Edinburgh Film Festival: Yesterday

If you’re looking for a nice and fun film that you will leave feeling content, Yesterday is a good bet. This would be your cookie cutter rom com were it not for the core premise: a man bringing the music of The Beatles to a world where he’s the only person who remembers them. There are very few people across the globe who wouldn’t be charmed by a story that starts there, and this movie is full of charm.

The leads are impossible not to love; one played by Himesh Patel, whom Danny Boyle quite rightly said had a certain soulfulness in him that made him a perfect choice, and Lily James, who is Lily James and therefore impossible not to love. There’s lots of opportunities for these characters to do something unlikeable in the film, but it never happens. Any wrong step they make feels entirely forgivable. All their decisions are full of heart and true to the characters and their story. The level of nice-ness of some characters is almost cartoonish at some points, so it’s quite impressive that they managed to maintain any conflict.

The story itself poses lots of moral questions as well as lots of just… questions. With The Beatles having such a colossal impact on the world, the filmmakers basically had free reign on choosing the consequences. They were relatively restrained, which works in the films favour as very little of the story they’ve chosen to tell is about The Beatles. Some of the most powerful moments in the movie are though. Bits that truly touch your heart do so because of the true passion so many of us share for not just the music of The Beatles, but the people themselves. I don’t want to share my favourite bit of the film here, because it would spoil a lot of the tension, but it involved the recognition of how much the music is loved, and how much it is valued.

Honestly, this movie is a fairly cliche tale of the sudden discovery of fame throwing the moral code and relationships of someone into chaos. I’m willing to admit that if it weren’t for my investment in The Beatles it might not feel special at all. But it does feel special, and it never does a disservice to The Beatles. It’s just a nice story, that will leave you smiling.

Edinburgh Film Festival: Boyz in the Wood

I was left a little flat after the Edinburgh Film Festival Opening Gala last year, so I wasn’t entirely optimistic for this year. I was excited by the Scottish-ness of the film, and intrigued by the comedy horror premise, but totally unprepared for what a brilliant time I was going to have watching it.

The obvious influences in the film are Edgar Wright and Taika Waititi: two of my favourites certainly, but also adored globally. The humour, particularly the more gory moments, blatantly echoed the cornetto trilogy. The story and certain characters felt quite directly inspired by Hunt for the Wilderpeople – though one incident of foreshadowing in the story felt so Edgar Wright that I knew exactly what was happening in that moment and proceeded to look out for what it had been hinting at.

Despite the heavy influences Boyz in the Wood took on a whole life of its own. It didn’t feel the need to recycle any jokes, it creates all its own absolutely wild humour out of the situations it threw its characters in too. Despite the complete absurdity of the film, all the characters felt somehow believable. The four core characters are no doubt pretty close to some actual Scottish schoolboys out there.

Boyz in the Wood does not shy away from social commentary. In fact, the bizarre nature of the film perhaps let it get away with being even more brash with some of this than another kind of movie would be able to get away with. The metaphor was not far beneath the surface, and many of the best jokes were deeply unsubtle. There was one moment towards the end where I shifted uncomfortably in my seat a little, thinking the point was being driven home a little too hard, but what followed quickly broke that discomfort.

I would be interested to know a bit more about Ninian Doff’s decision making behind the Scottishness of it all as well. Going up against the tweed-clad villains who were not so Scottish couldn’t help but stir a little Scottish patriotism in me.

The entire audience could not stop laughing throughout – I don’t think I have ever been part of an audience that has so clearly enjoyed a film together. It might not be the kind of humour that would appeal to everyone, but there was such a range of people in that audience, and I didn’t see one person who looked anything less than delighted afterward.

NaNoWriMo Day 1 (and Radical Book fair day 1!)

This year I’m participating in NationalNovelWritingMonth (NaNoWriMo) for the first time since I was 15 (I just logged into my account and my username was ‘Starwhale’ so that’s where I was at back then).

So, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to three of the characters in my novel:

Theo – One of our leads. She is 23 and works two part-time jobs. One is at the University, the other for an indie publisher. She likes to bake.  She’s bad at it.

Margot – Another leading lady, she’s just a little older than Theo. She writes and makes coffee at an edgy cafe. The cafe falls apart whenever she leaves. She goes on holiday a lot.

Robin – Despite his efforts to be mysterious, we are pretty sure he is just your average guy-in-his-20s.

So here is our trio, with many more characters to come.

The story is going to be set primarily in Glasgow (wow look at me distancing my characters from my reality by a whole 1-hour train ride). It’s speculative fiction and I think there’s plenty about Glasgow that will add to my fantasy.

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The other quick thing I wanted to say is that LighthouseBook’sRadicalBookFair started today! Followers of mine will know I love Lighthouse books and the rbf is a highlight of the year. They have loads of fantastic events over the next few days – find out more about them here!

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See you soon,

Allie

An absolutely remarkable thing

Hank Green has been in my life since I was about 12 years old. Typing that out has just made me realise that is 10 YEARS of my life which I’ll react properly to some other time. I have complex feelings about the Green brothers at this time in my life, but the fact remains that I care about the things Hank Green creates.

I was especially interested in this book. I truly had no idea if Hank Green would be able to write something I would enjoy, regardless of his ability to create content I enjoy in other media. I’ve never thought of him as a fiction writer, he was the ‘science’ brother and I think that’s why he was my favourite Vlogbrother for so long – I fell more on the science geek side of things.

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The book had endless positive feedback from everyone I followed online with an advanced copy. I still didn’t entirely feel I could trust them (I know I would struggle to criticise Hank) and I wasn’t entirely convinced when the book arrived. I had, of course, pre-ordered it despite all this doubt – like I said, Hank Green has held such a long-term place in my life, I care.

I wasn’t even entirely convinced after one or two chapters. It took me a little while longer to get into the story than I expected. I had recently read the miseducation of Cameron Post (blog coming soon?) and I had barely been able to put that down once I got it.

By the end of an absolutely remarkable thing I had teared up and had a little swell of joy in my chest as I read the acknowledgments. So in the end, I liked it. I did actually really like it – I’ll admit books with a bisexual lead get an immediate bonus 50 points from me (I’m biased as heck), but it wasn’t the only thing that I loved.

I do think the story was great, it was interesting and thoughtful. Eventually, I did hit a point where I did not put the book down again until I had finished. Hank names a lot of people in the acknowledgments who helped him write the story of someone who had different life experiences to him – and it showed. I was so pleasantly surprised by how he wrote a bisexual woman, and how he tried to make sure there was some diversity explicitly included. It’s still a book by a white, well-off, dude – but it helps a little.

Something which Hank is likely unique positioned to write about, which I found interesting in a way almost unrelated to the story, was the tale of becoming popular online running alongside the events in the book. It feels like it’s getting popular at the moment to have stories featuring vloggers and influencers – an absolutely remarkable thing felt like a more legitimate version of this story than some of the others I’ve encountered. I wonder how many of the comments about April’s relationship with her viewers and her celebrity status stemmed directly from Hank’s experience. Even as someone without a following I recognised the desire for attention April regularly admits to.

Ultimately, I liked this book, it’s not right at the top of my ‘favourites’ list, but it made me really happy. It snuck in ideas about the human condition without being too aggressive about it, and honestly, the story was just really fun – you want to know what happens, you want to solve the mystery that is Carl. I’ll definitely read the sequel – I’m dying to know more.

 

 

If you want to follow me elsewhere for more regular updates about me or my book purchases check out my Instagram and Twitter

Next blog coming soon!

Allie

 

Turtles All The Way Down

On the one hand, I had been utterly convinced I had grown out of John Green books. My increasing cynicism about the world kind of made me question my enjoyment of them in the first place. The boys especially, in a lot of his books, are pretty stupid. But on the other hand, if 15-year-old me found out 21-year-old me thought that she was gonna throw a fit. John Green, and his brother Hank (of whom I arguably have more fondness for) were an important staple of my teenage years. So I pre-ordered TATWD. And I’m happy I did.

It’s not like it’s my favourite book ever, or it’s changed my life or anything like that. But as I finished it I just felt incredibly satisfied, and calm, not just because I had two ginger kittens crawling all over me at the time.

It felt like a book John had always wanted to write. I could really hear him throughout the story, and most so at the end. The last few pages had me sitting with my younger self, curled up with a cat, watching youtube, hearing these people tell me it wouldn’t always be the way it was. It was a very real and honest story, with an honest ending.

My skepticism about Johns characters that had grown in the years between Tfios and now has started to dissipate again. I thought about it a bunch as I took the train home, and realised one of the reasons those books had always been so interesting to me is because it was a refreshingly honest take on being a ‘Young adult’. You are a bit stupid and pretentious. You want to romanticise everything and find meaning in everything. Johns writing can make you fall in love with that kind of mindset,  but it also makes you think more about it, see consequences of it.

The road doesn’t always run smooth. But in a real way? I’m not sure what I’m saying here. But it was good.

Turtles appealed to me particularly because of the main character’s anxiety. I knew this would feature in the book before purchasing, another thing which drove me to pick it up. Aza’s anxiety manifested differently to my own in many ways, but the way in which she spoke about her thoughts read like my diary. John Green articulate feelings I struggle with, and I know thousands of others do, with perfect clarity.

The experiences Aza had beyond her anxiety were also refreshingly honest. Her anxiety was not a fancy interesting thing. And she grew to see how it went beyond her. She didn’t use her anxiety as an excuse to be shitty. She made an effort to change the behaviours, more so when she learned from her interactions with other people.

John has written a really lovely depiction of teens, and anxiety, which doesn’t glamorise either, but doesn’t shy away from all the things special about being in high school.

I may feel I have ‘aged out’ of Young adult fiction in many ways. But it turns out I still learn from it, I still love it, and when I read it I feel like I’m looking after my teenage self. Who really needed some good looking after.

Hope you’re all well, see below for aforementioned kittens
Allie x

Women in comedy for days

Without being entirely conscious that I was doing it, I managed to book a whole lotta women comedians for the Fringe. With 5 or 6 shows left for me (3 of which are more female comedians) I have spent most of this month of August laughing my ass off at some fabulous women in comedy. To save you from a number of short posts on each individual show, I thought I’d compile some reviews here. If you’re in Edinburgh, or at any festival, remember to support diversity in arts and entertainment, coz women can be fucking funny.

Rose Matafeo ★★★★★

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This was definitely my Stand-up comedy highlight of the Fringe. I’ll admit to a slight bias because she’s from New Zealand. What really set her apart was her energy. She was on point from the second the audience began entering the venue, dancing around and chatting to us, making us labels with a label maker for no real reason. I had a crush on her before she had even begun the comedy. The skill with which she explores identities offered to women without losing the funny and light atmosphere for a second is incredible. I feel even if her comedy wasn’t your thing, the killer personality, and good vibes she radiates throughout the set will make you love her anyway.

Twayna Mayne ★★★1/2

What felt like a tepid start at this show quickly became forgotten as Twayna Mayne did her thing. Keeping up the comedy while exploring her life, to an audience of mostly white people over 40, was really quite the feat. There were certain moments where I know I didn’t feel the most engaged, but it highlighted for me how often I rest on having shared experiences with the comedian I’m watching. For the first I’ve ever seen of this lovely comedian I think she did a stunning job, and I think she’ll go on to do awesome things in comedy.

Standard Issue Stands Up ★★★★

There were several fantastic comedians in the line up for this evening. I’ll admit I had booked in entirely to see Sarah Millican, but I left with the decision to book two more shows to see some more material from other women the show featured. Jessica Fostekew was running the show, and she was so funny and fantastic that I ended up at her own show the very next day. Evelyn Mok was first up, and I now have tickets for her show next week! The other ladies also did a fantastic job, but those two really stood out. I think it’s when a great kind of personality comes through alongside the clever comedy that really does it for me. Sarah Millican was a gem, of course, I couldn’t have been more pleased to see her on stage. If I’m around in Edinburgh next year I’d be delighted to see her tour.

Jessica Fostekew ★★★ 1/2

Jessica Fostekew Silence of the nans

So less than 24 hours after seeing her at Standard Issue stands up I was at Jessica Fostekew’s solo show ‘Silence of the Nans’. I’ll admit seeing it quite so soon after was perhaps not the best move as a couple of jokes I had already heard, obviously didn’t land quite so well as the first time. But again, it was that personality and her voice coming through her comedic tale that made it so entertaining. There were moments where the comedy lagged a bit as she had to move forward in her tale of cruise ship woe, but she pulled it all together wonderfully.

Samantha Baines ★★★

Now, this show was probably better than I think it was in my head. But my high expectations may have clouded my judgment a bit, and maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood? The puns were absolutely spot on. I definitely laughed a great deal at those and other jokes. I think it may have been poetry corner that put me off a bit. She’s got a wee book of poetry out, which I’m sure is hilarious, but its place in the show felt a bit odd. I admired her choice of topic though, ‘lost women in science’ is a great idea, and she executed it pretty well, I just didn’t leave this show with the same sense of satisfaction I did the others.

 
Hope you’re having a fantastic fringe fest,

Allie xx

Edinburgh Book Festival: The First Weekend!

Last weekend the Edinburgh Book Festival launched for 2017 and I managed to get to a couple of events on those first days. On Saturday afternoon I treated myself to ‘Afternoon Tea with Yemisi Aribisala’ and the following evening I was privileged to see Carol Ann Duffy with John Sampson.

Both events were exceptional, and great picks for the opening weekend.

I confess prior to booking my festival tickets I did not know of Yemisi Aribisala and her fantastic food book ‘Longthroat Memoirs’. I was mostly drawn in by the promise of discussion based around food, and led by an inspiring Nigerian woman. Part of my goal for the festivals (and in life) is to hear and engage with stories from as diverse a population as possible, so this was a must-do for me. The promise of some tea and food certainly helped.

Yemisi kindly took the time to introduce herself to us all ahead of speaking, and she instantly gave off such vibrancy and warmth, I knew I would be a fan. As the event went forward and her discussion of her life and book began, she absolutely won me over. She was fantastic and witty, and I was incredibly interested in what she had to say about food and her culture. She is absolutely the sort of woman I’d love to have a chat with at any time.

Her wonderful, witty voice comes through in her book, and while there are a small handful of recipes, it is so much more about the culture surrounding food, and beyond. I would certainly recommend picking up her book to get a feeling of just how lovely of a person she was, and how well she tells her stories of food.

Yemisi Aribisala at afternoon tea

As with many people my age, I, unfortunately, had a small handful of Carol Ann Duffy’s poems completely ruined for me when I had to over-analyse them in order to get a grade I wasn’t even that pleased with in high school. To any student that endured a similar cruelty, I could not recommend seeing her perform enough. I laughed, and cried, and completely adored her. Carol Ann Duffy is a wit, and a marvel, I have seen comedians at the Fringe who did not make me laugh so much as her. She also gracefully raised a middle finger to Donald Trump, and you know I’m always on board with a bit of that.

The fantastic performance was only enhanced by her marvelous companion John Sampson, who played beautifully on any number of instruments and made the jolly vibe just that much stronger. The poetry was lovely, the humour was exceptional, and the performance was an absolute highlight of my entire Edinburgh Festivals experience.

I can’t wait for more Book festival events, I’m back again this evening! What a privilege it is to be living in this City of Literature.

Allie