#FeministsAreUgly and Re-Thinking the Twittersphere

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Dear reader,

The Twittersphere recently erupted with a particularly nasty-sounding hashtag (#FeministsAreUgly). To retaliate, users have been posting photographs of pro-equality celebrities (the beautiful faces of Beyoncé, Emma Watson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were frequently on my dash) and well as selfies of themselves. The point is fairly clear: there are plenty of feminists who are “regulation hotties” and anything but ugly.

As it turns out, the hashtag wasn’t started by Twitter trolls or militant Men’s Rights Activists . Instead, it was an ironic statement from two feminists in August 2014 whilst posting selfies. It seems that this was all a case of smoke without fire (and perhaps think before you tweet). But there’s actually a bigger issue at stake here, and that’s in how it was handled by the other feminists who thought the hashtag was legit troll bait. (And, it’s worth bearing in mind that I have seen many, many people of both genders have said they genuinely believe that only ugly girls are feminists, so it can’t all be dismissed as misunderstanding).

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The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn | Book Review

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Image: amazon.com

Dear reader,

The May Bride is the story of Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII and the one we know least about. Often dismissed as no more than her family’s pawn, she’s not one of the best loved of King Henry’s ladies. Despite or perhaps because of this (I love an underdog), she’s always been the wife I was most interested in. There is a relative scarcity of historical fiction which features her as an important character; most work set in the Tudor times focuses on the dramatic transition between Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Will The May Bride bring Jane back into favour by creating a lively and interesting story told from her perspective?

The short answer: not really.

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Seventh Son (2015, Sergei Bodrov) | Film Review

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Image: wikipedia.com

Dear reader,

As if Jupiter Ascending wasn’t enough, I bring you the other big budget flop to grace the post-Oscar, pre-Easter backwater of film releases (otherwise known as “the graveyard of buried hopes”). This film was out of cinemas almost as soon as it arrived because, as it transpires, no one wanted to watch a reheated hash of every fantasy cliché you’ve already seen. And, really, who can blame them? I didn’t much want to either, but if there’s one thing that gets me to the cinema faster than you can say “hot potato pie”, it’s Ben Barnes.

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The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross Review | Steampunk Chronicles 1

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Image: Amazon.com

Dear reader,

Today I’m reviewing a book I was excited to start and disappointed when reading: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross.

In brief: ladies’ maid Finley Jane contends with her dark alter ego, a shoehorned love triangle and bad writing 

I so wanted this book to be good. Although I’m unfamiliar with steampunk, it’s a genre I’m interested in exploring, the premise was attention-grabbing and (most importantly) the cover is pretty. Unfortunately, that’s about all this book has got going for it. Continue reading

Testament of Youth (2014) vs. Suite Française (2015) | Tit For Tat

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In which Emily compares two recent British period dramas focusing on women in war: Testament of Youth, a coming-of-age tale based on Vera Brittain’s memoir of the First World War, and Suite Française which explores the illicit affair between a married French woman and a Nazi officer during the French occupation.

This video is protected by Fair Use for educational purposes. No copyright infringement intended.

Watch “Elinor and Marianne Take Barton”, an updated online adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

THE DETAILS:
Testament of Youth (2014)
Director: James Kent
Writer: Juliette Towhidi
Production Companies: BBC Films, Heyday Films

Main cast: Alicia Vikander (Vera Brittain), Kit Harington (Roland Leighton), Emily Watson (Mrs Brittain), Hayley Atwell (Hope), Colin Morgan (Victor Richardson), Taron Egerton (Edward Brittain), Anna Chancellor (Mrs Leighton), Dominic West (Mr Brittain), Miranda Richardson (Miss Lorimer).


Suite Française (2015)
Director: Saul Dibb
Writers: Matt Charman and Saul Dibb
Production Companies: TF1 Productions, Alliance Films, Qwerty Films, Scope Films

Main cast: Michelle Williams (Lucile Angellier), Kristin Scott-Thomas (Madame Angellier), Matthias Schoenaerts (Lieutenant Bruno von Falk), Ruth Wilson (Madeline Labarie), Sam Riley (Benoit Labarie), Lambert Wilson (Viscount de Montmort), Harriet Wilson (Viscontess de Montmort), Margot Robbie (Celine Joseph).


Watch my review of Sense and Sensibility (1995) here.

Read my review of Testament of Youth (2014) here.

Serena (2014) Review

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Image: indiewire.com

Dear reader,

Going to see a movie which is unremittingly awful is never pleasant. However, watching a film with a brilliant start gradually smoulder and die is nothing less than excruciating. This was unfortunately what I experienced whilst watching Susanne Bier’s Serena, a film with so much promise: an intriguing concept, stunning actors and design, but marred by a muddled execution and some poor creative choices.

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (review)

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Image: erinmorgenstern.com

Dear reader,

Since its publication in 2011, Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus has attracted a host of positive reviews from critics and readers alike. Everyone, from Audrey Niffenegger (of The Time Traveller’s Wife fame) to The Times, Guardian and Heat, has been falling in love with this book and this adoration has been well-documented in paper and online. My interest was piqued by the promise of historical fantasy and the decorative black and white front cover. (There are some bibliophiles strong enough not to be swayed by gorgeous cover art. I, unfortunately, am not one of them.) In the book world, hype often comes before a fall, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. The Night Circus not only lives up to the magical, spectacular reputation it has garnered, but actually (for the most part) exceeds it.

‘The circus arrives without warning.

No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.’

Trying to put what The Night Circus is about into words is a difficult, almost impossible task. The novel is about atmosphere, fantasy and imagination, and large parts of the book are devoted to individual vignettes surrounding the creation and workings of the titular circus. This is not a book with a traditional, straightforward plot made from a series of cause-and-effect events. But broadly, The Night Circus is about Celia, the daughter of a stage illusionist called Prospero the Enchanter who also happens to be a real magician.

When her mother commits suicide, Celia is sent to live with her cold and somewhat cruel father. Prospero pits Celia against the adopted son of one of his rivals in a contest of magical skill using the newly-created Cirque des Rêves as the venue. What follows is an enchanting and multi-layered story which details not just the growing love between Celia and her rival Marco, but also the circus itself.

Le Cirque des Rêves is far more than a backdrop to the story. In short sequences interspersed with the main action of the story, Morgenstern introduces us to the different spectacles found at the circus: from illusionists to tarot readers, labyrinths, snake charmers and acrobats. We are given an overwhelming sensory experience which truly brings you into the world of the Night Circus.  The main story explains to the reader how the circus was conceived and created, from the wonderfully elaborate clock to the black and white costumes designed for the performers, and even the human cost to those whose job it is to create and maintain the circus.

All this is done without stripping away any of the wonder or mystery which makes the circus itself so appealing

It is not only Morgenstern’s imagination which makes the world she creates so appealing, but her writing style as well. I can’t remember the last contemporary title which was so enjoyable to read for the language alone. When Marco creates an illusion of a boat, she writes: “The wind increases, sending waves of dark ink crashing into the ship. Pages fall from the sails, swirling around them like leaves.” As well as being a novelist, Erin Morgenstern is also a visual artist, and has even created a deck of monochrome tarot cards in keeping with the themes of the book. The author’s interest in art and theatre translates to the rich imagery she uses to realise the Night Circus.

With such a dazzling world as the setting, it is almost inevitable that many of the characters fade somewhat into the background. Celia Bowen herself is a likeable heroine who tolerates her father’s cruelty and the toll of circus life with brave pragmatism. But her rival and love interest, Marco, and many members of the supporting cast are not fully fleshed out and this, coupled with the sheer number of them, can make it difficult to keep track of who everyone is and what their relationships are to the other characters.

I found Celia’s attraction to Marco to be a little rushed. She spends a sizeable portion of the book unaware of her rival’s very existence, then what feels like a few pages later, she is declaring her undying love and prepared to sacrifice her life for him. This could arguably be explained by the story’s debt to fairy tales, a genre not much fettered by realistic relationship development. But as the Celia – Marco romance is such a significant element of the book, in my opinion it would have been good to devote more time to developing its earlier stages.

Whether the somewhat thinly drawn characters will impact on your enjoyment depends very much on the kind of reader you are: some will be able to embrace The Night Circus’ emphasis on atmosphere and spectacle over realistic, detailed characterisation, but readers who need a strong, goal-oriented protagonist may struggle with The Night Circus’ kaleidoscope of characters.

Image: theliteraryplatform.com

The Night Circus is not just a case of reading words printed on paper. Like the greatest books, it is an immersive experience. I have never been happier to leave the real world than when I departed for Morgenstern’s exquisitely imagined Cirque des Rêves. Summit Entertainment has already optioned The Night Circus, meaning that we could very well see a film in a few years’ time. Although Morgenstern’s visual style might appear ideal for celluloid, I can’t help but feel that a lot of the charm might get lost in translation. When the circus’ attractions are all rendered in computer generated effects rather than in your imagination, you lose the play between reality and magic which the book creates.

Despite the influences of theatre, visual art, cinema and circus performance, The Night Circus is a uniquely literary experience. This is escapism at its finest and most beautiful, a dazzling and witty story of illusions and love, with a world I am already looking forward to revisiting.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) Review

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Dear reader,

Yes, the time has come for me to review one of the most hotly anticipated and most derided films of this year: Fifty Shades of Grey (2015).

In brief, a talented cast and crew try their utmost to deliver a decent film, but their efforts are somewhat marred by the fact that they’re, you know, adapting Fifty Shades of Grey.

You all know the story: meek college student Anastasia Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way Steele interviews masochistic billionaire Christian Grey for the student newspaper. The two are smitten with each other, but Christian’s ‘tortured past’ has given him a predilection for bondage, and he introduces Ana to a new world of sex, wealth and anatomical improbability.

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Testament of Youth (2015) Film Review

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Image: meetup.com

Dear reader,

I went to see Testament of Youth (2015) last weekend. The film wasn’t playing at the cinema in my town, so it was quite a trek to go to see it! However, it was completely worth it: Testament of Youth is an intelligent, moving testament to courage, love and the indomitable spirit of its heroine.

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‘The Theory of Everything’ (2014): Review

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(Image: en.wikipedia.org)

Dear reader,

When I went to see The Theory of Everything, I was expecting a dull, awards bait-y “great white man struggles against his disabilities”, but I was actually surprisingly charmed by this film. Yes, it’s light on science, but I don’t go to the cinema for a physics lecture anyway.

Eddie Redmayne is a gem as Stephen Hawking.

It’s almost impossible to believe whilst watching this film that Redmayne is a perfectly healthy, able-bodied young man, and he also captures the wit, charm and stubborn-ness which makes Hawking such a well-known figure. Felicity Jones is ok as Jane Hawking. She’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but she gives exactly the same “nice, serious English rose” performance as her work in The Invisible Woman, Northanger Abbey and most of the rest of her oeuvre. The girl needs a better agent, or to be more adventurous with the parts she chooses, because she’s currently stuck on repeat. I want someone to David Fincher her like what happened to Helena Bohnam-Carter in Fight Club. She should play a drug addict or something.

Jones isn’t helped by the fact that, despite this film supposedly being an even split between Stephen and Jane, she has much less to do and also has to attempt to deliver some of the film’s hokiest lines with a straight face.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this film, and even had a little cry at one or two points. It’s funny and poignant in all the right places, with some exquisite cinematography and excellent performances across the board. Plus the British cuties were out in force, what with Eddie Redmayne, Charlie Cox (Stardust) and Harry Lloyd (Robin HoodGreat Expectations). I enjoyed.

xoxo Emily Rose

Read my interview with the director and writer of The Theory of Everything here.