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10 Living Proof Life Lessons from The Sparks Brothers

The Sparks Brothers is a music documentary about Russell and Ron Mael, whose rock band ambitions have kept them in the music business with 25 studio albums, 300 tracks and 50 years. It's a remarkable accomplishment, which has lead them from high profile live TV performances to the dizzying stunt of performing all 25 of their albums live over just as many days. Having seen them perform in Top of the Pops in 1979 at the age of 5, director Edgar Wright has been a lifelong fan and is perfectly poised to drive this documentary chronicle of the Sparks story.

The documentary features photos, concert footage, TV archival content and interviews with the likes of Beck, Mike Myers and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Having black and white interviews with playful titles for the interviewees, The Sparks Brothers tries to capture the essence of the band in the tone of the documentary. A playful seriousness and cult notoriety has kept the duo enigmatic, elusive and niche to the point of obscure in-the-know fame. Referenced in a Paul McCartney music video and influencing a great many performance artists including filmmakers, comedians and musicians, their efforts have been noted but their dues are now only being paid now 50 years into the game.

The Sparks Brothers should be an inspiration to all artists in whichever art form. Their lessons may seem like platitudes in the grand scheme of things but are testament to the enduring spirit of The Sparks Brothers. Here are several things we can learn from the long-running duo.

1. "Stay True to Yourself"

The Sparks Brothers have never compromised on their music, been afraid of the public eye or given up creative control. Their music has always been niche, struggling to find an audience in the United States they moved across the pond to the United Kingdom. Possibly taking a note from Dadaism, their art carries a subversive yet playful sense of humour, a proponent of their trademark performance elements and stage personas. Having been associated with cinema in curating their sound, performance and mood, they're used to directing themselves and steering their own course. Attached to several films and big name directors over the years, they struggled to find the right synergy, timing and project - but their perseverance paid off. While the Beatles were a major influence and styles evolved over time across appearance and sound, Russell and Ron stuck to their trademark elements.

The Sparks Brothers documentary

2. "Keep Going..."

Many musicians start a band and expect to make it within a few years of touring and recording. Unfortunately, in most cases bands and recording artists don't make it overnight. Keeping a group of people together and on the same path is a miracle in itself. In many industries its the behind-the-scenes work that goes unnoticed until a perfect storm of timing, luck and diligence finally pay off. The Sparks Brothers serve as living proof that through the highs and lows you may never be "discovered" but hard work has a cumulative effect.

3. "Love What You Do"

The Sparks Brothers have amassed a modest degree of fame and fortune over the last 5 decades. While this may have been an ambition, it wasn't a driving force behind their music. Art for art's sake has made the duo timeless in their own way, bowing to trends in each age yet managing to hover above it all simultaneously. Making music that challenges the listener seems to have been a motivation, to stay at the cutting edge with lyrics and sound that pushed boundaries and comfort levels with album art that undermined and poked fun at the establishment. While they've endeavoured to not work a day in their lives, it's come from their undying passion for the art.

4. "Never Give Up"

If The Sparks Brothers were able to stick to their guns for 5 decades and keep the flame alive, there's no reason why we can't follow their good example. You can always try to justify your excuses with paper walls but when you think about it you will find a way for the things that truly matter. The music industry has been slow to change and favours certain formulas over others but Sparks proves there's a place for anyone who's dedicated to the craft and willing to stick it out.

5. "Family Matters"

Ron and Russell look similar to the point that you wonder if they are twins. Their personal styles make them distinct, iconic and difficult not to recognise - especially when together. Yet they're a few years apart with Ron being slightly older than Russell. As brothers they're bonded by blood, yet their symbiotic relationship has made them equally essential to the group's longevity. Jokingly undercutting one another as the true frontman of Sparks, their yes/no spirit means they're both equally important with Russell as the lead singer and Ron as pianist and lyricist.

6. "Patience Young Grasshopper"

Sparks may never have got off the ground if it wasn't for the legendary Todd Rundgren, whose influence was immense in their early days. He believed in the band and threw his weight behind promoting them, which led to a many opportunities. While you may never find a champion, Russell and Ron kept going even when their music wasn't deemed radio-friendly enough. They could have caved and accepted day job fates but kept pushing the dream in spite of suffering a number of failures along the way.

7. "Critics Are People Too"

They say no one ever built a statue to a critic and while Roger Ebert is one guy who may be entitled to be the exception, if you're serious about your craft, you've got to be able to take criticism. You don't have to listen or adjust to everyone's comments. It's about taking the good from the bad and seeing the process as constructive. Being a cult rock act, The Sparks Brothers have never felt the pressure to appease fans or critics. Carving their own path, they've been an inspiration to other bands who often face arrested development in the face of fan pressure to stick to a certain era or become a traveling greatest hits jukebox.

Sparks Brothers Wedding

8. "Don't Be Afraid of Change"

The Sparks Brothers have managed to stick around for decades. The brothers may have aged but they've managed to stay relevant. Adjusting their sound based on the technology of the time, remaining experimental and cutting edge in their adoption of elements and open to the possibility of venturing into other art forms they've been adaptive and flexible to their environment, reflecting without necessarily adopting. Their fearless attitude comes with the willingness to accept certain sacrifices but their dedication to their art has propelled their rollercoaster ride in the good and bad times.

9. "Be Content In Every Moment"

When you fail and get up again, you can become invincible to the weight of expectations you've put upon yourself. Knowing you'll be fine, land on your feet and keep going means you can progress without hesitation and restriction. The Sparks Brothers seem to love what they do so much they'd do it for free. Untethering themselves from the grip of fame, fortune and the rat race means they can operate on their own terms, free from the trappings and vices of society. The Mael brothers embody this experimental verve where there's always a safety net, content with their wild life experiences and their lot whether they win or lose.

10. "Pursue and Enjoy Your Freedom"

The Sparks Brothers wrote a song called Everybody's Stupid. Ron's look has been compared with Charlie Chaplin and Hitler. They've never been tied down by what people think. They've stuck within the music recording and touring business by releasing albums, a natural outpouring of any music artist who's able to continue doing so and an established way of making a living off the music. As much as they've bowed to this convention, their journeys have been experimental and orientated around freedom of expression. From posing as a married couple, presenting a kidnapping situation as an album cover concept, doing a seemingly impossible 25 album performance and spawning lyrics that poke fun at the establishment - they've remained edgy in their satirical commentary, art and pursuit of freedom.

Four of the Best Movies of 2021

2021 was the year that cinema came back as people packed movie theatres all over again. However, there was still the threat of COVID-19, which prompted many movies to be concurrently released across streaming platforms. While many blockbuster release dates were pushed back with some still in waiting, the industry is underway again, boosted by the return of top-tier films.

As things opened up again, the film industry experienced a welcome renaissance in 2021 because of a chaotic 2020. Being reluctant to release following some of the poor box office returns of films playing during lockdown conditions, things have gradually improved. Being a return to form with a year filled with many amazing movies, here are several highlights with some of the best films 2021 had to offer.

Cinema 2021

King Richard

Behind the sports that you love to watch and bet on with King Kaka and Sportsbet.io, there's always a good story. King Richard is about Richard Williams and his family that includes tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. This is a biographical sports drama that follows the life of the titular Richard, played by Will Smith, as he helped his two daughters reach the pinnacle of their tennis careers.

However, as the family portrait sports drama suggests - their journey was not easy because they also had to deal with many issues in their lives. A major issue they had to endure all their lives was their struggle against racial discrimination and inequality. This was an insightful study into race, class, sports, and celebrity status and the film delivered on all fronts.

The Power of the Dog

As a film that thrives on subtext with subtle story beats, The Power of the Dog is a powerful undertaking filled with fantastic performances and beautiful technical work. This beautiful film is directed by Jane Campion, who showcases stories from the early 1900s that still have raw emotional power and value in the modern world.

This is not your typical ‘cowboy’ movie because it deals with many timely and important themes. The Power of the Dog was released on Netflix, which like Roma gave more people an opportunity to see true cinema, the work of an established auteur and stunning production values. Leading the awards tally this year, The Power of the Dog deserves all of its accolades because it performs on all levels.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

It's difficult to build a comprehensive universe for a movie franchise, something that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done in spades. Following in the wake of Into the Spider-verse, this Tom Holland starring sequel had a few tricks up its sleeve... and not just webbing. Based on its retrospective casting, No Way Home proves once again that nostalgia is a powerful tool. The latest Spider-Man series reboot has prided itself on full entertainment value and Spider-Man: No Way Home delivers - one of the best superhero movie experiences to date, which many believe was unlucky not to get nominated for Best Picture.

Spider-Man is one of the most famous comic book characters in the world, appealing to old fans and creating new ones too. Being one of the highest-grossing films ever and bringing audiences back to cinemas in their droves, just proves that Spider-Man is here to stay. The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow and it looks like Spider-Man will be the main focal point, reflecting his pivotal role in the comics.


CODA stands for 'Child of Deaf Adults' and is the title of this important film that offers a sensitive reflection on disabilities and the people who deal with them. The drama journeys with 17-year-old Ruby, the only hearing member of a family from Massachusetts, who works to keep the family's fishing business afloat while navigating her teens.

Director Sian Heder tackles and showcases this difficult topic in a heartfelt film based on the French film La Famille Bélier. CODA released on Apple TV+ where it's currently available for streaming. While many didn't get a chance to see CODA, it's Best Picture selection and strong word-of-mouth should give this dark horse more coverage.

These are just some of the fantastic movies that 2021 had to offer. If you’re looking for more top-tier films, you should check out 2021’s catalogue because it is filled with fantastic movies from January to December. You can watch them while you’re on a break from playing games with King Kaka and Sportsbet.io casino.

The Power of the Demigod

Today's world makes it possible to own not just one TV screen but several devices each with their own screen and multiple viewing options. You can watch films at the cinema, on your flat screen, on your computer, on your tablet, on your cellphone or just about anywhere that has a display. There are so many different ways to watch a movie these days that it seems you're plugged into entertainment wherever you are. Streaming services make it easy to download content so you're just a click away from playing your favourite series, film or a latest release like The Power of the Dog.

While it's wonderful to think that you can press play in a queue, on a commuter train or in the park under a tree, the power has been handed to the viewer. Sure, streaming services may act like they hold all the cards with most people using their subscription plan as the yardstick when it comes to good value and all other entertainment pricing, but the truth is... the viewer is now in command. Consumers have more choice than ever, use their viewing histories to dictate the kind of entertainment that sells... just look at the proliferation of superhero blockbusters and as an end user, the companies can't wait to use your stats to do your bidding.

Power of the Demigod

While it's an exciting time for entertainment, it's also a bit scary when you consider that mainstream is navel-gazing so hard that it may actually consume itself. Straight-to-video is still a thing with Netflix delivering a stream of 5.8/10 movies, possibly a better average than your video store did but perhaps in all the check box ticking something may be getting lost. Entertainment should find a balance between artistic merit and pandering to audiences, otherwise it's going to become bland to oblivion much like the thing known as Red Notice. It'd be a much better world with more Dune and less Red Notice, allowing the souls of creators to rest easy at night and allowing them to create rather than serve up mindless tripe for the masses.

Decades ago, there were only a few screens at your disposal, you had to watch what was served up and it wasn't on demand. It's strange for the youth to consider a time when they had to eat what was put in front of them whether on the TV screen or a plate. Nowadays, we've got media flying at us from every corner of the Internet and with the wealth of various viewing options on electronic devices from mobile phones to smart TVs, there's a bottomless pit that singlehandedly lumps every single bit of entertainment in your field of vision as if it was released yesterday.

The biggest problem nowadays isn't finding the entertainment by visiting the local cinema, video store or paging through the TV guide, it's actually sifting through the glut. Netflix is notorious for only showing what they want you to see. It's a pain trying to mine their database of film and series, conjuring up a different kind of problem unless you've got the film or series title on standby. JustWatch is a great option for condensing all streaming service content into a much easier-to-navigate format, something that makes so much sense right now, dealing with a here-and-now champagne problem.

Perhaps this also explains the dwindling numbers for the Academy Awards. While we do our best to get out and see the latest films, most are flocking to the kinds of movies that opt for spectacle over substance. These aren't traditionally Oscar-winning films and while they tend to sneak into the technical categories, they're visually-intensive rather than tending towards the nuanced drama the Oscars have usually gravitated towards.

The awards ceremony has gone through a number of changes, trying to accommodate and shift in accordance with criticism. It's pandering to the masses, trying to roll with the times and become flexible enough to adapt to changing attitudes and appetites. A dinosaur trying to get measured for a dinner suit, these attempts at self-correction are appreciated as a gesture but seem to be further diluting the awards show's relevance altogether. In trying to please so many people, adjust its format to be more palatable, update outmoded traditions and appeal to modern audiences... it's losing its soul in the process and the changes seem to actually be doing more harm than good.

With everyone pulling the awards show in different directions, it seems as though it may end up doing everything and pleasing no one. It's a sad state of affairs for an illustrious gold standard awards show, which is still regarded by industry professionals as the stuff of dreams, a real seal of approval... of one's film talent. Now that the Golden Globes has self-imploded with many awardees returning or threatening to destroy their awards, it seems as though the coveted Oscars may eventually be the only horse in the international film awards race. Awards are problematic and usually political in any industry. Shining a spotlight around at the hypocrisies may be helping with a fresh start and some overdue self-reflection but turning everything into a witch hunt has the power to create an environment of perpetual suspicion where no one is safe and progress is stunted.

Gathering presenters again, pre-recording some major award categories, creating a too-little-too-late nod to the snubs... the Academy Awards are getting a great deal of press but mostly for the wrong reasons. Will there ever be a perfect awards show? No. Are industry awards shows meant to do it for everyone? No. While the clean up and promises of change are a good thing, the change management seems to be all over the place. It seems silly for the rest of the world to be hinging the success of their films on the lone Best International Feature, something smashed by Parasite. One wonders if the Los Angeles awards show will ever be good enough when it celebrates everything that is Hollywood in a world where illusions are crashing down in favour of authenticity.

Batman vs. James Bond

The Batman has just released starring Robert Pattinson, an actor who seems to be winning more and more respect in Hollywood. This starring role follows on from Ben Affleck in a film from Matt Reeves that has been touted as the best iteration of the self-made superhero since The Dark Knight. This is high praise when you consider just how many Batman films have graced the silver screen and how The Dark Knight is widely regarded as sacred - the best superhero film of all-time.

Batman or Bruce Wayne is often compared to James Bond, based on the cutting edge gadgetry, special skills, seemingly limitless resources, playboy lifestyle and tendency to work alone. While there are obvious similarities, this helps explain the superficial appeal of the character, loosely modelled on aspects revolving around what society deems to be the ultimate expression of masculinity. James Bond has been this figurehead since the secret agent man revolution of the '60s, as inspiring or harmful as it may be. The Batman has also evolved over time also taking on a grittier and more realistic edge.

Batman vs James Bond

James Bond, however, isn't quite as flamboyant when it comes to wardrobe (he doesn't have a Bat Cave) and has only started to become more of a rogue in recent times. While you can imagine Daniel Craig playing Bruce Wayne, it's a little bit more difficult to think of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan taking on the part. Maybe this is why George Clooney struggled so much.

This speaks to Batman's slugger attitude, preference to stick to the shadows and his tendency to "take out the trash" without looking for recognition. The Batman has a much darker, dangerous and sinister edge than the smarmy, ultra-confidence and sly instinct of Bond. While the charm and sophistication of James Bond are traits that gentlemen seem to aspire to, there's more of a primal rage and unpredictability to Batman.

While Bond seems to have the gift of the gab, Batman is more economic with his dialogue. The MI6 agent uses language to weave a web of doubt in the minds of villains and henchmen, able to shift into the theatrics of seduction quite effortlessly. Similar to his Batman alter-ego, Bruce Wayne also uses words sparingly, owing to the importance he places on privacy and protecting his true identity. Christian Bale made "the voice" of The Dark Knight, adapting to the Nolan's vision for the character as more of an embattled brute. As with some iconic cinematic moments that reach boldly, the voice has been lampooned by Will Arnett in Lego Batman's many appearances.

Batman has a range of genre perspectives, treated like a crime epic in the world of Christopher Nolan or more theatrical, verging on pantomime in Tim Burton's Batman. The same can be said for 007, whose balance of action and comedy have been quite adventurous over the decades. Daniel Craig, much like Christian Bale, ushered in a much more serious reflection of a beloved character. While deconstructing the well-known persona and type, the modern versions have taken on a much grittier edge from Batman Begins and Casino Royale.

Fantasy played a much greater role in the earlier versions, which could speak to the lack of overall confidence in the visual effects at the time, acknowledging the sometimes campy spin-off of these effects. Delivering cheesy one-liners, there was also a more playful tongue-in-cheek aspect that played up the spectacular comic book fun rather than trying to ground the stories in a hard reality.

Nowadays, it's about trying to serve the demands of both fantasy and drama. There are many people who do not appreciate the fantasy to the point of not even attempting to immerse themselves into films like Peter Jackson's monumental The Lord of the Rings. This sort of make-believe entertainment is too difficult to grasp or appreciate, which makes the prospect of grounding the fantastic in a much more relatable world much easier to savour for them.

Perhaps it's the notion that Bruce Wayne's dark and tormented past has created a vent to avenge injustice and turn bad into good that keeps his character more compelling as he walks that tightrope between good and bad. Bond operates according to his government's wishes, responsible to M and Bruce Wayne seems to have much more free reign. Essentially only responsible to himself, it seems ironic that a self-made billionaire could still be imprisoned by his own struggle to make peace with the past. These timeless themes around justice and forgiveness make the Batman's tortured existence and compulsion to keep thwarting the bad guys deeply satisfying as we too attempt to make peace with our pasts.

Whether you identify more with James Bond or Batman, both characters are ultimately heroes whose incorruptible strength of character, mission focus and physicality shines through.

The Dark Side of TV Series - Now and Then

The darkness. The darkness. Having grown up with the likes of Magnum P.I., MacGyver, The A-Team, Airwolf, Who's the Boss? and The Golden Girls, a person's view of everything is probably skewed. For instance, you may think entertainment has grown much darker, edgier and geared towards the young who apparently wield a considerable amount of buying power and leverage. Watching these shows now, however much innuendo you missed with The Golden Girls... it's easy to see innocence lost.

Go Edgy or Broke

The family-friendly action-adventure and comedy peril of the aforementioned '80s series is no longer a marker for entertainment. Streaming services have become the go-to for people nowadays, which has broadened the overall offering with a seemingly limitless amount of series to choose from. Part of delivering such a glut of shows is trying to distinguish one from another.

Keeping up ratings, maintaining an audience, grabbing a casual viewer's attention... it's difficult to keep up as a viewer and arguably even more so as a show runner in trying to create entertainment that hooks audiences and keeps them coming back for more.

In the '80s, you had a captive market who you had to appease but there were fewer choices, which typically meant you'd get enough of a buy-in from simply existing and being not half bad. Keeping things mainstream, it was amazing just how enjoyable these shows were without having to pander to the darkness. Nowadays the pressure to grab your viewer within 8 seconds, compel them, appease them and tease them into wanting more is paramount.

Biased Demographics

This ageism was easy to see when Boston Legal was cancelled, creating wonderfully nutty legal comedy drama that seemed to favour slightly older audiences. As much as Alan Shore and Denny Crane were one of the best on-screen pairings with David E. Kelley creating one great season after another... it ended with a 13 episode fifth season.

The show's social media identity was recently updated, after years, which could mean something's bubbling under. Since the show came at a time when red versus blue was so inflamed, spewing forth brilliant debates about the United States of the early 2000s, we could see a return. Fingers crossed!

Narrative Arcs

Show formats were quite formulaic, episodic and didn't rely on you having seen the episode before or after. These shows were often created like standalone condensed movies where you could pack everything into the space of 42 minutes with 18 minutes of advert breaks to help push the channel's advertisers. Don't miss that! There were loose narrative arcs that would spill over an entire season to aid storytelling but in most cases you had to simply like the basic set up and what often felt like a rinse and repeat.

TV Broadcast Timing

Not knowing who was specifically watching the glowing living room box during prime time, there were obviously certain prerequisites and guidelines around what could and couldn't be screened. Dallas and Twin Peaks were deemed to be adult shows, which had later time slots, making it easier to screen more mature content later in the night. This made it a good idea to get the kids to bed by 8pm. So the darker shows have been around but it just seems sad that it's become so difficult to captivate an audience with lighter entertainment.

The weekly episodic structure kept you coming back for more and there were some nights where it was just irresistible not to veg in front of the television. Recording VHS tapes, you got the ads from the age and had to try and avoid ruining the rewatch experience with too much fast-forwarding. It was next-level at the time, being able to replicate episodes at will.

Watching MacGyver use store bought products and utensils to build a bomb probably wasn't the best messaging for kids who already had a thing for firecrackers but his inventive no-guns expertise spoke volumes at the time. Watching some of these shows now, there's a vast divide in terms of innocence, echoing a time where heroes didn't need a fatal flaw and could just keep foiling evil again and again.

Pure Escapism

Now with the ability to binge watch a whole season in one sitting after its release, consumerism and instant gratification is at an all-time high. Shows need to have a kicker and it's just sad how much isn't deemed pure or suitable for family viewing. Positive messaging is nice but nice doesn't sell series.

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