We Are The Best (Film) Review

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We’ve decided to stick to Foreign Cinema for the time being, for no other reason really than because it’s awesome. This week’s pick, by Jillian, is no exception. I mean, it’s a film about an 80’s teen punk band FFS, what more can you want?

Incidentally, the most dominant thought I take away from this is: should I cut my hair über short?

As always, *spoilers!*

We Are The Best (2013)

Director: Lukas Moodysson
Stars: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne

IMDB Synopsis: Three girls in 1980s Stockholm decide to form a punk band — despite not having any instruments and being told by everyone that punk is dead.

My Review:

Bobo and Klara are BFFs who take great comfort from their friendship, while the world around them seems to reject their ideals.

Classmates (right out of Sparkle Motion) taunt them for the way they look – that old “You’d be so pretty if only you…” chestnut – and maintain that punk is dead. The girls are secure enough in themselves to push back against this nonsense, they know punk still has a pulse and one day, whilst trying to drown out the sound of the local youth group band, Iron Fist (how original), they set about trying to prove it.

“What do you mean this feels like that scene in Napoleon Dynamite?”

Sadly, enthusiasm alone doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an instant hit and they must look outside their twosome for a solution to success. Enter Christian good girl, Hedvig, who plays mean guitar. Can the girls open Hedvig’s mind and show her ideas beyond her God, whilst simultaneously smashing the shit out of patriarchy via the medium of P-U-N-K? Hopefully!

This film does have a lovely feminist undertone. The girls get called ugly constantly by their male peers, and maybe this is why I liked it so much, as it really hit a nerve. All three girls are at a point in life where they’re questioning their own desirability, while actively making a pact not to conform to what’s expected of them, hence the reason the boys think they’re hideous. Bobo and Klara agree not to wear make-up and have punk haircuts maintained by themselves, in their respective bathrooms at home.

The girls have loving families by the way, though Bobo’s mother embarrasses her at parties, has relationship issues and sometimes men over. As a result, Bobo often comes across as the adult in their relationship. Her dad does come around from time to time, but is largely absent.

“So… going anywhere nice this Summer?”

Klara’s family are even more hideous in that they’re encouraging and want to jam with the girls, which goes down like a lead balloon with Klara. When the girls fall out of favour with Hedvig’s highly religious mother, by persuading Hedvig to cut her very long blonde hair, Klara’s father finds it hilarious. He also spends a fair amount of his time wandering around in his pants in polite company and this makes his A-OK with me.

As the girls get better at music, under the tutelage of Hedvig, and polish their anti-PE anthem (my kind of girls), they also explore their blossoming interest in the opposite sex.

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Say no to Scrubs

Bobo has a crush on Klara’s brother, sixteen year old Linus who’s quite nice to her, even when she gets drunk and pukes on his precious record collection. But there’s trouble ahead when the girls meet a fellow punk band, and Bobo and Klara set their sights on the same dude. Awkward.

Ovaries before Brovaries, Klara, c'mon

Ovaries before Brovaries, Klara, c’mon

All this coincides with a small gig the girls are booked to play with Iron Fist, organised by their local youth club.

On reviewing this film back, it could be said that not much happens action-wise. However, the beauty of this story lies in the relationship between the three girls, and between them and their families. Also, in the band sticking it to the man and learning to love themselves (basically the most important lesson you can ever learn, and some would argue, you never stop learning).

Friendship is good

Friendship is good

Friendship is the best

Friendship is the best

To the questions section! Will Bobo and Klara survive getting off with the same boy, in time to kick some serious musical butt? Will they ever prove that they’re the best? Will Hedvig renounce Jesus forever? Would a mohawk suit me?

And most importantly, will the band rock the shit out of their first real gig, proving without a shadow of doubt that Punk is still alive and kicking? All this and more will be revealed*.

“You did not just ask me if I know Wannabe!”

My Thoughts: I have to apologise for a slightly all over the place review, I’m in a bit of a daze after a busy weekend and a late night (more to be revealed about that soon!). Our internet also decided to go down on Friday, so I was forced to view this via the Netflix app on my phone. Which was fine but a little more laborious that normal.

But I always try to deliver on my promises, hence completing this week’s assignment, like a boss.

I really liked We Are The Best and I liked it because of the central characters. I love them together and I wanted them to do well. I think they all played their parts really brilliantly and made me believe in them, which is no mean feat, especially when the characters are so young.

I also wish I’d had friends like them when I was 13. Lots of the time I completely identified with how they were feeling about themselves. Had I had a punk group to focus on back then, maybe I would have been less inclined to eat my lunch locked alone in a toilet cubicle every day.

Also, in all their awkward dealing with boys I will eternally be on the same page. It’s heartbreaking when the boy you like likes your friend and you just feel perpetually shit about yourself. Bobo almost breaks me when she’s trying to be nonchalant about her feelings.

Bobo, I was you and I still am sometimes

Bobo, I was you and I still am sometimes

All in all, this was a joy. I loved one scene in particular, when the girls gain access to an electric guitar and the well-meaning youth club workers quite condescendingly (but kindly) give Hedvig some pointers on how to play. She wipes the floor with them, despite never having picked up an electric version before.

The underlying message of friendship is gorgeous and the climax is hilarious. Watch it.

My Rating: 4/5 – Highly recommend.

So what did Jillian make of her choice this week? Go see for yourselves!

*We may never know the answer to one of them. Then again, never say never.

Things & Inc #4

It’s been a while, so I thought I’d share a few of things I’ve been into lately. Why the hell not, eh?

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Television: Sense 8

I’m not great at explaining what the chuff is going on in most Sci-Fi stories, most of the time barely clinging on to the plot myself, so I’ll let IMDB explain it for me:

A group of people around the world are suddenly linked mentally, and must find a way to survive being hunted by those who see them as a threat to the world’s order.

Got it? I have just about grasped it now but the first few episodes were not my friends. What sets this series apart from similar, and what ultimately pulled me in and kept me there, is that it’s written and directed by The Wachowskis.

I can’t believe there are many people out there unfamiliar with The Matrix franchise, but if one of you happens to read this post (hi, what have you been doing?); The Wachowskis were responsible for the trilogy. They’ve also been involved in a few films I adore, including Bound (1996) and Cloud Atlas (2012). Even writing and producing V for Vendetta (2005).

What makes Sense 8 rule, aside from great characters and some fucking great action scenes, is that it takes a close look at issues such as sexuality, gender, identity, religion and plays around with our perceptions of those things. Essentially, these eight ‘sensates’ can walk in each other’s shoes and wouldn’t the World be a better place if we could all do that, even for a moment?

I can’t talk about all the characters but I will say my favourite is Sun Bak (Bae Doona), a Seoul businesswoman with a Masters degree in Ecomomic – who is also an up-and-comer in the underground, and male-dominated, kickboxing world.

EXACTLY.

I strongly recommend this though I will freely admit that I nearly stopped watching after the first episode. I’m so glad got over myself as this was so worth my time. With a rumoured 5 year plan in place for the characters and show, the future is looking rather bright for Sense 8.

Film: Creepcreep

I love Mark Duplass. He’s handsome and clever; and frequently credited with pioneering the mumblecore movement with his brother, Jay and a handful of other like-minded writer/directors.

He also does creepy rather well, as this film proves. The gist is this: a videographer answers an ad in Craiglist to be part of a bizarre assignment in a remote mountain town. Things, of course, are not quite as they seem when he arrives.

I have to be careful with this mini review as it would be easy to give the game away, and the beauty of this slightly odd film is in its subtlety. And then not. You’ll see what I mean.

Aaron (Partick Brice) meets Josef and quickly realises there’s something a little off about him. But he also has a sad back story, which has driven him to reach out to Aaron, so what’s a kindly guy to do?

I’ll let you figure out for yourself how Aaron and Josef get on but since this is a ‘found footage’ film, you’ll have the idea going in that it isn’t all friendship bracelets and clinking beer bottles.

Chilling, atmospheric and ominous as fuck.

Music: Go/Shine

The best two songs of the Summer (so far).

Go makes me feel like a superhero when I listen to it, usually whilst walking to work. And I bloody love Years & Years.

Believe me, listening to current music is not something that I do very often, so to be into these is kind of a big deal.

What have you been loving lately?

Dream Weaver

tumblr_nrupgrR0VI1qiww0to1_500I’ve been having the most bizarre and vivid dreams lately. Perhaps it’s not that surprising given all the human centipedes, creeps and Sensates (not to mention, vengeful feminist vampire teens) I’ve exposed myself to in recent weeks, but still.

Maybe it’s more to do with eating ice cream right before bed, three evenings in a row?

Whatever it is, I’ve been spending my nights roaming the woods with my crossbow (last night), leading an apocalypse survivors gang (night before) and rushing around Disneyland Paris (specifically a new Monsters Inc themed park), trying to find a phone to call work and tell them I’m going to be late (Monday).

Every morning this week I have woken up relieved be in my own bed and not lost in the wilderness. What’s going on, yo? It’s getting exhausting!

Of course these are good old fashioned anxiety dreams, everybody has them from time to time. There are the usual everyday bits and bobs going on, some existential shit such as “What’s it all about?” and the “I need a new job” shiz, but nothing more than normal, or out of the ordinary.

So why am I ferociously fighting for my life, or to get to the office on time, in almost all dreams? Perhaps my inner wall flower gets her best work done subconsciously. Maybe biting my damn tongue all time is finally getting to me and this is my outlet (I’m trying not to be the apologetic/overly diplomatic one all the time).

Whatever the answer is, I’m sure I’ll be doing the same thing tonight. Perhaps I should start paying more attention on these adventures, they’d make great films.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Cute but Gross

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Have you seen my amazing new blog header by my friend, Cute but Gross? I love it so much!

Combining some of my biggest loves, including film, books and graffiti, it even includes a quote from all time favourite film, True Romance. So you could say the aesthetic is very me and she’s completely nailed it, as I knew she would.

Cute but Gross is my friend Michaela, who I’ve known ever since I came back to Brighton from Canada. She’s a talented painter/illustrator and has been doing some really interesting projects lately, all of which you can view on her Instagram.

See something you love? Well that’s handy, here’s CBG’s online shop!

Good, isn’t she? And now I feel like a real blog!

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Film) Review

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Image from the cover of AGWHAAN OST CD

World cinema is fun! And this week is definitely no exception, although sometimes the fun gets a little bogged down in different emotions, such as pity, rage, despair, hope and triumph.

My choice this week and I’m feeling pretty good about it. Incidentally, this film has been on my list for a while but became more pressing when I read this review. I mean, any review that talks about fuck boys is always going to be alright with me.

But to my own thoughts.

*Beware SPOILERS*

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour (who also wrote the film)
Stars: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh

IMDB Synopsis: In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire.

My Review:

I’m kind of sad that the synopsis of this film and also the original film poster mentions that this is a Vampire movie. I mean, it’s not a shock when this is revealed, but I think it might have been a nice touch to go in not really knowing much about The Girl. Not that we know anything, mind, beyond her penchant for thick black eyeliner (my kind of girl), lipstick and Breton stripes.

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Rebel with a Cause, we just don’t know what yet

Anyway, that’s a minor thing. We begin the film gazing at James Dean-alike Arash as he leans against a fence, slowly smoking a cigarette. For the uninitiated, I am a massive sucker for this aesthetic on men or women, shoot it in black and white and I’m yours forever.

Arash is standing around and I can’t be sure of his motivation, though he does either steal or rescue a cat and walks off into the next scene with it slung happily over his shoulder. I don’t blame you cat.

Next stop is Arash’s home, where an old man sits in a grubby front room area and injects something into his toes. He doesn’t look like your average junkie so there might be a rational explanation for this but when The King of the Fuck Boys* (presumably) walks in, we are illuminated to just how bad the old man’s condition is. He’s also Arash’s father and owes Saeed (Fuck Boy) a lot of money.

Saeed plays threateningly with the cat for a bit then makes a speech about how Hossein is just a ‘normal man’ who needs ‘medicine’ to get through life. Riiiiight. Then he takes Arash’s car which is his pride and joy and Arash punches a wall.

Alas, this is life and Arash must keep on swimming so off he goes to his landscaping job. He’s called indoors to tune in the TV by the attractive daughter of his employers and under the guise of being gentlemanly, he ushers her out of her bedroom (because being alone would be inappropriate). Really, he’s clocked a nice pair of diamond earrings that might just get him his car back…

Meanwhile, Saeed meets with The Princess, a beautiful prostitute called Shaydah (Rome Shadanloo) and surprisingly, doesn’t treat her very nicely. He also rips her off for her cut of earnings like a true pig. While being a dick in Arash’s car, he spots something out of the corner of his eye and freaks out, even though he doesn’t know what it was. We know though, we know it good, it’s a figure in a hajib and it looks kind of serious.

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Dance like nobody’s watching

We follow the figure and it leads us down into a basement room where a fucking cool girl is dancing. I mean there are few things I love better than black kohl eyeliner (yes, even at the advanced age of 37) and this chick rocks it. She’s effortlessly cool and at first glance I already know she’s going to be one of my favourite movie heroines in recent years.

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Fuck the no make-up look. Fuck it all to Hell

It will also become clear soon that this is our mystery figure and I like this scene because she’s painted as a normal person with normal interests, like music, fashion and pop culture. I also like that we get to witness The Girl making up her face. Now I’m quite sure most women would identify with the ritual of meticulously applying the warpaint before going out to do business, be that an ordinary day at the office, a date or vigilante justice.

Walking back to his apartment later on, Saeed bumps into The Girl. First of all there is a face off and we can’t be sure where it’s going to go but Saeed does what most men do when faced with a female in almost any situation, assumes she wants sex. So she goes home with him under the illusion he’s about to get some.

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SNIFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

Things don’t quite pan out the way Saeed planned and I’m not going to go into the ins and out. This film is very much worth a viewing of your own but let’s just say we now have an idea of what The Girl is and how she rolls.

In the aftermath of Saeed’s meeting with The Girl, Arash gets his car back, plus a case full of drugs and cash. Which is helpful. The Princess, meanwhile, is being hassled by Hossein, who seems to have a soft spot for the ladies as well as H. Oh, and don’t think The Girl hasn’t noticed Hossein’s behaviour, because she totally has.

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Why did the Vampire cross the road? To fuck up the dude on the other side… obvs

It’s a shame Hossein is such a dick nose, because Arash is actually not a bad guy, despite appearances. This isn’t immediately apparent when he’s selling X in da club to rich kids but he is. Honest. He also crashes and burns with the rich daughter from earlier on, who rejects his advances.

On the way home, Arash meets The Girl for himself and is so charming in his drugged up state that he seems to throw her intentions completely. I mean, I expected her to eat him there and then. What follows is a scene so heart wrenchingly beautiful that I’m not even going to talk about it.

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Courting, Vamp style

The Girl has also commandeered a skateboard from a future fuck boy (not after she’s finished with him though), and there’s a shot of her skating down the street with her hajib flowing out behind her that blew my tiny mind.

I might leave the rest up to you now, to be honest but along the way Arash and The Girl form a stronger bond; The Princess meets The Girl and TG inevitably ends up dishing out more nuggets of vigilante goodness, which may or may not send the course of Arash’s life crashing in a completely unexpected direction.

You’re interested though, aren’t you?

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“We’re all going on a… Summer holiday…”

To the questions section! Because no review of mine is complete without a series of wills/wheres/hows and whys, amiright?

So… Will TG and Arash live happily ever after? Will Hossein sort himself out for his son’s sake? Will anyone ever truly appreciate that poor damned cat? How did The Girl even become a vampire?

Should I buy myself a new Breton top because it’s such a chic, crisp look? Also, should I get a long-board? Some of these questions will be answered, some will be left open to your own interpretation and some simply don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Enjoy!

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Alternative poster by Levente Szabo

My Thoughts: This film is the nuts. Written and directed by a woman, which shouldn’t be a thing of note in this day and age, but still totally is, it’s a feminist piece, in that all bad men get what for. Even the young lad skirting around a future in douche baggery is handed his arse. The title is great, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night – think about it, have you ever walked home from the pub on a Friday night and feared for your personal safety? Of course you have and that’s what The Girl is, she’s the saviour that cleans the streets so you don’t have to feel that way. Brilliant, non? It’s poetic, inspiring and I fucking loved it.

Yes, I can be very generous when it comes to rating the films I watch, sometimes for the flimsiest reasons (like I love Simon Pegg) but honestly, this is a true work of art. It has been very well received because it’s beautifully filmed, fantastically acted and it’s lack of gratuitous violence and gore is a massive plus, if you ask me (even though I love that shit). It could be the B&W aesthetic that lends it the subtlety. Whatever it is, it works like a (bad) dream.

There are several stand out scenes that will stay with me for a long time – two of which I have mentioned above. I also like the main characters and love that even the good guy is flawed. They’re both good at heart but capable of terrible behaviour and the final act, which I shan’t spoil for you, is extremely hopeful and romantic.

Can we just quickly talk about the cat? She’s a terrible actor, staring out of shot at the action going on behind the scenes, almost derailing the whole film. At one point I swear she strains her neck to sniff at the boom engineer or something. Go back to acting school, cat!

My Rating: 5/5 – an absolute must see.

I wonder what Jill thinks of this one? Let’s go see shall we?!

*I’m going to stop saying fuck boy now.

Goodreads & Badreads

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I logged onto my Goodreads account today after a hiatus of what feels like months. As the page loaded on my laptop, my eyes flew to the part of the right hand bar labelled ‘2015 Reading Challenge’ and with dismay I read in smaller print, ‘14 books behind schedule‘.

How judgmental is that? In fairness, I asked Goodreads to help me with this challenge and the fact is, I am far behind the already amended 50 book goal for this year. I started 2015 with the idea of smashing 75 but then I realised even I, the ultimate homebody, have a life.

I don’t know how I ended up shipwrecked without a book for so long. Well, that’s not strictly accurate, I suppose. I did have a book on the go and it halted me in its tracks. Do you want to know who I’m blaming for my currently reader’s block? Sarah Waters.

I should preface this accusation with the fact she is one of my all time favourite writers. I’d never picked up a book of hers that didn’t tip me straight into whichever world she was illustrating at the time. The Little Stranger is without question one of the scariest, most gripping books I’ve ever held in my hands. In fact, they’ve all been exceptionally good… and then came The Paying Guests.

I just haven’t been able to get into it and I don’t understand. The lead up has been tedious. It’s certainly well written and everyone I know who’s read (and finished) it has told me the same thing: “Hang in there and then you won’t be able to put it down”. But when godammit?

I’ve tried so many times to pick it up, I’ve even tried listening to Juliet Stevenson read it to me on YouTube as I work and still it plods on. When will it get good?

It pains me not to finish a book, even one I’m not into, more so when people are telling me it’s brilliant. What if I miss out? What if it is the best book I’ve ever read after the first 500 (it feels like) pages? Argh.

So then I thought, maybe if I read something trashy it’ll reignite my reading fires, and make me want to reach for something great. So I bought Grey in Sainsbury’s for a few quid and it’s made the whole situation worse.

I’ve read the trilogy. I’ve seen the film. I’m not what you’d call a massive fan of either, though I don’t regret any of the time spent on it. I like to be up to date culturally but honestly, enough has got to be enough already, no? Who cares what Christian Grey thinks? Who cares how he justifies his actions to the reader? I’ll review it properly when I’ve finished but for now it’s just another book I’m not looking forward to reading at night.

I know I’ll come through this. I know the next story I read will change things and then I can get back into reviewing books and loving books that way I always have. And then maybe Goodreads can get the hell off my back for a while.

My To Read pile is almost as tall as me but if you have any recommendations, they’re always welcome! Bring them on.

Amy (Film) Review

Amy_Movie_PosterWhenever I know how a film is going to end, I always watch with hope in my heart. If I can just want it enough, surely I can singlehandedly change the outcome? Alas, my heroic parallel futures only ever occur in my head and the endings inevitably happen just as their creators intended, or in this case, just how they did in real life.

Amy (2015)

Director: Asif Kapadia
Stars: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Mark Ronson

Amy is exactly what you’d expect it to be. Poignant, funny in places, sad, infuriating, joyful. Above all, it is pure heartbreak.

Constructed from video footage collected throughout Amy’s life, it lets us in on the life of one of the world’s greatest talents. Charting the rise and fall, we learn more about Amy’s aversion to fame, more about her destructive relationship with Blake; her lifelong battle with depression, her best friends and the people who surrounded, and loved her to her final day.

It’s really hard not to be mad though by the end. How could this have happened? Why didn’t her family stop her? How could she be gone when she’d finally cleaned up; finally begun to fight back? It’s not fair and that’s the kicker, isn’t it?

I’m not going to go into too much about the film because I hope you see it for yourselves but I will say that it’s beautifully presented, that Amy is treated respectfully throughout. Even in her lowest moments I feel she is portrayed as the vulnerable girl she was, not the punchline to some terrible joke.

It’s easy to click your teeth and want to throw your popcorn at the screen at certain points, particularly when Blake shows up. What I wouldn’t give to smack his face and blame him for everything, especially when he smugly declares on camera that he can do better than Amy, after everything they went through together. But the story isn’t that cut and dry, is it?amy-asifkapadia-photo2

Mitch too. When he tells Amy’s managers that she doesn’t need rehab, it just doesn’t seem like he’s all there. There’s something about him that has never sat right with me but that personal opinion, innit? I’ll never meet him.

It’s not all bad though. It was a real pleasure to spend my rainy Sunday afternoon back in Amy’s company. When Frank was released in 2003, it really struck a chord. Stronger Than Me has been my fighting anthem for over a decade and at different periods, it’s been Winehouse’s vocal that has spurred me on.

Highlights of this documentary are: all of it really. Amy is hilarious. When she succeeds on screen you’ll want to jump up and clap. When she’s performing, you’ll want to dance. When she’s finally gone, I dare you not to feel completely bereft for quite some time afterwards.

Please see it, she deserves to be remembered for so much more than those negative tabloid stories.