Extracts from 2013

I talk repeatedly to my friend about how great it would be to live closer to her, a role opens up at her company and on the off-chance I interview for the role. On the day of the interview there is an accident on the motorway and I am stuck in stationery traffic for five hours; as a result I am three hours late to the interview and write the entire venture off. A phone call a few days later notifies me I have been hired. I start in two weeks. I give notice on my current job, current rental property and find a new home. I am in the midst of a complicated boy situation, he asks me not to leave but it’s too late. I list to the mix CD he made me as I drive to my new home.

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It is my birthday, I spend it with my two best and potentially only friends. I feel unsettled and unhappy. My new job has begun to take over my life, my new home is riddled with damp. New circumstances have lead to strained relationships. I turn 28 and wonder what i am doing with my life.

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His smile makes me smile.

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I start to think about buying my own home, the damp situation has worsened, I have lost multiple possessions, my landlord has no interest or involvement. I want out. In a matter of weeks I have made an offer on a flat, this could change everything.

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A night out with work friends, I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and end up drinking far too much. In haze of spirits I am bold and unencumbered. Now officially a home owner I do not get out of bed the next day.

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I spend entire days reading or gorging myself on entire seasons of shows on Netflix. I fall irrevocably and embarrassingly in love with fictional characters. Sometimes I think it is a wonderful use of my time, sometimes I question my life.

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I don’t eat for two weeks and as a result feel acceptable in my Christmas party dress. I drink, I dance, I perform dramatic reconstructions of song lyrics. He looks wonderful in a suit and I spend much of the evening with him. I become a faux multimillionaire playing roulette. he smiles and me and takes photos. A kiss on the cheek migrates. When he is gone I am bereft.

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I think about cutting my hair, changing my life, getting a large and obnoxious tattoo. I think about knuckling down and working harder, getting to grips with my finances. I travel to my parents for Christmas and spend New Year at home alone.

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Dwelling…

Five years ago I was 22 years old and living in a Backpackers hostel in Melbourne, Australia. I was in the midst of an unhealthy affair with a man ten years my senior. And there was a boy. A good, sweet, slightly mad, boy who held my hand in the street, played scrabble with me in cafes and sang Moldy Peaches songs with me into the early hours  of the morning. I nearly kissed him on my 23rd birthday. It was a burning, intense friendship which I think we both wanted to be more but were too damaged and mixed up to  vocalise. When the time came for him to leave, I cried and we sat holding each other for hours.

I haven’t seen him since. He wrote a song about me. This is my rebuttal. He saw into my heart but never saw that a piece belonged to him.

There is where it all began… There is where I understood how far I could go – Picasso

I was quite bright as a child and subsequently won a scholarship to a private school, at the time my parents were financially comfortable but we were nowhere in the league of most of the girls I joined at C………. High School for Girls. I did not own a pony, I did not carry my books in a Chanel bag and we did not summer abroad and I was therefore somewhat of the odd one out.

One of the few friends I made there was a girl called Abbie and the year we were 12 she summered in Barcelona, two months of sun, sea and culture. I didn’t know much about Barcelona at the time but upon receiving a postcard featuring Gaudi’s Casa Batlló I fell in love.

Gaudi’s work went a long way to shaping my current taste, my interest in him pointed me towards Modernism, Dali, Luis Buñuel, Dadaism, Avent Garde film making and surrealism. He also spawned a lifelong interest in architecture and taught me to look up. All this having been said time for a confession. I have never been to Barcelona.  I suppose I am afraid that during my teen years of wishing myself away from a school I loathed with people I detested and who felt the same about me I built it into place which defies reality.  Barcelona to me is a mythical place where I will dream I will achieve a sense of belonging. My beloved Woody Allen did not help, his love letter to the city Vicky, Christina, Barcelona has only made the place more magical to me. Sometimes I feel a bit like Christina, searching… certain only, of what I don’t want.

This summer I am going. You know how the omnipresent we say don’t meet your heroes because they will only let you down? Well this city is sort of my hero, please don’t let me down Barcelona.

We need to talk about Adaptations

I am sure I am not alone in finding adaptations problematic. As an avid film fan but also a veracious reader I have all too often found myself  underwhelmed and in many cases disappointed when a story is transplanted from page to screen.  Obviously for countless reasons it is both impractical and undesirable to faithfully depict the unabridged narrative on the cinema screen; it is doubtful that even the most committed movie goer would be able to sit through 10 plus hours of footage.  In generalised terms books are more internal, they hold greater detail and are far more complicated than their cinematic counterparts which are required to be more kinetic.  In addition to this, reading affords the opportunity to create a visual narrative in your minds eye not offered, and instead rendered for you, on the cinema screen.  Is that to say that I don’t believe adaptations can be good?  Not at all, in fact a number of my favourite films are adaptations of books I had pre-read and loved, Girl, Interrupted and American Psycho for example.  For me a successful adaptation is less about a faithful retelling of events than capturing the essence of what made the  book great. Blade Runner differs significantly from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep but captures the themes of the book perfectly and whilst doing so plays to the strengths of the cinematic form.

Over the past weekend I watched two adaptations for the first time Prozac Nation based on Elizabeth Wurtzel’s memoir and We Need To Talk About Kevin based on Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name.  Whilst the omissions from each adaptation are glaring for me We Need To Talk about Kevin, worked in a way Prozac Nation did not.

*****************May Contain Spoilers*****************

In many ways Prozac Nation is not a bad film, the performances from Christina Ricci, Michelle Williams and strangely Jason Biggs (who I had personally written off as a fornicator of pies) are strong, and it avoids the threat of over-sentimentality ever present in films about illness.  As I said before I understand it is next to impossible to adapt a book without making cuts to its content and also that this does not need to be a bad thing, but with Prozac Nation the cuts they made to Wurtzel’s original for me robbed the story of any depth.  Choosing to only portray Wurtzel’s collegiate years resulted in a thin and trivialised version of events.  The intelligence of Wurtzel’s writing is lost in translation and instead of showing a young woman terrified of abandonment, using sex and anger as defence mechanisms, aware she is doing so but unable to stop, you are left with a bitchy, slutty, college kid.  This is really a story which needs to be told from beginning to end and with the exception of a couple of all too brief flashbacks Wurtzel’s formative years, crucial to an understanding of her character, are totally neglected.  If you do not have an understanding of depression before watching this film you it is unlikely you will gain any of the insight to be found in the book.

We Need To Talk About Kevin suceeds were Prozac Nation failed, of course cuts were made but the essence of the story remained in tact and the film is just as chillingly haunting as the book.  The book, written in the form of letters to Eva’s absent husband could have lent itself to a voice over however the opposite approach was taken; dialogue and words in general are kept to a minimum.  The tone of the book is depicted perfectly, Eva both seems to be central to the action and marginalised, she is both haunted by her past and haunting it.  As in the book we already know the ending and the body of the film is careful weaving of narrative, revealing a little at a time.  Holding its ground against cinematic convention Kevin does not try to sanitise events, it does not try to make Eva likeable, and it does not try to answer the questions also left open in the novel as to why Kevin did what he did. Was it nature or nurture? And as both arguably come from a mother does it matter?

Wednesday night introspection

The internet is an amazing thing filled with knowledge and beauty and inspiration (and lots and lots of porn, seriously how people got their rocks off pre internet is beyond me).  All this knowledge and beauty and inspiration also has the ability to send me into a spiral of self doubt because there are already people out there doing the things I want to do and doing them brilliantly and they are only a click away.  How can I ever be as wonderful as these pre existing wonderful people, surely there isn’t enough wonderful in the world for us all to have some?

Self doubt is exhausting though, I waste a shocking portion of my day wishing I were perkier, prettier, skinnier, more chilled out, more fun, basically a new and improved version of me because if I were that new improved version of me everything would be perfect. That’s not true though is it. In fact, I spend so much time wishing away and second guessing what I have, I am surprised I have time to do anything else.  Wanting to improve upon what you have is not necessarily a negative thing and jealousy is just a by product of being human and having other humans around you but wishing your life away without actually taking any steps to change things helps no one.

The most frustrating thing is that I know I go through these peaks and troughs; I know that right now I am happy and productive and finding ways to change my life and be the version of me I want to be.  I am never far away from falling down the rabbit hole though, and wanting to crawl into a nest of sad and hibernate. I am my own biggest critic and my own worst enemy when I should be my own personal cheerleader. As corny as it sounds, the only person standing in my way and stopping me from doing what I want to do is me.

This is one of the reasons I came up with my 30 before 30. Quantifiable achievement is always good, ticking stuff off, giving yourself a gold star, just being able to say, “hey this is a thing I wanted to do and I have done it”.  I am hoping that by making this list when the inevitable happens and I am again weighed down by all the negatives it will help me find a way to bust through.

It’s for bollocks AND bums

In two days it will be Movember and as the girl once described as “a world renowned moustache enthusiast” I thought I probably ought to blog about it.  You may have noticed in years past a sudden increase of moustached males in the month of November, logic may have lead you to believe that the onset of winter had lead to cold upper lips and the obvious solution was to employ a lip rug.  Well in some cases you may well have been correct but the surge in nose neighbours is also due to Movember, the purpose of which is to raise awareness and funds for male cancers.

Here’s how it works, on the 1st of Movember clean shaven men register with movember.com and then for the rest of the month they grow and sport their lip toupee’s/ mouth merkins/lady ticklers with pride. In essence for 30 days their faces become an advert for men’s health.

As well as raising awareness the face furniture can also be used to raise money and here is where you good reader come in. My good friend and fellow gore enthusiast JM will this year be lending his upper lip to Movember and if you could find it in your hearts and pockets to sponsor him, bollocks and bums the world over will thank you (that casts a rather startling mental image doesn’t it!) .

You can donate to JM via his “mo space” HERE and should you wish to find out any more about Movember you can visit the official website HERE.

Finally I leave you with some rather wonderful lip cosy pictures, the brilliant knowledge that in Albanian there are 47 words for moustache and this gem from the true love of my life Salvador Dali;

  “Since I don’t smoke, I decided to grow a mustache – it is better for the health.  However, I always carried a jewel-studded cigarette case in which, instead of tobacco, were carefully placed several mustaches, Adolphe Menjou style. I offered them politely to my friends: “Mustache? Mustache? Mustache?” Nobody dared to touch them. This was my test regarding the sacred aspect of mustaches.”

The Film Quest

JM and I are on a mission. It started almost by accident, we were discussing films and despite at the time having not seen it myself I recommended A Serbian Film to him as a film meant to be new and shocking. To be fair when we first watched it we were a bit shocked. JM had to turn it off briefly after the New Born Porn scene and I certainly felt less than comfortable at several points throughout the film, however, we got through it and we were left with a question… Is this the height of cinematic depravity or is there more?  And so it began, a test of  personal endurance, boundaries, constitution, a quest to watch the so called 25 Most Disturbing Horror Movies Ever.  The base list is one I found on the Total Film website but as we have become more involved in the project others have been added in along the way.  The following is our starter list.

When this list has been completed JM and I shall collaborate on what I shall call “JM and Holly Day’s Definitive 25”, the films we deem to be most disturbing, taken from both this list and the others we have watched along the way. I shall also try to blog about the movies after I have watched them.

25. Antichrist
24. Blue Velvet
23. Shivers
22. Martyrs
21.Man Bites Dog
20. Begotten
19. Aftermath
18. The Human Centipede
17. A Clockwork Orange
16. Flowers of Flesh and Blood
15. The Last House On The Left (1972)
14. Irreversible
13. Nekromantik
12. Men Behind The Sun
11.I Spit On Your Grave (1978)
10. Happiness
9. Funny Games
8. Visitor Q
7. Salo or 120 Days of Sodom
6. Cannibal Holocaust
5. In A Glass Cage
4. Eraserhead
3. Audition
2. Threads
1. The Exorcist 

“That’s it, Milos. That’s the cinema. That’s film!”

There has always been an intrinsic link between violence and entertainment, in ancient Rome gladiators would fight to the death to the rapturous response of spectators. Violence has been portrayed in novels, poems, plays and paintings and since the advent of cinema it has been depicted and acted out of the Silver Screen.  The inclusion of violence in film is however for a variety of reason an inevitably controversial one.  Firstly there is the issue of degree; what is excessive to one audience member may well be acceptable to countless others, secondly the moral argument; it is an inescapable truth that violence occurs in the real world, but does this mean it should be reflected on the cinema screen?  Thirdly there is the issue of context, how is violence used within the film?  In some instances it seems to be used only for sensationalism whilst in others it seems to play an integral role; the story can not be told without an exposition of violence.  In the case of many films sensationalised violence is an integral part of the film, violence is the story.  This links back to the subjective nature of the viewing experience, one persons integral is another’s gratuitous.  There is also the issue of overt and covert violence; the collateral damage caused for example in the set piece car chases of the action genre is generally considered more acceptable than seeing one individual tortured and killed in a horror movie, although the results of the former could easily be argued to be more far reaching.

I am personally a fan of films from both the horror and thriller genres, which by there very nature often contain high degrees of violence and in the case of many horror movies, graphic and bloody violence.  I am throwing around that term an awful lot, violence, violence, violence and I think that it is important to note that that one word can be used to encompass an enormous range of behaviours.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage or kill”, this seems to me to be a very narrow characterisation of the term but at the same time, hurt and kill are worlds apart.  Violence can be physical, but it can also be physiological or even sociological.  It can be an act, but the threat of an act can be equally damaging.  It can be an immediate action, but it can also be a social condition such as racism or homophobia.  If the many synonyms for the word are taken into account for example cruelty, destruction, attack and terrorism then the vast nature of the term begins to become apparent.  Still this explanation is limited because behind any attempt to explain violence is an extremely complex social and cultural framework which decides when a behaviour or act should be classified as violence, and when it should not.  In the not so distant past domestic violence was just reprimanding a disobedient spouse, hell in the not so distant past slavery was accepted.  The permissability of a forceful action is intrinsically bound to an ever shifting set of social and cultural morals, when it comes to violence the waters are nothing if not muddy.

And now to the point of this blog, I watched A Serbian Film.  A friend of mine commented that he heard that after you have seen it you are not quite the same again, and whilst that seems like a somewhat over dramatic statement it has been a couple of weeks since I watched it and it is certainly a film which has stayed with me.  It didn’t have a theatrical release in the UK so it’s existence may well have passed you by, in order to explain why it is so shocking various key plot points have to be revealed so if there is a chance you are going to watch it for yourself beware of the spoilers below.

****** Spoiler Alert ******

The premise of the film is that retired porn star Milos is trying to live a normal life with his wife and young son against the backdrop of a turbulent Serbia. He is approached by a former co-star Layla who brings with her an offer, one more film, something different, an “art film” and an end to his financial worries for life.  Whilst wary about the project Milos consents to meet with the films director Vukmir and apprehensively accepts the offer.  The opening 20 minutes act as a comendium of Milos’s best bits from his porn star heyday, tapes of him banging over inflated blondes and leather clad biker chicks very “Now That’s what I call Porn – 1980”.  As Milos enters the the world of reality porn things quickly change.  This film takes violence, and specifically sexual violence to a new extreme; it contains necrophilia, pedophilia, incest, rape, snuff; basically your worst nightmares and things you couldn’t even begin to imagine are realised within this film.

Despite this a lot of the scenes are nothing that haven’t been seen before in films such as Salo, A Clockwork Orange and Antichrist from the exploitative vein and even Joel Schumacher’s mainstream thriller 8mm.  The real bone of contention with A Serbian Film is a scene which really only lasts a few seconds but has rarely made it past the censors and even led to the prosecution of the director of a Spanish film festival which dared to screen it.  This scene is inexcusably vile, the rape of a newborn baby, or “Newborn Porn” as it is described, and I’m not going to try to offer any defense for it. The films writers attempt to contextualise it through the words of Vukmir ““the only warrant for this nation’s survival. We’re the backbone of this country’s economy. Only we can prove that this nation is alive and useful for anything … Not pornography, but life itself! That’s life of a victim. Love, art, blood … flesh and soul of a victim transmitted to a world who has lost all that and now is paying to watch that from the comfort of an armchair.”  In short, the Serbian people are metaphorically raped from birth to death so why not show it?  In my opinion however the scene is purely a shock tactic and without it this argument would have carried a greater validity.  A film which could have delivered a powerful social commentary, albeit from a torture porn perspective, will now purely be held up as an example of the worst kind of onscreen depravity.

This said A Serbian Film is an incredibly well made film. For the horror contained within it’s frames the cinematography is excellent, the score is agitating and industrial, perfectly in tune with the film itself and it contains in a fucked up way, moments of real beauty.  Towards the climax of the film, it also contains one of the most ridiculously amazing moments ever captured on film when Milos kills one of the film makers (now his captors), the perpetrator of the baby rape, by forcing his erect penis through aforementioned rapists eyeless orbit.  Frankly I think this scene should be in all films, Disney you’re missing a trick.

Oh, Hi

1) I over analyse almost everything.
2) It is rare for me to go more than 2 months without reorganising my furniture.
3) I’m quite shy with people I don’t know but once you get past the wall it’s hard to shut me up.
4) I have a love of storage systems.
5) I love Green an irrational amount.
6) I like spontaneity but if you are a consistent canceller of plans you will piss me off.
7) I really want to be able to knit but I’m crap at it.
8 ) I’m a sucker for anything acoustic.
9) I fuck up, a lot.
10) I get crushes on odd people, like Hugh Laurie.
11) My favourite snack food was discontinued whilst I was travelling but I still look for it every time I go to the supermarket just in case.
12) I have known very few of my good friends for over 5 years.
13) I love pub quizzes and board games.
14) I have been dying my hair since I was 15, at this point I don’t know what my natural colour would be.
15) I rarely cry over things in my own life but almost always tear up at the overcoming adversity moments in television and films.
16) My favourite place on earth thus far is Angkor Wat.
17) I like to use antiquated terms such as thus and henceforth.
18) I am very organised but also very messy.
19) I would tell you my favourite movie/song/band/book but it changes so often I can’t.
20) I have never felt more at home anywhere than I did in Melbourne.
21) I believe in good syntax, even in text messages.
22) I don’t really want children but if I do have any they will be called Ophelia and Baker James.
23) I can forgive a hell of a lot, but once you’ve lost me you’ve lost me forever.
24) I LOVE a good cup of tea but I drink coffee more often.
25) I don’t believe in forever.