Love is a Gift

It’s still November yet the John Lewis ad has already aired and I’ve been harrassed more than once by Olaf the Snowman from Frozen in the Open Market. I’m no Grinch but I do draw the line personally at embracing the Christmas Spirit before December 1st. If you’re an early Christmas lover then that’s fine, you do you hun.

I have had more than one conversation about the darker side of Christmas though and even though I don’t want to be ‘that guy’, I do think it’s important to acknowledge and understand that not everyone is full of the joys of Rudolph this time of year. The Christmas season is incredibly difficult for many people for many different reasons – and the relentless onslaught of Mariah Carey holiday songs can take its toll (is there more than one actually?). Everywhere you look when you’re not feeling it is a homage to the big man and his pals – it must be unbearable.

This very topic came up at work yesterday as a collection of us gathered around one of our phones to watch an ‘alternative’ Christmas video. You might have seen it yourself on television as its creators have been interviewed a couple of times and lots of viewers are saying it’s even better than the Elton John JL advert this year.

The concept is simple in itself, and features a thirtysomething man listening to cassette tapes on an old Walkman, left to him as a gift by his late mother. Each tape is a touching personal message recorded for him for every year she was able to do it. Its tagline is “Love is a gift that lasts forever. Merry Christmas.”

Most of us were near tears even talking about it but a couple of people pondered why we have to think about sad things at Christmas – which prompted quite an interesting debate. While I get that point, it’s not a choice for a lot of lonely or bereaved people. There are people with nothing in this world, who barely get through their day to day lives, let alone the festive season. Just because everything is sprinkled with a light dusting of glitter does not mean that those troubles go away.

This isn’t a call to arms really. There are a lot of things you can do to give back this Christmas, from volunteering to reaching out to someone who may be struggling. Even just standing up and saying you’re there for your friends and colleagues if they need anyone can be a good thing. I’ve seen a couple of Facebook statuses over 2018 that touch on that same point.

Life is tough at the best of times and Christmas is hard – it’s financially stressful, socially exhausting and there’s a lot of pressure to pull on your favourite ugly sweater and get into the spirit. What if you can’t? I just think we should be conscious of each other and kind wherever we can be.

What are your thoughts?

In the meantime, have a look at Love is a Gift, the short film mentioned above.

Level 41

It’s that time of the year again. Time to gaze into the navel of my birthday and give thanks to the past year. This isn’t quite as epic a milestone as last year obviously but it’s still been a pretty sweet ride. 

40 has been good to me. I’ve done a lot of cool things, including two trips, fallen in love with Margate and spent a lot of time with a lot of good people. I’ve made some great new friends, enjoyed time with old ones – I’ve had fun at work, put myself forward for a new role which didn’t work out (but I’m quite pleased about that). I’ve been creative, I’ve been lazy – I’ve spent a lot of money, faced some fears, cried some tears. It’s been a well-rounded year and I’m grateful for it. 

I love my life and even when I put myself down for being old (every single day of my life), I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m a wise woman with a wealth of life experience and better still, I’m still learning every day. I might be who I am but there’s always room to undulate and grow.

Here’s to reaching Level 41 tomorrow. I can only hope that it’s as eventful and as fun as the last. 

 

 

Shirkers (Film) Review

Free for all month and I went a little rogue this week, pulling this delightful documentary from my Netflix list. I didn’t really know what to expect but I’m glad I chose it to be honest as it is a delight.

I will say though that I find reviewing documentaries slightly harder than your average film and I’m not sure why. I guess it’s harder to snark on real life experience? Who knows.

*Spoilers*

The Movie

Shirkers (2018)

Director

Sandi Tan

Cast

Sandi Tan, Sophia Siddique Harvey, Georges Cardona, Jasmine Kin Kia Ng

IMDB Synopsis

In 1992, teenager Sandi Tan and her friends Sophie and Jasmine shot Singapore’s first indie-a road movie called “Shirkers” with their enigmatic American mentor, Georges Cardona. Sandi wrote the script and played the lead, a killer named S. After shooting wrapped, Georges vanished with all the footage!

Please be my BFF

My Review

It’s 1992 and Sandi Tan and her two friends Sophia and Jasmine are shooting Singapore’s first indie road movie, a film called Shirkers. Focusing on pro/ant-agonist serial killer “S”, the film is a oddball ride full of spirited amateur performances, dream-like imagery and a Technicolor palette. Buddy Ben has composed a companion soundtrack and things are looking good for our budding film makers, not least Sandi whose lifelong dream has been to make a movie.

With the help of their director, the much older Georges Cardona, the film is finally completed but not without its issues. Just before shooting ends, Georges runs out of cash, and Jasmine and Sandi are forced to pool all their savings to save production. But they get there and as the movie wraps, the trio return to their respective international universities, leaving Georges behind in Singapore.

Sandi waits patiently, day after day for the finished film to make its way to her in Canterbury, England where she attends school. What arrives is a voice cassette from Georges in his usual enigmatic style, not explaining much regarding the film. Later she receives what she thinks is the film but is actually completely blank footage (not even more like constant static snow). All the blood sweat and tears the friends have put into their project seems to have been for nothing – and they never see or hear from Georges again.

Fuck you, Georges

Shirkers the documentary picks up 20 years later, when Sandi receives an email from Georges’ widow (ten years after he’s passed away), saying that she’s in possession of all the footage minus the audio tracks. Following this bombshell, Sandi decides to take the footage and use it differently, by making this documentary and unraveling its unknown history. The story is an intriguing one after all.

As she interviews her pals and the original cast and crew of Shirkers, we’re treated to a full picture of who they were and particularly the person Sandi was and is now. At times her friends describe her as kind of an asshole something she accepts as the truth. This project it turns out has bonded the friendships in a way nothing else has but has also tested them to their limits. All three women are successful in their fields and there’s no surprise there – these are 18 years olds that wrote, acted in and produced their own movie. Basically, I want to be them and if not then at least a hanger on, they’re brilliant.

We also learn more about their relationship with Georges, Sandi’s super-shady mentor. The man is odd AF and there’s a sinister air to a lot of the film where he’s concerned. It’s never really clear what his intentions are and I don’t know about you but it makes me feel funny when I see an older man hanging around with young women, especially when he takes one of them on a road trip across America.

Dog days aren’t over

We never really find out why he did what he did but by piecing together a collection of people with similar Georges experiences, it soon becomes clear that he was a jealous man who sabotaged his proteges when they started to get successful. And personally I find that motive incredibly interesting.

My Thoughts

This film won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award and I’m not surprised. It is an intriguing tale of stolen dreams and regret, and of determination. It has an ominous tone that makes you wonder where it’s going to go and when the story does unfold, it’s pretty mental. I really admire the girls, particularly when it transpired that they forced all the women in their film to smoke cigarettes for the aesthetic. This is something Jill and I would undoubtedly do if we made our own movie.

My Rating

3.5/5.

What does Jill think of this little mystery? Would she steal it and store it in her basement for 20 years or just let it live? Find out here.

Plan B

Blogging has been sparse since the wonderful #blogtober wrapped up and I don’t really like that, so I’m setting myself some writing goals for the next couple of months.

November is half done of course so I’ve been slack as usual but it’s never too late to pull it together. I’ve got plans for #blogmas too, my own take on bloggers fave #vlogmas. Continue reading

Venom

Venom (2018)

 

I say this quite a lot but I went into this with absolutely no expectation, except that Tom Hardy would be fit. I left pleasantly satisfied and that’s because he is perfectly cast as the slightly loser-ish Eddie Brock. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, basically.

Is it anywhere are groomed as Infinity War or Black Panther? Of course not – but there’s a place for it and I enjoyed myself immensely.

Mr Hardy is a dream, an actor that sometimes makes you ponder whether he’s that technically talented – but it hardly matters, he has something a lot of other leading men don’t have and that’s the special something. And obviously I would climb him like a tree.

Tom-Hardy-Venom-2018

Hey babe

Riz Ahmed is also very good as evil Carlton Drake, a slick criminal mastermind who slowly but surely transforms into Venom’s ultra strong arch enemy, Riot. In the beginning, I had some reservations about Michelle Williams as Eddie Brock’s love interest Anne, who starts off pretty simpering. Luckily for everyone concerned, she claws it back and is actually great in the end, a heroine not afraid to get her hands dirty in a bid to make sure Eddie’s okay, even though he gets her sacked.

Support from Slate (whose character, Doctor Dora Skirth deserved better) and Reid Scott as Anne’s new boyfriend Dan is also good – but the supporting star has to be the lovely Mrs Chen (Peggy Lu).

The CGI can be a bit much to keep up with at times because there is so much going on and I don’t really know about all the symbiote science but ultimately I’m not mad at Venom at all.

My Rating

3.5/5.

A Star is Born

A Star is Born (2018)

 

UGH. This movie, I loved it so much. Don’t even get me started on the climactic scene – it nearly destroyed me.

Charting the rise of singer Ally’s (Gaga) success following a chance meeting with seasoned rock/country legend Jack (Cooper), the fourth version of A Star is Born is gorgeous with a heavenly soundtrack.

If you’re wondering how Gaga could possibly keep her end up in place of the Garlands and Streisands of this world, just fucking watch her. She’s mesmerising at the best of times but in this role she is next level. If Oscar doesn’t come knocking in the Spring, then there is no God. Or there is but he’s a man with no taste.

I think if you aren’t familiar with the story, you might still have an inkling of how this might play out but the ending is very sad and the heartbreak is palpable. It’s one of those story lines you wish you could change for the better, even as you watch it veer dramatically off course.

I don’t want to give anything else away but I will say this is one of my favourite movies of this year so far and I can’t stop thinking about some of the songs. They’re outrageously good.

Oh, and the surprise appearance of Shangela and Willam was fun. God, I want to watch it over and over again.

My Rating

4.5/5.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)

I’ve a little bit of weakness for YA horror/fantasy, I can’t help myself. I think it might be because these are the kind of films that made me fall in long-term love with horror. I also have a little thing for JB and therefore this was a no-brainer. I enjoyed this ride, despite being the oldest member of the audience not accompanied by a child.

As Lewis gets to grips with his new life, living with his eccentric uncle Jonathan Barnavelt (Black) and occasionally, just as kooky next-door neighbour Florence Zimmerman (Blanchett), he learns that there is more to life than meets the eye – magic things – and there’s nothing more magical (and also sinister) as a house with a hidden clock buried in its walls.

While the family search for this torturous contraption, concealed somewhere deep in the core of the building, Jonathan’s arch nemesis Isaac Izard (Maclachlan) plans his comeback, with a little help from his beloved wife, Selena (Renée Elise Goldsberry). And Lewis must also navigate possibly the hardest landscape of all – middle school.

Honestly, this is a beautiful looking film with wholehearted performances from everyone. Cate is utterly breath-taking as the damaged (but determined) Florence. I feel like she should never veer from her purple colour palette ever again, it’s such a good look for her.

The effects are good and it’s above all fun to experience. There’s a really wonderful scene set in the ornate back garden that is stunning – and a head to head between our heroic trio and a bunch of haunted pumpkins. What’s not to love?

My Rating

3.5/5.

The Wife

The Wife (2017)

This movie showcases a powerhouse performance by Glenn Close, obviously. The woman is electrifying and handsome as fuck – and rightly so, pretty much the only thing you will care about.

As the downtrodden wife of a Pulitzer prize-winning author, she gives the most emotive performance and it’s probably the only element of the film that will stick in the mind. The narrative itself flip-flops between present day as the Castlemans journey to Switzerland with their son David (Max Irons) to pick up Joe’s award – and the past, as they meet in college, fall in love and begin to build their life together. The thing is, along the way they create something much more than just their family and it looks set to catch up with Joe.

But will Joan blow the whistle? Will she ever be ready to share her truth, the one that gives a fuller picture of who she is – not just the wife, not just a victim?

The Wife is a good movie but it’s not exactly a fun ride and at its climax you might just be a little disappointed. I would have liked more raging against the machine, more punches thrown (metaphorically or otherwise) and as the credits roll, I got what it was saying but I wanted more. Forgive me for waiting for Close to throw just a little bit of Alex Forrest into the mix. Now that would be a film worth watching.

My Rating

3.5/5.