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.

Made In Dagenham

musical, Theatre

Made In Dagenham girlsRecently I had the pleasure to see The Adelphi Theatre’s new musical, Made In Dagenham, based on the movie, which in turn is based on the Ford Sewing Machinist’s strike of 1968 which lead to equal pay for women. I had neither seen the film, nor much knowledge about the strike before seeing the musical, and my reasons for this were so that the musical could leave it’s own impression on me rather than comparing it to the film.

The sets were incredible – adding a large amount of character to the production, and making the location of each scene very clear, whilst using them very wisely. The plot was obviously a very empowering one, and it was refreshing to have themes of friendship and female solidarity rather than a romance plot – although I do like a romantic comedy it is interesting to see a musical take a different route. Although there was a sub plot based on a relationship, it was on how the strike affected the protagonist’s marriage and family – a much more intriguing and original route to go down.

Unlike some musicals, all of the supporting characters were humorous and with their own individual character. They each had some great lines, and many had a solo of some kind. Unfortunately, whilst we managed to gain an understanding of their character through their conversations, there was not enough time to deeply delve into more about them. Particularly hilarious characters were Beryl – who had the funniest lines which the actress managed to convey very well – and Harold Wilson – who was endearingly mocked, and whose portrayal was so surprising – his own musical number was particularly enjoyable. It was refreshing to have such a large number of female side characters, and the dialogue between them in the workplace seemed a very realistic portrayal of female conversation. With the current highlight on feminism, it seems a great time for this musical to come out, and it still manages to seem fresh, and was very empowering and uplifting at points.

The songs, whilst not memorable enough to become musical classics, were enjoyable, and had the same humour as throughout the rest of the musical. Particular favourites of mine were;  Barbara Castle’s solo, “Ideal World”; We are America – a solo from the American manager of Ford which mocked America and was hilarious in it’s campiness and the final song, “Stand Up” – which brought tears to my eyes.

Gemma Arteton nailed all the necessary emotions for her part; the humour, the anger, the determination, the sadness and the confusion, and whilst her accent wasn’t always perfect, this was not noticeable enough to hinder the power of her performance.

I recently watched The Shaftsbury’s Theatre’s “The Pajama Game” which had similar themes – it focussed on the worker’s desire for a raise – and whilst watching Made in Dagenham it was impossible not to compare the two musicals. “The Pajama Game” was written in the 1950s, and was under-lyingly misogynistic despite it’s seemingly feminist themes – whereas Made in Dagenham presents them with humour.

I would definitely recommend seeing this; it was funny, empowering and at points, tragic, and was a very powerful piece of theatre. The cast received a standing ovation demonstrating how it had affected all of the audience. The musical numbers, whilst very funny, did not quite have the long lasting effect of songs from Musical classics like “Les Miserables” or “Wicked”, but it was still a very worthwhile trip.

A Streetcar Named Desire

Classics, Theatre

I recently saw the a live screening of “A Streetcar named Desire” which until recently was playing at The Young Vic in London. It stars Gillian Anderson as Blanche Dubois, Ben Foster as Stanley and Vanessa Kirby as Stella.

Although I’ve read the play, I’ve never seen either the movie or any stage version. The first half of the play was not particularly overwhelming to me – it satisfied my expectations after reading the play, but it was the second half which was truly amazing. The true vulnerability of Blanche Dubois was shown to perfection both by Gillian Anderson and the director. Certain choices, such as having Blanche half dressed and with smudged make up, in the rape scene made Blanche seem almost child like emphasising the tragedy. Ben Foster was also incredible as Stanley, and the direction of the rape scene, which seemed very graphic and brutal despite very little actually being shown, was done perfectly. The whole second half, and that scene in particular, was very difficult to watch but an excellent portrayal of such heartbreaking material. Vanessa Kirby’s accent was flawed and she didn’t quite live up to the performances of her two co stars, although this didn’t much effect the power of the play.

After reading the play, although being aware of the tragedy of what had happened, I didn’t feel that connected to the characters or what was happening. The direction and the incredible acting of Gillian Anderson (I honestly can not praise her enough in this production) made this an incredible adaptation. If you can see it in the cinema, I definitely recommend it, although it is certainly not a feel good theatre experience.

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.

Once; A Review

musical, Theatre

There was a lot of hype about Once, and I went to see it yesterday with my sister. It was enjoyable certainly, but it did not quite live up to the hype and in some ways was wholly unsatisfying.

It is unique and unusual, and I think this takes a bit of getting used to. Almost all of the characters are very odd, which creates very humorous moments when combined with the cynical and much more normal main character. The romance between the two characters (who are simply named Boy and Girl, which makes talking about the play much more difficult) is great. The music, whilst not exactly “hits” as they were mostly quite slow, were beautiful and were the kind that I would listen to regularly; the best ones being “Falling slowly” and “Gold.”

However, the comedy of the play was very hit and miss – some moments were very funny, whereas others (and these potentially came more often) were much more WTF worthy. The ending was completely unsatisfying, and whilst I understand that it was meant to be realistic, it was still disappointing. I don’t necessarily want a happy ending – although those are much preferred – but I do want an ending, and this one was very lacklustre.

Although enjoyable and sweet, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I would give it a 6.5 – 7 out of 10.