Friday, 30 December 2011

12 'Resolutions'

Inspired by a fellow blogger, I've decided to share a list not so much of resolutions but of things I want to achieve if not next year (and it wont be feasibly possible to do them all) then at some point over the next few years.

The reason for this is that resolutions themselves can feel pretty stifling...'by the end of this year I must have done x, y and x...'...and it's just not always realistic to always accomplish something in a year...most resolutions really are more long-term goals that tend to fall by the wayside due to the resolutions tag. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we give ourselves a time limit and a start date but with no real build up. Its like asking someone to run a marathon on the 'bang' of January 1st without so much as a hamstring stretch.

So I've decided instead to share a few dreams and desires of mine that I wish to pursue over the next year and beyond, things I've always dreamed of doing with no hesitations and no limitations, and the great thing about this list is that it doesn't matter how crazy, inane or impossible those things may be, because at the end of the day it's just a list and I think you can learn a lot about people from the lists they make and the answers they give to certain questions that expose more about who they really are and what they really want.

So jabbering aside, here is a list of things I hope to achieve or experience in 2012 and onwards!

1) Camp America - Note to self: at least consider applying. I've always had this dream of a great American road trip, hindered only by the fact that I can't drive and have a worse sense of direction that a blind battery hen. Plus, I have a bit of an obsession with all things American.

2) Go on that All American Road Trip - This is the logical progression of my Camp America Trip. Drive around or be in the car of a licensed driver, and see all the sights that the US of A has to offer.

3) Communicate with a gorilla using sign language - This one might sound more random and essentially it is. Ever since I saw Koko the gorilla watch a movie and express herself using sign language, I really wanted to have the opportunity to communicate with a gorilla myself in this way. I am so obsessed with animals I should probably be one (and arguably I am) but gorillas hold a special place in my heart. I'd love to just wander through a forest 'chatting' with an ape...holding onto the faint fear that it may decide to rip my head off at any moment and eat my remains.

4) Finish at least one novel - Another one of my life long loves is writing which was of course my main motivation for starting a blog. I always have a bazillion and one ideas for stories and then struggle to flesh them out and make them real, and then the middle kind of collapses in on itself and I have no idea how to dig myself out of the hole I've created. I'd love to complete a novel so that even if it was never published I could read it to any potential kids or grandkids I may have. Never know - it might rake in some money when I'm dead!

5) See the pyramids! - I've kind of romanticised my notion of Egypt to an unhealthy extent. Just like Americans travelling to England expecting to see Mary Poppins and Oliver Twist running around, I half expect Tutankhamun to greet me at the airport himself. As such I can only be dissapointed, but I just really want to see the pyramids!

6) Learn piano - I'm quite envious of people who can play an instrument and play it well. Past all the technical, fiddly hours of frustration, I think it's an amazing way to unwind and relax. I chose piano because I love the sound and the simplicity compared to other instruments. I'd love to play the Violin but I don't think I have the patience for that!

7) Win a writing competition - I've entered a few competitions and though I've always received positive feedback, I've never grasped the coveted position of first place. I would just love the recognition (and the prize money).

8) Learn to cook - As in, really cook! COOK WELL. I can cook but just a lot of basics. I'd like to be able to pull off some more complicated and exotic recipes. God knows when I'll find the time in between learning all that sign language and piano!

9) Start meditating - I've tried a few times but I get bored and get up. There's something about sitting still, closing your eyes and emptying your mind that is surprisingly hard to do. I think it would be good for me would teach me to let go, stop being a clock watcher and be more patient.

10) Learn to drive - eventually. To be honest this isn't high on my priority list but it's still something I'd like to be able to do. But I'm only learning automatic. I can't be arsed with manual.

11) Keep in touch with family - It's so easy to get so stuck in your own schedule that you take for granted the people that you value the most (this also applies to friends). I hope I will make more effort with the people I care about even if countries and time zones separate us.

12) Declutter - Like my grandmother before me I have a real aversion to throwing anything away which I believe is a genetically inherited tendency. It's all there somewhere, my year 1 maths book, that key ring I bought in Florida, birthday cards I'll never look at again...I don't want to throw away anything but if I don't need it and I don't want it, I really gotta learn to let it go.

If you want to check out the blog that inspired my post please visit

I hope you enjoy making and not breaking your resolutions for this year!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wants My Meat

Yum yum, wolfy wants to eat!

Yum yum, wolfy wants my meat!

His eyes grow large, he starts to growl.

He imagines me falling, bruising, saying ‘ow!’

I pull my cloak above my head.

The wolfy is picturing me dead.

But not before he gets me in grandmas bed.

If I had a gun, i’d pump him with lead!

My heart it starts to skip a beat,

I’m skipping down a country street.

The flowers they all fall away,

It's a pretty summers day.

The wolfy looks a friendly sort,

in clothes he clearly hasn’t brought.

But suddenly i’m suprised to see,

its not a wolfy staring at me.

Looking at me is my biggest fan.

Why looking at me is a man!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

10 More Christmas Corkers

Christmas is so close you can practically see Santa already at your mantelpiece gobbling down mince pies fresh out of the chimney but there is still time to harness some of the ever-evasive Christmas spirit. If my last ten film suggestions didn’t do it for you, here are ten more which might just do the trick:

1. Toy Story

Pixar never fail to capture the essence of childhood by presenting us with sheer magic, wonderment, exhilaration and adventure. This is the story of Woody who harbours a not altogether unfounded fear that he is to be replaced as the object of owner Andy’s affections by new birthday present Buzz who seems to believe he is a real astronaut and not just an action figure.  The only glimpse of Christmas occurs right at the films climax as the toys gather in anticipation for what new arrivals are to crash-land this year but the journey of friendship, togetherness and teamwork will most likely kindle a warm Christmassy fire in your otherwise frostbitten heart.

2. Monty Python's Meaning of Life

It’s a question we’ve all pondered many a time but the more the years pass; the less likely we are to reach a definitive answer. The Monty Python boys do a bloody good job of trying to ease us through a succession of skits that might just help us discover why we are all here and what the point of it all is. After edging us through the magic of procreation, over eaters and finicky waiters who have located their own purpose and are eager to share, we are presented with what life is all about (but don’t get your hopes up). So what does this have to do with Christmas you might say? Well apparently in heaven, it’s Christmas every day...yes that’s right...every single day. So get yourself a little piece of heaven on earth and get into the festive mood!

3. Eyes Wide Shut

Along with my prior two suggestions, this is not traditional Christmas fare. This is the Christmas film for the more surrealist, abstract viewer who enjoys a little mystery. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are Bill and Alice Harford, who on the face of it have it all. When Alice confesses that she only narrowly avoided temptation and very nearly cheated on Bill he embarks on a night-time adventure of bizarre erotic and sexual encounters. This all occurs around the Christmas period and reveals how our own desires and fantasies have become just as commercialised as Christmas itself.

4. About A Boy

No man is an island but eternal bachelor Nick Hornby would like to be. Christmas is traditionally a time for family and friends to come together, exchange gifts and celebrate. Not so for Nick, who would rather pass the day watching horror movies and smoking ungodly amounts of weed. Unfortunately for him, his opportunist attempts to get into the pants of London’s single mother scene cause him to crash-land into a very unique mother and son combination that slowly draw out his sense of family and unity (of course).

5. Edward Scissorhands

Christmas will never be the same for the Boggs family when they find themselves taking in Edward, the unfinished creation of an inventor, who is humanlike in his entirety except for his scissor hands. His skill with his scissors makes him a novelty in his new neighbourhood as a hedge-cutter and hair dresser although some take an instant dislike to him. He upsets the balance when he falls in love with Kim – a human girl who is already taken. This melancholy, gentle film celebrates the spirit of compassion and love and presents us with a world with a great influx of snow caused by Edwards ice sculptures as he witters away the time alone, set adrift from small minded suburbia.

6. The Harry Potter Series

I cannot select one film from the franchise so I’ve plumped for the series as a whole. Although a lot could have been tweaked and corrected to guarantee absolute perfection, this is the perfect story for children and inner children alike as Harry Potter is spirited away from a life of Cinderella servitude and informed that he is a wizard, but not just any wizard, the only wizard capable of defeating Lord Voldemort. The Christmas scenes add pleasant relief to the mounting evils that threaten to consume Hogwarts.

7. Bad Santa

The Coen brothers return with this black comedy where Santa is cynically cast as nothing more than a conniving conman. Whilst working as Santa in a mall, Willie (bad boy Billy Bob Thornton) alongside his friend Marcus disables the alarms every Christmas Eve and takes everything he can. This theft enables Willie to fuel his life of depraved debauch. This is the more sinister foil of ‘About a Boy’ as Willie confronts his demons when he develops a friendship with ‘the Kid’ and new flame Sue. Not all comedies include suicide, alcoholism and murder and for that reason alone, this film should be perfect for all Christmas scrooges.

8. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

In war torn England, the four Pevensie children discover a world within a wardrobe, in which they find a landscape cursed with perpetual winter for over a hundred years but with no sight of Christmas. Most children and adults alike will be familiar with the Narnia Chronicles and the children’s attempt to expel the witch and return Christmas to the land. The blankets of snow and the triumph of the siblings over the cruel Jadis make welcome Christmas viewing.

9. Christmas with the Kranks

Luther and Nora’s daughter is AWOL for the holidays serving in Peru on a Peace Corps assignment. The couple then find themselves blighted with empty nest syndrome just in time for the holidays, finding no reason to celebrate without their daughters’ presence in the home. Their choice to simply ignore Christmas and instead use their savings to embark on a luxury cruise ostracises them from their community, who eagerly try to lure them back in with some Yuletide spirit. The Kranks soon find that it isn’t so easy to bow out gracefully from the festivities.

 10. Lady and the Tramp

Disney sprinkles magic over every story it tells and this classic is no different. On Christmas morning, Jim Dear presents his wife Darling with a beautiful cocker spaniel named Lady. Lady endures the usual trials and tribulations that a cartoon dog finds herself faced with; unrequited love for an adventurous dog named Tramp, run-ins with exotic felines and the threat of replacement when a baby is due, but by the following Christmas everything turns around for Lady who finds herself with a family of her own.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The House

Gobble, gobble! Yum, yum, yum!

Don’t tell Daddy! Don’t tell Mum!

I’m the daughter, you’re the son!

What we do is full of fun!

Open wide and take it down!

We are all smiles, not a frown!

I’ve got some sugar on my gown!

The chocolate is an amber brown!

Lick our lips, we’re wanting more!

Sugar pimp and candy whore!

Witch is standing at the door!

With liquorice making up her floor!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

10 N64 Games

The N64 is the dodo of consoles, deader than Latin, in the words of Alan Partridge ‘a dead duck’, and ‘who watches a dead duck? Not even its mother. She just flies off...depressed’. But this was the console of my childhood and better than the Wii any day of the week. Here are 10 games that remain pretty memorable for me:

1. The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of

Thursday, 15 December 2011

'The Man with the Beautiful Eyes'

This is the first of a new segment entitled 'inspirations' where I will share work from others that has inspired me.

This is a video entitled 'The Man with the Beautiful Eyes' which is based on a poem by Charles Bukowski of the same name. The animation was created by Jonathan Hodgson.

Where Did The White Rabbit Go?

Alice flits about in her baby-blue dress,

The caterpillar blows smoke at her face,

She is very obviously distressed,

Wonderland is an overwhelming place!

“I saw him running to and fro!

Why, where did the white rabbit go?”

The Mad Hatter pours her a cup of tea.

The March Hares face is filled with insane glee.

The dormouse in her teacup is quite sleepy

Alice feels herself getting quite weepy.

“I saw him running to and fro!

Why, where did the white rabbit go?”

The Cheshire cat, in the tree, starts to grin.

She did not quite like the look on his face.

He seemed to lure her towards such bad things.

She thought of the rabbit she had to chase.

“I saw him running to and fro!

Why, where did the white rabbit go?”

The Queen of hearts wanted her roses red.

Anything less and they’d all end up dead.

Alice felt herself filled with such quaint dread.

The stout queen shouted out ‘off with her head!’

“I saw him running to and fro!

Why, where did the white rabbit go?”

Friday, 9 December 2011

Quote Blog: Winston Churchill

Winston: Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities... because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Film Revisited: Dogtooth

"...a Petri dish of our own perversions exemplified..."

On the outskirts of a bustling Greek city live a family who dwell in their own self-sufficient, completely isolated domain. The only family member permitted to exit the home is the father, who exerts an unwavering patriarchal influence upon his wife and three unnamed children, who are credited as ‘older daughter’, ‘son’ and ‘younger daughter’. As such, without names they are unidentifiable and arguably, do not exist. Instead they simply are what they are; children and siblings. They are defined entirely by their role in conjunction with the family unit they inhabit.

The father leaves the house to attend to his work as a factory manager whilst his wife oversees the children from the home, which is devoid of any connection from the outside world, except the fleeting visits of Christina, a security guard who is employed at the fathers workplace, who arrives merely to sate the hormonal urges and sexual appetites of the son (who only really seems intrigued by one particular position).

Christina’s visits remain fit for purpose, until she tires of the indifferent and emotionless attitude of the robotic son and instead begins to flirt with the concept of exploiting the naivety of the eldest daughter, manipulating sexual favours out of her in exchange for worldly goods from beyond the confines of the home, which intrigue and excite her. This is the premise of Giorgos LanthimosDogtooth, which explores how an internal, separate world reacts to the catalytic experience of an outside intervention.

The day-to-day trivialities of family life may be permeated by Christina’s casual visits, but otherwise the children’s existences are consumed by a series of repeated, odd rituals. They are routinely taught new words, but the definitions provided are incorrect. The children are fed misinformation and lies beneath the guise of knowledge and education. The film opens with the mother relaying a succession of new words via tape: ‘The new words of the day are: "Sea", "Highway", "Road trip" and "Shotgun” , for which she assigns a series of miscellaneous meanings, which the children repeat. Any excess energy that might lure the children towards inherent restlessness is channelled into competitive sports and eccentric games that provide a healthy outlet for the sibling rivalries and potential sexual and violent tensions that may arise amongst them. The children are encouraged to catch planes that fall from the sky and are bred to be efficient but obedient.

In order to ensure that his children do not attempt to leave the sanctuary of the home, a fear of the outside and unknown is fostered. The world beyond their walls is depicted as a place of panic, terror and danger. The children are informed that they will only be able to physically deal with the dangers that dwell beyond when their dog-tooth falls out, of course in being a fictitious creation, the dog-tooth will never fall out and the children will never be permitted to leave. The father also capitalizes upon their dependence with the invention of an idea that a previous sibling, whether real or concocted, disobeyed the parents strict statutes and sanctions and was mauled to death by a cat – an animal that is depicted as the enemy, potentially as it stands for everything the father despises his own children developing as traits; independence and self-sufficiency. His status as a black sheep ensures that they do not deviate from the parents’ closeted regime.

This climate of fear means that the children remain doting and doe-eyed; the son jumps into bed with his parents and hugs the father when afraid and the arrival of a cat from the outside prompts the son to attack it with pruning shears whilst his sisters scream. The fathers’ deceit is twofold; as much as he manages to seal his family within the vacuum of a home that he has created for them by feeding them a consistent diet of lies portrayed as truths, he also safe guards the reality of their lives from his colleagues by informing them that his wife is wheelchair bound. We do not get to know the length and breadth of the story he has concocted for his children, or if anyone even knows of their existence at all.

In this way, misinformation becomes truth, and his family is allowed to exist undiscovered and undisturbed. The story centres on this family drama whilst focusing on one child in particular, the eldest, who eventually names herself ‘Bruce’ and her decision to take a leap from the frying pan into the fire. It is this contact with the outside, through the medium of two videos, ‘Jaws’ and ‘Rocky’ given to her as contraband by Christina, that motivate and inspire ‘Bruce’ to escape the family home by breaking her dog-tooth.

The fundamental question that must cross every movie goers mind on first viewing is the question most intrinsic to the plot itself: why? The film is maddening in its laid back inability to provide us with an answer. Instead, it offers up endless questions. No back-story is established that might offer up some explanation or motivation; are the parents motivated by fear or control? Are they protecting their children or imprisoning them? Are they malevolent or benevolent beings? How did this set up originate? Was the father raised under the same conditions? Is the mother an accomplice, or is she as brainwashed as her children? Are they in fact, also brother and sister? Is their intention to play God or to concoct a mini experiment, or, as a far more farfetched and imaginative individual theorised, are the parents aliens who are teaching their extraterrestrial children how to behave and become human? Finally, are they motivated by something far more mundane – boredom?

The interesting thing about film, and indeed all art, is its ability to satirize or hold up mirrors to expose ugly truths. On a domestic level, the nanny state (or politically correct/Big Brother depending on your preference) has become an increasing influence in the lives of many. We’ve all heard members of the older generation lament the loss of the days when children roamed the streets like packs of bountiful dogs, free to play, explore and have adventures. Now the outdoor world has been populated with looming evils – paedophiles, murderers, rapists, thieves, serial killers.

Perhaps this view of the world has shifted to accumulate the acceleration of rapid change; surging populations, a recession and the impact of unchecked migration. Perhaps people cannot be assured of what lies outside of their front door because it is constantly changing. The terrain is always shifting and unfamiliar. As such, modern parents are coddling, paranoid, hyper-protective, raising, as a generalisation, lazy, unproductive children, or children who have been fleshed out of steel, brought up for competition and success in a dog eat dog world where the competition gets tougher and amasses in greater numbers every year. These perfectly normal, everyday familiar fears gather great momentum in Dogtooth

Outside of the family home, there exist many other avenues through which people exist to be controlled to some degree; culture, religion (particularly those that abide extreme or fanatical teachings), abusive relationships, the government and state – in this way, people attempt to control the ones they love (or need) by making them subservient, in much the same way that man bred into the great wolf domesticity or vapid dependency into the once capable of self-survival sheep, creating a hierarchy of those that are aware, powerful and controlling and those that are ignorant, powerless and afraid. Although those that are afraid always outnumber the few in charge, they are shackled by fear to the bottom rung of the pyramid – too afraid to even attempt advancement.

The film successfully satirizes the nature vs. nurture debate, the concept of parents knowing best, patriarchal society, fiction vs. reality, lies vs. truth, xenophobia, our use of language, the trust we place in our parents, the impact of popular culture on our aspirations (it cannot be coincidence that upon viewing ‘Jaws’ and ‘Rocky’, ‘Bruce’ decides to finally break free) and the idea of art representing truth and freedom. It is in the world of creativity that 'Bruce' finds the strength to escape, not in the world of rigid and rapid domesticity and dopiness.

It is also interesting to note that ‘Bruce’ bestows herself with a male identity. Of course, she is not to know necessarily the distinction between male and female names, but it is an intriguing aside that strengthens the connection to being a woman in a man’s world, in her shrunken world – the father is King, she is servant. Is the child a slave to the parents’ wishes and expectations, or are they a separate being with desires and wants of their own, and a right to seek these in the wider world? The parents seem keen to mutate language, infer that planes are toys and interpret American songs in a way that fortifies their own sense of family – in this way their fear of outside culture, language and influence is kept at bay because it is altered before it can be processed by their children. Everything they experience comes through a screened filter.

To complicate matters further, communication and sex are intertwined. The vagina becomes a ‘keyboard’. Even if the children escape, they cannot appropriately communicate but darkly, if sex is a form of expression, this has already been skewered by the parents, who have named their parts accordingly and in a way that fragments them from normal language and society, and as such, prevents ordinary sexual encounters. The free language of the body, which cannot be contained, is marred by enforced language which has been distorted. The parents’ propaganda keeps the children under strict rule.

The calm stifled home is disrupted by one thing and one thing alone – sex. Strangely, it is the parents who voluntarily introduce this in order to sate their sons’ needs. The needs of the daughters are not only marginalised, but simply not considered. I didn’t consider the parents to be intentionally sexist as they have focused their energies on all of their children being athletic achievers. The girls are not assigned feminine roles and the son a male one – they are almost homogonous – three separate spheres of one whole. I got the impression that they were trying to raise perfect children, and sexism would mean that the daughters would be excluded from the physical ‘masculine’ sense of play. The children are encouraged to be an equal unified threesome. I think their focus on the sons sexuality stemmed from the traditionally territorial hold parents have over their daughters bodies and sexualities, as through them lies the potential for offspring that will either reflect or detract from what the family want their future to be.

There is distrust with female sexuality, which is assumed to be monogamous – but what if daughter makes the wrong choice? Her genes and influence won’t be far-reaching like her promiscuous male counterparts. As such, parents tend to enshroud female sexuality, whilst being proud and even encouraging of their sons. If we believe that men do not get emotionally attached during sex, then the son could sleep with Christina and not develop feelings, whilst the daughters might have become attached and potentially been drawn away from their family through their romantic inclinations.

Christina tires of sex with the brother but seems to know how the dynamics of the household work – she promises the older sister presents if she will ‘lick’ her. Christina, as a security guard, and essentially, a buyer of sex, takes on a masculine role and reflects the fears of the parents; that their children may become homosexual, lecherous, purveyors and consumers of sex, fetishised.  We know that Christina is trusted and permitted access to the families’ inner circle, but we don’t know why; yes she is blindfolded and paid, but why does she not act? Why is she complicit in the fathers’ scheme? Is this a critique of how a consumerist, capitalist society loses sight of basic rights and wrongs when money is present? I think so. Big sums of money can silence logic, reason and conscience.

Christina brings her sex to the house and disrupts their isolated Eden. It is this act that seems to rouse oldest sisters’ curiosity and prompt her to request the tapes in exchange. Why is it that she selects these tapes? Has something been awakened in her due to her sexual encounter? There are some biblical references here that come in the form of temptation and sin (or what is arguably sin – I perceive it as the decision to choose free will). The movies ‘Bruce’ watches are violent films, which again reveal the fear of a dangerous outside world, depicted in our cultural obsession with dark materials and war, horror and thriller movies that now dominate the cinema.

It is these two dominating influences; violence and sex – so intrinsic in our own societies, which permeate the home and encourage her to look beyond. When Christina is relieved from her duties upon discovery, the son is permitted to select a daughter for his sexual release. He chooses the eldest and this further loss of innocence (the loss of the hymen) is compacted when ‘Bruce’ liberates herself of her dog-tooth, by smashing herself in the face with a dumbbell.

This re-enactment of the loss of her virginity is represented by her grotesque, stark bleeding and the interweaving of her rebellion and liberation, as well as the violent necessity of the process. I found the dog-tooth to have an affiliation with the presence of the hymen, which indicates wholesomeness, innocence and self-containment, once it is broken those traits are symbolically dispersed. The dog-tooth also holds these qualities – with it the children can remain in the home, if they lose it they are out.  ‘Bruce’ must offer up a sacrifice to the only Gods she knows – her parents, in exchange for freedom. Ironically, everything the parents fear for their children comes to the house. I can’t help but think; does this make them right? Christina does prove to be a bad influence...a very bad one indeed.

So what to make of this bleak and banal portrait of family life? There are distinctive similarities to the works of Lars Von Trier in terms of his dystopian outlook on society and its tendencies and this film acts as a microcosm of the wider world – a Petri dish of our own perversions exemplified beneath the microscope.  This movie has been described as ‘brilliant and bizarre’, ‘ingenious’ and ‘brilliant, dark and disconcertingly funny’. Though I would fundamentally agree that all of the above are true, the concept is more intriguing than the realisation. The unfleshed out back-story, which isn’t really necessary, still provokes a lot of incessant questioning in my frantic mind, and is more intriguing. Some of the scenes will make you squirm and the depiction of incest, self-mutilation and casual outbursts of violence and in-fighting will not cater to more sensitive palettes but this is a film that provokes much contemplation and discussion, with regards to how our identities, cultures, language and families are shaped by outside influences and for that reason, is well worth watching.

The film ends with ‘Bruce’ escaping the home only to lock herself in the boot of her father’s car showing that even if we desire to escape the hold of our conditioning, it is sometimes so engrained in us that escape is futile. We will keep coming back to the origin, to the source, to the trap – as the parents in this film intended.

'Lo-lee-ta' Sonnets to the Fictitious Famous

You were my angel-nymph; my sweet child love.

Curious as a wild cat catching rats

In my tender moments you’d kick and shove

All Cheshire cat grin with your hair in plaits.

Don’t run from the madman my butterfly,

I know you think of it when you sob nightly,

I’ll drive you underneath the summer sky

Feed you sundaes, see those eyes burn brightly.

You are my only one confession.

With your chestnut hair and lips of scarlet

Pixie, you taught me the hardest lesson.

You dance rings around me my little starlet

In the night I can still hear you crying.

My Lolita, can you hear me dying?

Quote Blog: Ralph

Ralph: I mean…what makes things break up like they do?

Quote Blog: Cecilia

Cecilia - the-virgin-suicides photo

Doctor: What are you doing here, honey? You're not even old enough to know how bad life gets.

Cecilia: Obviously, Doctor, you've never been a 13-year-old girl.

'Jack' Sonnets to the Fictitious Famous

Fallen prince of a paradise long lost,

Red hair grown wild over once freckled cheeks,

Over the heat of summer lays a frost,

The boys advanced like birds; all claws and beaks.

Chief of a tribe of ramshackle wolf cubs,

Wandering along sandy beaches and not streets,

Hands that trembled once in fear hit like clubs.

Innocent boys now degenerate freaks.

Embodiment of pride; the devils sin.

Spearing a pig with a face painted red,

King of Castle Rock, frees his evil twin,

The Savage screams as Piggy falls down dead

All in all its just a little boys game,

Out on the island that drove them insane

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

10 Christmas Corkers (Essential Christmas Viewing)

Christmas is fast approaching (it’s just a few sleigh rides away you know...) and if you’ve exhausted yourself with eating mince pies, preparing seasonal recipes, decorating the house, ice skating, wrapping presents and *enter stereotypical Christmas activity here*, what better way to enjoy the cold weather than from the comfort of your own home beside the fire with these familiar classics and Christmas viewing suggestions (this is a rhetorical question). If you feel overloaded with sentimentality afterwards, you can always just kick over someone’s snow man (if it snows that is...)

Here are 10 films to kick start the holiday season:

1. Home Alone

Macaulay Culkin was a fundamental part of my childhood movie diet. He was my ‘greens and veg’ alongside Kirsten Dunst. He was Richie Rich, Miles, and Thomas J. Sennett. But first and foremost he was Kevin McCallister. With his angelic ‘top of the Christmas tree’ looks but troublesome attitude, Kevin manages to live out the situation that every child desires and dreads in equal measure: he gets left home alone – parentless! With his parents in Paris, Kevin enjoys his new found freedoms; he survives on a diet of ice cream and old movies, but it soon becomes clear that a pair of mismatched chancers have their sights set on their rather palatial Chicago home. Harry and Marv aka the wet bandits have noticed that Kevin is living all alone and begin to make advances on the house. What ensues is comedy, but also drama, because when I was a child watching this film, every inch of me was on edge waiting to see who would come out tops: the kid, or the big, bad grownups. This film is excellent at getting into the mindset of a frustrated and creative child who feels largely ignored and rejected by his parents in a crowded and bustling home. It’s hilarious, but also heart warming and it also inspired a generation of children to booby trap their homes should an invader drop by for the holidays. Last I heard the McCallister family home was actually on the market, so should you plan on moving to Chicago (and have a fair bit of money in your pocket); you might actually be able to watch this film from the very house it was set in!

2. Home Alone 2: Lost In New York

Mr and Mrs McCallister should be nominated for the parental equivalent of a Razzie for their truly lax parenting skills as they manage to leave Kevin behind for a second time. This time, they manage to get him as far as the airport, but Kevin ends up in New York whilst they stare out of rain soaked windows in Florida. The sequel follows the same formula as the first; Kevin exploits his liberated status in a glitzy New York hotel whilst relaying on the stonker of a story that his father is constantly caught up in business meetings, leaving him free to make the most of his credit card and as usual kick back and eat tonnes of ice cream and watch black and white films in his hotel room. The reality and gravitas of his situation sets in when he realises that the wet bandits have reinvented themselves as the sticky bandits and are planning on robbing Duncan’s Toy Chest on Christmas Eve. The hotel staff, ingeniously smarmy (there is an exceptional comedic turn from Tim Curry), are also on Kevin’s back when they discover there is no ‘dad on business’ and Kevin is  further intimidated by the locals that frequent the city, including what appears on first impressions to be a mad pigeon lady (every city has one). There is the same heart-warming comedy to be found as Kevin bats for survival, dishes it out to the bad guys and returns to the family fold, hopefully to never be left behind again. This is essential Christmas viewing if only to see the Big Apple all lit up for Christmas.

3. The Muppets Christmas Carol

This has always been my favourite Christmas film because ‘The Muppets’ themselves represent everything that Christmas itself stands for; friendship, acceptance and family. Existing as a motley crew of oddballs, eccentrics and rejects, the Muppets embrace one another as a hodgepodge of different characters who manage to mesh...somehow. This is a spirited venture which takes on the traditional English tale by Charles Dickens, relaying the stingy and spiteful character of Ebenezer Scrooge as he is visited on Christmas Eve by three spirits who each seek to provoke him to acknowledge a new way of life and embrace the holiday season. Michael Caine takes his turn as Ebenezer, the man who loathes Christmas and happiness and has a way of sucking the joy out of all he comes across, but this is a victorious and transformative film lead by Gonzo and Rizzo, with Kermit and Ms Piggy portraying the Cratchits. The ending is of course triumphant and bursting with joyful songs and true merriment, as well as a sense of frivolity, wonder and humour. Caine also considers this to be one of his finest roles, and given the man’s career, that is quite the accolade. You can catch a showing of this at the Prince Charles Theatre from the 16th December to the 22nd if you happen to be an English citizen and local to London. It's quite astonishing to think that man made muppets can convey more emotion that some flesh and blood actors (coughKeiraKnightleycough).

4. Elf

Will Ferrell is a love him or loathe him kinda guy...which makes him perfect as the portrayer of Buddy the Elf; a sickly, sappy, soppy and absolutely loopy human being who stowed away in Santa’s sack as a child and was raised amongst the elves at Santa’s workshop. Buddy never truly acknowledges his human status until his superior height and inferior toy making abilities render him an obvious outsider. When he is returned to the human world (New York City of all places) his ignorance and naivety with regard to human civilisation mean that he makes just a few social faux pas (including ripping off the beard of a false Santa). Buddy reunites with his father, Walter Hobbs, played by James Caan, who is firmly on Santa’s naughty list. For me this was an ingenious (yes I’ll say that again, ingenious) casting choice because you can’t get any more different that Will Ferrell and James Caan. Caan manages to be perfectly exasperated and deadpan throughout. This is a film that strengthens the importance of prioritizing family over a hectic work schedule and also incorporates the positive properties of hope, belief and engaging with the wants and needs of our inner child from time to time.  In a society where Christmas is closely affiliated with consumerism and capitalism rather than peace and goodwill to all men, Buddy’s insane positivity ruffles a few feathers, but also gains him an unlikely love interest in the form of saucer eyed Zooey Deschanel as elf imitator Jovie.

5. The Nightmare Before Christmas

The eagle-eyed among you will recall that this film made a guest appearance on my recommendations for Halloween films entry. It is a difficult film to place as it boldly merges two very distinctive holidays. Despite the memorable Halloween styling and imagery, this film does incorporate a strong Christmas vibe. Jack, the Pumpkin King and most respected amongst his fellow Halloween Town citizens for his successful scares, becomes apathetic with his holiday and stumbles upon Christmas Town, which awakens a new sense of childlike wonder in Jack as he discovers snow and the concept of presents for the first time. Jack attempts to bring the Christmas Spirit to Halloween Town and give Santa a well deserved rest whilst taking his place. Unfortunately, good intentions collide with his misunderstanding of the Christmas Spirit and Christmas goes terribly wrong. He manages to reacquaint himself with his own holiday and accept his identity as a man of jeer, not cheer.

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (The Grinch)

Dr. Suess’ simple story is transported onto the screen in one of many countless renditions. Within a single snowflake exist the ‘who’s’ who inhabit ‘Whoville’, a joyous and merry place. Just beyond the reach of the ‘who’s’ lives the Grinch, a social outcast who despises Christmas and generally everything else. He can’t be described as a misanthrope precisely, because the Who’s aren’t specifically human, but there is no love lost between them. He isn’t happy enough being apart from them in essential exile; instead he plots to steal Christmas from the townspeople. It turns out that the Grinch is not simply naturally sadistic but instead a hardened and defensive victim of childhood torment and unrequited love – he fits the staple of the ‘Scrooge’ character that hardens himself in adversity and loses all sense of softness. Cindy Lou Who (who, would you believe, is played by Taylor Momsen) attempts to acquaint herself with the Grinch and help him recover his Christmas Spirit in what proves to be a long and arduous task.

7. The Santa Clause

This is any parent’s perfect Christmas film. Period. Tim Allen is Scott Calvin – a father who is desperately trying to assure his son that Santa is real and accidentally ends up killing Mr Clause on Christmas Eve. Much to his chagrin, he automatically becomes the ‘new’ Santa, begging the questions: how many fathers have accidentally killed Santa and had to step up to the plate, and what happens if a woman accidentally bumps Santa off? Scott’s encroaching transformation leaves him mortified but eventually he is able to muster up some festive cheer and build bridges with his ex-wife and her new partner Neil who have a terse (at best) relationship with one another. Allen steals the show here, perfecting the art of the grumpy father of Charlie and the festive Father Christmas, but I’d recommend watching this film simply for the ‘Neil’ jokes which fall fast and frequent and will rouse the spirits of any Christmas singletons, single parents or divorcees.

8. The Snowman

One suitably snowy Christmas Eve, a young boy creates a snow man that instantly comes to life and spirits him away on an air bound adventure to meet Santa himself. This classic Christmas tale includes no dialogue but features the angelic vocals of Peter Auty as he sings a song now unanimous with Christmas: ‘Walking in the Air’. This film is in keeping with all children’s ability to perform magical thinking and bring to life all of their deepest imaginings.

9. The Holiday

Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet play characters in dire straits who are both experiencing man issues in their native homelands. They decide that the solution might just be to switch locations to gain enough distance and a fresh perspective, so Amanda (Diaz) packs for Surrey and Iris (Winslet) departs for Los Angeles. Whilst away, they both manage to acquire new loves...even if it does seem rather unrealistic that Winslet should be paired with Jack Black. This is a cheerful holiday season film that depicts the sense of loneliness and isolation that being single during a period of traditional ‘togetherness’ can bring. Thankfully, in movie land, no-one ends up lonesome for long.

10. Monty Python's Life of Brian

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, so by incorporating this film, I am being potentially blasphemous. On the same night of Jesus birth, another child is born and mistaken for the Messiah; that babies name is Brian. What follows is a hilarious case of mistaken identity as the Pythons, known for their surreal, offbeat and generally hit-and-miss style of comedy, hit the ball out of the park with every joke. This is in my opinion, essential Christmas viewing, particularly if you are an atheist or agnostic but still enjoy the festivities of Christmas. This film incorporates none of the slush or sentiment that usually comes with seasonal movies, because essentially, it isn’t a seasonal movie at all (its far more of an Easter film), but it does have a very upbeat and inspirational message, encouraging individually, acceptance and open-mindedness. It might have caused a storm of controversy upon its release, but it can now be enjoyed (hopefully) as a funny film that took a chance and didn’t skirt around a potentially very thorny subject. Most importantly in my mind, it will make you laugh a real belly laugh that Santa would be proud of.

Watch this space for further suggestions...