A Film A Week: 01

Ask me about books, and I could go on for hours about which ones I love, which ones I hate, those I could read a thousand times over and those I would happily never see again. Same goes for music. Films, however, are a whole other story- I have no real reason for it but the list of movies I have actually seen is strangely minuscule for a teenager that loves all kind of art forms. After one particularly in-depth conversation with my stepdad, who is one of those people that can name the director, release date and whole cast of practically every film ever made, it was decided that I was in desperate need of a film education. Now it’s not like I have never seen a movie before; I’ve watched my fair share of Mean Girls and Harry Potter’s, but it was those cult classics that everyone and their mother seems to have seen that I’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing for the first eighteen years of my life. So, along with said film buff stepdad, a month ago I spent an arguably productive Sunday afternoon going through the IMDb ‘Top 100 Films’ list and creating a list of 52 films to watch (the idea was one a week for a year, in case you hadn’t guessed).

So without further ado, the next Sunday rolled around and we were ready on the sofa with ‘Pulp Fiction’ in the DVD player and a good old roast on our plates. I know a lot of people are going to be in disbelief that I haven’t seen what has to be one of the most famous and best-loved classics of the nineties, and in all honesty I have no idea how I’ve managed to get this far without watching it. I’m pretty sure this was also the first Tarantino that I’ve ever seen and I can definitely see why both he and this film have been so successful. Pulp Fiction is funny in an ironic way, manages to be violent without being classed as an action of any shape or form, confusing at times thanks to its disjointed storyline, but also clever and definitely worth a watch. Is it worth all the hype that surrounds it? My stepdad would certainly say not; I would be inclined to agree, but it’s definitely one of those films that everyone should see at some point- if only so you finally understand the multitude of references that seem to be made to it in everyday life.

One week on and the setting is pretty much the same, apart from this time on the screen is ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’, one of my stepdads favourite films that I have never really heard a lot about. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t exactly pumped to watch it for reasons that I can no longer remember, but it completely blew my expectations out of the water. Directed by the Coen brother and starring the likes of George Clooney, it’s set up to be a pretty great film and it certainly lives up to that. Witty and funny, it’s set in Great Depression-ridden Mississippi and has everything a good film needs, from a great soundtrack to cop chases. Apparently it’s based on the Odyssey and is full of references but I’ll be completely honest and admit that I didn’t realise this until (no surprise) my stepdad informed me… Nevertheless it’s a really great feel good film and I would heartily recommend if you want a chilled evening watching something that’s not too taxing on the brain!

The third and most recent installment of my movie education came in the shape of ‘Memento’, a film that I knew nothing about besides the title and the intriguing DVD cover. As we sat down to watch, my stepdad warned me that I would have to actually focus on what was happening to understand, which is always something that immediately instills fear in me- although he is plenty justified in warning me as I am horrendous at remembering who is who and what is happening in even the simplest of plotlines. ‘Memento’ is the story of a man whose wife is brutally murdered and decides to dedicate the rest of his life to finding her killer. The only minor problem is that thanks to the killer, he himself suffered an injury that left him with short-term memory loss- he can remember everything up until the accident clear as day, but anything since then only lasts a matter of minutes before disappearing from his brain.. bit of an issue when you’re trying to solve a murder case. I think my favourite thing about watching this was that it is shot completely from the protagonist’s perspective; we follow him, see what he sees, know no more than he knows and are deceived just as successfully as he is himself. If you’re looking for a movie whose concept is something new and refreshing that makes you think a bit more than your average rom-com or feel-good film, then this is your guy.

The plan is to put these mini reviews up about once a month as I slowly make my way through the list, although thanks to the almost-impossible task of finding a single night of the week when none of us are busy, sticking to a film a week might be a tad unrealistic. Either way, I hope you found entertainment in some form or other in this because I’ll be back shortly ready to impart even more of my superior knowledge as I delve deeper into the world of films. Three down, fourty-nine to go.

Advertisements

Paper Views: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I know that my blog has kind of been all over the place this summer thanks to a dangerous combination of my various trips and general laziness, but hopefully now that I’m back at sixth form for my last year of school (eek) I can get back in the swing of things, and the holiday has meant that I’ve plenty of books of which to impart my professional opinion on for you. The first of these, and one that I wasn’t exactly eagerly anticipating reading, was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, one of the classics that was suggested reading for my A2 Literature course. Now, I don’t know if I’m the only one that had these preconceptions, but I was expecting this to be one of those novels full of wishy-washy lovey-dovey characters without any real plot line that anyone of our time can relate to (yes, this is exactly what I thought about Pride and Prejudice). I have to say, a few pages in and I was pleasantly surprised- the protagonist and the book’s namesake is a women who is independent-minded right from childhood and finds her way in the world without the help of any man- something that is refreshing to see in a book of that era.

It’s not until at least halfway through the story that you start to see a romance forming, and it is certainly not one of nature typical of romance novels; Rochester is moody and brooding and actually kind of ugly- something which only serves to make the characters more humbling and relatable. Described as something of a gothic novel, Jane Eyre definitely has more depth to it than the perhaps more commonly read Pride and Prejudice, and if you were going to read one of the two I would certainly recommend the former. Whilst I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite book that I’ve ever read, it completely surpassed my expectations and managed to be funny, gripping and profound in ways that I never expected. Definitely one to add to the bookshelf.

Rhythm and Views: Best of Reading 2014

We all know by now how much I love to ramble about bands I love so, as promised, I thought it was time to carry on that tradition in the form of my Reading 2014 highlights. If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know I was lucky enough to go to Reading this year and now, with a couple of weeks of sleep behind me (although still with an annoyingly persistent collection of illnesses and bruises), I feel I can properly look back on the weekend.

First off, it wouldn’t be right to start with any other than my beloved Arctics, who unsurprisingly smashed it. My friends and I were right near the front before they came on but decided to move further back so we could actually breathe- let alone dance- and I am so glad we did, as I think such a large part of enjoying a band is having a good crowd (yes I’m talking to you, crappy Vampire Weekend audience). From the opening riff of ‘Do I Wanna Know’ I just knew it would be a good’un; Alex was on point all the way through with his perfectly calculated obnoxious charm and the crowd were lapping up his every word. In terms of the setlist, they played ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ which I’ve always wanted to see live, but I can’t help feeling they missed some of their best hits- namely 505, Mardy Bum and Pretty Visitors (probably my favourite live track when I saw them on their AM tour). It’s hard to compare their Reading performance to seeing them at their own show; the latter was probably more slick and technically perfect, but you just can’t beat the amazing festival vibe and a fantastic crowd ten times the size.

One band who have definitely thrown themselves into the industry head first thanks to Reading has to be Catfish & The Bottlemen, who’ve managed to sell out their tour even before the release of their debut album (I’m still bitter that I missed out on tickets). I know they’re going to be huge, and I can’t be more happy that I got to see them in the tiny Festival Republic stage with one of the best crowds of the festival- complete with a naked crowdsurfer, egged on by the band themselves to “take it off, take it off!“. On straight after Catfish came King Charles, hands down my favourite act from 2000 Trees last year; nothing makes me want to dance more than his music does. Fab music, fab voice and even fabber hair- what more could you really ask for?

Now I’ve always been a fan of Cage The Elephant from their ‘Aint No Rest For The Wicked’ days, but I can’t say I’ve listened to a lot of their newer releases (my beautiful signed Shake Me Down picture vinyl is still unashamedly one of my favourite possessions). The same cannot be said for one of my friends though, so at her request we elbowed our way to near the front and I ended up counting it  as hands down one of my favourite acts of the festival. Definitely will be seeing them again sometime in the future. The end of Cage’s set meant a quick dash back to the main stage for Foster The People- I’ve been wanting to see them live for four years now and I’m still pretty amazed that I finally have. I know a lot of people aren’t fans but I really don’t get that- Mark Foster’s voice is just to die for and everything about their music is so happy, especially at a festival- nothing beats being in the middle of a crowd belting out some indie-pop lyrics as the sun slowly sets behind the stage.

I could go on for weeks about every band I saw at Reading, but I think (know) I would probably lose every subscriber I have, which is probably best avoided. I  just had to give a particular mention to a few bands that particularly stood out or I was especially impressed by- as I said before, any chance to ramble about music is a chance that I never fail to grasp with both hands. As I’m sure you’ve gathered.

Reading 2014

Oh boy, where to begin? I’m currently curled up with a hot mug of Twining’s English Breakfast Tea (yes this is a recurring theme, no I am not ashamed) and have been pretty much consistently since I rolled into my bed on a very soggy Monday morning; drenched, freezing cold and nursing a sore everything, but having had the best five days of my life. For those that somehow aren’t aware, last weekend was Reading and Leeds Festival and I was lucky enough (I say lucky, but I was the one that slaved away at work for months to be able to afford it) to go to the former, and oh my was it an amazing weekend.

As a first time Reading-goer I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and without a doubt it lived up to the “drink, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” reputation that it has gained itself- perhaps with less of the rock ‘n’ roll with the likes of Disclosure and Vampire Weekend topping the bill of famous faces. But in spite of that (or perhaps as a result of) the whole festival just had such a friendly atmosphere and you could tell that everyone was there for the same reason, apart from maybe the wonderful human outside my tent at 4am whose new friend asked him who he was most excited to see and to which he replied “oh I don’t even know who’s playing, I’m here for the ket”.

For those of us that were actually there for the music, we certainly weren’t disappointed, with my stand-out act being Arctic Monkeys (not really a surprise for anyone who knows me in the slightest)- it was the second time I’ve seen them and I finally got to see them play When The Sun Goes Down live, which pretty much made my year. I’ll probably end up doing some in-depth reviews of particular sets from across the weekend as it is way too much to fit into one post, but my other highlights would have to come from Catfish & The Bottlemen, Cage The Elephant, Foster The People, King Charles and The Kooks, just to name a few.

All in all, despite the gag-inducing toilet stench and complete lack of sleep, comfort or sanitation, it was a weekend I won’t be forgetting quickly- not least thanks to the multitude of illnesses I seem to have returned with that garner no sympathy from my parents on account of being “self-inflicted”. Can’t say I can really argue with that.

Paper Views: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Finally it’s this time again, school is out of the way and I can finally get round to making my way through the towering pile of books on my windowsill that I’ve been staring at longingly for months. Top of my list, and the book I instantly grabbed when we left for 12 days in sunny southern France the week before last, was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. This was recommended to me by my English Lit teacher as one of her favourite books, which is pretty high praise so I was unsurprisingly very excited to start it.

To give a quick overview of the plot, it is set in Macondo, Colombia, and follows the lives of seven generations of the Buendía family (who have an extremely confusing liking for using the same four names in many similar variations). The book was written in 1967 and was a big part of the Latin American literary “boom” of the time, which makes in utterly unlike anything I’ve ever read which I guess was part of the reason I was so intrigued to read it. Without giving too much of the story away, it cleverly uses references to real events at the time, such as the political atmosphere, but goes further to really understand the depths of the microcosm that is Macondo and all its inhabitants in a style that can be best defined as magic realism. 

If I’m going to be honest, by the time I was a good two hundred pages in (the whole novel weighs in at a hefty four hundred and twenty-two in total), I was getting a bit.. bored isn’t the right word, but I was starting to feel like the book could have ended right there and I wouldn’t have minded- I guess I just felt like the story was being dragged out longer than necessary. However, being the kind of person that can NEVER leave a book half read, I lay back on my towel, put back on my shades and powered on through til the end- and oh boy am I glad I did. You know when you reach the end of a book and you just kind of sit there for a minute and smile to yourself that it’s a good ‘un… so to all the times I grumbled about how I just wanted to finish it already I’m sorry Márquez, I take it back!

It’s part of the Penguin Modern Classics range, and I can’t think of a book more worthy- it’s different to everything I’ve ever read and I would definitely recommend it. Although not your typical read- with more than a fair share of death, incest and prostitution- it’s a novel that I have no doubts will stand the test of time and is certainly worth adding to your book list.

Book Launch: Popular by Maya Van Wagenen

On Wednesday night, I was lucky enough to go to the launch for the book that’s causing a storm both in the US and here in England. Written by 15-year-old Maya Van Wagenen, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek is an eighth-grader’s memoir about her extraordinary journey from social outcast to daring 1950’s lookalike in pearls- something that was simply not done in her small middle school on the Mexican border.

IMG_1995The story is basically about her discovery of a book written by Betty Cornell in the 50’s all about teenage popularity. Maya decided it would be interesting to follow the advice given in the book to the letter as a sort of social experiment, and see if it could translate into the modern day- as, in her own words, she had “nothing to lose”. From girdles to gloves and hats, the next year of her life was an interesting one to say the least, from materialistic things, to mannerisms and confidence tests.

IMG_2107The book launch was held on the tenth floor of the Penguin offices on the strand, with a breath-taking view over London, especially late at night. The reason I was lucky enough to go was because my parents run a vintage clothing and homewares business and were invited to come along with some of their stock, so I joined them to help out. After getting dolled up by the 50’s hair and makeup pop-up salon that came along, we spent the evening chatting to various bloggers and people from Penguin, before going to hear Maya herself speak.

IMG_2006The evening was hosted by the editor of Glamour magazine, Jo Elvin, who interviewed Maya and then opened it up to us to ask questions. I can honestly say I was blown away by how eloquent and insightful she was for a girl of fifteen, there were definitely strong feelings of inadequacy within me  when hearing her speak! She talked about the project, which she described as her hunt for the true meaning of popularity. When asked if she had managed to find the answer, she smiled and said simply that there was no true definition. She knew only what it wasn’t; it wasn’t the clothes you wore or the way you walked, or having everyone know your name. It’s about realising that there is no difference between those at the top and the bottom; they both have the same worries, the same fears, and the same hopes. It’s about being able to put that to one side, put yourself out there and treat people as your equal, and they will reciprocate.

IMG_1957Maya is by no means your average high school ‘popular’ girl, but she’s happy. Whilst the book puts across this message skilfully, and if definitely a must-read- especially for pre-teens- it’s not until you meet her in person that you realise what an inspirational person she is and how much we could truly learn from her. At fifteen, with a movie already in the works and a best-selling book, I feel this is nowhere near the last we are going to see of Maya Van Wagenen.

Rhythm and Views: George Ezra- Cassy O’

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think summer’s coming. I’m actually writing this sat outside (as far outside as my wifi allows) with the sun beating down and it’s awesome. So  with this unseasonably beautiful weather, we of course need some perfect summer music to accompany it, which this week comes in the form of the bluesy tones of twenty-year-old, Bristol-based George Ezra.

IMG_1773dFor those of you that read my blog post on Monday, you’ll know that I was lucky enough to see George twice in the last week at Record Store Day events. I also met him at the first one, and he was genuinely one of the loveliest and funniest singers I’ve met- it’s lovely to see artists that are actually still down-to-earth and up for actual conversations with those who come to see them. George mainly performed songs from his second EP, Cassy O’ which was released last month, and so I thought that’s what I would talk about today.

IMG_1836There are four tracks on the EP, the first of which being the title track and definitely the most upbeat of them all. It’s unusual though, really unusual. Its lyrics are far-fetched and humorous yet somehow he manages to make it into an incredibly catchy summery song that I know I will have on repeat.

Next is ‘Get Lonely With Me’ which is probably my favourite track off the EP, with plenty of opportunities to show off those incredible gravelly tones of his voice that you only really get to truly experience when you see him live. Especially in such a small place as the Friska Cafe, with the speakers turned right up- the only way to describe his voice is truly penetrating, and pretty mind-blowing.

The third track, ‘Over The Creek’ is another catchy tune that is somehow upbeat yet chilled at the same time, and really just reminds me of summer. The EP ends with ‘Coat of Armour’, certainly the most melancholic with an intro that’s reminiscent of M83 and a sing-songy style which brings lyrics that are surprisingly woeful after the eccentricity of those of the previous tracks.

So I think it’s pretty clear that I’m a big fan of this EP, and I’m really excited to see more from him- I’m especially intrigued to see what his debut album will be like. If I had to sum up his sound in a sentence it would be this: beautifully energetic, kookily clever, unreasonably catchy and oh so very ‘BBC Introducing’.