Friday, 20 January 2017

La La Land/ Manchester by the Sea

And so to La La Land.

I'll admit it's not exactly a bind to watch Ryan Gosling (I'd pay to see him peel potatoes) and I am a huge fan of Emma Stone (although I prefer in her brittle mode (the only good thing in Birdman) rather than preppy girl-next-door goofball that she seems to have cornered the market on) so seeing this was a no-brainer.  Plus, Whiplash was incredible, so I had high hopes that Damien Chazelle would not disappoint.

And all in all, he didn't. La La Land is a visually stunning homage to the golden era of Hollywood's musicals and all kudos to the cinematographer and DOP for creating such a rich tapestry of colour to brighten up our bleak old January days. Whilst I applaud the leads for their enthusiastic dancing and down to earth vocal abilities, I found the sudden switch from rom-com into musical numbers somewhat jarring. A clever idea to update what was considered a defunct genre, by simply dropping musical numbers into an otherwise untheatrical film - but I'm not sure it quite works. Perhaps because the musical numbers are largely forgettable (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's sing-a-long this aint) and don't really enhance the story - or maybe I'm just not as big a fan of musicals that I assumed I was... (I've seen Oliver! a million times, does that count?)

Yes it is charming, sweet and at times magical - the LA skyline at twilight a perfect backdrop to a blossoming romance. Stone's cartoonish features popping out, as bright as any dress she wears while she falls for the charms of Gosling - looking bemused in a way that only Gosling can, is delicious to watch. Then comes the ending and a flashback that left me feeling a tad confused.  Whilst the theatre emptied, I spent ten minutes with my buddies debating what we had just seen - who got their dream/'had it all' and who messed up? Who was to blame? What is the message of the film and how should we be feeling as we stumble out into the light? I'm still not sure I know the answers...

In short - it didn't move me. The only scene that made me feel at all emotional, was when Emma Stone questioned 'am I good enough?' There isn't a creative person who hasn't been there.  I wanted desperately to love it, to rave about it as much Whiplash - but I'm afraid I can't. To quote Len Goodman on Strictly I'd give it a SEV-EN out of ten.

Another film I was champing at the bit to see, was writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea - having adored an earlier film of his - You Can Count on Me.  Thankfully my husband agreed to spend his 40th birthday watching it (hell he was depressed anyway) so we grabbed some G and Ts and hunkered down at our old haunt at the Curzon Soho (as an aside £15 for a cinema ticket is scandalous. I mean really??).  Two hours plus later and waggled my sweaty fist at the screen, enraged that Casey Affleck's wonderfully natural performance of a man haunted by grief had gone from A to well... A. Where was the characterisation arc? Now I do understand that there are certain tragedies of life that no-one gets over - EVER, and perhaps this film is telling us that - but, in order for us to empathise with and champion a character, we need them in some way - no matter how small - to move forward over the course of 2 hours on screen or we feel somewhat cheated.

And Michelle Williams - a brilliant actress since her days in Dawson's Creek - is at her all time worst. There is a renowned scene where the two ex's meet - it should be utterly destroying to watch, knowing what they have endured - and yet all I could think was 'this needs more rehearsal - I don't believe her...'  Meanwhile, I got so bored of the endless shots of fishing boats and bizarre soundtrack that accompanied almost every other scene that I went to get another drink...

Longergan is a master at creating believable relationships between a kid and an unstable adult - this was the crux of You Can Count On Me - and whilst the awkward relationship between Affleck's character Lee and his nephew (played to perfection by Lucas Hedges) is beautifully characterised, it stays one note for 2 hours. Structurally we find out around half way through the film why Lee is so cut off from everyone and everything - and in knowing the secret behind 'The Lee Chandler' we have no more blanks to fill in. So we watch, hoping against hope that this broken man will find some light in his dark days, redemption perhaps in the guardianship of his nephew... Then the credits roll. Affleck will, perhaps deservedly, take home the Oscar for this come March, but I'm left wondering what he would have brought to a part that required him to be more than just dead behind the eyes for the film's duration?

Next up Moonlight - am hoping it will blow me away. Something's got to....

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Trying not to give a f**k

So January is here and with it half assed attempts at going dry and eating no bread and pretending there isn't half a tub of celebrations in your top drawer. The obligatory reports of 'big freezes' blow in and as we all tearfully watch Obama leave office we try and comfort ourselves with the knowledge that anyone, indeed any bloody clown, can become president - even one who hates women unless they are peeing on Russian hotel beds.

But I have a weapon in all the drudgery, to see me through the dreary weather and dealing with the expense of my Husband turning 40 (at bloody last) - it is a book, called 'The Life Changing Magic of not giving a F**k.' It is miraculous. My husband could have written it because he really doesn't give a f**k at all. He swears with abandon, leaves social gatherings the minute he feels he has talked/listened enough and keeps his distance from most people. At the heart of all this I suspect is just consummate laziness, but I admire his ability to let all things just slip off his shoulders. Of course  he gets grumpy about work, will be ENRAGED about Australia losing at any sporting event and will be anxious if the children or I are ill - but in general he doesn't give two hoots what others think or expect of him. While I will stew over a conversation, or worry about a potentially misunderstood text,  he just says 'f**k it.' Long have I sought to emulate his behaviour...

But I do give a f**k. About ridiculous shit - like: will the bosses like my script? Will I ever get another writing job? Can I even write? Do I look fat? Have I got lines finally appearing? What will happen when that baffoon is president and why did A Monster Calls not get any award noms when it is BEAUTIFUL? Is that mole on my neck cancerous? Am I now middle-aged? Will my house ever sell? Is everyone in my town looking at it online and judging my curtains? (Judging by the amount of people who ask me endlessly about my house sale this is a yes). Am I spending enough time with my children? Should I try and exercise today? What legacy am I leaving? Should I make more plans to see friends? It is winter I don't actually want to see anyone or leave my house but is that bad? What will I get my Mum for her 70th? Should I get a bikini wax? Why do I never get a ripe avocado? ETC. ETC.

Husband frequently says 'being in your head must be exhausting.' It is. That is why I blog. To spit it all out. So the book. It helps by telling you that you do NOT have an infinite amount of f**ks to give. So you have to choose VERY carefully what to give them to. Your mind is a barn apparently and you need to clear it all out of the mindless clutter and be very choosy about what you think about. That instead of wading into dangerous waters listening to other people wang on about stuff that they EXPECT you to give a f**k about - instead say 'everyone has an opinion' and run off. Quickly. It also teaches how you can not give a f**k and amazingly, thrillingly, at the same time, not be an asshole. This is new territory for me. Husband - he has this licked because for all his blunt Aussie tactlessness he still is not an asshole. Well, only sometimes. I'm at the part of writing out a f**k budget - and sorting my f**ks into categories, so I can work out where to spend/give them. Exciting isn't it?

Also, I can write up all the stuff I don't actually give a f**k about: your dreams. Ever. So don't tell me them. This includes my kids who frequently share their night time tales. Cars - they go from A to B, never seen the point of being excited by them. Or indeed Jeremy Clarkson. That I haven't watched more than one season of Game of Thrones - or Breaking Bad. I will eventually but not yet. Fashion - I don't have the life that accompanies such great heels anymore - much as I would like to - and care whether or not ridiculous frayed denim trousers are 'in' or kitten/wedge/stiletto heels are very on point or whatever cool phrase it is - I no longer have the energy to do anything other than run around Zara and buy yet another pair of biker boots and a stripy top. Baking for school fairs. Sorry that is why Waitrose has baked buns, pre-made icing and chocolate buttons. Looking younger - I'm not.  Facebook politics and liking updates - better to just come off it and free the mind. Taylor Swift - she is no Madonna is she? That I probably drink too much. I am a parent. It comes with the territory. That I can't cook. I married someone who can cook - winning! Instagram - I don't care about curated lives that took 7 filters and 2 hours to perfect. I actually miss the old days of waiting in the queue at Boots for your holiday pics only to discover the flash never worked in half of them. Christmas - overrated, high on effort low on return. Valentine's day - I mean really, who actually appreciates this day apart from teenagers and even then it is torture when the deliveries in school show up the fact you got one card from the kid with the sniffle and head lice while your best mate got 10?

Go on - try it. Buy the book and start your lists. Before you know it, it will be February and you will be too busy not celebrating Valentine's day to care. You can thank me later. But only if you give a f**k.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017


So 2017 is here - and if ever a year was more yearned for I have yet to remember it.

Everyone lamented the tragic untimely deaths of many much loved stars in 2016 and combined with the disturbing results of Brexit and Trump's election, it seemed there was little joy to be had. Personally I found it a bit of a slog - losing Prince felt like a little light went out - never again would I play 'hunt the gig' to find him playing in some sweaty corner of London, never again would I watch him immerse himself in music.... there isn't a day goes by when I don't think about him. 

Then came a knee injury that still plagues me, followed my some family discord and then I discovered an ex had died after a horrific battle with cancer that left him paralysed for over a year. He was a good person, a kind person, a father of two. His second child born just as he was diagnosed. I still think about a blog he wrote - saying the hardest part was telling his 8 year old son he wasn't going to make it. Then came the news that a man I had known at 16, had spent a year or more writing to - he was 32 - who had taken me for cider and treated me as an equal - who had never touched me (largely because there was a great big sea between us) had been found guilty of sexual offences - with a 15 old, whilst he was 57. My flesh crawled. Deep down, back then, I knew that his intensions weren't right, weren't appropriate, but the fact he was a plane ride away somehow made me feel safe in the distance. An odd one to get my head around.... how many others?

But a flick through my photos on my phone and I remembered there were indeed many brilliant moments: starting with a hysterectomy (hey two nights away from home is a vacation in my book) - that gave me a new lease of life, a buddy over from Australia prompting a great gathering of mates in March, Easter hols in Ireland catching starfish, taking my daughter to see Matilda, a sunny weekend in York with car keys locked in our boot in April, a brilliant 25 year school reunion in June, a wonderful summer - my last in Ireland for a while - and a white Christmas in Austria.

The older I get the more I realise life isn't about always being happy, always striving towards goals or attaining things we think are going to magic everything better - it is about the small moments, that we should try and find in every day. It's about appreciating the now, our health, the coffee in front of us, the sun in the sky, the book waiting to be read. I don't have resolutions this year. I never stick to them - but I am going to be more in the moment. I am going to give less of a fuck. I am going to only give my time to those I feel are there to enhance my life, who are genuine and fun.... I am going to try and be a bit kinder to myself, especially in my ever fretful head. I have to remind myself that over my 20 year career I have been a barmaid, gap girl, journalist, presenter, reporter, film reviewer, AP, script editor,  life coach and writer - so I've always found a way to muddle through - I always will. I may not be the richest person but dear god I have fun. Plus I've always had great buddies. I've always had great health. That makes me one lucky girl. 

So here's to 2017 - may it be memorable, this time, for the right reasons.

CM x