Friday, 20 March 2015

An ode to British television drama

To celebrate the successful launch of the BBC's remake of the 1975 show Poldark, I thought I would make a quick blog post dedicated to British television drama. British tv drama particularly period or crime based dramas are one of my favourite tv viewing experiences. There is nothing better than becoming hooked on an intense storyline, and although they may not be as long in series length as their american counter part, the few episodes we receive are able to keep me hooked from start to finish.
I was hooked on Poldark from the first episode, it has everything that I desire in a tv drama. A bold and complex male lead, portrayed by Aidan Turner, lovable, strong willed female protagonists, in this case Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) tied together in a plot filled with romance, adventure and action. The stunning setting has the British coast to thank for its authentic style as Cornwall plays host for the set. One cannot help but yearn for British summer time to return and for a trip to the sea! Eleanor Tomlinson is a wonderful versatile actress and has turned her hand to this role with apparent ease, she is a farmilliar face for the BBC and you may recognise her from the 2013 mini series of The White Queen. Aidan Turner on the other hand is not a familiar face for me  (having still not made time to watch the Hobbit films) His empathy for the character is wonderful and the emotion he conveys through his character is a testament of his talent.

Inspired by the success of this remake I thought I thought id celebrate the overall greatness of British Television Drama. Here are a few of my recommended British Tv dramas (in no particular order)

Downton Abbey (ITV)
Need I say anymore. Downton has been going strong for 5 seasons and is set to return later this year for what might be its last.  Downton works so well because of the various story lines running parallel to each other capturing the romance, the scandal and the drama of the household. Because of the length of time Downton has been running for, its not surprising that fans have built up a strong relationship with the characters and uproar occurs whenever the shows talented team of writers dare do anything to harm one of the beloved characters. Remember the Christmas episode scandal of 2012!
My one criticism of the show would be the giant time hops between each series, I feel as if time is progressing too quickly, however the characters appear more or less unchanged by the passing time. This flaw, although disappointing weighs far less than the overall beauty of the show, its stunning costumes and set make you yearn for a yesteryear and its scandalous plots will have you hooked until the very last episode.
Mr Selfridge and The Paradise
I hate shopping with a passion, but these two shows makes me want to love shopping! The magic of the stores is encapsulated in the narrative, the gorgeous, glamorous sets and charming employees .

The Paradise (BBC)
The first season of the Paradise sees young shop assistant Denise (Joanna Vanderham) working her way up the store, whilst also engaging in a whirlwind romance with store owner Moray (portrayed by Emun Elliott). The show contains a certain amount of intrigue, with characters such as Jonas (David Hayman) giving an edge of mystery within the show. I've currently re-visited this show, thinking that perhaps I should give it a second chance, and honestly it is really worth it. I am genuinely upset that it will not be renewed for a third series, and therefore must get around to reading the books on which it is based.
Unfortunately the second season of the Paradise was a disappointment to many viewers and ratings made a significant fall it will not be returning for a third season. The second series appeared to focus on the empowerment of women balanced with their struggles at the same time as  Denise tried to work her way up the career ladder, and although it was wonderful to see this in a period drama, it did not fit in with the romanticised (all be it very patriarchal) image of the time that was built up in the first series.

Mr Selfridge (ITV)
Another department store based show centers around the exciting life of store owner Harry Selfridge and the his family and staff. The show, now in its third series, is still going strong, like Downton, Selfridges does not focus mainly on a set character it has a set of intertwining narratives through all areas of the store. Harry Selfridge may own the store but this is in no way a mans world, there are some wonderful female cast members including Sherlocks Amanda Abbington and real life sisters Kara and Hannah Tointon.
Downton, Mr Selfridge and The Paradise are wonderful period dramas that romantisise the world of beauty and wealth during the times they are set. All three shows focus mainly on the glamour of the time and separate themselves, as much as possible from the dangers occurring in the world around them such as the first world war, therefore making them wonderful shows for easy viewing if you fancy a bit of escapism.

The Musketeers (BBC)
One cannot help but fall in love the wonderfully charming musketeers. Their valiant efforts to protect the monarch despite all odds whilst also overcoming personal daemons and pursuing heartfelt and often troublesome romances. Series one and two of the musketeers have encapsulated all the elements of a perfect period drama, in my opinion, and both have had me hooked throughout. This is currently one of my favourite shows on tv and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new and exciting drama.
The series 2 finale aired a few weeks back and never before has a British tv drama had me so on edge, cinematically and in terms of narrative it was flawless.

Happy Valley (BBC)
Police officer Catherine (portrayed by Sarah Lancashire) is struggling to come to terms with the suicide of her daughter, juggling her depression and struggle with the situation, with her job as a police officer. Along with all of this she is having to bring up her daughters child, with the disapproval of her family and away from his biological father Tommy Lee Royce the man believed to be responsible for her daughters rape that drove her to suicide.
The White Queen (BBC)
One of the only media productions that I can say I wholeheartedly preferred the show to the book. I rarely read books after watching the film or tv rendition as the character descriptions can be tainted by the actors that you have seen portray them, however this series is one that I enjoyed so much that I thought the books would be worth looking into, however, in true BBC style the over-sensationalised narrative was far more exaggerated than the book, and therefore the paper form paled into insignificance in comparison.
I would however fully recommend the TV series, its talented cast portray the sensational romantic yet war filled life of Tudor England.Amanda Hale's breathtaking portrayal of Lady Margaret Beaufort is alone worth watching for, her chilling performance highlights the significance of religion to those surrounding the throne and those who fight to climb up to it.

The Mill (Channel 4)
An utterly wonderful romantic representation of the Victorian England. Victorian England full of soot, dirt and hard labor, it would be easy to think the residence of the mill would lack prosperity, but through their hardships they remain hopeful, a fiery hunger for racial, class and gender equality burns strong in them.
This series shows the lives of those working in and around the mill, the struggles and prejudices they faced and the lengths they had to go to just to survive. (Read my poem inspired by one of the Mill's characters here)

Last Tango In Halifax (BBC)
I never thought I was going to like this show. I began watching it purely because it was on tv and became hooked. It was my surprise and intrigue that got me hooked on it. Not only does the prime time series have a vast set of strong female leads, but its lead protagonist portrayed by Sarah Lancashire is also a lesbian . It feels foolish writing that in a review however it is a giant leap forward in British tv. The BBC have always had a bit of a bad reputation for their lack of diversity in terms of representation, and to portray a homosexual female character in a lead role in a prime time show is a huge risk for the channel, especially considering the number of complaints they received for the relationship between Madame Vastra and Jenny in Dr Who.
Nevertheless it is a risk that has payed off and one i am extremly glad they took. Sarah Lancashire  is a wonderful actress as previously stated and has been very well cast by the BBC in this role.The main cast is also home to Celia and Alan (Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi) an elderly couple who have found love, once again the representation of this couple breaks the conventional boundaries of the BBC.

Broadchurch (ITV)
If you haven't yet watched series 1 of Broadchurch then what are you waiting for! The series was incredibly well thought through in terms of secrecy and unlike many crime dramas, the killer was kept concealed until the very end. You will, at some point through the series, have doubted every single character. Olivia Colman and David Tennant star as the crime fighting duo who among all the mystery have personal battles to fight. This show will leave you on edge through every episode and shocked through until the end.
As with all good series, its sequel was an unfortunate disappointment, but after the booming success of the first series this is not surprising. It's american alternative Gracepoint is currently airing, however I must admit i'm not a fan. I attempted to watch it but I struggled, it is, in my opinion too exaggerated when compared to the moody subtleness of the UK version, and I cannot get my head around the fact that David Tennant still stars as the protagonist, however puts on an american accent for the character.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Into The Woods

*This post contains some mild spoilers* 

Into The Woods is all about the journey, its not about the start or the end, its about that tricky bit in the middle, its "the climb", "the journey" or in this case, The Woods. A place full of darkness and mystery, it is the tunnel through which the light at the end shines through, where reality is warped and all is not as it seems.

Better than Frozen. Unlike Frozen Into The Woods maintains many of the traditional Disney conventions we all know and love. We see many of the conventions associated with the older Disney classics whilst entwining the Disnified narrative with elements from the original tales, an unusual convention that I really enjoyed, particularly where the dark and twisted original tale of in Rapunzel was included. Frozen was dubbed Disney's answer to feminism, however I personally feel Into The Woods is far more worthy of the title. For a start, in this production no character is perfect. Frozen portrays a style of female favouritism that causes the male characters to be conveyed as either, selfish liars, evil, or "ugly". In Into The Woods' every character has flaws, not superficial appearance based flaws or unlovable flaws like being "pure evil". The greatest example of this has to be the bakers wife, whom the viewer grows to love despite her flaws and even when she makes, what would in other Disney films be an unforgivable mistake, the viewer is still able to forgive her, echoing the reality of life not being black or white.

This is another thing that makes the production so relatable, despite the characters flaws you cannot help but love them, its not as black and white as most Disney films. Even the oh so modern Frozen, had its prejudices, when during the films climax the audience discovers Hanz has alternator motives, you instantly see him as the bad guy, forget the charm that we loved at the start and dismiss him as the villain. The characters are so much more three dimensional, everyone, male or female is a lovable bundle of flaws stitched together with good intentions.

One character especially flawed is the wolf but you really cannot help but love him. The humanisation of the wolf is such an important part of this film. This classic villain is reinvented as the charming yet manipulative stranger lurking in The Woods. Any viewer would be lying if they said they didn't get chills when they first heard Johnny Dept sing Hello Little Girl. It teaches the younger viewers that the "bad guy" is not always the monster that you imagine, he can be the charmer, the manipulator who lures you in before revealing his true colours. A poignant lyric in Little Red's song I Know Things Now reads "take extra care with strangers, even flowers have their dangers, and though scary is exciting, nice is different than good" this once again reinforces the fact that things are not always as they seem, especially when seen in the shadow of The Woods.

Visually Into The Woods is simply enchanting , it is not overly exquisite with lavish sets and props, it has that "quaint theater feel" to it, feeling more like a "proper musical" than a high budget Disney film. Every detail down to the the lighting and the set is perfect creating this gorgeous hybrid of film and theater. 
One vital area of the production that worked beautifully was the costume department. Colleen Atwood's designs are utterly gorgeous and you wouldn't expect any less from the iconic costume designer who has worked on costumes for productions such as Alice in Wonderland, Sweeny Todd and Snow White And The Huntsman. Its Oscar nomination for the productions costumes is not a surprise and is very much deserved. Reinventing many of the iconic costumes including Cinderella's dress into a golden ensemble, this worked stunningly, allowing the viewers to not form too many comparisons between the characters previous representations in the Disney animations.

Alongside the many established names were the two young budding stars Lilla Crawford and Daniel Huttlestone (whom you may recognise from Les Miserables) who fit perfectly into the star studded cast and there lack of experience was not evident despite this being Lilla's first ever film and only Daniel's second. I am sure that these two will soon be household names and will continue to thrive in the musical industry.

I am the kind of viewer who gets utterly addicted to a production, I cannot simply watch a film, love it, walk away and get on with my life. I will listen to the soundtrack on repeat, fall in love with the characters and obsessively re-blog gifs of my favorite scenes on tumblr. I would expect nothing less from a musical than a haunting and addictive soundtrack, one that has succeeded on keeping me hooked ever since I watched the film. 

The depth of the woods will pull you in to its murky shadows, the leaving you both haunted and enchanted.  

Thursday, 23 October 2014

An Investigation Into:

The Representation Of Social Class And Gender In The Riot Club

My primary reason behind viewing The Riot Club was due to my current adoration of Max Irons, an actor whom in recent months, since the BBC's rendition of The White Queen, I have grown to be a large fan of. Another reason was simply due to the juxtaposing thoughts created by the trailer, which meant I went into the cinema not knowing if I were to hate the film or adore it.

This post is a brief analysis of The Riot Club, NOT A REVIEW, do not read on if you have not yet, but intend to, watch the film.

You are forgiven if at first glance you misinterpreted the genre of this film entirely, the posters use of feminine pastel hues and bold pink text may be seen to misconvey the film as a male rendition of St Trinians, the posed nature of the subjects seems to distract the viewer from the clear-cut violent nature of the film and focus more on the appearance and apparel of the male oriented cast.

The trailer only begins to highlight the gritty, thriller side to the film about half way through,luring the viewer into a false sense of security. The first half of the trailer appears to focus on the dry humorous parts of the film (of which there are only a few) before it reaches its climax and begins to discuss the darker side. It is only when we get half way into the trailer itself that we realise the film airs more towards thriller and social realism, than drama and comedy. I feel like the promotional package for this film dismisses a large part of its demographic as it does not highlight the complexity of the film, and therefore may bring in a less intelligent audience than needed to appreciate the film.
It is evident, even from the poster, that Iron's character Miles has a more disconnected relationship to the club than the other characters, as portrayed by this lack of eye contact with the camera, He appears less domineering than the other characters, however his posture and costume still evoke a sense of power and class, rather than the intimidation conveyed by other two subjects as they look down on the viewer.
The film is fueled by feminist and class based ideologies. Unfair hierarchies and lack of equality form the basis of the plot and the overall film has a revolutionist themed undertone, whereby the upperclass create their own demise by flaunting their lavish lifestyles and spoilt behavior

Conventional to social realism, each of the characters are flawed. No character is portrayed as being perfect. The female characters at first glance appear more flawed than the male characters, as their lives not as privileged that of the protagonists. However when looking at the characters on a three intentional level we begin to realise that the lives of The Riot Club members are not that desirable, they are spoilt, ignorant, and blinded by wealth. The female characters on the other hand are conveyed as independent, hard working individuals who believe in their own self worth and standards.
Female protagnist, Lauren (played by Holliday Grainger) portrays a strength and resilience that the male oriented cast lacks. Unlike the bulk of the characters, Lauren comes from a working class background, a fact that is mocked by the other characters throughout the film. At the films dramatic climax Lauren is sexually harassed by members of The Riot Club, in a particularly hard hitting scene. She arrives at a Riot Club meeting to find the members drunken and frustrated as they had just been refused by an escort, she is then offered large sums of money to perform sexual acts on them. We see Lauren begin to panic, and look to Miles for help, however in his drunken and bewildered state, he appears weak in his morals and does not argue for the sake of her dignity.
Charlie (The female escort portrayed by Natalie Dormer) also shows evidence of strength and standards by refusing to give in to The Riot Clubs requests and subverting the viewers expectations of her character, the viewer begins to sympathise with a character whom in most films they are taught to despise. Both she and Lauren are bribed with large amounts of money to perform sexual acts, but refuse them, reinforcing the strength of the female role in the film.

Wide camera angles of the club members are used in juxtaposition to extreme close ups of the girls to show the unfair ratio of men to women, as the women appear separately and outnumbered by The Riot Club members, this not only reinforces the vulnerability of the female characters but highlights their inevitable strength as they come out of the events of the film stronger despite the odds being against them they remain unmoved by the wealth and dominance of The Riot Club.
Although the negative representation of the male upper class may be bias, it is a clear reflection of the current social unrest as seen in the 2011 London riots. And whilst some may appear to be more likable than others (Ie. Miles) their weaknesses are evident and lead to the outcome of the film. This film displays a clear negative attitude to the hierarchical system in the UK.

It is easy to draw parallels between The Riot Club, and This Is England, the two films are dominated by working class ideologies, however focus on opposite ends of the spectrum. This Is England focuses more on racial issues than class, however it tells a story from the perspective of a group of working class individuals who appear displeased by their placement in the hierarchical system and oppose the upper class. The Riot Club on the other hand tells a story from the upper class perspective, despite this the viewer is still on the side of the working class, as the views held by the characters are not the same as the ideologies portrayed by the film. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Great Gatsby Quote Analysis

A brief analysis of one of my favourite book quotes, from F.Scott Fitzgerrald's novel The Great Gatsby.

"I was within and without, 
simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life"

This quote, from F.Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby is one of my all time favourite quotes. Its purpose, within the context of the novel, is to describe Nick Carraways state of being, in a life filled with loud and vibrant strangers he is unable to feel accepted. Each and every corner of his life is bustling with excitement, however he, not unlike Gatsby, is a spectator unable to break through the glass that separates him from the rest of the crowd.

The quote is reminiscent of Tennyson's Lady of Shallott, as many believe the poem to represent the conflicting life of an artist, attempting to balance the juxtaposing themes of  life and art; therefore making the difficult choice of observation or experience. This is not too dissimilar to Nick's predicament. The reader learns that Nick gave up all hopes of becoming an author and traveled to West Egg to learn the bonds business; however, he still hold the mindset of a writer, and appears to simply witnessing life rather than living it.

In the recent film rendition this metaphor is visualized as Carraway stood both in and outside of the New York apartment building, gazing out of the window to find himself on the street bellow looking in. This image perfectly sums up his character as the observer. The version of him stood on the street, gazing into the apartment is Nicks true self and the version within the apartment is simply a shell of himself. As the whole party gets wildly drunk, Nick still finds himself unable to enjoy himself, his mind consumed by Tom's affair and the shaving foam on the face of a man he just met. This sets Nick up as the perfect narrator for the story as the details described appear as he witnesses them.

Monday, 4 August 2014

The First War- Nele Azevedo Memorial

Tonight marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, a plethora of events are taking place globally to commemorate the occasion, including a national blackout from 10-11 O'clock tonight, which I personally will be participating in. Another event I was fortunate enough to witness was Nele Azevedo's "Minimum Monument" on Saturday 2nd August where around 5000 ice soldiers were lined up along the steps of Chamberlain Square.

Individuals were invited to come and participate in the event by placing a soldier on the steps. There were both male and female sculptures helping to reflect not only the lives lost in the field but at home.
The exhibition/memorial helped to provide a visual representation of both physical and mental decay.
Each soldier began to melt individually, and no two soldiers melted in the same way. Many began to melt from the legs, here you can see one of the sculptures who is otherwise intact apart from the loss of  their legs, creating a representation of an amputee.

Others were left untouched for a while except for the loss of their heads, creating a visualization of the mental decay caused by the war and the lack of understanding of mental illness' at the time, resulting in many survivors suffering with shell shock. 

Each soldier took between 30 minutes and 2 hours to melt completely due to the variable weather conditions. The gradual decay of the figures again helped to visualise the invisible "side effects" of the war, and the lack of support the troops received for mental illness, which often lead to them taking their own life in the moths after they returned home. This particular sight is one that struck me quite hard, here you can see a single sculpture sat away from the others, isolated. Its form slowly became disfigured and over time it gradually became thinner, until it simply disappeared.  

Another image I felt particularly moved by was the sculpture on the far right (bellow). Its one side had decayed from the chest down, creating the illusion of a wound which would eventually spread across his entire body. This sculpture is an example of the variations in melting patterns created by the sculptures. 

I am particularly inspired by war themed photography and used it as inspiration for my A2 photography exam, which I intend to post on my photography blog soon. 
In the photograph bellow you can see how the sculptures leaned towards each other for support in their final moments as they melted under the suns heat creating an image of brotherhood and support that the soldiers provided for each other in their time of need.

I hope you can take the time to further research this artist and her monumental exhibitions. And please spare a minute of thought tonight to remember the sacrifices made during The First War.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Elijah's Mermaid- Book Review

This book was recommended to me on Goodreads (a site I would highly recommend to any budding bibliophiles) based upon my previous reads.

Saved from the depths of the murky tames as a baby, webbed footed beauty Pearl is bought up and cossetted within the boundaries of The House Of Mermaids, a brothel, raised by the black veiled Mrs Hibbert and the slimy predator Tip Thomas, a man whom I cannot help but imagine as a Victorian rendition of Sacha Baron Cohen's Thenardier. Until she turns 14 her childhood is almost idyllic (if you can put aside the fact that she lives in a brothel) but then Pearl begins to realise that her upbringing has been building up to her being auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Meanwhile orphaned twins Lily and Elijah Lamb are being raised by their loving grandfather Augustus, an author. When the three children turn 14 their paths begin to cross and their lives become a lot more complicated. Throughout this book we see the characters evolve from simple and naive children into adults who soldier on through risk of being tainted by their situation.
The book is narrated by the two female protagonists Pearl and Lily, every other chapter switches between the two perspectives. This is a technique that I admire and would like to be able to apply in my own work. The authors empathy and ability to understand her characters at a more in depth level is one that inspires me to go on to read more of her works and is an admirable trait.

Elijah's Mermaid is set in Victorian England, in a land of brothels and asylums, where life is far from idyllic. The believably of the settings adds to the realism of the book and allows for more surreal themes to be explored without compromising the narratives believably. The book has a steady pace and the narrative unrolls quite slowly if you are used to faster paced literature. However one of the main reasons for its slow pace is due to Essie Fox's attention to detail, her beautiful in-depth descriptions and all round well executed literature is one of the key features to the book.
Fox's style is not too dissimilar to that of Ali Shaw's The Girl With Glass Feet, one of my favourite books to date and and Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child. Two of my favourite books that also successfully blend fantasy features with a sense of verisimilitude.

This book had me enchanted from start to finish! and is without doubt my favorite book that I have had the pleasure of reading and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to those who enjoy historical or fantasy based literature.I would also recommend this book to any lovers of classical art or literature as these are strong themes that run throughout.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic, Romance, Mystery
Star Rating: 5/5

Sunday, 25 May 2014

My current addictions

First of all I would like to welcome you all to my new blog, here I will be publishing reviews of music, films and books, alongside opinion posts and essays.

I am have just gone through a period of a high work load, meaning for the past few months I haven't had the time I would have liked to seek out new music as I normally do, I have however managed to stumble upon a few albums that currently have me besotted. 

1. S.Carey: Range Of Light. 
I have been a Bon Iver fan for a few years now and find their sound incredibly relaxing and inspiring (a great deal of the concepts explored in my poems are inspired by Bon Iver's music), therefore I immediately  fell head over heals in love with S.Carey's new album, Range of light.
Favorite tracks include: Glass/Film, Crown The Pines and Radiant.

2. Beasts Of The Southern Wild soundtrack 
I hate to admit it but before discovering this incredible soundtrack I had not heard of the film Beasts of The Southern Wild, and still have not found time to watch it. However if the soundtrack is anything to go by, it will be worth the wait! The soundtrack combines a blend of folk whims with cinematic drama.
I love listening to this whilst cracking on with work or painting because it really does convey a feeling of hope and motivation that gets me through moments of creative block.
Favorite tracks include: End of the World, Once There Was a Hushpuppy and The Smallest Piece.

3. The Cinematic Orchestra: The Crimson Wing- Mystery Of the Flamingos soundtrack
I discovered this soundtrack whist working on a nature documentary project, The crimson wing was one of my case studies and whist studying it I looked into the way music is used to amplify emotion in American Nature Documentaries. This soundtrack is simply breathtaking, the music accurately echoes the emotions of on screen action and yet as a stand alone medium works just as well. This soundtrack is again perfect for work as I often find songs with lyrical content too distracting when i'm working, it is also a beautifully relaxing album to listen to when winding down and reading a book.
Favorite tracks include: Opening Titles, Soda, Exodus and Transformation

4. Angus and Julia Stone: Down The Way 
I have been in love with this album for several months now, and am still hooked on the enchanting voices of brother-sister duo Angus and Julia Stone. This album has proven to be very thought provoking and lyrically is immensely poetic and moving. Many of the songs are so delicate to the ears as Julia Stones light, airy voice barely traces the surface of the lyrical content however the meaning behind many of the tracks are so filled with hurt and beauty that they are able to really impact the listener. 
Favorite tracks include: Yellow Brick Road, Black Crow, For You, Walk It Off, I'm Not Yours and The Devils Tears (I honestly couldn't narrow it down any further)