Saturday, February 14, 2009

Singles Awareness Day

Life's in slow motion right now. I'm so tired of February, it's not a good month. I've always been at least indifferent to it as far as I can remember, but this year I just want to kick February out of the calendar. At least, there's always Jane Austen (my master's dissertation is about her and it's been a delight to work on). And books. And music. And cinema. So one of each, shall we?

Milk was outstanding. It's sad to release this movie now after proposition 8 passed (I still can't believe it passed, what a sad moment in History) because it could have made a much bigger impact before, but it resonates now better than ever. At times it looked like a documentary on today's San Francisco - that was the scariest part. The acting is incredible and I thought the direction was beautiful, it really looks like the 70s, not the 70s filmed in 2009 like in most movies that deal with the period. It's particularly striking when archives are shown - there's no difference except better film, the colours are the same. I was so invested in it I could hardly believe it was 2-hour long, it felt way shorter. Sean Penn deserves to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, and I can't decide between Slumdog and this for Best Picture. I think Milk impressed me even more, which is saying something because I loved Slumdog Millionaire. It had the right amount of private and public scenes, which is always hard to get in biopics.
Inspiring, beautiful (I loved the parts when Harvey in all his speeches says that his actions will have consequences on the whole country- and then proceeds to give the names of some of his lovers and ex-lovers' hometowns as examples, that was incredibly touching and subtle), compelling movie relevant to today's society. I had great expectations and it exceeded them all. Probably the most important film made in 2008. It hit home in a special way.

Now to literature : White Boots by Noel Streatfeild is my favourite of hers along with Ballet Shoes. Once again, it focuses on children doing sports, this time Harriet learns how to ice skate not for money but for health. I loved this book. Ever since I was a little girl I've always been in awe of ice skaters, particularly women who get to wear gorgeous leotards and be graceful on ice. What I love in Noel Streatfeild's books is that she always spends a lot of time focusing on details - the ice skating world is very well depicted in this book, the characters are great as usual, not at all idealized (and writers for children tend to idealize them), full of flaws and yet terribly touching because so human. Following Harriet who gets better and better at skating although without reaching an unrealistic goal at the end of the book as is often the case, and Lalla - a gifted but not very hard-working vain ice skater - was a joy. In every one of her books, Streatfeild never gives in to simplicity, the end is never quite satisfactory at first, it always takes days of thinking about it to understand that in fact it couldn't have been more satisfactory because it's food for thought. Rather than giving the reader what he wants, she gives him all the ingredients and leaves the story wide open as if to invite us in and I find that very modern and daring for a children's book and in fact for any book. I'm so happy I found this author last year, she's a true gem.

My day has been filled with Lily Allen's music. Her first album is cheerful and the lyrics are really funny. My favourite songs are LDN, Alfie and Friday Night. So here you go for Alright, Still:

I also want to post this one hip hop song by M.I.A. on my blog. Paper Planes is a song used on the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack. A line from her song "No one on the corner has swagger like us" was actually used as the title of a song called Swagga like us by rappers Jay-Z and T.I., with vocals by M.I.A. herself, Kanye West and Lil Wayne. The whole group performed Swagga Like Us at the Grammy Awards the day 9-month-pregnant M.I.A was due. So here are several things, first of all the song Paper Planes by M.I.A. on a YouTube video, and then a link to the song Swagga Like Us by the whole group of rappers at the last Grammy Awards. I'm sure this is a given for everybody but I barely know any contemporary music so this is news to me. I didn't know I could like hip hop or rap before hearing these two songs so even if you don't listen to hip hop or rap, give them a shot, they may surprise you.

Swagga Like Us performed at the 2008 Grammy Awards on February 8.