Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The New Year Binge: Top 5 Televisual Treats

After all my talk of catching up on blogging, I've let it slide a little. To be fair, I've been catching up on other things: learning to drive has been the biggest one, but I've also been catching up on my telly watching. February is a bumper month for birthdays and upcoming gigs, so January has involved a fair few quiet weekends to save pennies and mentally prepare.

Thankfully, we've had plenty to watch to keep us going. In case you missed it, I wrote this piece about my top five romantic horror films and the Christmas DVD pile has been solidly worked through. I wrote about the best of my January film binge in my last proper post, and while this one is continuing in the same vein, I'm going to be focusing firmly on the small screen. Well. I say 'small screen', but my boyfriend's TV is pretty huge. It's proven quite hit and miss with DVDs and blu-rays: some older films which haven't gotten a proper transfer look a bit shonky and cheap. However, the amount of quality televisual viewing has thankfully fared much better...

1. American Horror Story: Coven

I've been obsessed with American Horror Story since I first clapped eyes on series one. I love a classic haunted house story, and its creeping pace meant its growing roster of characters never felt messy. I initially loved the second series, 'Asylum', but unlike its predecessor it spiraled out of control: it seemed like some plots were shoehorned into an endings while some were frustratingly unresolved. I loved it while watching it though, as mental health practices are something of an interest of mine.

I was super excited for 'Coven', the third series which promised witches, voodoo, the mystical setting of N'yawleans and Stevie Nicks. Oh, and a plethora of amazing, all-black outfits. What wasn't to like? Jessica Lange was pretty much flawless as always, and the inclusion of Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates dropped in some serious star wattage and acting chops. Every time they were on screen, they killed it. I was also thrilled to see the return of the teen romance between Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters, our star-crossed lovers from series one.

So far, so good right? Hmm. The series dragged along without much in the way of development and the finale was a hollow anticlimax. The characters seemed a bit more one dimensional than in previous series. As much as I loved the style, there just wasn't enough substance to back it up. However I've now developed an obsession with shawls thanks to Misty Day: Fleetwood Mac and scarf afficionado and possibly my favourite character in the series.

2. Sleepy Hollow

The boy and I used to do a double bill and watch this alongside AHS. It really highlighted the difference between the two, although this seemed to fly under the radar a little more. If you're looking for a substitute for the AHS-shaped hole, and want to fill it with something altogether more fulfilling, check out Sleepy Hollow. This series transports Ichabod Crane to modern day Sleepy Hollow after 200 years underground and teams him up with sassy local cop Abbie Mills, who's got mysteries of her own to solve. The whole 'displaced guy out of time' might seem a little hackneyed, but bear with it. It mixes a fish out of water story with ancient mythology and real life historical events, and the result is entirely satisfying.

If you need further convincing, this is Ichabod Crane. He never actually changes out of his 18th Century garb. Ye olde swoone.

The final was a double episode and, unlike AHS, didn't drag once and left me on serious tenterhooks for series two. I found it bizarre that fewer people have seen it: every episode introduces new elements into the overarching storyline without it feeling cluttered or overly complicated. The supporting cast feature a who's who of Hollywood 'that guys': most notably John Noble as a sin eater, which leads us nicely into my next watch...

3. Fringe

We've had this on DVD for a while and never quite got around to watching it. After devouring our other shows, we put it on 'just to see what it's like'. I'm giving it some leeway: I never find it fair to judge a series too heavily on its first outing and Fringe comes with a pretty good pedigree.

So far, the characters all seem fairly archetypal: wooden FBI agent Olivia, institutionalised mad scientist Walter Bishop and his smart-alecky son, Peter have all yet to come into their own but we're only five episodes in. It has echoes of X Files, Joss Whedon and (according to the boy) Alphas, which is definitely enough to intrigue me back for five more series.

4. Supernatural Season 9

I know I'm going to sound like a total fangirl/ Tumblr user here but I LOVE SUPERNATURAL. Seriously. I made it through eight series in the space of about six months. Considering that each series is about 24 episodes long, it's no mean feat. Yet again it was something the boy put on as he'd watched it all and, after dismissing it, we'd found ourselves with nothing else to watch. I'd dismissed it as Vampire Diaries-esque cheesy teen fodder, but it's so much better than that.

The first five series follow a definite arc and it's clear to see that the show wasn't expected to go on further: series 6 and 7 were bloated and messy, but it found its feet again with Series 8 and we're currently halfway through 9. It's progressed rapidly from 'ghost/hot chick of the week' episodes to full blown apocalyptic battles, angels vs demons, time travel, heavenly prophets, ancient mythology, breaking the fourth wall and even a spot of LARPing.

If I had one major complaint about this show, it'd be its lack of fully rounded female characters: it veers towards misogyny on occasion and female characters tend to be a bit one-dimensional. However, if you can get over that, it's spooky, occasionally gory and always entertaining. Plus, they did nail one female character in the form of Charlie (Felicia Day). If it wasn't for heavenly babe Castiel she might well be my favourite.

She gets me. I could just pinch her wee cheeks.

5. Firefly

I mentioned Serenity in my last post, and how I'd finally caught up with the rest of the world. As soon as I watched one episode of Firefly, I was hooked. However, I did have to make that most crucial of decisions: as much as I wanted to binge on it, I also didn't want it to go away. I managed to pad out my viewing by revisiting Twin Peaks but, alas, it was still over too soon.

I had initially been put off Firefly after watching Serenity in the cinema: I enjoyed it fine, but the film doesn't have anywhere near the emotional resonance of the show. The bizarrely snappy dialogue is still there, but without the understanding of the show, it all seemed a little too clever for its own good. After watching it I took back everything I had ever said about it: I loved how it added Western and road movie elements to a sci-fi series, and every episode had a classic, timeless look ti it despite being rooted in 'the future'.

It pretty much manages to nail every balance perfectly and be wholly original at the same time. I watched it initially to fill a Supernatural hole, and now there's just a gaping Firefly shaped hole in my life. Like the rest of the TV watching public, my life now can be accurately summed up by this:

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Take 5 Romantic Horrors: Actual, Published Film Words

OK, I've been naughty. I haven't updated like I said I was going to. HOWEVER, there is reason for that (ish). I've been busy applying for all the 'hings, and I even had an interview for which I had to create a five-minute presentation from the vaguest of vague briefs. I've also learned to drive, helped out some at a Glasgow Film Festival event (more to come on that once my job actually starts), convincing scholarship funds to give me money, learning to drive annnnd THIS.

'This' is my first post for the new, improved Scotcampus website. It's a brief rundown of my Top 5 Romantic Picks for Valentine's Day, whether you're loved up, in the tenuous early days or happily single. I've watched all of these films at a variety of relationship statuses so I'm speaking from experience here.

Now I really have nae excuse to not blog, so I'm gonna go right ahead and get on with that. After body pump because, y'know, fitness is important...

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


So I updated my blog URL, which meant I had to reclaim it on Bloglovin'. Which I'm still learning how to work. In any case, it can now be followed here...">Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Post-Christmas Binge: Take 5 From The DVD Pile

Despite my last posting on New Year's Resolutions, one that I made in all seriousness was to make myself write more. Regardless of whether or not it'll actually be seen. Not for any glorification purposes, purely just to keep my brain ticking over in a somewhat creative manner. Which is all very well and good, but the doing of it... that's the tricky part.

While mulling over 'hings to write about, it clicked that the answer was right in front of me. Because I was watching TV at the time. I know, I know, there's a million people writing about what they watch more regularly and concisely than me. But my Christmas haul (and holidays.... ho) largely comprised of DVD's in all manner of genre shapes. Films, television... well, that was about it, really.

A combination of crappy weather, lack of funds and that general lazy feeling that sweeps over the post-Christmas haze and into the new year ensured that alot of viewing time was clocked up, and I actually made good on starting to watch (or re-watch) things that I'd always meant to, but never quite got round to it. So here's a small (five point, because more than five as I've previously stated seems excessive) selection of my post-festive film viewing. The TV pile is a list unto itself.

1. American Hustle

Apparently there's some male cast members in there, but damned if I can see them...

I figured I'd start the year by blowing the dust off of my Cineworld card and justifying my having a shitty Orange contract, and made my first trek to the pictures for David O. Russell's latest offering. I enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook, although mostly for presence of Jennifer Lawrence. The Fighter was a far better film, with better performances, but this comprised the cast of the two. It was also a warm up for the forthcoming Wolf of Wall Street- something about privileged douchebags being douchey with money that I find so wholly entertaining.

American Hustle was, at best, an amusingly gritty confection. There were good performances- of course J-Law was flawless, and Christian Bale continued his chameleon-like character preparation by cutting about with a gross beer gut and nasty combover. Amy Adams looked amazing but faltered with a dodgy accent, and Bradley Cooper was so smug I wanted to reach into the screen and pull his stupid perm out of his head. Although he's supposed to be a douchebag, so fair play...?

There were moments when I thought the film was really going to take off, that the hustle was well and truly underway. However these moments were punctuated by boggy follow ups that didn't really go anywhere, and as a result the film felt as bloated as its leading man. Lop off about 20 minutes and it would've been leaner, meaner and a good sight more gripping. It never really got to the nitty-gritty of the corruption its core cast were trying to expose, but the 'good times' never really felt so good. Good, but not the classic its title suggested.

2. Lost Highway

What. The utter. Fuck.

The boy and I made the (probably foolish) decision to watch Lost Highway after bingeing on the first series of Twin Peaks (more on that later). After about five episodes, we put on Lost Highway somewhere in the region of 1am. Shit got real. And also very, very surreal.

Dynamite hairdo though 'tricia, really, well done. Also nice rack. You'll see.

In short... if that can be done... this film is a headfuck masterpiece of sex, suspicion, sex, a killer soundtrack, entirely unreliable narrators and... sex. The soundtrack features pretty much all of my Spotify playlist- think Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, Smashing Pumpkins and David Bowie. Hardly surprising, considering it was compiled by Trent Reznor- who also produced one of my other favourite film soundtracks, Natural Born Killers.

If this film can be summarised in any way, it's a noir horror almost-roadtrip. It deals with themes of identity. People may or may not exist, and may or may not be other people. Characters disappear and reappear, or they might not. Characters from one story, seemingly opposites from one another, are thrown together via mysterious and tragic circumstance and the whole thing flows like one of those dreams where you and your family are being murdered and you can't wake up (the kind I had when I finished watching it somewhere in the region of 3am). Definitely one which will benefit from repeat viewings, after wading my way through more Lynch.

3. Django Unchained

I'd already seen this Southern epic in the cinema at the start of last year. Thankfully the boy hadn't, which was the perfect excuse to spend another three hours in Tarantino's sun bleached deep South. The plot is as sprawling as the deserts our heroes Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) trek across hunting bounty and searching for Django's wife, from whom he was separated.

Being a Tarantino film, there's plenty of cussing and bloodshed ahoy. The performances are excellent, and despite its fearsome running time only really drags towards the end (when Tarantino adopts an Australian accent that makes me wonder if he's ever actually met an Australian person). I adored Inglourious Basterds, but didn't much care for Kill Bill or Deathproof, so this really could've gone either way.

Not quite the 'Candy Land' I envisaged... ever.

Thankfully my fears were put to rest, although perhaps not one I could watch again in a hurry. Mostly because it's nearly three hours long. Also its depiction of slavery is as nasty as you'd expect: it doesn't hold back and plays with its exploitation and historical genre mashing. Still, I enjoyed the fact that I could root for Christoph Waltz in this one, whereas despite his sweet performance, Hans Landa was nothing but a squirmy, scheming, cringe-inducing Nazi bastard. So that was nice... As a nice counterpoint to all the violence, it's also hilarious, something I felt was missing even from Inglourious. I'm more than excited for the tentatively titled Hateful Eight, that's for sure.

4. Pacific Rim

Autobots wage their battle, 
to destroy the evil forces of... oh. Wait.

I love Guillermo del Toro. I read an article in Empire years ago- early teens at most- where he was talking about the sound design in his Spanish Civil War ghost story, The Devil's Backbone. This article got me interested in two things: sound design and Guillermo del Toro. I even dig the films he takes on as producer: The Orphanage and Julia's Eyes are utterly chilling examples of how to be scary without a) being a tired exorcism movie and b) terrible, bland special effects.

Unfortunately Pacific Rim wasn't an unsettling, subtly creepy ghost story: quite the opposite. It was a loud, brash, boys' toys story, where the scariest thing was Charlie Hunnam's American accent. I get that it's not aimed at me: it's for boys who grew up in the late 80s, when Transformers reigned supreme and anything was cool as long as there was a robot involved. Obviously the boy loved it, being its target audience. I loved the presence of Charlie Day. I would've liked Charlie Day to appear in every scene, but alas, no.

We had more fun predicting the Speak & Spell dialogue. I didn't get why Jaegers (dudes in robots) had to fight the evil Kaiju (supposedly terrifiying sea creatures) when Idris Elba could've chewed them up and spat them out them along with the scenery. Still, it was all very loud and... smashy... the cheesy dialogue was helpfully blown away by giant robot vs sea monster fights, which helped. In saying that I'm sure more people were killed by thewir battles on land as they smashed through cars and buildings with little regard for the civilians they were supposed to be saving... I'll call it del Toro acting on a boyhood whim and reserve my real judgement for his co-authored series of books, The Strain Trilogy (which I can't read yet because I mistakenly bought the third one. Damn).

5. Serenity

I can't... it's too soon...

I first saw this when it was released in the cinema, somewhere in the region of eight years ago. I liked it fine, although I felt I was missing out on an inside joke. The dialogue seemed disjointed and I didn't feel any kind of connection to the characters. I told myself I'd go back and watch Firefly and finally, I did. A mere couple of weekends ago, I'm ashamed to say. The boy got the series on Bluray, which meant my DVD collection got another new addition. Now I could understand the torment every other sci-fi/ Whedon fan has been feeling for almost a decade. Yay...?

Suffice to say I much preferred Serenity second time around. While I still felt it was a bit more emotionally empty than the show (the feels... so many feels...), my newly found character engagement meant that I felt truly happy, devastated and connected at all the right points. There were a fair few plot points which were left to dangle from the series, but this is a small niggle: it's basically a second series condensed into a film, and there's bound to be alot left out. However infuriating it may be.

I was reluctant to watch it purely because I didn't want it to be over and damnit... now it is. I'm gonna have to get baws deep in my TV boxset pile and make up for the gaping, Firefly-shaped loss I now feel. On the plus side we've got Much Ado About Nothing to look forward to. It'll... it'll have to do.

Friday, 10 January 2014

New Year, New Start. Or New Calendar, At Least.

It's the end of the week but I'm all about the new. New year, new post, new attempt at telling myself I'm 'totally going to keep up with blogging this year'. I said the same thing last year with scattered and infrequent results, and I'm in no way promising myself that I'll follow up on it this year. But still, if you can't kid yersel' on in January, when can you...?

I always make New Year's Resolutions and rarely actually make any progress with them. Or they're so broad ('totally get fit') that any attempt at completing them is a vague win for progress ('sign up for one class a week. In September'). In any case, I'm most definitely not alone, as less than 10% of us actually make good on our promises. So, what's the problem?

Mine was always that my resolutions were vague and impersonal. The same ones everyone makes. Lose weight. Get fit. Learn to drive. Luv lyf. 2013 was... lackluster at best. I sorted out my love life, but the rest has a way to go. Still, I made some headway. I done some exercise. I got trainers for Christmas to support this. I passed my theory test. I got Instagram like all the other cool kids who eat food and wear clothes. Totally onwards and upwards, right?

I decided to actually put in some research this time. 2014 was going to be a good yin, and the internet was going to help me, because as everyone knows, nothing is official 'til it's on the internet (scientists also support this theory, as does NASA, and most journalists). I had a look at the most popular resolutions, and had a wee think about how I could adapt them for myself. Make them more personalised. That way, I couldn't fail, no...?

1. Appreciate others and, in turn, appreciate yourself.

That's a song we can all dance to.

If there's one thing I've learned from the internet, it's that if I dislike or disagree with someone or something, it's because I'm rotten with jealousy at this snarling, empty hole in my life which this person or opinion is fulfilling in their own. To try and generate empathy I've started wearing those celebrity masks you get out the Newsbox and walking around with a giant hashtag of my own name following me wherever I go. So far some One Direction fans have built a shanty town outside my house and my mum's super pissed because she can't get her car out the driveway for work in the morning. I tried to explain that I'm just putting myself in other people's shoes.

2. Let go of your phobias and fears.

My biggest phobia isn't dying alone, or failure, or never spawning potential bone marrow donors. I don't like cows. When I was a child I playfully clambered onto a country fence and mooed at some cows residing in a field. The cow mooed back right in my face and I fell off said fence, seriously winding myself and embarking on a lifelong fear of the bovine. It was also my first day of school, so the whole experience made me hate school too. It's also a tiny reason why I became vegetarian.* I'm hardly going to start eating meat again, so I'll have to focus on eliminating my fear of looking foolish in public instead. I could overcome this by mooing at some cows and nail two birds with one stone, but I don't want to progress too much, too fast.

*This isn't even any word of a lie. It's a true story. Ask my parents.

3. Dance like no one is watching.

Whenever I hear someone say "I dance like no one is watching", I don't imagine them swooshing their hair in rhythm to that song from Hair, holding hands with a commune of other happy, dancing, free spirits. I imagine them furtively drawing all their curtains, pumping up the Q Lazarus and jerking around awkwardly wearing their next door neighbour's scalp. This is perhaps one to take under advisement, because the thought of touching other people's hair gives me the boak.

In saying that, people have worn less on nights out and gotten away with it. Hmm.

4. Ditch the car and fit in more exercise!

This one seems to be pretty popular in that it's often cited as the easiest way to squeeze exercise into your busy, busy, busy lifestyle. Everyone seems to have one these days, amiright? I for one just don't know how I'm supposed to find the time for exercise in between The Real Housewives of New York and their counterparts in Beverly Hills.

This one also angered me because it felt like it was actively trying to mock me. I walk pretty much everywhere that doesn't require transport. Also, I was so successful on my first attempt at a driving test that they want me to go and do it again. I then realised it was my anger that was holding me back. This is the year of letting go, I thought to myself. Instead, I would face the elements with a smile, rain lashing my face and ruining any attempts I'd made at taming my hair or hiding hormonal face breakouts, and grin like a sweet natured simpleton at all the fools with cars then can afford to run because they have jobs, as they roll their way to an early grave. And a double wide coffin. Joke's on you!

5. Go after your dream job and stop living to work.

I don't live to work. I would very much like to. I like to think of myself as a professional interview attendee. I've gotten quite good at it. I'd like to go after that big promotion, which in this case means actually getting past interview stage. There's apparently an economic upturn, from here on it's going to be like the old glory days, when recent graduates walked into CEO positions and blew their noses with £50 notes and tramps and aristocrats discussed their favourite caviar because everyone was equal and better off.

That being said, maybe I shouldn't wait for the opportunity to come to me. Maybe I should just make it happen myself, become a self employed business type. I watch alot of films and frequently binge on TV shows, mostly once their popularity has waned (I'm only just feeling the horrific loss of the Firefly crew). I could become a professional lamenter, telling people how much better things were back in the day. Or I could take a tip from Breaking Bad and start punting drugs. I live near several schools and underpasses, so it'd be easy money. By this time next year I might even have my own caravan!*

I also own a hat like this and it makes me look both super professional AND #ootd cute.

*I may be missing the point of Breaking Bad, I've only ever seen half an episode, and it was the second one.

I felt like 5 was a decent number to round up on. Making ten resolutions seems a little far-reaching at this moment in time. Baby steps. Don't run before you can walk. Make small changes and the big changes will happen themselves. You get the jist. By next Hogmanay, I'll be such a new and improved specimen that resolutions will be a daily occurrence, I'll be a walking good deed and a powerhouse of physical and mental strength. I will be actualised ambition in human form. And I'll have done it all without once resolving to quit smoking. SUCCESS!

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Little Hings

My mum always said 'be grateful for the little things'. Since graduating last year, this has been more than a little difficult to bear in mind, and super easy to lose sight of. I've been lucky enough to bag some pretty good jobs in my mere year of freelance work, and while it hasn't been exactly dependable, it's taught me a lot. I've worked with people who are good at what they do and known for being so. However I've been having a bit of a think about 'the future', and what it actually holds. I always knew I wanted to work in a creative environment. In the past I've tried my hand at art, film, media and social sciences. I started an English degree, but I didn't love it. I got tired of people asking me if I wanted to be a teacher. (I don't. I couldn't. I know what I was like at 13 and being faced with 30 of that would surely land me some time on the inside). I never really knew exactly what it was I wanted to do, but I always figured I would 'when I was a grown up'.

I've been stressing a lot about not having a definite career plan. When I was at uni (for the second time) there was little wiggle room in my course. I bagged a trainee job before I'd graduated and picked up work from there, but was never sure if it was really what I wanted to be doing. Last year I applied for a number of creative internships, which I was perfect for apart from being 'too old' as they were apparently only for 16-25 year olds. I had only turned 26 months before. Since when did age matter? Since when did life experience not count for anything? In today's economy, there are plenty of creative types and graduates sitting unable to work in the area they studied for. People are taking jobs just because the job's there, and in unstable times it makes good financial sense. But does that mean that they're past it because they don't fall into a certain category?

After scoring four interviews, I was unable to go for any of them as soon as they found out my date of birth. I petitioned the Minister for Youth Employment, who tried to fob me off with some facts and figures about the state of youth unemployment. They claimed the 16-25 bracket were the worst hit by unemployment figures. I did my research and yes, unemployment figures in this age group was higher. But so was the volume of training and apprenticeship schemes. Meanwhile, the figures for 25+ were only slightly higher, with no initiatives or help offered for this category. I sent some more emails arguing this case and was told that they were 'looking into it'. This year, when the internships were announced again, the age range was 16-30. I'm not saying I had anything to do with that but I like to think that enough people did that they were forced to make a change. It just goes to show that if people take action, action will be taken. You've got to fight for what you want, and not expect things to just be handed to you.

I've been to a fair few media training courses, but none of which seemed targeted at my current role (working in the sound department, just to clarify). It started to grate after a while. Even part time work was hard to come by. I started to wonder what the point had been in studying and getting a degree, when I was really just getting nowhere.

Eventually I started to pick up some interviews. I attended one, and they told us that out of over 2000 applicants, they had only chosen to interview 200. From that, only 40 would actually get hired. I didn't get the job, but it put things into perspective. I was one of only 10% of applicants that they actually brought in to interview. I don't even have that much retail experience, but I must have made some sort of impression. I started thinking about what else I could do. I was limiting myself by sitting thumbing it and waiting for work to come along. There was no reason why I couldn't go after jobs I wanted just because I wasn't 'qualified'. Other things count too: you could be the best person for a job on paper, but have all the personality of a wet sock. You could be super ambitious to land a top producer's job but become so focussed on it that you overlook other opportunities along the way.

Anything that comes along is an opportunity as long as you have the enthusiasm and willingness to do it. It doesn't matter if you don't have a clear cut career plan. It's good if you do, but in not doing so, there's a nice sense of freedom. It's easy to fall into a trap and think you're a failure because you're not on a accelerated path to The Dream Job. It's even easier to consider yourself a failure if you compare yourself to other people. For me, it was only when I took a step back and looked at the small stuff that I got some perspective. I have a family who were willing to let me move back in when I couldn't afford to keep my own flat on. It's not ideal, and it's difficult sometimes, but I have a roof over my head. I've got good experience, and more experienced professionals have told me so. I've only been out of uni for a year. Technically I'm still a recent graduate.

Yeah, I'm not doing my Dream Job right now. But right now, the Dream Job could be anything. I'm applying for jobs I'd never have considered before, even if they really interested me. I've got good friends and an awesome boyfriend. My hair's sitting quite well today. Whatever I end up doing, I'll have worked for. It's autumn, my favourite season, ad I', not going to waste the time I have now by sitting moaning. And perhaps the biggest realisation of all is that sometimes... sometimes... parents are right. As much as it pains me to say so.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Movin' With The Times

I have moved with the times (and finally figured out how this works) and claimed my blog on Bloglovin'. I don't really know how it works but if it saves my aimless ramblings from dwindling in blogscurity all the better.
<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>