Sunday, 14 December 2014

Intermission

Is it just me, or are movies getting worse? I swear, last year it was difficult to choose 5 movies that I actually seriously enjoyed, but this year was even more difficult. There were so many highly anticipated films this year that I watched and tolerated, but were nothing even close to spectacular enough to make the short-list, much less the final list. The world screamed with applause for the Lego Movie (that song makes me want to kill someone), Tumblr was inundated with Guardians of the Galaxy posts (besides baby Groot dancing I was not overly impressed), and a plethora of sequels filled the majority of other timeslots (some were enjoyable, but nothing to be super excited about). Thankfully there were a few films that made the grade, some of which came as a surprise to even me!

I went into this movie expecting the worst - I’ve been over Angelina Jolie for ages, the Sleeping Beauty story has never been one of my favourites, and Disney live action is almost never carried off successfully. But as soon as they hit the scene where Maleficent’s wings are taken by her so-called-friend Stefan I was hooked. This feisty fey-woman is not one to be trifled with, and you better believe that some stolen wings aren’t enough to cripple a woman who is part dragon. Clearly I have a fondness for dragons and a good revenge story where the lady gets her revenge, but besides that the story had a lot of other good moments as well. The look on Maleficent’s face when Aurora decides that she is her fairy godmother is priceless, the crow-man was an interesting character foil, and to top it all off the CGI was pretty damned good. Now if only the upcoming remake of Cinderella didn’t look like such drivel…

Tom Hiddleston. Tilda Swinton. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as vampires. Need I say more? Everyone knows that I love a good vampire film, but so often they are a disappointment. I blame Twilight for that. But Only Lovers Left Alive goes back to the classic roots of the genre and explores how people who live forever deal with an ever-changing and ever-degrading world. Driven by Tilda’s and Tom’s representation of a vampire couple who live for their books and their music (respectively) and of course each other we are given a sharp, witty, and macabre social commentary on what happens when humans pollute the world, all wrapped up in an artfully filmed format. 

Considering that I despise every single other film that Wes Anderson has directed/written I was in absolute shock over how much I liked this one! Apparently I’m not the only anti-Wes-Anderson person to be won over by this film, so maybe it’s not so crazy. The cast is still pretty vast, and the plot is still on the ridiculous side, but the setting was beautiful and there were so many amusingly sarcastic moments that it would have been difficult not to get caught up in the film. Maybe it’s because Anderson was working from someone else’s story (it’s based on the writings of Stefan Zweig) that made all the difference, but what I found the most different was getting outside of the character claustrophobia that seems to be present in the rest of his films and what makes them so shallow. Or maybe his hipster-esque pseudo-literary style of storytelling (yeah, I went there, deal with it) can’t be applied to a European setting and is therefore replaced with something that’s actually meaningful. 

A last minute addition to the list comes in the form of the bio-pic about fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Like biographical books, bio-pics are totally not my thing, but for some reason YSL is the exception on both fronts, since the Alice Rawsthorn biography made my book top 5 list previously. This film felt very much like Rawsthorn’s book, as it is a pretty open depiction of YSL’s exciting and troubled life and focuses a lot on the relationships he had with the people who were his friends. In particular, the film focused on Pierre Bergé, who’s narration and moments outside of YSL-mania really hit an emotional nerve. The film comes off feeling like a lingering post-death love letter to the recently departed Yves, which is surprising as it is not billed as such. It’s just the story of one man’s life, his fame, and his hardships, which each viewer will likely interpret differently. 

Coriolanus (National Theatre Live)

Technically, the Donmar Warehouse’s staging of William Shakespeare’s play Coriolanus isn’t a film, but since I saw it in theatre thanks to National Theatre Live I am counting it as such! I mean, how often do you get to see an original Shakespeare staging in London with world-class actors live? I sure can’t afford the plane fare (yet), but National Theatre Live did an amazing job filming the Donmar Warehouse’s minimalist and traditional staging of one of the lesser known Shakespeare productions, so it was totally worth the slightly exorbitant ticket price. Unlike the recent movie version of Coriolanus (2011), this adaptation kept the setting Roman which made all the difference when it came to the actors. Hiddleston is pushing the age limit of Coriolanus a bit (I picture him as being closer to early/mid 20s than early 30s to explain his political immaturity), but he pulled off the entitlement themes perfectly and was offset well by Hadley Fraser’s Tullus Aufidius. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Musical Interlude

Hey all, it’s been ages since I’ve posted, but it’s December and that means I have to get back to blogging because it is my favourite time of the year: review season!

Last year my top 5 album list was all about EDM, featuring the return of classic Daft Punk and emergence new kid on the scene Avicii, but this year my tastes surprised me. Instead of being all about albums to make you move I was into songs with a message and beautiful melodies this time around, seemingly without much choice, since each of these albums was stuck on repeat pretty much as soon as I heard them. 

When Foster the People first hit the scene with “Pumped up Kicks” I was not impressed; it wasn’t until I heard “Coming of Age” that I thought that there might be something more to this band. With the release of Supermodel I discovered a sound that reminds me of the West Coast, since their songs sound like they should be paired with a road trip and a summer sunset. Critics weren’t so impressed with the album - the pop sound was too dissonant with the social commentary themes - but that’s exactly what I love about it. Like my old favourite American Idiot by Green Day, social criticism pairs perfectly with a sing-a-long. 

For someone who’s pretty jaded about life it came as a surprise to me how much I liked the most positive song of the year - “Happy” off of Pharrell’s latest, GIRL. Maybe it was the clever lyrics again, or possibly the snappy beat, but more likely it’s because I rarely dislike anything that Pharrell creates (I’ve been a fan since his stint in N*E*R*D). It also helps that he has mad style that is glamourous & classic while being absolutely urban (dude rocks a Louis Vuitton hat in the video for "Marilyn Monroe") - much like many of the songs off this album. Classical strings open tracks like “Marilyn Monroe” before sliding into sick beats that are oh-so-dance-able. 

I blame my addition of the Black KeysTurn Blue to the list on my love of USA Network’s very-New-York tv program Suits, since I tend to steer clear of anything deemed to be under the mantle of “hipster.” But I couldn’t resist the gritty bass sound of songs like “Fever” and “It’s up to You Now” so I gave the rest of the album a listen and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Some tracks sound very classic rock n’ roll (“Gotta Get Away”), others are reflective (“In our Prime”), and they’re all perfectly nostalgic. 

The most dance-able album on the list besides Pharrell has to be the latest from the Kooks, Listen. Once again we’re hit with clever lyrics masquerading alongside intricate guitar riffs, sick beats, and dirty bass that screams London in the best way possible. It’s not often that I wait in such anticipation for an album to drop, but after hearing “Around Town” I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the entire set of tracks - which proved to meet and exceed my expectations. Many of the songs have familiar sounds (not surprising considering that the Kooks blatantly reference the Beatles, funk bass lines, and the Rolling Stones), but they mash everything together in such a way that tracks like “Forgive & Forget” and “It was London” will have fans of either classic British-invasion band jamming along. 


Last, but not least, is the debut album the Balcony from Catfish and the Bottlemen. I first heard the album singles on BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe’s show, and was very impressed with how mature the band’s sound was considering how new they are. Their content is very relationship-focused in theme - with pointed lyrics that exemplify the highs (“Fuck it if they talk/fuck it if they try and get to us”) and lows (“it’s obvious you don’t try”) - so maybe the album just came along at the right point in my life to hit something emotional, but the sound is still so wonderful that I can’t imagine not loving this album. Hopefully the band keeps up the momentum, since I can really see them being something awesome. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Autumn Dreaming: a Sunday Shoe Story

I

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!


II

Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aëry surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear!


III

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lull’d by the coil of his crystàlline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear!


IV

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.


V

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind
Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star Hightops in Red Tartan; Silver jeans

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

What Happens in Vegas...

Sorry kids, I totally missed last week’s post, but I have a good excuse! I was in Las Vegas with my BFF, and decided that shopping-adventuring-being weird was more important than blog-writing. #Priorities!

It’s hard to put Las Vegas into words, but over the last week I’ve tried. Kind of successfully… I’ve described it as “full of fake trees” (palm trees aren’t real trees to this Canadian), “so hot it made me sick” (in reference to the temperature change going into a/c-ed stores), “full of temptation" (I mean the Dior, YSL, and Louboutin boutiques), and my personal favourite “like walking around in a cloud of cancer” (in reference to the smoke anywhere you want rule). 

Surprisingly, once I got over being travel sick on the first day, I had a lot of fun. Lots of shopping, lots of sights to see, and lots of unusual people to be seen. More surprisingly, I only had to get cranky with one pushy club promoter. (He should know better than to repeat “Excuse me girls” over and over, as he will be told that he is in fact excused). For all the fun that I had though, I don’t think that I’ll go back for a long time; there are just too many places in the world that I haven’t been to yet (*cough* everywhere in Europe), so I’ll cross a good bunch of those off my list before I bother to go back to the City of Sin. 

Waking up in Vegas

You can't go to Vegas without seeing a Cirque du Soleil show.
We saw The Beatles Love at the Mirage!

Tigers and lions and dolphins, oh my!
(Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat)

Our hotel is very, very tall... And some people bungee jump off of it
(The Stratosphere)

We gambled a total of $4 while waiting for our table at 9 Fine Irishmen

Tears were shed... But our wallets stayed closed
(Crystals at Aria)

Those are just a sample of the many many many photos that I took during the trip, and if you’re so inclined to see the rest click the link RIGHT HERE :)

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Damsel in Distress

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m much more of a city girl than a country girl. I may have grown up in the wilds of BC - where rattlesnakes infest the hills, mountains get climbed on Christmas Day, and the occasional bear turns up in the backyard (all true stories) - but I haven’t gone on a bona-fide nature adventure since high school. 

Last weekend though, I was talked into venturing out to the salt fields of Chaplin in the name of a photo-adventure in an alien landscape. I am my father’s daughter after all, so the part of me that is willing to do anything for a good photo won over the urbanite telling me to stay home and read a book. That, and the novelty of exploring Saskatchewan’s unique geography hasn’t worn off yet. 


Chaplin proved to be well worth the longer-than-expected drive, since it really did look like something out of a sci-fi movie. The high salt content in the soil turned the terrain an odd white and the shallow waterways have attracted a myriad of seashore birds, so there was plenty to take photos of and explore. The only things missing were the crab carcasses and kelp strands that are the mainstays of a true oceanic coastline. 




Things were going wonderfully until I conveniently forgot the old adage “look before you leap;” one wrong step off the path was all it took and I found myself quite literally knee-deep in muck. 

photo courtesy of Dann McKenzie
“Oh shite” was the first of many profanities that began to parade through my head, as I immediately began the extraction attempt. After a few minutes in vain my foot came out, but alas my boot was still 2-feet under. 

At this point most girls would have been shrieking for help, but besides an emphatic “Dann, stop taking photos of me” I wasn’t ready to give up yet. Down on my knees on solid(ish) ground I went, and into the mud went both hands. I pulled and pulled and pulled (while Dann went back to the jeep for a shovel), and to my surprise I actually won the battle for my beloved (now encased in mud) boot. Apparently I love my shoes more than Mother Nature does. 

My poor, poor boots.
The mud came off, but the salt may have ruined them after all.
In retrospect, I was really lucky; a few more seconds and I may have lost my cool and burst into tears. But it’s unexpected trials like this that remind me of one very important thing: I’m not the damsel in distress - I am the dragon. 


(Though it’s good to know that I have a back-up knight in shining armour, who comes prepared with a giant jug of water to wash up with. Getting dirty might have gotten the job done, but I sure as hell don’t like to stay that way).

Sunday, 14 September 2014

I Heart Regina

For a city that most people think of as the cultural back-water of Canada (and that’s only what the polite people say), it’s surprisingly full of art. Since I’ve moved here I’ve gone to see theatre three times (twice in theatres - it counts okay - and once live), fallen in love with Gothic/Tudor-revival architecture, and been surprised at the wide range of art and fashion books at the library. But what’s most impressive is that there are little pieces of artwork hidden in plain sight all over the city. Some places it is expected - parks, war monuments, statues of politicos (at least that’s who I assume they are, since I never remember what the plaques say after reading them) - but it’s the little touches of beauty in the least expected places that really get me, so I’m going to share some of my favourites with you. 


For a city that is dead flat, they’ve done a remarkable job at maintaining the tree-lined avenues. The arching branches remind me so much of my heart-city Victoria that I feel much more at home. 


One of the bridges in my neighbourhood is following the example of New York, and is starting to amass a collection of love-locks. A little bit overly-romantic for my cynical self, but for some reason I still like it. 


Apparently I can’t escape the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, since I walk by this post on my evening walk every day. As much as I’m not into the Olympics, I really like the cut-out style of type here as it’s very classy and minimalist. 


This building downtown has a whole bunch of little guardian gargoyles (though they look more like brownies to me), and I can’t help but smile every time I see them faithfully guarding their building. 


Most of the statues in the city are of the normal variety - marble, bronze, etc - but this group of copper people are a step away from normal in that they’re only half there. At first glance the eye tries to fill in the missing pieces, but the brain knows something is off, and when you realize that they’re not whole there’s definitely a “wow” moment. 


I found this adorable wire elephant hiding on the North side of the central library branch, and was instantly charmed. There’s also a grasshopper and a dinosaur in other parts of the city, but the elephant is my favourite!


I’m a total sucker for old-school lampposts, so I was absolutely delighted to see them scattered all through the paths of Regina’s main park. I can’t wait until the first snow comes so that I can do a Narnia/Snow Queen photoshoot all wrapped up in elegant furs!


The bridge on Albert Street has a whole bunch of artistic touches, but my favourite are the decorative support posts that line each side. It’s surprising how well the colours have stood against the elements, since I’ve never seen anyone repainting them. 



As the sign says, I really do heart Regina, and I’m sure that the longer I live in the city the more unexpected touches of beauty I will find and the more I will grow to love it. If only the winters were slightly less cold…