Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

When I was much younger and Christmas tree buying time came around in the Martin household, I was always very extra.

I would insist on choosing the ugliest, loneliest looking tree in the lot and we would inevitably end up with two – the pretty one that got to shine bright in the front room and my sad, usually balding tree positioned optimistically in the hallway so it would be the first thing anyone would see when they walked through the front door.

I’d bundle those underdog trees in as much love (and Star Wars figures) as my childish heart could conjure, and that was my own personal festive tradition. My family tolerated this probably because they didn’t have the energy to argue (and they loved me) – and I’m grateful to have had the chance to express myself from such a young age.

When I think about this ritual now, it could be a metaphor for a lot of my human relationships. I always made a bee line for the people I perceived needed something the most, whether it was true or not (invariably it was). I would come home with strays all through childhood (friends from less harmonious homes, actual stray cats and dogs) and as I matured, I did the same with men.

Damaged, needy men were my speciality and my inner rescue radar would pick them up with ease. This as you can imagine led to a lot of heartache on my part as I learned the hard way that you can’t fix people. Especially when they don’t want to be fixed.

I’m not entirely sure what made me think I had the qualifications to mend anyone anyway. All I know is that I’ve spent way too much of my lifetime attracted to broken people and one day – hallelujah! – I was able to stop.

It started when I left a six year relationship, which I now recognise to have been highly psychologically abusive. Then I cut out my first significant and totally toxic friendship. It was like losing a limb for a while and then, it felt INCREDIBLE.

For the first time I came to realise that we don’t have to put up with the things that hurt us. We have choices and ever since I discovered this, every time I get a whiff of another one of my strays, I catch myself.

I’m all for being there for others and I’m not saying all needy people are toxic, many of them are just like my trees. They need water, a comfortable pot and a shit load of tinsel – and they’ll start to thrive again. It’s just that I’m not responsible for anyone but myself and I have no business thinking I am.

I’ll always be attracted to the ugliest dogs in the street and Christmas trees that have seen better days but I don’t have to save anybody anymore.

I never did.

Girl Gang: Christmas Edition

Inspired as always by my girl, it’s your festive edition of the Girl Gang series. Obviously.

Barb, Black Christmas (1974)

Oh, why don’t you go find a wall socket and stick your tongue in it. That’ll give you a charge.

I have a real soft spot for the festive sub genre of Christmas horror movies and Black Christmas is no exception. While it offers up a traditional slasher narrative, it is also very sad. I also love it for the progressive tackling of its abortion story line and its delivery of super messed up characters, particularly Barb (played by the late, great Margot Kidder).

By rights I suppose Jess (Olivia Hussey) should be the standout for this gang, given her position as the level-headed Final Girl but Barb pips her to the post and I’ll tell you why. Sure, she’d be quite the challenge as an actual friend, her drinking is very damaging but the girl needs help damn it. She’s sassy, she’s mean (but funny) and she’s also quick-witted AF (particularly when snarking out an obscene telephone caller).

Every GG need a blunt and dynamic member and Barb’s our girl, though maybe someone needs to have a word with her about getting kids drunk. I hate that Barb isn’t the sole survivor of Billy and his murderous tendencies but if you’re going to go out, why not take death by crystal unicorn? ICONIC.

Let’s be honest that Den Mother, Mrs Mac (Marian Waldman) totally has an open-ended invite to join this group too – what a dame. You can read my review of Black Christmas here.

Bridget Jones, Bridget Jone’s Diary (2001)

Wait a minute… nice boys don’t kiss like that.

Inviting Bridge to the party seems like a pretty obvious move and I’m not sorry. BJ is a sweary hot mess who makes poor decisions and messes up a lot but she also takes risks and isn’t afraid to make a tit of herself. I can honestly say that there is nothing more appealing to me than a person who can embrace their goofy side (my friend Heather is a shining example of this).

Bridge is somewhat normal and when I’m hanging out with girls I want to feel comfortable and never judged about my own dubious choices. BJ would never shame me and she’d be down for whatever, ride or die to the end. I think she’s inspirational too in so many ways, while she’s fucking up she does also learn and eventually realises her worth isn’t dependent on validation from Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant).

If we were friends though I would have to have a very stern chat with her about her constant diet talk and calorie counting – do it on your own watch, Miss Jones for the love of God.

Iris, The Holiday (2006)

I’m looking for corny in my life.

Oh, Iris, let me count the ways in which I love you.

The Holiday, I would say is on par with Love Actually it terms of quality but that’s not to say I don’t fucking adore it. But, while Cameron Diaz skips through snowy fields with Jude Law, I’m always dying to get back to Iris (Kate Winslet) in the city of Angels.

Iris is a perpetual romantic with her heart set on the ultimate bad boy (Rufus Sewell) – been there, done that. The thing is, she’s just about done with his games and her apartment swap is the first step in a long journey to getting the fuck over it. Step in Jack Black and arguably the much more important leading man, Arthur (Eli Wallach).

Iris is a good, kind woman and she’s a laugh. She’s into movies and she’s into banter and I want to have a drink with her in a bar so bad – and then I want to go home and watch old videos with her into the early hours and laugh about all the rat bastards that have ever broken our hearts.

Selina Kyle, Batman Returns (1992)

Honey, I’m home. Oh, I forgot. I’m not married.

Sure, lonely but lovely Miss Kyle becomes one of Gotham’s greatest villains/heroes of all time following a terrible ‘accident’ at the hands of her boss Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) – but even before that she was an interesting person and I want Selina on my team.

While she’s portrayed as a bit of a door mat, I don’t see her that way. Selina’s ambitious and damn good at her job. While the men around her only see her as a lowly secretary, the woman holds everything together (familiar?). Our girl is gorgeous and sweet – and what’s more, nothing can keep her down. Not even death and certainly not Batman or Shreck – or the pervy Penguin.

Selina evolves from self-deprecating loser to mischievous minx to the sassiest adversary Gotham’s dark knight has ever seen and the arc is beautiful. PLUS, I want her apartment and her entire wardrobe SO BAD. SUE ME.

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Selina Kyle: so good she deserves her own slideshow…

Who’s in your gang?

Merry #blogmas 🎄: Introduction

Happy December the 1st! Although I’m not Christmas’ biggest fan, I’ve decided to force myself into the festive spirit anyway.

Last night we had our first work do (we have two, customer services and the corporate event) – it was fun and I managed to leave by midnight, relatively unscathed. This morning I’m watching Netflix Christmas movies and tomorrow I’m actually going to put up the tree. Who am I?!

Anyway, happy first day of #blogmas. I’m not sure I’ll be able to smash out a post for every day of the month but I’m going to damn well try.

So, it’s going to get a whole lot more Christmassy around these parts, sue me. I might not be fully ready but I’m going to embrace it anyway.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Right? 🎄🎄🎄

Love is a Gift

It’s still November yet the John Lewis ad has already aired and I’ve been harrassed more than once by Olaf the Snowman from Frozen in the Open Market. I’m no Grinch but I do draw the line personally at embracing the Christmas Spirit before December 1st. If you’re an early Christmas lover then that’s fine, you do you hun.

I have had more than one conversation about the darker side of Christmas though and even though I don’t want to be ‘that guy’, I do think it’s important to acknowledge and understand that not everyone is full of the joys of Rudolph this time of year. The Christmas season is incredibly difficult for many people for many different reasons – and the relentless onslaught of Mariah Carey holiday songs can take its toll (is there more than one actually?). Everywhere you look when you’re not feeling it is a homage to the big man and his pals – it must be unbearable.

This very topic came up at work yesterday as a collection of us gathered around one of our phones to watch an ‘alternative’ Christmas video. You might have seen it yourself on television as its creators have been interviewed a couple of times and lots of viewers are saying it’s even better than the Elton John JL advert this year.

The concept is simple in itself, and features a thirtysomething man listening to cassette tapes on an old Walkman, left to him as a gift by his late mother. Each tape is a touching personal message recorded for him for every year she was able to do it. Its tagline is “Love is a gift that lasts forever. Merry Christmas.”

Most of us were near tears even talking about it but a couple of people pondered why we have to think about sad things at Christmas – which prompted quite an interesting debate. While I get that point, it’s not a choice for a lot of lonely or bereaved people. There are people with nothing in this world, who barely get through their day to day lives, let alone the festive season. Just because everything is sprinkled with a light dusting of glitter does not mean that those troubles go away.

This isn’t a call to arms really. There are a lot of things you can do to give back this Christmas, from volunteering to reaching out to someone who may be struggling. Even just standing up and saying you’re there for your friends and colleagues if they need anyone can be a good thing. I’ve seen a couple of Facebook statuses over 2018 that touch on that same point.

Life is tough at the best of times and Christmas is hard – it’s financially stressful, socially exhausting and there’s a lot of pressure to pull on your favourite ugly sweater and get into the spirit. What if you can’t? I just think we should be conscious of each other and kind wherever we can be.

What are your thoughts?

In the meantime, have a look at Love is a Gift, the short film mentioned above.

Level 41

It’s that time of the year again. Time to gaze into the navel of my birthday and give thanks to the past year. This isn’t quite as epic a milestone as last year obviously but it’s still been a pretty sweet ride. 

40 has been good to me. I’ve done a lot of cool things, including two trips, fallen in love with Margate and spent a lot of time with a lot of good people. I’ve made some great new friends, enjoyed time with old ones – I’ve had fun at work, put myself forward for a new role which didn’t work out (but I’m quite pleased about that). I’ve been creative, I’ve been lazy – I’ve spent a lot of money, faced some fears, cried some tears. It’s been a well-rounded year and I’m grateful for it. 

I love my life and even when I put myself down for being old (every single day of my life), I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m a wise woman with a wealth of life experience and better still, I’m still learning every day. I might be who I am but there’s always room to undulate and grow.

Here’s to reaching Level 41 tomorrow. I can only hope that it’s as eventful and as fun as the last. 

 

 

Shirkers (Film) Review

Free for all month and I went a little rogue this week, pulling this delightful documentary from my Netflix list. I didn’t really know what to expect but I’m glad I chose it to be honest as it is a delight.

I will say though that I find reviewing documentaries slightly harder than your average film and I’m not sure why. I guess it’s harder to snark on real life experience? Who knows.

*Spoilers*

The Movie

Shirkers (2018)

Director

Sandi Tan

Cast

Sandi Tan, Sophia Siddique HarveyGeorges CardonaJasmine Kin Kia Ng

IMDB Synopsis

In 1992, teenager Sandi Tan and her friends Sophie and Jasmine shot Singapore’s first indie-a road movie called “Shirkers” with their enigmatic American mentor, Georges Cardona. Sandi wrote the script and played the lead, a killer named S. After shooting wrapped, Georges vanished with all the footage!

Please be my BFF

My Review

It’s 1992 and Sandi Tan and her two friends Sophia and Jasmine are shooting Singapore’s first indie road movie, a film called Shirkers. Focusing on pro/ant-agonist serial killer “S”, the film is a oddball ride full of spirited amateur performances, dream-like imagery and a Technicolor palette. Buddy Ben has composed a companion soundtrack and things are looking good for our budding film makers, not least Sandi whose lifelong dream has been to make a movie.

With the help of their director, the much older Georges Cardona, the film is finally completed but not without its issues. Just before shooting ends, Georges runs out of cash, and Jasmine and Sandi are forced to pool all their savings to save production. But they get there and as the movie wraps, the trio return to their respective international universities, leaving Georges behind in Singapore.

Sandi waits patiently, day after day for the finished film to makes it way to her in Canterbury, England where she attends school. What arrives is a voice cassette from Georges in his usual enigmatic style, not explaining much regarding the film. Later she receives what she thinks is the film but is actually completely blank footage (not even more like constant static snow). All the blood sweat and tears the friends have put into their project seems to have been for nothing – and they never see or hear from Georges again.

Fuck you, Georges

Shirkers the documentary picks up 20 years later, when Sandi receives an email from Georges’ widow (ten years after he’s passed away), saying that she’s in possession of all the footage minus the audio tracks. Following this bombshell, Sandi decides to take the footage and use it differently, by making this documentary and unraveling its unknown history. The story is an intriguing one after all.

As she interviews her pals and the original cast and crew of Shirkers, we’re treated to a full picture of who they were and particularly the person Sandi was and is now. At times her friends describe her as kind of an asshole something she accepts as the truth. This project it turns out has bonded the friendships in a way nothing else has but has also tested them to their limits. All three women are successful in their fields and there’s no surprise there – these are 18 years olds that wrote, acted in and produced their own movie. Basically, I want to be them and if not then at least a hanger on, they’re brilliant.

We also learn more about their relationship with Georges, Sandi’s super-shady mentor. The man is odd AF and there’s a sinister air to a lot of the film where he’s concerned. It’s never really clear what his intentions are and I don’t know about you but it makes me feel funny when I see an older man hanging around with young women, especially when he takes one of them on a road trip across America.

Dog days aren’t over

We never really find out why he did what he did but by piecing together a collection of people with similar Georges experiences, it soon becomes clear that he was a jealous man who sabotaged his proteges when they started to get successful. And personally I find that motive incredibly interesting.

My Thoughts

This film won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award and I’m not surprised. It is an intriguing tale of stolen dreams and regret, and of determination. It has an ominous tone that makes you wonder where it’s going to go and when the story does unfold, it’s pretty mental. I really admire the girls, particularly when it transpired that they forced all the women in their film to smoke cigarettes for the aesthetic. This is something Jill and I would undoubtedly do if we made our own movie.

My Rating

3.5/5.

What does Jill think of this little mystery? Would she steal it and store it in her basement for 20 years or just let it live? Find out here.

A to Z of Advice

I’m not too proud to admit I turned to the internet for inspiration this week. It’s not that I don’t have my own ideas or experiences to chat about but sometimes it’s good to branch out a little and take your lead from someone else. Hence this little bad boy, which was actually fun to fill in. I found it via a blog called A Grande Life. Continue reading “A to Z of Advice”