Sunday, 21 February 2010

Eastenders Live

Hello and welcome to 25 years of Eastenders. I haven’t watched this programme for several years and have no idea what’s going on. Let’s begin.

00.38 – did Bradley and Stacey get back together?
00.58 – who is that girl with awful hair? Good lord, it’s Ian Beale’s daughter! When did she start dressing like a slut? And why is Phil Mitchell shouting at her?
01.08 – Bianca and Ricky are back in it? They just got married? Janine’s back?!
01.55 – Jack has forgotten his lines and is just shouting incoherently. This is actually quite brilliant.
02.25 – Stacey is pregnant by a mystery someone. Ooh.
03.18 – “you did this to me”. Did what? There’s nothing on your face, love.
04.30 – Peggy hasn’t even aged! Incredible.
05.31 – oh Dot, are you still banging on about Nick?
05.56 – June’s daughter is the other bride? Stacey and Bradley got married too?! And she’s pregnant?! The scandal never stops round ‘ere.
06.05 – ‘Sip, flip or strip’ with the cast of Eastenders. I am struggling to think of anything that would be more horrific right now. Especially as Minty is playing.
06.26 – a black girl who isn’t that loudmouthed, pretty one. What was her name? Chelsea? Oh yeah. Did she leave and need to be replaced so that Eastenders could maintain their ethnicity quota? Anyway, this one seems mute.
08.40 – Peggy threatening Janine followed straightaway by Phil slapping around Ian. I see the Mitchells haven’t lost their touch.
09.13 – Stacey seems obsessed by some red handprints on a piece of paper, could this be a clue? Is someone concerned about having blood on their hands?
11.17 – who is the father? I am quite confused.
11.50 – I wonder just how many times Phil has threatened to kill Ian now.
13.13 – Max and Stacey seemed a bit close there, hmmm.
13.45 – Mute Girl is doing her famous Aqua Marina impression, once again.
14.25 – Minty has no shirt on. Oh dear.
15.16 – was that supposed to be blood? Because it looks like poster paint.
16.52 – oh god, they’ve got a home video from 1985. I guess this where the ’25 years of Eastenders’ part comes into play then.
18.24 – trying to make a stealthy get away in stilettos wasn’t exactly a good idea now was it?
19.11 – it’s those two blonde sisters who live in the pub and squawk a lot. Why would the one with the fascinator think her sister would lie about being raped by her dad? She’s clearly quite dense.
21.35 – alright Bradley, so you’ve forgotten the passports. Go into hiding in England then, you don’t have to go abroad! Just don’t go back!!
23.13 – the sisters (Ronnie and Roxy?) are fighting! Of course it’s going to take a seasoned matriarch like Peggy to sort them out.
25.03 – turns out she just found him lying on the floor and decided to leave him there…boring.
25.16 – oh god, all these old clips are awful. And because they’re taken from old episodes, not at all believable as a home video.
26.13 – oh no, the tape’s broken. What a shame.
27.29 – “you got away with it”. So Shirley, are you saying Phil is responsible?
29.05 – get chased by the police, climb a roof. Of course it’s logical!
29.50 – lots of terrified faces. Mute Girl is back. Did she love Bradley or something? Also, she hasn’t been on screen for 16 minutes, was she just stood in the square the entire time?
30.16 – probably the most comical falling off a building committed to screen. One minute Bradley is fine, then realises he has to fall so stumbles a bit and off he goes.
30.29 – everyone else is screaming and crying, Mute girl remains mute.
31.02 – oh lovely Max, that’s really pleasant. Thank god they cut away from your ghastly attempts at being sick.
31.08 – a supposedly dead Bradley just moved a bit, haha.
31.50 – so it was YOU! And now your husband is dead. And you are pregnant by someone else. Unfortunate.
31.55 – here come the drums…that was a bit rubbish.

Monday, 15 February 2010

A Single Man

Review I have written for

To say I was filled with excitement and anticipation at the release of this film would be an understatement. I wholeheartedly believe that the UK trailer (the American one is a bit pants) is one of the greatest trailers ever made. If you need proof, here is an excerpt of me waxing lyrical on my own blog: “The juxtaposition of Matthew Goode's character lying dead on the snow surrounded by blood, with Colin Firth in bed surrounded by black ink is one of the most spectacular things ever committed to screen. Plus it has Julianne Moore! JULIANNE MOORE! The woman is a goddess.” You get the gist. The film is about expat professor, George (Firth), who is still struggling to come to terms with the death of his partner (Goode) eight months previously. The narrative takes place within one day, with flashbacks to their life together filling in the blanks.

The film has Tom Ford at the helm – the man who single-handedly saved Gucci and made it the label it is today. He now has his own fashion line and has modelled in the past. His background seems incongruent with this emotionally intelligent and heartbreaking film, yet he has created a masterpiece. Clearly he is more than aware of the power of a strong visual and it is his visionary crafting that makes the film so special. Every shot is beautiful. There is no other way to say it. The Times reviewed the film as a “thing of heart-stopping beauty” and they were not wrong. George’s every day existence is leached of colour, at times the film almost feels as though it has been shot in greyscale, yet whenever he has a significant meeting with someone or an emotional connection the screen is flooded with colour. Personally, this effect started to grate after a while. It is striking and used very effectively in a conversation between George and Kenny (Hoult) but it does become predictable and sometimes is so saturated with colour it feels like Dorothy first entering Oz all over again.

The real power of this film comes from the emotion of the story. The end is poignant and bittersweet and incredibly sad; I cannot say much more without giving the ending away. The exploration of isolation and loneliness is poetic in its form, yet still accessible. George’s life may be beautifully tragic (or tragically beautiful?) but it is still possible to relate to him and understand his pain. Often films with such artistry and emotional scope can alienate the audience but this remains engaging. The Oscar nomination for Firth’s performance is well-deserved; in fact I am surprised the film was not nominated for more. I cannot recommend it enough.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The sound of my lungs exploding.

Hello little blog, it's been a while.

So, what with being back in Newcastle, getting my head around a new lecture timetable, catching up with old friends etc I have been rather negligent. I know this is terrible but sometimes that is just how life is. I've either been out, busy with university-based funness or too much of a sleep-deprived mess to contribute anything worth reading. To be honest, I am incredibly hungover right now so this probably isn't making much sense. And my lungs may be dying because I may have started smoking again. Epic fail. What can I tell you about my week? Monday was Refreshers Fair. Spent fours in the union trying to get people to sign up to FilmSoc and pretending that we are really organised when we really aren't. We have good intentions but we're a fledgling society and haven't gotten into the swing of things just yet. Although we did hold several events last semester, hurrah. I have also decided to get more involved with the radio station. Went along to the meeting on Tuesday and picked up some singles to review. I may even do a show one of these days. I don't know why I find it so daunting as I have done it before but I am still proceeding with extreme caution!

Thursday night saw me and Ria hit up the O2 Academy for the NME Awards Tour. I pretty much loathe the NME but I was desperate to see The Drums and I always love The Maccabees so I waived that aside. Given they were the opening act, it was the first night of the tour and I think possibly one of their first shows in England, The Drums were amazing. Their summery indie-pop, replete with hand claps and whistling, sounded great for such a large venue and by the end they had most of the crowd dancing. I was dancing like a loon from the start but I had a) been drinking and b) been listening to the EP non-stop ever since I bought it. The lead singer was also incredibly polite and sweet, which I like.
Next up where The Big Pink, whose set was largely a failure from beginning to end. They swaggered on stage, all cockiness and a belief they were gods. They are not. The audience knew this, they should have known this. This alienated the crowd from early on and the heavy bass and impressive but overblown light show did nothing to create the missing connection. A terrible cover of The Breeder's 'Cannonball' was probably the final nail in the coffin. Half the lyrics were seemingly missing and half the audience was too young to know the song. Most looked on mildly confused as to why the song hadn't featured on the album. Sensing their failure all the lead singer could do was shout "Come on, Newcastle!" pleadingly. Predictably they finished with 'Dominos' which got a few people dancing but certainly not everyone. Perhaps it was just bad billing; after all, the headliners are The Maccabees, who excel in perfect indie pop, often complimented with just the loveliest lyrics you can imagine. The Big Pink may have been playing to the wrong crowd.
Bombay Bicycle Club got a much better reception. Plenty of people singing along and dancing. I wouldn't necessarily say they were any better than any other band though. There was a lack of cohesiveness at times, it felt messy. However, it is clear they have a large, young fanbase who were so excited to see them they couldn't have cared less. I remember how I was at that age; the excitement of seeing your favourite band or the hot new thing was more possessive than any actual respect for the music. I could sing and dance away for hours to bands that were playing awfully. But I loved them, it didn't occur to me they could be. I would never question it.
This sort of thinking may overshadow my judgement of The Maccabees. I love them. I have always loved them. I have seen them several times and always thought they were brilliant. I genuinely do think they did very well on Thursday though. They even had a three-man brass section, which was perfect, as it meant none of the big sound of second album 'Wall of Arms' was lost. Noisy and energetic at times, then heartbreakingly romantic and soft at others they were everything I would expect and want from them.

In other news, it's been a good week for food. Lots of eating out. Although this has wielded serious damge to my bank balance that I'm not convinced it's going to recover from. Went to a lovely little Vietnamese restaurant last night. I've been craving some decent Vietnamese or Thai so it was good to discover Little Saigon on Bigg Market. I think its location had been a large deterrent in the past; Bigg Market is a shit hole. But it came recommended by a friend and did not disappoint. All the food was very fresh and delicious too! I will be going back.

If you fancy looking at some pretty pictures here was last week's task from my documentary module. We had to tell a narrative of betrayal in ten images. Ta ra x

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Bye bye Betty

The sad news that 'Ugly Betty' is finishing after this season devastated telly fans yesterday and I am still suffering the aftershocks (is it really inappropriate to be using earthquake metaphors after Haiti? I never know if it's bad taste or if it's good to normalise things again and stop them becoming taboo. Anyway.). Much as Betty's endless optimism and incredible work ethic have been known to get me down she is a role model on modern screens that I do not think we are ready to lose. While season four has seen Betty getting sleeker and more successful she certainly did not begin that way and more importantly, viewers have watched her work incredibly hard to get to where she is. Unlike, the girls we see in 'The Hills' or 'Gossip Girl' Betty was not born into a privileged lifestyle nor has her career been her birthright. In fact, the writers were obviously keen to show that this sort of nepotistic, careless handing out of jobs has a negative effect on business. In the Pilot, Daniel Meade is a hedonistic wreck with no idea what he is doing and not even savvy enough to recognise the most obvious plans to sabotage him. Cue Betty, who carries him for the entire season and rarely takes credit for any of it. Apart from hospital dramas, I think Betty is probably one of the most hardworking characters on television. Even when faced with difficult personal circumstances Betty always puts the job first. How many role models do we have doing that?

Which brings me neatly to my second point of praise for the wonderful Betty Suarez: her endless optimism and moral high ground. I won't lie, I'm one of those people who always likes the villains that little bit more. They're far more charismatic, entertaining and hell, they make me feel like a better person because compared to them my indiscretions are minor. 'Ugly Betty' has the Holy Trinity of bitching that is Wilhelmina Slater, Mark St. James and Amanda Tanen and they are fabulous. But they are also underhanded, scheming and mostly end up paying the price for it. Betty has been tempted to stoop to their level several times, but she never does in the end. She continually proves that being a polite, friendly and kind person (who works hard, never forget the work ethic!) can still allow you to achieve everything you want and more. The relationships that Betty has with friends, colleagues, family are genuine and built out of true love for her because she is worthy of that. Again, how many characters on television are really nice? Anyone who knows me will know that 'Gossip Girl' is, and always will be, my first love and I relish in it's vitriolic one-liners and life-destroying schemes but this is not a positive or healthy way to achieve want you want in life and I am not sure it should be so readily shoved down our generations' collective throat. We need Betty as an antidote to the bitching.

Thirdly, and this is my penultimate point so we're nearly done, Betty is a hit with men. As the cast member who weighs the most and is furthest from the American ideal of attractive, Betty has the most successful relationships out of any character on the show. The feelings expressed towards her by the opposite sex are always genuine and she is often in a happy relationship, full of respect. For those of us who are starting to doubt that good men exist and the ones that do are going to end up with the stick thin model-pretty girls anyway so we may as well give up now, Betty could not be more reassuring. Because while men clearly fancy her, she is also admired for that work ethic (yes, it's back) and because she is a GOOD PERSON. In these bleak times it is good to know that being nice is still an admirable trait and not as under appreciated as it seems.

Lastly, (well done for making it this far) Betty is actually believable as a real person. She deals with real problems, real discrimination and real arseholes. Most of what happens to her at work is explicit bullying. She is set up to be a victim but somehow still remains the heroine of the piece. In season one she spends a lot of time trying to get medication for her father when the insurance decides to stop paying for it. Then there's the whole issue of Ignacio's deportation. For a comedy, 'Ugly Betty' tackles darker social issues than many programmes would choose to. All of this brings a realism to Betty's character; she's not necessarily this paragon of virtue and hard work just because she's a good person, but because often she has to be. Her job at Mode is one of the few things keeping her family from poverty. While her goody-two-shoes act is a little nauseating at times, the show is careful to temper it with the deliciously devious acts of other characters, as well as by allowing Betty to slip up sometimes too. The kiss with Henry, witnessed by her boyfriend Matt, took Betty off the pedestal it's easy to put her on, making her more accessible and easier to relate to. No one is perfect and it would be a disaster if the writers tried to create her so.

Betty Suarez is one of the most human and admirable characters on television. Very few fictional characters actually inspire admiration in me but she has achieved it. The lessons she can teach a younger generation are indispensable; here is a woman who makes sacrifices, who often loses, who is a victim of the nastier people in this world but somehow remains positive, successful and most importantly true to herself. Unlike 'The Devil Wears Prada' that showed Anne Hathaway's character consciously choose to change herself to fit in, Betty did it all on her terms, proving to women everywhere that you can achieve your dreams without sacrificing your principles. What a girl. I am genuinely going to miss her.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Gossip Girl acrostics

Bitchy Laxative Addict, Incredibly Rich

No Actual Thoughts, Ever

Ruefully Underdressed For Upper (East) Side

There may be more to come...

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Away We Go

For some reason my blog was in Svenska as I was singing in. It was relatively amusing. And by relatively I mean not as funny as something that is actually funny but probably the funniest thing that is going to happen to me on this godawful train journey. I have been travelling, worldwide, from a young age and therefore developed coping mechanisms for long journeys years ago. I find that these days they are of decreasing use to me. Because part of the fun of those journeys was going abroad. This train journey just takes me to Newcastle. Now don't get me wrong, I do like Newcastle. But I just like home that little bit more. Plus, as my mum astutley pointed out, whenever I go back to Newcastle it's to do work so I'm never going to be rushing out the door to get back. Although I am doing a module on documentary this semester that's largely practical so that's a tad exciting. Anyway. I am on a train. I think that is the gist of this.

So, I said I would talk about 'Up in the Air' in my last post. When did I watch that? Oh right, Wednesday. I really enjoyed it. I know some who haven't...and fair enough, it's very depressing at the end, especially for the single and unemployed. The structure of the film is a little disappointing; the first two thirds are very funny and the last third is rather bleak. By the end all the good feeling of the funny parts is gone and you're just left questioning the futility of your life and wondering if you'll ever be financially secure/married/both. It's also a shame that they did not utilise the more excellent members of the cast. Zach Galifinakis, Danny McBride and J.K. Simmons are not in it nearly enough! Especially Simmons who is just one of the greatest comic actors as far as I'm concerned. However, the film does showcase Anna Kendrick who completely holds her own against Clooney and was really quite brilliant. Anyway, it's a good film. You should see it. Expect to laugh, but don't expect to leave the cinema feeling remotely happy.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

"Pull an ugly face"

Laugh? I nearly cried. In fact I did cry (with laughter) lots and lots. The mascara all over my cardigan can testify to this. It was probably due to intoxication but lord did I find these photos funny.

Watched 'Up in the Air' today but will blog on that at a more sensible time. Night x