Monday, 25 July 2016

15 THINGS ABOUT PARIS







1. Macarons

2. Street Art




3. Sunsets in Paris



4. The Pompidou





6. L'Arc de Triomphe



6. Food



7. Versailles






8. Summer Rain



9. Musee D'Orsay



10. Paris Amusement Centers - Jardin du Tuileries




11. Art Houses




12. Le Jardin du Luxembourg



13. Parks and Greenery




14. City Streets






15. Parisian Architecture



 


Disclaimer: All photos are my own, except picture number one 
Jess x 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

BINGE: STRANGER THINGS

Fact: I have spent an entire day watching this series. Fact: this series is ridiculously good. 



Set in the 1980s in the fictional city of Hawkins, Indiana, follow the story of a young boy, Will, who mysteriously disappears and the attempts of his loved ones to find him. A telekinetic girl helps them, although her involvement in Will's disappearance is yet unknown. Add to that a corrupt government facility and a supernatural, gruesome being, and you've got a series everyone will be talking about. 




This supernatural-science fiction show is gold - great music, an ingenious story, amazing actors, brilliant writing etc. It was apparent upon my Netflix binge that every second of this series was meticulously thought out, with the separate story lines intertwining perfectly and without confusion. As the series progresses and the pieces of the puzzle are further put together, you'll be gasping and staring wide-eyed at the screen as much as the characters. 



Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, the mother of the missing boy, is so phenomenal, I'd be surprised if she didn't at least get an Emmy nomination. The desperation and hunger in her performance is something to be marvelled at. (Think Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad. Yeah. It's that good.) 



Furthermore, the three friends of Will are simply superb. Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Gaten Matazzo (Dustin Henderson) and Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair) all have great chemistry and charm, you can't help but root for them. What's more, Matazzo's portrayal of Dustin provides some great comedic moments in the show. (Matazzo actually has cleidocranial dysplasia in real life.) Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven (El) is fantastic; she manages to portray a troubled, haunted girl with such childlike simplicity and ease, accepting her supernatural powers isn't hard. 


I love the 1980s vibe of the show. It's simple and makes the supernatural sh*t going down twice as scary. Also, its vibe is similar to ET - small town, stuff happens - except this time, it's much more dangerous than a flying bicycle. There's something so nostalgic about the 1980s era. Even the bike scenes between Mike, Dustin and Lucas fill my little heart with joy. Without modern day technology, the relationships and adventures seem twice as exciting, twice as fast-paced and twice as gut wrenching. 




Created by the Duffer Brothers, much of the episodes directed by them, and marvellously so. Credit must also be given to the incredible writers of the show who manage to create such vivid, and real characters. Jessica Mecklenburg's episode 'Holly Jolly' along with Ryder's performance is my favourite dramatic episode, but all the episodes are really superb. Seriously, I'm expecting at least three Emmy nominations for this series.


 

No word yet on if a season 2 will happen. But Netflix producers, if you're reading this, you best get on that, or who knows, stranger things might just start happening to you. Like people unsubscribing. 

Have you seen 'Stranger Things' yet? Let us know in the comments! 


Saturday, 23 July 2016

WATCH: SHANGHAI CALLING


Today's recommendation to be 'bored-no-more', is this little film called, Shanghai Calling.



Awarded the Outstanding First Feature Award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and the Best Actor for Daniel Henney at the Newport Beach Film Festival, Shanghai Calling has some great things to offer your eyes. And this film caught my attention for several reasons.

1. It's set in Shanghai 
2. Duo-languages
3. The characters


Whilst I love New York and Paris and London and all these major cities, and will love them until the day I die (forever and ever, amen), it's refreshing to see a film which does NOT take place in New York and focuses on a really great city outside of North America. Let me tell you a secret: Shanghai scared the bejeezus out of me the first time I went. It's a wonderful city and is actually similar to New York in many ways, but my inability to speak even passable mandarin was intimidating since everyone could speak Chinese, AND they could speak it well. But what writer and director, Daniel Hsia, does is take you along the same journey with Sam Chao (Daniel Henney) after he moves to Shanghai for his job and his struggles with the language and culture, despite looking like he should be a native speaker. It's also ironic that Henney isn't even Chinese, but actually is Korean. What results is a beautiful, hilarious introduction into Shanghai life.


The film is written in two languages; English and Chinese. But what is really great to see, is the white actors, Eliza Coupe, Bill Paxton and Alan Ruck, as expats in China, speaking Chinese and doing a pretty damn good job at it. As members of America-town (the equivalent of Chinatown) they go through the same difficulties most foreign families had immigrating to the US and the Western World. Hsia's film seems to promote the intermingling of cultures, and the difficulties in accepting your heritage when the environment you're in ignores it. The prime example today being, well... Asian actors in Hollywood. How many can you name except Bruce Lee, Lucy Liu, Jet Li, 'the Asian guy from Glee' and Jackie Chan, if that?

This leads me on to my third point of the characters. Henney's character, Sam Chao, represents the anxieties and insecurities of many second generation immigrant children, which is emphasised by Eliza Coupe's film daughter, speaking only mandarin to fit in with her peers. It's nice to see the isolation ethnic children often felt in white-majority societies, displayed clearly on the screen and shedding light on the relationships between Caucasians and Asians.



Whilst the film contains some great romantic-comedy jokes, the representation of Asian women in the film was slightly disappointing. It's a minor point in the film, but the "yellow fever" fetish still made it's way across the pond to some of the expats living in Shanghai. It would have been nice to see a film, which had a minority male lead actor, not portray a sexual relationship with a woman of colour, as some kind of trophy or achievement.



Nonetheless, Shanghai Calling made some great strides in representing Asian-Americans in Hollywood and the diverse cast and languages is something to be applauded. Daniel Henney as lead and the inclusion of Asian actors/directors in an American film no doubt helps pave the way for diversity on and behind our screens, in a charming and original way. #keeppushing

Signing out,
Jess x


Friday, 22 July 2016

READ: ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Hello lovely readers, on today's list, numero uno (#1) of the things need to be looking at, and in this case reading, is this book: 



Feast your eyes on this baby, it's a doozie. 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl', (MEDG) written by the hilarious Jesse Andrews, in format is not like other books you might have read and is nowhere near as depressing as a book with a dying girl would or should be. ('The Fault in Our Stars', I'm looking at you.) Greg Gaines narrates with angst his friendship with Rachel Kushner, our resident dying girl. Greg and his bud, Earl, are secret filmmakers and cinephiles, which form the basis of their co-worker-friendship (it's complicated), as they attempt to survive the worst period of their life: high school. But y'know, for Rachel, her situation is probably a little worse, as Greg constantly reminds us. 


Key themes: 
Death and loss
Friendships
Boy/Girl dynamics
High school 
Parents
Creativity
Life

"Let's face it: most girls are annoying. I mean, most humans are annoying, so it's not specific to girls. Also, I don't really mean "annoying.". I guess I mean that most humans like try to fuck up your plans."

What makes MEDG great is Greg's honest autobiographical tone, albeit his socially inept one. It's self-depricating, sure, but it's also comedically tragic. 

"I am the Thomas Edison of conversational stupidity."

The most creative element of MEDG is its format as a partial script which makes an extremely vivid story. Snaps for you, Jesse Andrews. Even more, what I applaud Andrews for is the reversal of the high school trope; forget the social outcast, instead how about the guy who's kind-of friends with everyone? Sounds ideal? Not really - key term in the above sentence being, "kind-of friends". Andrews' character, Greg, detaches himself from social intimacy in perhaps the most genius was possible, not by avoiding others but by adapting and blending in with everyone so much, Charles Darwin might even be a little proud. Combine this with Andrews' equally dramatic character, Earl, and you've got yourself a charmingly flawed dynamic duo, that shouldn't really work, but does. Add a dying girl, and you've got yourself a masterpiece. Bake for 3 hours and enjoy. 


"One thing I've learned about people is that the easiest way to get them to like you is to shut up and let them do the talking." 

Earl also represents more than just Greg's partner. He contrasts Greg's social and economic situation, and in doing so, they display the fine line between affluence and poverty and the way this alters their own viewpoints and opinions. What's more, their different races (Earl being black, and Greg white) are poignant. Perhaps this was not Andrews' intention, with the focus of course being on Greg and Rachel, but this detail highlights the advantages of being white and coming from an affluent family most prominently, in the closing chapters of the book. 


The film versions of the dying girl, me and Earl. 

Since we're incredibly entrenched into Greg's every thoughts and POV, we never get much time with our "dying girl" without being reminded of Greg's uncomfortable sweaty feelings. Additionally, Andrews removes any intimacy we could have with Rachel, right from the moment we pick up the book, by making her identity, the 'dying girl.' It's a clever ploy, and we ain't got no choice but to focus on and to take Greg's word as the narrative, which mostly tells us: CANCER FUCKING SUCKS.  

Whether you feel Greg is a "jackass who doesn't feel appropriate emotions" by the end of the book or not, you can't deny the level of suckiness Rachel's cancer has. What you can do, is take comfort in this fact. School sucks, bad friendships suck, being rejected sucks, cancer really sucks, and losing someone probably sucks the most. But just like cancer, you just have to deal with all these things. You become a hermit if you need to, you stop talking to people if that's what you gotta do, but you do it. And then you get better. 

MEDG said from the very start: This book contains precisely zero Important Life Lessons. Personally I beg to differ, but if you're going to take anything away, it's that you push through the crappy moments until you feel like you'll be okay again. 


"I might accidentally become like a hermit or a terrorist or something." 

What I like about the book is that it's not intentionally uplifting, it's honest about the difficulties of cancer and doesn't romanticise illnesses and being a social weirdo. Yet it's in NO WAY depressing, sad, gloomy, upsetting - instead it's surprisingly uplifting and enjoyable in every single chapter. Which is an incredible thing to do, given the book's subject matter, so it's a testament to the author for creating such wonderful and flawed characters. 


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Books are great, they give you comfort and they're a friend and a memory to have forever. But sometimes when you think, "fuck, I'm bored," or "things are pretty shit", you need a book that says, "hell yeah it does", and then you reach for this one.


What do you think? Have you read MEDG? Leave comments and thoughts below.
Stay tuned for the film review of  'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl'.  
Peace out, Jess