Speed. Arguably the greatest action/thriller film of the 1990’s, its plot revolves around an egomaniac’s planting of a bomb on a bus. The bus must maintain a speed of at least 50 miles per hour or else the explosives will be set off, triggering an explosion. Whilst not the most original of stories, the tense atmosphere, combined with some kick ass explosions, made this a part of the film canon. And though I personally love the movie (Dennis Hopper proved he was the ultimate chameleon, transformed from an alcoholic deadbeat dad in Hoosiers to an evil mastermind in this film), for the sake of movie-goers it should never have been made, for the following reasons:
- It catapulted Keanu Reeves into superstardom. Possibly the second worst ever actor to headline a classic movie (Arnie in “Terminator” wins this category hands down), Reeves has set about demolishing traditional acting methods with his ridiculous incapacity to fool even Alzheimer’s sufferers in his performances. His preferred facial expression is one of unwavering unemotion, often remaining present despite changes in scenario, as if it were carved into solid granite. Keanu Reeves is essentially the anti-Nicolas Cage.
- It launched Sandra Bullock’s career. If Reeves can be the anti-Nic Cage, then Bullock is the feminine equivalent of Matthew McConaughey. And not in a “wow, they really keep themself in shape” kind of way. Moreso in a “what exactly is their appeal?” way. Because really, what does she offer that any other actress struggling to make ends meet in Hollywood have? Bullock has moderately good looks, a mediocre talent for acting, and only a semblance of comic timing (somehow translating into the lead role in Miss Congeniality- just an awful, awful casting decision). How is it that she continues to work in such a cut-throat industry, one that has shunned Nicole Kidman mere years after her Best Actress Academy Award win? I’ll tell you how: she is a hypnotist. There’s simply no other reasonable explanation. (Crazy side note: According to whosdatedwho.com, Sandra Bullock actually dated Matthew McConaughey for a while. How did the world not explode with such a collision of wholehearted untalentness occurring?)
- The movie launched the most literal soundtrack in the history of cinema. Generally a film’s soundtrack consists of “music from and inspired by” the movie itself. Obviously a creative license is generally necessary, as the artist may simply want to showcase their talent (or lack thereof, in someone like Simple Plan’s case). But here’s a sample of the songs on this soundtrack: “Speed”; “Mr. Speed”; “Let’s Go For a Drive”; “Cars”; “Like a Motorway”. Oh, and just in case you’d missed the theme of the album: “Go Outside and Drive”, by the delightfully original Blues Traveler.
So in light of these facts, wouldn’t it have been better for everyone if this movie had never existed?
Speed. It’s a drug, and Russell Brand used it once upon a time (along with every other one known to mankind). But let’s not hold that against him, because Brand’s autobiography, My Booky Wook, isn’t just good: it’s mesmerisingly awesome. Through three hundred-odd pages of debauchery and hedonism, we explore what it is to be a television presenter, drug/alcohol/sex addict and a sufferer of bipolar all rolled into one extremely interesting person.
Admittedly many a celebrity releases an autobiography, and many of these are useful only as toilet paper. This is because the purpose of these books is contrived; the celebrity feels that they have either reached their pinnacle as a performer, at which point a hastily organised, mostly ghost-written tome is released, or alternatively that they are in the twilight of their career, and just want someone, anyone, to listen to their story. One of the reasons My Booky Wook succeeds is that Brand has no right in releasing it. A star on a meteoric rise, he had nothing to gain from penning an autobiography other than to entertain. And that’s exactly why he chose to write it. The book details in unbelievable honesty his exploits, sexual conquests, and breaking of societal taboos, yet even when discussing morbidly depressing details such as his sexual abuse as a child, does it in a perversely entertaining way that you can’t help but be engrossed.
Actually, Brand’s unique view of the world is another reason why this should be on your must-read list. He often (and I mean often!) irascibly seems to plunge sharp implements into his arms, yet doesn’t think this is out of the ordinary. In fact, he almost seems bemused in one scene, as his then-girlfriend screams whilst his streams of blood “coagulated on her bedsheets”. It’s as if he sees the world in a completely different light to anyone else; it is his stage, his theatre. Indeed, when he is asked to write his life story as part of a drug rehabilitation scheme, a friend claims that rather than sounding morose and downtrodden (as you would expect of a recovering junkie), it is unusually rather self-aggrandising. Brand doesn’t see a problem with this, and who would have expected him to; after all, to paraphrase the man himself, a moment spent in humility is a moment wasted.
The other striking aspect about My Booky Wook is Brand’s language. Though at times old-fashioned in his diction, Brand possesses a vocabulary and mastery of English that would do a journalist proud, let alone someone who never finished their formal education. In fact, of the multitude of high school dropouts that have permeated the arts, I would say that only Cedric Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta has a more extensive lexis. And no, I’m not being biased just because The Mars Volta are the greatest band alive. And yes, I will definitely be writing about them in the future.
But back to Brand. Before reading this book, I wasn’t even a fan of him. I found his stand-up comedy to be a bit grating and camp for my liking, and doubted whether his humour actually had an element of satire in it, or whether it was merely an amalgam of impersonations and funny voices. I’d only seen one episode of RE:Brand, and that one involved his participation in…an act of debasement usually participated in solitarily; one that is known to cause hairs to sprout forth from the palms of your hand. But since then, I have a renewed interest in him and his work, and would definitely recommend this book to you.
Final rating: 7 bananas.