Friday, February 07, 2020
The Film Club #10

The Film Club #10

I started this little series way back in 2016 as a place to share my love for films. It's been a while since my last so here are 6 films I have LOVED lately!

Uncut Gems (2019) 
by Josh & Benny Safdie

While this movie is still fresh in my mind, I feel compelled to talk about it, and tell everyone to watch it, (so I can talk about it with them too!). Adam Sandler was in his 50's before he finally got this perfect role offered to him and I guess you can say on this occasion that good does come to those who wait (a frigging long time!). Uncut Gems is the ultimate thriller-crime heist movie and is an adrenaline rush from start to finish. From the first moment of this film, it's like a time bomb is set, inevitably ticking towards a catastrophic ending. Sandler plays Howard Ratner, who runs a jewelry store in NYC's 'Diamond District' which I didn't know anything about until the film so it was a huge eye-opener for me, and I was completely gripped by the story. Sandler gives his all whilst playing one of the many ruthless, crazy, strung-out, addicted, mad-men who roam the Diamond District, and though he is a lying, cheating criminal, you can't help but sympathize with Howard and hope he'll make it out alive. You'll be literally on the edge of your seat as you watch him try to untangle himself from extremely sticky situations, one after the other, and as his career, family life, relationships and life hang by a very fine thread.

Marriage Story (2019)
by Noah Baumbach

Moving onto a completely different genre now, with Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach, the man behind Frances Ha and Mistress America. I've watched this twice now and don't get tired of it - the performances make the movie. It's a heartfelt and revealing look at the process of a couple going through a divorce with a child caught in the middle. The performances by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson never felt fake or exaggerated and to me felt like watching the real thing. It is filmed in such a way that you see well from both sides of the marriage breakdown and never root for one more than the other, sharing the different perspectives of going through such an experience. You see the way a couple who once loved one another, or still do, can be turned against each other in the brutal process of divorce by their lawyers (though I loved Laura Dern!) and just how damn complicated it is. I also loved the way set design was used in this film too and how Baumbach decided to use a different aspect ratio (1.66) therefore creating a more intimate portraiture of the family and focusing on the characters more than anything else.

The Intern (2015)
by Nancy Meyers

Rewinding back a few years for this one with The Intern which came out in 2015 but is available now on Netflix. Not your usual Robert De Niro movie and it probably won't become a cult movie classic or anything but it's a perfect pick-me-up, slightly cheesy and fun movie. De Niro plays Ben who is a 70-year-old widower, who is not quite ready to retire just yet and feels he still has something to give. He conveniently notices a poster by a young fashion company looking for senior interns and jumps at the chance. Jules, the CEO, is initially skeptical but a close friendship soon blossoms between the two as Ben proves himself to be sort of the missing piece in the puzzle in Jules life. There are lots of nice pockets of wisdom and life lessons throughout and is a proper feel-good movie!

Joker (2019)
by Todd Phillips

In complete contrast to The Intern, Joker is far from a feel-good movie, but I still loved it. It's been sweeping up awards and nominations just about everywhere so I doubt this mention is necessary. Then again if you are one of the 5 people who haven't heard about this Todd Phillips adaptation of the classic, Joker, then maybe this mini-review may, or may not, convince you to see it. Joaquin plays Arthur, a severely mentally ill and lonely man who is a failed comedian and works as a clown as his day job. After constant bullying, isolation, and rejection, he basically says f*ck it and all hell breaks loose in Gotham City as he transforms into the famous criminal Joker. I'll be honest, the movie was dark, grim and painful to watch, and I struggle to find a positive word to describe it. Of course, I loved it, so it's not a bad movie, by all means, it's just not for the faint-hearted, or if you're wanting to watch something fun or uplifting, then probably pick a different movie!

Deliverance (1972)
by John Boorman

Going a lot further back into the archive of movies, I finally watched Deliverance from 1972, which I'd been recommended for a long time. I had no idea what to expect really and seem to enjoy seeing movies this way more. A group of friends set off on what was supposed to be a fun weekend away of camping and canoeing then everything that can go wrong, goes wrong, as Murphy's law would have it. I felt like it reminded me a bit of The Hangover, a similarly optimistic group of guys who leave for a weekend trip away which very quickly escalates into a bit of a nightmare. Deliverance doesn't quite deliver (oops, pun unintended) on the comedy side of things like Hangover does, as the tone of the movie just feels a bit 'off' from the get-go (dueling banjos anyone?). All the performances are excellent, and you really do feel the same sense of panic of the characters as they find themselves in a grave situation. Some make it home in one piece, albeit permanently traumatized from a weekend they'd rather forget.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
by Kelly Fremon Craig

Ending on a happier-ish note with one of my favourite teen, coming-of-age comedies to date. I watched this for the second time recently and just love it. Hailee Steinfield (love!) plays Nadine, the awkward, goofy and hilarious high school student who's already quite 'upside down' life is turned further upside down when her older brother begins dating her best, and only, friend. She reacts in the most extreme way causing destruction wherever she goes, in her relationships, her family life and with her teacher, played by Woody Harrelson. What sets this movie apart from other coming-of-age movies with similar clichés is that the arc in Nadine's character is not necessarily about running away from everything and starting over, but accepting the life she has and the people in it, as awkward, confused and complex as she is, and realizing that actually, everything isn't as terrible as she makes it out to be. 

What films have you been loving lately?

Stay tuned for the next!
Saturday, January 18, 2020
Little Women, Big Dreams

Little Women, Big Dreams

*contains some spoilers*

In this 2019 adaptation of Little Women, based on the 19th century novel by Louisa May Alcott, Greta Gerwig - actress-turned-director/screenwriter - explores the themes of women, money, ambition and art; a story which feels just as relevant today as it did all those years ago.

During the opening scene, as the ambitious Jo, played by the delightful (and now Oscar-nominated) Saoirse Ronan, runs excitedly through the streets of New York after selling a story to the local newspaper, it reminds you of Gerwig herself when she played a similar role as a young, aspiring dancer in the 2012 film Frances Ha. However, this time Gerwig is no longer the young women chasing her dreams, but living them out instead and proving herself as a filmmaker to be reckoned with. This is her latest work since her Oscar-winning and highly-acclaimed Ladybird, and she is now undoubtedly paving the way for women in the film-industry today.

From the interview with Edith Bowman for her Soundtracking podcast, Gerwig mentions a particular line in the book which resonated with her, that line being ‘the world is hard on ambitious girls’. In the film she successfully portrays the four sisters - Jo, Amy, Beth and Meg - as best friends and equally strong individuals in pursuit of their dreams in a tough world. The film’s timeline shows them playing and growing together, and striving for achievement, wealth or creative careers. As the young women mature, Gerwig successfully highlights each of the sisters’ different and individual paths whilst confronting life’s hard knocks along the way. Jo desires to be a successful writer; Amy (played by Oscar-nominated Florence Pugh) a painter in Paris; Beth (Eliza Scanlen), quiet but present, is a talented pianist but suffering from illness and Meg (Emma Watson), desires a wealthier lifestyle, a husband and a family. 

Though their visions on life differ and sometimes conflict, the bond of sisterhood and family never loosens the deep-rooted ties these girls have - whether through betrayal or loss. All girls are equally as expressive and creative, sometimes putting on small plays for children, helping around the house as they live at home with their mother, played by Laura Dern, who keeps things together despite the long absence of their father. They always find ways to keep themselves entertained and despite their own poverty, give to others with even less than themselves. What Gerwig portays so well is four young girls, and sisters, who have been raised well but have simultaneously carved out their own strong characters and direction in life. Equally she shows the obstacles often faced by young women who want a career of their own, but don't want to be lonely, who want wealth but don't know how to get it from a position of poverty or without a man's help, who don't want to get married even when society says you should and who, as Amy once puts it 'wants to be great or nothing at all'. 
The everyday lives of the girls and their motives are slightly shaken with the encounter of their charming and handsome neighbour Laurie, played by Timothée Chalamet, who peaks the interest of a few of the girls, a bit like the arrival of the wounded soldier in Sofia Coppola's, The Beguiled. He provides a new amusement and discovery for the girls who are yet to have their first experience in love. At one point, Beth even admits to 'being afraid of boys'. Sparks fly and jealousy then leads to betrayal, and in one scene Amy heartbreakingly burn's Jo's story out of jealousy. Though love interests cause friction between the girls, the sisterhood remains more important than anything. Jo who is essentially the leader of the pack, doesn't want to let any man stop her from following her dreams, even if that man loves her, or even when another man doesn't approve of her writing. Though careers, dreams and love gets in the way, family definitely comes first, and everything else second.
Gerwig succeeds in directing and telling a beautiful story about strong, determined little women with big dreams, fuelled with happy and uplifting moments and with heartbreaking scenes too, mostly all of them which you will probably cry at. The performances are excellent and feel effortless and it is a movie that I will jump at the chance to see again and I highly recommend you go and see too, to support women film directors. I'm pretty disappointed that Gerwig received no director nominations, as I believe this is her best work yet and I'm so excited for her to create more films in the future. 
Disclaimer: I read no other reviews of this film before writing this and have never seen the other adaptations or read the original book (but I intend to asap!), so all words are my own - except quotes. The only research done was of course seeing the film and listening to the Gerwig/Bowman podcast on Soundtracking (listen here). Oh and big shout out to my mum the sub editor, lol.
Thursday, January 09, 2020
When I'm Thirty-Four

When I'm Thirty-Four

Right, first of all, can I just say that, typing out the title to this blog post gave me the heebies. In the next decade i'll be thirty-four, holy schmokes. Anyway, if you got The Beatles reference-ish, well done. I was going to do my usual new year's resolutions, which I have to an extent, in my own diary. However, I'll admit I felt a bit of pressure. Online I saw waves of other people's successes and achievements of the last year alone and felt like mine didn't quite measure up. Comparison is bad for you folks, don't do it! To take the load off, i've decided to imagine and plan out how i'd like to see myself in the next decade, when i'm, *gulp* thirty-four. 

One year is a long time, but ten years is definitely a lot longer, and it feels a lot more manageable to tick some big things off my list over that span of time than just in one year. Sometimes it takes a year to plan, another year to kick things into gear, and several years down the line to actually see results from all that hard work. Megababe and popstar, Lizzo made a post on social media and it certainly made me realise this. Nothing is overnight success. It's years of hard work, talent, perseverance, luck, opportunity, timing and many other factors that come into play. 

I've broken my resolutions down into a mind map, (I used to love doing these when I was a  pre-teen/teen nerd). Mindmaps are great as you can look at them at a glance and find what you want easily then focus on one at a time. I highly recommend you do the same, if you plan to make resolutions, to help branch it off into categories...hey, well if you like to be organised like me it might just suit you. (I made this one on Canva)

(Click to enlarge)

P e r s o n a l

- Love myself and others more: I want to judge less, and stop wanting to change so much about myself (oh the irony) and just love myself more, treat myself with more respect and kindness. If I spoke to others how I spoke to myself, I'd be offending a lot of people. I just want to radiate LOVE more and spread it wherever I go.

- Travel more: Self explanatory but I want to travel whenever I can, when time and money allows. There's still so much of the world I want to see so I'd like to keep ticking off new countries and cities. I can get bored with my surroundings so I like a change of scenery from time to time.

- Listen better and be more organised: Though I have the best intentions at heart, sometimes my scatterbrain fails me and I'm not fully present, fretting about the future or dwelling on the past, and thus not being organised or listening to those around me. I want to improve on this and be more efficient and organised.

- Find a new exercise: I'd like to try a a new exercise and stick. with. it. I know what sports I don't like, so it will be great to find one that I enjoy and doesn't feel like too much hard work and more like fun. Maybe a dance class? Or yoga which i've tried before. Stay tuned.

- Have my own home: If you read my last post here, then you'll know i've been wanting my own home for a wee while, to eventually not rent would be great, but even for the time being just somewhere that is mine, and not renting in someone else's home. To decorate, cook in my own kitchen, have a little office/studio and maybe even a little library or wardrobe would be the dream.

- Practice gratitude every week: This is something I already do, and have been doing so since last year. I find it more doable than every day as I can always find time at least once a week to go over the past weeks events and what i'm grateful for. It sums everything up in my head and makes me realise just how many things I have to be grateful for. After my reflection, I think of what i'm grateful in the week to come. I don't write it down but go over it in my head, whether i'm on the bus to work, or before I go to bed.

- Cook vegan more often: For Christmas, I got Fearne Cotton's new Happy Vegan book and the recipes look amazing! With more and more people going vegan and wanting to better the planet, i'd like to get involved too.

- Improve make up/hair skills: I used to be very good at make up, and wanted a career in make up (fun fact) who knows, maybe one day I will again. First i'd like to get better at it, and more enthusiastic like I used to be. With early mornings at work, I do it as quick as possible but i'd like to regain some core skills and perfect it a bit. And my hair, cause I never know what the heck to do with it. Considering I watch Youtube videos a lot on make up, I can pick up a thing or two from them. Recently watching Glow Up on Netflix reignited this desire in me.

- Get my drivers license: Self explanatory again, I just want to get this done and out of the way, when I have enough money. Hey Lady Gaga didn't get her's till her 30's either. I'm being good to the planet by using public transport and walking more for now...

- Play an instrument again: I used to get drum lessons in my teens and again at uni for a while. I'd maybe like to pick it up again.

S o c i a l

- Fall in love: Cheesy but I don't care! My past relationships have been both fun and some not-so-great relationships but those are over and done, and now I feel deserving of long-lasting love and ready to fall in love with another person too.

- Spend time with loved ones, nourish those relationships: Something I do already, but I want to make the most of the relationships I already have whether that's amongst my family or friendships and nourish them by putting the time and effort in. 

- More outings (concerts, events, festivals, etc.): Self explanatory again but simply make more effort to see bands as I love doing so, attend unusual/spontaneous events and go to more festivals...starting this year by ticking Glastonbury off the list!!!

- Make healthy new relationships: As it says, I want any new relationships to be healthy ie. that they bring me happiness, creativity, inspiration, love.

- Interact with people who have similar desires in life to myself: Sort of ties in with the above. I feel like this has already started with my new job, that i'm around like-minded people, and the more this happens the better. It's good to be surrounded by people with similar passions and a similar direction in life so you can bond, share, help one another and always have/give encouragement and support along the way.

- Be good to the environment: Something that should be on ALL of our resolution lists. Help the environment in any way you can. Protest like Thunberg, reduce meat, ride a bike, plant a tree, use reusable coffee cups, anything. I want to do this when I can. But also not feel guilty when I don't sometimes.

P r o f e s s i o n a l

- Evolve into a career in cinema: Cinema is my love, cinema is my passion. I eventually want my career to go in this direction, despite the odds, the difficulties, I want a career in cinema. What exactly, I'm not sure yet.

- Write and make a short film: I've been slowly researching and learning as much as I can about writing screenplays before I dive in and do my own but I eventually would like to. I have many story ideas popping into my head and I hope to put pen-to-paper one day and make it happen.

- Blog daily or at least weekly: Well here I am doing just that! I've had this blog for pretty much a decade and I don't want to stop doing it for nothing. I love writing, I love expressing and I love creating. I want this to be my space, whether people read it or not and share on a daily basis if I can or at least weekly.

- Get back into acting classes: I did a 10-week beginners acting class back in Liverpool, and performed a quick dialogue in front of a small audience. I never mentioned it on here but I'm pretty proud (and embarrassed) about it. The fact I remembered the lines was an achievement. I'd like to do more acting again, it helped a lot with my confidence and was just fun!

- Master another language: Now that i've mastered English (well thank god for that, I was born with it...) and French! I'd like to sharpen my Spanish where I have some skills already and get better at it, and maybe call myself trilingual instead of bilingual one day.

- Customise clothes: I used to do this when I was young, but in my future home, i'd love a sewing machine and want to get creative with up-cycling clothes and going out in clothes that I've customised and created, instead of things made my other high street brands. How cool it would be to say, I made it, when someone compliments your outfit!

- Write for magazines/websites: As I evolve with my blog, i'd like to write for a few online publications and get some writing bits published here and there. I think I have a talent for writing (at least I have a talent somewhere!) and share it on different platforms I admire.

- Do a small photo exhibition: Just a lil idea, I noticed nearby there's a cafe who does little photo exhibitions, and i'm enjoying getting into film photography again, and sort of have an eye for it, so i'd like to maybe get some pictures on a wall for others to see. Overall, I want to create, create, create - less passivity and more active creation!


And, phew, that's kind of it, I think. I want to stay me, continue reading lots, watching lots and discovering lots, with a few exciting challenges in between! Hey maybe these are more like lifetime goals, who the flip knows where life will go eh! At the beginning of last year, I thought my life had no chance of improving and no way did I think i'd be working at a radio station many months later. Life has a funny way of surprising you so just go with the flow and see where it leads you. Have some plans, definitely, that's good, but don't expect everything to go in a straight direction, you might be taken on diversions, detours, roundabouts...anyway you get me, I hope?! 

Good luck for your next decade, may it bring you happiness and love and strength to carry on.
Thursday, January 02, 2020
A Door Of One's Own

A Door Of One's Own

"To have a door that I could shut was still the height of bliss for me."

For my first book of 2020, I'm currently reading Simone de Beauvoir's The Prime of Life (La Force de l'âge) the second volume of her autobiography. I loved the first volume and the many pockets of wisdom she shares about her upbringing then student-to-adult life in Paris. She is witty and has a great sense of humour and as my first time reading anything by her, i'm already a big fan. There are many lines from her books that resonate with me and this one in particular stood out for me today. I've been thinking a lot about how much I'd love a home of my own. 

Throughout my life I've often shared homes, sometimes even a bunk-bed with my big sister when I was a child then much later sharing halls as a student and then a shared apartment as a young adult. I remember in my second home in Scotland my parents renovated the small room into a bedroom for me, finally a room of my own! Funnily enough, I didn't have a door on it for a short while, instead it was a pink beaded curtain until a door was put in place.

De Beauvoir talks about freedom and how intoxicating it was to possess it when she returned to live in Paris in 1929 and how she'd longed for this feeling as a young girl, dreaming about being a grown-up. When I moved back in with my parents after a year of job-hunting post-university, I felt I lost that sense of freedom, or independence that I guess I kind of took for granted. I didn't realise how crucial it was to my life. The ability to come and go as I pleased, bring friends round whenever I liked and do everything on my own timetable. However at the time it felt right, to have the comfort and support of a real 'home' and not rented accommodation. It was what I needed in that moment. Reading this line from the book provided a little reassurance and instilled some patience about having my own home one day. De Beauvoir rented off of her gran in Paris, wasn't hugely wealthy, but for her, freedom was the most valuable thing. She was utterly content with a small room, which was her little haven in a crazy metropolis, a place to briefly shut the outside world out and be herself.

I think it's been playing on my mind lately as i'm at an age where some of my friends, or old friends, are getting their own homes, getting engaged and even having babies! And the other half are working out life, living at home and/or renting. I'm currently renting a room in someone else's home while I work, and the house is gorgeous, spacious and homely so i'm lucky. However, I'm longing for that 'i'm home, in my own home' feeling. I got a small taste of having my own flat for a few months last year, and I suppose I miss it a bit! It had it's pros and cons. Though it could be a tad lonely, I loved the freedom, I loved that everything was mine, and I could wander around in my pyjamas or do the famous dash from bathroom/bedroom (lol), and invite friends to 'my' space. 

As Simone de Beauvoir says in her book, after reading a story in Mon Journal about an English schoolgirl, she says "Here, within these gaily painted walls, she read and worked and drank tea, with no one watching her -- how envious I felt!". I guess you could call it privilege, to have your own home to do that, not everyone has that. Though I may not have a home of my own yet, I try to make anywhere I go, rent or wherever I lay my head feel more like 'home'. And as long as I have a door to shut (or a pink beaded curtain to parade through!), then I can feel the feeling briefly of having my own home, and that's good enough for now.