Saturday, August 1, 2015

On MMXXL*

MMXXL IS A CINEMATIC MASTERPIECE

MMXXL IS THE GREATEST FILM EVER MADE

IF MMXXL DOESN'T WIN EVERY OSCAR AVAILABLE NEXT YEAR I WILL BURN THE WORLD DOWN

ALTERNATIVE OSCARS THAT MMXXL COULD ALSO WIN: MOST GRINDING; LEAST HATE; BEST USE OF MALE PECTORAL MUSCLES; BEST UNORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK; MOST DELIGHTFUL USE OF PONY IN A GENDER-REVERSED, FLASHDANCE-INSPIRED CARPENTRY DANCE ROUTINE

MMXXL HAS NO PLOT AND IT DOESN'T NEED ONE BECAUSE PLOT IS FOR AMATEURS AND SNOBS WHO DON'T UNDERSTAND THE DELIGHTS OF WATCHING RIPPED AND GRINNING MEN HIP-THRUST CROWDS OF WOMEN INTO PAROXYSMS OF HORRIFIED DELIGHT

DONALD GLOVER IS REALLY REALLY RIDICULOUSLY GOOD-LOOKING AND SINGS AWFUL CHEESY LOVE SONGS WHILE WEARING A BLAZER AND NO SHIRT

HE ALSO WEARS A PORK PIE HAT IT IS THE WORST-BEST THING

DONALD GLOVER AND MATT BOMER ARE FAUX-DEEP AND CHARMINGLY MORONIC AND THE FILM IS BOTH AWARE AND HAPPY FOR THEM

DESPITE HIS PERFECT PERFECT BONE STRUCTURE MATT BOMER IS ONE OF THE LEAST SEXUAL MAN TO EVER GRACE A FILM OR TV SCREEN BUT MMXXL DON'T CARE

MATT BOMER'S CHARACTER IS INTO REIKI BECAUSE OF COURSE HE IS

THESE CHARACTERS ARE BARELY TWO-DIMENSIONAL BUT WHY WOULD YOU BOTHER WASTING POTENTIAL DANCE TIME TO BUILD DEPTH WHEN YOU COULD JUST GIVE THEM EACH A SINGLE, PERFECT DEFINING HOBBY/INTEREST/WHATEVER

ARTISANAL FRO-YO

EXACTLY

CHANNING TATUM

CHANNING TATUM

CHARMING POTATO IS 74% LABRADOR AND 100% DELIGHTFUL

CHARMING POTATO GOT MOVES

WHY CHARMING POTATO INSISTS ON MAKING OTHER FILMS WHEN HE COULD JUST BE MAKING STEP UP, SHE'S THE MAN AND MAGIC MIKE IS BEYOND ME SINCE THESE ARE CLEARLY THE BEST FILMS OF THE LAST DECADE AND ALSO THAT TORSO

SOME PEOPLE ARE HUNG UP ON THE FACT THAT THEY ARE NOT SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO CHARMING POTATO AND THIS IS COMPLETELY BESIDE THE POINT

OBVIOUSLY VERY FEW PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO CHARMING POTATO - I RECENTLY SAW HIM DESCRIBED AS A 6"1 BIG TOE WHICH SEEMED FITTING - YOU SHOULDN'T BE SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO LABRADORS THAT WOULD BE ILLEGAL

THE PLEASURES OF CHARMING POTATO LIE NOT IN HIS RIPPLING ABS AS IMPRESSIVE AS THEY ARE BUT IN HIS PHYSICAL DEXTERITY HIS EASY LAUGH AND HIS PUPPYDOG HEART

CHARMING POTATO SPENDS THE WHOLE OF MMXXL TRYING NOT CRACK UP AND YOU ARE RIGHT THERE WITH HIM

OBVIOUSLY THIS IS RIDICULOUS BUT WE ARE ALL SO HAPPY TOGETHER

MMXXL DOESN'T EVER TRY TO BE DARK OR BROODING AND SO SURPASSES MMOG BY ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE

AT NO POINT IN THIS FILM IS ANYONE MEANINGFULLY OR LASTINGLY UNHAPPY

SADNESS CANNOT PERSIST IN THE FACE/GROIN OF MALE ENTERTAINERS

MMXXL RESPECTS A MULTITUDE OF FEMALE DESIRES

SOME OF THESE DESIRES MIGHT SEEM DUMB - I WOULD RATHER DIE THAN BE SINCERELY SERENADED EVEN BY DONALD GLOVER WHO IS AS DISCUSSED REALLY REALLY RIDICULOUSLY GOOD-LOOKING - BUT MMXXL WANTS YOU TO DO YOU AND IT WANTS YOU TO BE HAPPY

THEY ONLY WANT TO MAKE WOMEN SMILE

WHITE WOMEN/BLACK WOMEN

THIN WOMEN/FAT WOMEN

YOUNGER WOMEN/OLDER WOMEN

STRAIGHT WOMEN/QUEER WOMEN

CHARMING POTATO NEVER HOOKS UP WITH THE POTENTIAL LOVE INTEREST BECAUSE SHE DOESN'T FANCY IT

HE MAKES HER SMILE AND THAT IS ENOUGH

ALTHOUGH EVERYONE IS LAUGHING ALL THE TIME IT IS NEVER AT THE WOMEN

FEMALE DESIRE IS NOT A PUNCHLINE

FEMALE BODIES ARE NOT A PUNCHLINE

THIS IS SUCH AN UNBELIEVABLE RELIEF

MMXXL IS SUCH A RELAXING HATE-FREE DELIGHT

MMXXL TAKES THE BOYS TO A DRAG SHOW WHERE THEY MAKE ZERO HOMOPHOBIC JOKES

STRIPPERS VOGUING AND HAVING A GREAT TIME AT A DRAG CLUB

MMXXL HAS TWO MEN SHARE A BED AND TALK ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS WITH ZERO HOMOPHOBIC JOKES

JADA PINKETT-SMITH TAKES NO SHIT

JADA PINKETT-SMITH MAKES OUT WITH WHOEVER SHE WANTS

JADA PINKETT-SMITH AND ELIZABETH BANKS HAVE A LOT OF SEXUAL ENERGY

JADA PINKETT-SMITH KNOWS THAT YOU ARE A QUEEN

ANDIE MCDOWELL, THAT BEAUTIFUL NICE LADY, KNOWS WHAT SHE WANTS AND SHE GETS IT

THE VERY ROUGH PLOT OF MMXXL INVOLVES THEM GOING TO A STRIPPING CONVENTION BUT IT ISN'T EVEN A COMPETITION THEY JUST FANCY IT AND THEY WANT TO DANCE

THE DAAAAANNNNCCCING

THE ENTHUSIASM

THE GRINDING


*This was originally written and emailed to many of my friends in the joyous and hysterical aftermath of seeing MMXXL at the beginning of July but it still stands and, since MMXXL doesn't seem to have got the box office it deserves, I wanted to make my appreciation official.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Life Snapshots

So I have a new job and it is beyond thrilling but, inevitably, this blog will suffer. I love it as a creative space and as a repository for previous versions of myself but it always bears the brunt of life changes. I hope that I can, at least, continue to post weekly and, let's be real, it has been a while since I've been more prolific than that. I like the idea of posting twice a week (ah, those fresh student days of posting almost daily... they seem impossible now) but between real life demands and the kind of posts I am interesting in writing these days.

Read
  • Hump Day: The Utterly OMG ‘Magic Mike XXL’ - Wesley Morris: MMXXL is the best film of the year and, arguably, the decade and, perhaps, forever. More on this later. Wesley Morris is probably my favourite film critic and this is a great summary of the many pleasures of MMXXL.
  • How It Feels - Jenny Zhang: Jenny Zhang on high-school, clichés, sadness, Instagram and Tracey Emin. Part of Tavi's issue of Poetry.
  • Just Don't Do It - Debbie Cameron: Someone recently (I can't remember who and I don't care enough to Google) said that women say 'just' too much and that, obviously, this is bad and holding us back. This is a comprehensive rejoinder to that argument and every other argument that the way young women speak is wrong, be it 'like' or uptalk or vocal fry or blah blah blah.
  • Naked Bieber, Jacked Aubrey, and a Life-Altering Question: Should I Get Swoll? - Rembert Browne: I don't really follow Rembert but then this happens or the glorious #SQUAD happens and I wonder if I shouldn't keep a closer eye on him. He truly is a master of tween boy angst and, although that doesn't sound particularly appealing, he is very funny.
Listen







See

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What I Read: June 2015


So June was another hardcore month for reading... For reasons personal and professional, I am just blowing through books at the moment. And good ones too. What a pleasure. That said, I am disappointed that I came so close to hitting a straight 'The...' title run and just missed. Damn you, Temeraire, ruining everything.
  • The Shore - Sara Taylor: I first heard this book pitched as Margaret Atwood meets David Mitchell meets Carson McCullers which is exactly my kind of catnip. I do understand those points of reference - interconnecting, nested stories; the South; a certain thick, stickiness; women; a not-too-distant sexual apocalypse - but, for me, this debut didn't really stand up to those comparisons. I mean, it's not a bad book but those are great writers and very very few people can shine next to them. What I did like about this book was its fixation on the violence that dominates so many women's lives, across time, ages and classes. I'll be interested to see what Taylor does next.
  • The Country of Ice Cream Star - Sandra Newman: This novel was a trip and I loved it. It is fat and plotty and weird and, for approximately three pages, I thought I might struggle to get into the strong idiom but then it wrapped me up and warped my brain. Ice Cream Fifteen Star, the book's heroine, is a fifteen year old girl who ends up leading her tribe of teenage comrades on a quest across an America ravaged by a biological apocalypse. Society and language have broken down and adults are dead or absent. Ice Cream is tough and violent and brave and I love her. This kind of story isn't for everyone but if anything about it appeals I would highly recommend giving it a shot.
  • The Lion's Daughter - Loretta Chase: I was inspired to pick up this romance novel by Pop Culture Happy Hour's excellent romance special. After many years of reading fic, I struggle to find het/print capital-R romance that really lives up to my expectations but Linda, Barrie, Petra and Sarah were so enthusiastic and knowledgeable and clearly having such a good time on the podcast that I felt inspired to follow one of their recommendations. And it was... fine. The last 25% lost some momentum and I found the relentless references to the heroine's tiny childlikeness rather frustrating but at no point did it actually make me cross! Which isn't nothing! I will continue to occasionally dabble in Romance but, I suspect, in its mainstream form, it is a genre that is lost to me.
  • The Girls from Corona del Mar - Rufi Thorpe: This book came out in paperback a few weeks ago and it has been getting a lot of buzz online and in the bookish spaces where I linger. I didn't love it as much as some readers, I found the narrative perspective frustrating especially (I wanted to be present with the girls as teenagers and twenty-somethings - I found the thirty-something narrator's tone a little smug and a little distancing), but I did like its depiction of the complexities of (female) friendship. You can love a friend even when you don't like them; your lives can accidentally and intentionally diverge and that doesn't erase your past; it is human to fail; stereotyping yourself and others is unhealthy and unhelpful. Life is hard and nasty and awful sometimes.
  • Temeraire (His Majesty's Dragon) - Naomi Novik: The Napoleonic Wars but with dragons! Either that sounds like fun to you or it doesn't. The first of Novik's popular series was slighter than I was expecting but nimble and well executed and pleasant. I do love a talking dragon and the dragons are the stand-out characters here. I'm probably not going to make my way through the next seven books in the series (#9 is due out next year) but I would recommend them, especially to slightly younger readers. I'm going to try and grab her new stand-alone, Uprooted, which a lot of people I like are enjoying at the moment.
  • The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer: I was surprised to Google this and find out that it was only published in 2013. It felt like it had been on my To Read List for longer. It has certainly been on my bedside table for six months since I pinched my parent's copy... This novel follows the fortunes of six teenagers who meet at a summer camp for creative youfs in the 1970s. It is very brilliant and insightful. Wolitzer's friends must live in fear of her knowing every bad, unkind thought that has ever crossed their minds. The book rings amazingly human and true and there is something reassuring in that even when everyone is a little bit awful. For more and more coherent details, Roxane Gay wrote a great and enthusiastic review
  • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie - Ayana Mathis: Is there ever a not-devastating time to read about black lives in America? This is an interesting fictional counterpart to a non-fiction book I'm reading at the moment. Hattie flees Georgia for Philadelphia in the 1920s but never really finds the better life that she craved. She has a thousand children who exhaust her and a husband who disappoints her. The first chapter is from Hattie's perspective and the subsequent chapters follow various children and, eventually, a grandchild. This structure allows the book to cover a lot of Issues but it does make it difficult for the reader to really connect with the characters. Still, an interesting read.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Beauty Shopping List

Sali Hughes had a great 50 best beauty buys under £20 list in the Guardian mag last weekend and I am summarising all of the things I circled in biro so that I can recycle my hard copy. My beauty 'regime' (in as much as it ever existed) fell away in America but I'm ready to get back on the horse. I have a make-up look that works and I don't feel any particular need to update, fun new lipstick colours aside, but I am always always interested in skincare.


Body Shop Lip Line Fixer / Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads / Lush Ultrabland Cleanser

Seconded - I support these recommendations:
  • Palmers Cocoa Butter Formula Skin Smoothing Lotion, £4.10 - This stuff smells awful but it is a very cheap, easily available moisturiser with AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and those are hard to find. If you have rough skin and bumps this will make a noticeable difference.
  • Models Own Polishes, £4.99 - Some of the funnest colour selections.
  • Bioderma Hydrabio H20, £10.20 - Now that the world is awash with micellar waters I will just buy whatever is on offer but the original is the best. The difference is minimal but noticeable.
  • Burt's Bees Almond & Milk Hand Cream, £9.99 - Mmm, marzipan.
  • La Roche-Posay Efflacar Duo+, £15.50 - I like the toner from this range too. I have my doubts about any topical acne treatments but I do love acids and this does, at least, leave your skin soft and not-worse.
Want - my general interest/To Buy list:
  • Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum, £17.50 - 'One or two pumps gives a perky, healthier-looking finish to all dehydrated skin types, whether young or old, oily or dry, and layers seamlessly under any moisturiser.'
  • Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo, £7.50 - 'This is probably my all-time favourite because it doesn't have a nasty chemical smell, won't cause scalp-itch, and leaves hair soft, not like stable hay.' I have been meaning to try this for years - I've hated the smell of every dry shampoo I've ever used and perhaps this can be my salvation.
  • Lush Ultrabland Cleanser, £7.25 - 'This thick, unctuous cream is made from honey, rosewater, iris and almond oil for a rich, gentle cleanse. It's thorough, too - it can easily remove a full face of photoshoot makeup when used with a hot flannel. Leaves skin baby soft.'
  • Bourjois Cream Blush, £8 - I'm always on the lookout for decent cream blushers. I have no interest in any other kind of blusher.
  • First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads, £17.38 - These have been recommended all over the place. Easy + acid.
  • Weleda Skin Food, £7.95 - 'A seriously thick, rich, hardcore moisturiser for very dry hands, feet, shins, elbows, even your face. Provides comfort and several hours of effective moisturisation.'
  • Liz Earle Brightening Treatment Mask, £16 - 'Gives tired skin instant glow.' I love a nice mask.
  • Lanolips 101 Ointment, £10.99 - I also can never resist a lip balm.
  • Body Shop Lip Line Fixer, £8 - 'The waxy line acts as an unseen dam, allowing the colour to stay sharp. Several luxury brands have copied this; no one has bettered it.' Jemma Kidd used to do one of these and I didn't get around to buying it before it was discontinued. As an enthusiastic lipstick wearer I will, fo sho, be buying one of these!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Life Snapshots

I love a nice round-up. The internet (and culture generally) is increasingly difficult to keep up with and I have more or less given up on trying. The majority of my internet consumption is directed by a handful of people that I trust. I stumble across miscellaneous bits and pieces on Twitter and Tumblr but I fall back on recognisable humans.

On email: Jessica Stanley's Read. Look. Think; Ann Friedman's Newsletter; Margaret & Sophie's Two Bossy Dames; Jia's tinybitchtapes.

On blog: Stevie's Weekend Lists; Ana's Week in Clicks; Mallory's Gems of the Week.  

These women are all pretty thorough and I'm not but I thought I'd take a personally inflected shot at the format. If only to preserve my influences in (short-lived) perpetuity.


The Greenwich Rose Garden

Read
  • Revenge of the Nerds - Taffy Brodesser-Akner: The always-excellent TBA on Taylor Swift's passive-aggression, plausible deniability and vicious words. Don't fuck with writers. Or, at least, don't fuck with beautiful, talented, best-selling, fearless writers who can mobilise an army of teenage girls against you.
  • Immaculate Self-Conception: Kim Gordon, Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein on Instagram - Molly Beauchemin: The public expectation of 'authenticity' on Instagram; representations of women; how to display yourself as a woman within a rock, as opposed to pop, context.
  • Switch - Ceres_Libera: Seeking comfort and re-reading one of my favourite fics. I'm not a part of this fandom and am not familiar with the source material but the characterisation is good enough that it really doesn't matter. *warm glow*
Listen







  • I have fallen a little bit in love with Kacey Musgraves over the last few months and her new album Pageant Material is excellent. Looking at my general musical tastes you might not guess how much country music I was exposed to as a child but occasionally that upbringing will make itself felt.
  • A new episode of Shipping & Handling podcast dropped last week and that's always a treat.
See
  • I have a broad, often scatological sense of humour, love bad-ass female heroes and will watch every McCarthy-Feig collab until I die. Amy Schumer might be the future of rom-coms but I can only hope that McCarthy-Feig are the future of mainstream com-coms. Spy was deeply silly and I enjoyed it a lot. 
  • Lots of people on the internet love it but it took an IRL recommendation to get me to finally check out Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. The Australian 1920s flapper-detective is delightful and it's on UK Netflix right now. I'm sure that Agatha Christie fans will love this but I enjoy it as a Jeeves & Wooster fan and a general fan of the era. There's drugs and sex and murder but really this is good, clean fun.
  • The roses are in bloom in the Greenwich Park Rose Garden. They smell amazing and even on a rare, sunny weekend the eastern side of Greenwich Park isn't too busy (by London standards). I still haven't managed to visit the Ranger's House because the opening hours are very limited but one day I will get there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I Read: May 2015



OMG I JUST SPENT THREE HOURS WRITING 2000 BEAUTIFUL AND WONDERFUL (you'll have to take my word for that) WORDS ON WHAT I READ LAST MONTH AND I DELETED THEM AND THEY CAN'T BE RECOVERED AND I WANT TO DIE.

So I'm just going to have to do a really rubbish round-up because I do not have the energy to do it again properly. *Sigh*
  • Foxglove Summer - Ben Aaronovitch: I have written about him and the Rivers of London series before and I'm sure I will continue to do so because they are fun and I like them. This is #5 and, like #4, I found it rather slight (due to the books' popularity, it seems, they are now being published too fast to match the content of the first three novels) but I will read #6 (The Hanging Tree, due Nov 2015) nonetheless once it hits the library circuit.
  • The Third Wife - Lisa Jewell: A tightly written and well executed novel. I don't dabble much in the commercial/family life-drama/thriller world but if that sounds like your cup of tea then I would easily recommend it.
  • The Hawley Book of the Dead - Chrysler Szarlan: This did not work for me. I have read both of the comp titles, The Night Circus and A Discovery of Witches, and I didn't really care for either so perhaps this is a question of taste but I don't think this book lived up to either the (dubious) lyricism of the former or the (dubious) romance of the latter. It felt confused and over-long and, although there were some nice ideas, it just didn't follow through.
  • All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews: Now this I loved. I read Miriam Toews’ beautiful, semi-autobiographical novel in almost a single sitting. Although the story is grim, the narrator’s sister tries repeatedly to kill herself as her family struggles to keep her alive, the voice of Yolanda, the narrator, is so compelling. The way that Yoli thinks and speaks, the contradictory jumble of her emotions, feels intimately familiar even if you have never endured this kind of trauma. She loves her sister and is afraid for her; she both resents and understands her inability to live; her own life is falling apart and she is sleeping with the wrong men but she holds herself together for her mother and her children. All of this should be horribly depressing but the book is light-footed and slyly comic throughout. I would never have expected to laugh so much at a slow, painful suicide narrative but Toews reveals the humour embedded in life’s most agonising moments. The empathy the characters offer each other is deeply moving and the book has, undoubtedly, expanded my emotional understanding of suicide. I finished the book in tears but feeling uplifted; I am a better person because of it. I will be reading A Complicated Kindness next on LJ's heartfelt recommendation. (Isn't Toews great with titles?)
  • A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful - Gideon Lewis-Kraus: I do not care at all about the angst of young, white men and Gideon Lewis-Kraus is a young, white man with doubts and worries but he is also an excellent writer, observant and very self-critical, so his account of late-twenties ennui and the three walking pilgrimages he undertook in response to said ennui is surprisingly gripping. Surprising to me anyway. I found myself fascinated by his chronicling of these endless, pointless, painful walks and I thought a lot about life and survival and whathaveyou. We all have ennui after all or, at least, I assume we do.
  • City of Stairs - Robert Jackson Bennett: Both of the hosts on two of my favourite book podcasts, Shipping & Handling and Portable Magic, have raved about this fantasy novel and I was looking forward to giving it a shot. In a world where the colonised rose up and killed the gods of the rich and powerful, the tables have turned and a once beautiful capital is in tatters. There are spies and bureaucrats and religious fanatics and murderous pirates and monsters. The world building is excellent and there are two very interesting and sympathetic female leads and I liked this a lot even if I didn't love it. It is clever and interesting and I'll definitely try another RJB.
  • Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened - Allie Brosh: I love Hyperbole and a Half, everyone loves Hyperbole and a Half, but I hadn't got around to reading Allie's 2013 book. [Exciting news, her next book, Solutions and Other Problems is due out in Oct 2015.] If you are familiar with the blog then the book won't contain any great surprises but there is new material and it is funny and sad and wonderful and all in one place. Allie gives great dogs and small children and even as she excoriates herself she reminds me to try and forgive myself. I love her and consider her as something of a patron saint which I'm sure she would hate but there you go.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Food Recently: Weekday Dinners


Because I am endlessly interested by how people manage to feed themselves. My default for this time of year (and, bloody hell, British weather has been all over the place - June is not doing itself any favours) is a pulse + a vegetable + cheese and a big pile of leaves. Easy, delicious and moderately healthy. Or, at least, as healthy as will ever interest me. My idea of good health involves a generous helping of carbs, quite a lot of cheese and the odd bit of cured meat. Nothing has been deep fried so I'm feeling like a freakin' paragon of virtue right now.

Chickpeas with chorizo, roasted red pepper, spinach and goats' cheese : You know what I found interesting on our recent America trip? No chorizo. Not on the West Coast anyway. There were a lot of mildly spiced sausages masquerading as chorizo but no proper cooking chorizo with that delicious fatty, cured kick. Strange. This recipes contains so many of my favourite things. Re the recipe, you can play pretty fast and loose with quantities. I inevitably skip the chives and roast my own pepper (one is fine) because jarred peppers are a level of fancy that I have not yet attained.

Green lentils with feta and roasted red pepper : Basically everything can be made good with the addition of roasted red peppers and a salty cheese. Also, I love green lentils and they are legit healthy. Fellow anemics, for when you don't fancy a steak or a Guinness (often) lentils are high in iron. Eat with some raw spinach and feel a little perkier. Also, also, hummus is  the greatest condiment.

Roasted butternut squash with chickpeas and tahini : I suppose the red peppers and butternut squash are appealing to my sweet tooth? They certainly add delight to a warm salad. No cheese here but tahini is magnificent and savoury. And I could probably eat chickpeas every day for the rest of my life. They're just so versatile and delicious.

Bonus, all of these recipes make for excellent lunch the next day. You will win at tupperware.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Amy Schumer + Trainwreck

I mourn the death of the classic chick flick. Yes, plenty of them were garbage but I have pretty low-brow cinematic taste. I enjoy a quiet, beautiful indie film now and again but sometimes I just want to be entertained and a decent script with a female lead and a happy ending is my idea of a good time.

I resent Hollywood's current disinclination to cater for mass female audiences. Obviously women can enjoy Mad Max and superhero films and big, dumb action franchises but we are not the primary audience. It's probably true that women are more likely to accompany their (heterosexual) partners to BOY films than men are to tolerate GIRL films but I still think Hollywood should be trying to woo my dollar. I mean, I'm fickle and if Sleepless in Seattle came out tomorrow I would probably turn my nose up at such sentimental pandering but I still want them to at least pretend to value my preferences.

The closest thing you really get to a rom-com these days is a female-lead slash-com. It's a clumsy construction but I would roughly categorise Bridesmaids as a dram-com, The Heat as a cop-com and Pitch Perfect as a glee-com? I don't know, that doesn't really work. They're all comedies targeted at women, let's leave it there. And I like those films. I celebrate the fact that women are being funny in mid-budget films and that we are embracing gross-out humour and that all of the aforementioned films prioritise female friendships. I love female friendships! They're the best! But sometimes I yearn for the easy endorphin hit of romantic fulfilment and that is hard to find on film these days.


I caught a pre-screening of Amy Schumer's upcoming film Trainwreck last week and although it isn't at all schlocky it did satisfy a lot of my rom-com urges. I'm probably being overly optimistic but it felt like it could be a successful new model for contemporary romantic comedies if we accept that the "chick flick" as it existed into the mid '00s is dead forever. There is comedy and there is romance and it feels very modern.

Amy, the film's protagonist, is a fully conceived character. She has a career and a family and a very active social/sexual life. She isn't looking for a relationship but she meets Bill Hader's character (LOVE do not doubt Hader's potential as a romantic lead - he is charming and delightful and he has the biggest, brownest eyes) and they like each other and that is important. I love Chris O'Dowd and I have a soft spot for Sklyar Astin but they are the least important aspects of their respective films. Which is fine. But the relationship is not a sub-plot in Trainwreck and that is really nice too.

Also, it was kind of relaxing to take a break from body horror jokes for a while. Bridesmaids was on TV over the weekend and while the food poisoning scene is masterful you only really need to see it once and I never needed the vomiting in Pitch Perfect at all. Also, also, Amy Schumer is a perfectly attractive, slim-normal, human-looking person and I loved that there were no jokes at the expense of her body or appearance. She is neither very beautiful nor very thin but her sexuality isn't ridiculed.

Also, also, also, TILDA SWINTON. Spot her in the trailer. She is a perfect human being and I love her.

Prior to this film, I hadn't really bonded with Amy Schumer. I appreciated the political drive of her most recent season of Inside Amy Schumer but I don't like sketch comedy. I will defend to the death a woman's right to be lewd and sexually aggressive and drunk, as often per her public persona, but it isn't a mode of being/comedy that interests me. However, I am now fully on board. She wrote and, perhaps, produced Trainwreck and it is funny while maintaining an emotional depth, romantic while maintaining a tough, independent heroine and generally a pleasure.

I liked it. So there you go.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Food Reviewed: Ristorante Rosella

I have written before about my problems with Italian restaurants. I cook a lot of Italian food and I have eaten too much excellent Italian food in situ to tolerate crappy imitations. Particularly at London prices. A carbonara with a weird bechamel sauce and soggy pasta for £12.50 makes me want to scream with frustration. (I am a drama queen.)

So it is unlikely that I would have ever wandered into Ristorante Rosella without a personal recommendation. It is a remarkably unprepossessing joint in Kentish Town and I'm now a bit in love with it. From the outside it looks like a sketchy caff and the majority of the menu is priced appropriately for a sketchy caff. Inside it looks like every glorious cliché of a cheap, family run Italian restaurant and there are a handful of specials each day. Pastas and pizzas on the menu are in the £5-7 range and specials around £8-12. I enthusiastically forked out for a special but I'm willing to believe (and I have been told) that the standards meet similar levels of quality.


I ordered the lamb pappardelle and it was excellent. It wasn't fancied up or fiddled with and there were no bells and whistles; it was a good, rich but not overwhelming, lamb ragu and good, fresh pasta. Great fresh pasta actually. I would go as far as to say that this is the best pasta I have eaten in London. Big claim! It was everything that anyone ordering a lamb pappardelle could have wished for. It made me feel like my basic demands for UK Italian restaurants were reasonable and achievable.

I know that it is not the done thing to out an unobtrusive local favourite but low-key, affordable, delicious food is hard to find and I feel obliged to acknowledge that I had a lovely time at Rosella and will certainly be going back for more.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What I Read: April 2015

The Blazing World - Siri Hustvedt

So this is very late... But at least I got it in before the end of May? Also, April was a busy month so things are a little sparse.
  • The Book of Life – Deborah Harkness: Given the limited time I have available for reading and the length of my To Read List, I don’t really understand how I ended up consuming this entire trilogy. It was mostly accidental, I certainly never paid for any of these; the pulp shelf, a library book, a loaned copy… The second one is quite fun but I didn't love any of them and the finale is a slog. It is/feels very long and the more enjoyable characters are largely absent. I am keen for bad ass witches in a mostly contemporary environment (although the Elizabethan time travel was the best part of this series – wish I got to say that more often) but I can’t recommend these in good faith.
  • Vivian Versus the Apocalypse – Katie Coyle: The internet (Tumblr especially) love Katie Coyle and I do too. She seems like a good, fun, interesting human and I'm psyched that she got picked up by a US publisher and is becoming a big deal. I have been meaning to read her first book, which won the Wattpad/Hot Key Books writing prize and was published in the UK a few years ago, forever and I'm glad I finally got around to it. The Rapture comes and there are holes in the roof of Vivian Apple’s family home, her parents are gone and she has to decide how to live without them. I think the concept is really smart, I love the Church of America and the zealous, conservatism of religious cults. I am thrilled that Vivian is neither a damsel in distress nor a goddess – she’s a confused, well behaved teenager trying to work out wtf is going on. Admittedly, this book didn't click with me emotionally but I'm happy that it exists and is being read.
  • Hons and Rebels – Jessica Mitford: I am a big Mitford family fan and I had owned this book for years and just, somehow, not got around to actually picking it up. This isn't a starter Mitford text (generally speaking I would recommend The Mitford Girls or The Pursuit of Love to newbies) but it is interesting to see Decca’s perspective. Like many of her sisters, she is an excellent writer and it is always fun to read about their lives. My own political affiliations are probably closest to Decca’s and I enjoyed her historical insights but, even in her own memoir, she is not always a sympathetic figure. Of course, if my sister was hanging out with Hitler I would probably be unforgiving but I did sometimes wish for a little more generosity. Also, the book closes shortly after the outbreak of WW2 and I wanted so much more. Still, always a pleasure to spend time with the Mitfords.
  • The Blazing World – Siri Hustvedt: It has been weeks and I am still processing this. It was a fascinating and frustrating reading experience and I struggled to finish the book but it made me think so much. It wasn't really an enjoyable read and there’s no one in my real life I would recommend it to but I'm glad I powered through. A female artist has not received the recognition that she believes she deserves so, after her art dealer husband’s death, she exhibits her work behind the mask of three male artists. The story is told through her journals and news articles and art world essays and interviews with the characters around her. There is a fictional editor – one of my least favourite tropes ever ever. The author smugly name-drops one of her own books at one point; for a lot of the book it feels like she is having more fun than the reader. The satire of the New York art world is amazingly acidic. The book could be a straight polemic against sexism, and ageism to a lesser degree, but Hustvedt resists the urge to simplify. Reality is complicated and there are a thousand factors to any outcome and I really respected the book’s unwillingness to be obvious or binary. I didn't find it comfortable but it made me really consider art and commerce and success and personality and media and gender and our own and cultural blind spots… It’s not nice but it is a deeply interesting book.