Posts Tagged ‘clichés’

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seasons change.

October 16, 2011

Here in London, over the last few weeks it has been unseasonably mild and humid, but now we are in the middle of October we are finally having some wintry days. The sky is cloudy (but backlit by sunshine, so it looks pleasant as opposed to overcast and dull), and there is a decided chill in the air. And rather than complaining about the onslaught of shorter days, it is actually quite pleasant and refreshing to be able to wrap up warm against the elements and brave the outdoors on the way to work.

When I was younger, I used to prefer the colder months because I didn’t cope very well with the heat. On top of that, summertime = wasps, which are my only phobia, and they used to drive me crazy as a child (I like to think I cope better these days). But honestly, nowadays I like all of the seasons for different reasons. Spring is lush because it feels romantic (not just because of, but including Valentine’s day), and the days are getting longer and the evenings are getting lighter. The trees and flowers are coming to life and everything looks really pretty. Summer is nice because it means holidays, late evenings outside (or out!) in the sunshine, beautiful late-night sunsets and other cliché-but-true attributes. Plus, when we actually get some warm weather it is lovely to wear light clothes, although all of the sweating is quite unpleasant and makes me want to pass out in surrender to the humidity. Autumn is pretty with all of the changing colours of the leaves (parks are amazing at this time of year), and the aforementioned chill in the air helps to wake me up in the mornings as I step outside the house. And I love winter – although after a while it gets impractical and annoying, the snow is very pretty, and I think that my winter wardrobe contains my favourite and most fashionable clothes. I love snuggling up to Toby underneath lots of blankets on a winter weekend morning, and one of my favourite winter memories is from just last year, when Toby and I trekked through the London slush to go to Somerset House and the ice-rink in their Skate park. Plus, I really enjoy Christmas – it means Mariah Carey’s Christmas albums (both of which I adore), lots of shopping, and lots of love shared between friends. It really warms my heart.

I guess that despite the fact that I like all of the seasons, and that the early twilights can be quite dreary and depressing, winter is actually still my favourite of all of the seasons after all. Or to be more precise, the period in October/November on the cusp between autumn and winter. The sky is still clear and the sunshine can still shine brightly, but it’s cold enough to put on my long black French Connection coat, my fingerless gloves and my boots, and go for a walk through the Kensington streets, leaves crunching crisply underfoot. Mmm. 🙂

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The King’s Speech – review.

January 23, 2011

I went to see The King’s Speech with Toby last night, and thinking about the experience, the main sensation that I feel is guilt. Guilt that midway through the film’s second third, I surrendered to sleep; guilt that I could not concur with the film’s largely glowing reviews from critics and friends alike; guilt that despite the actors’ invariably fine performances, there was just something lacking. It didn’t take me long to put my finger on what the main missing ingredient was, but first, allow me to expand.

The King’s Speech is a smug, self-satisfied film that surrounds itself with a certain air that says to its audience, that proclaims  to those who see its advertisements, “You are watching this because you are intelligent, because you are interested in History. Feel congratulated, feel superior to the hoi polloi.” This air of self-importance is perhaps fitting with the film’s focus on early 20th century royalty, but is certainly at odds with the flat cinematography. In Lionel’s basement, this cheapness, this absence of depth between the background, the foreground and the actors can perhaps be forgiven as it is evocative of the speech therapist’s relative poverty – all the more pointing out with a wry smile that the future King of England has had to go there, to such a lowly place (after all, it is in a basement that can only be accessed through a cramped lift) in order to find his redemption. But when in more royal quarters, how can you really feel a sense of majesty when the decor, the scenery does not evoke this? The film’s rather small budget of $15 million reveals itself early on. And yet, Firth’s previous film, the sumptuous A Single Man, was made on half that budget and both looks and, more importantly, feels like a million dollars. Go figure.

Nevertheless, the actors all provide stellar showings – none more so than Colin Firth, whose stammer never feels affected or artificial; whose frustration, anger, silence, tenderness towards his family, fear of and eagerness for being the country’s king ring true at every turn. Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue with sincerity and humility, and while I much prefer Helena Bonham Carter as a sexy temptress à la Fight Club or a ridiculously pompous Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland, she more than does her part as Queen Elizabeth here. The King’s Speech is certainly not lacking in fine performances.

But unfortunately, the crux of the problem is this – characters cannot do anything without a story. The plot of The King’s Speech is as follows: the King has a stammer, so he gets some speech therapy to fix it so he can deliver speeches (thus the title’s double reference to the king’s ability to speak, and the film’s final speech – his ultimate test). That’s it. This plot is less than linear – it’s a dot. It goes nowhere, it does nothing unexpected or even notable. As mentioned earlier, I fell asleep for 20 minutes in the film’s second half, woke up and events were more or less where I had left them. And even worse, 99% of the film’s audience know the entirety of the plot before even entering the cinema! Even if you are not au fait with 20th century British history, the British monarchy nor the stories of wartime Britain, you will know how the film ends – for the pure fact that nobody under the age of 15 is going to see this film of their own accord, and the vast majority of those over 15 know that there has never been a king who died moments after being crowned during a World War, nor has there ever been a king whose stammer prevented him from delivering speeches. If either of these things had happened, they would be etched in our history in such a way that everyone would know about them, just as they know of the death of Princess Diana, of her wedding to Prince Charles, of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, of the Queen’s two birthdays. It would be another elementary fact. Thus, this means that it is inevitable that the King gets his stammer cured, or at least is able to manage it in order to perform his duties.

There is nothing approaching a subplot in the film to maintain interest. Edward abdicates in order to pursue love, and the audience is expected to just accept this because that’s how it happened in history – there is no attempt to probe beneath the façade of pompous dignity to question whether Edward is actually doing the right thing, the brave thing, pursuing truth over the pretences inherent in being a monarch (according to King George V himself). The film has only room for one triumphant victim, and that is Firth’s character – even when he is acting like a snobbish, spoilt moron, the viewer is not invited to feel repulsed or even more than mildly annoyed at his presumptuous pride, because he is the film’s Hero, the country’s King, and thus must not be questioned. If you are choosing to question him and other aspects of the film, then good for you – but you’re going above and beyond what the film requires you to do in order to get to the final triumph and achieve your gold star. Any attempts to psychologise the King’s speech impediment are completely reductionist – is it the absence of Daddy’s affections? The taunting of the mean big brother? Peer pressure? The King’s Speech expects its audience to overlook this simplicity because it is British, it is Royal, it is Historical – but if these explanations were transposed to an American rom-com or a Channel 5 drama, they would be seen and derided for the facile clichés they are.

Ultimately, The King’s Speech is a simple film that contains faultless performances, and whose stars should be amply rewarded for their acting. But nevertheless, it is a film that is a plotless puddle, all the while proclaiming itself a majestic ocean.

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spirit.

December 24, 2009

I never feel I am very good at doing rundowns of the year, because I always manage to miss out some insanely positive event and focus on the negative, or I feel I live too much in the moment to want to dwell on the past.  Likewise, I don’t really bother making New Year’s Resolutions because I don’t really ever feel I have to change anything instantly.  I don’t feel I have anything to give up in my life.  I guess I would like to finally pass my driving test and get a car in 2010, but I’m not going to make it a resolution, I’m just going to try and do it! If that makes sense.

Having said all of that, I feel as we come to the end of 2009 that I’m a lot happier now than I was this time last year. As I’ve said before, this is my first Christmas not working in retail, and in terms of the lack of stress and not having to deal with customers (nor low pay), it’s been bliss!  I’m away from the Perfume Shop and the people who work there, and that can only be a good thing.  What’s more, I’m doing my Careers Guidance course at uni and I finally feel like my life is going somewhere. I have some fantastic friends whom I’ve made this year, and my friendships which have endured for the last few years only continue to grow.  I feel like I’ve discovered more of myself as a person, and although I’m not 100% happy, who is?  I nevertheless recognise the improvement in my life, both in the things that have happened to me and in the evolution of myself as a person.  I hope it continues because I have plenty further to go and a lot more I want to accomplish!  But compared to my despondency about myself and my life at the end of 2008, things are looking up.

In terms of a blast from the past, today I was in town catching up with Hannah and Alex (we still have a lot to talk about!) and enjoying a Christmas coffee.  I treated us all to coffees in Starbucks (because it’s Christmas and I just got paid from the hospital – I think I have had a payrise! 😀 ) and it was just really nice.  Walking around the shops with Hannah, I saw some things I like (including a Juicy Couture iPod touch case.  I don’t have an iPod touch, and the case is hardly masculine in its pastel pink shade, but I want it.) but there was no point in spending money on Christmas Eve when the sales start Boxing Day, yknow?  Walking towards the bus stops at the end of our trip, I walked past Serena, the girl at the Perfume Shop who said that I was a thief, who said that I had bullied her – Hannah saw her first and offered a nice-bitchy comment (“I think she looks fatter?” Bless you girl!!!).  I didn’t really look, though I know she saw me.  I smiled at her, then walked straight past.

Hearing those untrue things said about me really hurt, but I have said my piece to my friends, and I’m over it.  Life goes on, and if they were talking about me 4 months after I had left the shop, then that’s a compliment in a way – I guess I made an impression!  But I’m over feeling mad, upset and angry about it – my life is a lot better now, and part of that is because the girls at the Perfume Shop are not part of it (excluding Henna, whom I see around uni from time to time).  I am in a good place – even if I get down about Mike etc., his friendship has really raised me up and helped me uncover and discover more about myself.  So instead of looking away, or storming past, I just smiled at her and went on my own way.  I’m on a new path, and it’s Christmas – why bother perpetuating any bitterness or regret? If that’s what she wants to do – well, she’s older than me and it’s sad that she doesn’t just move on because she should have more important things in her life.  I certainly have – and I know I’m talking about it now, but I really recognised that it just isn’t worth it anymore to cling onto anger.  I wish most people nothing but the best, and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.  And I’m not dead yet!

So instead of being cheesy or cliché about Christmas spirit, I just wanted to say that even though this is applicable to any time of year (because hardship happens all year round), there’s nothing better than embracing the positive and letting go of the negative when you’re ready to and you feel you can.  I have a long way to go, but I’ve progressed from before and despite my own personal ups and downs, I’m in a much better place.  More than anything material, more than Juicy Couture iPod cases, that is the best gift I can give to myself this Christmas – allowing myself to be happy and to be proud.  I wish you all nothing but the best, please be proud of yourselves and recognise the good in yourself.  I know that Christmas is about giving to others and family, but we have to take some time to feel good about ourselves too.  We are all deserving of that!  So from the bottom of my heart, have a wonderful Christmas Day tomorrow, however you’re spending it – and take a moment just to look at yourself and appreciate who you are!  Love always. 🙂

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self fulfilling prophecy.

August 2, 2009

Right now, I am talking to my friends Marcus and Nana on msn and we are discussing the future.  I know it is a scary thing to discuss, and its at once prudent and futile. Prudent because having life goals gives you something to work towards and gives you a drive to get up in the morning and be the best you can be; futile because you can only plan so far before life gets in the way and throws you a curveball that makes you adapt or be left behind in the dust.  And being able to adapt at what life throws at you is a true test of will and something that makes you really grow up and mature.  A learning curve, a work in progress, and what provides you with life experience and (hopefully) wisdom along the way.  If, as I grow up, I have some wisdom or sense, then I will be happy with that.

So we’re discussing the future, and I say that I hope to have friends and a degree of success which satisfies me.  So that I can look back on my life and feel proud of whatever it is that I end up achieving (I am determined to achieve something), have stability financially and in terms of my family and house.  I have never really had problems making friends and I believe that I will always have good friends around me.  But I never ever imagined being with somebody later in life.  5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 30 years down the line, I see myself as single.  I know it sounds sad and pessimistic, but as much as I have been on dates (had another one today, but he has a long distance bf so I think we will be just friends – which is a shame, as he seemed to be annoyingly perfect and we had so much to talk about, he was lovely and handsome), I can’t imagine myself having a successful very-long-term relationship.  I don’t know if it is because I am unlovable on that level, or just because I am too good at making friends and no good at going beyond that, or because I am now just focused on establishing myself and getting myself a good career and financial stability (which is going to take a long long time in itself), but I just don’t foresee it.  And obviously, since I’m not a clairvoyant, I could be completely wrong. In fact, I would be quite happy to be proved wrong, because sometimes I wonder if it is a self-fulfilling prophecy and because I imagine myself to be alone and can’t see anything else, I am going end up that way because I can’t keep my mind open to the possibility.  But at 23, I don’t think I have closed my heart off to love – it’s obviously just not my time.  Just what is fate, anyway?

Something that people say is that there is one person for everyone – I don’t believe that, because there are so many people in the world speaking so many different languages in so many different countries and cultures, that there has to be more than just “the one” for you (overcome the language barrier, the gender barrier, would open up a whole new world full of new people to you).  Another thing that people say is that “sooner or later you will find someone”.  I think people say that just to pacify you, or to reassure you that you won’t be lonely forever. But the hard truth is that some people do end up alone, and often it’s not because there is anything wrong with them, they just ended up that way through circumstance or choice or not finding a compatible mate.  Maybe I won’t find someone – through no fault of my own, I believe I’m not a bad catch 😉 – but if I have lots of friends around me, I won’t be alone, and if I am financially stable and living in a place I like, then I could still be happy.  I like to think (call me naïve) that I could sacrifice something and still be happy.  And in a way, I guess in life, we all have to sacrifice something.