What We Love This Week… “Her”!

This week, we love the trailer for Spike Jonze’s “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson. This science fiction romance tells the story of a socially awkward divorcee that develops romantic feelings for the computer operating system “Samantha” he enlists to help combat his depression.

It’s a topic that really hits home in this age of technology and the blurred lines that occur between reality and fiction. It’s a shame Samantha Morton was replaced by Johansson because Miss Morton has held a place in my heart since “Control” but I’m still excited to see such an ambitious film being presented this year. Move over Siri, Samantha’s here now!

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Step Aside Boys: the ‘WOMANCE’ Era has dawned!

Turk and J.D, Vaughn and Wilson, Fry and Laurie; the ‘Bromance’ has far become a staple diet of comedy, be it in Hollywood, on the box, or on the stage. Men have dominated the comedy circuit for what seems like an eternity. Women have been the butt of the jokes, stamped out of the scene with no recognition but a patronising pat on the back and sympathy chuckle… Until now!

That’s right; the dawn of female comedy is here! There’s a whole lady-army of writers, actors, and (I’m going to say it) comediennes breaking onto our screens. And yes, whilst separating comedy into the two sub-genres of ‘male’ and ‘female’ can be seen as harmful to our equality cause, it can’t be denied that some jokes just don’t appeal to the opposite sex (I’m looking at you Mr ‘Anchorman’). We are told to simply ‘sit back, and take a joke’ by a long-trailing cast of male dominated movies, or by the likes of ‘ditzy’ stereotypes filling in the gap of female humour.

So, what happens when the joke’s on them? The recent upsurge in female comedy is set on destroying the gender roles. Gone are the days of ‘Sex and the City’! The Womance generation are built of more. Literally. Not only are the new stream of female protagonists seen to have respectfully more substance and intelligence bestowed upon their portrayals, but they are physically respected as women. Untouched or airbrushed.

the-heat‘The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock as a precociously intelligent FBI agent and Melissa Mcarthy as the best bad cop in town, has the body (and the brains) of a real woman’s comedy.  It’s female presence is strong, independent, and feisty. It’s funny bone is no size zero.  It’s all very non-Hollywood. In terms of attitude and appearance, there appears to have been a loosening of the red-carpet boundaries. But what does this mean? Does this announce a rejection of unhealthy habits of perfection and vanity? Or is it simply because female comedy is not considered ‘serious’ enough for the regular rules?

Recent blockbuster hit of ‘Bridesmaids’ (2011) proves that being ‘serious’ is not the case. Battling against the release of awaited male-comedy sequel ‘The Hangover: Part 2’, it’s box office revenue proved it more than victorious. Grossing a total of $288,383,523 (it’s competitor earning more than $33 million less) that’s some serious comedy.

Realistic Comedy; because sometimes, you just get food in your teeth...

Realistic Comedy; because sometimes, you just get food in your teeth…

But what exactly makes The Heat and Bridesmaids such successes? The answer is one common ingredient (Aside from Melissa Macarthy that is). I am, of course, speaking of the ‘Womance’. It’s a powerful tool. Rarely seen before. Or, at least, not on the silver screen. French and Saunders were of course claiming an overwhelming following at their sensational use of a female double act back in the nineties. Now that Hollywood has claimed it as its own, the ‘Womance’ has become a regular tool of cinema.

Yet, it is not only the lady-love breaking onto the silver screen. ‘Easy A’ was the refreshing spin on teen comedy that gave us quick-wit and a clever female protagonist in Emma Stone. It’s more realistic slant on high-school living (excluding the John Cusack references, Phoebe sleeping with students, and prancing around in corsets) aided its comical appeal. Prejudice, prancing around your room all weekend, and pretending to be what you’re not; all part of growing up. It’s relatable, in Hollywood’s over-exagerrated manner.

Hitting headlines most recently is the up-and-coming UK release of “Hollywood’s first female sex comedy!” ‘The To-Do List’ hails to be the pre-university film we’ve all been waiting for, the female ‘American Pie’ if you will. Except, instead of desperate pubescent boys, our female protagonist is an over-acheiving valedictorian bowing to the peer-pressure our society puts on female promiscuity. Casting Aubrey Plaza as the ‘to-doer’, the film is certain to have you in stitches.

As the Hollywood ball-busting continues to hand us the ability to break unhealthy tradition, we continue to utilise it throughout the entertainment realms. Whilst it is still a rarity to find more than the occasional female comedian amidst the panel-show seats, some are claiming a show of their own. Here in the UK, Miranda Hart has stolen the heart of a nation by rejuvenating the art of classic British comedy, whilst the likes of comedian Sarah Millican storms the stages of Live at the Apollo and entertains to her own audience weekly on the BBC. Across the waters, comedy has birthed great writers in the shape of Lena Dunham, Kirsten Wiig, and Tina Fey, their successes only proving that there is a ravenous appetite for female comedians. For now, the entertainment world is obliging. But not without spelling out the female-factor.

The original Womance. Wearing the comedy trousers is what French and Saunders do best!

The original Womance. Wearing the comedy trousers is what French and Saunders do best!

Personally, I pine over the day a female comedy breakthrough does not have to make headlines! It shouldn’t be shocking for presenters such as David Letterman to make the bold decision to add a woman to his writing team. Nor should it be uncommon to line a panel-show with more than one comedienne.

Alas! The consumerist nature and throwaway attitude of the entertainment world must have us question the Womance Era’s survival. Whether Hollywood is out to buck the trend, or blend it in lightly with a touch up of foundation, remains to be seen. But, there are something’s cover-up will never hide; be it as a stand up artist, an actor, or as a writer, us girls have proven that we can get the giggles.

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Music On The Go: “Invisible Empire” By KT Tunstall

Scotland are just killing it these days aren’t they?! Not a week a go I was gushing about Chvrches and now my KT Tunstall addiction has well and truly returned with an almighty vengeance. It’s been a few years since KT threw off her Tiger Suit and got back in the studio. She’s been to Hell and back what with her divorce and the tragic loss of her father but she is working through it with her new album, Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon. The second single from her fourth effort, “Invisible Empire” is melodic look back at her own world and the foolishness of her ways and it is, because there is no other way to say this, fucking beautiful. It’s all about her voice with the tinkling far away melody and chaste guitar. And I’ve never seen a woman look better in suit of Armour.

Russia: Picking up the American Dream – A Warning to Europe

Putin Pride

Nothing can overstate the inhumanity of any form of torture. But when people take it upon themselves to commit such horrific acts of brutality, we need to question how or why? What enables such extreme acts of hate in ordinary people?

With the huge push for gay marriage around the world, (France and Argentina leading the way) Russia’s new ‘anti-gay’ laws have stolen the centre stage. These laws ban any form of gay ‘propaganda’, and seem to have caused a domino effect on the Russian state of mind, with groups justifying the homosexual lynchings. Men and woman kidnapped, beaten, tortured and even killed on camera by NeoNazi groups. But why now?

The EU and the US like to pretend that Russia is still a straight forward dictatorship, as if we are still in the cold war, and Putin is simply the contrary, almost pantomime villain in the corner. However, it seems in recent years Putin’s party (United Russia, with so called ‘centrist conservative policies’) are in fact pandering to voting demographics, more specifically the Orthodox Christians.

This is not a new political tactic. It is in fact one of the most successful tactics a party could enact. We in the developed west like to pretend we wouldn’t be seduced by such simplicity, we think of ourselves to be too educated, but it already has dug its claws into our society.

The American Republican party never used to be so dominated by the inner circles of the hyper-religious, creationist Tea party. In 1974, Republican strategist Paul Weyrich developed a tactic to tap into a huge, completely new, undecided demographic. The Christian public (mainly the Evangelicals) now known politically as ‘The New Right’. These people had been previously told not to vote by their ministers. So, the Republicans began supporting ‘pro-life’ and other fundamentalist opinions, meaning that ministers could now justify preaching conservative policies to their congregations.

This span out of control.

The New Right wanted more. After Watershed, Paul Weyrich even stated “We are talking about Christianizing America. We are talking about simply spreading the gospel in a political context”. Thus, we have the sinister hilarity of such inhumane beings of Sarah Palin. A party that argue how gay marriage will lead to bestiality, paedophilia and other such ridiculous claims. People who claim that Russia’s laws are not homophobic, but ‘homorealistic’ – American Family Association.

Make no mistake, this is the Christian version of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood began as an attempt to put Islamic law in place of federal laws in Egypt. They felt only the laws of God should be upheld and any opinion against this was blasphemy. Now Russia has a Blasphemy law, where Russian’s are now legally forbidden speak against the church to defend themselves and their sexuality. This law has already incarcerated two members of the feminist group ‘Pussy Riot’for demonstrating in the Moscow Cathedral Christ the Saviour. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina both received two years in hard labour camps 400 kilometres from their homes.

Putin and Orthodox

What can the UK do about this? Stephen fry called to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics, and maybe we should. We should certainly be offering asylum for gay russian citizens. One thing is for definite is that we should learn from the atrocities that have occurred these past few weeks.

Before July 17th this year, we were still discussing gay marriage in the UK. It was a depressing site to see Conservative voters and Tory MP’s winning a majority in polls AGAINST gay marriage. Cameron risked his career to support homosexuality and I commend him. He went against his party, and even his voters, but he did the right thing, however his backbenchers did not. These people openly supported the archaic views of Christianity. We must not let the new right dig it’s talons of hate into Britain. We cannot allow for our own Michele Bachman. Find out what your MP voted, and see if you are comfortable having a bigot representing you.

Music On The Go: “Gun” By Chvrches

Scotland has produced some kick ass people over the years. There’s Franz Ferdinand, Calvin Harris, Susan Boyle of course and Glasvegas if that’s what you’re into. And those Glaswegians have done it again, giving is the synthpop group, Chvrches. They came fifth in the BBC Sound of 2013 but they’re not letting that get them down as they release this awesome tune, “Gun” from their upcoming debut studio album, The Bones of What You Believe. Hitting a very 90s cocaine induced beat, the crystal clear tones of lead singer Lauren Mayberry sings a song of getting sad… and then even. It’s light and fun with a very sinister undertone and I’m pretty sure these guys won’t be coming fifth again any time soon.

A Feminist Fanmail to Steven Moffat

Dear Steven Moffat,

I’m not really sure how to start this, as I’ve never written fanmail before. I don’t even know the PO BOX – should I call you Mr Moffat? Mozzie? You seem like a nice chap, so I’m going for the informal chat-at-the-pub-with-a-pint-of-cider type of talk. I’m going to be honest and straight with you, Mr Moff – I haven’t always been your biggest fan. (Un)fortunately, I happen to be one of those feminists who have had a bit of gripe with some of the female characters you have created, or commented upon, in both of the series you are showrunning, but namely Doctor Who.

doctor who logo

When you took over the helm from Russell T Davies back in 2009 I was initially thrilled, but this excitement soon turned to upsetting disappointment. Time and time again I found that your female characters were underdeveloped or frighteningly unrealistic. It was a bit off-putting, Moff, and really tested my faith in Doctor Who. But this latest series, 7B, has really impressed me, and I’m over the moon to consider myself a fully-fledged obsessive-nut-job Whovian once more. Clara, Madame Vastra and Jenny have convinced me that female companions in Doctor Who don’t have to just be wooden objects, and in terms of storytelling, this series is back at sublime levels.

So now that you’ve got the companions and the story sorted, I have to tell you from one mate to another, Steven: I really really really really really really hope that the next Doctor you’ve chosen turns out to be a woman.

Let me explain. A lot of people are really against the doctor being a woman, for some mental reason. My family, boyfriend and friends have all chalked up arguments why the Doctor can only, nay, must only be male. By far the most common of these reasons is simply “tradition” – that there has always been a white, male doctor, so there should only be a white, male doctor.

I think that that’s a bit of a crap excuse, don’t you, Moff? “Tradition”, in many respects, doesn’t mean “heritage” or “pride” for me, so much as “laziness” or “complacency” or “fear of the new”. We are all creatures of habit, and I get that. But shouldn’t we mix things up a bit, just once in a while? Say “sod the bloody established system” and just do something new?

Now, I get that the Who Fandom is a little bit like an elderly suspicious neighbour sucking its teeth, or a vicious toddler expecting a new unwelcome baby sibling – if something new pops out of the woodwork that they disagree with, it can cause endless tutting/screaming/tantrums in the form of internet storms that can launch a thousand online forums. For some people, opinions never change; I still dislike River Song, as I find her contrived and her catchphrases irritating. clara dr who

But, as I should know, we Whovians are capable of incredible flexibility: I despised the first two incarnations of Clara/Oswin – I found them as annoying as River Song. I found them so annoying I thought I would have to stop watching the show. I’m glad I didn’t, because in the most recent version of Clara, you’ve created a wonderful female character who is funny, realistic, and can hold her own. She is now my favourite new-who companion, and I have you to thank for that.

So, maybe this new doctor might turn out to be my favourite too. I’ve heard that Peter Capaldi and Daniel Rigby are contenders, and as they are both superb actors, perhaps I’ll still be content if we have a male doctor this time around. After all, I’ve sprung this on you some mere hours before the official news release – but if by some miraculous and possibly timey-wimey intervention you read this post in time, perhaps you could put off tomorrow’s announcement and search for a female Doctor, or at least give it a stab the next time round.

Human women have been allowed to be doctors for quite a while now; how’s about we let a Galifreyan Time Lady in the TARDIS do the same, Moff?

Yours with great fan-lady-Whovian respect,

Bethan Smith

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Frances Ha: One for the Girls?

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Dir: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver

Rating: 15

**

Summary: Frances (Gerwig), is trying to live her fantasies in the city, but she’s finding it hard when her best friend is setting out to live her own life and her dream job doesn’t seem to be coming along as easy as she hoped.

Lately, there seem to be an off- beat trend in comedy coming to our screens, whether the screen is big or small. These kinds of films are usually full of quirk, wit and ambitious ladies, with Lena Dunham’s Girls and Tiny Furniture being at the helm of this new, refreshing sub-genre of the so-called ‘chick-flick’. So, when the Frances Ha trailer began making the rounds in my local cinemas, it was fair to say, I was pretty excited.

What’s not to love? Frances, the main protagonist, is a kooky young woman who has a strong womance with her flat mate, Sophie. All thisFrances_Ha_4 happens in the bustling city of New York, where Frances is an aspiring dancer…although, she’s kind of not a dancer. She’s an apprentice at a dance company, which I didn’t know was a real thing. Frances Ha  looked like it was going to be fun; a real film for the girls (when I say ‘real’, I mean a film that doesn’t have that ridiculous makeover scene with No Doubt’s I’m Just a Girl playing in the background).

Yet, it didn’t go that way.

I tried to like this film.

Oh God, I really tried to like this film.

Frances Ha was supposed to be my type of chick-flick. To put it bluntly, I found this film to be one of the most irritating of the year. A lot of critics have raved about Frances Ha, calling it a ‘deft, uproarious comedy’ and have used words such as ‘romantic’ to describe it.

Uproarious comedy? I suppose I did titter, a little bit, but that’s my equivalent of one of them idiot’s who actually say the word ‘LOL’ out loud.

As to the romantic part…I can half agree on that. Aesthetically, the film could be seen as romantic, as Frances Ha was shot in black and white, which was a gorgeous feature of the film. Plus, the soundtrack track is pretty rockin’. Apart from that, the compliments run dry.

The culprit of my disappointment lies with Frances, played by the actress and co-writer, Greta Gerwig. Frances is a character who’s cringe-worthy, selfish, and reminds you of that girl who you know that tries too hard to be kooky and everyone’s best friend. If you don’t know her, it’s probably you. She’s constantly making the wrong decisions, which I think the writers Noah Baumbach and

frances1-615x342

Gerwig think is an endearing quality, but this is a woman who is supposed to be twenty-seven, but her behaviour on several occasions made me exhaust a long, accompanied-with-an-eye-roll, sigh. Okay, we get it, you’re the type of girl who likes to be IMPULSIVE and blow the remnants of your bank balance on drinks out instead of your monthly rent. Maybe I’m the boring one here, but whatever, I don’t find her behaviour cute.

The film made me question who wrote up this character. Frances Ha has the benefit of having a male and female behind the typewriter. So, I would have expected it to be a truer, more balanced experience and perception of a single female in her twenties, but it didn’t feel real, bordering on hyperbolic at times. Frances was spilling over the pan with negative traits, which made her character, as the leading woman, weak and left little connection or empathy. She didn’t have time to come up for air. It was one selfish, bad decision after the other. I had to ask myself, is this male perception of the real-life “quirky” girl?

Other than that, the ending was sloppy and rushed, and maybe I would have preferred the makeover scene if it offered more development. The highlight was that they played David Bowie’s Modern Love twice throughout, the second being in the credits. Maybe they were trying to cash in on the fact that the loyalties to this song, I would imagine, would not have been on the cheap-side. However, it was a nice touch. Apart from this, I’m going to tread with caution with the next film that stars everyone’s favourite Indie Cindy in her vintage dress. Yes, Zooey Deschanel, that’s a definite ‘no’ to you.

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