What was the last film you watched? – Victoria and Abdul

Victoria and Abdul PosterWay back when – when ‘drama’ wasn’t twitter beef or insta hashtags, but something people did for entertainment and to win a goat (actual facts, look it up), there were two main types.

Comedy

Tragedy.

Comedies would be filled with lots of little mishaps, but inevitably ended up with a cathartic happy ending.

Tragedies – didn’t. They would be filled with comedic elements, but make you cry your little eyes out. And the British – if I do say so myself – are really bloody good at comic tragedies. Victoria and Abdul is an example of this.

 

Here’s why: (PS. Spoilers)

The screenshot opens in Agra, our lead (played by Ali Fazal) begins his morning with prayer. The camera then follows him walk through Agra to where he works, following his feet with only a few shots of his face. We meet exactly one English soldier on his way to work, who is rude and obnoxious and calls Abdul Karim and ‘idiot’. Now, English comedy (at least from where I’m sat) has always played on how aware it is of the classic ‘Englishman’. Here we have a British film, showing the audience how ridiculous British-isms are. There’s no doubt the Englishman is rude, but Abdul carries on his way – showing that this behaviour is the norm, the English ruin everything (even a nice walk to work) and everyone else just ignores them.

This is then carried on for the next sixteen minutes, hammering home the idea that English traditions are completely underwhelming or simple-minded to those looking from the outside in. There’s a great juxtaposition between the two ‘Hindus’ as they keep being called. One is excited to be in England, one can’t wait to be home. This second character (played by Adeel Akhtar) even goes as far as to compare the English to ‘Barbarians’ because of what they put in sausages. The two Indian men are told their new costumes were designed to look ‘authentic’ even when Abdul points out they’re nothing like the traditional costumes. And they look so bored!

As course after course of food comes out, there are casual side glances, rolling eyes, stares, and sighs. All little details that show how disappointing the whole thing is. But what makes this absolutely genius is Queen Victoria (played by the true queen herself Judi Dench) is asleep. She’s awoken to receive a coin, makes eye contact Abdul and the opening titles (16 minutes in mind…) flash across the screen practically screaming – this is it. This is the relationship that could save her. If you’d like to know more about their true relationship, Vanity Fair has written an amazing article all about it.

The queen is, at this moment in her life anyway, bloody miserable. Her husband is dead, her lover is dead, her children are horrible and she’s sick of being bossed around. She’s clearly dying of boredom and because the English can’t help themselves, there are even jokes about her constipation. But here is this person, a complete contrast to everyone she knows. He’s excited to talk about carpets, to teach her his language, to talk about what being a Muslim is like and she’s revived by his enthusiasm. She encourages him to bring his wife to England, and unlike everyone else, isn’t terrified of this woman whose face is covered up or different. It’s exciting. And it’s lovely to watch.

Image result for opening scenes of Abdul and VictoriaWhich means the moments of contrast are stark and terrifying.

Servants shutting doors in Abdul’s face, being put in cold and isolating dorms, but most importantly – the constant backstabbing.

Bertie, Prince of Wales (played by Eddie Izzard) is a nasty, scheming little man who begins with the household – who already are at odds with Abdul – and then with Abdul’s friend Muhammed.

This is where Muhammed becomes my favourite character. His speech to the Prince is 10/10. He refuses to sell out his friend, well aware that he is dying because of the awful English weather. He’s proud of his friend for playing the game so well, and when he dies (I did warn about spoilers) the English are there to ruin it again.

Because everyone is so focused on making sure the queen is okay, his death passes with only two moments of note. The first is when Abdul’s serving boy runs up to Abdul to tell him about Muhammed, and the next moment is his funeral. I was seconds away from tears.

Abdul is then alone – as his wife and mother-in-law get 0 lines – with only the queen to protect him. The court are on his back constantly, looking for any reason to have him removed. And once the queen dies, he’s sent back to India and all of the letters and journals they shared together where destroyed. Now I’m for real crying. Damn you. Damn you cinema!

The film comes full circle, with Abdul waking up in Agra, and then walking through the streets. He returns to the Taj Mahal gardens, where a large statue of Queen Victoria has been put up and he keeps his promise to stay by her side. And isn’t that bloody lovely/heartbreaking.

I spent a lot of time talking about the money with Big Hero 6 – because I wanted to make a point that whilst I didn’t like it, clearly others must because it rolled in the dollar as it were. Victoria and Abdul have done pretty well, grossing $61,000,000 worldwide so far. I, personally, think it’s worth all of the awards. And has redeemed Stephen Frears after Tamara Drewe for me.

Let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree or if you want to share your opinion. See you tomorrow!

Is there anyone you’ve ever given up on?

The sad truth of it is, there’s going to be people in your life who let you down or let you go. And the trick isn’t to avoid those people or those who remind you of them, but to recognise why it happened and whether it’s likely to happen again. Being hurt is part of life, but being hurt repeatedly from not learning from the mistake isn’t.

Let me put in context for you: I had two very close friends. We’ll call them February and January.

January’s mum and mine had met at mother/toddler group. We’d fight like sisters, screaming and shouting, but we’d play for hours. We love each other. We’re still friends. Because regardless of all the times we’ve made each other cry, or said the wrong thing or hurt each other’s feelings, we’ve got ten times the amount of moments of joy and happiness we’ve shared. She’s family.

February and I met at school. To begin with, she was the closest friend I had. We were both nervous about being at secondary and we found comfort in our awkward dorkiness. We’d argue too, scream, shout, berate each other. Promise we’d never speak again and then make up two minutes later. But February made friends with other people too, and she listened to the things they said about me. She sided with them, refused to hear my side of arguments and spread rumours about me.

It took me a long time to see the difference between February and January, but it was clearer to me, the older I got and the nastier February was. I had to let that friendship go because it wasn’t good for me. It hurt my self-esteem having my ‘friend’ spread nasty rumours about me, call me names and encourage people to mock me. Especially because we’d been so close for so long.

But now, when I meet people who remind me of her I keep them at arm’s length until they show more ‘January’ about themselves. That loyalty and kindness. That friendship that shows familial compassion.

Because you learn – unfortunately, a little too late – that friends from school are your friends because you see them every day. The friends that last are cut from a different cloth. Diamonds in the rough. And like diamonds, those bonds can’t be broken by anything. Time. Distance.

January lives abroad now – but she calls. She writes. I was the bridesmaid at her wedding. I don’t even know where February lives, or if her number is the same. I don’t really care. I wish the best for her, and hope the feeling is mutual. But I doubt it.

 

Who are your favourites on Youtube?

Below are all the Youtuber’s which aren’t just my favourites – but I 100% recommend and why. So, in no particular order…

ListiclesWhat Culture 

Matt Holmes began What Culture as a direct response to Superman Lives being terrible in 2006. Since then, their web content has ballooned into covering Films, Television, Sports, Gaming, Comics, Science and more. They welcome new content from smaller names, paying per article and the team behind the youtube content know exactly how to keep you interested in films you thought you’d heard everything about already. They review, critique and list quirks about films into nice little bites of awesome perfect for those ‘in-between’ moments like bus-rides and toilet breaks. 10/10 would recommend.

Community Queen USAMeghan Tonjes

This Goddess is the epitome of the Hussle Hard. She’s founded body positive collaborations, appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show, featured as Catherine The Great in an Epic Rap Battle (nominated for 2016 Streamy Award), has the voice of an angel, the wisdom to recognise trash and the compassion to explain why it’s trash eloquently. And who can forget #bootyrevolution? She knows what she’s about, encourages confidence, and makes me want to be a better human being. So yes. Flame Emoji. Heart Eyes Emoji.

Community Queen UKLex Croucher 

This wonderful human being always seems to predict exactly the content I was waiting for; whether it’s a rationalized and eloquent opinion on the politicised advertisements from Lush, Feminism, Sexy Darth Vader or discharge. She’s one of the few youtubers that I’ve seen encouraging her ‘community’ to engage by engaging with them via twitter on a regular basis – rather than just posting and not responding. She’s the most humane human being on the entire site. #Queen.

NewsPhil Defranco

If you’re ever feeling lost or exhausted by the constant barrage of anti-Muslim media, or Fox and Friends pretending the world isn’t fucking bleak – turn to the Defranco show. Before the PDS, there was SXEPhil. An opinionated hot-headed Italian boy with backward facing caps, too many volatile reactions, and clickbait titles. But over the last ten years or so, Phil’s let people into his world via the vlogs and BTS videos and become one of the few places I go for my news without worrying about ‘fake news’ or biased media. His opinions are still part of what makes his narration of events interesting, but the teenage angst has become something productive and considerate. And the team that works with him are second to none. I hope one day I can buy them all a drink to thank them for their service to the industry (as ick as I’ve made that sound).

“News, it’s what we do here.”

ComedyMike Falzone

I was (metaphorically) introduced to Mike Falzone through his time on SourceFed. He’d had a career as a muscian and youtuber previous, but he was coming into his comedy and stand up career which has since exploded. I’m just waiting for him to come to the UK so I can see him live. That’s the dream. He’s got a show called Mike in the Morning which is a parody of all those boring AF morning and daytime shows – which includes such elements as ‘Reading Tweets from Far Away’ and ‘Bad Furniture’. I’ve contributed to the latter with a gross sink I found on the road with a leaf in it. Mike responded by calling it ‘lovely’. Which made my day.

Video EssaysLindsay Ellis 

So, it’s no secret amongst my friends that I’m obsessed with video essays – and I blame Lindsay Ellis and her ‘Nostalgia Chic’ for getting me hooked in the first place. If you’re not sure if video essays are going to be your thing, have a flick through her content. I’d put money on you finding something worth your time. Nazi imagery in Star Wars maybe? Or the gender battles of Transformers? What about how Rent is the worst musical? Or the history of the Hunchback of Notredam? She’s got something for everyone, I promise.

So who are your faves? Leave me a comment below with any recommendations you’ve got!

Do you believe in Luck? (Nerd Alert)

Luck
noun
  1. success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

Luck – as we understand it from the above definition – is quite a modern concept. From as late as the 1500’s we’ve wished each other ‘Good Fortune’ – thanks to the Dutch and Germans from whom we stole the words. But the idea that we rely on ‘luck’ to achieve what we want is only a hundred and fifty years old or so.

Before that, if we wanted something we’d have to manoeuvre things to suit our needs; whether that’s work hard, work smart, network with the right people, develop skills or gain cultural capital: this is very much my mentality.

When I studied A Level Psychology, we completed several small experiments and one in particular which is relevant to ‘luck’ is whether you’re a ‘Type A’ or ‘Type B’ personality.

 

Type A Personalities generally:

  1. Live at a higher stress level, feel the pressure of time to work flat out.
  2. Enjoy the achievement of goals, especially if they’re deemed ‘difficult’ to achieve.
  3. Find it difficult to stop once they’ve achieved these goals
  4. More competitive. Hate failure.

Type B Personalities generally:

  1. Live at a lower stress level.
  2. Do not stress goals unachieved, do not fear failure but enjoy the ‘taking part’ process.
  3. Are more likely to be creative and enjoy exploring new ideas and concepts.
  4. Are more likely to be reflective.

Thanks to Changing Minds.

This means Type A Personalities are less prone to believing in luck – they’ll deconstruct failures and take credit for successes, whereas Type B Personalities tend to be the types of people who say ‘that’s life, I guess’ or ‘that’s the way the cookie crumbles’ – attributing their success or failures not to their actions but to a ‘greater, uncontrollable plan’.

And as a control freak – that’s just not acceptable to me.

So back to the psychology experiment –

We sat in a circle and my teacher asked us to look at a selection of cards with three lines on. One was longer than the others and we had to answer which one was longest. Now, I was unaware that the first three people would answer honestly, the fourth person would pick a line at random, and the rest of class then had to copy that fourth person. As the experiment continued, and we got the 8th or 9th card, I was getting more irritated that people didn’t seem to be taking this experiment seriously, just copying each other.

My teacher revealed the experiment was on me – and that I’m a Type A personality because I refused to follow the crowd in case they were wrong. And this is a mentality I’ve carried with me ever since.

That’s not to say I’m not creative, or reflective. But I do reflect over both my successes and my failures, working out what I could have done differently to improve. As a teacher and a writer, this is a key skill. No point on relying on Luck to get me published.

The Greeks used to believe in The Fates – but they didn’t ‘help’ people. People’s fates were usually tragic – and I don’t need that kind of drama in my life. I’ll continue to work hard so that my success is of my own making – because luck might not be recreated, but hard work can be.

Do you agree? Or do you believe in Luck? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Have you ever been on an aeroplane?

I have, a few times actually.

When I was growing up – a lot of our holidays were either in Scotland, the Lake District or France. Mum’s family have family in Southern France, so we did a lot of EuroCamp and Villa Holidays. Which meant a lot of driving, no flying. Whilst we were ‘comfortable’ enough to have a holiday every year, flying out just seemed out of reach financially – especially as there was five of us (parents and two younger brothers). But also, I think my parents were worried about taking younglings on a plane. We’d either hate it, and be bratty. Or we’d love it and get overexcited. And nothing says ‘the holiday has begun’ quite like screaming children.

Image result for Menorca

But my parents had spent their honeymoon in Menorca, and wanted to spend their 10th anniversary returning there. But, because we’ve never been on time for anything, they missed it and went on their 12th anniversary – taking us kids with them. I’d have been 10, my brothers 8 and 6. Old enough to recognise the ‘look’ our parents had for when we were being bratty in public, and that we’d pay for it in private.

I remember being nervous. I was sitting in the window seat, with my dad next to me and my mum and brothers behind us. My dad didn’t take my hand, but told me it would be fun. The engine was so loud. The plane shook like an old bus and then we were shooting down the runway and into the air. People cheered and whooped, which made me giggle. And I was fine after that. The landing was a bit bumpy, but the ride between England and Menorca was just like being on a loud bus, and that analogy has stuck with me every time I’ve flown since.

Strange coincidence but for a long time, the only place I flew to began with the letter M.

Menorca. Morocco. Margarita (an Island of Venezuela). Maldives, The.

We did, as a family, branch out into other letters like R: Rome. Romania.

And my first trip without my parents was to New York – because I’m a white girl. Basic to the bone.

Of course, that was a drama all of its own. When we arrived at the airport, my friend and I were so excited about flying to New York. It’s a dream destination – everyone’s been and everyone recommends it. And it’s in all the movies and television shows and it’s full of excitement and money and WOW. So we’re sat in the gatehouse, waiting for our flight and the news is playing on a massive widescreen television. The headline? ‘American Airline Plane Catches Fire on Runway.

Who are we flying within ten minutes? American Airlines. My friend starts freaking out because the woman behind us (having seen the news) has started hyperventilating.

And I say something that could only come from my mouth because I’ve spent time with my dad. “Well. It’s unlikely to happen twice in two days.” That did not make people feel better – FYI. But we made it to NY City in one piece. No exploding planes.

Image may contain: sky, skyscraper and outdoorSince then, each trip has felt more and more like being on a conveyer belt. This could, in part, be because each time I’ve flown I’ve had the airport security grope and man-handle me like I’ve got something hidden in my shirt. Some airports want you to take off your shoes, some don’t – and people get really snarky if you’re not aware of the rules specific to the airport you’re in. And I can understand why this has to be the case. But it doesn’t stop flying feeling like a loud, shakey conveyor belt. I’m not one of those people who ‘loves traveling’ because of the travel. It’s not ‘the journey’ for me. But the experience of being there. Eating their food, walking their shores. Planes are just the awkward bit in the middle.

So, yes I’ve been on an aeroplane. Yes, I’ll fly again (once I’m less poor). And who knows to where!

Got any suggestions? I’d love to hear them! See you soon!

What was the last film you watched? – Big Hero 6

Short answer: Big Hero 6

Long answer: Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6, Disney’s answer to Hero Movies, won an Oscar for Animation, made $56,000,000 dollars in its opening weekend and then went on to quadruple that in gross profit. It scored highly with critics and audiences alike, being described as ‘agreeably entertaining and brilliantly animated… briskly-paced, action-packed and often touching.’ 

Image result for big hero sixBut to be honest, and otherwise unhelpful, I wasn’t a massive fan. Let’s start with the plot:- (Spoilers)

We are introduced to Hiro Hamada through a robot battle. Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Robot Wars, Transformers, or Real Steel – this intro was for you. We’re brought in to think they’re giant robots doing battle, until the camera pans out and you see that it’s two people controlling their robots much like in the tv show Robot Wars. Except there’s no fun narration from Craig Charles. Hiro steps up to challenge the reigning champion and eventually wins. When the reigning champion acts like a child who’s had their favorite toy destroyed (because he essentially had that happen to him) he reacts to physical violence. Towards a 13-year-old. Now, up until this point (and we’re only a couple of minutes into this film), there hasn’t really been any danger for our protagonist, who we assume will be Hiro because he won and because he’s on some of the posters. It seems a bit extreme, but thankfully there’s an ex-machina ‘Older brother arrives on a moped to save the day’ moment so we can breathe a sigh of relief before watching a ridiculous non-car chase as the two brothers try to escape. I say try, because they both get arrested. Turns out, whilst battling robots isn’t illegal in San Fransokyo, gambling on these robot battles is. Who knew?

For the next ten minutes, we’re driven through the world through Tadisha Hamada’s eyes. He wants to encourage his brother to be a better person and to use his brain for something better. He wants to make his parents proud. He wants to show his brother his nerd school. And this is the bit where ‘fast-paced’ seems like a kind way to say ‘info-dump’.

When Tadisha takes his younger brother Hiro to his college/university, he introduces him one by one to Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred. We’re then introduced to Callaghan, the professor of the university. This all happens very quickly, and we’re shown details of differing personalities of each. Here’s my problem with this. There are now so many characters that I don’t really care about any of them.

Hiro is a moody teenager, pure and simple. Tadashi is the kind soul who wants the best for everyone. Their aunt Cass has two minutes screen time, repeats the same joke as Tadashi, and spends most of her time talking about food and hugging people. Go Go is cold and aloof. Wasabi is clearly OCD. Honey Lemon is over excitable and Fred is the classic frat party stoner (who we later find out is also a billionaire baby). And we’re introduced to all of this information in a succinct fashion because? Because the characters will be important, and these little idiosyncrasies are what make them the heroes they’re going to become? Also, Tadashi has been at this school long enough that he’s tested Baymax 84 times before he works. He’s got his own workspace, and these people are described as his best friends; so how does Hiro not know about them until now? Why does it take Tadashi getting arrested alongside his brother to introduce Hiro to this school? ‘For stories sake’ isn’t good enough in my opinion. And it means that at 23 minutes when Tadashi sacrifices himself to save someone and dies – I felt nothing. Sorry.

There’s a clumsiness to the writing I didn’t expect. Casual Frankenstein references. The fact that when Baymax needs charging, he acts drunk rather than sleepy. Why? For the slapstick comedy? Of which there isn’t really any in the rest of the film. There are a few moments where Disney makes an effort to subvert our expectations. When The Eye of the Tiger starts playing, this is the moment when Hiro has no ideas or plan at all. Baymax makes a funny noise when he does the fist bump and has to deflate and inflate himself, which did make me giggle. But it was difficult to have an emotional attachment to anything other than Baymax. Hiro is clearly consumed by anger, and it’s only his friends that keep him from becoming Callaghan or another villain of the same ilk. And the fact Baymax becomes sentient enough to stop Hiro from removing his care chip. (That’s never explained by the way).

There were five other American/British CG Animated films to come out that year. The Book of Life (Net $99.8 mil), The Boxtrolls ($108 mil), How To Train Your Dragon 2 ($618.9 mil), Penguins of Madagascar ($373.6 mil) and Postman Pat the Move (£8.6 mil).

I’ve included the amount these films made to show that actually, Big Hero 6 ($222.5 mil) was average. I don’t expect Disney to be average. Disney should be miles ahead. The Book of Life is majority 20th Century Fox, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 + Penguins of Madagascar are Dreamworks and Fox. I’m not including that to slander either company. Far from it, they’re big games in animation. And that’s why I expect more from Disney. They are the company for classic children’s storytelling through animation. But even though Big Hero 6 is PG, it doesn’t really feel like it’s for kids. Certainly not kids old enough to understand the emotional distress Hiro is feeling, because he refuses to feel it. He shoves it out of the way until it’s useful in problem-solving. Or Baymax finally explains what he means by ‘Tadashi is here’ and shows the video he’s somehow recorded and saved.

I’d like this film more if:

1. Tadashi did something to engage the audience more than just save his brother. Like maybe being the sole caregiver, until Aunt Cass steps in once he’s died.

2. We got more time to get to know the friends and the university.

3. Everyone had known Fred had money and that was a joke from the start, rather than ex-Machina millions.

4. Baymax had had more personality. It is, after all, fictitious. He could be more sentient before he decides to protect his care chip.

So no, I wouldn’t spend any more money on this film or any sequels hereafter. I probably wouldn’t watch it again unless it was the only thing on television, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to a friend.

Let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree or if you want to share your opinion. See you next week!

Are you overweight?

Short answer: Yes.

Slightly Longer answer:

I’m a size 18/20. I’m 5’5″, 101 Kilos/15st. BMI wise, that puts me squarely in the ‘obese’ section. But here’s the thing:

I can run up several flights of stairs before being out of breath. I gym twice a week. I eat healthily. And making progress in these areas are more important to me than my BMI. My brother is a foot taller than me, weighs the same and his BMI says he is just a little overweight. He spends a lot of time in the gym too, as well as working at a desk like I do. And something he’s helped me realise is,

We carry fat. We’re not ‘fat’.

In 2014, Toodaloo Katie wrote a great blog on ‘Being the same size but different shapes.’ She explored how she’d hated wearing jeans or things like that because of her shape.

Now – we’ve got plus size models like Ashley Graham blazing the way with an incredible body and incredible positivity. And I’m so thankful because there have been times when I’ve felt worthless because of my size and shape.

When I was younger, and my mum hates me telling this story but at least we can rip of this band-aid early, I used to play rugby. Several times a week actually, I was a good little prop. Stocky, short, strong. But I was heavy. A heavy, heavy, size twelve. All boobs and hips and thighs and a strong core.

So one week I had a boy in my room that I liked, just hanging out. And my mum came in to tell me I had to get ready for rugby.

“No, it’s okay. I’m going to miss it today. Paul’s here.” aka “NAAAH LOOK AT HOW HOT HE IS! Don’t make me leave…”

But my mum missed the subtext – clearly – and turned to me and said “You really need to go. It’s fitness training and you weigh as much as I did when I was pregnant with you.”

Ten years later, and I still have that voice telling me ‘you really need to’. Need to lose weight, need to put on makeup, need to hide your body, your skin, your stretch marks. And I’m so much bigger now than I was then. The difference now is I have body positive people like Meghan Tonjes, Tonsablush, Rebel Wilson being fierce. To have body-positive people out there is so important because sometimes the stigma of being overweight is internalised and that needs repairing.

Yes, I’m overweight. No, I’m not going to stop going out and dressing how I like because you know what – I’m okay with it. And if you’re not, maybe that’s something you need to consider about yourself.

Who is your favourite Director?

Okay, so, I did a bit of research into this because I thought the answer was going to be super simple and then it wasn’t. And the reason it wasn’t is that people aren’t super simple. Our tastes change as we grow and learn, but the styles and techniques of the films we love have been immortalised and don’t change. Obviously.

I’m not a film theorist, but something I do enjoy doing is watching video essays exploring film theory, specifically screenplay analysis and critical theories I’m familiar with within literature put towards the visual medium. I promise, if this isn’t the kind of thing you’re looking for, I’m not going to to go in heavy with this stuff (even though I love it!). But if you are interested, I’d recommend checking out the following youtubers: Lindsay Ellis, Lessons from a Screenplay, and Nerdwriter1. But it’s due to my over-zealous nerdiness that I found choosing my favourite director so difficult. It’s no longer about just watching a film and thinking ‘Good Job! – I enjoyed that’, because I’m more aware of the work they’ve put into it.

So here are some honourable mentions:

John Hughes: 

I went through a phase of only watching John Hughes films on repeat, and considering I’m a being with a very short attention span, I think that says a lot! It was all about the dialogue, the soft colours, (sometimes musical interludes) and the sincerity of the stories Hughes crafted. 10/10 John. Would recommend.

Wes Craven: 

“Wes Craven has become synonymous with genre bending and innovative horror, challenging audiences with his bold vision.” – that’s straight from his IMDB page. For me, it was the intelligence it invoked in the audience watching his many, many films and television shows. The Twilight Zone, Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street. His horror films make you feel intelligent with the dialogue and plotting, before pulling the rug from under you and scaring the living daylights out of you. And it’s psychological enough that you don’t have to worry about it not being terrifying on a second viewing.

Sophia Coppola: 

I would describe Coppola as an ‘auteur’ – AKA a director creating content that explores authorship in contrast to the ‘shallow superficiality of Hollywood’ (thanks Lindsay Ellis). She’s a great director, with a distinguished style and personality. And the interior meaning within the work is inherently feminine – which for me is important because I don’t believe femininity should be considered a negative trait at all. She was the first female director on my list when I started thinking about my favourites (which says something about the very heavily masculine world she’s working in). She was almost usurped by Patti Jenkins or Lone Scherfig who arguably have more works and more recent works worth noting, but she’s the queen for me.

Okay so – for the favourite directors:

I took a few things into account when curating this list. The first was the emotional and psychological impact these directors had on me as I grew up. The second was the adult analysis of their skills (with what little qualifications I have on that) and the third was, petty, but the sheer number of 10/10 in their portfolio.

3. Edgar Wright. 

I’ve not met an aesthetic I’ve liked as much as Edgar Wright’s. And if you’re unsure what I mean then check out this video that goes through it. The man is a genius. His style lends itself so perfectly to visual comedy (another video if you’re into it) but he’s also not afraid to let his audience feel. Baby Driver has some really dark moments, framed in bright colours with white noise so you can feel them without feeling rushed to move on with the plot. Hot Fuzz gives you the complete understanding of the main character’s isolation from a short montage of images. Wright spent days filming one shot for Shaun of the Dead because it had to be perfect. His detail orientated, character-driven stories and authenticity are what makes him so bloody fantastic! (in my humble opinion).

2. Joss Whedon. 

Joss Whedon is not a nice person. He’s “allegedly” fired actors for getting pregnant, cheated multiple times, emotionally abused his wife, he’s included rape subplot storylines that seem to be there for the pure conflict of it all, clearly isn’t as pro-feminist as he’d like to be, and his main characters might be female, but they’re tiny and they’re put through the absolute shitter. Excuse my language. But Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly, Serenity, and Doctor Horrible are all a part of who I am as a person now. And he directed that shit so…

1. Ang Lee. 

I didn’t even know Ang Lee had such an important role in my film tastes until I looked into it. His subtle genius has given us the best adaptation of my favourite Austen story Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Do you know how good a film has to be to get a ten year old interested in subtitled films!? And before Marvel created the MCU, Ang Lee gave us Hulk – a film way before it’s time, science fiction and fantasy, action and intrigue. The man’s a genius and well deserving of all his awards an accolades. He is an auteur, and his films are classics for good reason. He’s my number 1.

Do you use Sarcasm?

Who? Me? Never…

I can only assume I started using sarcasm in primary school, and only because that’s where I learnt hitting people wasn’t ‘nice’. Even if they deserved it.

So I reserved the right to roll my eyes, make a cutting remark or sneer in derision. That’s actually where the word ‘sarcasm’ comes from – the Greek verb Sarkazein which meant ‘to tear flesh like a dog’, before evolving to mean ‘gnash one’s teeth’ or ‘to sneer’. Look it up. 

So I wasn’t so much taming my bad mood, as replacing my armoury. I’m trying to pinpoint a particular time I was sarcastic that doesn’t (out of context certainly) make me look like a massive bitch. It’s proving tricky.

I know when I started at one of the schools I taught at, I was told not to use sarcasm with any of my students. And I thought, in that moment, ‘that’s half my teaching practice – what am I going to do?’ The headmaster insisted that I shouldn’t use sarcasm because the student’s ‘didn’t understand it’. But if I was using sarcasm since primary school, these secondary school kids should surely recognise it?

I think there’s an intrinsic honesty to sarcasm that students can appreciate. Maybe not when it’s directed at them, but on the whole. But I do agree there’s a time and place for it. Responding ‘yeahhhhh…’ when a student asked if he was my favourite student is one thing. Responding ‘Nooo…’ when asked if you went drinking at the weekend would be different.

But I’m a very sarcastic person – because it amuses me – but I’m also (some would argue blindly) optimistic. And when I say ‘you can do it!’ sometimes I’d get looks from my students questioning whether I was being sarcastic or not. Which is fair. They get a constant stream of critique; from teachers, parents and their peers. But the way I see it, if I’m an intrinsically sarcastic person, but even I think this praise is warranted, it must be.

Also – and thank you Smithsonian for this tidbit of support for my continued use of sarcasm – being able to recognise sarcasm is a sign of a strong creative mind, able to problem solve quickly and more efficiently. So to anyone I’ve been sarcastic with, you’re welcome.

Do you use sarcasm? Let me know, and like and follow!

Have you ever done a prank call?

My friend’s house wasn’t like my house. My house wasn’t clean, but at least there was colour. Her’s was brown, and brown, and beige. Maybe there were more colours, and I don’t remember any more. In my mind’s eye, everything was brown in the way every council house has a faded brown and red upholstered sofa, with brown detailing which might have been ‘golden’ when the sofa was new, and leather sofa-cushions that deflate the moment you sit on them mimicking the deep sigh the adults release when they finally get to sit. Beige linoleum flooring in the kitchen, with brown rings where the cat bowl was put. Beige walls with scuff marks and posters in frames chipped corners and ring marks. Net curtains you could see in through. Waste of time if you ask me.

But for all the brown, it’s where I liked to be. In her room, on her bed, watching her straighten her long – don’t call it ginger – hair. Freckles on her nose. Blue eyes she’s pop wide to make me laugh. White shirt, untucked. School kilt – yeah we had those even in 2003 – rolled up around the waist like a thick belt. Or a thick belt with studs on, half the studs missing because she played with it. Black eyeliner, only on the bottom waterline of the eye. Mascara. Lipgloss if you were feeling fancy. And the strong smell of hairspray, to keep it straight.

For her birthday she had a sleepover, about six girls crammed into a small living room in front of the television to watch The Ring. Not a good film. But in the dark, girls crept out of their sleeping bags and hid upstairs with her mum, one by one, until it was just she and I left. The girls came back when the film ended, and my mum called to say good night. It scared the crap out of everyone, except me – who could see the caller ID.

It gave us an idea though. We could prank call someone. Anyone. Pick a number at random. So we did. Put in our area code and then six random numbers. No idea who it could be. It was late too, some people didn’t bother answering. Finally, someone did. She put on a voice, we tried not to laugh. They got angry, asked who it was. We laughed out-loud and hung up. Continued with a couple more numbers. Called people we knew, told them our friends fancied them. Or we knew where they lived. Or that their car had been stolen.

Then the first person called us back. Asked to speak to her mum.

We’d forgotten to do that 1471 thing – where you block your number. Her mum went mad. Not just because we’d wound people up late at night, but because we didn’t pay the phone bill. How long had we been doing for? Who knew. We kept pretty quiet after that.

When I went home, my mum asked what we’d gotten up to – and I told her about The Ring and how her phone call had freaked everyone out. She laughed, so I left it there and didn’t tell her about the prank calls. That was kid stuff anyway.