Somethings Take Time To See

It was around the end of 2011 when my super good friend, and great artist & writer, Paul Harrison and I got together in a Cafe Nero in Doncaster (The only place to get a decent chai-tea latte in the area at the time… maybe it still is) and we talked about how we thought new media art and ‘socially engaged’ art were crucial tools to help enable critical thinking— and therefore —- more openness.  Perhaps it could help enhance a more epistemic justice. Because gosh knows there needed to be. It was a crucial time. The Tories had just gotten into power the year before and their cutting of projects, programs, funding, closing libraries and youth centres and the trippling of universities fees was happening right in front of our eyes. Lots of protests, lots of petitions to sign in the beginning. It felt important to try and provide a place where people could connect – learn – listen – without needing much more than 10 mins. But give it light, give it time, give people a space, and elevate it.

We were sick of the insular systems surrounding the artworld (& outside in a lot of institutions) – who gets to speak and from where? Who always gets a big chunk of the opportunities and the dialogue? What kinds of voices are not as-well-acknowledged and represented as they should be? We also wanted to share people’s passions- unedited. it didn’t need to be a flow funny or deep narrative that’s curated like TED talks are (which they are). it can – and should – just be words that needed to be said. No scripts. Not really a time limit (tho for our art making needed to be around 10 mins & also increase the likilhood someone would have time to listen)

We talked at ends and decided that our individual practices might not be the vehicle for it. So that’s where we decided to create F/o/r/c/e– which stands for Free. Online. Radically. Collected. Education.

The mission: A force for good! In Italian forza means strength. To give voice across to anyone, to give strength – especially to those who don’t usually get to. And we’d create art/videos that would go with these stories/ideas/thoughts/journeys/whatever the person wanted to talk about.

We created it, together. Website, got people to provide us with their loves. wrote a manifesto. found things we thought was F/O/R/C/E-y – and then after our first video I got super sick where fatigue & pain over took my life & it lasted fucking ages, so Paul did a lot of the brunt of the work.

Time went by and then I decided that this experience and the experiences I had gained – was to be in healthcare to deal with the episetmic injustices there but also be one of the people who provide deep listening and empathy with compassion of a persons experience with illness and this treatment pathway.  I went to study radiotherapy & Paul went to Tokyo to work. We had a conversation maybe 2 years ago? Maybe it was a year ago. We weren’t sure whether we should close this project that had only just felt like it had begun, and be able to maybe do something else. I wasn’t too sure myself. Part guilt, probably from not pulling my weight as much as I would have liked back in 2012 and in 2014/5. I said, let’s leave it open. Not sure the action of closing is the right way. We did default on our website domain website payments tho. So now we lost an archive of material somewhere in the web.

And F/O/R/C/E has sat here. With cool videos on our vimeo page https://vimeo.com/user15467645 – a twitter page full of incredible links – archived stuck in a set of time https://twitter.com/FORCElectures (not sure i’ll be able to re-open this account as our email is long dead).

But I realize under this year’s events – in particular (though we did start it in the upheaval of austerity Britain) – we need something like F/O/R/C/E more than ever. We need spaces away from the oppressive & recessive histories and structures that crush voices, that tell people that their thing or stories are that that ones no one wants to hear about.

We need Spaces to document these turbulent times – whether its a pandemic or a call for equity and epistemic justice.  We want to make art with a persons talk – to show that it deserves attention.

The core of most of our problems in society today, whether its care experiences in healthcare, or Brexit, or racism, or kids not paying attention in school, etc – is that people want to feel like they’re being lustened to – and feel valued. that they have your attention. So many of us feel unheard and it’s a harm. These harms come in many forms – either hermunatically or testimonially  (predominately) – and if we keep on ignoring the and changing the structures that keep alowing such harms than i feel like it will continue to get worse.

and I think F/O/R/C/E is one of those many spaces here, and to come, to help house and store and share and platform this stuff / these experiences. It reminds me a lot of how we’re taught these days, and how systems and money is used, that everything needs to be spent by the next finacial year – that courses need to be complete in x amount of months. We give up when we don’t see results after so long. We might be forgetting the joy and the revelations in the long game – and this reminds me that we can not rush things – especially when they involve listening. For listening and really hearing are timeless.

So it’s now my turn to carry most of our next engagements/work forward. I’m going to recollect all our bits together – and the content will likely be slow and steady – but that’s because deep listening takes time. I hope you’ll follow along.

I’ll leave you with Paul Harrison excellent essay post about it from 2014 on the excellent Aesthetics of Protest site:  http://aestheticsofprotest.org/force-lectures/

And I hope you’ll give our Facebook page a like if you haven’t already F/o/r/c/e

Here’s some videos we made for peoples stories/ideas/journey/thoughts/experiences

Ashley Holmes, ‘Nothing To Lose’ F/O/R/C/E from F/O/R/C/E Lectures on Vimeo.

Yvonne Yang Guang – ‘The Stingy Artist’ -F/O/R/C/E from F/O/R/C/E Lectures on Vimeo.

 

More videos here: https://vimeo.com/user15467645

(photos from my wordpress archive in  2011, ha!)

Tokyo makes you a person who waits (photo essay)

Tokyo – a metropolis of dreams. It exists in a haze of past and future, quiet and super busy, organised and chaotic. The super-mega-troprolis is home to more than 35 million people: The biggest city in the history of the world. Put that into context for the UK. We have an overall population of 66.8 million. Which would be half of the UK population is living in Tokyo metropolitan area.
Despite a huge population, and what you see on TV – it never feels insanely busy except at the world famous touristy spots or the super-peak time on the subway/train. Outside of this – it often feels like it exists *just* for you.
Warrens of streets and alleyways – one leading onto another, never ending, but at the same time you are hoping that it doesn’t end either. Each area has a creative and beautiful type of lampost/light shade. The city exists in layers. Like a complex photoshop file. There’s basements with basements, shops with lifts that takes you to secret bars, there’s the odd door way that leads you to something you would have never guessed. Streets lead into shopping centres, shopping centres lead into arcades, arcades turn into parks, parks turn into temples, temples into houses, house into garages, garages into the best ramen you’ve ever had.
You could just walk one street in the centre of Tokyo of half a mile for half a day and you’d likely never find everything there, or expect to find the stuff that you do.

There’s a store for everything. If you can’t find it in Tokyo, then it doesn’t exist.

Here I can get the amazing Hawaiian drinks we drank for super cheap in Maui but are basically unavailable anywhere else on any mainlands. I can find any stationary available anywhere in the world here, but so much I can’t ever find in the UK. There’s shops dedicated to just the soul beauty of the pencil or a place that only sells lucky cats. There’s stores dedicated to the selling of things you need to make your own temple, small tiny spaces covered floor to wall & even ceiling with any kind of electrical lead/wire/bits & bobs you can imagine. Anything you want – Portuguese tarts, New Zealand s’more cookies, British pub food, worlds best burger, worlds best ramen, worlds best chocolate – Tokyo has got your back. And this is even before we get to the stuff that really matters – places dedicated to making paper, places securing 1000s years of tradition and passing it on, the way that everyone cares for the city – you could drop your sandwich on the floor in the middle of the street & it looks so clean you’d probably pick it back up and continue to eat it.
I don’t think I have ever seen a pothole in any of the roads of Tokyo. I’m not sure I can say that for anywhere else I have visited.
It’s in Tokyo that I realise that I am a person who waits. There’s a lot of queuing. More lining up than here at home in the UK. Lining up for ramen, lining up for the train, queuing up for a shop. Every few minutes, the noren curtain hanging in front of a door would twitch, discharging bodies into the Tokyo dusk, and we would steadily shuffle forward.
I am not really a person who usually likes to wait for things (thus my clutch onto Amazon Prime despite knowing how unethical it is). At home, if a friend suggests a meal at one of those tremendously cool restaurants that doesn’t take reservations, I’ll agree only if we eat geriatrically early or owlishly late. I politely reject any brunch plans that involve putting our names on a list and then hovering on the sidewalk for two hours.
It’s impatience, I suppose, but also a sort of brutal rationality: On one hand, there’s the value of my time, and on the other, there’s the value of whatever’s at the end of the line. The latter never really seemed worth that much of the former.
Public space is scaled so much better—old, human-sized spaces that also control flow and speed,” Dixon notes. In Japanese cities, people are accustomed to walking everywhere, and public transportation trumps car culture; in Tokyo, half of all trips are made on rail or bus, and a quarter on foot. Drivers are used to sharing the road and yielding to pedestrians and cyclists.
But here we were, H, R & me at that moment, 14th,15th & 16th in line waiting for a highly rated Ramen place – down a nondescript alley, just around d the corner from a super expensive department store in Shinjinku. Surrounded front and back by locals, part of a neat queue that snaked out the small restaurant’s entrance to the curb, where it broke for the tarmac only to pick up again around the corner onto a busier street. Every few minutes, the noren curtain hanging in front of the door would twitch, discharging bodies into the Tokyo late morning rain, and we would steadily shuffle forward.
We were there to eat 1 of the best Tokyo Style Shoyu Ramen, the specialty of the tiny restaurant after walking in the rain through Shinjuku Gyoen. The place is presided by a few wiry ramen masters who are all rocking a blond, boy-band coif, who dances around behind the counter, boiling and draining and plating their food with the percussive flamboyance of a flair bartender. Shoyu is a type of ramen made with chicken stock and shoyu is mixed with dashi to produce the unique Tokyo style Ramen. Tokyo Ramen is usually served with Chashu, Kamaboko, half an Egg, and is topped with chopped leek and preserved bamboo shoots.
Once it was our turn at the door, we make our orders on an old machine that’s all in Japanese and has pictures of Ramen but you can’t see really what type of meat. Being tourists, but eager to YOLO and not look foolish – we all select whatever R is ordering because he knows his food-stuff. We leave the door and wait until 3 seats become free and our order gets made fresh.

Queuing is a big deal in Japan, a physical exercise of the principles of discipline and etiquette that are drilled into every schoolchild and reinforced for every adult.

When, at last, we are waved over to a pair of seats, we watch these amazing chefs – ramen masters – prepare our dishes and they ask if we want a bib. I’m the only one who obliges but. I’m glad for it as we are all bent hungrily over our bowls, slurping the soup everywhere. Like a child & their favourite dish. Every part of me feels warmed up, and extra alive – electrified. I put my hands gently around and over the bowl. Feel the warmth and heat from the ramen. As we slurp down delicious food, we are semi-eavesdropping on the still-waiting people pressed into the narrow space behind us. “This guy is supposed to be the real deal,” an American man says to his wife.
If there’s one thing that you learn about the Japanese as a people is that they are incredibly dedicated, humble, serious, and deeply respectful, and honour driven. While it may seem like “just a noodle shop”, there’s an unspoken code of conduct that every local knows but for us as foreigners may not be as intuitive or obvious.
Consider this, most of these “rules” show that the culture is deeply rooted in the idea that as a customer, it is an honour to be able to eat the food a ramen master since we’re not able to make it ourselves and therefore respect is part of the tribute that you pay. This is craft that most chefs spend a lifetime to perfect and usually without any thought of seeking fame or fortune.
Take a second to let that sink in. This is very different from other cultures right?
I’m not a super plan-ahead kind of traveler, but Tokyo is a plan-ahead kind of city. So if you don’t book ahead, you have to queue up for hours before.
People line up, without apparent impatience, not only at ramen restaurants and store cash registers, but to board subway trains, nab a taxi at a stand, and enter elevators. After the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake—an event so tectonically powerful that it shifted the entire main island of Japan eight feet eastward and spat up a towering tsunami that ravaged the country’s northeast—the world watched in awe as millions of affected Japanese refrained almost entirely from looting, and instead waited in calm, orderly lines to receive supplies, sometimes for 12 hours or more. Next to that, how can my aversion to a queue mean anything at all?
One night R, H and I walked miles from Shibuya through it’s cool neighbourhood Shimokitazawa – it’s style is more hip and grungy than the polished global cool of Shibuya and it’s super quirky cutisy vibes of Haraujuku.
We walked up purple neon hills, seeing the city sky line happen below us, alongside train tracks and through dark tunnels. As always, Tokyo is always eerily quite, but it’s safe. We walked past Japanese baseball stores, off the beaten track pizza places, cool bars, record stores, and more weird shops. We walked until we got to a hood called Ebisu. Where I think had the best burger – and certainly the most delicious Japanese fried chicken.
We walked across all of central Tokyo neighbourhoods. I achieved my goal of seeing the place – with my own eyes.
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But it took us time and Tokyo makes you a person who waits.

In the dim light of sunrise, we get up super early – an hour before to get train tickets for Mount Fuji. The time we wanted was already sold out.
We lined up for all kinds of foods and drinks and much more in between.

At the end of all those waits was, invariably, magnificence: The most jewel-like sashimi. The lightest pork cutlets. The richest, deepest, most exquisite ramen broth I’ve ever had.

There’s a phrase in Japanese for places like this⎯gyouretsu no dekiru mise: “restaurants that have very long lines.” The lines are often self-fulfilling prophecies: The wait isn’t part of the cost, as I’d always considered it; to a Japanese person, it’s part of the value. When presented with two vendors selling effectively identical products, the Japanese choose whichever one has the longer line in front of it. Making it through a long line is a praiseworthy feat of endurance, and long queues for one thing or another are always in the news.
As I committed myself ever more deeply to my new practice of patience, I wish I was shooting on film. I was missing my 40-year-old camera , which has no LCD screen with instant preview—instead I had opted to try and do moving film this time. Except it drained my battery and I had forgotten my plug adaptor. So Just like 35mm, each frame became precious, which means you need to make it worth it. You need to wait for the shot.
That’s what I was doing when the strangest, most wondrous, most ineffably Tokyo part of my time there happened. I was sitting on the stone parapet of a bridge over a canal in Nakameguro, a crushingly lovely neighborhood on Tokyo’s southwest side, waiting for the sunset colours to hit through. It was almost surreally pink.
I would be leaving Tokyo the next day, and I was on my last charged battery.
Tokyo is a magical place. I knew this going in, as I’d been before and was now hooked on it, looking for my next high. Every great city is magical, a unique alchemy of climate and culture, of the past and the future. But in Tokyo I found a magic of extremes. It’s a fast, crowded, chaotic place, surging and staccato—until it’s not. You’ll turn a corner onto a side street, or the minute hand on your watch will tick over the hour, and suddenly all that urgent density falls away. The city is a pattern of movement and stillness, sounds and silences.
What I found, as I let myself relax into being a person who waits, is that even if you’re standing near roaring traffic—or in a subway station during the crush of rush hour, or in the riot of a department store—inside the act of waiting, there’s a form of quiet. As my days in Tokyo passed by, I felt myself undergo an almost physical change: In the scurrying chaos of a dense megacity, my restlessness retreated, my breath slowed. I could feel something else emerging inside me, a blanket unrolling over a rumpled bed, a calmness that was neither contentment nor boredom.

Patience was its own emotion.

If you end up having to be isolated at home

Being sick – chronically – on and off in severity has made it that I too have had my fair share of endless isolation.  Some of it in an attempt to not catch anything from others, most of it because I had NO energy/too much pain to do anything, or to try and leave the house.

Having a day or 2 off from work seems at first a luxury. But when you know that you can’t really leave the house – it does start to feel – FOMO-y — starecrazy — what to do? What are you missing out on? As humans we are naturally supposed to socialize, be a community. Without others we begin to feel lost. Happiness only really exists when shared. That’s why loneliness is such a killer and a huge issue.

It’s probably the best time ever – in history – to be self-isolated.  You can do online shopping, have endless libraries of music, movies, shows, audio books, e-book, journal articles, random youtube videos & tiktoks. You can get your food delivered, do your HIIT work out in your living room, take up gardening if you are lucky enough to have a garden, learn how to draw or play the guitar by following online tutorials. You can finallllly get to the time to read those books that are piling up on the bedside cabinet.  and we can video chat to friends & family, or endless messages to one another if we so wish.

But with this comes great responsibility. Endless news streams on TV can become doom & gloom. Sending people who are already struggling into anxiety.  Many of us – who are on zero hr contracts, or causal contracts, or self employed will be worrying about money if we end up having to be isolated.   Many of us will have loved ones (or are in) a high risk catogery and we will be worrying about them, and the people on the frontline. We can sit down to watch a show – and waste a whole 45 mins deciding what we want to watch because in many ways – there is too much choice. or the illusion of such. sometimes we want to read but our brain feels too fuzzy to concentrate.

So this here is my crib-sheet to maximizing time – coming with good recommendations. a So you can maybe hoepfully be able to cut out some of the anxiety and indecision and begin to enjoy some of this extra time. The extra time gained from not being stuck in traffic, not being on an endless delayed northern rail train home, not being stuck in a meeting that never should have been a meeting.

I hope you’ll enjoy the Smizz fun/hopeful/uplifing/easy to engage with recommendations!

 

TV SHOWS

Parks & Rec – Amazon Prime/ NowTV / Sky –  A CLASSIC: People going out of their way to help each other. It doesn’t get any better than that.

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Sex Education (Netflix) – The second season builds on what made the first series so good. It’s confident, funny and surprisingly deep.

My Left Nut (BBC Three, iPlayer) – About a teenager who realises that he has an enlarged testicle. It morphs into a tender, heartfelt drama about grief and anxiety, and how your family will stick by you through the bad parts as much as the good.

Brooklyn Nine-nine (Netflix, 4OD, SKY) – NINE-NINEEE! you can re-watch, over and over any episode – but you will laugh and you’ll love every single character & the jokes never get old. What can I say, Michael Schur is an incredible empathetic comedy writer.

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The End of the F**king World (All4) – My friend Helen says she loved this show. So I gave it another chance, & realized its perfect for these times.

Midsommer Murders (ITV2, BritBox, ITV Hub) – My mom love to watch this show – not particularly because it’s good – but because it’s kind of ridiculous, which makes it funny ( see Martina mcutching get murdered by cheese in series 18) & it’s a really good game if you’re watching alongside others to figure out who the murder is – and even harder – what is their motive!

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The Bold Type  (amazon prime S1-3)- fans of The Devil Wears Prada-meets-Gossip Girl-meets Ugly Betty – will LOVE this. It’s hard not to love the characters. why do i love this show? its portrayal of the refreshingly supportive friendship of its three protagonists, as well as its frank look at complex contemporary issues like #MeToo, reproductive rights and of course all the drama that goes with being a twenty-something building a career and looking for love in New York City.

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Ugly Betty (S1-4) Amazon Prime – Of course, I can’t miss this off the list. I LOVED this show so much when it first came out in 2008 when things all felt uber hopeful. Betty will make you believe again. I watched this show, and saw my own struggle – how do you enter a highly elitest, competitive, expensive cultural field such as fashion (art) and keep your own values, sense of identity without doing your own heritage and diversity down. What does that elitism do to us culturally? A show so woke before its time – it could have been written yesterday & not nearly 10 years ago – and it’s wild to think these issues have barely been solved since. It’s high energy, bright clothes, lots of melodrama, best written characters and BIG DREAMZ OPTIMISIM DOING THE RIGHT THING energy-vibes are just what you need.

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Instant Hotel (Netflix) – I watched this when I was super sick as just something to fall asleep to. Before I knew it, i had blasted through 2 seasons. I wish I could get to see a 3rd season. Think 4 in a bed, meets changing rooms. IN a hot austrialian climate with people wanting to have the best airBnB basically,

The Great British Bake Off – (4OD, Netflix) – There’s never been such a more pure TV show. A competition but ultimately a group of people who love baking end up being awesome friends! Delicious food, super funny outcomes, great team work, bit of the best of britishness – Raising money for stand up to cancer episodes are sooo good & I think the New Years 2020 Derry Girls episode is the best in history.

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Derry Girls (S1+2 4OD, S1 Netflix) – Another wholesome amazingly written comedy. The specific setting gives Derry Girls its extra layer of complexity, as well as some of its funniest lines. By and large, life in all its unimaginable and bizarre glory goes on. The writing by creator Lisa McGee is top-notch, the show’s searing one-liners and tonally perfect ’90s soundtrack as fantastic as its predominantly female cast. The series maintains a reckless and irreverent tone and is never weighed down by politics or nostalgia. But it will take you back to growing up in the 90’s, early 00. And you’ll love every second of the show but it goes past way too fast.

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HOME – (s1+@ 4OD) – A comedy series written by and starring Rufus Jones deftly gets to the essence of home and family through Syrian asylum-seeker Sami. One of the issues with Brexit, and austerity etc is that we don’t really have touching cultural examples of it. It’s not really on TV or in the movies. But HOME does, and it does it so-so well. It has the potential to turn those Daily Mail readers into opening their homes to refugees.   This show shows the very worst and very best parts of living in the UK. It makes you route for everyone. And it’ll make you laugh and cry.

Please Like Me (Amazon Prime, netflix with a VPN) – Spend enough time around the show and it starts to grow on you in a mainstream 80s BBC sitcom kind of way. It’s a wry, down-to-Earth and often-moving account of how relationships with friends and family evolve as we grow into adulthood. Watch it for the real, difficult, compassionate Josh’s role as a young carer. Start it and stick with it.

Special (Netflix) – i freakin’ love this show. Masterful in 15 minutes bursts – which makes it one of those perfectly lengthed shows to watch before you go to sleep. aside from the show  is vastly significant in terms of what it does for representation in the mainstream culture, provides me, and other disabled and marginalized people, with a much-needed piece of representational belonging. It’s so loving and thoughtful, and ultimately it is not about accepting oneself. It is about showing oneself as you are.

Schitts Creek (Netflix, 4OD) – Maybe the most perfect comedy of our time? Every person in this show are the best.  As the series goes along, it’s less about class difference and more about a place where community welfare flourishes outside traditional systems of power.

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MOVIES

Love, Simon (Sky) 2018- At its heart, this is simply a story about love and tolerance and honesty, and told with a perfect dose of each of those things. You can watch it & it’ll remind you so much of growing up. What really makes this film a feat of queer cinema is how ordinary it is. It’s a love story between two men, but without tragedy and angst, seeming quite radical for how sweet it is. Dope soundtrack.

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I LOST MY BODY (Netflix) 2019 –  A disembodied hand tries to make its way back to its owner while a young man searches for connection after a traumatic event. It mixes brilliantly creative action and horror sequences with tender heartbreak and life-affirming drama. Go watch on Netflix!

THE REPORT (Amazon Prime) 2019- So, yeah, maybe I really love movies about people obsessed with the truth who fight institutions trying to hide it. Burns said the film is about our current “crisis of accountability” and it’s rare to come across a film that’s as involving as it is necessary. One for the times! It’s brilliantly engaging.
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Late Night (Amazon Prime, Sky, NowTV) 2019- Thompson and Kaling don’t even need to be acting here. Like all women, they’ve long had to navigate real-world misogyny. But they also know how to find the humor in it. An important movie that looks at the issues of sexism in comedy (& entertainment industry generally) but with a good laugh.

Booksmart (Amazon Prime) 2019 – An underrated awesome movie. Underrated because it’s about 2 strong girls. It’s more John Hughes than Judd Apatow, and it’s a little more Bridesmaids than Lady Bird. Booksmart is feminist, foul-mouthed and funny, turning the formulaic tropes of bawdy comedies inside out and giving us a couple of teen heroines who feel real and very 2019. It felt new from friends at the centre of the story to the celebration of female intelligence, ambition and loyalty.

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Finding Your Feet (Amazon Prime, Sky, NowTV, Netflix) 2018 –  I accidently watched this on the plane to the USA – when it told me it was a comedy. And it is. But it’ll also make you cry.  Watching it demands little effort. Evict your inner cynic and enjoying it should demand even less. It’s a bit sentimental, but I am *SO* there for it. The bright and funny first half examines issues affecting older people which are often ignored; The second is about making sure you don’t regret how you’ve spent your time.

Chef (Amazon Prime, Netflix) 2014 – an enjoyable and good-natured farce is a rarity in that (as its title tells us) it takes a chef as its central character and treats his profession with something approaching respect. The result is a small, unashamedly feel-good film that makes up for what it lacks in dramatic jeopardy with gentle comedy, heartwarming family scenes, ladles of food porn, and time spent among characters you like.

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Paddington (1&2) (Sky, NowTV & Amazon Prime) (2015 & 2018) – I’m not being ironic or weird or contrarian – but Paddington movies are some of the best movies of the past 10 years. It is simply (Pad 2), without hesitation, was my favourite film of 2018. It’s an eye-popping, laugh-out-loud, clockwork-constructed endorsement of kindness, forgiveness, and good ol’-fashioned human empathy. Or… ursine empathy.

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The Green Book (Amazon Prime, Sky) 2018 –  roast me for this, but I don’t care. A by-the-numbers studio movie and the numbers are great. The interplay between the two leads is a fantastic and familiar dance; every detail is exquisitely rendered.

ROMA (Netflix) 2018 – A bracingly human story set against abrupt, nearly-surrealist acts of God and society. The cataclysms only serve to underscore the fragility of the world and the strength of our personal bonds. Sad I never got to see it on the big screen myself.

 

PODCASTS

Alex Edelmen’s Peer Group – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08smc1c – Alex is maybe one of the best comedians of our generation and he’s just getting started. This is such a great comedy podcast that looks at issues surrounding Millenials specifically, he does quite a bit from his current set on his current tour within some of the episodes, so worth a check out for that alone!

The News Quiz – https://www.bbc.co.uk/search?scope=sounds&filter=programmes&q=News%20Quiz&suggid=urn%3Abbc%3Aisite%3Acurated-m-o%3Anews-quiz  – every friday night – i look forward to catching up with comedy and news. takes the edge off. 

No Such Thing As A Fish –  https://www.nosuchthingasafish.com/
Could this be the best Podcast ever? Want some crazy facts to give people randomly but enjoy them in a bask of comedy discussion? This is for you. Plus there’s 300+ episodes to go through.

My dad wrote a porno – https://open.spotify.com/show/6nYCARKKZ5UvaUedL6KEu3 A series in which Jamie Morton reads out chapters from the erotic books his 60 year-old dad has written.

 

MUSIC

WORKIN’ FROM HOME PLAYLIST

Here’s my work from home playlist – it’s collaborative – so you can your own tunes to it. But the only rule is the song has to be your best/fav songs since 1990 onwards.

 

RUNNING PLAYLIST

If you’re going to go for a run. here’s my 10k inspired playlist that’s long enough to run a fast marathon

JAPAN VIBES

studio ghibli soundtrack amazingness to feel sad, happy, and relaxed all at the same time

 

THE RISING GIRLS CLUB

A playlist to help inspire all you females out there. You’re strong and you’ve got this

 

I’ll update this as I go along, but I hope this helps!

Remember- wash those hands often and super well. Stay safe and keep checking on neighbours and those who need extra help. And reach out if you feel everything is getting too much.

Smizz’s top movies from 2015

So each year I do my top 10 movies. 2015 has been a great year for females. So many strong female-led movies. And it’s about time!

I love going to the movies, i love the anticipation of waiting to see a movie. However, this year I didn’t get much opportunity to see as many arthouse flicks as I would have liked, and this top 10 list reflects that. Now, each movie in my top 10 has a place – for it’s individual reason. So it might not be the *GREATEST* movie of the year, but it certainly achieved something for me in an area such as character development, or dialogue, or cinematography. ect. Sooo wasting no more time.

 

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10.) Mad Max: Fury Road.  Unhinged, high-octane vehicular mayhem. A tough-as-nails postapocalyptic feminist heroine bitingly portrayed by Charlize Theron. (And hey, Tom Hardy was pretty good too as the titular hero.) A crazed ride into a monumental, lightning-etched storm with the pedal all the way to the metal while a war boy howls “Oh, what a day … what a lovely day!” Unforgettable movie moments are made of this. And to think the picture was made by a director in his late 60s. George Miller, you are the (aged) man for the ages.

 

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9.) Carol. A breath-takingly beautiful cinematic journey of a forbidden love. Filmed as if an Edward Hopper painting had sprung to life, its mood washes over you in an evocative mix of opulence and despair as it dizzyingly dances with the forbidden. Some of the best scenes are filmed from the perspective of a person looking through a car window. 2015’s best romance.

 

 

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8.) Tangerine. This movie feels the most 2015. Shot entirely on iPhones and with a budget that wouldn’t cover cab fares on a blockbuster, Sean S. Baker’s indie dramedy makes virtue of necessity. Compelling filmmaking, too, in this Sundance sensation about transgendered sex workers, a pimp, cabbie and angry mother-in-law in lowdown L.A. Doing whatever it takes to make the invisible, visible.

 

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7.) JOY: Joy can be viewed as a modern day rags-to-riches fairytale. It’s Cinderella without the prince. In a way, that’s part of the film’s charm. Sure, there’s preposterous dialogue, but there are also so many electric sequences that made me lean in, smile, & care about a mop. It does give hope showing that no matter how one does struggle in life miracles of success are possible, so don’t read all the bad reviews and assume otherwise.

 

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6.) Steve Jobs. Side-stepping arguements about the accuracy of the biopic, the real achievement here is making cinema out of material that isn’t even a stage play as much as very expensive radio: a battery of dialogue, unbroken by reflective pauses or even, on occasion, the actors drawing breath. The staginess of the movie is its greatest benefit, allowing the characters and the dialogue to shine. Boyle, however, is not a director to be contained in dry rooms, and he allows this theatrical drama to move, via music and editing, into the realm of real cinema. It may be stagey, but make no mistake, it crackles and moves like a motherfucker.

 

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5.) Spy. Now i love a good comedy, but great comedies are hard to come by these days – and I feel like there’s less and less comedies being made due to their hard task. Spy makes making seemless comedies look super easy to make. Feig keeps his Spy machinery cranking so smoothly that nothing said or done feels as outrageous as, in fact, it is. McCarthy is the star of the film, but her willingness to let her fellow actors shine when an opportunity knocks to give the audience a belly-laugh is clear, and it’s the undeniable strength of the supporting cast that makes Spy a strong a film.

 

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4.) AMY. I was taken aback by how well an thoughtful this documentary was made. Watching Kapadia’s film, it is possible to see how badly she was let down by the male figures closest to her. it’s the music that suddenly feels monumental because somewhere in that dark stream of rolling notes and rumbling minors, we can hear the eternal soul of human sadness turned, for a brief moment, into something undeniably beautiful.

 

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3.) Inside Out. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, and it’s one of pixar’s finest. It takes a long walk down an infinite pier of personal identity in,  an animated tour of developmental psychology that captures the pain of growing up using primary colours and Amy Poehler’s voice.  As for visual style, it’s dazzling, flouting CGI’s tendency to photorealism in favour of overt cartoonishness in a 1950s retro vein, together with a refined exploration of light: the emotions are composed of fibrous bundles of luminescence.

 

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2.) 45 Years. An inner drama, taking place inside the characters. There are no heroes or villains in this film. Shot with loving attention to the silent vistas of the English countryside, 45 Years conveys a sense of isolation, of two people being together yet growing apart, a dream that has been shattered, and a lifetime of security undermined by a moment of doubt. It is a thorny subject but beautifully told with gentleness and love. Plus 2 outstounding performances.

 

 

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1.) The Martian. I actually can’t stop thinking about this movie. A fan of the book, I wasn’t sure how the motion picture would compare, and indeed make the main character-likeable. But yeah, there’s flaws. But there was something about The Martian that captured the 12 year old in me. Damon makes the most of this “me time”, engaging our interest, winning our sympathy and teasing our anxieties about his perilous predicament. Whilst the most surprisingly element about this movie was the screenplay.  What makes the movie unique to me was Watney’s optimistic point of view. He believes that he isn’t going to die on Mars, and this transforms this rather depressing situation into something comical instead, engaging us with many self-help survivalist discoveries. But when you really think about it, this is a very personal film about some people coming together to save somebody. That’s it. And in today’s world, it’s nice to hear an story about people coming together to save one of their own. It might take all the romance out of Mars, but substitutes in its place science, cooperation, and human perseverance. PS: You should read the book too – and check out the author’s videos on how everything is correct including the astrophysics!

Smizz’s Top 10 Movies of 2013

This year has been hard, like REALLY hard to pick out good top 10 worthy movies. I’m not sure what’s happening out there – but this year has seen a whole-lot of a bunch of  films that were just kind of “Meh”- They were enjoyable, but did it give me any food for thought, or awe inspiring writing or cinematic technique or emotion to deal with afterwards, did they play with genre  or make you think about how far we’ve come or where to go as a human race? Nope. Not many did. Maybe I just didn’t see the ‘right’ movies, but I’m hoping that 2014 will bring some great ones! However, here’s some that did stick with me.

 

1.) Stories We Tell

A documentary that I’ve only just seen, to sneak in high at number 1, this subtle, heartbreaking documentary masquerades as a straightforward family memoir about Polley’s long-dead mother. However, “Stories We Tell” gradually becomes something else, an inquiry into the nature of memory and reality, a love letter to Polley’s English-born dad (who narrates the film), a puzzle box with unanswerable questions about how we become who we are at its center. Polley’s touching documentary wallows in greatness both in cinema and emotion.

 

2.) 12 Years A Slave

Steve McQueen has created another masterpiece. Unsettling and formally rigorous, Steve McQueen’s fact-based tale of a free black man sold into slavery in the 1850s puts America’s darkest secrets on screen for the first time. 12 Years A Slave is so good it makes “The Butler” look extremely poorly made. It’s dark and raw, it exposes everything, without sugarcoating it. Beautifully shot and edited, the film features moments of tension, heartbreak.

It’s noteworthy that a British director has become one of the few filmmakers to delve deeply into this subject, and the combination of John Ridley’s powerful script and McQueen’s directorial skills has inspired exceptional performances from the entire cast. Their dramatization of Northup’s experiences is both riveting and uncomfortable to watch, as the film depicts the perverse nature of a society that permitted such a barbaric system. Hopefully it will reach a large US audience, who will learn how a privileged Southern elite cruelly exploited their fellow humans in order to acquire greater wealth for themselves. Masterful.

 

3.) Philomena 

As someone whose heritage lies in Ireland, and whose grandparent was raised by nuns and spent years and year working as an advocate for the rights of adopted people and survivors of Irish Magdalene Laundries, I’m always prepared to be either underwhelmed or angry at the film industry’s ineptitude with subjects like this (and lots of other subjects to be honest!). Steve Coogan deserves utmost respect for producing and writing this film (and let’s face it, needed this from his poor movie based on Alan Partridge earlier this year). His script is excellent, consistently witty and engaging on the surface whilst spinning many more layers beneath the surface which became unconsciously stirring. Faultless acting, always engaging. A gentle, funny, heartbreaking and unforgettable film – no matter how far from its “true story” it might be.

 

4.) HER

Theodore Twombly  is letter writer #612 for the company “Beautifulhandwrittenletters.com.” He essentially spends his days crafting poetic, poignant, and personalized communications for other people’s relationships. You can’t find a more dynamic and compelling story about the human connection and where we’re headed as a society. Johansson’s Samantha is sexy, open-hearted, sympathetic, witty and loving – — and guess what,  she’s also the operating system on Theo’s computer, in Spike Jonze alternately wistful and whimsical near-future rom-com, a lovely and slightly troubling vision of utopia. This is probably the best of Jonze’s career so far, and maybe deserves higher praise and wider distribution that it’s currently getting. (Also, whoa, that moustache).

 

5.) The Place Beyond The Pines

This is a strange movie. A movie of a story of trashy criminals and dirty cops evolving into one about fathers and sons and life.   A life is not just about your life but those you affect and those you leave behind for years to come. he film went for editing and filming styles to echo the characters’ situations and actions. You can guess what that would look like when Gosling is racing through the forest on his motorcycle. But as we approach the more expansive ending, there are some beautiful shots of the trees lining Schenectady’s countryside roads. That works particularly well with Cooper giving a remarkable performance of Avery constantly coming to grips with his life.

It could have been tightened up a bit, but “The Place Beyond the Pines” isn’t telling a quick story. It’s telling the story of multiple lives, of death, family, love, honour and obedience. Employing overall themes of revenge, ambition, and what it means to be a father, and a son.

 

6.) Short Term 12

20-something supervising staff member of a foster care facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend. Contrary to its title, the effects that Short Term 12 leaves you with are anything but short term. In what has become one of the most personal films of 2013, it’s extremely hard to write a review for them.  Destin Daniel Cretton creates a film which the characters render the deepest and darkest corners of your heart, while never being melodramatic. It’s  a real gem, that totally caught me off guard.

 

7.) Before Midnight

Years ago, before doing education through #hashtags was a thing on Twitter, in my 3rd year of Art School we used to host E-Crits. Each week one of us in class would host a crit on MSN (yes, MSN and this was even after MSN was a thing) – this was an E-Crit. Like an online reading/seminar group. Extra credit of course. I did something on space, architecture and skateboarding and revolutionary potential based on an essay by Henri Lefebrve.  My friend Jamie made us watch Before Sunrise which was in 10 minute clips on YouTube at the time and we was to discuss that. I’m not sure what we really discussed. However if it has been Before Midnight, I’m sure the e-crit would have been lively full of studious observations of amazing character development and dialogue.

Before Midnight is the 3rd sequel part to Before Sunrise, and Before Sunset, and comes in 9 years later! This film is easily the best film of the franchise so far. Packing an emotional and euphoric punch like third-installments like Toy Story 3 do , films that have a close-nit relation to their predecessors but saving all the masterful speeches and epiphanies for the viewer to indulge in their finales. The film doesn’t take any cheap shots with every scene constructed from real emotion and feeling incredibly authentic and genuine. There are long takes for the viewer to be present whether it’s in an airport conversation between Jesse and Hank or at a lunch with in the beautiful valleys of Greece or even in a hotel room where a man and a woman share intimacy like older lovers typically do.

The film is breathtakingly accurate and precise in capturing the love and relationship of couples, it will and should be studied by film schools and writers for years to come.  Everything’s better with maturity.

 

8.) Spectacular Now

From the writers of 500 Days of Summer (one of my favourite movies!), which we all know wasn’t just your average love story, comes a seemingly average love story in The Spectacular Now. But it isn’t very average, and that’s the beauty of it.  It’s a heartfelt story that distills all of the beauty, tenderness, and apocalyptic bleakness of youth into a 95 minute love story that portrays teenagers in the most honest way since the films of John Hughes.

Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber make this a surprising tone piece, one that is more concerned with the loquacious behaviour of teens rather than the raunchy behaviour. The film showed how one’s addiction to the bottle can compromise their life.  Much of the film operates on deep, character emotion, so attaching an ending that neatly packages things up would’ve been a complete contradiction to the film’s focus.

This is an important movie for teenagers, and a well deserved kudos to actually making something that is full of substance and never trivialises real life.

 

9.) We’re The Millers

I know what you’re thinking, how on earth did this get into ANY top 10 list of the year? Are you serious Smizz? Well, perhaps it was how off guard this movie caught me with how good I thought it was! I went to the movies expecting some shit, but I wanted to see some empty-leave you feeling a bit better-shit anyways. But what I got was not only the feel good factor I was hoping for but much more!

It’s not a gold mine of comedy by any means, but it did the job it told us it would do: Make us laugh and give us a fun ride. They really brought together a dysfunctional family and did it in a way that allowed for some suspension of disbelief. A lot of comedies nowadays have those hit or miss scenes where you either laugh, or you just can’t suspend your disbelief. We’re The Millers is pretty much a compilation of those kinds of scenes that hit just the right tone to pull it off as funny, clever and it just kinda grows on you.  Ultimately, a solid comedy and that’s worth noting!

 

10.) This Is The End

Although ‘This is the end’ does not have the greatest storyline in the history of film, it is a very inventive movie in its own way. It was at times self-indulgent, absolutely bizare, and even lazy. There’s still something about this movie if it appeals to your sense of humor. I wouldn’t say the plot is non-existent, but it certainly isn’t developed enough to pay much attention to it. The movie is rather a collection of gags with typical American humor, which is exactly what you would expect from anything created by the duo Seth Rogen-Evan Goldberg. This is the End’ contains a fair amount of satire on the posh world of show-business and it’s enjoyable seeing all the actors and actresses not taking themselves too seriously and playing themselves as sometime extremely unlikable characters.

 

Smizz’s Top 10 movies of 2012

It’s that time again where I try and judge what’s the best movies that came out and why. However, I apologise in advance that there are some of my guilty pleasures in here which probably would never make an official top 20 list, never mind a whole top 10!  And there is no mention of the Hobbit, or Skyfall  or Dark Knight – blah, blah, blah. You can catch those reviews else where. But never the less. I hope you enjoy & treat yourself to some of these movies, if you haven’t seen then!

 

10) PREMIUM RUSH

In pure style, I’ll start of with a biased Smizz guilty pleasure choice. Premium Rush, featuring the ever sexy Joseph Gordon-Levitt (probably why it fits in to my top 10) who is a sexy, fixed gear bike riding courier in NYC. EVERYTHING smizz LOVES. Bikes, Joe & NYC!

An action movie about biking through the streets of Manhattan is certainly an interesting idea, and may seem a bit silly, but writer and director David Koepp manages to create a fun and exhilarating film around this premise. Premium Rush is the type of movie that gets better as it goes on, expanding on its characters and creating riveting and never tiresome chase scenes. Premium Rush never takes itself too seriously, and neither should you. It’s fun, adrenaline pushed, basic at times – but it’s nostalgic directing style seems to hit it, amazing research and detail about bikes and most of all representational of riding life in the bike-lane. No breaks!

 

9) LOOPER

Uh-oh, another Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie. Stick with me, guys. Looper’s director Rian Johnson has removed  doubts and given me hope that sci-fi in Hollywood can be more than just empty spectacle. Looper is all about dealing with the implications of time-travel, although it is very much a film about the past. The film is all about the past, how it affects the present and the future and how it drives people with the majority of the film building characters and establishing plot.

Looper is a film that goes to extraordinary lengths to leave every base covered in its quest to avoid plot holes and inconsistencies and in my mind it deals with the problems associated with time travel very well. The writing and direction are superb but another strength are the acting performances. Details from  the future cities contiuing to be expanded upwards and outwards but they themselves are filled with tent cities in which a large vagrant class live are current, and believable.  Life is cheap and hard in this world in which the have’s and have not’s are much more separated than today.

There is enough in the film to make to world feel as though it is our near future and the technology on display feels as though it is a few logical steps along the road. It is well designed and acted and features a wonderfully multifaceted and intelligent story which rewards patience and concentration with a fantastic ending.

 

8) FRANKENWEENIE

There was a time when Tim Burton was systematically churning out great, original, quirky movies that endeared him to the general public and earned him a large amount of die-hard followers who hung on to every last idiosyncratic trademark. But recently, we all sigh at the same crap-kola Burton has been bringing out recently – which are adaptions of books and so forth – not his original ideas.

However, I was relieved to see Frankenweenie and thought YEAH Tim’s back on form! While the movie does not really develop its characters deeply and sometimes drops certain plot lines we would have liked to see more of, it makes up for it tenfold with the thing that Tim Burton has more of than anybody else: imagination. So many moments in this movie are truly original, clever and, best of all, funny. “Frankenweenie” is a giant tribute to old horror flicks, set against a sweet story of a kid and his dog.

 

7) ARGO

We already know that Ben Affleck is better as a director than an actor. He tells a story uniquely with his own cinematic art and style. In Argo, this is a new challenge for him. Making a large and historical drama thriller. Argo is based on a declassified true story about Tony Mendez rescuing six US diplomats from Iran.

After speaking to his son while watching a movie one night, Mendez had a creative yet genius idea. He and the escaped hostages would pretend to be the film crew of a new sci-fi movie called “Argo”. With the help of Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers (Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Arkin), this fake crew made their story quite credible.

What’s impressive is it can balance its various tones decently without being a mess. Outside the storytelling is a solid craft. The film looks credibly retro. They obviously wanted to make everything look the same to the real life story. Argo is simply a classic. No matter how ridiculous the premise sounds, it’s still undeniably smart and spectacular.

 

 

6.) PITCH-PERFECT

2012 has seen a lack of great, funny movies. Sure there’s been 21 Jump Street (which was a surprise hit with me) but a serious lack of decent comedies. Take Bring It On, Glee (not in the icky cheesy way, but because there’s singing involved, the good kind), Mean Girls, and add some quick-witted, sharp-tongued dialogue and commentary, and you have the funniest of movies.

At first I was leery: a movie about A Cappella singing groups; I thought at best, it would be a teen flick. But, I was unbelievably surprised. Every kind of humour is covered here, and done to absolute perfection. You will be adopting many, many of the lines into your daily lexicon. If you liked Bridesmaids, i think you’ll dig this!

 

 

5) DETACHMENT

Detachment technically is a movie from 2011, but didn’t get a release in the UK until 2012. Its one of those films that leave you sitting in silence for a while when the credits roll much like excellent Dramas like “Requiem for a dream” or “Downloading Nancy”.

On the surface “Detachment” deals with the crumbling American education system through the eyes of substitute teacher Henry Barthes (played by Adrian Brody) who starts a new assignment in a new school with new teachers, in a new class with new pupils like he is obviously used to.

The beginning shows him trying to get into this new class around the bullies threatening him and other pupils, making it hard to teach anything. At first it looks like all those “good teacher turns around a bad class” movies but its not. It’s grim stuff, made more grave by the undeniable ring of truth.

The ancient Greeks tell us “we suffer our way to wisdom.” By the end of the film, you’ll hope that is true for most of these characters. Somewhere on screen, between a silent hug and the opening lines to Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher,” you will find a glimmer of hope. But you have to work for it. A powerful and disturbing (but necessary) film.

 

 

4.) BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

You probably have never seen anything quite like “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. It is a film that will have you thinking about the love between a father and a daughter, about appreciating what you have in life and our ability to adapt to whatever comes at us. Quvenzhané Wallis is certain to beat Anna Paquin and Tatum O’Neal out as the youngest best actress nominee in history.

This movie is an unique vision that sweeps viewers away with energy, attitude and a full, vibrant, sense of life. Containing outstanding performances, great cinematography, and a fantastic score, the film is just so engrossing. Do yourself a favor and check it out. “When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces.”

 

 

3.) SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

Thank you, Malik Bendjelloul, for giving me the opportunity to hear this amazing story. Thank you, Camilla Skagerstrom, for showing how much stunning cinematography can add to a story about a poverty stricken man from Detroit.

I was super lucky enough to see this at Sheff Doc/Fest this year. Would I have seen it otherwisE? not so sure! Which would have been a travesty  If like me, and you didn’t know the story, I’ll give you just a little background. Rodriguez, a song writer/singer in the 70s was ‘discovered’ by a couple of white guys, in a smoke filled Detroit dive bar. (His music reminds me somewhat of Bob Dylan’s) A couple of albums were produced in the U.S.….the albums didn’t make it big….in fact, not many sold. Rodriguez went back to working his day job and that was the end of that. However, in the very isolated South Africa, Rodriguez’s music became a phenomenon compared to Elvis or the Beatles. His music was a solace for so many Africans fighting the war on Apartheid. Rodriguez didn’t know anything about the South Africa portion of his story. “Searching for Sugar Man” is a documentary made about two South Africans searching for information about a mysterious American songwriter, who had a huge impact on their lives, but no one seemed to know anything about.

This IS a real fairy tale. One you have to see to believe. One that can restore your faith in humanity, and possibly change the way you see fame and fortune. One that will remind you that you never know how far reaching your daily actions may be. Fingers crossed for an Oscar nomination for this!

 

2.) UNTOUCHABLE

Intouchables, directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, starring Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy is possibly the best French movie of the year. This is not because of a lack of worthy contenders, but truly because Intouchables is that profound. It touches on themes of presumptions, social class difference, health, and as naïve as it may sound, the universality of humanity.

Sy is a failed robber, going through the motions and playing the stereotypical jobless émigré. Cluzet is a romantic and melancholy mind trapped in a useless body. The circumstances that bring them together are too funny to spoil here, but meet they do, and an awkward relationship quickly blossoms as they bring out the best in each other.

The film’s simplicity is delightfully misleading: the script is a masterpiece of comedy writing, and however good the rest of the cast is, the central duo is magical. This is one of the most unique, beautiful and honest friendships ever committed to film. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry… a delightful celebration of everything in life that makes it worthwhile.

 

1.) PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

I was so taken aback by this movie, EVERYTHING about it, that I saw it 3 times at the movies.

The story is very simple yet complicated because of how much goes on. But the way it unfolds is beautiful and sad, sometimes all at once. While it has its funny moments, it also manages to go through dark topics as well such as homosexuality, drugs and death. Stephen Chbosky handles his story very well, never feeling like it’s being forced but rather it flowed nicely and carefully.

Directing wise, it was shot very well. The cinematography is gorgeous, especially the scenes where the camera overlooks the skyline of Pittsburgh and during intimate scenes between the characters. You could not get anyone better to direct it other than the author himself because this is his book. This is his vision so he knows exactly how it goes in his head and we can see throughout the film, just how much his vision has truly come alive. The result is both engaging and satisfying.

The musical score is done by Michael Brook who’s also responsible for Into The Wild, another favorite of mine, and he did a very good job. The soundtrack is awesome. Along with Mr. Chbosky, Alexandra Patsavas, who’s also the music supervisor for The OC, did a great job of picking out the songs and treated it as if it were a mix tape.  What makes the cast so special is the chemistry. Everyone got along so well and you can tell that they’re very comfortable with each other and you feel convinced that these people are really friends thus you actually care about the characters and what happens. It was absolutely perfect.

Just like a darker John Hughes (compliment), it is infinite in it’s awesomeness.

“I don’t know if I will have the time to write anymore letters because I might be too busy trying to participate. So if this does end up being the last letter I just want you to know that I was in a bad place before I started high school and you helped me. Even if you didn’t know what I was talking about or know someone who has gone through it, you made me not feel alone. Because I know there are people who say all these things don’t happen. And there are people who forget what it’s like to be 16 when they turn 17. I know these will all be stories someday. And our pictures will become old photographs. We’ll all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening, I am here and I am looking at her. And she is so beautiful. I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.”

The Promise That I Made To Myself: To Never Waste More Time (3 months on)

I made myself a promise over 3 months ago. That if my time on the earth is cut short, I want to make sure that I use my time properly, and use every single bit of it. But the reality of this in itself is that it’s actually quite difficult.

A few months ago, I got told that I could have Lymphoma (big LOL) – impossible right? So after living life like a vagabond on the road and swimming in the Pacific ocean, and eating so much good food that it was unreal, I came home to see if I really did have this disease. However, things aren’t that simple. My Doctors don’t like American Doctors telling them how to do their job so it seems. They think they’re all about getting money from Patients and that I can wait for these tests, wait until things get really bad essentially.

I found a GP I feel like I like and can trust (which is rare for me!) – I don’t know why, he won’t let me talk about my symptoms. He keeps telling me to “Just ignore it and continue with life as normal” Like I haven’t? I think on some sort of subconscious level, this is why I like this dude as my doctor. He really just says what he thinks. I think this is because he’s Italian or something.

Anyways, he ordered some more bloodtests and something COMPLETELY different came up. Something I had NO IDEA WAS WRONG WITH ME. I’m pretty sure it’s completely separate from my other symptoms (or at least kind of hope?).  Again the Italian was cool and very collected about it. Asked me a bunch of crazy questions (including whether i’m body building, mega LOL – you just need to take 1 look at me to know that that ain’t happening!) and then said he was sending me for an ultrasound scan and more bloodtests and to ‘not freak out’ (He think’s i’m a hypacondriact thanks to the US doctor recommendation, or at least someone who wakes up in the morning, every morning – even when i was healthy – thinking everything was cancer – this is simply not true as until this year I hadn’t even gone to the doctors in 15 years!) I came home and googled it straight away what these elevated results could mean, because that’s what i do! I’m educated enough to be able to refine, and edit the answers and not jump to any rash dramatic answers.

But I soon discovered that unlike the bone ache, night-sweat, fatigue, lumps, nosebleed combo – which can be almost anything from TB, to flu, to Mono, to Lymphoma. These elevated bloodtests only mean 3 things in a woman. And that’s it. All 3 options sound pretty gnarly too. The best opinion is that I’m going to be infertile & look forward to a future of shitty health problems including heart-attacks and so forth. Or 2 different types of cancer/tumours  – which aren’t Lymphoma. FML.  Bone ache is going to have to wait, apparently.

Meanwhile, last week i watched Hurricane Sandy flood peoples lives, and terrorise huge communities.  I was honestly scared for my East Coast friends who have now become family.

I tell you all of this because the difference between life and death is remarkably small. And it’s not until you face it directly that you realize your own mortality. Us humans are the only animal where we think of the future, as a motivation and as a result makes us quite optimistic.  We usually think about the future as though it will occur for us with absolute certainty, and that makes it hard to imagine death as a motivation for living. The C-card came up for me, in many different ways unexpectedly, or something random like a storm could literally make a tree fall on top of you, which is forcing me to contemplate my personal drive for existence.

I pledged to live my life as fully as possible 3 months ago, as though I had nothing to lose. It was easy when I was on the road, in a different country because I had lots of dollars, and it really wasn’t real-life, I consciously tried to fight against the status quo, that was the point of the roadtrip.

It’s so easy to get stuck in the waiting place, putting things off until later, even when those things are vitally important to making your dreams come true. But the truth is that, in order to make progress, you need to physically and mentally fight against the momentum of ordinary events.

It’s the fight that matters. You have to remember to go against your instinct, to confront the ordinary!

This is, of course,  extremely mentally and physically taxing. I’ve been feeling the fight very slowly fade since I’ve been back: work, money and cold weather whilst feeling poorly really makes it so much easier to fall back into meaningless routine. And I DON’T WANT to once again become a cog in the machine called quo. So I keep writing blog posts like this to remind me, and you, that we should live the best life we can.

Despite saying I can feel the fight beginning to fade, I’m sure it’s just because it’s not as exciting as a 18 state roadtrip. But in keeping to my promise, and getting to what is the meat and bones important: since I’ve been back, I have re-connected with ALL of my friends, even friends I haven’t seen in 6 years!! I try and buy my mom a surprise every few weeks, I keep cooking for her so she knows I’m thinking of her. Everything is YOLO. I love the wind in my hair on my bike, I love that I now notice how beautiful the leaves look on the trees. I try to actively get up earlier so I can do more with my day.

Doing something remarkable with your life is tough work, and it helps to remember one simple, motivating fact: in a blink, you could be gone. To paraphrase Steve Jobs: remembering that you are going to die is the best way you can avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You really have nothing to lose.

I sometimes feel like I’m being tested through this journey to remind myself and to help me get to what I wanna do. I feel like I’ve grown up for a second time. Fight. Live your dreams and aspirations now. Be who you want to be.

Here’s to being and becoming!

And just as a quick tip, please everyone – Prostate & Ovarian cancers are silent killers because you don’t have any symptoms until it’s spread. Please have regular check ups, and also see your doctor if you think things with your body aren’t right. Sometimes, you really have to be your own health advocate. This is something I would have never ever thought about until I was at least 30 ha!

Guys! I’m going to Live Draw the next USA Presidential Debate!

Yep. I watched Joe Bidden tear it up this week on the VP Debates. And I thought, there are moments that would be amazing if it was live-drawn. So funny and so visual!

So here I am, I am going to LIVE DRAW THE LAST US PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE. yikes! On top of this. I am ging to LIVE STREAM me doing it LIVE as the debate HAPPENS. Oh yeah. Yikes again! I can’t decide whether this will be a performance in itself.

It’s going to be challenging as I’ve never live-drawn a debate before. In fact I’ve never drawn people talk bullshit or be aggressive like The Republican party tends to be. So this is something that I’m going to have to think about how to represent without any of my personal political bias. I usually  draw talks of people talking about ideas, and amazing things that have happened ,or that they created and the problems and solutions to that adventure. So the debate drawing will be interesting to say the least!

I hope you will join me for this crazy task! And spread the word! Live streaming link and more information COMING SOON 😀

Thanks for reading yo!