Saturday, 29 September 2012

Object of Desire....

Image of Book Necklace

Okay, eye candy post coming up...

This week's object of desire is: Lucie Ellen's wooden Book Necklace. Lucie Ellen is a jewellery designer based in the UK who makes lovely affordable pieces of jewellery that she sells online at her shop:

She can also be found on that all-consuming internet treasure trove -

When pointless action scenes ruin a movie...

Last night, in a fit of impulsive spending, I bought membership to a company of independent cinemas called The Picturehouses ( and in doing so, got two free tickets to see the film of my choice. I chose to see the new scifi film 'Looper.' So off I trotted to Brixton with my husband and after gorging ourselves on very good Thai food, we sat down in the main theatre ready for a thought-twisting tale on time travel starring Joseph Gordon-Levit and Bruce Willis. I must confess I have a little crush on Joseph Gordon-Levit. I remember him from his teenage 'Third Rock from The Sun' days and I consider him to be an excellent actor and I have enjoyed almost every film he has acted in. 

Except that in Looper, the make-up team have slapped some extra facial chops on him to make his cheeks look a bit more like Bruce Willis. Ironically, this does not seem to affect Joseph's acting chops and he does eerily look like a younger Bruce. After I got used to the strange make-up choice of the producers, I began to enjoy the film. It is a tale about a hitman who works in the past for the mafia in the future who send back their targets to be killed 30 years before, at a time when their bodies can be disposed of more easily. Of course, you guessed it! What does the main character do, when the victim sent back 30 years in the past to be killed by his future self? I won't ruin it for you, but what follows is a very interesting story.

It is an exceptionally well written script with a quite a complicated moral conundrum at the centre of the story. Essentially the question asked is...if you could go back in time and kill a ruthless leader when he was child, to prevent the destruction of so many lives in the future, would you do so? Could you kill the child in present to prevent him becoming the man you suspect he will be in the future?

There is also the overwhelming themes of how far you would go to save your own life or the life of your child. And the fierce bond between mother and son and how sad it can be when a boy grows up without a loving parent. All of this was expertly explored in subtle and at times not so subtle ways (there is a scene where a little boy, when mistreated by an adult, goes crazy and destroys a house with his telekinesis powers) . But unfortunately any status the film may have garnered as a thought-provoking intelligent scifi film was completely blown out of the water by the amount of pointless violent action strewn throughout the most of the movie.

Generally I am not a fan of violence in movies, aside from all the moral arguments about projecting widely unrealistic violent untruths to young people (If you hit someone over the head with a chair, they will not get back up, if you kick them in the stomach you will rupture their spleen, you will break your hand punching someone etc.), I just find violence kind of boring and uninteresting to watch. I find violence against women and children in films particularly upsetting. I guess I just hate the idea of people being in pain and I don't see the point in watching upsetting drama in my spare time. Plus the Ritzy cinema in Brixton had, for some unknown reason, turned up the volume of the film way too loud and so every punch, gun shot and smack sounded like someone was smashing a large pumpkin against the side of my head.

All the characters in the film seemed overly ready to punch each other  shoot at anything that moved and also to slam their hands on desks for emphasis or to slam car doors shut aggressively. After a while, all I could hear was a series of root vegetables being whacked on a concrete counter-top with a large wooden hammer. When Bruce Willis got out two huge machine guns and sprayed a whole bunch of young faceless film extras with bullets, I began to see where crazy Americans who buy guns from Walmart and then shoot up their work places, probably get their ideas from. It just all seemed so pointless and head-ache inducing. My husband winced beside me and we both squeezed our fingers into our ears.

I got the point of the violence. The filmakers were trying to show a future where despite the technological advances, most of the population lived in abject poverty, addicted to drugs and quick to distrust their fellow humans. Life was supposed be portrayed as cheap in this dystopian view of our future. Nevertheless I felt the violence let the film down. It eclipsed the good plot, the sharp script and the genuine compassion you felt for the main character and his dilemma.

As my husband put it, 'Well maybe Bruce Willis can only act well with a machine gun in his hands?'

Friday, 28 September 2012

Dancing and Singing through the difficult stuff in life...

I must apologise for the last few weeks of cyber silence. I have been unable to write in my blog, not for any glamorous reason, like reclining seductively on a large yacht in the Mediterranean, but simply because I have been working too hard. Yes, I have had a series of stressful and intensive weeks of working like a dog and any creativity or intelligent thought in my unpaid personal time has leaked out of my brain through my ears like water from a swimming pool.

Of course, this means that now that I have got a handle on things at work, or at least begun to have lunch breaks and live a little more normally, I can now write up all the backlog of blog entries that I have been preparing for weeks. Get ready to receive some serious literary eye-candy. Well almost…

Eye-candy is the operative word as my first post this week. Yes, the subject is that famous TV Show: Glee. For those of you have never seen Glee, it is a musical episodic tv show about a musical theatre club in an small town American high school. It is deeply popular with teenagers worldwide and has been known to even appeal to non-musical adult men (not my husband, but I have met 35 year old straight men who can sing ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ with gusto). On first appearances it looks like a show about teenage students who are predictably egotistical and melodramatic and who unrealistically burst into song at every opportune moment to express their seesawing adolescent emotions. Each episode is, on the surface, a bright coloured, bubble-gum, ridiculous collection of current pop hits sung by various actors who are 21 trying to look 15.

Except, that over the course of the first episode of series 1, I realised that there was a lot more to the show and that the scriptwriters of Glee had a wicked sense of humour. The show accurately explores how cruel high school can be, with different cliques and a food-chain of popularity, in which the lowest members routinely end up being bullied and belittled. The characters in the show, while initially appearing to be stereotypes of high school movies, are complex and actually grow over the series. Rachel Berry one of the main characters, (played by actress Lea Michelle, who has a singing voice that is as beautiful as it is powerful), is both a wonderful sweet person, but also additionally self-centred and woefully insensitive. The characters of Glee make real mistakes. The act petty and unimaginative at times, but also show real kindness, dedication and bravery. Essentially they are 3 dimensional characters written by script writers who remember their school days avidly and have a real understanding of human behaviour.

The show starts when all the characters are 15 and 16 years old and by the end of the third series they have graduated school and are all well on their way on the scary journey into adulthood. And they have to learn some harsh truths, like they are not as special as they think they are. The show explores all the difficult parts of growing up: winning and losing, competing or falling out with friends, falling in love, standing up to bullies, experiencing failure and heartbreak, feeling isolated and out of place and struggling to achieve the dreams you have for yourself.

There are some really difficult subjects explored in the third series such as: suicide, drug abuse, disability, domestic abuse, bullying, corruption, adoption and mental illness. And of course, all of the above, is done in complicated musical dance numbers. Each episode has at least 3 songs and often many more, which means each week the cast of Glee has to learn how to sing several new songs and memorise the choreographed dance routines to go with them to standard of quality that is routinely found in Broadway musicals. This is pretty impressive considering the time, effort and work that must go into essentially staging a mini-musical each week.

But aside from all this the three main things I love about Glee (apart from the amazing re-working of songs I know and love) is:

  1.  The main heroine, (or one of the main heroines) is a brunette with straight hair and a fringe. You can call me silly, but I love to see a fun and fantastic character having brown hair. For years as a child, I watched films and read books about female heroes who were brilliantly blonde-haired or curly red-heads. I always wondered where the short brunette superheroes were. Rachel Berry is sort of unrealistically good looking but she has pretty normal hair and her clothes and behaviour definitely scream geeky.
  2. One of the characters suffers from a mental illness, more specifically OCD. It is good to see a sympathetic character on TV suffer from an illness that affects millions of people worldwide. Glee is one of the few shows currently on TV that portrays an individual suffering from OCD so badly it hinders her ability to enjoy life and her struggle to overcome the illness. Yet again, it is often portrayed in song and often quite sweetly and tastefully. The character in question is Emma Pillsbury, a well-meaning anxious school guidance counsellor, who wears amazing outfits and sings and dances, while all the time trying to cope with her OCD and help her students. Ironically (in reference to the paragraph above) she has two unsympathetic parents who are red-haired and are racist towards anyone who hasn't got auburn hair! 
  3. The last thing I want to mention about Glee is how open the show is on the subject of homosexuality. Not only did the first two series confront what it is like to be a gay teenager at school and home, but it also showed what it might be like for someone to 'come out' to their family and friends. Luckily, for the characters of the Glee music club, their parents and friends are supportive, even if the rest of their peer group is not. There are two very loving homosexual couples on the show and their relationships are treated much the same as the main heterosexual romantic pairings with equal air time and lots of dialogue and scenes. I would even go so far in stating that I believe the show is introducing positive ideas about homosexuality to a whole generation of teenagers in the USA if not worldwide. I like the idea that there are more gay characters on TV and that they can be openly gay without it seeming controversial or forbidden (do you know how many TV shows or movies portray homosexual love as 'forbidden' and tragic!). BBC TV shows, Doctor Who and Torchwood are also good at portraying homosexuality as perfectly normal, albeit with less musical numbers.
So there you go! You can confront the difficult things in life with music and dance and in a way, that helps to overcome them. And introduce new ideas to a whole generation of teenagers (so that hopefully they will be more accepting of diversity and difference) with a couple of smokin' hot Michael Jackson songs and a few well choreographed dance numbers in a school corridor. I sure feel better after watching an episode of Glee, even if it does make my husband (who is allergic to most musical theatre) cringe with horror and flee the living room!