Monthly Round Up: May 2020

Every time I start one of these round-ups I’m baffled to have reached the end of another month. Time seems to fly by pretty quickly for me; I always think I have more of it than I do. But alas here we are coming into June; in a couple of weeks I’ll be doing my best books of the year so far which seems crazy. Also doesn’t help I’ve read a lot of good books in the last six months so the list will be difficult to curate. But before thinking of that, I have my list for May:

Books Read in May 2020

This month I seemed to have gone for rereads/ comfort reads over my Women’s Prize reading. I know books like Charlotte Grey and The Mayor of Casterbridge aren’t exactly cheery, but I do like to revisit them. There’s something quite soothing rereading a book; I can get lost in the world a bit more without analysing the novel itself. Coupled with having my birthday in May, I think I just wanted to chill with some of my favourites this month. Saying that, I haven’t completely forgotten about the Women’s Prize. I read Girl, Woman, Other – am honestly still shocked by how many people have read my review and not come at me with pitchforks for not loving it – with my review of Jenny Offill’s Weather being released on Monday. Spoiler alert: I have a lot of thoughts on that book as well.

So yes, that has been my reading in May. Perhaps a smaller amount of books in previous months but I still enjoyed myself nonetheless. Now is the time I would discuss which new films I saw this month, but due to the cinemas being shut I’ll repeat what I did in April: discuss 3 films being released in 2020 that I would like to see. It’s always good to have something to look forward to.  So here are my 3 this month:

Films to Look Out For in 2020

Rebecca (dir. Ben Wheatley)

RebeccaWhat is it about? Based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier, a young newlywed arrives at her husband Max’s family home Manderley. Whilst attempting to juggle her new role as mistress of the house, she is constantly compared and living in the shadow of Rebecca, Max’s glamourous first wife who tragically died in a boating accident. The housekeeper Mrs Danvers, in particular, seems hell bent on keeping Rebecca’s memory alive.

Why do I want to see it? Du Maurier is one of my favourite authors and Rebecca is one of my favourite books. I’ve seen many adaptations of it and am always curious when a new one is announced. Yet this one seems to be a little different. The choice of director is interesting; I don’t associated Ben Wheatley with gothic, romantic period dramas so it will be fun to see how he tackles the story. Also how this film is described is intriguing me. Both Imdb and Wiki call it a ‘thriller’; a genre I wouldn’t place Rebecca in so I wonder if there will be some deviations from the novel. And if there is, what will they be? Finally, that cast led by Lily James, Armie Hammer, and Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers makes Rebecca sound promising.

 

Tenet (dir. Christopher Nolan)

TenetWhat is it about? No idea. I have watched both trailers and still don’t have my head wrapped around the plot. What I’ve guessed so far is that, in order to save the world, John David Washington enters the world of spies with only one word: Tenet. Is that correct? Who knows?

Why do I want to see it? The biggest draw is Christopher Nolan himself. Whilst I find some of his work forgettable popcorn flicks, I always have a good time when I watch them. They’re really good escapist fun. I also have incredibly fond memories of the last Nolan film Dunkirk, which I saw in an almost-full cinema. The gasps, jumps, and general energy from the crowd made it a great experience, and was probably my favourite trip to the cinema in years. I’ve also been a fan of Washington’s since BlackkKlansman so can’t wait to see in a big blockbuster. Overall, with an interesting premise, a great director and lead actor, I can’t wait to check Tenet out.

 

Promising Young Woman (dir. Emerald Fennell)

Promising Young WomanWhat is it about? Everyone said Cassie (Carey Mulligan) was a promising young woman, until a mysterious event abruptly derailed her future. But nothing in Cassie’s life is what it appears to be: she’s wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she is living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs of the past.

Why do I want to see it? Admittedly this one has already technically been shown: it premiered at Sundance in January and later in Glasgow in February 2020. But it has had such rave reviews from both festivals (plus both critics and the public alike seem to adore it) that I am itching to see it. The trailer as well looks promising: alluring, exciting but giving very little away. Coupled with actors such as Mulligan, Bo Burnham, and Alison Brie whose work I’ve all admired, Promising Young Woman is shaping up to be a really exciting debut film. Wish I could have seen it in Glasgow but fingers crossed I can get my mitts on it soon.

 

And that’s May’s round up done! I’m back with the Random Book Quiz on Saturday with certainly the funniest round I’ve researched so far. It was a lot of fun to write, so hopefully you enjoy the questions. Until then, let me know what you’ve been reading and watching this month.

Random Book Quiz Round 5: Authors in Films

Since my last picture round proved to be popular, I’ve made another one! This time however I’m not asking you to name the film. Instead, these are 10 pictures of actors playing authors – you just need to tell me the name of the author being portrayed. I have also given you the actor’s name and the year the film was released; sadly I can’t reveal the film titles as some give away the answer completely, though I will include them next week. But without further ado, here are the pictures:

  1. Nicole Kidman (2002)

Nicole-Kidman-The-Hours

 

 

2Domhnall Gleeson (2017)

goodbye-christopher-robin-2017-002-domhnall-gleeson-aa-milne-armchair-1000x750-CROP

 

 

3. Danny Kaye (1952)

hans christian andersen

 

 

4. Anne Hathaway (2007)

becoming jane film

 

5. Elle Fanning (2017)

mary shelley film

 

 

6. Joseph Fiennes (1998)

joseph-fiennes-in-shakespeare-in-love-294754

 

 

7. Philip Seymour Hoffman (2005)

Capote - Philip Seymour Hoffman

 

 

8.  Stephen Fry (1998)

wilde

 

9. Renee Zellweger (2006)

Miss Potter

 

10. Alison Pill & Tom Hiddleston (2011 – yes you get an extra point if you name both writers!) 

Midnight in Paris

Good luck and let me know how you get on!

 

 

Answers to Round 4

1. George Orwell

2. Anne Rice

3. Ayn Rand

4. bell hooks

5. Daniel Defoe

6. Flann O’Brien

7. George Eliot

8. Hergé

9. John le Carre

10. Lewis Carroll

 

Random Book Quiz Round 3: Film Adaptations

Pretty much everyone who reads my blog will know: I love films. Probably just as much as books. I love discussing film theory, film criticism, current movie news; pretty much everything. So I thought for this round, why not bring my two biggest interests together? Below are 10 stills from movies, all of which are book adaptations. Can you name the film/book? As always answers will be posted next Saturday!

The answers for Round 2 are at the bottom of this page, so if you want to tackle those questions beforehand then here they are.

Have fun!

1. Brooklyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. 101 dalmatians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.   Dr Zhivago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Harry Potter Philosopher's Stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Transit 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. the guernsey literary and potato peel society

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Call Me By your Name

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. The Third Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. The Birds

 

 

Good luck!

 

Answers for Round 2

 

  1.  The Great Gatsby
  2.  Middlemarch
  3. Wuthering Heights
  4.  Gone with the Wind
  5.  The War of the Worlds
  6.  Matilda
  7.  The Stand
  8.  Les Miserables
  9.  The Da Vinci Code
  10.  And Then There Were None

Monthly Round-Up: April 2020

April has been a weird time for everyone. It’s strange looking back over the month and how much I have read in comparison to this time last year; April 2019 I was out and about getting a tan (read: getting burnt) whilst now I’m chilling inside with my books. I shall link all my reviews for this month below:

Looking back, I have quite a nice mixture of fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, as well as different genres. I hope to keep that going in the future, though admittedly I might have more time for this after completing the Women’s Prize longlist.

Speaking of the Women’s Prize, this month I managed to tick three off the longlist, including the dreaded Mantel tome. Which I did enjoy despite my reservations going in. It’s not surprising that The Mirror & the Light made the shortlist, though I was disappointed both Red at the Bone and How We Disappeared didn’t make the cut: those two have perhaps been my favourites on the longlist so far. The Lombardo novel, whilst ambitious, I did have a few issues with so its omission didn’t move me either way. At the moment I’m still currently reading Girl, Woman, Other and enjoying it so far. Hopefully this month I can get it finished and tick another nominee off. Out of the remaining four shortlisted books I’m most interested in A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes, as I’m curious how it compares to not just Girl and How We Disappeared, but also Circe and The Silence of the Girls from last year. Then perhaps Weather by Jenny Offill and Domincana by Angie Cruz. As for Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet…I keep forgetting about that book. I just had to check the Women’s Prize website to see who the sixth nominee was. So yeah. That’s my thoughts on Hamnet currently.  But who knows, I might end up loving that one!

Films in April 2020

At this point I normally discuss the films I’ve seen at the cinema. Obviously I can’t do that this month, so instead I thought I would pick three films I’m excited to see this year. They still have 2020 release dates, but some may get pushed back depending on the different studios and their schedules. But it gives me something to look forward to once I can go back to the cinema again. So without further ado, here are three films:

Blonde (dir. Andrew Dominik)

Blonde 1This is Dominik’s adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel, chronicling the life of Marilyn Monroe. Admittedly, I have only seen a couple of Dominik’s films but I read Blonde last year (my review) and absolutely loved it, it was one of my best books of 2019. I am also a fan of Monroe herself, so I’m curious to see how the production tackles her life, and how well they handle the more sensitive aspects of the book. Ana de Armas was also excellent in Knives Out last year, so I’m excited to see her play Monroe. At the moment it is scheduled to be released in autumn by Netflix, so fingers crossed we can stream it soon.

 

The French Dispatch (dir. Wes Anderson)

The French DispatchAnderson’s latest film focuses on an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional French city. The journalists decide to publish an edition highlighting their favourite stories from the paper, the eponymous The French Dispatch.  This film pretty much ticks all the boxes for me. I’m a fan of Anderson’s previous work, I like films centred on journalists, the French setting appeals to me, and the cast is exceptional (Saoirse Ronan, Frances McDormand, Willem Dafoe, and Timothee Chalamet to name a few). Plus, the music is by Alexandre Desplat. What more could you want?

 

Undine (dir. Christian Petzold)

UndineUndine is a myth retelling set in modern day Berlin. Our titular character (played by Paula Beer) is a tour guide in the city who is dumped by her boyfriend near the start of the film. Mythology states that Undine must kill her ex and return to the sea, but this is complicated when she meets and falls for industrial diver Christoph (Franz Rogowski). I am a massive fan of Petzold’s last film Transit, also starring Beer and Rogowski, so naturally I was excited to see those three collaborate again. Undine premiered at the Berlinale Film Festival in February this year, and whilst it did seem to split opinion among viewers, the response it received there also piqued my interest.

 

Random Book Quiz

Here I normally select the book as part of my ‘Stealing Off Other People’s Shelves’ game, but because I can’t access the books at the moment, this is being put on pause. I will get around to reading The Lottery and Other Stories and Another Country this year, and also resume the game.

So instead, I thought I’d mention the Random Book Quiz which I started nearly three weeks ago. I’ve had a lot of fun coming up with the questions and the themes for each round, so I’m hoping to make this a regular segment on the blog.  But in case you missed the first two rounds and fancy giving them a go, I’ve linked them below:

Round 1

Round 2 

 

And that is it for the April round-up! Let me know in the comments below what you’re reading and watching this month, or even what new releases are you looking forward to.

Monthly Round-Up: March 2020

Hi everyone! It’s time for another round up, and it’s hard to believe we’re a quarter of the way through 2020 already. So much has happened it feels like it should be later than March. But I am glad we are now leaving the dark, cold nights of winter and hopping into spring. It is my favourite time of the year; it feels like a time of new possibilities, new things to try, just a time of regeneration or starting over. Plus spring is also my birthday season. But I shall stop rambling on, and tell you what I have read and seen in March:

Books read in March 

As many of you already know, I’m planning on reading the Women’s Prize longlist this year, so it isn’t a huge surprise to see three of them being reviewed in the latter half of the month. Out of the 16 books so far, I have read 4: Girl, Red at the Bone, Fleishman is in Trouble and Queenie, which I read last month. I am currently reading The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo, and also have copies of How We Disappeared and Girl, Woman, Other (yes I am the last person to read this) so hopefully I will have a few more nominees ticked off before the shortlist is announced on 22nd April. I have also reserved another 4 at my library: A Thousand Ships, Actress, Dominicana and Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. Sadly my library is closed at the moment but fingers crossed I will still be able to get my grubby mitts on them at some point.

I will still be continuing reading other books, but the Women’s Prize will probably dominate the next couple of months as I work my way through the longlist, and with the shortlist also being announced. It is my favourite literary prize so I love discussing it but I understand that others probably aren’t bothered by it. So just a heads up: I’ll be prioritising the nominees first. Speaking of which:

Mantelathon

I have been putting off reading Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror & the Light for a while now. The size is intimidating, and I haven’t even read Bring Up the Bodies. But I have decided to just take a deep breath and go for it. I have also been inspired with the sheer amount of readathons on both book blogs and Booktube. So, on Saturday 4th April, I will be exclusively reading The Mirror & the Light for 24 hours. Hopefully, I can get a massive chunk of this book done and won’t feel so intimidated by it (that’s the plan anyway). I will be updating my Twitter with how I am doing, and if everyone is welcome to join in and discuss the book there, whether you’ve read it or not. I’ll use the hashtag #Mantelathon if you want to talk (about Mantel, Women’s Prize, or anything else)!

But enough about books, let’s dive into the films:

Films watched in March

I managed to see 3 films in early March before the cinema closed. And they’re a bit of a mixed bag this month.

Little Joe (dir. Jessica Hausner)

Little JoeAlice (Emily Beechum, who won Best Actress at Cannes for her performance) works in a lab genetically engineering plants. Her and her colleagues have developed a flower whose pollen can make people happy, or trigger a motherly instinct in them. Nicknamed ‘Little Joe’ after her son, Emily is incredibly proud of her breakthrough, but begins to have doubts when people start to act strangely after coming in contact with the plant.

Visually the film is impressive. The use of block colours to reflect a specific character or emotion is well done; meaning by end certain colours bring a sense of dread. The plot feels like a mash-up of The Day of the Triffids, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Frankenstein and Hausner does a fantastic job of taking elements of all of these works and putting her own spin on them. Whilst there are nods to those previous stories, this film feels fresh. Saying that, Little Joe is much more slower paced than the others, and more contemplative so don’t expect an action-packed thriller. It is more character-driven. The acting at first was also jarring; the characters speak strangely, almost in a robotic way. This is more effective in the latter half of the film, where the audience isn’t sure if the characters are possessed by the plants or not, but in the beginning it was a little off-putting. Whilst it is visually arresting, and I am glad to have seen it, I don’t think it is necessary to see Little Joe on the big screen. But it is a good movie, if you are interested in the genre.

 

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Celine Sciamma)

Portrait of a Lady on FireAt the end of the eighteenth century, painter Marianne (Noemie Merlant) is sent to a remote island off the coast of Brittany, to paint a wedding portrait of Heloise (Adele Haenel). However, Marianne must do this in secret: Heloise refused to sit for previous artists and is reluctant to get married at all.  The longer Marianne stays on the island, the closer the two women become.

Sciamma discusses themes such as the male gaze and voyeurism through the art of painting. In fact, Portrait… is more reliant on the female gaze: there are only two scenes which feature men, one of which occurs in an art gallery which reveals a lot about how female artists are treated. It was incredibly done, seeing how women were portrayed in the male vs female gaze, and how that changes our perceptions of female characters. The audience sees the story from Marianne’s perspective, and I found her so compelling. Merlant did a wonderful job of bringing her to life, she was both strong and vulnerable in certain scenes and gave Marianne this integrity that was a joy to watch. Haenel was also brilliant, and the relationship between the two progressed really naturally; you root for them to be together. The setting as well was perfectly chosen; the island becoming both a prison and a paradise to the women living on it. It helped reinforce the ideas and expectations placed upon women in society, whilst here they are free. Portrait… has been getting rave reviews since it debuted at Cannes last year, and quite rightly so.  I could talk about this film all day, it was brilliant.

 

Onward (dir. Dan Scanlon)

OnwardIn a fantastical surburbia, teenager Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is given a magical staff on his 16th birthday – alongwith a spell to bring their father back to life. Ian decides to try it, though he is skeptical. The spell sort of works; it brings back the legs of his dad only. Along with older brother Barley (Chris Pratt), the two teenagers must set off on a quest to retrieve magic that will bring the top half back and reunited their family.

The last third of this movie devastated me. It was incredibly powerful and moving, making my eyes well up. The ending can be spotted a mile off but it still had an effect on me. The first two thirds: not so much. Whilst there had to be some set-up for this world which has essentially rejected magic for technology, the story dragged and it took awhile for the main plot to get going. By that time, I wasn’t really engaged with the action, nor in the characters particularly. For the most part, they all seemed a bit one-note, with only really Ian having any kind of depth. There’s also something incredibly off-putting that 40 year old Pratt is voicing a character who is between 18 – 21. His voice doesn’t necessarily match the person he’s playing. Also, Barley feels like characters he has played before: imagine Star Lord being really into World of Warcraft and that’s his persona in this film. Holland also plays to type as the somewhat awkward, nerdy kid but Ian seemed to have more of an arc and development through the story.  Like I mentioned, the ending is emotional and the animation is also really good; it just never engaged me in a way to previous Pixar films. Which is a shame as there was some elements that worked.

 

Stealing off Other Peoples’ Shelves

As previously mentioned my library is closed, so whilst I have reserved Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery I haven’t got it yet. So I shall roll that book over until I can get a copy. However, this month I am stealing from Phil over at reviewsrevues and you should definitely check him out. At time of writing, the last book review he did was of James Baldwin’s Another Country. He really enjoyed it, so hopefully I will too!

 

And that is it for March! Let me know what you’ve been reading and watching in the comments, or if you’ve read/seen any of the ones I’ve mentioned. And stay safe!

Monthly Round-Up: February 2020

As we are nearing the end of another month – how are we coming into March already?! – I thought I would look back at the month of February and discuss the books and movies I’ve consumed. There’s also a new game I’ll be doing every month which I’ll explain below. I’m saying ‘new’, new to me, I’m sure others have already done this before! But I shall stop rambling and get into the books:

Books read and reviewed in February 2020

At the Teahouse Café: Essays from the Middle Kingdom by Isham Cook

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Fantastic Planet by Douglas Bosley

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

Whilst in January I was devouring non-fiction like my life depended on it, February has been more fiction heavy. This is partly due to the Women’s Prize longlist being revealed next week, and you will see a handful of these books in my predictions post come Monday. I like to have read a couple of the nominees beforehand, as it makes the list seem less intimidating to me and I can focus on the maybe more obscure picks. It also means I have a greater chance of actually reading all of them before the winner is announced in June. One day it will happen guys. One day…

Fantastic Planet was also my first Reedsy Discovery review of 2020 and it has been nice to get back into that. I have a couple of ideas for posts for them as well as reviews so hopefully there will be more content going up there from me as well. And at the moment I am currently reading The Binding by Bridget Collins. I’m just under halfway through and enjoying it; wasn’t expecting the fantasy elements so they were a definite surprise but regardless still having a lot of fun. The review for that will be up at some point in March so look out for that.

Films Seen in February 2020

I only saw three films this month at the cinema and, as you can see, I had been attempting to see some of the Oscar nominees before the ceremony. Now that awards season is over it will be fun to see which films I’m drawn to, without relying on awards to help me pick.

A Hidden LifeA Hidden Life (dir. Terrence Malick)  

This is the story of Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis during the Second World War and subsequently faced imprisonment and execution. I really enjoyed this. The cinematography in particular was stunning; those some landscape shots were beautiful on the big screen. Nature was also successfully used to reflect individuals’ personal feelings and the general collective sense of fear and dread. Malick’s films are always visually interesting and this one ranks highly in his body of work.  The acting as well was excellent, particularly Valerie Pachner, who is heart-breaking as Fanny, Franz’ wife who is left behind in Austria and faces a hostile community. Her scenes were absolutely riveting and now I want to see more of her work.  If you’re already a fan of Malick then I think you’ll love it.

A Beautiful Day in the NeighbourhoodA Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood  (dir. Marielle Heller)

Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a cynical investigative journalist who is send to profile children’s TV host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). At first reluctant, Vogel starts to open up to Mr. Rogers and the two begin an unusual friendship. I’ll admit I know nothing of Mr Rogers. Whilst I know about the documentary he was the subject of a couple of years ago, I never watched his show growing up.  This meant the film didn’t hold any nostalgia for me, which with hindsight was perhaps needed to be fully invested in the story. There was also a really interesting technique at the beginning; the story of Lloyd was being told as though it was a story on Rogers’ show. This was a cool way to frame the narrative but sadly Heller doesn’t keep that running throughout, instead making it a much more straightforward biopic. Tom Hanks is as charming as always but I think people more familiar with Mr Rogers will get the most out of the film.

ParasiteParasite (dir. Bong Joon-Ho)

Parasite has been raking up awards since it opened at Cannes last year and with good reason. It is better going into this film without knowing the plot, so all I shall say is that we follow two families, one wealthy and the other working class, and how their lives intersect. This was expertly crafted. Everything slotted in so perfectly, even details that seem small initially are significant by the end. It’s a film to rewatch just to pinpoint these details and hints. Bong also blends different genres with ease, flitting between comedy and drama throughout. Parasite is ultimately about class divide in society and whilst its theme isn’t subtle, the film never beats you around the head with it or feels condescending to the audience. The ensemble cast all work well together and each have their moment to shine, though my favourite might be Park So-dam as the feisty daughter from the working-class family. Well deserved Best Picture winner.

It is interesting looking back at the films I’ve watched and seeing my feelings towards them in relation to each other. I did like A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood but because it is wedged between two films that are some of the best I’ve seen this year (probably both making the top three) it does suffer because of that. But I highly recommend both A Hidden Life and Parasite.

Stealing from Other Peoples’ Shelves

Yes, this was the new (but probably old) game that I mentioned earlier. I always have a hard time knowing what to read next, so I thought having one book I definitely need to read a month would help. It is very simple: through highly advanced technology *coughs* WheelDecide *coughs* I pick a book blogger and the last book they read will go on my TBR for the month. If I have already read the book then I simply move to the next review until there’s one I haven’t read, and if it is part of a series then I will read wherever I am up to (so probably the first book since I haven’t started a lot of series). Not sure what to do if I come across an ARC but will cross that bridge when I come to it.

The first blogger picked was the lovely Nirmala at Red Lips and Bibliomaniacs  who you should follow if you aren’t already. At the time of writing, her last review was the short story ‘The Witch’ taken from the collection The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. I’ve never read any Jackson before so I’m going to attempt the whole collection this month and see if I like her writing style. Short stories are a good way to gauge if I will like an author’s longer works so this will be exciting.

 

And that is my wrap-up for February. My Women’s Prize predictions will be up on Monday and the reviews will be returning Thursday. In the meantime, let me know if you have read or seen any of the books and films mentioned and what you thought of them!

Monthly Round-Up: January 2020

This will be interesting. As I’m sure most of you have noticed, I have never done a monthly round-up before; mainly because I’m not sure if people would be interested in them. But I thought I would give them a go and see how the posts get on. I also thought it would be nice to look back on my reading and film watching on a monthly basis as I don’t normally reflect on these until the end of the year. Especially in regards to films, I normally do a ‘Top 10 of the year’ and that’s it; yet I watch on average 40 films at the cinema so a good portion of those are never discussed. Hopefully by writing about them in round-ups I can recommend good films that perhaps don’t make the final list. But without further ado I shall start with the books:

Books Read and Reviewed in January 2020

I shall just list them here with links to the reviews if you want to know my thoughts on them: I won’t rehash all my feelings here.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  

I See You by Claire Mackintosh

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier

The Cut Out Girl by Bart Van Es

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

Animal Farm by George Orwell

January has been a very different start to the year. Normally I read fiction with maybe a couple of nonfictions littered throughout the year – go back three or four years ago I never read any nonfiction at all. So to have three books out of seven falling into this category is highly unusual for me. Certainly I have been enjoying nonfiction a lot more lately – my top 3 books of last year were all nonfiction – and it is a genre that I wish to explore more and already have my eye on a couple of biographies that sound interesting. Mark Twain is quoted as saying “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” Perhaps that’s why I’ve been finding nonfiction so compelling. Saying that, I have been busy reading two novels: The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood so maybe my nonfiction binge will come to an end.

Films in January 2020

I’ve made four trips to the cinema in January, and all of them are Oscar nominees. Awards season sees me binging on a lot of films, trying to see as many of the nominees as possible, so expect to see a few of them in February too. I will just discuss them in the order I saw them:

Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig)

Little WomenI don’t need to explain the plot as everyone knows it. In regards to the film, I loved it. Gerwig has changed the structure of the story, alternating between past and present, and it works brilliantly.  It helps to alleviate many of the problems I had whilst reading Alcott’s novel, especially the Jo and Professor Bhaer relationship. This is explored a little at the beginning of the film, but even those small scenes really establish their feelings for one another. Plus, the fact Bhaer is now closer to Jo’s age and not condescending towards her writing helps. The acting is excellent, especially from Florence Pugh as Amy, a character that is normally despised. Here she is a very sympathetic, likable person, which is due to Gerwig’s writing and Pugh’s thoughtful portrayal. It was interesting getting to know her more and exploring her relationship with Laurie more. The cinematography was also gorgeous, and the use of warm vs cold colours to symbolise the two timelines was well done. I can talk about this film and how glorious it is all day, in particular the ending which would have made Alcott proud.

Jojo Rabbit (dir. Taika Watiti)

Jojo RabbitThis has been described as an ‘anti-hate satire’ and is set during World War Two. Our protagonist is Johannes ‘Jojo’ (Roman Griffin Davis) a young boy who is a member of the Hitler Youth. He’s so enamoured with the leader that he is Jojo’s imaginary best friend (Watiti). Yet, Jojo’s beliefs start to come into question when he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their house. I have heard some people complain that it went too far so it wasn’t funny. I actually think the opposite, that Watiti could have explored the satirical elements more, especially in regards to the character played by Stephen Merchant. However, that is probably my only critique of the film as I had a great time watching it. Sam Rockwell as the Hitler Youth leader was the highlight for me, combining both humour and pathos into his small role. The use of pop music as well was spot on and a really clever addition – I had to stop myself from joining in on Bowie’s Heroes.  Despite the rather grim subject matter, I still found this to be a heart-warming, funny film.

Bombshell (dir. Jay Roach)

BombshellBombshell is a semi-fictionalised account of the scandal that rocked Fox News: when a group of women, spearheaded by Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) accused head Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) of sexual assault and discussed the overall toxic atmosphere in those offices. It is easy to understand why Charlize Theron (looking startlingly like Megyn Kelly) and Margot Robbie, playing a fictional character, are receiving award nominations. Both are phenomenal, along with Kidman and Lithgow, who is terrifying as Ailes. As someone who remembers the events that ultimately brought down Ailes and Fox anchor Bill O’Reilly, I found this a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes yet perhaps those unfamiliar with the people involved might feel differently. The opening segment, featuring Theron/Kelly wandering around explaining the different floors in the Fox building, felt a little unnecessary and clunky. I know this was for people who didn’t know the story, but it felt like it stalled the plot from beginning. Having her speaking directly into the camera, breaking the fourth wall, also totally threw me off. It was an interesting choice made by Roach but I’m not completely convinced it paid off. Still, a solid and painfully relevant film.

1917 (dir. Sam Mendes)

1917Yep, I saw a World War One and Two movie in the same month. 1917 though is far more serious than Jojo Rabbit: we follow young soldiers Blake and Schofield (played by Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay) who must deliver an important message to call off an attack: 1,600 men are about to walk straight into a trap. Most discussions around this film centre on the fact it was filmed to look like one continous shot. It is certainly impressive to look at, and helps to up the tension – already palpable from Mendes’ direction and the brilliant score by Thomas Newman. The feeling of dread seems to linger over every frame. Interestingly, there is only a handful of scenes of violence in 1917, with the aftermath of battles being shown in the back- and middle ground.  This gives the sense of danger around every corner. The two performances by Chapman and MacKay are brilliant, and I wish they had got more recognition this awards season. Their friendship was really believable and I genuinely cared for their characters. In a cast which included Colin Firth, Richard Madden, and Benedict Cumberbatch (admittedly in cameos) these two really shone in the film.

 

And that is it for January! Let me know if you’ve either read any of the books or seen any of the films mentioned and what you thought of them! Also, let me know if you like monthly round-ups and would like to see more of them, it’s always nice to get some feedback so I can improve the blog.

Top 10 Films of 2019

Merry Christmas! Hope everyone is having (or has had) a lovely time. I most certainly have – I’ve been consuming my body weight in chocolate. For these next two posts, I thought I would reflect on 2019 and all the movies and books that I saw/read this year. My top 10 books will be out on Monday, so today I am focussing on my favourite films of 2019. This was quite a hard list to put together; I’ve enjoyed a lot of films released over the past 12 months so narrowing it down to 10 was difficult. All these films were released in the UK for the first time in 2019, but there might be a bit of overlap with 2018 concerning release dates in different countries. But without further ado, I’ll jump into the movies:

10. Amazing Grace (dirs. Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack)

Amazing GraceThe list is kicking off with a documentary film. The footage of Aretha Franklin recording gospel songs at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church is from 1972, yet due to various reasons the film was only released in 2018. As a fan of Franklin, I had to watch this as soon as it came out. The film is a powerful reminder of how incredible Franklin was; at points her voice brought me to tears, made all the more poignant as the 1972 audience were also welling up. Hearing her sing again was magical. It was also interesting seeing her father and how he has influenced her. Amazing Grace is really only about these two recording sessions, it isn’t a biopic or documentary about her life. If you want to learn more about Franklin then this film isn’t for you. But I found it a beautiful tribute to a great artist.

9. The Favourite (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)

The FavouriteThe very first film I saw in 2019 so it just makes the cut. The film revolves around Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone) competing for the affections of an ill Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). This is a period drama with a twist, and only Lanthimos can pull it off.  I particularly liked the use of different camera lens to reflect different characters’ perspectives; it made the film fascinating to watch. The costumes were also stunning to look at, and it is clear the amount of research that went into recreating them.   Obviously Colman won Best Actress at the Oscars for her performance and deservedly so, but Weisz, Stone and Nicholas Hoult as Harley, Leader of the Opposition, all excelled in their roles. Despite seeing it way back in January, The Favourite sticks out as being a favourite (no pun intended) of 2019.

8. Diego Maradona (dir. Asif Kapadia)

MaradonaThis one is fairly self-explanatory: this is a documentary about Maradona and his time at S.S.C Napoli in the 1980s, culminating in his fall from grace. Like the other Kapadia films – Amy and Senna which are also stunning – he doesn’t use the ‘talking heads’ prevalent in many other documentaries, instead having voice overs alongside archive footage. This makes the film flow a lot better, as there aren’t any cuts to people speaking which can be distracting. It also makes the film more immersive; you’re there in the 1980s, seeing what the voices are recounting. Maradona does do a voice over which is interesting; he’s discussing the incredible highs and lows he experienced in that period, and he does so with brutal honesty. It’s fascinating comparing his memories to the others who were interviewed, and where they are similar or diverge. Even if you’re not a football fan, Diego Maradona is certainly a great film to watch.

7. The Farewell (dir. Lulu Wang)

The FarewellThe only film that made me bawl at the cinema, The Farewell follows Billi (Awkwafina) who discovers that her Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The family, instead of telling Nai Nai the truth, plan a wedding instead as an excuse to spend one last time with her. Wang’s screenplay blends pathos and humour really well; giving the film a very bittersweet quality. The scenes which are funny are given new meaning as the audience is aware of Nai Nai’s illness. The cast as well were excellent with no weak link anywhere; everyone also got at least one scene to shine in. It is one of those films that after watching, you want to call up the elderly members of your family and speak to them. A heart-warming film about family.

6. Knives Out (dir. Rian Johnson)

Knives OutThe Thrombey family are gathering to celebrate patriarch Harlan’s (Christopher Plummer) birthday. The morning after he is found dead and the police suspect suicide. Except private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) thinks something suspect is afoot, and sets out to investigate the crime novelist’s death. I love watching murder mysteries (I have been know to binge on the Poirot TV series) so was very excited to hear about Knives Out. It was a lot of fun, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing. This feels more like a subversion of a murder mystery, and I liked how Johnson played with the tropes of the genre. Plus, Craig is clearly relishing his role as Blanc, and it’s hard not to get swept along with him. The most fun I’ve had at the cinema this year.

5. If Beale Street Could Talk (dir. Barry Jenkins)

If Beale Street Could TalkBased on the James Baldwin novel of the same name, If Beale Street Could Talk follows childhood sweethearts Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) in New York in the early 70s. Things take a drastic turn: Tish is pregnant and Fonny is falsely accused of rape. The film is told in a non-linear manner, which makes the events that unfold for the young couple absolutely devastating. Jenkins flicks between past and present with ease, and the colours used to symbolise the different time periods (past is so much brighter, the present more muted) was really well done. It gave you a sense of how the characters were feeling without relying on them telling you. Layne was incredible, and it is hard to believe this is only her third film as her performance is beautiful. Along with the rest of the film, she really should have had more award nominations than she did.

4. Marriage Story (dir. Noah Baumbach)

Marriage StoryDespite the title, Marriage Story follows the divorce of actress Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver), a playwright. Nicole wants to move to LA to be near her family and reignite her TV career; Charlie wants his family to remain in New York. Lawyers become involved, and the divorce proceedings turn sour. Johansson has never been better, giving a layered performance and making Nicole a multi-dimensional character. Laura Dern is also amazing as Nicole’s lawyer. But it is Driver who breaks my heart here. He gives one of my favourite performances of the year; devastating and funny in turns. Baumbach’s script as well is excellent, capturing the little nuances and quirks of people that most overlook. Neither Nicole or Charlie are painted as the villains; just extremely flawed people trying to do the best for their son.

3. For Sama (dirs. Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts)

For SamaThe highest ranked documentary on my list, For Sama is a grim but necessary film. Syrian filmmaker Al-Kateab charts 5 years of her life; falling in love, getting married, and having daughter Sama. Meanwhile, the conflict in Aleppo rages on, and her family faces a tough decision; leave the country or stay and risk being killed. In its review on the film, The Guardian mentions there are many moments ‘when audiences will want to look away’.  Certainly that was the case for me: the depictions of casualties of warfare are a gruesome reminder of what is happening. Yet despite the subject matter, For Sama has this theme of hope and humanity running through it; it makes itself present in the smaller, quieter scenes. When people joke and children play, trying to act normal in the face of extraordinary situations. Not an easy watch but a powerful one.

2. Transit (dir. Christian Petzold)

TransitGeorg (Franz Rogowski) steals a dead writer’s identity and escapes from Paris to Marseilles, where he hopes to catch a boat to escape war-torn France. In Marseilles, he meets and falls in love with Marie (Paula Beer) who is looking for her husband – the dead writer whose identity he stole. Whilst the novel it is based on is set during World War II, Petzold’s film takes place in modern day Marseilles. This forces the audience to make links between the events of the 1940s and the current refugee crisis. It is incredibly effective in achieving this; one always has a sense of the crisis just slightly off-camera. Combined with stunning performances and a haunting score, Transit is a relevant, thought-provoking watch. Not everyone will like it, but it is definitely one to try.

1. Pain and Glory (dir. Pedro Almodovar)

pain and gloryI am a massive fan of Almodovar, so it should come as no surprise that his latest tops my chart. This is a sort of autobiographical work, following film director Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) who is suffering from physical and mental illnesses as one of his films is being rereleased. He meets the star of said film Alberto (Asier Etxeandia) who introduces him to heroin. The film also travels back in time and explores his relationship with his mother (Penelope Cruz) growing up. Both Banderas and Cruz are incredible in this film, giving nuanced performances of people struggling. As with most of Almodovar’s work, the cinematography is gorgeous with colours just popping out of the frame. A great film for those wanting to get into the director’s body of work and also for Almodovar aficionados.

 

And that’s it for my top 10 films. A lot of great films just narrowly missed the cut: Joker, Toy Story 4, and Never Look Away all vying for no. 11. There’s also some films that haven’t come out in the UK yet (Parasite, Bombshell, The Lighthouse, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire spring to mind ) but are getting rave reviews elsewhere. I can’t wait to see them and hopefully they’ll make the list next year. In the meantime, let me know what your favourite films of the year have been in the comments below.

The 20 Film Questions Tag

Hi everyone! So when sorting out my reviews for the next couple of weeks, I decided to have a nosey at my recently published posts. To cut a long story short, I basically went down the rabbit hole and realised I hadn’t done my favourite films of 2019 so far. In fact, I haven’t done a film post since last year. Since we’re coming to the end of August, I thought I would leave the ‘favourite films’ until December since there’s no point in doing two within 4/5 months of each other. So instead, I have decided to do the The 20 Film Questions Tag. I’m not sure who invented this, so if you have any ideas let me know down below and I shall link to them. But without further ado, let’s get into the questions.

1. How often do you watch a film?

This is a hard one. I go through periods, similar to reading actually, where I will watch tons of films and then others where I watch none at all. On average, I would probably say once or twice a week.
2. What film genre are you particularly fond of?

Drama. I’m not really into genres nowadays. I mean I watch some, like Star Wars, but apart from that…no.
3. What was the last film you watched and liked?

Pain and Glory and I adored it. Pedro Almodovar is one my favourite directors.

pain and glory.jpg

4. What was the last film you watched and hated?

That’s a hard one – I tend not to hate films. I don’t watch films I know I’ll dislike, so that’s maybe why. I don’t understand people who ‘hate watch’. One I watched recently that I don’t think I understood was Stockholm, my Love starring Neneh Cherry. Some scenes I enjoyed, but I’m not sure what the film was trying to say overall.
5. What is your favourite movie of all time?

The Godfather

That’s a hard one. Since I can’t narrow it down to one, I shall say both The Godfather and Amelie.

6. What’s your favourite guilty pleasure film?

Oh there’s so many! Meet the Parents trilogy, Johnny EnglishBaby’s Day Out… the list is endless.

7. What films have you watched a million times already?

Amelie and Black Narcissus probably. I reckon I could quote huge chunks from the pair of them. Also, I will sit and watch any Harry Potter when it’s on the TV, regardless of how far into the film it is. So yeah, they’d be up there.

8. Are you the type of person who watches a film on its first day of showing?

No. I don’t like big crowds, and I always feel like I need to rush to get tickets/snacks/seats etc because there is so many people. Saying that, I did see Toy Story 4 on its first day which wasn’t too bad. But that was because it was Friday and I had that day off.
9. Do you use fandango or prebook film tickets?

Neither. I mostly just stroll up on the day and get my tickets.

10. Cinema, download or dvd/Blu-ray?

I love going to the cinema, and I’m lucky that I have a small, independent one near where I live which has affordable prices. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t go anywhere near as much as I do. I’ve never downloaded a film, so DVD/Blu-ray would be my next choice. If I want to watch an older film I will check websites like Archive.org which has quite a varied selection.
11. How often do you go to the cinema to watch a film?

In a similar way to the first question, I have periods where I go a lot and others I’m barely there. When it comes to Oscar season I practically live there – I like seeing most of the nominees before the ceremony. Then I’m there maybe twice a week. At other times though, I might only go once or twice a month.
12. What are the films that made you cry?

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird never fails to make me cry, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. It’s the bit after the court case, and Atticus is the last person to leave. Scout and Jem are told to ‘stand up – you’re father is passing’. That gets me, every damn time.
13. Do you watch foreign films?

Yep, frequently. I don’t understand peoples’ reluctance to subtitles.
14. What are your favourite foreign films?

Amelie (obviously), The Lives of OthersI Loved You So Long, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and Throne of Blood are all great.
15. Who are your favourite directors?

Alfred Hitchcock, Pedro Almodovar, Michael Powell, Agnes Varda, Douglas Sirk. There’s a lot of directors I’m a fan of.
16. Are you particular with film scores/soundtracks/music?

No, strangely enough. I do like music, but I don’t listen to film scores outwith the movie. Of course if the music is distracting from the plot I will notice that, or when I sense my emotions are being manipulated by the soundtrack. But 9 times out of 10, no.
17. What film soundtrack can be found in your iPod?

Like I said, I don’t listen to film soundtracks, though I do have songs that have featured in films. But that’s as close as I get.

18. Who are your favourite actors/actresses?

Montgomery Clift, Marilyn Monroe, Cate Blanchett, Domhnall Gleeson, Ingrid Bergman… again this list can go on forever. I like Golden Age Hollywood a fair bit, which you can see from my favourite directors and performers.

19. Do you read the book before watching the movie, or vice versa?

I normally read the book first. In some cases I don’t, like for example if I don’t have time to finish the novel before seeing the film. There have also been a couple of occasions where I didn’t realise it was an adaptation until the credits showed up on screen.

20. Tag!

As per, I shall let anyone answer these questions. So if you fancy a go, consider yourself tagged!

Movies I hope win Oscars

Hi everyone! So this time next week we will know who has won a gold statuette at the Academy Awards. I’m not going to attempt to predict the winners – I’m so bad at guessing I’ll probably jinx someone – so instead I thought I would mention a couple of movies that I would like to see win. Some nominated films, like Isle of DogsBlackkKlansman, and Shoplifters were mentioned in my Top 10 films of 2018 so I won’t bother talking about them here. But without further ado I’ll jump into the movies!

The Favourite  Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

The Favourite

Set in 18th century England, we follow Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone), cousins vying to be Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) favourite. I adored this movie. It has quite a dark sense of humour which I really enjoyed and the setting and costumes were stunning. It is a very beautiful film. But my highlight was the acting, especially the three actresses. Weisz and Stone clearly relished playing these characters, and the fun they had making the movie radiates off the screen. Colman was simply sensational. Her Queen Anne was such a sensitive, fragile woman and she gives a deeply affecting performance, especially when in lesser hands the part of  Anne could have slipped into melodrama. If she wins Best Actress I would be very happy. The Favourite has already won tons of awards and critical acclaim, and I believe it deserves all of them.

Mary, Queen of Scots   Dir. Josie Rourke

Mary Queen of Scots

I feel like this film doesn’t need much explanation; it’s about Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) and her cousin, Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). This film has had quite a mixed response but certainly I enjoyed myself throughout. Yes, there are some historical inaccuracies but this isn’t a documentary and besides a lot historical films are somewhat inaccurate – due to time or storytelling or many other elements. I find that ‘criticism’ redundant quite frankly. But before I go on a rant about that, I shall go back to the film. Ronan and Robbie did excellent jobs playing these famous figures; you feel sympathetic for both women and, despite knowing how it ends, hoping they can become allies. I also found the court intrigues and politics really fascinating as I don’t know much about Elizabethan court so it helped me understand a bit more about this period of history. If you like period pieces then you will like Mary, Queen of Scots. 

If Beale Street Could Talk   Dir. Barry Jenkins
If Beale Street Could Talk

Based on the book by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk follows Tish (Kiki Layne) a young, pregnant woman in Harlem, whose life is shattered when her fiancé Alonzo (Stephan James) is accused of rape. I’m surprised this never got nominated for Best Picture. This is one of the best films I’ve seen this year (I know we’re still in February but I’ve got a hunch it will still be a highlight come December). It won’t be for everyone; it is quite slow-paced and it jumps between past and present throughout. But I think it is a very tender exploration of love and family. It is hard to single out a particular actor because the entire cast is amazing. The cinematography James Laxton is incredibly beautiful; New York never looked better (and the film made me want to go back there so bad).

 

And there we have it! I still need to see Green Book and Vice to round off the nominees, if you have seen them let me know what you thought. Or even some of the other films that have been mentioned. I keep promising I’ll post a review – it is in my blog name – but I promise next Thursday a review will be up. Pinky promise. Until then, hope you have a good week.