2016 Favourites

This is coming out far later than I intended it too, but I think it is nice to look back on the positives of 2016, whether physical or memories. So, if only for my own references, I give you my 2016 favourites (posted halfway through Jan).


Memories:

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Graduation. I finished my degree and graduated with a good grade. I feel both proud and a little bereft at being spat out into the world, but I did it!

My sister’s prom. Alongside my graduation my sister had her prom which was quite a symbolic moment for her growth and I was proud to see her go to it.

A general sense of personal peace, January – June was the most comfortable I have felt with myself, my intelligence and my personality.

I passed my driving test! Enough Said.

I won a special commendation in a Poetry Competition, which really boosted my confidence for writing poetry.

Trip to Haworth – a pilgrimage I have wanted to make forever.I’m such a nerd.

Unfavourites: Brexit and Donald Trump. Well, we’ll be facing the reality of both this year.

Makeup

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Zoeva En Taupe Palette. This may be the only makeup review I have ever done and, considering how guilty I felt buying it, it has been a surprising favourite. I use it nearly every day.

Laura Geller French Vanilla Baked Highlighter. I don’t like very intense highlights and this one is lovely and subtle. New, but a definite favourite.

L’Oreal Cushion Foundation. I love this so much more than I thought I would. So brilliant for early mornings where you can just slap it on your face and run out to catch your train.

Nyx Butter Gloss in Angel Food Cake. You can tell this is the year Nyx came to the UK, right?

Skincare

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Clarins Peach Comfort Toner. I got a sample of this earlier in the year, and whilst I don’t know if I could justify the cost of it personally it is so lovely – so hydrating.

Origins Out of Trouble 10-minute mask. Really saves my skin and heals rather than dries.

Pixi Glow Tonic. I put off buying this for so long but it is incredible. Worth it!

Lush Fresh Farmacy facial soap. Lovely, simple, re-purchased.

Television

Victoria. Hands down best TV of 2016. See my review here. (Side note: It’s a tiny bit awesome that I have blog posts that I can actually reference in this post. Cool.)

Film (This is where you realise I have not had the disposable income to go to the cinema in a while…)

Labyrinth. Never seen it before and poignant memento to Bowie. Funny and heartwarming, if cliche – I really enjoyed it. Review here.

Halloween. One of the last films I wrote about for my degree. Got a First. Not the only reason I love it but it’s a big one. A cult classic – don’t bother with the sequels though.

I’m sure there are more but I can’t think of any. Another possible resolution for this year is to go to the cinema more….

Books

Poetry was big for me this year but I don’t feel like I can name any off the top of my head. This was also the year I got back into reading, but I can’t remember what started me off. I am a big fan of Gail Carriger and Catherine M Valente though, and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Reminded me of my love for the Gothic. This was a stand-out book from this year.

Misc.

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The Tiger Balm Neck and Shoulder rub. AMAZING. I get such bad neck pain, I actually don’t know how I would live without it anymore.

Forever21 £2.50 Crop tops. £2.50! Enough said!


This has left me feeling a little more positive than my previous new year post, even if much of it has been a recount of the material elements of my life – they shouldn’t be discounted, I think. So, what is in store for me next? I did Aerial Yoga today (so good!) and I am keen to keep trying and keep improving (Yay! Much better than the last attempt!)

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Witness for the Prosecution, Rillington Place and the mystery of the Green Murk

Witness for the Prosecution (2016) missed the mark for me – too determined to be edgy, too much sex, swearing and coughing which felt a million miles away from Christie’s original text, and, without wishing to sound too prudish, a tad awkward to watch with the family on Boxing Day….

Crucially what I found difficult, and this is as someone who likes art cinema, it unbearable to watch because of the murky muse en scene, which, whilst I appreciate is a stylistic choice is only effective used sparingly. I found the consistent murk combined with slow motion not only unnecessary and detracting from the performance of the actors (who were fantastic -especially David Haig and Toby Jones) and from the story. I could barely tell you what happened because I simply didn’t care.

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Rillington Place (2016) used the same technique, arguably slightly more effectively; the murk wasn’t quite as pervading and there were moments of much-needed clarity both in and on the screen. Witness for the Prosecution overdid the atmosphere so much that the seaside scenes at the end felt quite jarring, which may have been the intended effect but it felt strange watching it and because of that I could never fully absorb into the story.

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A quick twitter search will show that the pervading feeling from the programme was the ‘green murk’, a particular favourite of mine was the comparison to the Olympic Swimming Pool debacle earlier in the year. My own feeling was that it felt like there was a smudge on the screen the whole way through. Not what you want to be thinking when watching something as it is distracting. And it is a shame because these colouring and editing techniques can be really beneficial when used well and can truly help a spectator engage with the mood of the film or programme, but you have to give the spectator room to react to it rather than making it too obvious and if the mise-en-scene is too obvious, it removes the need for a spectator at all.

So what is the deal with this trend of murky art television? I think that with the success of programmes such as Sherlock (2010 -) and Doctor Who (2005 –) who used editing the great success in a way that complimented the pace and plot (think of Sherlock’s mind palace and the use of text and animation) there does seem to be more room for experimental TV, but push it too much and people will either switch over or switch off. It’s a fine line to walk.

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Does experimental art cinema belong only in the cinema? Can art TV work or is it too difficult to view on small screens, in well-lit rooms with patchy resolution? In terms of a ‘Christmas Christie’, I preferred the cinematic qualities of And Then There Were None (2015) in terms of the murky trend, I’m not convinced of its place on television just yet.

The Rocky Horror Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (Ortega, Fox, 2016) – Why has it missed the mark?

The sheer volumes of 1-star reviews for the ‘new’ Rocky Horror Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again is astounding. The highest rating I saw was a four despite Fox’s efforts to pull out all the stops, in this post, I want to consider why this might be and why a new remake of a cult classic will never, ever win.

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Male Nudity in TV Period Dramas – Are we taking it too far?

I read an interview with Tom Hughes in the Sunday Times magazine (link below), in which the interviewer came across as a total witch. She basically said that Hughes refused to reveal anything about his personal life (fair enough to him I say) and that his only appeal was his good looks, marketed through direct competition with Poldark’s Aiden Turner and the ‘sexiness’ of the two battling Period Dramas.

Tom Hughes as Prince Albert in Victoria

I do not deny that he is good looking, but that seems unimaginably rude and, frankly, you couldn’t say that about women without a huge backlash. So why can we say it about male TV stars? Why has it become ok for their bodies to be openly objectified without censure in a way that no longer exists for women’s bodies – trashy mags still talk objectify the female body, but the word ‘trashy’ is key. We censor this kind of talk and assign it to lowbrow journalism, but male nudity seems to exist outside of this realm of the ‘trashy’ and in the normative.

A lake-drenched Mr Darcy – the start of it all?

Male nudity of TV seems to have become a necessary phenomenon for selling television to the ‘yummy mummies’ and watchers of period dramas, ever since Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) dove into the lake in BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (1995). This was a phenomenon at the time, and has progressed excessively since – we never see Mr Darcy’s bare chest but through a glimpse of his wet shirt. Since the enthusiastic response to this scene, male nudity in the Period Drama has become more and more essential to their success. Sexuality has always been a key selling factor of fiction, especially when reimagining period dramas (Bodice Ripper!). But what is new, I think, is the difference in the way we discuss it for men and women.

Poldark (seen below) is the key example for this. The infamous sything scene has sparked many debates on the appropriation of the male body in film and the creation of a female gaze. The latest ‘reports’ say that Aiden Turner (Poldark) has had enough of shirtless scenes – perhaps due to this media obsession. Honestly, who can blame him? He has been objectified constantly, and whilst it has boosted his career, it isn’t the only thing about him. This is where objectifying, both men and women, becomes a problem – we are more than just our skin.

The infamous scythe scene

Perhaps the difference is this: we see men’s chests all the time. Men seem to walk around shirtless at the mildest bit of sunshine. It becomes commonplace and appropriated by the mass – no one cares if you see men’s nipples, right? However, if a woman wears revealing clothes she becomes associated with a stereotype; the result of this is that the female body remains as something that can only be revealed if the woman is willing to bear that stereotype. In Film, to avoid this stereotype the fully nude female body, (crucially, the main signifier of nude: the nipple) belongs to either High Art or Pornography.

The last Hollywood film where the whole breast is bared was Carol (Haynes, 2015) and the whole style of the film, and the content is about high art – it’s not a pornographic lesbian film, it is reinventing the lesbian film into a genuine love story in the style of classic Hollywood. The ‘art film’ style allows for female nudity – an excuse, if you will – what interests me is that male nudity is excluded from these binaries.

So the male body has become the easy way of showing nudity, and of attracting the elusive ‘yummy mummy’ market – but have we crossed the line by implying that male actors are only good for ratings if they are shirtless, as the woman in the Tom Hughes article says. I don’t think this is a fair assessment, nor do I think it is the case, but if this is a common thought does that mean everyone should remain clothed on television or do we just need to change our attitude?

Articles that inspired this post:

http://theconversation.com/why-academics-are-interested-in-the-male-body-in-poldark-and-outlander-42518

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/tom-hughes-the-man-sexing-up-sundays-and-mondays-on-catch-up-x2hnmdhcv

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.