books, films

World Poetry Day: inVERSE – poetry in motion

inVERSE is a collection of five of the world’s oldest surviving poems, re-imagined for the 21st century through the medium of film. Filmed during lockdown 2020, the inVerse series is the brainchild of BAFTA nominated film maker Jack Jewers – the film director behind the award-winning adaptations of CJ Daugherty’s bestselling Night School series, published by Little Brown. The inVerse series also features narration from Adam Roche, host of the Secret History of Hollywood podcast.

Each short film takes a historical poem, ranging from 15,000 BC to 1,000 AD, as a prism through which to explore our modern world. Far from being dry, remote echoes of a long-gone age, each poem chosen for the collection feels like it could have been written yesterday, offering new meaning and a fresh perspective on some of the key global issues we face today.

Against the backdrop of lockdown and the pandemic, today’s gender and identity wars, the climate crisis, Europe’s refugee crisis, and the fight against racism, discrimination and inclusion, the films are perfect examples of the timelessness and universal significance of poetry, and the deep-rooted connections between past and present. It’s poetry – reimagined for the modern world.

The five films being released to mark World Poetry Day on Sunday 21st March are:

· Love Song – An Egyptian love poem written in 1400 BCE reveals a meditation on the meaning of relationship and gender in 2021.

A timeless declaration of love and desire, this poem feels as fresh today as it did when it was written – a long, long time ago. The imagery is strikingly sensual; how the narrator describes the sound of their true love’s voice as being like the taste of sweet wine; or wishing they were her very her clothes, so that they could forever be close to her body. It’s passionate, erotic, and quite beautiful

None of the couples you see in the film had met before they came into the studio on the bright, spring day on which it was filmed – with one exception. The older couple are Alfred and Leila Hoffman, who were 92 and 83 at the time of filming, who have been together for over 60 years. The velvet-voiced narration is provided by Adam Roche, host of the Secret History of Hollywood podcast – required listening for all classic movie fans.

· Long Wall A poem about loss and suffering from the Han Dynasty in China, opens up a conversation about Europe’s refugee crisis.

Jack Jewers says: The first time I read this anonymous poem – dating from the Han Dynasty in China, sometime around 120BCE – I was blown away by its age. How can a poem this rich and vivid be so old? The idea for this whole series of films grew from there. The poem conveys such poignant feelings of separation and loss that it seemed to be perfectly suited to a tale of refugees, far from home.
The refugee crisis is close to actress Sophia Eleni’s heart. Her mother fled the war in Cyprus in the mid-1970s, Most of the footage that ends the film was donated by the charity Refugee Rescue, who undertake tireless work saving desperate people at sea.

· My Heart Originating from ancient Mesopotamia, “My Heart Flutters Hastily” is a delightful reminder that those giddy, dizzy feelings you can get when you really like somebody are nothing new.

Originating from ancient Mesopotamia, “My Heart Flutters Hastily” is a delightful reminder that those giddy, dizzy feelings you can get when you really like somebody are nothing new. Whether it’s in a world of dating apps and socially-distanced love, or from a time that feels unimaginably distant, people have been falling in love the same way forever.

inVERSE started life in a world before anyone had ever heard the word ‘Covid’ and lockdown was something to do with home security. So when the world ground to a half in the spring of 2020, Jack had to find alternative ways of finishing the project. Working with Los Angeles-based actress Joanne Chew, Jack devised a method of directing over Zoom while she recorded the takes on her phone, as selfies. The result is the lightest of the five films, and the sweetest.

· The Look – A first century poem taken from Ovid’s Ars Amarosa is reimagined as a celebration of inclusivity and tolerance.

The Romans knew how to have a good time. The Look is an abridged version of ‘Take Care With How You Look,’ a chapter from Ars Amarosa (“The Art of Love”), by the poet Ovid. Its themes of rejecting false nostalgia about the past, and embracing the richness of the modern age, sounded to me like a celebration of inclusivity and tolerance. Of course, Ovid was writing about a very different age to our own, but the message holds as true today as it always has been. And what more fabulous harbingers this message than Drag Queens United?
This is the only INSIGHT short that was put together from found footage, rather than filmed specially for the series. The lovely, colourful, joyous shots of Drag Queens United were taken at Amsterdam Pride in 2017.

· The Dawn – The ancient Indian poet Kālidāsa’s Salutation to the Dawn transforms into a rallying cry for a better tomorrow led by young street protestors.

Considered the greatest poet of ancient India, Kālidāsa is a founding figure of world literature. And yet, a lot of mystery surrounds Kālidāsa. Some scholars even question whether he was a real person, suggesting instead that his work a kind of collected greatest hits of the ancient Sanskrit world. And perhaps it’s appropriate that such an inspiring poem was written by a semi-mythical figure. It sounds to me like a rallying cry for a better tomorrow. And who better to get that across than young street protestors?

‘Bullet time’ is an effect that makes objects and people look like they are frozen in thin air. Creating true bullet time requires two things we did not have – time and money. So instead, Jack took a low-fi approach. Aside from a few simple computer-generated touches to enhance the overall effect, everything you see is done for real. The protestors are all professional dancers, who had the strength and balance necessary to be able to keep still for extended periods of time – often in difficult and uncomfortable poses.

Jack Jewers is a filmmaker and writer. Passionate about telling stories in all media, his body of work crosses film, TV, and digital. His short films and web series have been shown in and out of competition at dozens of film and web festivals, including Cannes, New York, Washington D.C., Marseille, Dublin, and London’s FrightFest.

In 2014 he developed and directed Night School, a web series based on the popular young adult novels of the same name. It quickly grew from a couple of low-budget short films to become one of the highest-profile British web series to date. Jack’s numerous short films as director include the critically-acclaimed Shalom Kabul, a dark comedy based on the true story of the last two Jews of Afghanistan.

Jack has won several accolades for his film work, including an award from the Royal Television Society and a nomination for Best Short Film by BAFTA Wales. He has been invited to speak about his work at several major film and TV industry events, including Series Mania in Paris. Jack has also worked in advertising.

Through his production company, Queen Anne’s Revenge, Jack is currently in development on the fantasy TV series Whatever After, featuring Jessica Brown Findlay. He is also working on a small slate of feature film projects, including a thriller set in the international protest movement, entitled Generation Revolution.

Away from the cinema in all its forms, Jack has a deep interest in literature and history. He writes historical fiction, and is the co-founder of the publishing company Moonflower Books.

He lives near London with his wife, the author Christi Daugherty, a small menagerie of pets, and a friendly ghost. But that’s another story.

films, fun stuff, lifestyle, movie night, tv

Favourite Films for Cold Nights*

“Winter is coming” (in my best Sean Bean voice)

In winter I am even more of a homebody than the rest of the year and that’s saying something for this little couch dweller.

One of my favourite things to do when the wind is howling and it is inevitably raining, is to cosy up under a snuggly blanket with a supply of Diet Coke and snacks to watch some of my ultimate favourite films, most of which my husband has shockingly not seen. I will admit that these predominantly date back to my late 90s early 00s teen years, but that’s how a favourite is formed.

Obviously the best way to watch films like these is on a nice big TV screen (or at the cinema) with a bowl of popcorn and other snacks. If you’re thinking of upgrading your TV and making things more cinematic in time for winter, maybe have a look at the Oled Televisions from Panasonic. 

1

This is the best Shakespeare adaptation there is, I will brook no argument. It is also most people’s introduction to Heath Ledger, who gives an amazing energetic performance. It’s funny, a bit naughty, silly, passionate and just so entertaining. It’s also highly quotable. I have fond memories of the first time I watched this, and it’s tied very tightly to my teenage years.

2

Damn the man, save the Empire! A day in the life of an independent record store in a typical middle American town, staffed by teenagers and manager Joe, played by Anthony LaPaglia, who just wants to get through it. Superstar Rex Manning is due in, and Corey (Liv Tyler) is planning to seduce him, Debra’s life is in freefall, Eddie just wants to play records and smoke weed. All of the teen angst is fully on display here. But there are some hilarious scenes, such as when they wrangle a shoplifter, touching moments and a top notch cast. I quote bits of this all the time, and sing the various very 90s soundtrack hits while cleaning my flat

3

I have long classified this as a Christmas film – it starts on Christmas Eve and covers a year in the lives of a group of friends living in New York City’s Alphabet City, dealing with careers, relationships and AIDS. It’s also a musical. My husband hates it and makes me watch it alone. I have no idea why. I am a Rent Head and try to see it on stage regularly, which is tricky as it’s a bit of a cult hit in the UK and not many places seem willing to stage it. I bloody love it. I will sing along to every song, always cry at the saddest bit and can quote whole chunks of it. Oh, wait, maybe that’s his problem with it. I also wrote my MA dissertation to the soundtrack, thankfully none of the lyrics made their way onto the page, that would have been deeply confusing. No Day But Today!

4

This is a super cheesy ballet movie – I think I must have watched it hundreds of times but I couldn’t tell you the names of most of the characters. There’s a lot of dancing, Zoe Saldana plays that stereotype ‘the sassy black friend’, Peter Gallagher (Seth’s dad in The O.C) plays the grumpy ballet company manager, Amanda Schull plays the heroine who’s “too fat” according to some of the dancers, and a lot of the other characters are played by actual ballet dancers. There’s lovely Charlie, who she should fall for and ‘Big Nose’ as we called him aged 15, the bad boy of ballet who breaks her heart but also makes her an amazing dancer. The soundtrack is cracking, and the finale is choreographed to Michael Jackson. It’s a total B movie but it has a special place in my heart.

5

This is my official favourite film ever (Center Stage is my actual favourite) and it is the absolute sum of screwball comedies – Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, a leopard, witty crackling dialogue – who could ask for more? I don’t really think it has a plot, just lots of snappy talking and craziness involving big cats. I adore it. Plus Katherine Hepburn looks amazing in all her outfits.

6

I was born in the 1980s, so films like this weren’t exactly on my radar when they first appeared. But when I was at uni I watched this classic teen movie and fell in love. The smart writing, the characters, everything about John Hughes movies makes me feel safe and happy. Despite the occasional struggle the characters always resolve everything by the end of the film and the soundtrack is always amazing.

What are some of your favourite movies to curl up on the sofa and watch? Let me know in the comments.

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*This post contains sponsored or paid for content but all words and opinions are my own.

films, movie night, netflix, reviews

Random film review: Sisters

I thought that I’d share my thoughts on random films I watch late at night on Netflix. First up Sisters starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

I have no recollection of this being released in cinemas but that’s pretty common as I don’t go very often.

In the film Fey and Poehler play sisters who return to their childhood home to clean out their (frankly enormous – it has 2 double beds) bedroom as their parents have sold the house.

It is very silly, they decide to throw a legendary party inviting all their old friends, who conveniently still all live locally even though Fey and Poehler don’t.

There are some very funny moments that made me laugh very loudly and some unnecessarily cringey ones (poor Ike Barinholtz) that could easily have been cut.

The film also plays like a who’s who of funny American women with Samantha Bee, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon and a host of others popping up. An almost unrecognizable Dianne Wiest plays the mum.

Good points: funny, would definitely pass The Bechdel Test.

Bad points: #filmsowhite the only people of colour are some heavily stereotyped Korean nail salon workers. Fey does seem to struggle with POC in roles (she’s the film’s producer too). That really unnecessary gross out scene with Poehler and Barinholtz.

Worth watching? Yes for celeb spotting and the funny bits as well as the sisterly relationship which real life pals Fey and Poehler portray well.

Stars: 🌟🌟🌟

feminism, films, ramblings

Why I won’t be rushing to see the new Beauty & the Beast

I remember the animated version being released – I think I was 8. We went to see it at the cinema, I had a jumper with Belle’s face on it (My cousin had the exact same one – I think my grandparents bought them), I got the video for my birthday. 

I still have a soft spot for those animated classics, there’s a fair few in my DVD collection. Of the most recent ones I enjoyed Brave, Tangled, The Princess and the Frog, and even Frozen (I have some issues of its apparent origins being Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen – a very different story.) 
However I haven’t seen any of the new “live action” films – not sure how that much CGI can be considered live. 

Pete’s Dragon is one of my favourite films and nothing will replace a cartoon dragon called Elliot for me – I saw some stills of the updated version – just no. 

A CGI Baloo just won’t cut it after the delights of the animated one and Cinderella has been done to death.

Emma Watson isn’t my ideal Belle, and that’s fine – can’t please anyone. But I saw a review calling it ‘authentic’, which I can’t agree with. 1. It’s set in France, so Belle and everyone else would speak French, 2. It’s a fable – it’s about vanity and love overcoming all odds. 3. The Beast – do I need to expand. 
Like most fairy tales this had a slightly darker heart originally, the Prince becomes a Beast because that’s what he is inside – vain, selfish, cruel, monstrous. He’s cursed to learn his lesson. But he doesn’t, he becomes even worse, hence the kidnapping of Belle’s father. 

The film versions do away with Belle’s sisters – who demand jewels and furs from their merchant father, while the youngest daughter requests a single perfect rose. There’s more than a little King Lear in this tale as the youngest daughter atones for her father’s crime. 

Watson has spoken about making the film more feminist – erm, it’s about a woman who sacrifices her freedom for her idiot father and is kept prisoner by a monster – feminism didn’t exist in 15th century France (or at all) and I just don’t get how you can make this story less twisted and more feminist while keeping that key storyline. 

Anyway, I know people are raving about how beautiful it is, how they’ve kept the songs (why no Angela Lansbury?) etc. But it just isn’t for me. Rather than keep doing this  (Mulan is up next – but with no songs, fingers crossed they at least cast Asian actors) why can’t Disney go back to making fun, musical animation? 
I hear Moana is brilliant and I will be watching that next. 

If you do want a Disney film where the female characters are aces, here’s a little list. 

⭐Brave ⭐Tangled ⭐Frozen ⭐Zootropolis ⭐Mulan ⭐Pocahontas ⭐Robin Hood (I defy you not to love Clucky) ⭐Bedknobs & Broomsticks (oh Angela Lansbury, I do think you’re marvellous) ⭐The Princess & the Frog ⭐

Let me know if I’ve missed any Disney heroines who deserve to be mentioned (tbh most of the traditional princesses are a bit hopeless). 

Are you going to see this new Beauty & the Beast? Or will you be watching the 90s classic for the millionth time like me. 

films, movie night, politics, reviews

Why Trump won’t like the new Magnificent Seven – a sort of review

Last week we went to the cinema intending to use our free ticket voucher from Sainsbury’s to see Miss Peregrine.  According to both the website and the interactive noticeboard at the cinema there were seats but the dead eyed staffer said it was sold out. Normally we would have just said sod it and gone to Nandos. But the voucher was due to expire so we went to see The Magnificent Seven instead. 

I grew up with a father who loved sci fi and cowboy films. I remember watching the original version with Yul Brynner  (who will forever be the King of Siam to me, however inaccurate that film was) and indeed watching the Seven Samurai aka the original of the original. 

So I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this, but Chris Pratt was in it and I find him amusing and for six seconds the very pretty Matt Bomer was as well. 

I have a whole theory about Chris Pratt and his mission to recreate Toy Story by himself – he’s played Andy (Parks & Rec), a spaceman (Guardians of the Galaxy), run with dinosaurs, because unless you’re Andy Serkis you can’t be a dinosaur  (Jurassic World) and now a cowboy. Next up Bo Peep, a slinky dog or a pig (remake of Babe maybe).


Anyway. Onto the title of this post. There may be spoilers ahead so read on only if you don’t care.  

The plot centres around a small frontier town in California during the Gold Rush, where a wealthy and ruthless man plans to drive the locals out to dig more mines. Matt Bomer dies in a shootout and the church is burned down. 

Matt’s widow (Haley Bennett) decides to find someone to help her town and sets off with human puppy dog in tow.  

She finds Denzel Washington, a bound sheriff doing his duty, interestingly dressed all in black, counter to most cowboy films where the heroes wear white hats (something much referenced in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). 

He recruits gambling sharpshooter Faraday (Pratt) and sets out gathering a posse. 

There are seven men, one woman and the aforementioned human puppy. No one assaults her, no one even intimates rape. Not even the Mexican or Native American. (Trump would dislike that). 

After a rather explosive shootout with the bad guys – most of the seven and many of the townsfolk are dead. The villain gets his comeuppance and is shot by the heroine. 

The three heroes who ride out of town are a black man, a Mexican and a Native American – hardly Trump’s fan base. The four buried in town include the son of Irish immigrants (Faraday), a Chinese man (himself an immigrant), a crazy mountain man who spouts the Bible – in a good way, and a Cajun from New Orleans who again would be descended from immigrants. 

They stood up and defended strangers against a wicked man only concerned with his own wealth and power.   

I think Hollywood just allied itself even more firmly with Hilary Clinton. The true hero is a woman who united people, who found the best people for the job, regardless of their background or ethnicity. 

While Clinton is far from perfect (she is human) I think she’d probably enjoy the film a damn sight more than Trump. I just really hope the Americans can see that Trump is not President material. 

blogging, films, life, movie night

Best ever Christmas films, according to me!

During the festive season one of my favourite things to do is camp out on the sofa and watch Christmas films. I tend to stick to a few old favourites.

Rent – yes this film is about people dying of AIDS in poverty in early 90s New York, based on an opera (La Boheme) and it’s a musical but it begins and ends at Christmas and I love it. I know all the words to the songs and cry at the sad parts. It’s ultimately a story of redemption and love overcoming all odds.

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Muppets’ Christmas Carol – by far the best version of Dickens’ famous festive tale. Michael Caine as the crochety Mr Scrooge being shown the error of his ways by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, while his employee Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) struggles to provide for his rather large, mixed species family. With songs. And Muppets.

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Home Alone – the first one is brilliant, Macauley Culkin may be a much derided child star but this film with its genius level child building a lifesize version of the game Mousetrap to catch two bungling burglars, is every child’s secret dream.

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Elf – I’m not the biggest Will Ferrell fan but this is hilarious and silly, Zooey Deschanel is all big eyes and Ferrell as Buddy the Elf is just perfect.

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The Grinch – not the rubber faced Jim Carrey one but the original cartoon adaptation of Dr Seuss’ rhyming book about the grumpy Grinch and the good hearted Hoos of Hoosville who change his mind.

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Scrooged – Bill Murray was riding high when he made this, a high powered exec who follows in the footsteps of Ebenezer Scrooge by being miserly and mean at Christmas before ghostly visits have him rethinking his life. Murray’s Christmas special is currently on Netflix and is on my festive ‘To Watch’ list as is this very 80s film.

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What are your favourite Christmas films? Do you have any traditions you’d like to share? Leave a note below.
                  
                    🎅🎀🎄⛄🎁

ramblingmads

films, life, movie night

The Princess Bride aka the best film ever

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I love films, the whole popcorn, blanket, curling up on the sofa routine of movie night. But by far, The Princess Bride, adapted by William Goldman from his own novel, directed by Rob Reiner, starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Peter Falk, and so many other big names (including Billy Crystal – only identifiable by his voice).

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It was made in the ’80s (all the best things were – like me!) but retains its unique charm and humour.

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Hadley Freeman wrote about how brilliant this film is in her book celebrating 80s movies, Life Moves Pretty Fast (well worth a read), and Cary Elwes (who played the hero Westley) wrote a wonderful memoir, As You Wish, about making it (I got it last Christmas).

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It is eminently quotable – my favourites include “inconceivable”, “don’t bother me with trifles”, “I’m not a witch, I’m your wife” and the wonderful speech Inigo Montoya  rehearses for the moment he meets his nemesis, the six-fingered man.

Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.

It has every thing, love, death, revenge, heroes, villains, sword fights, a princess, pirates, and a real-life giant, former wrestler, Andre the Giant.

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So, put the popcorn on, add marshmallows to your hot chocolate, pile the blankets on the sofa and watch this film – it has something for the whole family, even if you don’t like stories with kissing.

ramblingmads