January 2016 ~ Films

January 2016

This was supposed to be a post that came at the end of January, or the beginning of February, at the very least. But here we are, much closer to the end of the month than the start. This very much sums up how my blogging has been going lately!

I watched thirteen new to me films in January; only two of them were at the cinema, which is a fairly low number for me, but various events conspired against me. The majority were watched through online streaming – either Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or BFI Player+ (I subscribe to them all!), and the vast majority were also Woody Allen films!

A Night to Remember
Despite my brother being a huge fan, I have never watched A Night to Remember. It’s a long film, about the sinking of the Titanic, and while it’s not entirely factually correct anymore (it was made before they found the wreckage, and so depicts the ship sinking in one piece), it’s a great film. Wonderful characterisation, and a lovely performance by Kenneth Moore at its heart.

Clouds of Sils Maria
This is a film I’ve wanted to see since Kristen Stewart won critical acclaim and a Cesar award for her performance in it. It’s a very interesting film, with a distinct blurring of the lines between fiction and reality, and I think it’s one that will become even more impressive on repeat viewings. Stewart really is very good, and her chemistry with Binoche is tangible.

Midnight in Paris/Deconstructing Harry/Celebrity/Mighty Aphrodite
Prior to this year, my only experience of Woody Allen was Annie Hall (a film I need to watch again, because I don’t think I really got it the first time around). Now I’ve watched a further six (two in February), and I’m hooked! I can’t say that I’ve necessarily loved them all; Celebrity and Mighty Aphrodite weren’t really to my taste, but I loved Midnight in Paris, and found Deconstructing Harry interesting. My only complaints are thus: a) when Woody Allen stars, he casts himself as seemingly irresistible to beautiful young women, and b) when he casts someone else in the ‘Woody Allen’ role, they just do an impression of him. Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity, and Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris are the offenders from this bunch; ether these actors are sycophantically impersonating their director, or Allen himself is narcissistic enough to direct them to do so. Either way, it’s very off-putting.

The Talented Mr Ripley
I can’t believe it took me so long to watch this film. It’s a great thriller, filmed in stunning locations, and ultimately it was a lot more violent than I expected it to be. I’ve never read any Patricia Highsmith, on whose novel the film was based, but between this, The Two Faces of January, and Carol, maybe it’s time to take a look.

Room
There’s very little to say about Room other than that I simply loved it. If you, like me, haven’t read the book, you may be fooled into thinking that a film about an abducted woman will be full of misery. It’s not. It sounds strange to say it, but it’s a truly uplifting film, with two of the most outstanding performances I have seen in a long time. Brie Larson deserves all of the accolades she has and will be awarded, and Jacob Tremblay deserves more than he has got.

The Danish Girl
For some reason I felt reluctant to watch The Danish Girl, until I heard Eddie Redmayne speaking about it. It was a tough but enjoyable watch, and I thought both Eddie Redmayne, and in particular, Alicia Vikander were excellent.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire
A BFI Player+ gem; this is an apocalyptic film about the dangers of nuclear testing. It’s a beautifully shot film, with Edward Judd providing the charisma, and Janet Munro providing the sultry sex appeal. After Room, this was probably my favourite watch of the month.

Teacher’s Pet
It’s never a chore to watch Doris Day, though I think Gig Young has better chemistry with leading man Clark Gable in this particular film. It was good fun, and Doris looks incredible in the pencil skirts she wears.

Song of the Sea
Song of the Sea is a beautiful animation about Irish folk tales that has stayed with me, weeks after having first seen it. It’s an enchanting tale, of two children who embark on a journey home, with beautiful animation and wonderful music. It really is a joy.

Mad Max: Fury Road
I can’t pretend to have loved Mad Max. While I’m objectively aware of its inherent excellence, the actual enjoyment factor for me was on the low side. I watched it on DVD, which I’m glad about, as I think I would have found it far too intense in the cinema. The orange hues of the landscape gave me a headache, as did the incessant noise and non-stop action. I thought Furiosa was incredible, of course, and Tom Hardy is excellent as ever as Max himself. But it’s not one I’ll be rushing to rewatch.

 

This type of post is flawed; I watch a lot of films, meaning writing just a paragraph about a film makes for a long post. I’m toying with the idea of one-sentence reviews, but brevity has never been my strong point. I’ll have a think, and hopefully be back with a better system for February!

34 Before 34 ~ A Second a Day

I’m still really enjoying putting together my Second a Day videos, but remembering to actually film the second each day is not easy! I actually missed a couple of days this month, one because I was ill in bed for literally the whole day, and one because I completely forgot!

I’m still a little disappointed at how many of these shots have screens in them; this is partly because I forget to record anything until I am sat on the sofa in front of a screen, but also because I spend too much time looking at them! I’m hoping that by the end of the year, I’ll have this down to a fine art, and these videos will reflect the fun parts of my life a little more.

I am pleased that Iceland, The Corrs, Mark Kermode and my nieces make an appearance, and I think it’s funny that Dolly Dog appears twice, as does my knitting! That pretty much does sum up my month!

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January 2016 ~ Books

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I got out of the habit of rounding up my monthly reads last year. That was mainly because I had some really low monthly totals, and this made me so sad that I didn’t want to document it!

But I’m back on it, and in an attempt to get myself blogging properly again, I’m bringing back the monthly post.

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

I must have read about Barbara the Slut and Other People somewhere, though I can’t remember where. Wherever it was recommended, I must have thought it was a slightly different type of book, because it was not ultimately what I was expecting. It’s a collection of short stories, primarily about women, and I found my enjoyment of it a bit patchy. I was intrigued by the premise of the title story, which was the last one in the book, but I was ultimately disappointed by it; a teenager confronting the slut-shaming culture of high school didn’t actually explore the themes I was expecting it to. There were a few that I particularly liked, including one about a qualified lawyer working in a sex shop, and one written from the point of view of a dog, but in the end I was left a little disappointed.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I have read a few of Rainbow Rowell’s books before; my personal favourite Eleanor & Park, though I also loved Fangirl. I thought less of Attachments, but I do enjoy her writing and her characters very much. So when I spotted Landline in the library, I grabbed it, having been meaning to read it for a while.

I really liked it, though it’s becoming clear that I do prefer Rowell’s YA books to her adult books. It tells the story of Georgie McCool (her name is ridiculous but it’s lampshaded, so Rowell gets away with it), whose marriage to Neal has become stale and troubled. She finds a telephone that will allow her to communicate with Neal in the past; not time travel, as such, but a way to address all of the concerns that have built up in the years since they first got together. It’s a fun gimmick, and I enjoyed the exploration of a grown-up relationship, and all the troubles that come along with that.

Daisy Miller by Henry James

I picked up Daisy Miller from the library because I don’t read many classics anymore. I studied Henry James very briefly at university, and I’m interested in his position as an American writer who lived a lot of his life in England. I grabbed Daisy Miller because it was short, but I didn’t actually realise it was as short as it was – the story is only actually around half of the size of the book (it has a sizable introduction!). It was certainly a compelling story though, and I always love to read about female protagonists who don’t fit into the society of the time; Daisy Miller is a flirt and enjoys life the way a much more modern woman would, though she is certainly punished for it in the end.

Surfacing by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Surfacing was another library book; one I spotted in the YA section and picked up because I thought it would be a bit more mystical and supernatural than it was. The blurb advertised it as being about a teenager who has an ‘almost magical ability to draw out people’s deepest truths.’ Maybe the word ‘almost’ should have given it away, but it wasn’t really about this ability at all, and there was nothing supernatural about it really. It was a story about truth, but about this girl’s and her family’s struggle to deal with the truth of what had happened years earlier when her sister died. A perfectly enjoyable read, but not one I’d hurry to recommend to others.

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

Another YA book, Not If I See You First caught my attention on Netgalley, possibly due to the primary colour filled cover. Telling the story of Parker, a blind teenager dealing with the recent loss of her father, I ended up loving this a lot more than I thought I was going to when I was halfway through. I found it really hard to like Parker at first; she’s hardfaced and defensive, and I just wanted to shake her and alert her to everything that was amazing in her life. But Eric Lindstrom is obviously a talented writer, because it became clear that this is exactly how I was supposed to be feeling about her; he took my hand and led me exactly where he wanted me to go with the story, and I ended up feeling entirely differently about Parker. Not If I See You First is a YA book I’d definitely recommend.

Everything You Need to Ace American History in One Big Fat Notebook by Lily Rothman

I am always on the lookout for textbooks and revision guides that will help to explain things to me in basic terms, before I then move on to reading more deeply into a subject. I’ve been after a US social studies textbook for ages; I studied American History and Politics at university, but I wanted to refresh my knowledge. When I spotted this on Netgalley, I was overjoyed; it’s aimed at middle school aged children, and refreshed all of the basics that I already knew but wanted to revise. I’m aware that this may seem like an odd type of book to read, but it’s entirely perfect for me, and I really liked it.

 

Looking Back–January 2016

In an attempt to make my blog a little more like a place where I actually write things, I thought I’d start looking back on each month as we get to the end of it. This may work a little better if and when I actually start blogging during the month, but mostly I just want it to be a way to appreciate all the fun things I do!

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January has been a good month, all told. Most excitingly, I left the country for the first time in over six years! I am yet to blog about my trip to Iceland, but I am planning to, so for now I’ll just say that it’s an amazing place, and I had a brilliant time. Two days was not nearly long enough to spend there, so I hope to go back one day.

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I also went to see The Corrs at the O2 last weekend, with my besties. Not the best photo of the lot of us (front-facing camera, be damned), but I didn’t really take any of the gig, because I’m long since past the point where I want to sit with my phone out recording/photographing the whole thing. The Corrs were as amazing as they ever were; we were all fans of them when we were at school (with the exception of Hannah, who didn’t go to school with us), so we were thrilled to learn that they were going on tour again, and snapped up tickets. I really like some of stuff on their new album, but there’s nothing like the old classics. We had a great time!

I also went to see Mark Kermode, in the first of his Mark Kermode: Live in 3D events at the BFI (something I actually posted about), and I’m already eagerly anticipating the February date, and I’m ready to book tickets for March. I know, I know… I’ve also just become a member of the BFI; for £40 a year it’s a bit of a steal, particularly as I’m planning on seeing a lot more things there over the course of the year.

Elsewhere, I’ve picked up my knitting once more; spurred into action by a kit my sister bought me for Christmas (of which I’ve knitted just one glove!), I decided to make a start on a baby blanket for a forthcoming new arrival in the family. My renewed love has inspired two of my lovely work colleagues to learn, and I’ve done my best to teach them the basics. My blanket is coming on a treat, and I’m only lamenting that I don’t have more time to devote to it (all afternoon ideally, after spending my lunch break knitting).

I went out for a friend’s birthday on Friday night, to a place called Jump Street in Colchester. It’s basically just a massive warehouse full of trampolines, and it was such good fun! We had an hour, and we spent almost the entire time bouncing and throwing ourselves around, though I have to say that I tried over and over again to do a somersault into a big inflatable pit, only to fail at the last each and every time. I half-joked that it was a metaphor for my life; trying and failing to do something brave and exciting but wimping out at the last minute, but Hannah told me she was proud of me for trying over and over again, which is something, I suppose! I ached like nothing else afterwards – late on Friday night it was actually hard to breathe because of my aching back/neck/stomach/legs/chest/every single part of my body. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

January is, of course, always a bit of a funny month, coming on the heels of December and all its festivities. It usually feels a bit grey; whilst I don’t want to trivialise actual depression by referring to the January Blues, I think we all feel a little deflated after Christmas and everything that comes with it. But I’ve had a good month. Work feels manageable for the first time in a while, and I’ve done some lovely things with lovely people.

Each month will bring with it this update, as well as a films and books recap, and at least two other month-end posts. Possibly too many, but it’s probably the best way for me to start posting regularly again, so I’m going to go with it until it doesn’t feel right!

How was your start to 2016?