The Great British Bake Off – A Sinking Ship?

The Great British Bake Off is one of my favourite TV programmes, I’m not even sure why. I remember reading that the ratio between over and under 50 for GBBO was 1:1 – an incredible stat that no one has quite managed to understand, but remains part of the Baking phenomenon.

But it seems to have lost its way – even before the ‘drama’ of the move to Channel 4, Mel and Sue leaving and now Mary Berry.

Watching the programme this time, the judges seem meaner (even Mary), nearly all of the Bakers in the tent are having some sort of disaster every time which leads me to believe that they are not allocating enough time for the actual baking. Which suggests the competition isn’t actually fair.

It seems edited differently, I can’t tell how unless I looked back on other seasons but it seems to be cut at a more ‘brutal’ pace – all you really see are the negatives. It’s falling into the X-Factor trap, where producers think everyone is after drama so only shows us the worst bits. It’s a show about cake for God’s sake. Let them have it and eat it too!

It’s a shame, but all good things must come to an end. I don’t think it will survive in the same way when it moves to Channel 4 and I’m not sure of Paul Hollywood remaining will be enough of a draw – he’s the nasty character, and despite the fact he may be a sex symbol for the over 50s (read that in a magazine – don’t see it myself) his affair with his co-star on the American Bake Off may haunt him in his lone adventure to Channel 4. Who will the second judge be? Either they’ll pull a Strictly and bring back a previous contestant (Nadiya, anyone?) or it’ll be someone young, hot and dubiously younger than Paul that he can awkwardly smirk at (WHY DOES HE DO THAT?!)

Hollywood has signed a 3-year contract with Channel 4, so it will be interesting to see how that progresses and whether that will manifest itself in Bake Off or a new stand alone show. I could be wrong about it not surviving – after the Top Gear debacle, I feel certain that ‘The Grand Tour’ on Amazon will easily defeat the new Top Gear for ratings. But they have kept the same cast, which Bake Off will not.

What do you think? Will it continue to rise? Or are we doomed for it to all go flat?

 

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Retrospective Review: The Lego Movie – Kids Film or Political Masterpiece?

The Lego Movie (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, 2014) is a surprising children’s film in the way it is incredibly postmodern. I came to the film knowing this as it was introduced to me during a university lecture on Postmodernism. It is a children’s toy take on both the swathes of Superhero films that now confront out screens and Orwell’s 1984. In fact, when watching President Business (Will Ferrell) gear himself for confrontation by adding all his ‘extras’: height, helmet, hair, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a new potential ‘President Business’ the United States may be on their way to electing….

Obviously, this film isn’t about that specifically – it was too early. But the point I’m making is that children’s films are remarkably clever in their sly depictions and can actually be deeply political and can actually be deeply political. These postmodern, political elements are littered throughout The Lego Movie in a way which almost restricts your enjoyment if you don’t know them – so who is this film aimed for? Kids or Adults? As an adult watcher I can see that Morgan Freeman (Vitruvius) is playing a parody of himself in the role of has become synonymous with – the wise old man (Bruce Almighty anyone?), Liam Neeson (Bad Cop/Good Cop), also, parodying himself in his many, many films were he is a dubious ‘hero’, and I see echoes of Will Ferrell’s role in Zoolander in his role of President Business.

Now, I personally love these type of effects in films, but do you get less out of the film is you don’t understand theses references? Is there enough merit in the actual plot for kids to enjoy? Or is the joy for Kids located in the spectacle? Reviews say yes, there is enough for Kids to enjoy, and talking to my friends’ daughter, she loved it, but I remain unsure.

Another element I am unsure about is when the film becomes live action, seemingly to add a morality caution to the narrative. Will Ferrell is mildly funny, as usual, but I found this tactic a little heavy-handed. It is this moment which reminds you that this remarkably clever film is actually for kids (perhaps that isn’t a bad thing after all) but watching as an adult who was able to enjoy the animation, the jokes and the storyline I found it twee. It also highlights for me, that still no one has quite managed to emulate the duality of Disney films – perfectly fine for children on the surface layer, but with extra jokes and references for adults. Whilst this section is important to remind us that it is a kids film, I wish it didn’t seem quite so patronising

Overall, and despite the impression this review may give, I loved the film. I actually laughed out loud, which is unusual. The animation was beautiful, a fantastic combination between stop motion and normative CGI, and the actors were fantastic both at being themselves and their characters (worth noting, that the only characters who do not get this second layer of meaning are the main ones: Emmet (Chris Pratt) and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) possibly because they slot into normal stereotypes). I would recommend this as a kids film and an adult film, but wonder if this is a sign that the future of kids movies is in an adult audience.

Thoughts? Does it even matter?

Can the Film be Better than the Book? A case study of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’

Hello, everybody! Yes, this is a literature review, and no this is not what I was supposed to be writing this week, but due to a farce with finding employment (guys, do a degree because you’re passionate not because you think it’ll make you more employable) earlier this week my plans and usual upload schedule were shot to hell.

But in the meantime, I have bee venturing into feminist literature in the form of Orlando by Virginia Woolf, and I have some thoughts for you….

I came across Orlando (Sally Potter, UK, 1992) during my undergraduate degree and thought it was honestly one of the best films I had ever seen (WATCH IT, IT IS AMAZING), I was also given a copy of A Room of One’s Own for my birthday and read it rapidly with interest. My next project, post-degree, was to read Orlando.

Here’s the thing about Virginia Woolf – she is incredibly intelligent, and has fantastic ideas and it is interesting to look back on early feminism. Her essays are phenomenal. Her books are dense.

I’m not saying I didn’t like Orlando (the novel) because I did, truly. I enjoyed the witticisms of the narrator – including the section where she comments that she cannot narrate anymore because Orlando has shut herself inside reading and therefore the narrator has no room to comment, and the actual concept of the novel: a man who throughout the course of time turns into a woman – fascinating. (Side note, I do feel like Orlando was always effeminate and this is why he can transform – would you ever have a novel with a woman transforming into a man, or would it not work?)

The major problem of the work, and I found this with both To The Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway is that her writing – unlike in her essays – is dense, overcomplicated and sometimes difficult to actually understand. I find this baffling considering how fluent and easy to read A Room of One’s Own is – a forerunner in feminist literature! I think she had a tendency as a writer to overcomplicate her novels with philosophy, almost in the style of the 17th-century writers that she refers to in the text – Addison, Pope, Swift. For me, this is a stylistic choice which I find very difficult to grasp.

Personally, and this is a controversial statement perhaps, I prefer the film. When I was younger, before I studied Film as an Academic subject, I thought that you could only see a Film Adaptation of a book if you had read the book, and even then the Film was NOT ALLOWED to be better than the book. I now think that books and films are good in different ways, they can show different things and explore different angles – sometimes a book can elaborate more in a positive way, sometimes they can elaborate too much.

I think Sally Potter’s adaptation of Orlando is much more succinct, impressive and politically meaningful. The medium of film allows Potter to show the passage of time in way books cannot (see video clip below), equally, it has room to be funny and extracting the narrator to use Orlando himself/herself as narrator by breaking the fourth wall is a stroke of genius. Orlando (the book), despite the complex subject matter, is perhaps not Woolf’s best feminist text; indeed most academics agree it is a love letter to her lover at the time whereas A Room of One’s Own pretends to be nothing other than it is – an essay.

So here’s the crux: can a Film be more meaningful than the source text? Where do you stand on this issue?

P.S. With any luck next week I will be back to regularly scheduled programming, with one post a week on Wednesday evening around Bake Off O’clock (8pm) – and here’s a bigger question to ponder: will the move to Channel 4, without Mel and Sue, ruin Bake Off….?

Labyrinth (Henson, 1986): Rock Music, Muppets and Morality

I’ve always known about Labyrinth (Henson, 1986) or more to the point, ‘that film David Bowie was in’ and it’s always been accompanied by smirks. Last night I finally caved and watched it, and now I know why people smile…


It’s a typical story-line: a young girl makes an error and must set out on a quest to fix it – reminiscent of The Wizard of OZ (cemented through strategic placement of the OZ book in the mise-en-scene) and the perception of American teenagers in the 1980s. The representation of Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) as selfish and spoiled is found not only in other family movies of the same era – I’m thinking of the 80s/90s combined – but also in the serial horror films of the same period. I can see similarities with the concept of a teenage girl making a mistake and getting her ‘comeuppance’ in the plot lines of Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween – Sarah, for all intents and purposes, is almost a Final Girl.

Except she’s not, she has friends (the muppets) to guide her (honestly, I did not know it was a Muppet film such has Bowie’s presence overshadowed the film) echoing The Princess Bride and The Wizard of Oz. Despite her faults, she is friendly and seems to entrance people along the way. This allows for the most crucial difference in this film from others I’m comparing it too, family and horror alike – she is allowed to keep her fantasy. Typical family films of the era which would focus on a reconciliation between her parents and her coming of age – even Back to the Future came to an eventual end which sets Marty (Michael J. Fox) in the path for marriage and children in a blissful American future – and Final Girl’s, as we all know, end up scarred for life and hunted in the sequel. Yes, Sarah puts away her toys, what she realises are “junk” but she still talks to the Goblins who now seem to exist in her world. It is, in my opinion, this is one of the most surprising and lovely parts of the film, celebrating imagination rather than condemning it..

Sarah keeps her fantasy and her friends

Music videos, a moral, hilariously bad superimposition: it’s a great film and I can see why it’s a cult classic, but it is a strange combination. It juxtaposes children’s films, a rock star and high fantasy myths in a way which almost works consistently. I do wonder if spectators interpret the film based on which aspect is most important to them – as I mentioned at the beginning, I knew this as a Bowie film but watching it for myself I would call it a Muppet film, and the fantasy is almost unnecessary.

David Bowie, wearing exceedingly tight trousers, is quite wooden in his acting (haha) but I feel like that was to be expected. He stands as more of an idol in the film than any significant acting presence, but that’s probably the best role for him. One wonders, indeed, if the fantasy role was necessary to simply embrace Bowie’s eccentricity in film form. Whilst I enjoyed some of the musical interludes Bowie contributes to the film, I have to say that the Ballroom sequence, arguably the major ‘music video’ of the film was a little off. It was cheesy and strange, seemingly trying to set up a potential romance between Bowie and Connelly, but it has already been established that Sarah is a young teenager, therefore, it doesn’t quite work. On a mythological level, I understand it to be a reference to the idea that if you eat something from the Fairy Kingdom, you will be trapped in a dance until you die/your feet bleed etc., but this is where the combination of spheres (Bowie/Muppets/High fantasy) starts to clash a little.

The Ballroom scene: an awkward transition?

Labyrinth may be a silly film, but that’s part of the joy and part of why it remains relevant. Indeed I think it will be cemented as a classic through David Bowie’s death: film is immortalizing, we relive moments and stories with people who are long gone time and time again through switching on a film and escaping. Labyrinth is pure escapism, despite what some cult followers may argue is wrong with it, the lore doesn’t actually matter. Labyrinth remains a fantastically fun film, immortalizing Bowie and Henson as heroes of escapism.

8.5/10

P.s. My favourite part….because I’m a child and fart noises can be funny

P.p.s A happy Pan’s Labyrinth, anyone? What do you reckon to the similarities between them? Obviously, this one was made first…. I wonder if it shows the cultural differences of fairy stories: a happy ending for the USA but not for Spain….

Copyright: Images/Videos are not mine and used for review purposes.

A Literary Summer: Travels Around Some of the UK’s Literary Heritage Sites

This summer we started a project I have been wanting to do since I was a starry-eyed fourteen-year-old girl, crushing on the Byronic heroes of the Gothic Novels: a literary tour of Britain.

This desire has only been extended since my literature degree, here is a quick overview of the places I have been (So far!)



Haworth, Yorkshire, home of the Brontes.

Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, Yorkshire

This was my mecca and has been since I fell in love with Mr Rochester at age 14 (so, he keeps his ex-wife in the attic…we all make mistakes). I have a strange affinity with Charlotte Bronte, and the description of Jane being ‘poor, obscure, plain and little’ is always something which has struck a melancholic teenage chord with me and all told, I had to go and visit my idol (side note: yes, I know she’s dead).

The museum is a series of exhibitions in the house where the Brontes were born and died (most of them), the main attraction is the sofa where Emily died (died! how morbid…) but the overall exhibition was really interesting. Seeing the rooms they grew up in and the attitude they were surrounded by was fascinating, and has only made me admire Charlotte’s tenacity even more. The exhibition was mostly Charlotte-themed, possibly because she was the child who lasted the longest but also it is, I believe, a bicentenary celebration this year. There was a specific room set up about Charlotte which included some of her clothes (she was tiny!), her writing desk, and a pair of her spectacles but the exhibition permeated the museum, showing different, fascinating facets of her life. It was absolutely incredible, just historically, to see the type of stature someone had in the mid 19th century, interestingly, at the Jane Austen museum it was apparently obvious the Austens were much bigger in height and in size, but we concluded this was likely due to nutrition more than anything.

I did think the town went a little overboard on their plaques, including displaying one on the local pub which explained how Branwell had drunk there, an affliction he later died from, closely followed by the apothecary over the road with a plaque showing that this is where Branwell got his Opium. You can hardly blame them for squeezing every last drop of the Bronte experience though. I would also recommend you bring your walking boots and head out over the moors to find one of the many ruins they believe inspired Wuthering Heights, we didn’t get the chance and I’m already planning a trip back up there to find Heathcliff…

Rating: 9/10, would visit again.

Chawton, Hampshire, Home of Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s House Museum Chawton, Hampshire

Despite also being poor, it is clear the Austen’s benefitted from wealthy family members which the Brontes simply did not have. Having seen both the Austen museum in Bath, and Stoneleigh Abbey (where the Austen’s stayed with relatives for a short while) it is clear the Austen managed to live comfortably if not wealthily. As mentioned above, this was most abundant in the stature of the girls, but beyond this the house was fascinating, filled with relics of some of Jane’s most famous work.

The major highlight was seeing Jane’s writing table, a sight I have to admit filled me with creative inspiration. The museum was mostly about all of the Austen’s and there were some rooms linked to her brothers and their naval career, whilst some might find this interesting I must admit I found it a little dull. Around the museum was illustrations from the different editions of her books which were lovely to look at. As with all literary museums seemingly, there was a dress up area and I couldn’t resist becoming Jane for just a moment. This was accompanied by the woman helping with the dressing up informing us that the trend in the Regency period was to have the neckline cut so low, it only just covered your nipples….

The Museum was lovely, but be warned – Chawton, like Haworth is a tourist trap with very limited and expensive eateries so you might want to stop elsewhere, but it is darling and I would return. Like the Bronte museum and seemingly many other heritage attractions, tickets seem to be 12-month returns making the trip much better value (depending on where you live I suppose).

9/10 for literary lovers, and I would probably recommend this one over the other Austen houses, though if you can visit the other places, such as Bath, Stoneleigh and Winchester, I would try and get the whole experience.

Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, home of Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Grave, Stratford Upon Avon Holy Trinity Church “Cursed be he that moves my bones”

Finally, a trip to the father of playwrighting, ol Bill. I have been to Stratford many times before, and because of that, this time I didn’t bother going into the Birthplace Trust properties (though they are excellent and I would highly recommend them), this time however I managed to go and see Shakespeare’s grave, something I have been meaning to do for ages.

This is another experience I found remarkably moving, his grave lies in a small church and a £3 entrance fee is asked for getting into the grave. The nice thing about that is, it quickly becomes clear from conversing with the volunteers that that small donation is for the upkeep of the church and the money can be seen in the works made to keep the church upright – indeed, last time I visited it was shut for necessary refurbishment. It has a bit more of a homely feel in some ways than the bigger properties in town, and there was something quite soothing about it. There are a few information stands when you go in, but at the back the main event is the graves of Shakespeare and his family, along with the birth and death registers and the font they believe he was baptised in.

Possibly because the day was so quiet, it did feel like a religious experience – though for me it was more to do with seeing Shakespeare’s grave rather than being in a church – but along with all of the other trips on this holiday I felt that it had an affect on me and visiting the sites of these great British writers has given me a boost to begin my own writing again.

As always, 10/10.

So, kind of a soppy roundup, but if you are an aspiring writer, or just interested in British writing, these are all fantastic places to visit. Next on the list is the Keats House, and finding Wordsworth in the Lake District. Do you have any recommendations?

Links:
https://www.bronte.org.uk/
http://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/
http://www.stratford-upon-avon.org/