Tuesday’s Reviews – Season 1 of Girlboss

Tuesday’s Reviews – Season 1 of Girlboss

It’s been a while since I wrote a good old Motherbooker rant but I suspect this review of one of Netflix’s new show is about to turn into one. I’ve not read the book that the series was based on. It’s mostly because the very word “Girlboss” gets me a bit worked up but also because I don’t think it’s ever right for a book title to contain a hashtag. I mean what kind of stupid millennial bullshit is that? Hashtags are an annoying but, often, important part of social media. You need to use them carefully to succeed but non of those uses involved planting them on the front of a fucking book. It reminds me of all those ridiculous books that were popular when I was younger that overused the @ symbol. It was about the time that the internet was becoming more important to everyone but it still felt new and modern. The one thing all those books have in common? They haven’t stood the test of time. They now feel horribly outdated and really pathetic. Anyway, putting aside my annoyances about the book, I had decided that I’d probably never watch the series until I needed some easy watching to get me through a packing nightmare. And then I was faced with a problem. Every time I logged onto Netflix it was there in my “continue watching” section. So, in order to get rid of it, I watched the whole damn series. Turns out, I have many feelings about it.

Girlboss is loosely based on the memoirs of Sophia Amoruso the ex-CEO of vintage clothes company Nasty Gal. It tells the story of how a 23 year old woman went from selling a random piece of Vintage clothing on eBay to owning a million dollar online enterprise. It’s also a fucking awful portrayal of women in business. The fictional Sophia (I can’t say for sure whether real-life Sophia was the same) is the worst kind of stereotype of an entitled millennial. She refuses to grow up, feels as though life owes her something for nothing, and goes from job to job because she can’t accept responsibility. Instead of being a regular citizen who makes an honest wage, Sophia wants to live life on easy street. We see her argue with and completely disrespect her boss and then act surprised when she gets fired. Sophia is exactly the kind of 23 year old that everyone over 50 thinks millennials really are.

Sophia is not just a difficult person who can’t doesn’t do well with authority figures (though this is all true). She’s just a fucking awful human being. She steals, argues with people for no reason, berates her friends for no reason, and has awful temper tantrums when she doesn’t get her own way. She is selfish, narcissistic and completely blind to everyone else’s problems. She’s disgusting but the writers feel that it’s okay to make her so awful simply because she knows how awful she is. They seem to be pushing the ridiculous notion that it’s okay to be a bitch as long as you openly acknowledge that you are one. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. In order for us to accept that Sophia is a bitch she needs to have some redeeming features. The only problem is, they forget to show us what they are. She is surrounded by people who just allow her to be a dick but there’s never any evidence of why. We never see what they see in her that makes it okay. As it goes, Sophia is just the kind of teenager that should have been slapped super hard years ago. Although, Girlboss is actually attempting to imply that Sophia is just an independent, strong young woman. The kind of person that Destiny’s Child were always banging on about.

What Girlboss does more than empower women is just perpetuate the stereotype that, in order to get ahead in business, a women needs to act more like a man. Sophia is shown to succeed ahead of the women she goes up against on eBay. They are portrayed as naive and stupid women who are weak and foolish in their business decisions. They keep their femininity and their emotional vulnerability but they don’t make as much money. Sophia walks around swearing, shouting, and not giving any kinds of fucks about anyone and she’s having sex on top of her wads of cash. Instead of presenting a feminist idea of women in business, Girlboss just strengthens the boss bitch image. It’s disgusting.

To be fair, if Sophia was a super talented and repressed genius then it would be possible to forgive her sins. She’s not though. She’s just a young girl who gets super lucky. She stumbles across one great piece of clothing and luckily makes a huge profit. There was no great strategy here but a girl who took advantage of a one-off situation. There is no skill on show here. It means that there is no space for Girlboss in today’s society. The story of Sophia Amoruso holds no place in the lives of current job seeking young people. Sophia has no skills, no background in business, and no clear plan to success. It falls into her lap. The story she’s trying to sell to young people is that you can make all the money you want by not doing a fucking thing. Take it from someone who has been job hunting for fucking ages: it doesn’t work like that in the real world.

The story at the heart of this series is a fantasy that does more damage than it does good. Which would almost be okay if it was also well-made. The fact is, aside from the supporting cast and a pretty decent performance by its lead actor, Girlboss is just bad. The script is so badly written that most of the dialogue makes me cringe. There are conversations between characters that feel so unrealistic that it’s super jarring. It also features such stock characters as the put-upon best friend who always forgives her awful best friend, the female tech nerd who has no social skills and no self-confidence, the scum-bad drummer boyfriend, and Sophia’s poor father who loves her but gets nothing in return. It’s all so familiar and uninspiring it makes me want to cry. There is a potentially decent story and main character here but everything has been simplified beyond belief to make it universally appealing. It’s all so familiar because they don’t want to alienate anyone. Unfortunately, in order to get everything right the show just gets everything so wrong.

Tuesday’s Reviews – First Love by Gwendoline Riley

Tuesday’s Reviews – First Love by Gwendoline Riley

I’ve not read any of Gwendoline Riley’s previous four books and, really, only picked up her most recent one because it was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. It sounded so amazing that I couldn’t resist. I bought this one and The Power as soon as the list was up because I’ll do anything a bunch of literary prize judges tell me to. I’ve been in a bit of reading slump lately so as soon as I finished The Best of Adam Sharp I decided to try and to read Riley’s novel. It’s pretty short and something I’ve been keen to read. Thankfully, this weekend I was in London visiting a friend so I had a train journey to fill with reading. I managed to finish it by the second day. My friend works in publishing so is as obsessed (if not more) with books as I am. So she’s always interested to hear what I’m reading. The trouble with First Love is that I find it so hard to explain what’s going on. I managed to garble out a nonsensical plot summary that really didn’t do the book justice so, when I’d finished it, I decided it was worth another go. Therefore, my Tuesday review this week is either going to be great or just a terrible mistake. We’ll see.

First Love is at it’s simplest a character study. It tells the story of a 30-something female writer, Neve, and her marriage to her older husband, Edwyn. At times the marriage is full of the typically nauseating couple-isms like pet names and affectionate cuddles. However, there is a deep tension waiting just below the surface threatening to bubble over at any second. For every time Edwyn calls Neve “Mrs Pusskins” there will be a cavalcade of insults where she is described as a “fishwife shrew”. It is an uncomfortable marriage that comes out of Neve’s desire to love and need to feel loved. She has spent her life trying to fake independence but is always looking for that relationship to make her feel complete. The steps in her life had lead her to Edwyn who, for all intents and purposes, hates women. Neve knows the relationship is toxic and the novel is her attempt at self-reflection. However, like in real life cases, this self-reflection never quite runs deep enough to self-realisation and an ultimate call to change something.

Instead, the novel spends its time weaving in and out of Neve’s past and present relationships. Her marriage to Edwyn is interspersed with tales of her abusive father and the American musician who would never commit. Her father, who’s death still haunts Neve, found comfort in simultaneously showering his daughter with affection and contempt following her mother’s decision to leave her violent marriage years earlier. Whatever control he delights in taking over the women in his life, Neve’s father has no self control, as evidenced by his death: the man ate himself into an early grave. It is a relationship that has shaped Neve’s adult life and is still holding court over her marriage to Edwyn. It is not exactly difficult to see that her relationship with her husband and her father are linked; it’s something that Edwyn himself is all to keen to remind her of whenever he feels the need.

First Love isn’t the happily-ever-after tale of a young woman who finally finds happiness. Little is written of her first meeting with Edwyn and the growth of their affection for each other. The first snippet we see is her moving her boxes into his pokey flat so it is difficult to understand why she puts up with chaos. This is a narrative that just keeps getting worse and more uncomfortable as it moves on. However, as it descends deeper into a realm of despair most people would be unable to imagine, the novel also gets even more brilliant and engrossing.

There is some light to be found, thankfully, and it mostly comes courtesy of Neve’s self-absorbed mother. There are some fantastic moments in the book where her stream of consciousness monologues take over everything. She’s a fantastic character who, since leaving her abusive husband, has failed to find either herself or a man worthy of her affection. She ties herself to men who don’t have a strong interest in her but she forces her way into their lives one way or another. She lives the kind of happy and solitary existence that is, surely, only served with a side of chronic depression. Whilst the moments the mother and daughter spend together cannot be described as positive, there is something about their sheer absurdity that brings a certain relief to the, otherwise, relentless dim existence of our narrator.

Having not read any of her previous work I’m no expert on her style but if First Love is anything to go by then I’d be a huge fan. It is a bleak work, that cannot be denied, but there Riley is able to pick the perfect words to make everything seem poetic and beautiful in its own right. The prose is, frankly, gorgeous and some of the best writing I’ve read in a really long time. You can’t escape the idea that words have been carefully picked so as to get the exact response that Riley had wanted. There is an effortlessness within the writing that only comes with great care, attention and skill. What is the quote from that Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem? The oxymoronic phrase “so casually coifed”. Riley’s writing can only be described as “so casually coifed” and it’s fantastic. I may only have picked this up because of the Women’s Prize but I’ll never regret having done it.

TBT – Shrek Forever After (2010)

TBT – Shrek Forever After (2010)

Sometimes I hate this blog, specifically the TBT feature. It forces me to remember how quickly time is passing. I remember seeing Shrek Forever After with my friends from University and, it turns out, that was about 7 years ago. It feels like yesterday. I came to re-watch this after finding it on Netflix recently and having no clue what to write for today. I try to link my Tuesday review with my Thursday one but I was finding a companion for The Best of Adam Sharp a bit of a pain. I think the fourth Shrek film works though: instead of a man looking back on his life and imagining “what if?” it’s an ogre. It was also a rather easy thing to watch when I got home from work yesterday. It’d been a hellish day and all I was really capable of was watching a short film intended for children. Although, I do quite like this series of films. The first one is really good and came up with an interesting twist on the classic Disney fairy tale romance. The second film was equally fabulous. Then there was the third film, which super sucked. There’s always something funny to be found though. So, it wasn’t the worst film I could sit down to watch for your benefit I suppose.

Animated movie sequels have traditionally had a bit of a tough time reaching up to the potential of the original film. I mean look at all of Disney’s straight to VHS sequels to its most popular films. Yes, you love The Lion King but its sequel? Didn’t think so. When it came to Shrek it succeeded with Shrek 2, which was a funny and enjoyable romp with a great cast. It was the all-singing, all-dancing film that had Shrek trying to outwit and the evil Fairy Godmother. It was great. I randomly went to see it with friends despite having never seen the first one so it’s sort of become my favourite. Of course, no matter how good the second one was it was unlikely that it could continue. And it didn’t. The third film was utterly abysmal and unnecessary. So, the announcement of a fourth was hardly something to get excited about.

Although, they try to rewrite history to keep things fresh. What we have is basically It’s a Wonderful Life but with an Ogre instead of Jimmy Stewart. Brilliant! After a going through a fair few adventures, Shrek and Fiona have settled into family life with their triplet Ogre children. They are still friends with Donkey, Dragon and their weird hybrid kids. Although, reaching middle age, Shrek is starting to regret how far removed he has become from the Ogre he used to be. No longer the scary monster people were so keen to destroy, he is finding it difficult to adjust to life as a celebrity. So, he makes a deal with a super sketchy guy to have one day as the man he once was. Obviously, of course, there are some pretty dire consequences.

Those consequences create a universe in which Shrek was never born so all of your favourite characters now live a terrible life. Fiona is still cursed, Donkey is still enslaved, Puss is a fat house-cat, Gingey is a cage fighter. Yes, it doesn’t all make sense but it’s fine. As long as someone out there laughs who cares if anything makes sense. You see, the obviously creepy guy was Rumpelstiltskin who has been trying to take over Far Far Away since way before Shrek saved Fiona in the tower. He blames Shrek and plans to trick him out of a day of his life: the day he was born. Then the shit hits the fan and Shrek spends the rest of the film trying to get Fiona to fall back in love with him before it’s too late.

Shrek Forever After is a fairly interesting concept but it lacks so much of what made the original film so good. Shrek came out in 2001 and was, in a way revolutionary. It was taking the piss out of Disney and it’s well-know animated films. Taking pot-shots and being slightly risque whilst still being child-friendly. Shrek Forever After is just a desperate attempt to get back to some of that with constant references to that earlier film. I mean it’s better than the third film but that’s the least amount of comfort we can take from it. There is some heart and emotion here but it’s all taking too much from the first film and offering little of it’s own. The villain is an obvious link to Lord Farquaad but is not developed enough to make him worth fearing or hating too much. This is one of those films that mostly serves up in-jokes and easy nostalgia without taking too many risks. It’s not the worst in the series but, as the last film, it needed to be better.

Tuesday’s Reviews: The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Tuesday’s Reviews: The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

I read The Rosie Project about a year ago I think and I did quite like it. I wasn’t sure I would because a girl at work who really doesn’t have the same reading tastes as I do was raving about it. It turned out to be a pretty adorable romantic-comedy. However, I wasn’t exactly sure about it’s representation of Asperger’s. I liked that it showed the potential for love and typical relationships but also felt it was kind of romanticised. In the same way the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope irritatingly draws up this image of a wild and free young woman who will turn a young man’s life upside down, The Rosie Project presented Autism as another thing women should be adding to their lists of desires in a mate; like it was something up there with good sense of humour or ability to put the toilet seat down. I understand that Autism doesn’t mean a person can live a “normal” life but I felt that it was treated more like a quirk than a real issue. Whilst The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time explored the consequences of Asperger’s The Rosie Project just used it as a gimmick. So I never read the sequel. However, I was intrigued enough by Simsion’s writing to be excited by his first non-Don Tilman related novel: The Best of Adam Sharp. It took me a while to get through because I’m easily distracted and useless but I’ve finally done it.

The Best of Adam Sharp introduces us to Adam Sharp, a middle-aged database expert whose real passion is the piano. He has settled into a comfortable but unremarkable relationship with Claire and the pair live quite happily in their childless existence. Until a blast from Adam’s past stirs up some feelings he’d pushed to one side. 20 odd years earlier, Adam was consulting in Australia and, somehow, managed to meet aspiring actress Angelina Brown. They end up having a short-lived but passionate love affair until the pair went their separate ways. Cut to the present day when a single-word email reminds Adam of what he’s been missing all of these years.

I picked this novel up without hesitation because I like the themes the narrative is based around. Looking back into your own past and wondering about how different your life could have been is something everyone without the luxury of youth and limited responsibility can understand. Regret and the idea of lost love are universal themes so it seemed that Simsion would be on safe ground. Surely, if his writing in The Rosie Project was anything to go by, he’d be able to bring some humour and fresh insight into the equation. Which, to be fair, he does. This is an often shrewd and funny look at the life of a middle-aged man who has some big questions to ask himself.

The Best of Adam Sharp is not a quaint and happy little read full of nice and good people. This is a long and drawn out story about people who make morally questionable decisions all the time. The characters here feel more real than the ones we meet in The Rosie Project but you will find yourself loving them less. I’ve seen a lot of GoodReads reviews of this book criticising the awful characters which is super irritating. Real people are dicks. It’s much more interesting to read about these character than the non-existent kind who never do or think anything selfish. They are, in the style the author has created in his previous 2 books, very well written and developed. We learn a fair amount about these characters and what makes them tick. You won’t always agree with them but, at least, you’ll understand them.

My major issue with the novel is the narrative structure and pacing. The first half of the story flits back and forth between Adam’s present life and his past with Angelina in Australia. I’ve never been a fan of these time splits and, here more than ever, it feels kind of grating and unsettling. However, it is in these sections that the narrative itself flies. We learn more about the characters and the mapping out of Adam’s two key relationships is beautifully realised. The way Adam relates his memories to the music he was influenced by at the time presents a fantastic theme throughout the book. What Simsion does remarkably well here is understand the deep impact music, and indeed all culture, has on a person’s life.

The novel reaches decidedly shaky ground during the second half when, after plenty of soul-searching, Adam goes to stay with his ex and her husband in France. The plot here gets decidedly dicey and falls well into what I can only refer to as soap-opera scenarios. These scenes are definitely the weakest of them all and it feels a little laboured and unnecessary at times. However, it leads to a fantastic finale where the themes finally come together and we all get the payoff we deserve. A lot of people who loved The Rosie Project won’t love this book because it isn’t all hearts and flowers. It deals with a lot of “grown-up issues” in a darker and more adult way. It tackles difficult questions about regret, desire and love. It introduces us to a flawed man who needs to find the right balance between the love he hears about in songs and the kind of connection that works in the real world. It’s not perfect but it’s a fantastic read.

Tuesday’s Reviews – The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

Tuesday’s Reviews – The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

Way back on New Year’s Eve 2016 I posted my list of most anticipated novels of 2017. On them was this debut novel by Kayla Rae Whitaker about two female friends and business partners. It sounded amazing and the reviews suggested it was something to pay attention to. I bought it not long after it’s release at the end of January but didn’t actually start reading it until well into February. At first I sailed through it and couldn’t get enough. I was on holiday so had time to indulge myself and read chapters at a time without any real worries. However, those of you paying attention to my recent That’s What She Read rundowns will know that it took me a long time to finish the novel. The last few chapters just took me ages to get through but I’m happy to say that I finally got to the end last week. It was a great day and I can now get on to one of the many other books that have been piling up for weeks. As I have not watched anything new this week and because I haven’t done a good old fashioned book reviews in ages, today’s review is going to be a rather terrible overview of this book. Apologies in advance.

The Animators is a novel that is concerned with relationships; or at least with one specific relationship. It tracks the first meeting of Sharon Kisses and Mel Vaught and follows their journey from art school students to the creators of a surprise hit film and beyond. Sharon and Mel are both from the rural south and have difficult family histories. They also both share an intense passion for weird and trippy cartoons, having spent their childhoods escaping reality in front of their television screens. As we have so often seen before, their pain is channelled into a more creative stream as they discover a love of drawing. After meeting in class, the two women form an intense friendship and, thanks to their combined talent and compatible personality traits, form an unstoppable working partnership. Mel is the front woman; the showman who gets the ideas started, enjoys the party and flakes out on the responsibilities. She is the fun loving one who would rather spend her nights combining drugs, alcohol and loose women than preparing for panel talks or interviews. Sharon is the sensible one who worries about things and tries desperately to get her friend to stick to the schedule.

Skipping over their formative years, we catch up with the pair as their first feature length animation, based on Mel’s childhood years, has become a smash hit and everyone wants a piece of them. Everything looks set in place for the duo to become stars until a series of personal tragedies befall both women and they find their relationship challenged to breaking point. Although, somewhere within the chaos comes the inspiration for their next project. When Sharon remembers a childhood trauma that had long stayed hidden, Mel pushes her to confront her demons and examine herself and the choices she has made. The novel asks the questions ‘how can you move past a harrowing experience before you possess the maturity to understand and process it? Sharon begins to understand that for much of her life she has been running from the darkness she uncovered as a child and, using her creativity, plans to find the light in amongst it all.

Depsite taking me a fucking age to finish, The Animators is a really well written book. Whitaker has a great ability to write realistic and readable dialogue and she has created a beautiful friendship between two complex and interesting women. She takes an idea that has been used before (the road to fame and the inevitable soul searching that comes with it) but gives it a new spin by filling it with damaged and recognisable women. The characters of Mel and Sharon are both perfect. It offers a genuine dynamic between two modern women where neither are forced to live up to the expected ideals of femininity. The two women are comfortable around each other in a way that you don’t often seen represented accurately. It is a tender but difficult relationship that, as a reader, you can’t help but adore and worry about.

However, there are some aspects of Whitaker’s novel that highlight the naivety as a debut novelist. There is a lot going on in this novel and the author attempts to deal with a variety of issues. Quite frankly, she tries to do too much and doesn’t quite pull it off. Motifs and messages are repeated several times so you kind of feel as though you’re being beaten around the head with the moral of the tale. Sometimes things start to feel disconnected and subplots are given greater focus than they deserve. Just when you think everything has been thrown at this book already, the writer comes back with something new. There are times when the pace drags and it becomes something of a slog. It is a testament to Whitaker’s writing that you want to carry on regardless. It’s not a problem but an age old trap that so many first time novels fall into. Whitaker’s story just about has the strength to pull itself out before the narrative comes to an end.

My major gripe for this novel, however, is the constant need to describe sequences of animation in great detail. I understand that the art in question plays a key role in the story and the lives of the characters. However, there is something discomforting and unappealing about reading vast descriptions explaining what’s going on in both real and imagined animated films. I understand that Whitaker (as well as her two protagonists) are both animation nerds but it felt kind of unnecessary to share an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of cartoons. That’s almost a Simon Pegg level of showing off.

Still, I really enjoyed The Animators. It was a great read by a new writer. It was a confident, funny and intelligent debut that has only made me excited to read more by Whitaker in the future. To say that it had flaws is not a problem. If trying too hard and being too eager to please is something to get worked up about then there is something wrong with us. I mean really, if you edited down some of the middle section to make it a little less indulgent then I’d definitely be more than happy.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Logan (2017)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Logan (2017)

We’ve known for a while that Hugh Jackman was on his slowly moving towards his final outing as the character he’s played since 2000. For 17 years Huge Ackman has continued to prove that nobody could have been cast in the role of Wolverine and has gained a phenomenal number of fans. So when the first details of Logan were announced it became a clear the whole thing was going to be fairly emotional.., and that was before the trailer sound-tracked by Johnny Cash’s cover of ‘Hurt’ was even released. I’ve been excited about this film for a long time but I was also faced with a certain amount of trepidation about seeing it. Not because I thought it was going to be bad (everything we were shown pre-release destroyed any fears regarding quality) but because it’s the end of an era. It’s a bittersweet sensation that Hugh Jackman is finally able to do great things in the character’s first R rated outing just before he leaves the role (almost certainly) forever. Suffice it to say I was struggling to hold back the tears as the film went on and was only prevented from bawling like a baby thanks to the awful guy we were sat next to and his inability to shut the fuck up. It’s weird but I can’t help mourning the loss of this character. He’s become so iconic through Jackman’s interpretation and the X-Men movie franchise is always going to feel like it’s missing something now. Thank fuck the big guy went out on a high though, eh.

Logan was primarily billed as an adaptation of the Old Man Logan storyline. I think that description is taking more than a few liberties but there are some distinct similarities. The year is 2029 and mutants have become a rare breed. They are no longer being born and the remaining few are slowly dying out. Amongst them are two familiar faces; Logan (Hugh Jackman), now ageing and losing his healing factor, and Professor X (Patrick Stewart), whose deteriorating brain function is causing his mutant power to get out of control. They are also joined by a new face; Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant who is able to sniff out mutants. The three are in hiding in Mexico where Logan has the Prof holed up in an old water tower and pumps him full of drugs to hold off the seizures for as long as possible. The end goal is to make enough money ferrying drunks around in a limo so the group can buy a boat and sail off into the sunset.

Of course, things have never been that simple where Logan is concerned. He is soon left in charge with the first mutant to be born since everything went tits up. This young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) is being hunted by a team of mercenaries lead by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) who is working on behalf of smarmy scientist, Zander Rice (Richard E Grant). In order to escape the bad guys with guns, Logan takes his new charge and the dangerous nonagenarian on the mother of all car journeys to take her to safety. Whilst Logan is already struggling with his deteriorating powers, he must also come to terms with his new found role of father as he attempts to keep Laura and the Professor safe.

When it was announced that Logan would be Wolverine’s first R rate movie experience audiences got excited. Last year Deadpool showed us that comic book movies and adult only violence could mix really well. However, Logan is an entirely different film. Whilst Deadpool still appealed to the child in all of us, Logan is all maturity. If it wasn’t for the frequent unsheathing of adamantium claws and bionic hands, this wouldn’t feel like a comic book movie at all. This is The Road or The Last of Us. It is a tale of survival but not on the global scale that the X-Men are used to. It’s a very clever and emotionally wrought film. The focus is on ageing and responsibility. It is a character driven narrative that features big action sequences rather than the action based X-Men films we’re used to. Thor the violence, that has been such a huge talking point in the run up to the film, is really neither here nor there. Yes, there is a lot of fight sequences where arms get chopped off and metal claws pierce people’s skulls but it is completely secondary to the story. It’s almost as if it’s there because it has to be. Rather than Deadpool, which almost made the violence it’s biggest draw, Logan relies on its emotional resonance to leave the biggest impact.

So much of this film rests on the actor’s involved and thankfully the 3 main characters are superb. For the most part, Laura is mute but newcomer Dafne Keen does incredibly well to with bringing the character to life on screen. She is silent but deadly and super cool. Her relationship with Logan is slowly realised as the pair come to rely on each other. It’s adorable and loving. However, it can’t hold a candle to the main relationship on screen: namely the one between Logan and Charles. We are faced with a situation almost directly opposite to the one that emerges from the first film. In X-Men Logan comes to Xavier as a dangerous weapon with no idea of his history and the Professor teaches him how to control his powers. In 2029, it is Charles who is the dangerous mutant who Logan must keep controlled using drugs. The pair have come through so much but have a deep love for one another. It is a testament to the actor’s friendship off screen that the onscreen partnership is so strong.

Logan is unlike any other superhero movie out there. It is darker and more brutal that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. It lacks the requisite lashings of hope to keep an audience happy at the end. It shows the dark side of humanity and an incredible bleak future. This film is the best comic book movie offering I’ve ever seen. In fact, Logan is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time, Rather than dealing with mass death on a unrealistic scale, this focuses in on the all-too-real issues of mortality and the legacy we leave behind. Just as Jackman is moving on from the character shrouded in the respect and adoration that comes with it, Logan is faced with a reputation that he is struggling to live up to. He can no longer be the man that he once was and, instead of facing off with the bad guy, he aims for a quite life taking care of his elderly father figure. Logan still suffers from some questionable decisions and is far from being the perfect film. However, considering the other solo offerings we’ve seen, it is certainly the best outing we’ve had for the character. Hugh Jackman dominates in the role of weary ex-superhero and, if this really is to be his last onscreen appearance as the mutton-chopped anti-hero, I don’t think anyone could have asked for a better way to end his tenure.

TBT – Best in Show (2000)

TBT – Best in Show (2000)

Today was the opening day of the Crufts dog show. I work with more than a few dog obsessives who will get quite into the show. So it’s probably going to be something I hear about a lot for the next few days. As much as I love dogs, Crufts always brings to mind the Christopher Guest mockumentary Best in Show. So, being a Thursday, I decided to rewatch the film about a fake dog show instead of watching the real thing. After all, watching dogs actually compete for the title of Best in Show would only have me wishing that I was still a dog owner. At least this way I have the comedy to distract myself. After all, sitting down to watch a Christopher Guest film is like sitting down with an old friend. Back in November, I watched his Netflix original Mascots and, despite feeling it could have been better, I bloody enjoyed it. It’s been 17 years since Best in Show was first released so would it still feel as fresh and funny?

I’m one of those people who prefers dogs to people. I’m getting to an age where people seem to be absolutely obsessed with babies. As a woman in her (now very) late 20s it’s sort of expected that I’m getting broody and am desperately waiting to have a tiny human being of my own to clean up after. I still have no real idea on the kid front and, as of right now, would much prefer a dog instead. For one thing they’re much cuter and are a lot less hassle to obtain. Babies are great, yes, and if anyone shows me pictures of their child doing something “adorable” I will nod and smile as much as they want me to. But I’ll secretly be wishing I was looking at a picture of a dog dressed as a Star Wars character. So I kind of understand the crazy relationships people have with their dogs. It’s also something Christopher Guest found fascinating enough to make a film about.

Although, it almost didn’t happen. When Guest pitched the idea to co-writer Eugene Levy, Levy was convinced the idea wouldn’t work. He didn’t think their was enough room for comedy in a dog show setting. Thankfully the pair came together to create a concept, gathered a talented cast of comic actors, and brought together a bunch of ex-competition winning dogs. And thank fuck they did. Now, as with any Christopher Guest film. the story itself isn’t really important: this is a film about the characters. During the film’s first act we are introduced to five dog owners and their prized pets. Each owner is making their way to the Mayflower Dog Show in Philadelphia and is hoping to win the illusive title of Best in Show.

There is the troubled married couple Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) who are desperately trying to keep their Weimaraner happy but failing miserably. The couple from Florida (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) who’s money troubles are forcing them to sleep in the hotel’s storage room but who adore their Norwich Terrier. A keen Fisherman and wannabe ventriloquist (Christopher Guest) and his Bloodhound. The trophy wife and her trainer/secret girlfriend (Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Lynch) who are returning to the show as two-time champions. A camp gay couple (John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean) and their kind of ridiculous Shih Tzu. The films first half lets us see the each competitor in their homes before they make their way to the dog show and compete with the other dogs.

As you’d expect, a lot of the film is improvised and the cast are able to run wild with their characters. This is a talented bunch of people and the film is littered with Guest’s regular co-stars. Each of the competitors is an absurd creation but never at the expense of anyone. The film highlights the inherent weirdness in the world of showing dogs professionally but it is constantly tinged with a love and understanding that stops it from moving into meanness. In the middle of the showboating and pomp there is plenty of love between the owners and their dogs. It is a crazy and hyperbolic representation of dog owners but it is strangely sweet at the same time.

This film really helped cement Guest as the king of the improvised mockumentary style that has become his staple. The film is full of funny moments but, if you ask me, it doesn’t really pick up until the action moves into the arena. The opening act is great as we hear the backstories of each contenstant but it is Fred Willard’s role as an inept commentator that will stick with you. Seated alongside an industry professional (Jim Piddock), Willard’s Buck Laughlin speculates that a Sherlock Holmes costume would help the Bloodhound’s chances of winning the prize. Let loose in this manner, Willard is unstoppable. He is constantly funny and surprising and, despite Eugene Levy’s doubts, it is the dog show itself that lifts this film.

Best in Show may feel a bit old school now thanks to Christopher Guest’s increasing filmography. However, when it came out 17 years ago it was still a fresh and different approach to film making. It is still an incredibly funny film and a must-see for anyone who missed it/wasn’t born when it was made. It has everything: laughs, love, suspense, and a heartwarming ending. If anything deserved the winner’s rosette then it’s this.



Just a quickie this week. Christmas has sort of taken over my life and work has been hell. I’ve not really had the time or inclination to do anything other than sleep. Plus, old friends are back, family are around and my entire fucking county seems to be covered in water. Reading, unfortunately, has had to take a bit of a back seat. Still, Christmas is a time of giving and a few people have given me good booky presents. Now I have my own Personal Library Kit I won’t have to face the injustice of an unreturned book. My colleague has had my copy of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August for months and I’ve long passed the point I can ask for it back. I hate this fucking shit. I should just stop lending my books to people. Although, now I have the kit that seems like a rather foolish thing to do. 

Currently Reading
  • A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor
I’ve actually read some of this in the past few days. I’m so proud. Still so fucking good but it’s Christmas. Who has time for reading when there’s so much fucking food around?
  • Hotels of North America by Rick Moody

Slowly getting there. I will have it finished before 2016.. possibly.

  • Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I don’t even think it’s fair to say that I’m still reading this one but, dammit, I need all the content I can fucking get. 

Christmas Haul

  • NOPI: The Cookbooks by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully
Working in a kitchen it’s fairly obvious that food will be a big topic. I love a bit of food talk but I’m not exactly au fait with the greatest chefs. If I were to have an outright favourite it’d definitely be Yottam Ottolenghi. Not only does he seem like a jolly nice man but he creates some fucking glorious food.Getting his latest book for Christmas has allowed my current Ottolenghi collection to be completed. I can’t wait to look through this. 
  • Sweet by James Martin
I have been known to have a massive sweet tooth and, even though I say so myself, am a fucking great baker. My James Martin loving friend bought me this because we both have a bit of a soft spot for him. He’s a lovely, slightly chubby Northern chef who loves butter. How could you not love him a little bit. Now he’s by no means the greatest chef of all time but the photos in the book are fucking glorious. I can’t promise I’ll make anything from it but I will lust after all the food porn-y pictures. 

Recently Watched

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Fucking hell. I’m still trying to take it in. Can’t wait to see it again. I have some issues but it was so fucking good. Plus, I’m such a hardcore Poe/Finn shipper that I simply can’t even.
  • Star Trek Beyond trailer
I hate to say it but I’m think I’m over these films. Loved the first one. Sort of loved the second one. This one looks shit. Maybe it’s the lack of JJ but it just feels like Star Trek is trying to become a Marvel film. It’s a shitty copy of Guardians of the Galaxy and it deserved to be so much more. This trailer left me fucking cold. Plus, I think I’m done with Simon Pegg.