what the band does, however, Don’t You Forget About Me and The Breakfast Club will forever be intertwined. We won’t forget about Simple Minds for sure.

Stats: Number 1 in the US, number 6 in Australia, number 7 in the UK (although it remained on the UK charts from 1985 to 1987).

Penalty Points: Come on Simple Minds, just accept the fact that your best song was one written for you for a teen movie.

Bonus Points: Being on a John Hughes film soundtrack is always an honour; that climactic image of Judd Nelson on the football field, fist up.

The 30 Best Movie Songs of the Last 40 Years – Part II

20 Jul

Best Songs Made For Movies in the Last Forty Years – The Jack Nicholson Tier – 20 – 11

In Part One of this epic list, we saw a lot of great songs, heavily dominated by the 1980s. Will the ‘80s continue its dominance in the top twenty? Will any artists make the list twice? Will we see a song from High School Musical 2? Click on the next page below and let’s find out.

The 30 Best Movie Songs of the Last 40 Years

29 Jun

It’s no secret that a movie can become that much better when the images on screen are coupled by the right song at the right time. Whether a swooning ballad when the love interests finally kiss, a thunderous anthem as the hero triumphs, or a heart-breaking song of despair when the protagonist’s dreams are dashed, a truly great movie song can enhance any moment.

Although sadly, no song can enhance a Twilight film. Nor can any film be enhanced by a Nickelback song.

This made me ask myself the question: what are the best ever movie songs? This question led me down a rabbit hole that I almost didn’t return from – an idea for a top ten list ballooned into a top thirty list. Even that was only possible by restricting myself to the last forty years of film music and savagely excluding some of my personal favourite songs for a more rational list. (Trust me, if there was any way of justifying the inclusion of Partners in Kryme’s Turtle Power I would have done it.)

Here are the ground rules:

  1. To qualify a song must be written for the film in which it appeared and for which it was made famous (although in some cases I’ve allowed remakes made especially for a film if they were so good their omission would be criminal). In other words, if a movie used an existing song – even iconically – it could not be considered for this list. Sorry Bohemian Rhapsody and Wayne’s World. Also, even though the Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody was written for a film (Unchained) it would not qualify because everyone associates it with the movie Ghost. And kinky pottery.
  2. All Disney cartoon films are out. In fact, all animated films are out, period. Nothing personal, it just seems like an unfair advantage as there are so many. Perhaps enough for a separate list one day…
  3. Instrumental songs and motifs do not count. That will definitely make a list one day.
  4. Songs must have been released in the last forty years. Yes, sadly that needed to be pointed out.
  5. Bonus points given to songs whose popularity has endured over time, and songs inexorably linked to the films in which they appeared.

Note: references to Academy Awards, Grammies and Golden Globes are references to the Academy Award for Best Original Song, the Grammy for Best Song Written for a Visual Media (or its predecessor), and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. Other Grammy awards have not been taken into account, and it should be noted that the Grammy was not awarded prior to 1988.

So buckle up, slide on your Beats by Dres, practice your Grammy acceptance speech, and see which songs ultimately made the list.  Click on the next page below to kick things off.

(Disagree? Leave your comments and tell the world what should and should not have made the list.)

So You Think You Know the X-Men Films? A Quiz.

12 Jun