Pop Arts Recommends…The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Hello lovelies! I can’t believe that it’s already the end of March. This month has been super busy and so has positively flown by. We’ve reached the last Friday of the month so it’s time for another Pop Arts Recommends. This month, I talk about the internet phenomenon that is/was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

I feel like everyone knows about the LBD, but am astonished by the number of people I meet who’ve never heard of it (they must not be as enmeshed in the internet…). The LBD was an astonishing project – to take a beloved 19th century classic by Jane Austen (Pride & Prejudice) and update it (drastically) for the modern, digital age. Lizzie Bennet was re-imagined as a graduate student, living with her parents while she studied communications and figuring out what she was going to do with her life. Check out the first episode below:

When I first heard about the show, I was pretty skeptical. Though I have enjoyed other modern interpretations (Bridget Jones, Bride & Prejudice) I just wasn’t convinced about it working on…well, YouTube of all places. But it really, really did. After watching that first video, I was intruigued. Then promptly got distracted and forgot to keep watching after about three episodes. I came back to the show about 40 episodes in, after being contacted by several of my friends, who raved about the show and asked if I was watching it. I became utterly hooked, and had to binge watch all the so far transmitted episodes (which despite only being 3- 5 minutes, the vlog format made watching them quite intense)

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Jem and the Holograms!

Another Thursday, another throwback. This week I take a fond look at the neon-covered, 80s glamour and pop-goodness-filled magic that was Jem and the Holograms.

Where do we even start with the wonderousness that is Jem and the Holograms? It was a TV show that began in 1985, inspired by a line of dolls – yes, that’s right; dolls – using the same business model as had previously created G.I Joe and Transformers. I guess Hasbro (the people who made the dolls) thought it was time to get in on the girl market as well.

Christy Marx was named series creator and set to work making a fun-filled, 65 episode series, spanning three years that was full of great pop music, ridiculous outfits, implausible plots and enough fabulousness to last a lifetime. According to Wikipedia, Marx is also responsible for the love triangle aspect of the show, my opinion of which can be seen below…

Exactly Lucille, exactly.

The basic premise of Jem for the uninitiated (where have you been?) is that Jerrica Benton (not a typo), upon her father’s death, gets access to his record company AND to the amazing holographic machine Synergy that he built in his spare time (I don’t know, I think he’s supposed to be some sort of genius, it’s never really explained). Oh, and Mr Benton also ran a foster home for girls that Jerrica and her sister Kimber (who gets nothing!) take over. The guy seems to be some sort of kind, business-smart, technological genius with a heart of gold. See? Amazingness already!

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Theatre Review: Ghosts

When: 19th March 2014 / Where: Trafalgar Studios

I went to see Ghosts at the Trafalgar Studios in the last week of it’s run, following a sold out production at the Almeida Theatre. (I’m sorry I keep picking things that are closing, guys!)

The basic plot was as follows: It is the day before Helene Alving unveils an orphanage built in the memory of her long deceased husband, Captain Alving. The Pastor has come to discuss the opening ceremony with her and her only son, Oswald, has recently returned home from travelling abroad. They, along with maidservant Regina and her father, will discover some appalling and life-changing truths from Helene, as well as revealing a few of their own. By the next morning, almost no-one will be the same and Helene’s life is changed forever.

The summary above sounds dramatic, but, yikes, was Ghosts dramatic. I almost don’t know where to start.

This was my first Ibsen and I saw a lot of similarities between this play and Chekhov’s. I’m a big fan of Chekhov and I really enjoyed Ghosts for many of the same reasons. Helene was struggling against public perceptions of herself and of what was ‘right’ in her society. Despite the widely held high regard for her husband, he was a drunk, a chronic womaniser, lazy and unkind. The conflicting ideas about whether her staying with was heroic, martyrdom or pure survival drive much of the beginning of the play. The consequences of the decisions we make – the ghosts of our past – and the troubling way they have of coming back to haunt us. Helene may be free of her husband, but she cannot escape his – or her own – choices and the affect they will have on her son. The maddening rot of the ‘safe provincial life’ explored here is a theme shared with Chekhov.

When you go to see a play that runs straight through with no interval, you’re usually in for an emotional whopper. Ghosts was no different. The tension and emotional distress amps up gradually throughout the performance, secrets unfurling slowly, characters becoming more and more desperate. The tight timeline of the play (less than 24 hours) adds to this, giving you the sense that once Helene had started unraveling the tightly woven fabric of her life, it’s total undoing was unstoppable. Such was the escalation of events (and the performances) that I left the theatre feeling as shocked as if I’d just been slapped across the face. Kid you not: I felt lightheaded and wobbly-legged as I walked towards the tube. The lack of interval meant that we hurtled towards a hell of a conclusion. It felt like I was the only one crying, but there must of been others in the theatre as overwhelmed as me.

Unquestionably, much of this visceral reaction was down to Lesley Manville’s phenomenal, transcendent performance as Helene Alving. I have always appreciated Manville as an actress; she does consistently admirable work on stage and screen, without ever getting the widespread notice she undoubtedly deserves. Her performance here was extraordinary. It built so subtly; Helene’s bright optimism growing dimmer and dimmer as her façade was chipped away at, but somehow retaining her strength and dignity, until it is wrenched away from her at the close of the play. Such is the intensity of Helene’s emotional collapse in those final scenes with Oswald, that Manville must have a core of steel to have done it night after night for the last six months.

The other actors also did very fine work here. Jack Lowden, playing Helene’s son Oswald gave a very moving, engaging performance. Adam Kotz as the Pastor was marvellously uptight and rigid, his hypocrisy shining through all his proclamations. Maidservant Regina and her father Jacob both gave charming performances, providing a contrasting portrayal of ‘doing what’s right’ and moralistic behaviour. Charlene McKenna in particular imbued Regina with a fierce energy that leapt off the stage. This was a tight, impressive cast giving it their all, despite it being near the end of the run.

I loved Ghosts, despite it being a difficult watch. I will definitely try and see more of Ibsen’s work in the future and can only hope I continue to see acting of that calibre.

Top 10 Tuesday – The Broke & The Bookish Link Up

This week’s topic over at The Broke & The Bookish is Bookish Bucket List!

  1. Create a collection of all essential children and teenage books for my children and nieces and nephews. This would include things like Anne of Green Gables, Tom’s Midnight Garden, Ballet Shoes, all of Judy Blume etc.
  2. Have my own library – a room full of books!
  3. Have a garden swing. I feel like this would be the perfect place to re-read What Katy Did, Little Women and Pollyanna.
  4. In a similar vein, a window seat with big cushions to be my reading nook!
  5. Finish Dr Zhivago!
  6. Finish one of my own stories. It’d feel great to actually complete something.
  7. Become a member of the London Library
  8. Visit the British Library

Didn’t quite make it to 10 this week, but that’s a great place to start. What are your ultimate book goals?

Film Review: Veronica Mars

A long time ago, we used to be friends…

Hey there marshmallows! Earlier this week some friends and I went to watch the Veronica Mars movie at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square. I was introduced to the show after it had ceased airing, back in 2008 by my friends. They told me I would love the show – and they were absolutely right. I raced through all three series in one week and have been eagerly anticipating the film ever since it was announced. In mid -February, we held a VMars marathon to get ourselves ready…

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So, yeah, we were excited. The film was provided a selected release in Empire cinemas across the country and we booked our seats to watch the movie in all it’s big screen glory.

For the uninitiated, familiarise yourself with the TV show here. It’s ok, we’ll wait. Caught up? Great.

So, nine years have passed since the ending of the show. Veronica transferred to Stanford University, completed her degree and has just graduated from law school. She’s being interviewed for jobs at prestigious New York law firms and has reconnected with college boyfriend Piz. News reports surface that an old high school classmate Carrie Bishop – now a famous pop star using the name Bonnie DeVille – has been found dead in her bathtub in Neptune, California, Veronica’s seedy hometown. Bonnie’s boyfriend – and Veronica’s ex – Logan Echolls, has been charged with her suspected murder. He reaches out to Veronica for the first time in nine years to ask for her help in clearing his name. Unable to resist his plea, Veronica puts her job search on hold to return to Neptune, her friends, her PI dad and the life she left behind. Does she still have what it takes and is life as a lawyer in New York really what she wants?

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Book Review: The Truth About Forever – Sarah Dessen

You know that feeling where a book is so good all you want to do is keep reading to find out what happens, but you also never want it to end? That’s how I felt about The Truth About Forever.

This was the first time I’d ever read any Sarah Dessen, and picked this one up after seeing it recommended at Forever Young  Adult. I am a sucker for any coming-of-age/romance story (proof is here, here, here and here). TTAF is exactly that, with a down to earth, sympathetic heroine, fully realised supporting characters and totally swoon-worthy boy (or sa-woon, as Kristy would say)

TTAF is narrated by Macy, who is 17 and dealing with some pretty horrible stuff. About 18 months previously, her father died completely unexpectedly, dropping dead at the side of the road, Macy by his side. Since this happened, Macy and her mother have compressed all their sadness somewhere deep inside themselves and have told themselves (and everyone else) that they are fine. Just fine. With Macy’s outspoken older sister married and living away, the two of them build their own little world of quiet, repressed grief and calm, each trying to compensate for their pain by being as perfect as possible. Perfect is Macy’s world now; she gets perfect grades, dresses neatly and has the perfect boyfriend who is obsessed with order and rules, all of which makes Macy feel safe. Life, essentially is boring and monotonous – but easily managed and very well planned with no nasty surprises.

Jason, Macy’s boyfriend, goes away for the summer, leaving her to fill in for him at the library. After a particularly hard day of feeling lonely and rebuffed by her co-workers, Macy reaches out to Jason via email and breaks one of their unspoken rules – she admits to feeling disordered and emotional. Jason promptly suggests they ‘take a break’ and Macy is left even lonelier before. She bumps into a motley crew of caterers at an event thrown by her over-worked mother, and is totally drawn in by Wish Catering and their odd team of staff: Delia, Bert, Monica, Kristy and Wes. Lovely, lovely Wes. But more on him in a minute. Macy, on whim, ends up taking a second job with Wish and suddenly life starts to pick up – both in chaos and in fun – and Macy starts to wonder whether perfect is worth it, and what she might have been missing, feeling afraid and alone all those months.

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Waiting for my Rocket to Come!

Continuing with the new ‘throwback’ feature, this week I’ll be discussing my love for Jason Mraz, specifically his first full length album: Waiting for my Rocket to Come.

I first came across Jason Mraz back in 2002, when I was 15. Specifically, I was directed towards him by fashion blogger Gemma Cartwright, who ran the original version of Catwalk Queen as her personal blog at the time. She raved about him and mentioned a few of his songs. Being young and impressionable, I went and….ummm…’acquired’ some of his music and was immediately hooked.

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Culture Vulture (Or: Meanwhile, on the Internets)

Hello lovelies! Can it be that time again? Why yes! See below for some awesome stuff I’ve been checking out over the last few weeks.

I saw the Veronica Mars movie this week, which was AMAZING (review coming this Saturday). Check out the awesome Sarah Dessen‘s adorable fan experience at the premiere and Anne T. Donahue‘s totally accurate list of things to learn from the movie [mild spoilers ahoy!]

Simpsons & I love this. No other explanations needed.

The advice from Rookie is always so sage and helpful. This guide to getting going with writing is wonderful and inspiring.

Can’t stop listening to Coldplay’s version of Gravity.

I really enjoyed Perpetual Page Turner‘s post on being a mood reader and can totally relate. I definitely need to be in a specific mood to read different things.

Film Review: From Up On Poppy Hill

Earlier this week I reviewed another Studio Ghibli film, Ocean Waves, which I wasn’t so keen on. Thankfully, shortly after watching Ocean Waves, we put on From Up on Poppy Hill, Studio Ghibli’s most recent DVD release and happiness was restored.

From Up on Poppy Hill is set in 1960s Japan and tells the story of Umi Matsuzaki. Umi lives with her grandmother and two younger siblings in her grandmother’s boarding house. With her mother away in America, her father dead and her grandmother elderly, Umi must help take care of her family and the business, cooking for everyone and cleaning the house around her schoolwork. Umi’s school has a strange, overrun club house, used almost exclusively by boys. Shun, a leader of the high school’s clubs and writer/publisher of the school newspaper meets Umi when she tries to help him after a stunt gone wrong. He later recruits her to help print the newspaper and the two start to form a bond, with Umi encouraging the other female students to support the campaign to save the clubhouse, which is falling apart and condemned to be torn down by the school board.

The two grow closer and one evening, Umi invites Shun to her house for dinner. Afterwards, she shows him a picture of three naval men, pointing out which one is her father. Shun seems shocked by the photo and makes his excuses to leave. We see that he has the same photo at home and is troubled by it, suggesting that there are closer links between Umi and Shun. They try to solve the mystery of their connection while working together to save the clubhouse.

From Up on Poppy Hill is another of the ‘not-much-happens-but-somehow-everything-happens’ stories that I love so much. Its plot (much like the lovely Whisper of the Heart) is fairly light, but the film is bursting with story. The relationships between characters are beautifully drawn, with every look, word and touch exchanged between Umi and Shun charged with meaning. The film captures perfectly the sweetness and longing that comes with first love, as our protagonists inch towards each other. There’s also a wonderful celebration of learning and of art, both in the clubs held in the ‘Latin Quarter’ (the club house) and in the beautiful paintings done by one of the boarding house guests. These things are presented as essential and key to our being and happiness. ‘Poppy Hill’ looks at the idea of identity and the legacy our family leave us, with both Shun and Umi trying to do what they think is right according to the teachings of their parents, but also having to discover who they want to be in their own right.

There’s such a peacefulness and calm to Studio Ghibli films. Even the ones that are full of action and battle still have moments of stillness in them. There’s something about those films not set in any kind of fantasy world, too, that makes me feel like things are right with the universe. They are full of moments of beauty, kindness and (as always) the power and pull of nature. ‘Poppy Hill’ is lovely to look at, with a sweet, tender story and a strong foot-holding in the goodness and kindness of others. I wanted to watch it again the second we had finished it and I’m not sure there’s much praise higher than that.