If I Had a Dollar (Why I Am a Feminist)

Wow… I’m left speechless at these powerful, heartbreaking words. Equality is something incredibly important to me. To be respected instead of being overlooked, ignored, overpowered and degraded is what I strive for. Please read..

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image courtesy Devil Doll image courtesy Devil Doll

Because my mother was a painter and a beauty when artists had patrons and a woman like that needed a man to take care of her, so she married a money man.

Because my mother’s mother was a beauty and her mother was, too, and that’s what people said: “She was a beautiful woman,” as if that was the only remarkable thing.

Because I was born in 1966, the year Betty Friedan and others started the National Organization of Women and challenged an industry which required flight attendants to quit if they got married, pregnant, or reached the age of 32.

Because when my mother had me, she stopped painting and started cleaning house and throwing dinner parties and smoking too many cigarettes and crying in the mirror.

Because my mother never told me that I looked pretty because she did not want me to grow…

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Start Your Engines: a Karting Documentary

So I thought I would post something a little different today…

This is a short documentary, myself and 3 friends were responsible for making! This version from friend/camera guy Tom on YouTube is the version we submitted and won ‘Best First Year Documentary’ last year at University! Hopefully you’ll enjoy it!

Foxcatcher (2014)

Even now writing this review, I am still quite shaken up by Foxcatcher. Once in a blue moon, I am left speechless by a film. Foxcatcher has had that effect on me.

Based on a true story, on the outside Foxcatcher appears to be about American wrestling but is so much more than just another sports movie. Olympic champion wrestlers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and, his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) are invited by multimillionaire and sports enthusiast John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) to join his ‘Foxcatcher’ wrestling team, compete in the Olympics and, ultimately, aim to become the best in the world. What follows this partnership though are circumstances and events that are dark and distressing, and if you don’t know the story already, go in to the cinema clueless and unknowing.

The name Foxcatcher comes from the immense family estate and farm owned by the du Pont family, but I felt the name meant more than that. The chase that ensues on securing both the Schultz brothers is like a hound hunting a fox, and du Pont did indeed get what he desired and “caught” them. In addition to his wrestling obsession, du Pont was an ornithologist and avid bird watcher. The use of bird imagery and even with his nickname “Eagle” I could certainly see the resemblance of a bird in both his tenacious manner and odd appearance. He leers over Mark and Dave, hunting and circling them both, like a bird of prey.

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Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz has taken a leap from heart throb/action star to serious actor in this film with ease and in a role that was well suited for him as a beefy wrestler. At times, Tatum really showed moments of vulnerability that weren’t hammed up, but instead subtle and understated. Mark Ruffalo was equally brilliant as Dave Schultz, the more mature and charismatic older brother. Talented, supportive and loving to his family and Mark, he was a welcome, calming presence in scenes.

This is a polar opposite of John du Pont, of course, a character who fascinated me the most. As du Pont, Steve Carell created an unnerving, uneasy atmosphere, so extreme that, at times, I found him quite difficult to watch. Unpredictable and unstable, his presence and demeanour is truly chilling and I was on edge for the entirety of the film. What I also found interesting is in several interviews I’ve read with Steve Carell (Radio Times, The Guardian etc), he’s said that his look and his whole bearing was so off-putting that people would avoid him on set, adding to that sense of separation.

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Bennett Miller has directed such a sophisticated biopic; some use of cinematography and dialogue will stay with me for days. What is also clever is his choice of shots and the use of imagery: the birds, the constant repetition of the word “Foxcatcher”, use of certain objects throughout and references back to the civil war and the farm previously being a battle field. All of these things amount to foreshadowing the shockingly tragic yet unsurprising end. The extreme lack of music too created unbalance, letting you hear everything, down to the dissonant squeaks of the wrestlers shoes on the floor. Any prominent sound came as a shock, and rang out through the cinema.

I remained incredibly tensed up throughout (so did my friend who came to see it with me), and come the end when I could finally relax and the credits began to role I actually started to cry. And I wasn’t expecting that, similar to how I wasn’t expecting anything as remotely powerful, formidable and disturbing as the story or Steve Carell as John du Pont.

Birdman (2015)

This is the kind of film that is right up my alley. An all star cast, brave film-making and eccentric storytelling, it just had to be done well… and thankfully it was!

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman tells the story of a former superhero actor, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) who ambitiously adapts his own Broadway play in the hope it will revive his career, give new status to his name and to prove he isn’t just a washed-up old movie star. Along the way he has to deal with his new co-star, volatile actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), Producer Jake on his back (Zach Galifianakis), his recovering drug addict daughter and assistant Sam (Emma Stone) and reign in and quieten the Birdman inside his head, almost like the devil on his shoulder. This is a black comedy, it’s hilarious and laugh-out-loud funny in places, but I also felt a sense of sadness and sympathy towards Riggan. Fame is something that people sought, and once gained and not held on to, all respect disappears, leaving you with this contempt celebrity status that lingers with you forever, and for Riggan Thomson, the thing that lingers is Birdman himself. And he vows to escape him.

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What basically is a parody of Michael Keaton’s life, where this film Birdman is the career reviver as much as Riggan Thomson’s play, he plays him in good spirit and like Riggan, throws everything he’s got at the role, and Keaton gives the performance of his career. Michael Keaton is manic, funny and tremendous in the lead role and his supporting cast are equally matched. For me these are the best roles I’ve seen Emma Stone and Edward Norton in: Stone the tough yet equally vulnerable Sam, whose monologue to her father about nobody and nothing mattering including him and his play is a moment that stays in mind, and Norton as talented but poisonous Mike, egotistical by his Broadway status wreaking havoc on Riggin’s project and life.

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We first see Thomson in his dressing room (hovering above ground), the camera stays with him throughout the scene and afterwards the camera doesn’t so much as blink. It’s one shot stylistic approach is rebellious, revolutionary and bold and it’s screenplay riveting, with lines and dialogue that I can imagine would excite actors enormously! But another aspect that may be overlooked is the soundtrack and sound design. With rhythmic drums that are dominant throughout, often adding comic value as well as the pacing and drive in a scene that the Editor would have been responsible for, except there are no cuts! They also grow more dominant at moments to motivate Riggan to succeed. As well as drums we hear thrilling superhero film music and melancholic classical music at moments when reminiscing his past, and a lonesome lonely piano at moments of isolation; they are perfect motifs to represent a character in what is a very character driven film.

This is an intelligent, brilliant, often silly but then again stylish film, and I found it oddly engaging. Maybe it was the strong, clear themes of fame, love, addiction and a yearning to prove yourself or, the genius experimental style. Whatever it was, Birdman has resonated with me and when I remember it’s highlights I smile and am truly inspired. For me, this is what film-making is all about.

Birdman is in cinemas now!

The Golden Globe Awards!

I am a sucker for the award ceremonies and tonight kicks it all off with the 72nd Golden Globe Awards! Hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for the third and final time, this year is going to be another exciting one, with some excellent films being nominated: Birdman (7 nominations), Boyhood (5 nominations), The Imitation Game (5 nominations), The Theory of Everything (4 nominations) and Gone Girl (4 nominations).

I think Birdman and Boyhood will very much steal the show here and set the tone for the awards season to come. But I thought I’d talk about some nominations, predictions on who will win and give my opinion on who I would want to win. Feel free to comment your own opinions too!

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Best Motion Picture, Drama
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything

Who will win? – Boyhood

Who I’d like to win? – The Imitation Game, purely because it was mesmerising

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Jennifer Aniston, Cake
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Who will win? – Rosamund Pike for her phenomenal turn in Gone Girl, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it swings to Reese Witherspoon

Who I’d like to win? – If Rosamund Pike doesn’t win, I’ll eat my sock!

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
David Oyelowo, Selma
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Who will win? – Probably the toughest Best Actor category going, but probably Steve Carell

Who I’d like to win? – Hmmm.. Benedict Cumberbatch. Although all deserve it, and Eddie Redmayne surprised me so much in The Theory of Everything. And Steve Carell: wow!

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Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Who will win? – Patricia Arquette

Who I’d like to win? – Genuinely don’t mind as long as it’s not Meryl Streep!!

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K, Simmons, Whiplash

Who will win? – Again, another tough category to be in! But probably Ethan Hawke

Who I’d like to win? – Again, I don’t really mind, I love Mark Ruffalo, but I’d like to see Ethan Hawke win it

Best Director
Ava DuVernay, Selma
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, Birdman
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Who will win? – Richard Linklater, purely for the whole revolutionary 12 year span of filming

Who I’d like to win? – I know he’s quite esteemed already, but David Fincher because I really loved Gone Girl

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”
Alejandro González Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”

Who will win? – It’s a toss up between Alejandro González Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. for Birdman or Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Who I’d like to win? – Graham Moore for The Imitation Game: Wonderfully story telling

Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical        
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Pride
St. Vincent

Who will win? Birdman

Who I’d like to win? Probably Birdman. But perhaps Pride, as it would show that mainstream cinema has matured since Brokeback Mountain. But the fact that the American DVD cover has been removed of any homosexual references is possibly hinting at a no.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Bill Murray, St. Vincent
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes

Who will win? – Michael Keaton

Who I’d like to win? – Michael Keaton

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Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Emily Blunt, Into the Woods
Helen Mirren, The Hundred Foot Journey
Quvenzhané Wallis, Annie

Who will win? – Quvenzhané Wallis is just taking cinema by storm despite the fact she’s still only 11 years old!! But probably Julianne Moore for Maps to the Stars

Who I’d like to win? – Again, I don’t really mind. I haven’t watched Maps to the Stars, however I’m often seeing that Julianne Moore was fantastic!

Best Animated Movie 
Big Hero 6
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Lego Movie

Who will win? – The Lego Movie

Who I’d like to win? – The Lego Movie. Although, Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises was significantly the best animated film this year but hasn’t been given a nod

Best Foreign film
Force Majeure (Sweden)
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (France)
Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)

Who will win? – Ida, but I hear Leviathan is just as brilliant

Who I’d like to win? – Ida, but I don’t mind

Best Original Song 
“Big Eyes,” Big Eyes, Lana Del Rey
“Glory,” Selma, John Legend and Common
“Mercy Is,” Noah, Patty Smith and Lenny K
“Opportunity,” Annie
“Yellow Flicker Beat,” The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, Lorde

Who will win? – Annie

Who I’d like to win? – Considering it is a musical already, Annie should win

Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Johann Johannson, The Theory of Everything
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Gone Girl
Antonio Sanchez, Birdman
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar

Who will win? – Antonio Sanchez for Birdman

Who I’d like to win? – It’s a mainstream choice, but Hans Zimmer as the score for Interstellar was just to eerie and magical

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Overall, I don’t really mind who wins what (except if that person is Meryl Streep- sorry!) At the end of the day this has been another impressive year for cinema and I’m thoroughly impressed so far and cannot wait for what’s to come! Good luck all who are nominated and pre-congratulations to winners! (Not that any of them will see this post… A girl can dream.)

Although I love them, I struggle to watch the Globes and the Oscars because America’s Los Angeles is 8 hours behind Britain, and NBC’s coverage is difficult to access here. That being said, I always try to watch it… And always fail. Also, apologies for the so many tags, I tried to limit it to the names of films and anyone I mentioned, rather than every single name on the list.

What do you guys think about the Golden Globe Awards and my predictions/opinion?

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) Film Review

After watching ‘The Hobbit’ films so far (‘An Unexpected Journey’ and ‘The Desolation of Smaug’), I’ll be brutally honest and say I have been disappointed by them and felt Peter Jackson had lost some of his spark. The trilogy seemed to have been puffed out into this unnecessary 6 hour plus extravaganza from a short children’s story. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy is one of the biggest and greatest achievements in cinema history, and I adore them, yet ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy isn’t quite in concurrence with it’s predecessor.

That being said, the final installment ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ is the best to date, but it still carries the same feel as the previous films: chaotic and frankly, a bit tiresome. Despite this, I can’t help but still love ‘The Hobbit’ films and have a soft spot for them. ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ marks the end of an era and Peter Jackson’s obsession that spanned across 2 decades.

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The film starts with how ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ finished, with Smaug the Dragon flying to wreak havoc on Laketown, a sequence that is a bit confused and scattered, yet still allows for Bard (Luke Evans) to be the hero, his children to repeat the only line they have in the film (“Da!”) and for the magnificent Smaug to speak again (a highlight of the trilogy, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Once this is done, the 2 hour battle sequence begins, with Dwarves, Elves, Men, Orcs and Eagles, joined by Wizards, a Shapeshifter, more Dwarves, more Orcs and a brave little Hobbit transforming into fighting mode, all set against the backdrop of the Lonely Mountain and the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor. Admittedly, the battle sequences are wild but aren’t tiresome and the huge set pieces actually kept me interested, showing different storylines and points of view of each army.

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Something Jackson does really well is character development and something I was thrilled with was the casting. Martin Freeman is a welcome relief amongst the chaos as Bilbo Baggins, popping up to provide a new point of view of the battle and is the common sense behind some of it. Ian McKellen is always brilliant as his long running character Gandalf, protector of Middle Earth. I’m hugely impressed with the casting of Dwarf King Thorin Oakenshield, Elven King Thranduil and Leader of Men Bard the Bowman played by newcomers Richard Armitage, Lee Pace and Luke Evans respectively and all three hold their own against each other and other actors. The portrayal of how Thorin descends into madness or “dragon sickness” over the treasure of Erebor and the Arkenstone is something that I thought Jackson did very well, staying true to the book and was excellently acted by Richard Armitage.

However, I could have done without the annoying comic relief provided by cowardly Alfrid (Ryan Gage), and the ridiculous love story between Elf Tauriel (who was written into the series by Jackson, played by Evangeline Lilly) and young Dwarf Prince Kili (Aidan Turner).

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It’s not as emotional as I thought it would be, the battle sequences are not as epic and the conclusion is a bit underwhelming. Oh and Legolas’ stunts become more and more ridiculous each film. But all in all, ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ marks a gallant effort and the end of a trilogy overshadowed by ‘The Lord of the Rings.‘ Comparison aside, The Hobbit films have been enjoyable, bold, colourful and fun to watch and it is a strong send off to a series that has captivated myself and so many. But does anyone believe Peter Jackson when he says it’s really over? I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a draft script hidden away somewhere for the Silmarillion…

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