Saturday, June 25, 2011

Emma's Girlcrushes, 2.0

Sixteen months on, a redux of this list, in which only two women who were on that list have made the cut this time round. This says a lot really; chiefly, that first and foremost, I'm quite the fickle when when finding female celebrities to lust after/wish I looked like. Secondly, that there are just so many gorgeous women in the media today, and to truly celebrate the beauty (both outer and inner) of them all, would take much much more than a simple, artlessly made blog post. Also, I am being rather shallow in the constructing of this list, so it comprises of ten stunners who's looks - purely physical - do it for me. Of course, there are countless other definitions of sexiness, but for this list, I'm going by just looks.

10. Kaya Scodelario

Maaaan, girl is just completely and utterly gorgeous. She has stunning blue eyes - which is often coked in vampish make up on Skins to turn her sex factor up to an eleven, an enviable size six bikini body and amazing personal style.

09. Selena Gomez
She's Public Enemy No. 1 for all the Beliebers, but I couldn't care less about that little scrote and if you ask me, that boy's damn lucky to have Selena, for, in addition to being a very talented young performer, she possesses the most beautiful smile I've ever seen.

08. Kimberley Walsh
If you stripped all of Girls Aloud off their magical make-up, this Yorkshire lass would probably come across as the most naturally beautiful; she can survive with just her fake lashes and lip gloss. Flawless skin, tiny waist, womanly hips and a brilliantly warm energy to go with all that, it's impossible not to like Kimbo.

07. Ana Vidic
I'm less than fond of the man standing next to her, but for me, Ana Vidic is the Queen of wags. Despite mothering two sons, she has a body to rival Victoria Beckham's, and boasts the most spectacular range of Jimmy Choos and Louboutins. Furthermore, as with Fernando Torres' wife Olalla, who just missed this list; she combines beauty and brains - both woman have Economics degree. As Beyonce said, "smart enough to make the millions, strong enough to bear the children."

06. Una Healy

I sort of hate myself for bunging two members of The Saturdays on; they're frequently dubbed "the New Girls Aloud" but that's like saying Jordan Henderson and Luka Modric are en-par trololololo, but I can't resist a bit of Una. She's the only one in the band who doesn't assail my ears when she opens her mouth to sing, her fiery red hair and electric blue eyes make a killer combination and, as the oldest of The Saturdays, I'm digging her devil-may-care-swagger.

05. Mila Kunis
I could say a lot about Mila, not least commending her awesome voice work on Family Guy as the long-suffering Meg and the wide range of outfits she's rocked on the red carpet, but I just wanna talk about one thing to be honest: her licking Natalie Portman out in Black Swan. I consider myself fairly straight (although judging from this list and the comments that's reaching Wenger-levels of delusion [and the fact that Kaya & Selena - two girls younger than myself are on here indicates that's probably not the only thing I have in common with Arsene trololololo], really) but that scene? Something happened downstairs at vaga del Bung~~ Get it, gurl.

04. Nadine Coyle
Her solo album was widely regarded as a flop (although I firmly maintain that it had some real treats including Natural, Unbroken and the single Insatiable itself), but Nadine is and always will be the most talented singer from Girls Aloud. Her voice lifts practically all of their songs to pop treats to transcendence and the sass she exudes when GA go on tour is priceless. Plus: LEGS.

03. Rihanna
When my brother was getting a poster of his guycrush - Gareth Bale for Christmas 2010, I got a poster of one of my ultimate girlcrushes - Barbados babe Rihanna. Along with Kaya Scodelario, she's one of the only two who was on this list 16 months ago, and unlike Kaya, she's climbed up even in the face of countless other beauties. The reason? Well, a mixture of things. I loved her effortless cool on the music video of What's My Name, as well as the minimal clothing she wears, showing off her to-die-for body. But the main reason she's made such a surge is how she wore her heart on her sleeve in her performances of Love the Way you Lie Parts I & II. Both songs must have hit super-close to home, and it shows, in the strength and power of her vocals. 

02. Dianna Agron
Glee has a lot of beautiful girls - Heather Morris and Naya Rivera were just hovering outside the top ten, but its cheerleader Quinn Fabray ala Miss Agron who truly feels my heart with, er, glee. #needtotrainmyjokes Those big hazel eyes, that stunning bone structure, her natural regal of carrying herself, her gorgeous blonde locks... I'm a little bit in love.

01. Frankie Sandford
I actually really hate myself a little bit for this. Were I to redux my love/hate list, Essex-born Frankie Sanford would be right at the top. I don't think she can sing, and the fact that she's dating Wayne Bridge (a player I used to cherish but now I'm very "eh" about, basic #ChelseascumDNA get over it) are automatic gamebreakers. But... girl is stunning. She was always pretty little Francesca in S Club Juniors and with long hair, but the short hair just really brings out her cheekbones, eyes, and general gorgeousness. She's had a pixie cut done recently which looks amazing, although I do prefer this older cut. Girl has some of the most photogenic features I've ever seen, and were I an artist, I would be devoting time trying to draw her, she's that  stunning.

Agree with my choices? Disagree? Think I need to train?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book review: MELTDOWN (Ben Elton)

Pride, as we all know, comes before a fall, and nothing epitomizes this better than the recent financial crisis, wherein ill-advised gambles made by bankers and a hubbub of lending loans for people who weren’t ready to buy a house came together in the mother of all hubrises. Ben Elton uses the credit crisis as the backdrop to his book, wherein a group of University friends who have all lucked out – to varying degrees – in their following life choices find that none of them are untouchable from the financial woes of the world.

At the centre of the story is London investment banker Jimmy Corby, an affable, happy-go-lucky man who fell into his trading job with the touch of good fortune that had accompanied him in almost every other step of his life, including meeting his ditzy, well-meaning wife Monica, without whom, it is generally agreed that Corby would have spiralled into the descending spiral of a heart attack or crack addiction. 

His old Uni mates, which include fellow banker Rupert, who carries his craft out with much more of a sneering veneer than Jim, Dave, an established architect, Henry, a self-conscious political activist and Lizzie and Robbo, a married couple, amongst whom she is the frontline of a popular food company that caters for upmarket events and he, mooching off her success.

The friends – and all their wives – have all been in frequent contact since their callow University days, though it is noted that their friendship has barely been tested, such is the cushiness of their jobs (all of them are comfortably on £50,000, minimum, their kids are in private education and they all have big-ass mortgages to match.)

But then along comes the financial crisis, and everything the main characters are used to, comes crashing down. Jimmy and Monica, with their three kids in their gigantic £7million house in Notting Hill, first have to let their nanny go, before facing the awkward conversation with the Headteacher wherein they’re told that as they can no longer afford their son Toby’s fees, they won’t be welcome there. Social satire is rife; the conversation between Jim and the teacher when state education is suggested as a viable option wouldn’t be out of place in a Catherine Tate sketch.

Before the crunch, Jimmy had invested in a road in Hackney with a view of having his friend Dave’s company re-designing it, making it more glamorous and bringing in some big bucks, but when the possibility of this goes out of the window, the street becomes nothing more than a popular squatting site for a local hobo called Bob. In one hilarious moment, Jimmy contemplates re-using a nappy on his youngest daughter Lillie in order to save 18p.

The fall-from-grace overtones could not be clearer, and Jimmy realising the error of his city culture ways is the ultimate in bolting the barn door after the horse has bolted, but there is joy and bathos to be had in his adventure.

Ben Elton throws in a few of his signature twists in the story, and with the unfurling of various friends’ economic situations, also reveals that the oh-so-perfect lives that each of the friends thought they led were really anything but – and how important their finances played in sustaining the illusion that all was well.

It’s very hard to be at the bottom, especially having been at the top for so long, but Jimmy and Monica are fairly likeable protagonists who we as the audience can warm to, even if some of their dialogues (such as the one when first deciding about what state school to put their son in) hint at the blissful ignorance that those who perceive themselves to be the upper strata of society have on certain life matters.

For the most part, Ben Elton tries to abstain from coming across as overly preachy and playing the blame game in his cautionary tale, and rather than pointing fingers or going for the banker bashing route, cannily points out that he without sin can cast the first stone; Henry, at the time of the crunch an esteemed politician, reprimands Jimmy and Rupert for their heady banker ways, yet he doesn’t hesitate to claim benefits on his second house in Berkshire – a wily nod at the actions of various MPs in the news currently.

The majority of the novel is written in his pithy, witty tone, but there is the odd line of writing that exhibits genuine emotion and does the impossible – has us sympathising for characters living in a mansion. There’s an uncharacteristically sweet denouement from Elton at the end, which, whilst pat, doesn’t ring any less true; it takes losing all the superficial stuff to work out what really matters in life.

Money, after all, doesn’t buy one love.

Grade: A-

Friday, June 10, 2011

Swinging with the Finkels (Jonathan Newman, 2010)

Martin Freeman and Mandy Moore play an urbane married couple in London who find their marriage at a nine-year-itch. The frequency of their love-making is, we’re told – “once or twice a month”, and, witnessing the disintegration of the marriage of their close friends after the husband has an affair, leads the two to question the strength of their own marriage. They try various methods to cure their marriage – from her attempting to masturbate with a cucumber to him dressing up as a fireman in an attempt to instil some spice into it – but all fail miserably. Finally, the idea of swinging is suggested.

Mandy Moore, who was surprisingly funny as the sanctimonious, evangelical Christian teenager in in Saved!, gives another strong performance here, a capable blend of comedy and drama. Her acting in the cucumber scene was hilarious and she never veers into the “nagging wife” caricature at any point. At the same time, Martin Freeman re-visits the lovable shtick that suited him so well as The Office’s Tim. The supporting performances are all equally good, not least Melissa George as the mother who’s devotions, having swung to her kids, has lost her husband’s. The two leads have an easygoing, likeable chemistry that produces some charming moments at times, and the backdrop of London - I spotted Primrose Hill in one scene - gave the film - as it frequently gives films shot in London - a scene of whimsy and magic.

So the acting is not really the problem here. The main problem is the shoddy script and superficial depiction of a marriage in the danger zone and the precautions taken to try to fix it. In real life, marriages are rarely solved via some Love Actually-esque montages of cheesiness that can be summarised with a weak banana analogy and an over-arching "the grass isn't always greener on the other side" message, less so by some swinging, then the couple getting mad at each other before finally realising just how much they love each other and all being well in the end. Admittedly, the hectic-looking film poster for this film was a fair enough advertisement for what we could expect from the film, and in-depth insights into marriage was not one of them. But all the same, for the glittering cast, upbeat editing and potential for comedy gold that was available, Swinging with the Finkels was a very poor effort. The new millennium has not exactly been a fantastic advertisement for romantic comedies, and Swinging with the Finkels is another one to toss into the trash pile.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002).

Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) is a bit of a loser. He buys pudding just for the frequent flier miles even though he doesn’t have any where particular to go, and breaks things in random bouts of self-loathing. And in his loneliness, he calls up a sex line run by some crooks in a nearby Califoronia town. And that sex line calls him back, blackmailing him for money. At the same time, he finds himself tentatively courting Lena, a woman almost as damaged as he. Together, they form an unlikely, and very sweet romance.

Punch-Drunk Love is dark and mature, most unlike the stereotype of Adam Sandler’s other work. But in a more dramatic role, the man thrives. Kitted out in a jarring bright blue suit and sporting a whole arsenal of odd little mannerisms, Sandler is very convincing his depiction of a weird but oddly lovable man who deep down has a heart of gold and only acts out due to desperation. Emily Watson is just as well cast as the kooky, jaded, but adorable Lena. Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the show as the mastermind behind the sexline con, with his self-important strut and devil may care demeanour. The supporting cast are all excellent, and we ourselves really feel the sense of stifling that Barry Egan suffers due to having so many pushy sisters.

Punch-Drunk Love is an impressive, offbeat, bizarre film that offers a whole whirlwind of emotions in the viewing experience. The music and script are sometimes almost distractingly random, but that suits the disjointed style of the film. Furthermore, the fusion of comedy, romance, drama, violence all plays out to be an enthralling little number. Plus, I’m willing to bet money that you were totally rooting for Barry when he defends his woman’s honour with a crowbar; I know I was! Delicately, sensitively written and maturely directed, Punch-Drunk Love is a punch-drunk masterpiece.