Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Legally Blonde!

Hello! Happy Thursday to everyone. For those of us in the UK, the weather has taken a steep and swift turn towards the autumnal, despite it being August, with our last Bank Holiday weekend approaching. Sigh.

Due to summer busy-ness, we’ve skipped a fair few Thursdays, but I can’t think of a better way to restart than with the gloriousness that is Legally Blonde.

Legally Blonde is often pigeon-holed and dismissed as a chick flick, which infuriates me. Am I a girl? Yes. Do I like girly, overtly feminine things? Yes. Do I like watching films about romance and love and puppies and shit? Dear God, YES. Do I like the term ‘Chick Flick’? Hell no. ‘Chick Flick’ is patronising on all sorts of levels. Clearly, it donates a film that is apparently for women, but more specifically than that, a ‘chick’. I feel like I get dumber by association any time someone refers to me as a chick, y’know? Added to which, ‘chick flick’ doesn’t even get the honour of being called a film, it’s a ‘flick’ – a throwaway, silly thing.

On the surface, I suppose Legally Blonde does seem throwaway and silly. Blonde, pink obsessed, California sorority girl goes to Harvard Law School with the sole intention of convincing her ex-boyfriend to marry her. Simple, right? Except that it is so much more than that and totally blows away any nonsense terms like ‘chick flick’.

(Please note: the discussion below presumes you’ve seen Legally Blonde. Which of course you have. RIGHT?)

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July/August Round Up

Hello all! Sorry it’s been so quiet around here lately – July and August have been mega busy with work/life stuff.

Below is a list of I have watched/read/enjoyed over the last two months that won’t get individual spots on the blog. Hope you’re all having a great summer!

Where I should be right now

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Back to the Future

I should open by saying that Back to the Future* is one of my all-time favourites movies. It has been one of my favourites since I was about 7 years old and the only copy we had was one my parents had videotaped off the TV. As is often the case with our revisits, there are mild spoilers below.

There are many, many reasons why I love Back to the Future so dearly. It has humour, heart, action, adventure and some cracking music. I have always loved time travel stories (except, strangely enough, Dr Who. Too many aliens for me) and was absolutely fascinated as a child with the idea that we could travel to a different age or time period. The 50s seemed forever ago when I was a kid and so suitably far back for Marty to travel to. Now, I see that it works because it is a wildly different time to the 1980s and yet still within a generation’s reach.

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Stand By Me!

Can you believe it’s June already? The sun was shining in London today and it felt like summer was fast approaching. In honour of the summery weather, this week’s throwback is to a film about summer, friendship, growing up, death and life and…I think I may already be tearing up. This week folks, we revisit the classic that is Stand By Me.

Based on a Stephen King novella, The Body, Stand By Me is a film by Rob Reiner, starring four young actors (River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman) and one epic quest. Gordie (Wheaton) is recovering from the death of his older brother, Denny, the only member of his family that seemed to understand Gordie. His best friends are Chris Chambers (Phoenix), who comes from a family of criminals and delinquents and suffers the consequences of his family’s reputation; Teddy Duchamp whose war veteran and unstable father has made him both violent and jumpy, permanently scarred after his father burned his ear and Vern (O’Connell), who seems younger than the others in attitude and is timid, easily scared and often bullied.

Vern overhears his brother talking about a local boy, Ray, who was struck by a train. There has been difficulty locating the body and these four friends decide to embark on a walking and camping trip along the rail tracks to find Ray’s body and become heroes. They set off together, lying to their parents about where they are headed and encounter various adventures, truths and fears on the way and coming back a little sadder, a little wiser and a little older, a part of their childhood gone.

Stand By Me is one of my all time favourite films and never fails to make me cry. There is something about the friendship between those four boys; their sad tales and distant families (except for maybe Vern, he seems to be doing ok) and, as the closing lines spoken by ‘The Writer’ say: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” Those friendships you have at that age, somewhere between a little kid and a teenager, are special. They help you make that leap from one state of being to the other, you have unquestioning loyalty and you’re too young to care about what’s cool. Kids are often instinctively protective and these boys are all hiding away from something, seeking refuge in others who understand implicitly why they need to hide.

I’m lucky; my best friend when I was 12 is still my best friend. However, you do get the sense watching Stand By Me that this friendship is fragile and therefore even more precious. These are four very different boys, brought together by circumstance and sensibility, but always somehow destined to go different ways in life. Every time I watch it I’m reminded of how much kids notice and understand and of how important true friends are. A truly great friend looms large in your life, whether they remain an active part of it or not.

Much gets said about Phoenix’s performance in the film but all four boys do an amazing job, particularly Wheaton who is the emotional centre of the story. Some of my favourite moments are when it’s just the four of them sitting around talking about the sort of nonsense kids talk about.

For me, one of the best things about Stand By Me is that is grows with me. The older I get, the more it means, the more bitter sweet the story and the better I understand it. If you haven’t seen it yet, treat yourself and watch it. I swear you won’t regret it.

Culture Vulture (Or: Meanwhile, on the Internets)

It’s linkage time again. Apologies for the gap since the last link post – I was off enjoying myself on holiday!

Here are some things I’ve been enjoying on the internet recently:

I got turned on to Jill and Kate (I can’t remember where from, sorry!) and they are GREAT, you guys. Check out their YouTube channel here. Their tour of the UK is almost up, but fingers crossed they come back soon!

Seven tips to help you read more!

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have already pre-ordered my copy of Amy Poehler’s Book, Yes Please. Is it October yet?

Thinking a lot about Community lately, as it has been cancelled. I think I might agree with Anne‘s thoughts on its cancellation but have been relieving some glory moments. I love that someone spotted this joke. It sums up to me what’s best about the show.

I LOVED this video about doing visual comedy a la Edgar Wright. As a huge Spaced fan, I appreciate all his cleverness.

I have recently become totally obsessed with The Good Wife. Are you watching it? You should be!

I was really sad to hear about Maya Angelou passing away last week. This photo set is lovely and along with this video from Sesame Street really sums up her generosity of spirit for me.

Pop Arts Recommends: The Way, Way Back

This month’s recommendation is a film: The Way, Way Back. I really love this film, guys. Really really love it. I watched it again recently ahead of writing this post and was reminded all over again of just how awesome it is. Let the recommending commence!

The Way, Way Back is a sweet coming-of-age-summer tale, written and directed by Jim Rash (Community) and Nat Faxon, who won an Oscar for their screenplay for The Descendants. It tells the story of 14 year old Duncan (Liam James), who is reluctantly dragged to a seaside town for the summer by his mother, Pam (Toni Collette) and her new boyfriend, Trent (a wonderfully loathsome Steve Carell). Duncan is still adjusting to his parent’s separation, missing his Dad and enduring the bullying presence that is Trent. On the way to their holiday home, Duncan is sat in the ‘way back’ of the car, facing out at the road behind them. While the others are asleep, Trent asks Duncan where he sees himself on a scale of 1-10. Duncan guesses at a six, but Trent tells him he’s a three. This sets the tone of their relationship and triggers Duncan’s need to get away and restore his own confidence.

Duncan meets their neighbours: over-sharer Betty (Alison Janney) and her children, Peter and Susannah (AnnaSophia Robb). He develops a crush on Susannah, who is the only person who seems to talk to him like a normal person. Pam keeps both babying and ignoring Duncan, having fun with Trent and his friends Kip and Joan. She seems to Duncan to be oblivious to his needs, consistently allowing Trent to push him around. It’s a credit to the writing and to the brilliant Toni Collette that Pam remains sympathetic and complex, rather than seeming just weak-willed.

Fed up, Duncan discovers an old bike in the garage. Despite it being designed for young girls and covered with pink sparkles, it provides Duncan with some independence and freedom and leads him to Water Wizz, a local water park. After attending and sitting watching all the fun for a few days, the park owner, laid-back, fun-loving Owen (Sam Rockwell) takes a liking to him; offering him a job helping out and taking him under his wing. Working with Owen and the other Water Wizz staff, Duncan begins to blossom, growing in confidence and getting happier by the day. He learns from Owen, in particular, that being himself is good and the experience he has at Water Wizz affects how he moves forward at the end of the summer.

This film is heart-warming, moving and uplifting. Anyone who ever felt awkward and lost as a kid will recognise so much in Duncan and the difficulty he has in making himself really seen and really heard. His development as a character is a joy to watch and I defy anyone not to be cheering come the end of the film. The script and characterisation is sensitive and smart, with the adult cast delivering well-rounded performances. Liam James is extraordinary, mirroring Duncan’s internal transformation in his physical performance – definitely one to watch. This is a great film to watch at the start of summer, or following a rubbish day as it leaves a happy warm glow in it’s wake. Enjoy!


Film Review: Tracks

Tracks is a film based on Robyn Davidson’s book of the same name, in which she describes an extraordinary journey she made in the late 70s, while still in her 20s. Davidson travelled over 1700 miles from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, across Western Australia and its desert, alone save for some camels and her faithful dog.

Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) spends two years in Alice Springs learning how to capture, train and care for camels, as well as trying to rustle up three for the journey. While she’s working on acquiring her camels, she has a chance encounter with an American photographer, Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) who suggests she seek sponsorship for her trip. Robyn contacts National Geographic, who agree to fund her travels, on the condition that a photographer be sent to meet up with her at various points to document her journey. The photographer turns out to be Rick, who Robyn has limited patience for. Saying farewell to her family, Robyn, Diggity (her dog) and her (now four) camels set off on their quest, preparing to spend the majority of the next seven months alone in a vast and relentless desert.

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revists…The Breakfast Club!

Good Thursday to you all. This week’s throwback is to the 80s Brat Pack classic – The Breakfast Club. Settle yourselves down, grab a biscuit and let us all go delving into the stress and turbulence of being a teenager, shall we?As usual, spoilers abound…

For the uninitiated (where have you been? You’re missing out!), The Breakfast Club is the story of five disparate teenagers, who appear to have nothing in common aside from the fact that they all attend the same school and have all been given Saturday detention. They describe themselves to their teacher thus: “You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed”. Over the course of the day, united by frustration at being there and loathing for their teacher/gaoler, these five kids begin to open up to each other.

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Film Review: The Amazing Spiderman 2

On Bank Holiday Monday we took a trip to see the new Amazing Spider-Man 2 – a follow up to Andrew Garfield’s first (and very successful) outing in the Spidey suit in 2012. Watching Spider-Man movies is starting to make me feel old as I went and saw Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man at the cinema back in 2002. Yikes. I’m on my fifth Spider-Man movie in 12 years, which feels excessive, but there ya go. The cinema was packed, despite the film having been out for a few days, demonstrating to me at least that superhero movie fatigue has yet to strike. I went with fairly high expectations as I really enjoyed the previous film and am a fan of all the principle cast (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan and Sally Field).

We pick up a few months from when The Amazing Spider-Man left off. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) have re-united but it seems to be an on/off sort of relationship, as Peter is still plagued with guilt over the death of Gwen’s father. Spider-Man is all over New York, saving the day one quip at a time (seriously, the one liners were great in this movie and delivered with relish by Garfield). He is exhausted but seemingly happy, still living with Aunt May (Sally Field) in Queens. The mystery of what happened to his parents still lingers but he’s trying not to drive himself too crazy over it. Meanwhile, Gwen gets a job over at Oscorp and meets Max, an electrical engineer (Jamie Foxx), who is ignored and ridiculed by his colleagues and is a scary Spider-Man super-fan. Peter’s childhood friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) comes back to the city following the protracted death of his father, Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper), former boss to Richard Parker, Peter’s dad. Several threads of story start to intertwine as the film progresses: Peter learns more about what his father was doing and where he went, Harry is driven mad with obsession over Spider-Man and a possible cure for a family illness, Gwen proves her value while also putting herself at risk and most importantly, Max has a terrible accident and becomes Electro. Peter must struggle with personal and actual demons and decide what it really means to be Spider-Man…

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Film Review: Muppets Most Wanted

On Sunday afternoon I ventured off to see the latest Muppet film: Muppets Most Wanted. I grew up on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and will tell anyone who’ll listen that I feel Kermit is my spirit animal. I loved the last Muppet film, released in 2011 and so was eagerly anticipating this latest instalment.

The film opens at the close of the last film, with the Muppets deciding what path to take next now that they are all reunited. Enter Dominic Badguy (“it’s pronounced badgie”), a tour manager played by Ricky Gervais, who suggests they embark on a grand world tour. Kermit has misgivings, but the rest of the Muppets are convinced following Dominic’s promise to let them do what they want. It soon turns out however, that Dominic has a nefarious (any excuse to use that word) reason behind working with the Muppets. He is in cahoots (any excuse to use that word) with Constantine, the recently escaped, most wanted criminal in the world, who happens to look exactly like Kermit; except for one mole on the side of his face. Constantine and Dominic conspire to make Kermit look like Constantine by gluing a mole on his face, have him arrested and for Constantine to take his place. Constantine and Dominic will then use the Muppets as cover and patsies for their most audacious crime yet – stealing the crown jewels from the Tower of London. Meanwhile, poor Kermit is stuck in a Siberian gulag, with some all singing, all dancing inmates and a sassy prison guard, who falls in love with Kermit (played by Tina Fey). Will Kermit manage to escape, stop Constantine and save his friends?

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