Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My thoughts on last night’s episode of “Skins”

Eating disorders are being looked at more and more nowadays in TV programmes such as Hollyoaks, and in part 2 of 9 in the groundbreaking teen drama Skins yesterday, we follow Cassie, a Sixth former suffering from, amongst other problems such as low self esteem and self-harm, anorexia. We follow her day as she wakes up at one of the all-night parties that the show was so popular for, and gently kisses Sid Jenkins (the virgin of the Skins gang, and, in my opinion, one of the most handsome boys I’ve ever seen), before going home, where she sees her parents going at it (eww) in the kitchen. They pay her very little attention and when Cassie announces that she’s fit enough to leave rehab, their “Wow, that’s great!” reactions are entirely reminiscent of a teacher saying anything to get a hated student out of the way.

Anyone think she looks like Alison Lohman here?

Hannah Murray plays Cassie wonderfully. It could be so easy for a girl with mental illness, low self-esteem and an eating disorder to sink into the depths of farce, but she is completely realistic, despite portraying a character who’s obsessed with the words “wow” and “totally.” She is quite spacey and ditzy, but Cassie is also extremely intelligent (she can calculate mathematical sums quickly in her head), and above all, a kind person, and I was rooting for her throughout the episode. She’s just a breath of fresh air, lively, vibrant, in her own little world, and one of the few characters worth liking on this parade of smug teenagers with more STDs than Pete Doherty.

Cassie, like me, proceeds to get a bit of a crush on Sid, after he speaks to her during lunch, telling her that she should eat, and in a moment of brilliant girl power, she spills food on the twatty protagonist Tony (played by Nicholas Hoult, in a role more different from his breakout character in About a Boy than chalk is from cheese) because he is constantly saying that Sid smells and will never “pull”. Sid idolizes Tony and follows him about like a lost puppy, and also is infatuated with Tony’s slutty girlfriend Michelle. She doesn’t deserve him. And in being obsessed with her (and also coping with a mad drug dealer who wants to get him), he misses out on the jewel right in front of him: Cassie.

Throughout the show, Cassie receives texts saying “EAT!” from an unknown sender. She prays that it is Sid, and that it is him showing the interest in her, but in the bitterest of bittersweet moments, we discover that it was actually just her rehab driver. Or maybe, even, just a figment of her imagination. The episode yesterday was funny (the chavvy banter between the smug kids was fun to listen to), disturbing (watching two parents have sex in the kitchen where there baby son sits is not something I want to have to witness again), but
essentially, very poignant (witness Cassie desperately fingering a chocolate bar from a pile of many that she has stored, but can’t eat.) The show ends where her cab driver coaxes her into eating a burger, but the creators of the show don’t make it that easy for us; the show ends with the burger in her mouth. Swallowed or unswallowed, that is up to the viewers to decide, but all I know is that Cassie is one of the most wonderful creations in TV, and I hope she does get the happiness and good guy she deserves.

Here's a Regina Spektor music video set to clips of Cassie:

Tags: , , , .

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I’ll be There for You.

Summer holidays are long. My school’s holiday lasts between 20th July to the 5th September. I’d been given holiday homework to do during this time, and I even wrote out a to-do list (a proper one), with items on such as “practice violin & guitar” (not done) and “write proper slash piece” (semi-done), but sometimes this Summer, I just didn’t feel like DOING something, but instead, relax, and with Friends season box sets selling at £15 per season, what better way is there to relax?

The seasons I brought were 7, 8 and 10 (see photo), and they’ve just provided me with so much entertainment, joy and all-round happiness (I watched them religiously in the two weeks leading up to me getting my AS results) that I feel grateful to Bright, Kauffman and Crane that I’m gonna blog about the seasons I watched over and over and over again.

Season 7, first 12 episodes

This season picks up where 6 had left off, with Monica and Chandler announcing their engagement. All the celebrations leave Rachel cold, though, as it reminds her of how far away she is from getting engaged, and, in self-pity, snogs Ross, thus stealing Monica’s Thunder. This piece of plotting is quite clever as it foreshadows Ross and Rachel’s looming night together that results in Rachel’s pregnant. Anyway, my favourite aspect of this episode was Phoebe’s attempts to write a song for the wedding,

“They thought Phoebe would leave,
But she just stayed and stayed.
That’s right, I’m here all night,
And Chandler will never get lai-”

(at which, Chandler interrupts.)

Monica and Chandler’s wedding plans form the focus of many of the following episodes, and I do rather like Chandler with his sexy glasses as well the fact that he’s revealed to be quite rich. Chandler was hilarious in The One with Phoebe’s Cookies, where, in attempt to bond with Monica’s dad, he accidentally sits on him! Also in the episode, Monica spends two whole days trying to figure out a cookie recipe, only for it to turn out that Phoebe’s grandmother stole it off Nestle Toll House (which Phoebe had thought was said “Nestle To-looze”.) Oh, and Jennifer Aniston’s hair is stunning as always.

Rachel then gets to have an assistant at work, and being the professional adult that she is, opts for the inexperienced cutie (who she proceeds to lust after unabashedly).

In The One with the Nap Partners, Rachel and Phoebe vie for the position of Monica’s bridesmaid, which involves a competition, with Ross pretending to be a drunken uncle, and Phoebe attacking him. Phoebe gets the job through talking about showering with Rachel, but finally she lets Rachel have the job when she sees how much it means to her.

What follows is The One with Ross’ Library Book, where people visit a spot in front of Ross’ book, and “instead of reading it, they’re rolling around in front of it.” A scene that had me in stitches was when Ross went to complain to a librarian, the librarian saw it as a come-on line.

Rachel’s crush on her assistant Tag finally gets somewhere in The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs, where, Joey, seeing Rachel hug Tag, lets the secret out, and the two eventually get together. This is the episode where they play the states game and Ross is furious at only getting 46 states, compared to Joey’s er… 56.

Food then plays a part in both The One with All the Candy and The One with all the Cheesecakes. In the former, Monica makes some holiday confectionary for neighbours in an attempt to get to know them better, but the plan backfires when everyone becomes hooked on the candy. Chandler picks out his future wife’s weak spot, noting that she became a cook to get people to like her, but Monica’s witty quip, “You wanna talk about getting people to like you, funny man?” really showed him. Also in this episode, Ross buys Phoebe her first bike, only to discover that Phoebe can’t ride a bike (and watching a grown adult fall off a bike is hilarious). However, she does eventually learn to ride, with the aid of stabilisers, which is both incredibly funny and sweet.

The Simpsons’ voice of Apu and Moe, Hank Azaria (who is a terrific actor, but my, my, is up there with Steve Buscemi in the ugliness stakes) makes an appearance in The One with All the Cheesecakes as Phoebe’s old flame David, and in one of the shows’ rare moments of poignancy, we see Phoebe look at a lover that she can never get too close too.

The Rosita of The One Where Rosita Dies is actually Joey’s sofa, and Rachel “kills” Rosita when trying to move “her”. Phoebe encounters a suicidal office worker, and then tries to stop him from killing himself.

Hmm… I’m going to stop there because I don’t want to type any more. But I’ll look at the rest of Season 7 tomorrow, hopefully.

Another show I’m totally hooked by (despite only having seen one episode) is Skins. Yes, I know they’re essentially just a bunch of smug chavs who may or may not all have STDs, but I just can’t help being totally hooked by the show. The kids there have so much fun, way more fun than I ever did, and it both makes me jealous and makes me sneer that they don’t ever seem to worry about normal teenage stuff, like, you know… schoolwork?!?! The two characters who I’m most interested in are a) Sid, and this is basically because I fancy him, and b) Cassie. She’s an anorexic, drug-addled, self-harming psychopath, but she’s just so unique and crazy that I genuinely like her. Not like the main guy, Tony, who needs a slap to wipe that smirk off his face.

Some film tunes that have caught my ear this year.

There are two tracks in this trailer to Atonement, the first 46 seconds are from the original score by Dario Marianelli (listen out for the sexy tapping of typewriter keys that I was talking about), and after 46 seconds, the track The Vesion is played:

Anyway, if you want to hear the surging strings from the latter part of the trailer again and again, here it is for keeping: The Vesion.

Another filmtrack of 2007 that I just had to bring up is the catchiest song of 2007, so simple, so stupid, yet so utterly brilliant, like the TV show that inspired the film that inspired it, Spider Pig from The Simpsons Movie. Here it is.

Guess the Movies.

Same format as before, 20 films in screenshot. Guess 'em.


Monday, August 27, 2007

73. Hable con ella (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002).


My favourite actors ever.

Don't believe anything I say, or you shall die.

This post is in participation with Piper’s Bizarro blogathon at Lazy Eye Theatre. If you believe any of what I am about to write, then, well, you haven’t been reading this blog often enough. I’m not serious, OK?!?!?

I really admire Sylvester Stallone as an actor. Rocky Balboa was one of the best film characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of having witnessed, and I’m delighted that he continued to make twelve others. Each sequel is as good as the last. Rocky rocks!

So, Hilary Duff. She’s like, so perfect. She can sing, dance, but best of all, her acting! I really don’t know which of her performances I like the most, for she was incredible in Cheaper by the Dozen and A Cinderella Story. But I gotta say, it’s Lizzie McGuire that was her deepest, most profound performance. Her honest, convincing portrayal of everyday girl Lizzie was like, so utterly inspiring! I want to go to Rome and become a singer like she did! Anyway, Hilary totally rocks.

An actress I like even more than “Hil” is the British Goddess that is Emma Watson. Honest to God, I can’t think of a better girl to play Hermione. As Hermione, she’s not at all annoying, and she is obviously so much better than Rupert Grint! People who say she merely acts with her eyebrows don’t know a damn thing about acting, she’s the Lee Strasberg of the 21st century, I tell ya!
… But I would turn down a friendship with Emma, point blank, if it meant I could meet my all-time idol, Scarlett Johansson. Honestly, could you get any more beautiful and talented than that girl? Her face never looks contorted, and her pouting is so beautiful. And her BAFTA win for Lost in Translation was immensely deserved, nobody does sitting around and looking cool than Miss Johansson! Oh, and that shag-in-the-lift episode with Benicio del Toro just shows how utterly classy she is; she’s such a Goddess!

Wow, I'd been in quite a bad mood today, but that really cheered me up! I suggest you lot all participate in this blogathon and make hate love and love hate. Go on!

Monday, August 20, 2007

My review of Atonement.

Okay, this is a review that I'm quite pleased with, and, along with the fact that I was one of the first in the world to watch this, I will be keeping this review as my top blog post for a while, so if you want to check for new entries, look under this post, because I'm keeping this up top for a while. :D

Atonement Review
Britain’s bestselling author Ian McEwan is a wonderfully rich and articulate writer, but he has often struck me (and I know I'm probably alone here) as a man of too many words. Enduring Love, despite its unique and gripping plot, was overly descriptive, and even his recent novella, On Chesil Beach, could have done with being 50 pages shorter. I felt exactly the same way about Atonement when I first started reading it, there were too many “rhymes”, too many adjectives, to a point where it almost seem to obsess with the minutiae and try to hold the story back. Then I realised that this time, it was intentional. Bringing the surprising turn of events that served the book so well onto the big screen was a huge challenge, but Joe Wright, who’s 2005 effort Pride & Prejudice ranked amongst one of the loveliest films of that year, was more than apt a man to do it: talented, engaging with his actors, focused and precise, he has given Atonement the big-screen fare, and more.

13-year-old Briony Tallis is a girl with a huge imagination who loves to write. The film starts at her completion of a play, “The Trials of Arabella”, a morality tale on love and the dangers of being too hasty with one’s emotions. From her opening line in the prologue, various multisyllabic words that I didn’t understand were employed, and the audience giggles at her pretension: evidently, this is a girl whose world is shaped with words, regardless of whether or not she understands them. Witnessing her sister Cecilia dive into a pool as their housekeeper’s son Robbie watches after her, Briony pictures as scene she has no understanding of, and, by the end of the day, she will have changed lives for the worse, and she will spend the rest of her life regretting and trying to atone this mistake.

The first act of the film, set in the picturesque country house, effectively conveys the sweltering heat of the British Summer and the mental unrest that comes with it. The camera never stays still, and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey even used Christian Dior stockings over the lenses to portray the heat and its effects on the residents. As Briony starts thinking about what she doesn’t understand, trying to write a play of it, Dario Marianelli’s haunting score, which features the rhythmic tapping of typewriter keys, reverberates in the background, to continually remind the audience that something bad is about to happen.

And so it does. Without giving too much about the plot away, suffice to say it involves a note and a very dirty word. As anyone who has read the book will tell you, the line in which Robbie types out his innermost desires, is a very shocking jolt to the reader, not least because previously, the book had been so proper, so contained.. Even knowing that this moment would occur in the movie, I was still surprised by it. The word is glorified in the film, and each letter of that sentence is typed out, frame by frame, for the audience to read and work out for themselves. The word is then played back several times, to a point where it almost gets farcical.

That Atonement is not afraid to use humour in its deepest, most dramatic moments works to its advantage. There are several scenes with the young Briony (mainly involving her snooping) that made the audience laugh ironically, one scene in particular involving Cecelia at the dinner table. However, this is essentially a drama, and the pace and tone of the film are appropriate to its genre. To add to the genre, different events are replayed from different perspectives to show what something has the appearance of being, and what it really is. This device, though not new, works excellently for Atonement.

The second act of the film, set 4 years later, is much grittier and less pretty to watch. Robbie is now a soldier in France, and pines to get back to Cecelia. The horrors of war are not underplayed, and in one excellently-filmed tracking shot, the camera meanders through a chaotic mess of soldiers. Robbie, who had turned out so well before, has not lost practically all of his beauty, and retains only his accent. Similarly, back at home, soldiers with all sorts of disturbing injuries are shown. It is refreshing to see a film that, rather than portraying the war as some sort of patriotic honour, instead shows the horror and suffering that it causes.

In what could only be a nod to David Lean with his country houses, upper middle classes and epic romances, Joe Wright chose for his actors to give performances of the pre-Lee Strasburg era. And the cast rise up to the challenge admirably. As the young Briony, Saoirse Ronan is pitch-perfect, conveying her youthful innocence as well as whiny nosiness. Her sense of knowing about things she clearly doesn’t is infuriating, but Ronan prevents us from denouncing her entirely, reminding us that she is, after all, just a child. Keira Knightley, who will be keen to forget her “performance” in her other 2007 venture, Pirates of the Caribbean III, doesn’t do anything majorly wrong here, and at times even earns the audience’s respect and sympathies as the loyal lover. Romola Garai plays the older, more wise Briony with conviction and a touch of sadness (though one of her deliveries in a confrontation scene went a bit wrong and sounded wooden). However, she more than makes up for this, shining in one scene in particular where she converses with a French soldier.

But the star of the show is the one, the only, James McAvoy. In the Q&A that followed the screening of the film, director Joe Wright described Robbie as the highest form of a human being, and he is. Raised by a single mother, Robbie worked hard for everything in his life, but with success he is still a brilliantly warm and humble person. Even after he is put in the war to avoid staying in prison for longer, he does not whinge about it, but instead, gets through the day with the hope of seeing Cecelia guiding him through. James McAvoy plays this special individual with compassion and understanding. He has the accent and physicality of Robbie down to a T, but, more importantly, conveys his goodness, without ever having to resort to histrionics. McAvoy’s performance is a masterclass in subtle acting. In some pivotal scenes, it is actually his beautiful blue eyes that do the acting more than anything, and they speak more words than Briony’s ostentatious prose ever could.

There is more than a little similarity between Atonement and The Go-Between. Both tell of love between different classes, and an intruding message carrier between the two. Furthermore, Sarah Greenwood’s sensuous set design (in the first act) and accurate war holes (in the second), along with the sound design, which features buzzing bees, works cleverly on a subconscious level to add to the tension. Indeed, Atonement is a technically and visually stunning film. The hues in the first act are almost overly saturated with richness, and this contrasts starkly to the second act, where cold hospital wards and mucky brown war dugouts fill the screen. The costumes are all realistic and accurate, though I personally favour the glamorous designs of the first half, which include a mesmerizing green dress that Cecelia wears. The cinematography, which encompasses long takes, tracking shots, lingering pans all attribute to the visual flair of the movie. But the key stylistic element that stood out for me, was the score. The piano theme is elegiac and melancholy, and the cello and violins also add to the sadness of the romance. Also, the use of a typewriter as an instrument, though started oddly, soon becomes infectious and it even forces its way into viewer’s minds, making Robbie’s note (and the consequences) unforgettable.

Joe Wright and Working Title have made a film to be proud of. Amidst some incredible scenes (an extremely erotic library non-reading session between Robbie and Cecelia) as well as the fountain scene are amongst the many that will remain with viewers long after the credits have rolled. The quality and calibre of films that Working Title have turned out recently have been brilliant (Pride & Prejudice, Hot Fuzz, etc) and Atonement ranks up there along with my personal favourites Dead Man Walking and The Hudsucker Proxy. It is a wonderfully crafted, beautifully lush and immensely moving film that shows, above all, how storytelling can both destroy and heal. By the time the final surprise occurs (keep your eyes peeled for a cameo by a smug movie director), you may or may not have decided whether or not Briony has truly atoned for her mistake. But the film takes no sides, gives no easy answers. Perhaps the book was right, and, “the attempt was all.”

Monday, August 13, 2007

Go Hitchcock, it's your birthday, we're gonna party like it's your birthday.

So he is dead, but I just can't resist dedicating another post to my favourite director of all time. This is, after all, a man, so important, that he got an entire google logo dedicated to him:

My top 5 Alfred Hitchcock films:
01. Rear Window
02. Rebecca
03. Rope
04. Vertigo
05. Dial M for Murder

Best 5 Hitchcock films:
01. Vertigo
02. Rear Window
03. Psycho
04. North by Northwest
05. The Lady Vanishes

Favourite Hitchcock leading man/character? James Stewart, particularly as LB Jeffries in Rear Window. In the movie, he's a world-class action photographer with a broken leg, suffering the heat of the hottest time of the year, so hot that his neighbours keep their blinds and shades up day. He's been in his apartment for six weeks and has one more to go before the cast is removed. Utterly bored with everything, he looks through his telescope at his neighbours, which ranges from the pitch-perfect vibratto of the one-time opera singer practicing on the third floor; the trills of a flautist; and maybe even a murder...

I try to be like Grace Kelly.Favourite Hitchcock blonde: Of all time, It’s a tie for me between Ingrid Bergman (Spellbound, Notorious, Under Capricorn) and Grace Kelly (Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief), but I’d definitely give Joan Fontaine a mention, simply for giving one of the best female performances of all time, in Rebecca.

favourite Hitchcock cameo: In Marnie where he enters from the left of the hotel corridor after Tippi Hedren passes by.

Some of Hitchcock’s best scenes:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket