Monthly Round-Up: November 2020

It’s hard to imagine that this is the penultimate monthly round up of 2020; that the next time I write one of these, my top books and films of the year will be released. I’m already thinking of those lists and who is going to make the cut, but before I properly start to panic, here’s what I read in November:

  1. The God’s Wife by Sarah Holz
  2. Journey by Andrew Zimmerman
  3. Savagery by JC Mehta
  4. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
  5. Ode to America by Odette Fraser
  6. Tales of Woe by Tay Reem

I have really been enjoying my poetry collections as of late, so I’m not surprised they dominate last month’s reading. Though for someone who was really keen to join in Non-Fiction November, I’ve successfully managed to not read a single non-fiction book in November. Whoops! Bad book blogger! Thursday’s post is a non-fiction review, however, so I may redeem myself a little…maybe.

Whilst I may have been neglecting my non-fiction reading, November has been a great month for films. With both the Catalan and French Film Festivals happening, I’ve been spoilt for choice. I’ve already mentioned my top 5 short films of the Catalan Film Fest, but here is the feature length movies that have graced my big (and small) screens:

Films Watched in November 2020

Wolfwalkers (dirs: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart)

Wolfwalkers.png

Robyn (voiced by Honor Kneafsey) is a young, wannabe hunter living in Kilkenny, Ireland with her father Bill (Sean Bean). Bill is a hunter employed by the Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) to rid the nearby forest of wolves so the land may be used for farming. Defying her father’s orders, one night Robyn sneaks off into the woods and meets Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a member of the magical, shape-shifting wolfwalkers. The two girls quickly become friends, and set off to find Mebh’s missing mother. Wolfwalkers is one of the most visually stunning films of 2020. The loose line work helps to create a very nostalgic feel – one is reminded of the animated films from childhood. There is something quite rough and ready about the artwork, making it all the more personal and intimate. The polished look of Disney and Pixar is nowhere to be seen, and the film benefits from that. Whilst I agree with some critics’ assertion that the film’s tone is uneven, it didn’t really affect my enjoyment. The fun plot, the serious environmental message, and the gorgeous visuals more than made up for any problems with tone. Definitely one for animation lovers.

How to be a Good Wife (dir: Martin Provost)

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It is 1967 and Paulette Van Der Beck (Juliette Binoche) runs a school for good housekeeping with husband Robert (Francois Berleand) and sister-in-law Gilberte (Yolande Moreau). When Robert dies unexpectedly, Paulette is left to take charge of the school and its unruly pupils. However, revolution is around the corner, and the girls might have other ideas that simply being housewives… Binoche is excellent as always as Paulette, a woman who is forced to take control of both the school and herself. Her friendships with both Gilberte and nun/teacher Marie-Therese (Noemie Lvovsky) were really entertaining to watch, and all three stars had great chemistry. I also really enjoyed the subplots involving some of the pupils, and the young actresses definitely excelled in their roles. However, the ending was a bit disappointing. I felt there were a couple of loose ends which was frustrating, and the musical number was downright bizarre. It’s a pity, as the film had the right balance of humour and drama until this point, when it becomes just plain baffling. If you’re a fan of Binoche, then you may like How to Be a Good Wife. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it is a fun, breezy couple of hours.

My Mexican Bretzel (dir: Nuria Giménez)

My Mexican Bretzel (2019) - IMDb

Spanning two decades, My Mexican Bretzel tells the story of Vivian and Leon Barrett. Combining extracts from Vivian’s diary and footage filmed by Leon across the years, the film is an intimate look at the Barrett’s’ marriage. My Mexican Bretzel is a thought-provoking, fascinating film, and I loved every second of it. Giménez brilliantly blurs the line between fact and fiction, an idea which becomes more layered the more it is ruminated on. There is the suggestion of filmmaking as a way of blurring or distorting reality – intentionally or not. Also, why do we film certain things but not others? How do people choose what gets to be recorded and viewed? These sorts of questions don’t necessarily have to be strictly about film, but all artistic mediums. The attempt to control life, which is uncontrollable. Yet this idea can be expanded even further, questioning memory and whether what we remember is accurate or not. The fact that the audience never hears any dialogue, we never hear what the people onscreen are saying, helps add to this blurring. We’re left to make it up ourselves. My Mexican Bretzel is a voyeuristic film, tackling the distinction between reality and fantasy. It asks more questions than it answers, and is one that I will be thinking of weeks afterwards.

Jaume Plensa: Can You Hear Me? (dir: Pedro Ballesteros)

Can You Hear Me? (2020) - Filmaffinity

The final film of November is the documentary Can You Hear Me? The film is centred on the famous sculptor Jaume Plensa who, at the beginning, is working on his project ‘Voices’ which is to be exhibited in the lobby of 30 Hudson Yards, New York City. Ballesteros also looks back at some of Plensa’s previous work. Can You Hear Me? feels very much like a tribute to public art in all its forms. Whilst Ballesteros is tackling one artist, it seems to celebrate art and how it shapes public spaces. Plensa himself is a fascinating man, and is incredibly candid about his work here. It was interesting listening to him speak about his art and the effects he was trying to achieve with different pieces. I could’ve listened to him for hours his process was so captivating. Given that it is discussing art, it is no surprise the film is a visual feast itself. A lot of the city shots were beautifully photographed and really captured the vibe of the different locations. If you’re a fan of Agnes Varda’s Faces Places then I think you’ll really enjoy Can You Hear Me? Both tackle the relationship between art and public spaces brilliantly.    

Monthly Round Up: October 2020

As we near the end of the month, it is time for me to look back on October. Despite having a slight Wi-Fi-related hiccup in the middle of the month, I managed to squeeze in some pretty good books. I’ve linked my reviews below in case you might have missed them:

Books Read in October 2020:

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Atomic Kiss by Brendan S. Bigney

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

War is Personal by Roy & Elaine Wilkes

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

How to Stay Out of the Emergency Room by Dr. Mona Balogh

I also read From Here to Eternity, An American Tragedy, and The Young Lions as part of my Books vs Film, which I just started this month. I had a lot of fun reading/watching and researching that post so I’ll probably make it a monthly post. October also seemed to be the month for award winners, with my reading both Hamnet and The Discomfort of Evening. They deal with a very similar topic – the death of a beloved child – and it was interesting comparing how both writers deal with it. I really enjoyed (if that is the appropriate word?) the two novels and it is hard to say which one I preferred. Both obviously deserved the plaudits they received, and it is surprising that Hamnet didn’t make the Booker longlist. It is probably one of the best books I’ve read this year, it was so devastating yet beautiful.

So in October I only watched 1 film at the cinema. I’m watching Rebecca this weekend so wish me luck with that one everyone! Given the pretty bad reviews it’s not looking promising. But back to October…

Films Watched in October 2020

Kajillionaire (dir. Miranda July)

Kajillionaire poster.jpeg

Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) helps her parents (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) to scam and steal at every opportunity. During one of these schemes, the family meets Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) and quickly take her into their confidence. Old Dolio and Melanie are wary of each other at first but grow closer as the true relationship between the parents and daughter is exposed. Kajillionaire reminded me of the work of Sean Baker, not just in terms of plot but also cinematography. The world was visually stunning to look at, completely at odds with the characters’ plight. It made me more invested in Old Dolio and wanting her to succeed. As well as directing July also wrote the screenplay, a glaringly apparent fact if you have read any of her other work. She has a wonderful ability of mixing dark and borderline farcical humour with very touching, heartfelt moments and allowing both those aspects to thrive in the narrative. The humour never undercuts the human drama; equally the quieter moments never detract from the more comical elements. July’s aided by a solid cast who all turn in strong performances. As the lead Wood does an amazing job as Dolio attempts to connect to the world around her and break from her parents’ grip. But it was Winger’s speech halfway through the film that felt like a gut-punch; devastating but so wonderfully acted that it was impossible to look away. Tender and funny, Kajillionaire is definitely one to watch.

And that is my October rounded up! Let me know what you’ve been reading and watching this month in the comments below!

Monthly Round-Up: September 2020

As September draws to a close it is time for another monthly round up. Admittedly between the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Booker Prize shortlist being announced, there have been less reviews this month. But I think I still had a nice selection regardless:

September had a really great mixture of genres, of fiction, short stories, and non-fiction. I do think Butler’s Kindred has been the stand out from this month’s reading; it’s a book I still haven’t quite shaken off and find myself thinking about in odd moments. Another one that has definitely burrowed under my skin is Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, which I’ll review on Thursday. But – spoilers – I loved it. There were a couple of times when I had to put the book down because I found it incredibly emotional but ultimately it was a rewarding reading experience, but I will discuss it in more depth later on. It’s certainly I really want to talk about with others, because there’s just so much to say.

In between my (constant) discussion of literary prizes, my local cinema opened up this month for the first time since March. I managed to catch three films in September, all of them very different from each other, but all worth checking out.

Films in September 2020

Away (dir. Gints Zilbalodis)

Kicking things off is Away, the debut feature film of Latvian director Zilbalodis. As well as directing, Zilbalodis produced, wrote, edited, animated, and scored the music (phew!) to the film, making it all the more impressive. A young boy, the sole survivor of a plane crash, wakes up on a mysterious island and is immediately confronted by large, black spirit-monster. He manages to escape and sets off to find civilisation, but the threatening spirit is never that far behind…

Despite having no dialogue, you are easily drawn into this world, a testament to Zilbalodis’ music. It is evocative without overpowering, and helps to create an emotional connection between the boy and the viewer. We experience the world through his eyes, and the music was excellent in conveying his emotional journey, whether that be wonder or fear. The animation was incredibly unique; nothing I had seen before. I read some reviews comparing it to video games, which I could see when looking at the ‘characters’ when they move. But those landscapes shots are so breathtakingly gorgeous that the comparisons melted away and I was totally invested in this story. It is extraordinary that the film was made by one person, and Zilbalodis’ passion emanates from the screen, making Away all the more enjoyable. It is an uplifting tale about life and one that all animation lovers should check out. I was blown away by Away.  

Les Miserables (dir. Ladj Ly)

Les misérables (2019) - Filmaffinity

Scooping up Best Film at February’s Cesar Awards (we won’t mention Best Director), Les Miserables is the first narrative film by Ly. Set in Montfermeil, Paris, young police officer Stephane (Damien Bonnard) has just recently transferred to the anti-crime unit. Meanwhile, tensions rise between local gangs. When Stephane and fellow officers Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djibril Zonga) are involved in a crime, the delicate balance of the neighbourhood threatens to spiral out of their control.

I don’t see why I paid for a cinema seat when I was just hanging off the edge the entire time. Les Miserables is one of the most tense, nail-biting thrillers I have watched in recent years. Ly’s carefully crafted story is swimming with subdued violence, threatening to burst through the surface at any moment. The characters are all walking on a knife edge and the audience very quickly joins them, so much so that when the chaos does come it almost feels like a relief. Watching how Stephane quickly changes, and perhaps not in a good way, highlights how easy it is to be sucked into a world brimming with violence. Yet whilst I enjoyed Bonnard’s performance, it was Zonga as Gwada, plus child actors Issa Perica and Al-Hassan Ly that really stood out. Zonga manages to capture the conflicted Gwada perfectly, and it is hard to imagine that Les Miserables was the first film of his younger co-stars, they were completely believable as their respective characters tangled in a world of crime. With perhaps one of the best endings of 2020 in film, Les Miserables works as both a tight, pacey thriller and a poignant social commentary.  

Tenet (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Tenet (film) - Wikipedia

Nolan’s latest sees ‘The Protagonist’ (John David Washington) sent on a mission after completing a harrowing test. Helped by the mysterious Neil (Robert Pattinson), The Protagonist must stop Russian businessman Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) from destroying the world, recruiting Sator’s wife Kat (Elizabeth Debecki) in the process. How will he stop this? By using Sator’s technology against him and reverting the flow of time of course! Since Nolan loves to play with the concept of time, I’ve decided to honour this by reverting my review. Have fun reading!

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Let me know what you’ve been reading and watching this week, and what your favourite has been!

Monthly Round-Up: August 2020

The end of another months means another monthly round-up. Below are all the books I read and reviewed in August, plus the links in case anyone wants to check them out.

Books in August 2020

As many people already know, August was Women in Translation Month and I was able to participate in the second half of the month. Reading those four books made me realise how little translated fiction I read normally, a fact which is made worse when I consider all the translated works I’ve enjoyed throughout the years. I definitely want to make that a priority next year when I set my reading goals for 2021. Certainly these past two weeks I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read, and even managed to knock a couple off my ever-growing TBR (The Women at Hitler’s Table, My Brilliant Friend). I might even have found a new series I like in the Neapolitan Novels. So all in all it was a very successful reading month.

Going into September I have two goals: to finish the Women’s Prize shortlist and hopefully make a start on the Booker Prize shortlist. I only have two novels, Hamnet and Dominicana, to read for the Women’s Prize. Given the winner is announced on 9th September I don’t think I will have completed both in time, but I will hopefully have read a decent chunk of them beforehand. With regards to the Booker Prize, I say ‘hopefully’ because I’m waiting to see who makes the shortlist, which is released 15th. There are some novels that interest me, others not at all, so I shall see when the shortlist is revealed if I want to tackle it. 

In this section of the monthly round up posts is where I discuss the newly released films I’ve watched this month. Or that’s how they started out. The last few months, due to cinemas being shut, has seen discuss what upcoming releases I’ve been excited for. Today though, I’m going to revert back to the original plan. Whilst I’ve not been to the cinema in August, I watched two films that should have been screened way back in March but instead, have been released on VOD and streaming services. So I thought I would discuss them here, as they were supposed to have had a cinema release in the UK in 2020. But without further ado, let’s dive into the films:

Films in August 2020

The Assistant (dir. Kitty Green)

The AssistantThis is a slice-of-life drama where we follow a day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), a recent graduate and the titular assistant. She works in the office of movie mogul, and she dreams of eventually becoming a film producer herself. Yet throughout the course of the day, Jane becomes increasingly aware of the abuse her employer inflicts behind closed doors. It is hard not to draw comparisons with Harvey Weinstein whilst watching this film, and I think Green handled the disturbing theme incredibly well. The mogul in question is never seen – our only interactions are via Jane’s emails and telephone conversations with him. By having him off-screen he is a boogeyman figure – a hidden monster that lurks just behind the camera. It creates a deeply uneasy environment for the viewer, a reflection of the insidious nature of sexual assault.  Yet the most disturbing scene for me was the conversation between Jane and an HR manager played by Matthew Macfadyen. It shows how systemic the issue of abuse is, and both actors are absolutely brilliant in this scene. Whilst the slow pace and troubling subject matter will not appeal to some viewers, The Assistant is a very effective, powerful drama.

 

Radioactive (dir. Marjane Satrapi)

Radioactive filmThe plot of Radioactive is fairly straightforward – it is a biopic of Marie Curie (Rosamund Pike), beginning with her struggles to fund her research and the start of her relationship with Pierre Curie (Sam Riley), until her death in 1934. Satrapi also looks at the effects Curie’s discoveries have had on the world; everything to life-saving surgery to Hiroshima and Chernobyl. Marie Curie lived an extraordinary life and Satrapi does a serviceable job of highlighting a couple of key moments. However, it means some aspects felt rushed as so much had to be crammed into less than 2 hours, her work during World War One for example. There was always this feeling of wanting more. Though an aspect I did like was how Satrapi wove events like Chernobyl and the Manhattan Project into the narrative. For the most part those scenes flowed between one another quite naturally, and they helped to show the impact that Curie has had. I’m not convinced by how Satrapi tied all these together at the end, feeling it was a bit on the nose. Overall, Radioactive is an interesting film to sum up. It is competently made, the performances are good. There just lacked a certain depth, and I feel people who know nothing about Marie Curie will benefit from the film more as it is a good oversight.

 

And that is it for August! Let me know down below what books you’ve been reading, or if you’ve seen any good films this month!

Monthly Round Up: July 2020

This is my seventh round up of 2020, and I’m always surprised when the time comes to write these posts. The days seem to be flying by this year. But in the meantime I have read 8 books, which I’ve linked below.

Books Read in July 2020

Similar to last month I have quite a nice mixture of fiction and nonfiction, with 3 nonfiction titles, 3 novels, and 2 short story collections. Whilst I didn’t love everything, the mixture of genre and different styles of writing definitely helped to keep me interested this month. There were especially some interesting choices made by the writers which I found fascinating to read, whether they managed to pull it off or not.

I have also finally ticked off two of the Women’s Prize longlistees that I was interested in: A Thousand Ships and Actress. I really enjoyed both and am sad that Actress never made the shortlist. It feels deserving of a place. But it seems traditional now that my favourites from the longlist never make the jump to the shortlist. So with A Thousand Ships read that leaves me with two shortlist nominees to go: Dominicana and Hamnet AKA the ones I have the most reservations about. I’m all up for being proved wrong though so fingers crossed I really like them. We might actually have a Women’s Prize shortlist where I don’t absolutely hate one of the nominees. Imagine!

 

Films to see in 2020

Remember I started off this section at the beginning of April feeling optimistic? I had all my fingers crossed that new films will be screening again after the cinemas reopened? Look up ‘gullible’ in the dictionary and you will find me. Nonetheless, whether out of optimism/gullibility/sheer stubbornness, I am still clinging to the hope some of these films will be released this year.

Aya and the Witch  (dir. Goro Miyazaki)

Earwig and the witchOriginally set to debut at the Cannes film festival this year, Aya and the Witch is the latest movie from Studio Ghibli and the director is the son of co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. Admittedly Studio Ghibli films can be a bit ‘hit or miss’ for me and the animation, the first from the studio fully in CGI, is…interesting? I’m getting flashbacks from my Playstation 1 days. But the film is based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, whose writing I really admire. It tells of the eponymous Aya, a young girl who is adopted by a witch and swept away into a world of magic and mayhew. Not sure if I’ll be rushing to this on opening night, but am curious about this one.

 

Soul (dir. Pete Docter)

SoulAnother animated film and another one which was supposed to debut in Cannes, Soul is about Joe (Jamie Foxx), a school music teacher who has dreams of becoming a successful jazz artist. However, an accident involving an open man hole cover means his soul is separated from his body, and he must return to the body before it dies. Similar to Studio Ghibli, Pixar films are a mixed bag for me. But the director is Pete Docter who also directed Up, one of my favourites from the studio in recent years, so I’m feeling fairly positive about this one. I’m also getting vibes of Inside Out from the trailer, which means I’ll need to get tissues at the ready when I eventually see Soul.

 

Respect (dir. Liesl Tommy)

RespectAdmittedly this one is cheating: it was supposed to be released on Christmas Day but has been pushed back to 15th January in the USA. I’m not sure when it’ll be arriving in other countries but I suspect it would be around the same time, so I’m including it. This is obviously based on the life of the iconic singer Aretha Franklin, played by Jennifer Hudson. I’m a big fan of Franklin’s music; I grew up listening to her as my mum is also a fan, so there is this personal connection to her music.  Hudson is also a great singer and it will be interesting to hear her take on some of Franklin’s biggest hits. It will never be quite as a good as the Queen of Soul herself singing them, though.

 

And that is my last post of July 2020 done! I’m kicking off August with another round of the Random Book Quiz, so keep your eyes peeling on Saturday for that. Later in August I will take part in Women in Translation month too, which is exciting. I don’t really read a lot of translated fiction in general, so it will be good to potentially find some new authors. In the meantime, let me know what you’ve been reading and watching!

Monthly Round Up: June 2020

As we approach the end of June I’ve decided to take a look back at all the books I’ve read over the past 4 weeks. There’s a bit of a mixture which is always good, and links are provided below if you want to check out my reviews for any of the books.

Books Read in 2020

I also listed my Top 5 books and films of the year so far, which was a lot harder than I initially anticipated. Particularly in the first couple of months I read and watched some great stuff so narrowing it down was difficult. But returning to this month’s reading, like I mentioned I’m happy with how diverse the genres are. There is some poetry, an essay collection, short stories, and a couple of novels. I find my reading drops off by the middle of the year, having consumed so much during the earlier months that I nearly slip into a reading slump. So having different styles really helps to keep me excited about reading. I seem to be carrying on this trend going into July; currently I’m reading a fiction and a non-fiction, with another non-fiction at the top of my TBR. I don’t want to talk too much about them here, but I have a lot of points on all of them that I want to bring up in my reviews. So that’s how my reading is going at the moment.

Now I normally share three films I’m excited to watch that are being released in 2020. I may have cheated a teeny bit, as one of the films mentioned is already out. For whatever reason, I have just never got round to it yet so if you have, let me know if it’s worth watching.

Films to See in 2020

Mank (dir. David Fincher)

MankMank is a biographical film about Herman J Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), a screenwriter who battles with director and film star Orson Welles (Tom Burke) over credit for the screenplay of Citizen Kane. Any movie about movies was bound to pique my interest, and I’m especially interested in learning more about Citizen Kane. It is a film I’ve seen multiple times and it consistently makes the ‘Best of’ lists, but I don’t know much about the making of the movie. So it’ll be interesting to catch a glimpse of what it was like. Plus, I really enjoy Fincher’s work so am always happy to see a new film by him.

Da 5 Bloods (dir. Spike Lee)

Da-5-Bloods-1Another director whose previous films I’ve enjoyed is Spike Lee. His latest, Da 5 Bloods, recently dropped on Netflix and follows four veterans who return to Vietnam to seek out a fortune that their leader helped them hide. It sounds like a bizarre mash-up of genres, so I’m intrigued just by the premise. Is it a war film? Adventure? Buddy movie? A mixture of all them plus more? Clocking in at around 2 hours and 34 minutes it is a long film, but in Lee’s capable hands it will no doubt fly by. I imagine not one for the faint-hearted given the setting, but perhaps a necessary watch.

Ammonite (dir. Francis Lee)

AmmoniteSet in England in the 1840s, palaeontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) is working in Lyme Regis. A wealthy tourist offers Mary money to care for his young wife Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan). Though at the first the women don’t get along, soon they fall for one another and a love affair develops. I’m a simple woman, I see Saoirse Ronan is in a film and I immediately watch it. She is one of my favourite actresses working today so any film from her is a treat. I’m also getting vibes of  Portrait of a Lady on Fire from the plot, which is one of my favourites from this year. It should have premiered in Cannes in May, but hopefully it will be released soon.

 

What has been your favourite read this month? Have you seen Da 5 Bloods? Let me know in the comments!

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.

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!