Tag Archives: Jon Ronson

The Alan Moore Jerusalem tapes, #8: how I gave Anonymous its face

8 Oct
hackers-anonymous.jpg

Anonymous: personified by a V for Vendetta mask

Following my feature on Alan Moore’s Jerusalem, I’ve been posting edited highlights from the 30,000-word interview transcript. In this one, Alan Moore has just been telling me about the books he’s been reading for fun of late. He names Dave Foster Wallace, Jon Ronson’s So You’ve been Publicly Shamed, and a history of the Anonymous movement called Hoaxers, Whistleblowers, Hackers and Spies. It seems a good time to ask Moore how he feels about literally giving Occupy and Anonymous their face.

Alan Moore: “Well, how do I feel. I’m glad that they’ve got it, although – they didn’t get it from the comic, did they, they got it from the film , which I have never seen and which, from a position of complete ignorance, I am willing to describe as a total rat’s abortion.

“I suppose the richest irony for me is that because it was connected with the film, I said ‘I don’t want anything to do with it, take my name off and give all the money to the wretched Dave Lloyd,’ and that includes all the merchandise as well. So Dave Lloyd, who was saying the other day, ‘I wish Alan hadn’t made V an anarchist [weedy voice], because when’s that ever worked?’ And I thought, well there was a few hundred thousand years during the hunter gathering period where that was our natural default mode of society and people who tried to get extra status were ostracised. A few hundred thousand years!

“Then of course there was the Paris Commune, that was working perfectly until the troops were sent in to shoot everybody. Then there were the Spitalfields Huguenots, who looked after their children, looked after their old people, a fully functioning anarchist society, until we sent the troops in. But David Lloyd, who gets all the money from those masks – he doesn’t like anarchy. He would rather I’d made V, perhaps, a Lib Dem, but that might be a little bit left-wing for David Lloyd, thinking about it. But I’m glad it’s been of use to these protestors, because generally I really admire what they do.

“I hadn’t realised, till reading this book, just how much they were behind the Arab Spring. That all kicked off in Tunisia, and four or five days before the uprising, there were children lining up in a Tunisian playground with V for Vendetta masks on, which I hadn’t realise before I read this book. What Anonymous were doing were hacking the government and exposing all their excesses and lies to the people, then moving on from Tunisia to Op Egypt and the rest of them. And I think it was Anonymous who gave Assange and Wikileaks all of that information, they created the climate in which Edward Snowden could exist, and Chelsea Manning.

“They also went after a thing called Op Cartel, this was after an Anonymous member, who I believe was a Mexican journalist, a woman, who obviously wasn’t quite anonymous enough, she’d been attacking the cartels and exposing the connection between the cartels and the government, her open laptop was found, and set in front of the laptop, wearing her earphones, was her head. Anonymous said, ‘Right, we are definitely coming for you’. I think that’s still ongoing.

“I did get somebody get in touch saying they were Anonymous and asking me to take part in something called the Day of Mayhem which they were going to be basing on scenarios in Watchmen, and as far as I know we got back to them saying, stuff based on comic books, that won’t work; and anyway why are you sending me this, how do I know who you are?

“In fact, if I was the intelligence services, who had got no idea how to infiltrate the members of Anonymous, because of their anonymity, I might be thinking, why not get somebody who is publicly associated with Anonymous, and get them to sign up to something really stupid, and use that to discredit the entire network? So I said, no thanks, I don’t know who you are, but think about this; this is a stupid idea, this is not going to work, if in fact you are Anonymous.

“I met Occupy when Channel 4 took me down to St Paul’s Cathedral; Katie Razzal took me to introduce me to the Occupy camp when it was there. I have nothing but admiration for them – I gather that was probably true for most of the clergy of St Paul’s as well. However, I met one of these very nice guys who was very very enthusiastic and saying ‘that film changed everything for me’. So I was, ‘Hmm that’s nice’, and on the Channel 4 thing they said, ‘Alan Moore is far too polite to show his obvious irritation…’

“But yeah. It’s something to do with a film I didn’t write any part of, but I’m very glad that it’s proven useful to the most important protest movement of the 21st century.”

Jerusalem is out now in hardback from Knockabout in the UK and Liveright in the US. For the full interview feature, click here. In part 9, Alan Moore explains what really happened on 9/11.

Advertisements

Victoria Coren’s historic double EPT win, and why gender still matters in poker

21 Apr

 

Victoria Coren

Victoria Coren Mitchell, with the hand that won her second EPT

So Vicky Coren (or rather Victoria Coren Mitchell, as she now is), won the European Poker Tour last night, taking home nearly £400,000. Absolutely bloody brilliant. In 2006 Coren became the first woman to win the EPT. Now she’s made history on gender-neutral terms as the first person ever to win it twice.

Gender shouldn’t matter in poker, but it still does. Play any tournament, and you’ll see an average of one woman for every table of 10. Go to a cash game in a casino outside Vegas, and you may find fewer still.

Why? Coren herself describes in her excellent memoir For Richer, For Poorer the initial fear at stepping into the all-male preserve of the Victoria Casino: “My second trip is by myself… I peep through the partition wall. There, just visible through the volcanic cloud of smoke, is the same cliquey gaggle of old men. A couple of them peer suspiciously at me. My stomach clenches with fear. I go back down the stairs, find my car, and go home.”

The smoke may have lifted, and the old men have mostly been replaced by young bucks in T-shirts and shades, but poker rooms can still be an intimidating environment for women. They are assumed to be conservative players, so more aggressive players will often re-raise them with marginal hands in the expectation of forcing a fold. The more attractive female players will get hit on mercilessly, and it’s not uncommon to hear jokes about “nice pairs” and “straddling” as soon as they step away from the table. Poker tournaments and the lesser websites (not PokerStars or Full Tilt, thankfully) are still often shamelessly promoted with bikini-clad dolly birds, as though we hadn’t left the ‘70s.

More insidiously, I have had several negative conversations about Vicky Coren at the poker table. It starts when they ask me how I got into poker. “I was taken to a home game by fellow journo Jon Ronson about ten years ago,” I explain. “I’d never played Texas Hold ‘Em, and was totally out of my depth. But as our host dispensed tips on how I should have played the hand, I realised how fascinating the game really was, how much I had to learn. The host was Vicky Coren.”

Three times this story has been met with derisory comments about Vicky’s skill, the implication being that she’s only famous because she’s a woman. This is strange, because Coren is a very good player. I’ve played against her a few times now, the last time in a media tournament at the Hippodrome Casino, with Vicky on my left and her fellow British PokerStars Pro Liz Boeree on my right. She can bluff when she has to, her reads are good, she is self-critical, and, as she said when I interviewed her for the second time last year, “As to my strategy, the old rules still apply: play aggressively at a passive table and patiently at an aggressive table.”

She is also unfailingly charming to everyone at the table. So why diss her? Everyday sexism is the only answer I can come up with.

So to all the unreconstructed Neanderthals out there, I hope Victoria Coren’s historic EPT double win sends a message: you don’t need to have a penis to play poker; but it can stop you being a dick.

Hooray for London Hollywood: 5 highlights from 1 year and 100 blog posts

19 Nov

Image

This is my 100th post. It’s also a year since I started LondonHollywood.net.

A big thank you to all readers, with an extra peck on the cheek to anyone who Shares or Retweets or even Comments when they like a post.

I’m passionate about film; that’s why I do this. It’s good to spread the love. [Though if any commissioning editors read this, I am still more than happy to write for money, as well as love!]

In celebration of a year of blogging, these were the highlights. Click the links to read the posts.

Most popular: My four-part interview with Benedict Cumberbatch, ranging from Sherlock to Madonna to his time with Tibetan monks. The Cumberbabes went nuts for this — at one stage racking up 3,000 views a day

Most unpopular: To the horror of many, I greeted Django Unchained with something less than rapture. Now that I have seen 12 Years A Slave (coming soon to this blog), I stand by my opinion even more firmly. 

Most epic: Colonel Badd, the short film I co-wrote, was accepted into the Court Métrage section of the Cannes Film Festival. I went out there, writing 11 blogs: half were from this trip, half from my 1997 diary from when I went out there with Jon Ronson as Editor of Time Out. Divine madness, with a cast that includes Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, Jonathan King, Alan Parker, Paul Kaye and the Spice Girls. 

Only slightly less epic: I wrote ten blogs on the recent London Screenwriters’ Festival, for those who couldn’t be there, ranging from one-on-one interviews to panels on better writing. Four posts were on the irrepressible Joe “Basic Instinct” Eszterhas, the highest-paid screenwriter of all time. Trust me, they’re a hoot. 

Most controversial: I wrote two blogs about heart-breaking YouTube videos by bullied teens, two of whom went on to commit suicide. One man, ‘Philip Rose’, wrote to me many times, at some length, saying the story of Amanda Todd is not all it seems; he then started his own blog, here. Intriguing. Murky. Very hard to unravel. 

So there it is. Hope to see you back here soon (bring your friends!), and here’s to the next year. A short version of this URL, btw, is www.londonhollywood.net.

#10: Secret Cannes Diary of a Time Out Editor, Aged 33¼. Spice Girls v James Woods!

25 Jul
Image

Spice 1997: the Spice Girls bring girl power to a Cannes rooftop

I have finally been reunited with my Cannes diary from 1997, so I can at last continue with my extracts. (You can read the first 1997 extract here.) Is it just me, or was life more colourful back then? 🙂

Cannes, Sunday May 11, 1997: Jon Ronson [with whom I was staying while he wrote gags for Dennis Pennis, see past 1997 Cannes diaries] went to cover the press conference for Spice World this morning. I didn’t bother, but I did see the Spice Girls posing on a roof above the Croisette, the tarty little troopers, Geri Halliwell at one stage running right across it ostensibly to blow someone a kiss, but really just to make her breasts jiggle up and down; Victoria competing by showing more cleavage than the norm but looking as vacant as ever. (I love the story of Frank Skinner impersonating her by looking completely blank from different angles for a good two minutes, as the laughter built.) Each Cannes needs a starlet, and this year it’s our Spices.

Which reminds me: Emma from Electric was furious last night at Demi Moore’s upstaging antics: she rushed into Woody Harrelson’s car at the lights and went up the red carpet with him and tried to deflect the snappers’ bulbs on to her, which apparently just isn’t done my dear, all because she hadn’t got quite enough attention for her own film a couple of nights back.

I bumped into two people I had previously met at the peculiar 18 Awards which I judged at the Savoy, where they literally pushed my partner off the dancefloor in order to snap me with two nude body-painted showgirls – made me sympathise with set-up Tory MPs. The first was Nigel Wingrove, head of Redemption Films and director of Visions of Ecstasy which is the only film to have been banned on grounds of blasphemy; the second was Mark Deitch, programming director for cable channel Bravo, who waxed irate about censorship laws. The BBC is governed by the BBFC, whereas other channels are by the arcane and loosely worded code of the ITC – meaning that films shown uncut on the Beeb such as Day of the Dead can’t be shown on Bravo, which is arguably a cultier audience more likely to know they are getting transgressive material.

That evening I met up with Jon and Bugs actress Jaye Griffiths at the Soho House boat, chatted to Nigel Floyd finally, and headed off a beach party, which we weren’t kicked out of till 2.30am. Metrodome’s Tony Kirkhope apologised to me for trying to pour his G&T into my trousers at the London Film Festival party last year – I’d seen the mischievous glint in his eye and jumped back just in time. He claims to be sober now, and looked miserable. [Foot-note: he sadly died in his sleep a few weeks later, at just 47 years old.]

The best thing by far about the party was seeing livewire actor James Woods, a great hero of mine: shorter, fatter, older in real life, but Jesus! What a great dancer! He was with this preposterous bimbo woman, to whom he’d apparently just got engaged that afternoon. She was so straight and brittle you felt she’d break if anyone put their hand around her wasp-waist, a plastic face under blonde hair, and there was a great to-do over a purse she thought was stolen. She had PR Annabel rushing all over the place looking for it until eventually she saw the woman with it after all: “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, not very apologetically, “I should probably have told you. I found it already.”

“I’m sorry,” I mimicked to PR Tina, “I should have told you, I found it was lodged up my ass all this time…”

For my 2013 Cannes blogs, click here. Final 1997 extract is here.

#9: Secret Cannes diary of a Time Out Editor, aged 33¼

28 May
Image

Roman Polanski and Emmanuelle Seigner in Cannes. In the event, Geoff was too shy to say hello on the nearby table.

The penultimate extract from my 1997 Cannes Film Festival diary, in which MTV equals anarchy and a producer praises my “tabs” and “dabs”…

Jon Ronson and I left the Bright Young Things to their boat (see previous diary entry) and set off to meet Geoff Andrew for dinner. Geoff materialised through the usual scrum around the red carpets of the Palais with Sheila Johnston and Quentin Curtis, fellow critics, and we headed off to the Old Port and Le Réfuge, Geoff’s fave, a choice supported by the arrival of little mummified Roman Polanski with his sweetheart Emmanuelle Seigner.

Cannes treated us to a huge fireworks display, as we sat outside in the chilly night, so long in fact it almost became dull! Nigel Floyd and Mark Kermode came past but insisted on finding somewhere they could eat inside.

After four bottles of rosé, time to get to the MTV do. Geoff pooh-poohed my suggestion of phoning a taxi, as the Time Out Guide recommended, and we set off in search of one. Nothing doing. So we hoofed it.

It was a long, long, weary walk, Geoff wisely dropping out to drink sedentarily at the Petit Majestic, and we arrived an hour later to find a huge crowd outside that turned out not to be gawkers, but bona fide ticket holders. We pressed and panted and heaved for a while, then squeezed out of the crowd, gasping for air, and stood at the periphery, marvelling at the cattle-truck chaos. A fight broke out; then a woman who pushed her way to the front of the crowd was, according to Jon, thrown bodily back into the crowd by a bouncer, wailing dismally, “But I’m from Freud Communicaatiooooooons…..”

It was Freud PR that “organised” this shambles, so it felt like divine retribution. The few people who emerged unsteadily from inside, with the dazed look of the war-wounded, said there were similar scenes indoors. And there was our man Richard “Jobbo” Johnson, still vainly struggling outside with the rest despite his clutch of VIP passes.

We would have left sooner, but I couldn’t face the walk. Eventually Laura and the Soho House posse arrived and commandeered a Soho House bus to squeeze the 13 of us in, and off we went…

I called a halt at the Croisette, and a half-dozen of us trooped off to the Petit Majestic. Less a bar than a street party, it’s where the Brits congregate (and some noisy, sing-songing ones at that, sadly). Jon left after 40 minutes, but by then I’d found Geoff, and Emma Davie, so I stayed, talking with them and her Miramax friend and the Welcome to Sarajevo team.

I also met a funny little producer who said he loved the way I smoked as though I enjoyed passionately each lovely breath.

“Love the way you smoke your ‘tabs’,” he said.

[I met him again the next day in the grocery store, the worse for wear having followed on to G&Ts and Jack Daniels, and I discovered that the important-seeming Cannes office number he’d been giving everyone really belonged to some old French lady. He greeted me with “Hey, shiny ‘dabs’!” Meaning my shoes. What lingo is that?]

I called it a night sometime after 4.30am; not too drunk this time owing to the two and a half hour drinking hiatus imposed by those f***ers at MTV who ruined my big night out.

I teased Jon about that. He was always complaining of the Cannes hierarchies of colours and badges and party restrictions, and I’d played Mr Sensible, saying otherwise there would be chaos.

And there it was, his egalitarian “everyone goes” party society, descending rapidly into apehood.

For the next extract, in which I dance with James Woods and watch the Spice Girls on a Croisette roof, click here. For the first 1997 diary extract, click here. For the first blog on Cannes 2013, click here.

#8: Secret Cannes diary of a Time Out Editor, aged 33¼

24 May
Image
Continuing the extracts from my Cannes diary from 1997. This time: partying on the Soho House boat with a young Anna Friel, Sadie Frost, Jude Law, David Thewlis…
May 10. Woke up at 9, or so I thought — my watch had stopped, and it turned out to be 12.30. Started off feeling terrible, then thought hey! It’s Cannes! And the sun is shining! And immediately became annoyingly cheerful.Forced down some bread and pate, then watched Jon and Paul (Ronson and Kaye, see previous blog) rehearse the new character Jon’s been writing for him. I giggled in the kitchen, even though I’d heard the jokes before; Paul’s delivery brought them to life.

Nothing planned till 5.30, so spent much of the afternoon wandering up the Croisette, where the crowds prevent you moving any faster than a zombie, and overheard a smart French woman tourist say, “Oh, mais il n’y a même pas des starlets nues.” Bought a phonecard and phoned Jonathan Rutter of DDA to beg tix for a party the next evening, which he said he was giving to only three people, Jon and I being two, then off to join the Young British Talent.

Normally you can’t get into the colossal Palais des Festivals without an accredited pass. Bureaucracy is such that I had prepared a speech in French for when I was inevitably  refused entry despite having a printed invitation to the roof-top reception, but no problems. There are gorgeous views from up there, and the view improved even more when the Brits arrived.

They’d all been styled in designer gear, and looked stunning: Joely Richardson in a ’30s-looking, calf-length shimmery dress; Sadie Frost with little horns, a tattoo, and killer blue eyes (and later in bare feet); Anna Friel (above) thin and poised in a black dress with plunging back, behaving like a naughty schoolgirl during the speech and making signs to Sadie; Catherine McCormack in Doc Marten’s beneath her dress; and then the boys — Rufus Sewell, Jude Law, Jon’s friend James Frayn — all dressed to kill in Paul Smith tuxes and exuding a raffish charm.

I introduced myself to Anna Friel and thanked her for being kind to Brian Case (Time Out‘s legendary Senior Editor) when he went on location recently for Landgirls. Brian had told me he was worried that his drinker’s reputation had preceded him, because Anna always seemed to have a bottle of wine to offer, even in the morning; but she said that’s just what she always did, with a deliberately insouciant air that shouted “See? I may come from the soaps but I’m a bad girl, really!”

Jon turned up late, and still gloomy, having a Bad Birthday. He introduced me to ??, head of MTV, who had produced his Jon Ronson Mission, and cheered up  when I told him the young stars were all off to dinner at the Soho House boat — so we could mosey along and somehow inveigle our way in…. which we did.

Barry Norman (the BBC film critic) was standing proud on the top deck, gazing into the distance like an Admiral, very much in command and in his element. We ligged into the bar area for free champagne and Sea Breezes, where Jon had two coups and two foot-in-mouths.

Catherine McCormack was effusive in her praise of Jon’s Omar documentary (earlier he’d said his great ambition was to meet Mike Leigh, but he was too frightened he’d snub him. I had joked that he’d probably say “Jon Ronson! I’m a great admirer of your films…”). This delighted him, though he spoilt the warm glow by saying to her, in the end, “So what do you do?” Oops. Mind you, I hadn’t realised she had starred in Braveheart, either.

Same with David Thewlis, who actually sought Jon out to praise him for his documentary; but when Jon started going on about meeting David’s ex-wife, and how he really liked her, it spolit the mood…

I meanwhile patched things up with Richard Jobson, who I worried might bear a grudge for a nasty Sideline in Time Out years back making fun of his dyslexia, which at the time made him furious. But no: he wanted to make a deal with Time Out to help out with his series of London movies [our News Editor Tony Thompson eventually co-produced with him], and sorted us out with VIP tix to the massive MTV party that night…

In the next episode, a fight breaks out at the MTV party… click here to read

#7: The Secret Cannes Diary of a Time Out Editor, aged 33¼

23 May
Image

I stayed in Cannes with Jon Ronson, who was then writing for Paul Kaye aka Dennis Pennis (above), terroriser to the stars

I’m back in England, but still blogging on the Cannes Film Festival. How? I found my diary from 1997, when as Editor of Time Out magazine I spent a wild long weekend in Cannes. This is the first extract, slightly edited for length…

May 9, 1997: Having arrived on the overnight sleeper train, I took it easy the first day at Cannes. Jon Ronson had kindly agreed to let me sleep on his floor. He had been a Time Out columnist, and now was being paid a fortune by the Standard to write a Cannes diary, as well as writing gags for TV menace Dennis Pennis, who would ask horrible trick questions of stars who were unaware at first that he wasn’t a “proper” BBC reporter. I met Jon for breakfast at 8am – he was up after a mostly sleepless night. The rest of his crew were asleep – Paul Kaye, better known to the TV-watching world as Dennis Pennis, was kipping late, having slept on the pavement to avoid waking up Jon’s flatmate who had pulled.

They had managed a heroic triumph in the small hours of morning, breaking through Michael Jackson’s notoriously tight security after 12 hours of trying, and “Dennis Pennis” managed to ask him two questions before they were bundled off: “Are you thinking of having any more children? Or are you worried about being arrested?” And: “Do you like 3T? Or do you prefer Boys2Men?”

After a lazy day, the evening started at the Majestic Hotel, where we were meeting Laura from Electric Pictures on the occasion of her birthday. Supposedly you can’t get in without accreditation, but I put on my power purple jacket and breezed through. The drinks were reassuringly expensive, 200 Francs for two Bloody Marys and a tomato juice – the latter for Boyd Farrow, Editor of Screen International and a dead ringer for Stanley Tucci, who had written the intro for the customarily invaluable Time Out guide to Cannes.

The next couple of hours were a chaos of people and escalating bar bills, plans going awry, people going off to dinner and never being seen again… Laura worried at mucking up all the arrangements, but it seems obvious to me that at Cannes, you just go with the flow.

Which Jon and I did, in pangs of hunger roundabout 9.30pm, to meet the Dennis Pennis mob in a tiny bar.

They were in a glum and savage mood, having waited to accost Charlie Sheen only to have him walk straight past them, early, while they were chatting. Paul Kaye is actually strikingly handsome in the flesh, with piercing blue eyes, an intelligent face and a nice smile – from zero to hero, as they say. Later, when he put on his heavy Pennis specs, he utterly transformed.

Geoff Andrew (Time Out Film Editor, now programmer of the BFI) turned up, having been sitting in the restaurant unnoticed with Jonathan Romney. Geoff’s been very helpful, writing me two sheets of telephone numbers and tips and maps before he left for Cannes.

We went off to party by the beach for Hanif Kureishi’s new film, leaving Paul Kaye to hit up Charlie Sheen later. It was a good do. I talked to Buena Vista supremo Daniel Battsek, and saw him for the first time look quite small and vulnerable when I witnessed a Big Swinging Dick competition straight out of Tom Wolfe.

A guy from UIP barged in on our conversation and started saying how the release dates of his new Bond film and Battsek’s Starship Troopers coincided, and he certainly wasn’t going to move, because if there was a war, he wasn’t the one going to get stomped over. “Real unzip your flies time,” said Daniel when he’d gone.

I found designer Pam Hogg on the beach, dressed in red rubber, yelling about “projectile pissing” at the top of her voice. The last time I saw her, she was bringing in pictures for our Weird Sex issue of herself naked and in chains… I shared a taxi with her once in a traffic jam after a radio interview, and we got on then, and we had a great chat now.

Danced with Laura from Electric to the Spice Girls and drank enough champagne to hurt my head. The beach was magical because of the lights from Cannes all around, the waves high and inviting. Jon disappeared to the Soho House boat with Paul Kaye, and I finally crashed out on Jon’s floor sometime around 3.30, waking occasionally in order to hurt in my head.

In the next episode, Anna Friel is naughty on a yacht while Sadie Frost wears devil horns: click here to read