The Best of 2014

art, Film, music, Theatre

As 2014 comes to an end, I’ve decided to look over what were, in my opinion, the best movies, albums, songs, theatre productions and art exhibitions of 2014.

Best Movie: PaddingtonAlthough I haven’t been able to see many of the films I wanted to this year, I was disappointed with much of what I did see. Paddington, which I saw very recently, was a delight, and was absolutely hilarious. Whilst I did watch critically acclaimed films, such as Gone Girl, none was as memorable as this touching and heart warming movie.

Best Album: The Lonely Hour, Sam Smith

After releasing a few singles, such as “Money On My Mind” and featuring on Disclosure’s “Latch”, Sam Smith released this album, which lead to the singles “Stay With Me” and “I’m Not the Only One” being blasted out of radio stations for most of summer and autumn. With his beautiful voice and the heartfelt lyrics, it’s not hard to see why.

Best Songs: “I’m Not the Only One”, Sam Smith

As well as being my favourite album of the year, I loved Sam Smith’s song “I’m Not the Only One” enough for it to be one of my top two songs of the year.

Blank Space, Taylor Swift

In a departure from her country roots, Taylor Swift’s album was firmly pop, and whilst  I was originally sceptical, “Blank Space” was an undeniable delight. Turning even those most opposed to her music into fans, and working as a biting response to the media’s portrayal of her, it was a catchy masterpiece. Read my full review of her album here: https://nellymair.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/taylor-swift-1989-album-review/

Best Theatre Show: Made in Dagenham

I’ve been lucky enough to go the theatre quite a lot this year, and despite seeing revered musicals such as “Les Miserables”, “Miss Saigon” and “Once”, my favourite was the upbeat “Made in Dagenham.” Funny, yet uplifting, and with catchy and humorous songs, it was a thoroughly entertaining night out. Read my full review here: https://nellymair.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/made-in-dagenham/

Best Art Show: Battersea Affordable Art Fair

I generally prefer group shows to those with single artists, and whilst The Royal Academy Academy Summer Exhibition lacked many stand out works this year (apart from that by Yinka Shonibare) and the Frieze Art Fair was slightly too wacky for me, the Battersea Affordable Art Fair got the balance just right. With a combination of intriguing modern art and more classic work, I found it a fascinating show.

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Month in Review; July

Books, Film, music, Theatre, TV

Songs I’ve loved this month;

Do You Remember The First Time – Sophie Ellis Bextor (originally by Pulp)

Recently I have become a big fan of Sophie Ellis Bextor, and I especially love this cover of a classic Pulp song which she did for Britpop at the BBC.

Wasted by Tiesto

This is not the kind of music that I would usually listen to, but the tune is so upbeat that I think it’s perfect for summer. It’s especially great when combined with the very feel good music video.

Book of the month;The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion a feel good romantic comedy about a man with aspergers and his attempt to find his perfect wife. Enter Rosie, the chaotic but fun girl who is completely unlike what he’s looking for. The plot may sound cliché, but the viewpoint was very interesting and amusing as you had a glimpse into the protagonist’s ridiculously ordered life. It was also incredibly endearing to see him experience things he never expected, and his character development raises this book above your standard chick lit.

TV Shows I’ve loved this month;

In The Flesh – as I have said numerous times on this blog, I started watching this show earlier this month, and it’s since become one of my all time favourites. Although it’s about zombies, it follows very human issues, and manages to be meaningful whilst also being exciting.

Utopia – a conspiracy thriller, Utopia is about five people who take interest in a graphic novel and then start to be hunted by a secret corporation. Filled with unexpected plot twists and complicated, likable characters, who seem realistic, Utopia is definitely worth a watch.

Best Thing I Saw This Month;

Les Miserables at The Queens Theatre, LondonLes Miserables Tickets poster

Hardly a ground breaking suggestion, Les Miserables is well known for it’s great
soundtrack and epic story. All the cast are incredibly talented, and this is one of the most powerful things you can see at the theatre, so if you haven’t seen it yet, then listen to the hype, and go see it.

Top Ten Tuesday; Movies and TV Shows

Film, TV

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme started by The Broke and The Bookish, and this week it is ten favourite movies or tv shows, so this is a combination of both.

Top Five Movies

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5. Bridget Jones’ Diary

I LOVE Bridget Jones; it’s a truly brilliant romantic comedy, with a heroine who I absolutely adore (I see more than a little bit of myself in Bridget, and I don’t know if I should be ashamed of that or not.) I’m still hoping for a third movie (which differs from the book, because what Helen Fielding did to Mark Darcy WILL NEVER BE OKAY)

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4. Mulan

With a cracking soundtrack, great side characters as well as a kick ass heroine and great plotline, Mulan had to be on this list. It’s impossible to not root for Mulan and sing along to “Make A Man out of You” when it comes on.

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3. Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day

Set in the 1920s, this film follows Miss Pettigrew, a strait laced, penniless governess, who accidentally ends up spending a day with Delysia LaFosse, whose bright life of parties and romance is a stark contrast to Miss Pettigrew’s. Miss Pettigrew helps Delysia choose between her numerous suitors, whilst also finding a romance of her own. This is one of those  delightfully charming films, and whilst horrendously underrated, it is a gem of a movie, with great cinematography and acting as well as such an endearing plot.

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4. The Notebook

This hardly needs an introduction, but the enduring love story between Noah and Allie is incredibly beautiful, and the scene by the lake is one of the best reunions ever.

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5. Love Actually

I love the kind of movies which follow the love lives of a large group of people, whose lives all connect. Love Actually, is by far, the best of these kind of movies, and has a great combination of humour and romance with other tragic plotlines.

Five Best TV Shows

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5. Friends

A no-brainer really, this is, without a doubt, the best sitcom ever, and you can rewatch the episodes again and again.

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4. Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl is fantastic in it’s first two seasons, and whilst it becomes more and more soapy as it continues, it never stopped being entertaining. Whilst true that it became a guilty pleasure in the 4th season, it is still one of my favourites, without a doubt. The bitchy quips from Blair Waldorf, combined with the complicated relationship between her and Chuck, as well as all of the ridiculously attractive actors make this a show I will watch again and again.

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3. In The Flesh

I talked about In the Flesh really recently, and it is my latest TV obsession. Genuinely good tv, it is heart breaking, with great characters with interesting moral dilemmas,  intriguing plots and a deeper message, without being preachy.

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2. Agatha Christie’s Marple and Agatha Christie’s Poirot

I hate to sound like an old woman, but I adore these. The Miss Marple’s are always great with a cup of tea, and David Suchet was the best Poirot I have ever seen. I have watched many crime shows, and yet, none have managed to be as entertaining and humorous as these. Based on the classic books, which I also love, I would definitely recommend watching this series on a Sunday afternoon.

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1. Veronica Mars

I really struggled with my last choice, because whilst I love a lot of tv shows, I’m not sure they’re all worthy to be on the list of my five all time favourites. Veronica Mars, however, was truly great before it’s train wreck of a third season. Following a teenage private detective on her smaller cases, whilst she tackles the larger series mystery. The first season is about her attempting to solve the murder of her best friend as well as her rape. This is all tackled alongside the typical high school problems of friendships and romance, as well as the endearing relationship between Veronica and her father. The script is very good, the mystery’s gripping, and the main romance is absolutely epic.

The Fault in Our Stars; Movie Review

Film

The Fault in Our Stars is the movie adaptation of the book by John Green, which is much beloved by teenagers everywhere. It’s about Hazel, a 16 year old cancer patient, who meets Augustus Waters, cancer survivor, at a support group.  After having read the book, I wasn’t quite as enthralled as everyone else, but I went along to the movie on a special fan screening on Thursday. (Unfortunately, being in England, the film came out later than in America.)

I really liked the film. The acting was incredible, and despite the emotional scenes which could have lead to the young leads hamming it up, it all felt very authentic. The leads fitted their characters very well, and Shailene Woodley was incredible. Ansel Elgort, who I know many people were sceptical about, was perfect, and he made Augustus Waters – a character who had the potential to be irritating and cringey – just as lovable as in the book. He got across the charm which caused thousands of teenage girls to fall in love with him. Large amounts of plot had to be cut from the film, which focussed on the latter half of the book, and whilst this did result in the build up of the relationship feeling slightly rushed, there were plot points from the book which I thought the film was correct to cut out, as some parts of the book were unnecessary. However, there were other aspects that I was very disappointed with, namely Isaac’s speech, which seemed to have been cut down, which was a shame as that was my favourite part of the book. The soundtrack to the film was great and was used to fantastic effect to heighten the emotion throughout the film.

All in all, this was a good film, and I would venture so far as to say it was better than the book (although if you’re an avid fan of the book, I’m sure you’d disagree.) If you love the book, definitely go see this, as it won’t let you down. If you haven’t read the book but are looking for a film to watch, give this a go, it’s funny and heart wrenching and realistic, and worth your time. However, whilst a good film and worth watching, as someone who had no particular emotional connection to the original book, I can’t help feeling that I will probably forget about the film, and so give it a 3.5 out of 5.<

Maleficent; A Review

Fairy Tales, Film

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Maleficent was a film I anticipated greatly; I love fairy tales, and this was an intriguing premise. However, it played like one huge eyeroll, suited much better to a response of snarky comments than to awe or enjoyment.

The plot  claimed to be Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of it’s great villain, Maleficent, and it was not. The film changed the whole plot of Sleeping Beauty in order to make Maleficent a good guy, and that was possibly it’s greatest failing; it was much too safe. The beginning was good, showing the back story and the motivation behind Maleficent’s actions and her bitterness. But as the film progressed, it felt like it was working incredibly hard to redeem her when surely the point was that she WAS a villain and HAD done bad stuff and to show it from her perspective rather than just change her character all together. It was incredibly disappointing, as it all felt like build up to an unsatisfying anti-climax. Sleeping Beauty’s sleep – which is supposed to last 100 years – is over in about five minutes. The ending was also greatly changed in a multitude of ways (LOOK AWAY NOW IF YOU WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS) as true loves kiss turned out to be a maternal kiss from Maleficent, and Maleficent never died and lived happily ever after in her moors now that humans and fairies are united – YAWN. I have never eye rolled more than Maleficent’s “true love kiss” to aurora, which not only seemed unlikely due to the rest of the film, but was an obvious copy from Frozen, a film which did it much more successfully. The happy ending was not only a change from the actual plot, but was incredibly lame, like the majority of this film actually. Furthermore, there are two ways that  fairy tales can work; by amping up the comedy and romance a la Mirror Mirror, or by making it an action paced adaptation a la Snow White and the Huntsman, and whilst Maleficent seemed to want to be both, it failed in being either.

Onto the characterisation;

Maleficent – This film is obviously about a further delving into Maleficent character – but I didn’t feel like we got that at all. All we got was an interesting character with moral complexities turned into a “good guy” through love for Aurora *pukes into bucket*. It did nothing to challenge the black and white characterisation of the earlier film – as other people were transformed into the villains in order to take Maleficent place – and this irritated me, as if you promise an anti-hero, then that’s what I want. Angelina Jolie’s English accent was also slightly odd, but I will say that there were some great parts of the film, when she’s making snarky comments along the lines of “Beastie. I hate you.” – Hatred is always so much more amusing than love when it comes to cinema.

Aurora – Oh god. This film suffers from the fact that it is adapted from the Disney film Sleeping Beauty, a movie created before they realised that character should have, you know, personalities, and whilst the film thought it fine to deviate from the original movie in many aspects, it did not change Aurora’s bland, irritating personality. This was only added to by the dreadful Elle Fanning, who can not act and even more than that, can not handle a British accent in the slightest (the insistence of films, which are actually set in France (where Sleeping Beauty is set) to have the actors, who are almost always American, to put on a British accent irritates me to no end.) Aurora’s character was so insufferable that I thought it incredibly unlikely that Maleficent’s time spent with her would prompt her to save her from her fate rather than attempt to bring it forward – less screen time for Aurora would not have been so bad.

Stefan – all I can say is WHAT A DICK. Also, once again, his Scottish accent was terrible.

This film is hugely disappointing, and honestly whilst it was mildly enjoyable and maybe worth catching on tv when it comes on, I would not recommend spending your money on it. I’d give it a 5.5 out of 10.

(Also, why do film companies keep spending huge amounts of money making films like this, when what is obviously needed is the film version  of Wicked – now that is how a fairy tale from the perspective of a villain should be done.)

Divergent Film Review

Film

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Another month, another widely popular teen franchise hits the cinemas. This time it’s Divergent, which came out on Friday. I thought I’d share my thoughts on the film, keeping in mind that I haven’t read the books (although after watching the film, I would like to, and I regret not having done so, as one of my keen mottos is to ALWAYS READ THE BOOK FIRST.)

Divergent is set in a world where, in order to ensure peace and that everyone can be controlled, people are sorted into factions. The factions go as folows; Amity, who are basically happy farmers; Erudite, the intelligent; Candor, who always speak the truth; Abnegation, the selfless, who are in control of the Government and help the poor and factionless; and Dauntless, the brave, who act as policemen. Tris Prior, the protagonist, on her test, which is supposed to show which faction she belongs in, comes out as divergent, meaning she could go into a mixture of the factions, and is at risk, as Divergents’ are constantly hunted, due to a fear that they cannot be controlled and will upset the peace. She hides her divergent status and chooses to become Dauntless, despite her family being in Abnegation. She has to go through various trials, which convinced me, that if I was in this dystopian world, and for some Godforsaken reason chose to be in dauntless, I most definitely would not survive. (This is not one of the books where I wanted to trade places with the protagonist.) From then on, obviously, she doesn’t entirely manage to hide her identity, the Erudite people get power-crazy, and naturally, there’s a gorgeous love interest in the form of Four (Theo James), one of her leaders in Dauntless.

As far as dystopian YA goes, this is a pretty good one, although the plot, in itself, is flawed, as it seems very unlikely that anyone, let alone the majority, would be able to fit in just one of those very limited categories. Other than that, the film is gripping and shocking at times, and enjoyable. Kate Winslet steals every scene she’s in, which is not surprising, seeing as she is, after all, Kate Winslet (although my friend who has read the book said her character’s role was increased dramatically.) Theo James’ acting skills could be better, but his  attractiveness more than make up for that. The romance is not entirely convincing, due to a lack of chemistry between the actors, and the relationship seems very rushed, as the viewers don’t get to see their feelings for each other grow, making it seem very improbable when they do get together. I am also never a fan of the teacher-student relationship concept, and this is only a mild alteration of that theme, and that strangeness is only added to by the obvious age difference between the two characters.

Overall it is a fun, interesting film, and whilst it may not be the most memorable, I would recommend seeing it, even if only for Theo James’ good looks.