Category Archives: Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab 2019

Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit

The world of competitive cat shows this week and a documentary, no less.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve already forgotten all the human names and I can’t be bothered to go back and catch them so they will hereon out be referred to as Bobby’s Mum and Oh La La’s Mum. Of course I remember the star cats names.

Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit (2018)

Catwalk takes us into the gritty underworld of the cat show, something I have never thought about before and might not afterwards. Apparently it’s kind of a big deal in the US and probably elsewhere, again I haven’t done my research. Sue me.

Bobby is current king of cats, best in show. He’s a beautiful white boy described as ‘muscular, not fat’ by his mum. She might as well be describing Chris Hemsworth the way she’s going on but one look at Bobby and you can’t really blame a girl. He’s mostly nonplussed about the adoration and just gets on with what he’s required to do which is to be a good boy in competition. Via the power of a rather cute info-graphic we can see that Bobby is head and tail above all the other cats on the circuit and heading for world domination.

Burning ball of straight fiyah

Alas, Bobby’s (or more accurately Bobby’s mum’s) confidence is knocked by the arrival of one Ginger Queen, the formidable Oh La La, a Persian fluff ball with attitude. Oh La La rocks up and easily scoops Best in Show but it’s okay because it’s a one off show right? If Oh La La and her owner take their victory and bow out on a high, never to be seen again, Bobby and Mum don’t have to worry, see? Shame then that Oh La La’s mum gets the cat show bug and decides to keep going.

OOOOOOOOOPSY.

Thus starts a competition to rival Bette and Joan’s. Relax, it’s never that bad, there are no broken legs a la Tonya Harding but there is some ‘jokey’ attitude as Oh La La’s Mum ponders whether Bobby’s has sabotaged an entire airline to stop Oh La La arriving to a particular show. Bobby’s meanwhile keep saying things like “Anything can happen… Oh La La’s Mum could fall ill…” and you wonder how far these women are willing to go to come out on top.

The cats, again, are not that bothered but Oh La La in particular goes through a rigorous regular routine of beauty and pain. Personally, I think she’s kind of a bitch and that’s why I like her so much but I do feel a little sorry for all the other cats that get sidelined for The Big Two.

I feel like there is a special indignity in watching cats of all creatures being manhandled by judges. For the most part, these cats don’t really want to be there and would much rather be sleeping or roaming about, surely?

At one point Bobby throws up a collection of grotesque hair balls on the judging podium, and I cheered. His mother looks on with a pained expression of not anger so much as disappointment. I like Oh La La’s mother far more than I like Bobby’s because she at least seems genuinely cheerful. Bobby’s seems to have an underlying coolness to her but in the end the two owners are kind of friends, and at least they understand one other.

As Oh La La continues to thrash the competition, Bobby’s ma seems to resign herself to the fact she can’t catch up and she actually seems to relax visibly. She has another cat in show, who is probably my favourite and who’s name I can’t remember. She decides to focus a little more time on this cat and helps him pump up his competition points. This is quite a triumphant segment to be honest.

I just think it’s a shame sometimes that the fun seems sucked out of the shows when all they’re worried about is winning. Bobby’s mother in particular seems obsessed with the idea of the perfect cat and anything that isn’t first place doesn’t count to her.

In my opinion all cats are perfect. This doc is an eye opener. It’s shocking how much commitment goes into the pursuit of perfection and I had fun with this documentary. The personalities and the facial expressions of the cats are the best thing about it as well as the barbed ‘jokes’ between the two main cat mums.

You’re the cat’s pyjamas

I really hope that Bobby and Oh La La do/did (Oh La La is now retired) enjoy their cat show times as much as their owners believe they do/did. I suspect they don’t give a fuck either way.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What did my kitty cat think of Catwalk? Would she vote it Best in Show or throw it out with the hair balls? Find out here obviously.

Mary Shelley

This movie would be a good contender for Feminist February so I’m almost pissed I didn’t save it. However, it was interesting to get an insight into the life of such an interesting writer, the creator of one of the most horrifying and also sympathetic horror characters of all time.

*Spoilers*

Mary Shelley (2017)

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) is a 16-year-old woman with a penchant for horror. A writer whenever she can be, she is somewhat stifled by the responsibilities of home, by her step-mother (go figure) and by the death of her mother, a wanton hussy who left the family home to embark on a live-in threesome and then pegged it. Her father tends to take the side of his horrible wife, even against his own daughter and he also critiques her writing, telling her she has to find her own voice. Gee, I sure hope she does…!

Mary has a step-sister (I think) called Claire (Bel Powley) who adores her and there might be a younger brother somewhere in the background too. Mary’s step-mother Mary Jane Clairmont (Joanne Froggatt) is a professional shit-stirrer and many times I found myself shouting the C Word at the screen when she was on it. She ribs our girl about her mother’s slutty ways and this gets Mary temporarily ejected from the family home, sent away to stay with a cousin (?) in Ireland.

The cousin, Isabel Baxter (Maisie Williams) is fun and Mary begins to enjoy her life away from home and her family. Not least because here she meets the young poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth), a serious charmer and all-round hot piece. As Mary and Shelley begin to nuture the spark between them, Mary is called home to deal with an emergency – the serious illness of her sister, Claire.

Mary returns home to find Claire has been faking her sickness just to get her sister home and I would have slapped her damn face for doing that to me. Mary is a little more understanding and able to handle it even better when Shelley appears on her doorstep, under the guise of being apprentice to Mary’s father, also a writer. The pair are able to pick up where they left off which is all well and good until Mary is approached by Shelley’s wife and young daughter in the street. Mrs Shelley tells her to stay away from her man or she’ll cut a bitch – and Mary denies all romantic interest in Shelley, which we all know is a goddamn lie.

Later, Shelley states that they are married in name only (that old chestnut) and that the marriage was nothing like what he’d signed up for. Mary is talked around quickly by Shelley because she wants to be but her family are outraged that Shelley would shirk his responsibilities to his wife and child so easily. Mary’s father tells her that if she sees him again then she is dead to him and – ooops – guess who she chooses?

When the time comes, Mary runs away and Claire begs her to go too. So the girls and Shelley disappear into their new life which lacks the grandeur both of them were expecting. It is free and sexy though and the girls are able to indulge their desires, e.g. drinking wine and shagging. Eventually the trio move to a house though things are still far from idyllic. Shelley is a struggling writer who has a deal but isn’t delivering the goods, they’re poor and struggling and then Mary falls pregnant. Added to this, the couple have a fight when Mary declines the sexual advances of one of Shelley’s buds. It becomes clear that Shelley has quite an open-mind when it comes to the topic of monogamy, while Mary is a one man kind of gal. They fight about who each of them believed the other to be and there is also a strong suggestion that Shelley is also schtupping Claire (though as far as I recall this is never confirmed).

Mary has the baby, Clara and all is well for a time until she passes away. Baby Clara is sickly anyway but during a mad dash from the home in the middle of the night (I think the trio are running away from creditors or the landlord), Clara catches a chill. I fully blame Shelley for this needless death and Mary’s subsequent grieving.

Claire begins shagging Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge) who invites them all to his home for a fancy retreat and Mary meets a kind (and fit) doctor who seems to dig her. Shelley gets jealous about this chemistry and throws his weight about, or is this a delayed response to the news he receives that his wife has killed herself? Either way he’s a dick. Byron too is a shit to Claire who is up the duff with his child. The take home here is ditch the zeros and go your own way, girls.

During the course of the film we are given glimpses of Mary’s interest in science and while they’re staying with Byron, the group go to a TED Talk about bringing people back to life via a spooky looking machine. Following this, a seed is planting in Mary’s mind and a monster is born. You know to which ‘monster’ I refer.

Mary of course writes Frankenstein which is an exceptional work but is not taken seriously by the publisher on Mary’s return because you guessed it, she is a lowly woman and books by women do not sell. Also, the publisher dick implies that Shelley wrote it anyway. Lo! – Shelley in the end gets the credit for Mary’s masterpiece and she is so angry they split up.

Will he do the right thing in the end and will Mary reconcile with her father? More importantly will she gain the recognition she so richly deserves for her work? Well, most of us have picked up a copy of the book with her name on the cover so that one might be a no-brainer but it’s still nice to have an insight into how this comes about.

Well, I might not have paid particular attention to the details but I did enjoy this period piece. Elle Fanning is always a delight and I presume she does Mary Shelley justice. I don’t like any of the male figures, except maybe the kindly doctor and that’s the point. This is about Mary and her journey to liberation. It’s about being taken seriously as a member of the fairer sex and of staying true to her own principles. Mary holds her head high despite the reputation she gains from being with Shelley and the shadow of who her mother was and what she did.

I love the book Frankenstein and the themes it explores – I will be picking it up again soon.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my heroine think of this one? Would she keep this one reanimated or refuse to publish it? Find out here.

 

And Breathe Normally

Lesbians in Iceland! Sort of. Maybe not as cheerful as that, sadly. However, Free for All Month focusses itself this week on a subtle examination of poverty, homelessness and the search for asylum. It’s bleak AF frankly but kind of sort of beautiful.

And Breathe Normally (2018), or Andið eðlilega (original title)

Two women, Lára (Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir) and Adja (Babetida Sadjo) find their lives and troubles colliding in this slow but impactful film.

Lára, an apparent former addict and her son Eldar (Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson) are on the verge of hitting rock bottom. Things are shaky as we meet them but when the pair are evicted (along with their new rescue cat), they find themselves sleeping in the car and eating free supermarket samples for dinner.

Lára manages to dress this up as an adventure to Eldar who is remarkably chill for a kid and actually, is quite sweet. Lára isn’t jobless though, she’s a trainee Immigration Officer trying to become permanent and you get the impression there’s quite a lot of competition for a job like this. Accordingly she is very thorough, so when Adja comes through passport control on her way to North America with a dodgy passport, Lára clocks it – and so begins Adja’s personal hell.

Adja it turns out is seeking asylum from her country Guinea-Bissau and is travelling with her sister and young daughter, both of who get through security and arrive at their intended destination: Canada. When she is detained, Adja claims to be travelling alone and although Lára realises otherwise, she keeps schtum. Unfortunately for Lára, she is rewarded for her eagle-eyed skills by being permitted to sit in on the initial interview with Adja. Which is all kinds of awkward.

Adja is send to a half-way house with the threat of deportation hanging over her. The refugee center isn’t great and is filled with people in similar situations. Adja witnesses one of the tenants being forcibly removed by Immigration in the middle of the night and this understandably freaks her the fuck out.

One day by chance, the two women find their lives entwined once more. Adja meets Eldar when his cat runs away – and off the back of this Lára is forced to show her kindness. This is not something she lacks, it’s just that Lára is very conscious of the consequences her actions have had for Adja. Gradually though Adja twigs that the duo have their own issues and offers them shelter in her tiny, temporary room. She also offers to babysit Eldar while Lára goes to work. This is something that seems to bring her comfort in light of being separated from her daughter, who she can only chat to on the communal payphone.

Eldar and Adja bond and it is through this interaction that we get a little insight into Adja’s life. During a conversation with her legal support, we learn she is fleeing her country because of her sexuality. With Eldar she opens up about her ‘friendship’ with her lover, who seems not to be with us anymore. While there are hints of trauma in both the women’s lives, the film does not fully go in on them and somehow the simple suggestion of them feels worse.

In the end, a decision is made about Adja’s future and she is forced to consider some very drastic action. Luckily for her she now has a new friend to look out for her – and I’m sorry but the ending of this film made me feel all the feels. These women deserve better than the hands they were dealt and hopefully, they both finally get it.

While it is bleak and cold to look at (lots of frosty tarmac surrounding the airport Lára works in), the performances are great and it is a nice story. It’s proof that you never really know what other people are going through until they show you.

The men in this movie are mostly secondary, with the exception of Eldar and I like that. Lára’s bosses are largely unsmiling and authoritative, while Adja’s fellow (male) residents are portrayed (unfairly?) as people doing what they need to do to survive (e.g. wheeling n’ dealing). At one point Adja is approached and offered sex work. But this is about the struggle and these women find common ground in one another without the usual cliché of your typical odd-couple pairing.

“Get in bitch, we’re going shopping…”

Lára is also gay and our protagonists are not thrown together sexually for the titillation of the viewer and I’m here for that (I’m also here for titillation but you know what I mean). It’s no surprise that this was written and directed by a woman, Isold Uggadottir. In her hands it is a thoughtful study on immigration and more importantly, it humanises both sides of the coin. Refugees are people with lives and loves who don’t deserve the negativity they receive, particularly in the press (shock horror!) and Lára is a human being too, just trying to do the right fucking thing.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my beloved think of And Breathe Normally? Would she deport it from her memory right away or help it escape its own nightmare? Find out here.

TAU

The Blog Collab is back and ready to rock with a Free For All January. Thanks for bearing with us while we took our Christmas break. Both Jill and I were having trouble getting into the festive spirit and agreed we didn’t want to do Christmas movies this time around so we had a rest instead.

Welcome back!

*Minor Spoilers*

TAU (2018)

The premise here is quite neat. ‘Streetwise’ (read: slutty, unlikely to be missed) people are kidnapped by an amoral scientist and harvested for their brains for a ground-breaking, game-changing AI project. When Alex (Ed Skrein) kidnaps Julia (It Follows’ Maika Monroe), he bites off more than he can chew. This girl values her life and she’ll fight hammer and nail to get it back. Fuck you, Alex, you Nicholas Hoult-looking loser.

With the help of the Artificial Intelligence system that runs his space age home – TAU (voiced by Gary Oldman) – and multiple drones/a massive clunky robot, Alex is able to strike fear into Alex. To a point. As Julia realises her value to Alex she begins to negotiate a deal with him – give her back some of her home comforts and eventual freedom, in exchange for her co-operation. For a while it seems a kind of pseudo-harmony could be possible but Alex is under pressure from his investors and is also a cold fish who doesn’t suffer fools, so the pair soon fall out.

Meanwhile, Julia seems to have found another way. She’s found a chink in TAU’s armor and the more time the AI and the girl spend together, the more she works her way beneath it. TAU, you see, appears to be the victim of an abusive domestic situation and Julia can use that. By convincing TAU he’s human like her, and honing in on his love of music/growing curiosity about the world outside, the more she can get him onside. It’s a game of wits and it’s quite sweet. But will Alex notice this and put paid to Julia’s games before she escapes? Or will he use her and then erase her as he has so many before her?

Well, despite the quite charming narrative, this film is not great honestly. It has such potential and I really enjoyed Julia as a character but it doesn’t have quite the oomph I expected. Maika Monroe is one to watch after It Follows and the gloriously trashy The Guest and she’s definitely the stand out here, I just wish she’d had worthy material to work with.

I’m also glad they made the central relationship about Julia and TAU and not Julia and Alex, who frankly was a wasted character. I get that he’s supposed to be a man with his eyes on the prize but we never get anything from him. He’s so 2D it’s offensive and maybe that’s the point, that the creator of such advanced AI would end up being less human than his pet project.

While we’re here though, should such sophisticated Artificial Intelligence be that easy to manipulate? As far as I can see, Alex has one job and if he can’t even keep his home in order…

All in all, not a disaster but not amazing either. Poor old Netflix seems to be in a rut churning out mediocre Sci-fi originals at the moment and I hope that changes soon. I should have chosen Mary Shelley instead (and will in the coming weeks).

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my beloved think of this bad boy? Would she save it from itself or prefer to erase all memory of it? You can find out here, as always.