With Sympathy: The Get Down

Some series capture our hearts, and hang around forever. We loved The Simpsons, and for that reason it has yet to end, despite the fact that it probably should. Some series are however, given a premature cancellation. Though they had so much more to give, they were taken away from us in their prime, for reasons unknown. An example of such is Netflix’s The Get Down (2016-2017). But do not fear, it’s hanging around, ready to binge-watch, so pick it up whilst you still can!

The Get Down aired on Netflix in August 2016, a fact you’d be forgiven for not knowing. It’s a hidden gem, and constantly faces threats of cancellation despite positive reviews. Set in the Bronx in the 1970s, it’s a celebration of nostalgia not unlike the far more successful Stranger Things. This time it’s less bikes and Eggo waffles and more disco and R&B – but there’s an equal amount of Star Wars references. The series’ lack of recognition is confusing, given that its creator is none other than Baz Luhrmann. He’s the man behind The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge. He does here what he does best: an aesthetically pleasing musical, complete with love, comedy and gangsters. Though it may not be quite as iconic as Romeo + Juliet, Luhrmann does not disappoint.

The story is told through the eyes of the loveable Zeke Figuero, a poet who finds his true talent in rap after meeting an aspiring DJ. The show deals with racial struggles and real-life issues facing the Bronx at the time by incorporating actual news footage. Yet these struggles are not historically exclusive, they’re relevant and relatable. Take Mylene Cruz for example: she longs for fame as a disco singer, but is held back by her strict religious father, who thinks her dreams are inappropriate. She’s hard-working, intelligent, fierce and independent. Mylene and her friends are not pit against each other, instead they support each other’s ambitions. They serve as important representation of positive female friendships, something often lacking in television. Each character has their own struggle, from class, to art, to sexuality.

Every actor is individually great, making each character distinct and memorable. Considering Hollywood’s recent whitewashing and lack of representation in general, celebrating black culture with a diverse cast like this is crucial. Perhaps the best addition to the series is Jaden Smith as Dizzee Kipling. In The Get Down, Smith has finally found his footing as a queer, philosophical graffiti artist. Forget his weak acting in After Earth and occasionally annoying tweets, Jaden Smith is a pleasure to watch in this series. He’s compelling, funny and unique. Not only is the series’ acting brilliant, the singing is nothing short of phenomenal. Part one gives us “Set Me Free”, a song you won’t be able to take off loop once the series ends. As always with Luhrmann’s work, each song is pretty much a masterpiece.

Though we might be used to seeing Baz Luhrmann’s work on the big screen, The Get Down is nothing short of a cinematic experience. As opposed to the usual two-hour cinema trip, there are two short seasons waiting for you. The first episode may seem long and drawn out, but it brings us one of the show’s most dramatic scenes, and it’s worth hanging on to see what the rest of the series has to offer. Perhaps the 1970s fashion is enough to sell some people alone. Part two was released in April of this year, and once you’ve run through all eleven episodes, you’ll be heartbroken that no renewal came our way.

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The Last Jedi Trailer

As an (occasional) film blogger and a huge Star Wars fan, I absolutely had to post my thoughts about the trailer for the second film in our new trilogy. You should know that I like to go into these films mostly blind, I only watch the main trailers – I avoid news from the set, rumours and TV spots. So, don’t worry, this won’t be as frustratingly pre-spoilery as the usual articles on upcoming films.

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The general feel I got from this trailer is that this film is, tonally, far darker than the previous instalment. Perhaps darker than all other previous movies – bar Rogue One, which was almost don’t-take-your-kids-to-this-movie dark. Whilst The Force Awakens had its dark moments, it was certainly the freshman film – it still had fun, and room to play with quirky new characters. Perhaps one of the problems of the prequels were that they weren’t dark enough (I’m looking at you, Jar Jar Binks). The first prequel was happy-go-lucky, the second lovey-dovey, and the third too jarring a shift in tone to fit in properly with the others.

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The point is, I’m glad that this film is going to be darker because it’ll segue more easily into the final act of the trilogy. I’m also excited for the darkness of this film because it’s going to be interesting. As we have established, there is some darkness inside Rey; our heroine seems to possess some interesting Jedi powers that I can’t wait to see explored. Also, emo hermit Luke seems pretty scared of Rey’s power. It’ll be interesting to see a hero who struggles with her abilities, rather than the clean-cut, black-and-white Luke. This grey area the new addition to the Star Wars films that we needed.

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On to the addition that I’m not sure we needed: Porgs. Sure, they’re cute and they’ll inevitably fly off the shelves come Christmas, with your child crying when Santa can’t get his hands on one because they’re taking pride of place on the fanboys’ shelves. But, remember what ruined Return of the Jedi? Ewoks. These guys might just be the new Ewoks, a frustrating waste of space whose cute-factor wears off within twenty-minutes. Besides, Force Awakens did so well in balancing a merchandisable yet genuinely likeable non-speaking side character in BB-8. Why couldn’t we have quit while we’re ahead, and left it at BB-8?

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Speaking of side characters, I need to talk about Finn. He’s had an outfit glo up that I completely approve of – even better when you remember that this is the first time Finn has been able to choose his own clothes, and is not dictated by what the First Order tell him to wear. I love Finn’s story – it’s never been done before in this universe, yet it still has that quintessential unlikely hero for which Star Wars is so well known. We see Finn fighting Captain Phasma, with the TR-8R weapon – both of which I am so glad to see return. Captain Phasma is such an interesting villain, she had that silent but impossibly interesting factor that made us love Boba Fett. Not only does the clip from this scene ensure more Captain Phasma for us, it tells us that Finn will continue to fight against the oppression he faced.

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It’s not only Captain Phasma who is a villain that needs exploring – let’s not forget Snoke. I was so relieved when Snoke turned out to be a hologram, as I was worried that he’d be a forgettable, silly villain. In this screencap he looks genuinely scary, but perhaps a bit too much like Palpatine. I want to know who he is and what his agenda is, and it looks as though we may get some of that in this film. Hopefully there are also some good guys we’ll get to know a little bit better, glad to see more Poe, hoping to see a lot of Kelly Marie Tran!

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A fight I’m less excited to watch is what looks unsurprisingly like the Hoth battle. We all know how to beat AT-ATs now, anyway. It could be a fun little call back if something very different is done with it, but perhaps this is a case of too much reliance on the original trilogy, once again. I’m not too concerned about the possibility of this film being another training montage, though that would be relying quite heavily on Empire Strikes Back, and I do not want this film to be the less good version of Empire. However, the training montage set up could be an effective way to have our characters better set up, more fleshed out and explored in depth. It’s not certain whether Rey or Kylo are good or bad, and this film could make them who they are, motivating us to care about them as we follow them into the final film.

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Kylo Ren is a touchy subject for me. I don’t know why everyone went wild for him, he strikes me as a little bit boring. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see a whiny man with anger issues as a villain for once – but that’s all he is. I wasn’t sure how he’d last a whole trilogy, but perhaps he isn’t. Will Kylo defect to the Resistance? Has he been brainwashed by Snoke? I somehow doubt he’ll end up as a good guy – people already lust after him as a villain (ew), why would the producers want to make him likeable. Let’s not forget, he killed Han Solo, how would a character who did such a thing ever be redeemed? Stranger things have happened, I suppose. Let’s not forget the title, which suggests that only one of Kylo, Rey and Luke will be left standing when the credits roll for The Last Jedi. One thing I’m very glad of is that his silly helmet is finally gone, I’m glad that was just a tease to attract us to the first film.

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I’m excited to see how Kylo and Rey relate to each other, whether they balance each other as equals, or team up. This shot has me wishing for December, and questioning everything I thought about The Last Jedi.

All pictures from The Last Jedi Trailer.

My Top 5 Studio Ghibli Films

I’m back! Finally. It’s been far too long! I’ve absolutely hated not having internet this week, I’ve been so lost. But what comes with being so bored is finding something to pass the time. Luckily, I had some DVDs. I’ve really been enjoying Studio Ghibli lately, something I’ve been into for some time. I thought why not tell you about my top five Ghibli movies!

For the record, I am a huge fan of Princess Mononoke, but I have no idea how to talk about it! It’s such a huge film with so much in, and I’m not sure what it is that makes me love it so much.

  1. Ponyo

For when you’re feeling lonely. Ponyo is The Little Mermaid of Ghibli movies, by which I mean, it’s nothing like Disney’s version, but it is about a tiny redhead who turns human. It’s this really charming little story about a fish who becomes a girl, she and the boy who finds her end up going on this little mission when the land is flooded and they must find the boy’s mother. Nothing bad happens and it’s just nice. It’s sweet, visually beautiful, kinda funny and obviously odd.

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle

For when you’re sad and you need the comfort of a fairytale. Howl’s Moving Castle has a lot in it. A lot. There’s war, selfishness, curses and the question of what exactly beauty is. It is perhaps the most ‘teenage’ Ghibli film as the love story is all about this girl who doesn’t believe she is beautiful, and a boy who is far more powerful than her, but he’s troubled, difficult, and unattractive on the inside. They both learn what beauty means, and become better people. It’s feelgood – it doesn’t have that painful part that most of these films do. I like this one because of its simplicity. It’s comforting.

  1. Only Yesterday

For when you’re feeling homesick. Ironically, I watched this film for the first time yesterday. The English dub was only recently released, and features the talents of Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel. What’s really nice about this film is the way it feels. I’m not sure I loved the story very much, and there are a few things that went over my head as it’s set in Japan in the 60s and 80s. But I understood the protagonist so well. She was sick of the city, longing for the countryside. It was a place that wasn’t exactly her home, she didn’t come from there. But it felt like home to her, she wanted to make it her home. That longing for a peaceful, simple existence is something we can all understand.

  1. When Marnie Was There

For when something’s bittersweet. I can’t find another word to describe this film. It’s bittersweet. It’s a mystery, with a really great payoff – if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I see twists coming from a mile off, but this one was a complete surprise. It was a surprise that made sense! It’s one of those Ghibli films set in a beautiful idyllic place. It happens over the course of a summer, so it’s a great one to watch while summer ends. The characters look fantastic in this one. The houses are beautiful, the lakes, the scenery. It’s quiet and calming, sweet and shattering.

  1. Kiki’s Delivery Service

For when you don’t feel like you can do it. If you’ve seen one Ghibli film you’ll know how well they do female protagonists – they’re always these young, unassuming but headstrong girls who learn who they are and what they’re looking for. There isn’t one where the protagonist doesn’t come out of the story a better person. No other protagonist exemplifies this the way Kiki does. She’s a witch, who’s only just old enough to leave home and train away for a year – she needs to work out how her abilities as a witch will aid a community. It so easily parallels that feeling of going off to university, or starting a new job: you’re all on your own and you know you can do something but you haven’t quite worked out how to do that yet. Every set back only makes Kiki better, stronger. Confidence knocks are so accurately presented – that slipping feeling of losing what you’re good at. Slowly we watch Kiki work out who she is, regain those abilities, and become the woman she’s meant to be. If Kiki can, you can.

 

I wish I could have included Spirited Away – but that film is an essay in its self!

 

I’m sorry for the lazy post today, but I can’t wait to be blogging every other day again!

My Top 5 X Files Episodes

January of 2016 was an uncertain time. I fell out with friends, university offers were rolling in, A Level exams were creeping ever closer as I entered the final few months of school. Ever. However, I discovered The X Files and let Mulder and Scully make it a good time for me. I feel kinda rubbish again, and we’re getting a new season next year, so I thought it would be nice to revisit my favourite series.

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So, I’m not old enough to have the 90s nostalgia, but I’m a massive fan of The X Files – shoulder pads, big phones and all! In celebration of The X Files’ 24th birthday, here are my top 5 favourite episodes:

  1. Eve (1×11)

I’ve seen love at first sight in countless Disney films, and this was the first time I experienced it for real. Sadly, it was with a TV series. The moment I watched this episode, I knew I was going to binge The X Files so fast. The episode follows Mulder and Scully as they try to understand how two identical girls were caught up witnessing an identical murder, on opposite ends of the country. It’s creepy. The twist is genuinely good, and brings some frustratingly fantastic dramatic irony. Mulder and Scully’s teamwork is really present in this episode, not to mention they act as pseudo-parents for a section of the episode. The aesthetic in this one is beyond good – it’s autumnal and the twins’ matching red outfits are unforgettable. It really is one of my favourites, but it comes in at number five because it’s probably not that good of an episode, especially since it was the first really good episode I watched.                                                                                                

  1. The Post-Modern Prometheus (5×5)

This one has a problematic plot, it wouldn’t fly on television today. Modern-day Frankenstein is ‘helping’ women to conceive. Hey, it was the 90s. Besides, the plot really isn’t the best part! The entire episode is filmed in black and white, once again, the aesthetic is unbeatable. This is one of the (surprisingly many) funny episodes of The X Files. Every deadpan look is made even funnier in black and white, making some iconic scenes. The ending of this episode is what makes it: Cher (sadly not the real Cher, she had other commitments) sings Walking in Memphis to the episode’s cast. Mulder stands and extends his hand to Scully, who accepts his invitation to dance. If you love Mulder and Scully – who are you kidding, nobody watches this show for the plot, it’s all about the agents – this episode has one of the loveliest scenes between the two, and it’s just as weird and wonderful as they deserve.

  1. Bad Blood (5×12)

Again, I keep choosing the funny ones. I think X Files did funny best, and I think the second-best writer as Vince Gilligan – season 5’s Bad Blood is proof of this. It’s a classic unreliable narrator story, with Mulder and Scully explaining their sides of a case that could lose them their jobs. Each agent’s story is acted out, giving us a brilliantly goofy out-of-character Mulder and an unusually whiny Scully. It shows us how Mulder and Scully see each other, and the flaws in their relationship – whatever that is at this point. There’s plenty of bickering between the two, and some very funny scenes. Honestly, they’re more iconic than The Post-Modern Prometheus. This is also Gillian Anderson’s favourite episode, one of the few episodes she actually remembers. She talks about it a lot. A lot. And so should you.

  1. Irresistible (2×13)

A horrifying death-fetishist serial killer targets women, Mulder and Scully have to catch him. This one isn’t for the faint hearted. It’s genuinely unnerving. Donnie Pfaster is nightmarish, because he’s human, and he could exist (let’s ignore the season 7 revisit of this character). As Scully is just recovering from her own abduction, this case hits her particularly hard. Scully episodes are just so great because there’s so much about her character to sink your teeth into. She’s also so badass in this one, and the Mulder-Scully hug at the end of the episode really signifies a change in their relationship. Don’t watch it at night, and maybe watch Bad Blood straight after to lift your spirits. This episode is a reminder that whilst The X Files does funny best, it did scary really, really, well. 

  1. Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (3×4)

Season 3 is the best season. Well, it’s a tie between seasons 1 and 3, but this is where the show really found what it was – there’s not too much focus on the mythology, there are funny/quirky episodes, and some of the best writers, Darin Morgan and Vince Gilligan, got their most iconic episodes out there. This episode is Darin’s second, but probably his best. It follows Mulder and Scully, but mostly Scully, as they deal with someone who appears to be a genuine psychic. It stars Peter Boyle, who, rightly so, won an Emmy for his performance. The focus is mostly on Scully, as her sceptic ways are challenged by Bruckman, and we see more of her character than ever before. It’s poignant, it’s quirky, and it’s funny at times. Queequeg also shows up for the first time. So it’s a winner.

Everything, Everything

I saw Everything, Everything last week in the cinema, because it didn’t release in the UK until August 18th. I had read and reviewed the book not long ago, and wasn’t a massive fan. Now that I’ve finally seen the film, does it hold up? Mild spoilers ahead!

The casting was good. Amandla Steinberg did a great job of portraying Madeline. Amandla was relatable, sympathetic and strong. I had a few problems with Nick Robinson’s Olly – he looked the part and acted the part, but they stripped his character of most things that made him unique – especially his active, fidgety, free-runner personality. The side characters were good – Ana de la Reguea portrayed Carla as I imagined: motherly, friendly and gentle. Madeline’s mother (portrayed by Anika Noni Rose) was probably my favourite portrayal – she was much more sympathetic and kind than she was in the book, which makes the ending so much more heartbreaking.

There were a few changes I disagreed with, however. Rosa became an actual character, as one of Madeline’s friends instead a character who was only mentioned. This would have been a great change – it would have made Madeline’s condition much sadder as they tried to focus on her only friend going off to college soon. It humanised Madeline, rather than making her that ‘princess in a glass castle’. But they didn’t. Rosa barely had any lines, or any larger role at all. I question why they even bothered. The other big change they made was taking away the detail that Madeline can only have specially-sealed, untouched books. In fact, it is Carla who gives her a copy of Flowers for Algernon. This makes the whole used-bookshop-wish-and-scene devoid of significance.

The overall aesthetic of the film was brilliant. The house was gorgeous, with everything pristine and white, touches of greenery and glass everywhere. I loved the block colours and the simplicity of Madeline’s clothing as the film progresses. However, the glass room that’s supposed to make Madeline feel like she’s outside was unimpressive. It had yellow walls as opposed to the tangible rock walls that Olly could climb. It had a boring blue sofa and no hint of that flowing water.

Some scenes felt displaced, as if they belonged in a different film. When Olly wrote messages with a sharpie on paper, it all felt too You Belong With Me. It wasn’t its own film, its own unique entity. Another scene was the strange Annie Hall-esque subtitled scene. It was silly, it took me right out of the film, it just didn’t work! However some scenes were totally unique to Everything, Everything, and there should have been more of those. These scenes were set in Madeline’s architecture models, set in her mind as she built them. Madeline and Olly’s texting conversation took place in the diner she’d built, complete with her astronaut. It was memorable, unique and quirky. I really loved those parts.

Overall it was an average teenage film. As per usual, with book adaptations it had that occasional unnecessary narration I wish I could have taken away. I wish they would just present things to the audience in conversation with other characters, or hint at it, we’re smarter than you give us credit for. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t know if I’d watch it again. It was quite faithful to the book, so if you liked that, I imagine you’d enjoy. If you haven’t heard of it and you like teen dramas like TFIOS or If I Stay, this is definitely one for you.

Leeds Festival

Look who’s back to posting regularly!

I hadn’t been to a festival before last weekend. I didn’t get the chance last summer, and I wasn’t sure I could handle one. However, as I’ve been trying to do things outside of my comfort zone this summer, I attended Leeds Festival. I loved it! Read on for a non-festival-goer review with recommendations and tips.

The Music

Obviously, I need to talk about this first. I caught acts I had been desperate to see, and some I hadn’t heard of before, each were fantastic.

The Unknowns

In the day, I spent a lot of time by the BBC Music Introducing Stage. Unknown bands had the chance to play to crowds with the hope of finding fans. I really enjoyed Queen Zee and The Sasstones, a quirky-looking rock group. Welsh band Chroma are also worth a mention. They’re an alternative rock band from Rhondda Cynon Taff, with a female lead singer. Though the vocals weren’t my thing, and it was very refreshing to hear them sing a song entirely in Welsh, because how else will we convince young people it’s worth speaking if it never engages with modern culture.

Fickle Friends were another fantastic band I caught. An alt-indie pop band whose female singer had wonderful vocals, I would definitely see Fickle Friends again. They’re a bit like Shura, but more dance-y. I hadn’t listened to them before the festival, but I’m actually listening to them as I write this. Check out their songs Cry Baby and Swim! The crowd had a great time with them, big shout-out to the guy in front of us whose moves were like nothing I’ve ever seen before – I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

Similarly, I hadn’t heard of Baby In Vain before I saw them in Leeds. They’re a Danish all-girl rock trio, it was grungy-indie-rock. They played on the stage where most of the heavy rock music was, which is how they could be described. They started off when they were all fourteen to sixteen years old, and whilst they’re older now there’s an air of awkwardness and youth which surrounds them – it’s captivating. They’re a group of women taking on the rock scene, what’s not to love?

The Big Names

I chose the day specifically to see a few acts I really love. I had been desperate to see some of them, and hoped they would live up to the hype. Halsey definitely did. She was the penultimate act on the second biggest stage and she absolutely killed it. There was a great balance of songs from both albums Badlands and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, and her stage was adorned with gorgeous golden roses. She was unapologetically her – she talked about her fears as a bisexual woman, of singing Stranger’s female pronouns on a stage in Russia, she danced and she changed the spoken part of Colours. Instead of the real lyrics, she said “I say the same poem every time, and if you don’t know that by now then I want to take whatever drug you’re on” – she knew her audience. Her vocals were fantastic, the transitions of her music seamless, and I was down in front staring her in the eye, what more could I want.

Haim followed Halsey as the last act of the night, playing to an ecstatic crowd at the same time as headliners Muse played the main stage. Their vocals were perfect, it was a pleasure to hear them live. My only criticism is that they didn’t play very much of the new album, only two songs, but that’s an excuse to see them again! As I hadn’t seen the previous album played live, it felt so special to hear Forever, Falling and The Wire. Not only were the vocals great, but Haim know how to work a crowd. Este’s bass face is a sight to behold. They danced with the crowd before Este and Alana crowdsurfed for the first time in their lives. Este stood after she had crowdsurfed, faced the crowd in her dress, and jokingly apologised if anyone saw anything they didn’t want to!

Haim didn’t forget where they were, either. In an unique turn, Este told the crowd that the first time she came to Leeds, she fell in love, and that as of four days before, she was once again single. She propositioned every single one of us, and said she’d be annoyed if no one asked her on a date – boys or girls, she didn’t care which. It’s so wonderful to see confident women taking on the industry and supporting other women. However, the lack of women and POC performers at Leeds was rather shocking. All girls need strong role models!

The Comedy

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A blurry Katherine Ryan in her iconic “World’s Smallest Pussy” jumper

The alternative tent at Leeds boasts some of the biggest names in comedy, and is a fantastic place to relax away from the blaring music. Everyone sits on the ground and watches quietly, laughing along in unison to someone off Mock The Week. I was honestly a little starstruck to see some comedians in the same room as me, as I’m a big comedy fan. But, even if you’re not a massive comedy geek, it’s a great place to chill.

Ivo Graham did a great relatable set about getting older when you’re young, British and awkward. With jokes about Mario Kart, him swindling an extra year on his 16-25 railcard and his Nokia 3310, he was a massive crowd pleaser! Knowing your audience turned out to be quite important, as the racist, sexist, homophobic Fin Taylor proved. He attempted to poke fun at the LGBT+ community, white privilege and the liberal left wing. At a festival. In the North. I don’t think he read up on it before he got there. Honestly, in this political climate, none of that is funny. Turning hate speech into a joke is how we got ourselves into this mess. He was deservedly heckled and I booed when he left. He was shocking and I’ll probably make a larger post on how awful and unfunny his problematic comedy was.

Political satirist Jonathan Pie was so popular I couldn’t even enter the tent, I had to sit outside to listen. He succeeded in addressing the political climate without being horribly depressing. It was almost educational – telling us why we should be outraged and why we must continue to fight against the injustice no matter what. But it wasn’t boring, as it’s all presented through a caricature of an angry man having crisis on stage! We can laugh about it together as long as we do something about it. So while you’re here, get on 38degrees.org.uk and sign some petitions to make a difference.

Big name Katherine Ryan followed the pathetic Fin Taylor, and she was fantastic. She talked about how diets were created and marketed to women to make us small, so we take up less space, so that we are less. But it wasn’t all serious stuff. She did a great routine about Jane on the school run, about being a mother but still being a kid at heart. Her audience interactions were great, she was quick and witty and honestly her stand-up is worlds better than her performances on panel shows. She’s wasted on them, give her a show of her own!

The Food

I expected more from the festival food. It was all fairly expensive for what you get, most things being seven to eight pounds. The various noodle bars were okay, it was nothing special but it was quite a lot, I shared my noodles. I didn’t drink alcohol at the festival because I wasn’t that bothered, as I only had a day ticket. After you buy one bottle of water, there are plenty of places to fill it up for free. Though it’s expensive, it’s so important to stay hydrated and fed all day, so do it. The food was pretty good, I had a vegetarian wrap that was lovely, and I got to chill and watch Blossoms from afar whilst I ate, which made the food better. I had churros for dessert, but I’ve had better, I wouldn’t have bought them if I’d tasted them.  The festival catered well to vegetarians, but I’m not sure how much food there was for vegans or those with allergies/intolerances. In conclusion, food wasn’t the best part.

The Venue 

Bramham Park was far smaller than I thought it would be, which had its advantages as well as its drawbacks. The stages were all close to each other, so it was easy to rush from one to another if there was a clash with the bands you wanted to see. However, it meant that there was a lot of noise almost everywhere.

The stages were great. Main Stage gave you the option of fighting your way down to the front and hopping on someone’s shoulder in the hopes of getting on the big TV, or sitting up on the hill and watching on the screen whilst you relax. The NME / BBC Radio 1 Stage was great and wasn’t too violent. Last time I saw Halsey (at The Academy, Manchester) I couldn’t actually see her performing because I’m short. This time, the stage was way better placed, and the acts who had set decorations looked great! The Alternative Stage was a breeze, relaxing place to chill and watch comedy, whilst actually sitting down, which added a great balance, especially for people like me who have some anxiety issues. However, it got so busy for Jonathan Pie that we couldn’t even get in!

On the topic of anxiety issues, if you suffer from this or anything similar, by all means, avoid the dance stage. It’s the place that gives Leeds its ‘ketty’ reputation. During Charli XCX, everyone was off their faces and I got punched in the head – accidentally, I presume. It wasn’t great, but it’s something to remember and laugh about. If you’re not into the drug-heavy-festival-scene, as I’m not, I would still completely recommend Leeds, just not the dance tent.

The Price

Luckily, everyone I was interested in seeing was playing on the same day, so I ended up only paying for a day ticket. It was some £72 so I wasn’t angry about the price – after all, I saw Haim, Halsey and Katherine Ryan. I’d have spent around the same price to see them all on tour and that’s without the day out. It was really good value for such a great day, and we left just before midnight so we definitely got out money’s worth. The shuttle bus was £10 return, which was a little pricey but it was reliable transport and it took almost an hour to get to the festival from central Leeds, so I wasn’t angry about that either. The only really overpriced things were the food and drink, with a bottle of water costing literally £2.50 I was a little mad. The food wasn’t that good or that much for £8, but none of this outweighed the positives.

Bonus: My Look

I went with a white off the shoulder top (thank god it wasnt muddy!), embroidered shorts, joules wellies, a delicate white choker and a sparkly bumbag. The bumbag was literally the most convenient thing I’ve ever owned, even though I hated the idea of having one, they’re so useful you have to get one if you’re going to a festival.

All in all, it was a weekend and some £100 well spent!

Book Recommendations

If you haven’t noticed, my borrowed book club has recently hit a wall. The next book I intended to read was Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere. I couldn’t get into it. I even tried to read it on the train, the place I’m most productive, and I found myself distracted. The words rolled past my eyes and didn’t register in my head. I apologise to the ever-present Katie, who lent me that book, because I can’t write more than this about it. Since I should get past this slump, I’m writing a post of recommendations. These are the books I would borrow to you.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

tkmb.jpgPerhaps an obvious choice, but this is my favourite book. I was twelve and I was awkward and I was in an English class with only one person I talked to. One day, the teacher looked at us and told us that we weren’t going to read the recommended book for our ability, instead she’d let us read a classic. Every word is still in her voice, and every word told me that I was capable.

My emotional attachment to this book isn’t what makes it great. It’s a classic that’s readable, real and emotional. It’s a refreshing break from Bronte, but falls into the same category. It’s a seasonal novel: every word pulls you into the childish nostalgia of muggy Maycomb summers. Its comments on racial injustice are pertinent as ever, and do not ignore America’s shameful history. Atticus Finch is a wonderful literary hero – he’s an understanding father, he’s accepting and he has strong morals.

Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife

A recurring theme in this post: I studied this collection of poems. As I had to know everything about fortysomething of her poems for an exam, Carol Ann Duffy was once my mortal enemy. However, we reached her World’s Wife poems, suddenly it was hard to deny her genius. Each poem is the voice of a woman behind her more famous male counterpart: Queen Kong, Mrs. Midas and Mrs. Lazarus. It’s a funny feminist triumph.

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Each character has a very distinctive voice, affected by the consequences of the man who defines her. Mrs. Midas sounds like she’s gossiping over brunch as she rambles about her difficult life, whilst Mrs. Darwin is short and smart. It’s so clever, it subverts the idea of history so well. It’s a very quick read, and her poems have so many different meanings that every reader gains something totally different from her writing. Borrow this book and tell me what you think it means, because I’m sure we’d have different things to say.

George Orwell’s 1984

This was required reading for my journalism course last year, and I regret not reading it sooner. In a world where the dystopian novel has been used too many times to count, where every trope is old by now, this novel takes it back to the basics. It has every dystopian trope – the forbidden love affair, the unsuspecting protagonist and of course the overbearing dictatorship. It’s less enjoyable because it’s been done so many times by now, and honestly the ending isn’t even that good.

The reason I would recommend this novel is for its pertinence. In January of 2017, following Kellyanne Conway’s use of the term “alternative facts”, 1984 flew off the shelves, selling out on Amazon. It is vital that we read this today, especially the essay at the end of the novel. Orwell creates a society who are controlled by language – the meanings of words are stripped and replaced with Newspeak. It’s something we need to understand in today’s world, because what a certain American President defines as fake news, is not what fake news is. He stops us from listening to each other. We can’t let a leader redefine the fundamental part of society – communication.

Let me know if you’ve read any, or if I’ve convinced you to borrow them! I would love to hear what you thought.

Nostalgia Goggles: Spyro 2

I spend a fair amount of time playing older video games. Partly because new games are expensive, and partly because nostalgia and I get on like a house on fire. In this series, I’ll test out some games I have fond memories of, and see how they hold up compared to today’s sequels or alternatives. I’m European, so the names will be different sometimes. Some are nineties, some may be from 2009, because games age quickly, okay?

It’s summer, and summer always makes me feel like a little kid again. My brother and I went to my grandparents’ house for lunch, and sitting there eating burger’s in her dining room, I could’ve been seven again. I wanted to be sat in the front room, arguing with my brother because he wouldn’t let me play the SNES. Since this has happened and I haven’t made a blog post in some time, I thought I’d start a new feature.

Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer (Ripto’s Rage)

This game inspired this feature on my blog. A few years ago, a week before my GCSE exams began, I rescued my brother’s Playstation 2 from being thrown away, along with a couple of games. One of which, was Spyro 2 for the Playstation 1. Naturally, my friend and I played it for seven hours straight rather than revising for our maths exam. I recently revisited the game with Miriam again, so read on if you’d like to know how that went. I grew up playing this game because my brother stepped on the original Spyro The Dragon, so only the first ten minutes would play. Still, it’s often regarded as being better than its predecessor, as it had a ground-breaking-for-the-time flying mechanic and a ridiculous amount of unique NPCs with complete voice acting.

When I was a kid:

I was obsessed with finding every one of the secrets, and collecting the orbs not because I wanted 100% completion, but because I genuinely wanted to help the characters. However, one level in particular always stood out as my least favourite: Fracture Hills. Unskippable cutscenes, annoying bagpipe music, the undefeatable Earthshapers and some unrewarding, frustrating orb quests. One of my fondest memories of this game is the orb quest of retrieving the professors pencil, as it involves trading different objects by interacting with different parts of the level. I remember thinking for ages about the logical thing to do to progress in the game. However, I never finished the game as summer probably ended with the disc lost to my grandparents’ front room

Now:

Fracture Hills is still horrible – I didn’t even finish it because I can’t do it. Some of the game is tricky and frustrating. Miriam and I were screaming at each other and snatching the controller at times. I’m not sure how I got to the final homeworld, because it took us hours. The challenging but fun aspect is sort of gone, it’s just frustrating and all I had any drive to do was to beat the game. The orb quests are still fun bonuses, but the enemies, bosses and your first trip through the level are quite easy. The pencil quest was easy, because I’m an adult. Still pretty fun to pass the time though. I finished the game, and the ending is way more rewarding than most games because you get a funfair bonus level. The characters are still memorable, and some of the game is kinda-sorta funny? It’s a pretty charming platformer that I was desperate to beat and find every gem, which is something lost to the nineties.

Bonus: Miriam’s Review

Stressful as fuck. However, I appreciate the game’s simplicity – you don’t have to spend ages in a tutorial. It’s all on instinct you just know what you’re doing and you don’t really have to care about a plotline that makes sense. Because you’re a fucking purple dragon.” – She played the game with me and one time she made me stay in school when I was sick just so that she wouldn’t be alone.

Compared To Spyro Today:

My little cousins play Skylanders, but is that really Spyro? This game can be more directly compared with the recent Legend of Spyro series. The Legend games had a complex plot, lore and a less ‘excuse me, princess’ protagonist. But I question whether the game needed this direction? Sure, there’s no nineties mascot war and there’s less call for mainstream platformers, but Spyro never needed to be an RPG. It lost its fun aspect when it became open-world. It needs levels with secret areas and bonus quests, scattered gems and enemies that don’t respawn. In the new Spyro games, you lose that drive to collect everything and complete everything. I don’t need a deep plotline to be invested, because yes, you’re a fucking purple dragon.

 

Verdict:

The 90s versions hold up way better than the more recent games.

 

I’d love to hear about your video game nostalgia in the comments!

Melodrama: In Depth

Lorde is my absolute favourite artist. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wandered to other artists: Lana Del Rey’s melancholy, Frank Turner’s hopeless romance, Tacocat’s Seattle pop. Yet there’s something about Lorde’s music that I relate to so terribly well. 

Pure Heroine released when I was fifteen. I listened non-stop for months on end. I decided that A World Alone would be played at my wedding, that on my birthday every year I’d tweet the lyrics “Today is my birthday and I’m riding hiiiigh”, Ribs made my crushes unbearable. Whilst not much of that has changed, I’ve grown a lot since 2013. As has Lorde. 

She’s a year and a half older than me, which makes her music all the more relatable. She writes it at one age, and by the time it’s released I’ve reached that age. Even in Melodrama the lyric “I’m nineteen and I’m on fire” reminds me that we have shared experiences, that I’m part of her L-O-V-E-L-E-S-S generation. All that said, Lorde’s new album does not tug at me the way Pure Heroine did. 

Lorde sung her dissatisfaction at the music industry’s praise of drugs, something to which she didn’t relate. Come Melodrama, she’s grown up at a faster pace: under fame’s limelight in the way she protested in Yellow Flicker Beat, she’s changed. Perfect Places is hallucinogenic, in The Louvre love is slipped under a tongue. It’s different, a shift that has perhaps strained my relationship with Melodrama. 

Green Light is Lorde’s introduction of a new era. The childlike wonder she had at love in Pure Heroine is gone, she’s been hurt but she’s found herself again. Like Royals, Green Light found chart success. It’s a brilliant summer dance track with somewhat of a twist on the norm. Lorde’s raspy tone has not been forgotten: it reappears as she sings “hope they bite you” with an over-the-top angsty air of violence. 

The idea of Melodrama being a concept album is introduced in Green Light, but by at Sober the concept is a little more audible. It’s about that person you’re not sure you like or even if they like you, but once you’re somewhere and you’re dancing and you’re drunk, all those doubts are gone. Lorde’s relatability is one of her best attributes, Sober is certainly an example of that. Although, to me the song feels too much like the full swing of a party to be so early in the album.

Homemade Dynamite is difficult, as it feels so similar to Sober. It’s another song about this being our place to do what we want, a recurring theme in the album. This song was apparently supposed to be a single but its release coincided with the horrible tragedy in Manchester earlier this year, so it was pulled. It’s history could put you off, or its in your face ‘singleness’. It sounds like a single, it’s repetitive, it’s catchy, it should have been but for good reason it is not. The one thing that saves Homemade Dynamite for me, is the verse:

Might get your friend to drive / But he can hardly see / We’ll end up painted on the road / Red and chrome, all the broken glass sparkling / I guess we’re partying

It encapsulates everything there is to love about Melodrama. It’s a narrowly avoided deadly decision, by a young person who isn’t thinking straight. When the consequences are considered, it’s not the idea of injury, it’s a spectacle: it’s the colours of what would happen, like art. Glass like a disco ball. A romanticised scene like the death of James Dean. It’s Melodrama. It’s taking every stupid little thing we do when we’re young and making it something bigger that ourselves. 

The Louvre is my favourite song. It’s purely Lorde but the concept isn’t lost. It’s dramatic and different, about a love so cherished that she thinks its artistic brilliance should sit alongside the Mona Lisa. Well, not exactly alongside it, at the back, but who cares? It’s still The Louvre. Lorde’s artistic obsession comes through so well in this song that I cannot stop listening. She’s explicit about the bad things this relationship made her do: ignoring her friends, feeling that she and her lover were superior. It’s both melodramatic and real, because sometimes you love someone so much that it feels like a masterpiece, but on the outside you’re just a bit extra. 

Lorde says that while some songs on her album are set at the peak of the party, others are when you’re drunkenly staring in the mirror, feeling insecure. Liability fits the latter description. Someone’s brought her insecurities to the surface: she’s too much for some people. This idea is presented in The Louvre, but Liability is when being melodramatic turns sour – it’s the other side of the coin. But it’s not all bad, the overall message is positive. She learns to dance with herself, to love herself more than others claimed they did. 

Hard Feelings/Loveless should not be one track. I’m sorry. They’re such juxtapositions that they work on the same track from an artistic point of view. They’re the two feelings during a breakup. The former is clinging to a failing relationship, the latter is the relief of being yourself again. Somehow I never feel in the mood to listen to both of these, it’d be like putting 400 Lux and Team on the same track. On the other hand, I love both songs individually. Hard Feelings is raw and heartbreaking, the slow burn of getting over someone. Loveless is dancing your pain away without a care once they’re gone. 

Sober II (Melodrama) isn’t a song I think about a lot. It presents the album’s theme quite tidily in a three minute song, one which is quite repetitive. The raspy “We told you this was melodrama” is fantastic. It’s a taunt, bringing Lorde’s classic witchyness back through audio. It’s threatening and over-the-top, exactly how late-teenage drama feels. Yet it’s an incomplete song, an interlude. I’m not a fan of pt. 2 of songs, unfortunately. 

Arguably, the most Lorde song on the album is Writer In the Dark. It’s quirky and complex. Her voice is tangible, her breaths are cool on the back of your neck. The song rushes through different emotions: violent anger, a painful cry, a calm realisation. It’s perfect, it’s what Lorde has always been: a strange take on the normal. Yet this song feels disconnected from the album’s concept. Does it fit into the idea of a house party? I question whether the album would’ve been better without a concept at all. 

Supercut could have been sung by anyone, but Lorde made it her own. It’s all our imperfections in a relationship, imagining things the way we wish we’d done them, not the way we had. Memories that plague us, not because they’re sad, but because they could’ve been so much happier. Who’d have thought this would make a decent dance song? It’s simple, but maybe it should be. 

I don’t like interlude tracks. Liability (Reprise) makes me feel a bit cheated. Though it may be those insecurities from Liability creeping back, weaker though no less persuasive. I’m not sure the song needed a revisit, Liability is so perfect that I think it’s reprise undermines that. It has nice sounds, I’ll give it that. 

As a song to close the album, Perfect Places is stellar. It’s all about intoxication, those places we go to pretend everything’s good, to dance our troubles away. It’s those places we are with our friends and we’re dancing together and we’re lost together and we love each other. It’s quieting the stress we’re feeling by doing these silly little things “blow my brains out to the radio“. Lorde ends the album in a similar way to Pure Heroine, by speaking in a raspy voice. She asks a question, it’s an answer she’s still searching for. If you immediately listen to Green Light after this, it becomes apparent that she’s doing her makeup in someone else’s car, heading to the party to find the answer. The album’s feel changes, Melodrama is a question: “What the fuck are perfect places anyway?

Borrowed Book Club – Everything, Everything

Borrowed Book Club started because my friends and I often pass books around to each other. I love to think about which of my friends my current book would suit, and I love that they sometimes think of me when they read a passage. Here is a review, exactly 250 words, about a book that was borrowed to me. Everything, Everything was given to be months ago by Katie, who should really have her books back by now.

I didn’t love this book. With glowing recommendations from more than one friend, I had very high expectations for Nicola Yoon’s first novel. Unfortunately (as with We Were Liars), the twist left me underwhelmed. I spent my time hoping that I hadn’t worked out the ending. This twist was a cop-out, an improbably hopeful ending that only happens in books. Perhaps we are supposed to figure it out before protagonist Maddy, even if so, it’s not effective. The twist is one for a tense thriller, not a melodramatic love story. This left me thinking that the love story may have been unnecessary. Another weak point is the plot’s reliance on the ‘sick girl’ trope. It’s overused, especially in YA, and I’m over it.

However, Everything, Everything does have its strengths. Where the plot may be lacking, the writing excels. The book is set out as a catalogue of Maddy’s thoughts – including simple yet beautiful illustrations and book reviews so short they rival my own. This form of writing feels original and prevents the creeping disinterest that comes with long chapters. Maddy is a fantastic character, and she’s rare – a genuinely believable YA heroine. It would be easy to read this in one sitting, but it took me some time to get through it. Perhaps I can only recommend when not to read this book: if at this moment someone you know is faced with a rare illness, the ending of this novel will give you no hope of their escape.