Magic In The Moonlight

The Cote d’Azur, dappled and golden, cheerful yet melancholy, infused with the thrum of jazz; Woody Allen has always been able to articulate nostalgia.

While Magic in the Moonlight looks endearingly romantic, the clothing triggers a long-drawn sigh. Drop-waist dresses, calf-length skirts and cloche hats resonate that easy 1920s style. Here are some of my favourite looks from the newly released trailer:

The New Norm

I read an article on The Business of Fashion the other week in which Uniqlo’s newly appointed CMO, Jorgen Andersson, described consumer culture as generic. The interview ran around the same time I discovered “normcore,” a new, non trend-driven movement featuring self-aware twenty-somethings dressing like Steve Jobs.

Too bad Friends (and more specifically Chandler) got there 20 years earlier with this spectacular ‘divorced dad’ ensemble.

Sharon Rooney: Absolute Girl Crush

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Over the years, there’s been a slow but steady vanguard of buxom pop stars that have chipped away at the mainstream and brought fuller-figure women back into the public domain.

But while buxom ladies are making their much-needed comeback, there are still very few real women with real curves stepping out on our screens and slotting themselves in amongst the stick-limb horde. One woman who is however – and who I love for it – is the green-eyed, black-haired, Glaswegian lass, Sharon Rooney.

Last January, E4 launched its new series My Mad Fat Diary, starring Ms. Rooney as the titular Mad and Fat Rachel Earl, an obese and anxious teenager from Lincolnshire.

But initially, I – I being the categorical chooser of cool women and Director of Girl Crushes HQ – had slight cause for concern.

Before the show aired, GC did a quick Google-search and learned that Sharon was in fact twenty-four, a long-way off from the sixteen-year old Rae Earl whom she plays. But after two episodes it was obvious why Ms. Rooney was perfect for the part: she captures the inherent awkwardness that being sixteen is all about, and makes the story as funny as it is sad.

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What’s more, she originally auditioned for Skins, E4’s flagship teen series but didn’t get the role and had to wait another five years for her breakthrough part.

So, what do I love so much about her?

In an interview with Radio Times last January, she said:

“I wish so much there had been a Rae when I was growing up. It would have made my life so much easier to have had someone real on TV that I could have looked at and gone: ‘I kind of look like her. I don’t look perfect, but she’s got friends. People love her so maybe people will like me for being me. I don’t have to change.”

Please don’t change Sharon because I think you’re perfect as you are!

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Portlandia Top 5

I’ll skip the part where I mention that I liked Portlandia’s theme track  aaages before I watched the series and go straight to linking my favourite clips. That way when I ask “Have you seen Portlandia?” followed by an out-of-context quote, you’ll be more than covered. I got your back.

1) “Hey, I guess you’re never texting me back, so I’m annulling our friendship. Bye!”

I’m one of those people who’s had an iPhone for more than two years and who treats it like it like a small and delicate child. It doesn’t have a cover but leads a scratch-free existence. My stomach nose-dives everytime I watch this scene. I’d probably vomit if I dropped my iPhone.

2) “It’s kind of a house but it’s kind of falling apart? I think that describes your life right now, honey.”

One of my favourite clips right here.

3) “Does my voice sound fat?”

My favourite food is pasta. I constantly ask people if they think my face is getting fat and I once wondered if my voice sounded like a fat person voice or a thin person voice on the phone. Basically this is me:

4) “Did you read that thing in Mother Jones about eco-chairs and eco-ways to sit?”

5) “Imagine a Portland with 100% employment? A Portland where we all have jobs!”

A little tea came out of my nose when I saw this.

 

True colours in political dramas

This post will have to be work in progress, firstly because I’m short on examples and secondly because copyright laws on YouTube have made it damned near impossible to post the examples I mention so far.

Last night I started House of Cards, the new Netflix series, which I plan to review and wholly recommend everyone watch. The series, which is loosely based on the BBC trilogy by the same name, follows the devilish Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a Congressman and House Majority Whip, who feels hard done after being passed up for the role of US Secretary of State.

Instead of getting mad however, Frank takes the politically sound route and chooses to get even, stacking figures against one another, exposing sensitive stories and leaking closely guarded White House information to the press. But his ruthlessness isn’t revealed by mere action but rather through a series of sideways remarks addressed to the viewer and always delivered in a candid, collusive Southern drawl.

I am now on episode 5 but last night I watched episode 3 where Frank delivers a highly charged requiem speech, beginning with “I Hate God” followed by a rationalisation of that statement in which he explains how necessary anger is in grieving, and how that process ultimately draws people closer to God.

Brilliantly, he describes, through a voice inflected with rage and despair, a charged tale about his father, who died suddenly at the age of 43.

“My father dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 43,” he begins, “And when he died I looked up to God and I said those words [I hate you]; because my father was so young, so full of life, so full of dreams, WHY would god take him from us?”

This is when he looks into the camera and sneeringly remarks, “Maybe it’s best he died young, he was just taking up space.”

Underwood’s thought tracks are so persistently dirty and insidious that it’s practically impossible not to be drawn into the series.

Earlier this year, I also started HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, another series that I love which focuses on the smarmy Republican figure, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi); Atlantic City Treasurer and a New Jersey bootlegger.

In episode one, season one, there is a scene not unlike the House of Cards one discussed, where Nucky delivers a strong anti-alcohol speech at a meeting organized by the Women’s Temperance League.

With eloquence, Thompson tells the story of a family driven to desperation by a hard-drinking father during a cold Atlantic City winter. He tells the story of a young boy, so hungry and desperate for food that he resorts to eating rats. He finishes this story by revealing that, not only did the family survive that cold winter, but also that he was that boy.

Nucky leaves the meeting to a standing ovation and outside receives further praise from Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), Nucky’s right-hand in all matters illegal, who praises Nucky’s gripping tale of survival and reflects on the First World War where he was often forced to eat dog meat. Bluntly, Nucky informs Jimmy that the whole story was a lie:

“The first rule of politics is to never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Interview with Stephen Horgan, Director of Snatch and Bail

 “I went up to the people at the desk and said, ‘Hi, we’re the filmmakers.’ They just looked at us and said, ‘What?’”

Stephen Horgan, a first year student at UCD, has just completed his first feature film Snatch and Bail. “It’s hard to talk about or explain,” he says giving a shy laugh, “but I suppose it’s about two burglars who decide to frame a serial killer. It’s kind of a crime-caper, dark comedy film.”

Snatch and Bail, which will debut at the UCD Cinema tomorrow afternoon, currently runs at 90 minutes and stars two professional actors, notably Dave Duffy of Fair City. Yet despite sounding both professional and polished the film’s production was anything but, and in short proved to be a production nightmare:  It was produced with almost no money and the production team was tiny; the cameraman was also in charge of holding the boom while Horgan’s own parents starred as extras in the film, which took place in their family home. Was Horgan surprised that the film actually came into fruition?

“YES. Even, there was a moment three days into filming where I was going to say, ‘Look this isn’t going to work,’ and the only thing that stopped me from shutting the whole thing down was the actress, Nisha Kamat, who had travelled from Donegal to appear in the film.

“That was just the first round of problems we ran into. One day we were meant to film in a coffee shop and I phoned up the marketing people and arranged to film on the premise. We went in pretty early the following morning so it would be quiet and relatively empty. It wasn’t. In fact it was quite full. I went up to the desk and said ‘Hi, we’re the filmmakers,’ and they just looked at us and said ‘What?’

“That alone was one of those Oh-my-God moments but we also had actors on set who I’d never met before and who were filming scenes that day. They eventually let us go on with filming because they thought we were nice – or at least that’s what they told my parents who were extras.”

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Throughout our conversation it was clear that money was a big threat in terms of the film’s completion. Given the strains associated with filming on almost no budget, would Horgan say that Snatch and Bail is quite amateur or does it stand up to professionally produced films?

“I don’t know how it stands up to professional films but based on what people have told me, it looks good. It looks as though there was more money put in than there was. That said there are scenes where the boom has crept in and the shots have needed to be cropped. There’s one scene that we simply couldn’t include because the boom is in it.

“I’m way too scared to say that it will stand up to other professionally filmed movies but I’m really proud of it personally. I was watching it on my laptop – only bits of it because to watch the whole thing would drive me crazy. I was watching these bits to make sure that there were no mistakes because I do not want to cringe when I watch back over it. And it felt proper if you know what I mean. Well… There was one moment that didn’t feel right but that’s going to be edited.”

So, what inspired Horgan to make a film?

“When I started first year (Horgan recently completed a three-year degree in English and Film Studies) I had this image, which popped into my head; My sister and I had gone to a garage, probably to buy phone credit or something, and I got this image of two people – a guy and a girl – completely dressed in black and following someone. That image just stuck in my head.

“I had already been involved in a short film (Les Voyeurs), which is about two burglars who get themselves into sticky situations. I liked the idea, so I put the image of the two people from the garage into that burglar scenario and that really was the direction that the film went.  That was how the whole thing meshed together.

“It also came out of procrastinating for exams. After I made the short film (December 2010) I knew the characters and these funny moments just came into my head. I just got this real impulse to make a story out of it and write it down.”

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Given that Snatch and Bail was adapted from a short film but was earlier described as ‘hard to explain’, I was curious to find out if Horgan’s debut was complex or straightforward. The answer I received was, ‘It’s simple but complicated in parts…’

What?

“The story isn’t the most complicated thing in the world. There’s a back-story too but it’s not complicated either. The story lends itself to funny situations, which are pretty straightforward, but the way it’s structured might be a little confusing. Basically no one will know what’s going on for about the first six minutes.”

And were shots important or did the story take precedence?

“The shots were very important; I cared about those a lot and thought hard about which ones would go in. I had a few shots in my head for a long time including the two people dressed in dark clothes, which came to me at the garage. That shot’s in the film.”

And as a past Film Studies student, were there any notable influences?

“Have you ever heard of a film called Pierrot le Fou? Well I hate that film but reading about it really influenced Snatch and Bail.”

Throughout my conversation there were two emotions that constantly emerged: total exasperation at the lack of money and excitement over the actors’ performances. When describing the actors, Horgan used adjectives like ‘great’ and ‘brilliant’ and admitted that his own character was probably upstaged several times throughout the film.

“We had three cases of actors having to drop out though,” he told me. “One of those was a major character but that actor’s replacement was really good so I don’t really mind.

“We also have a character (played by Dave Duffy) that’s in Fair City,” he enthused. We didn’t even have to pay him and he was a really nice. Working with him was amazing and he’s great in the film. He’s enjoyable to watch too, and one of the few performances that I don’t get fed up watching – and that’s not me going on about anyone else’s performance – I’ve just seen the film over and over again but every time I watch it I still find his scenes enjoyable.”

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Inevitably, my last question asked what the future might hold for Snatch and Bail and if we might hear more about it going forward. “Well I’m going to try and put it into festivals but I need to edit (or pay someone to edit) the aspect ratios. I think if I get that sorted I’ll enter it to the Jameson Festival. I’d love it to go as far as possible although we have sound problems too, which also need to be looked at. But at the moment I’m just looking forward to the UCD showing. I’d hate to think that that would be the end of it. I’d like to think it’ll go further and be seen by a wider audience.”

Given the non-stop battle between the director’s enthusiasm and the limitations that come with almost no money or funding it’s difficult to know what to expect from Stephen Horgan’s feature debut. Last year, the movie’s tagline read, ‘A world where the only thing that outmatches a passion for crime is a crime of passion’. That has since been changed to a simpler yet somewhat ambiguous ‘You don’t know what you’re missing’.  That phrase rings particularly true. Until tomorrow’s showing, it’s hard to know what to expect.

Snatch and Bail will preview at UCD Cinema at 2.30PM on Saturday 17 November.

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Stephen Horgan completed his undergraduate degree at UCD last year, majoring in English and Film Studies. He has been making short films since 2009 and writes, produces and directs in his spare time. He is currently studying French and Spanish in UCD.

TV Review: All in The Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry

Part 1: All In The Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry,
Channel 4.

Grayson Perry

Even before the opening credits began to roll, a siren was sounding in my mind.

Channel 4’s new three-part series, presented by the Turner Prize winning artist and transvestite, Grayson Perry, was an hour-long “safari through the taste tribes of Britain,” kicking off from “the bottom up” in the industrial city of Sunderland.

From the get-go, I imagined a row of media-minions, all lining up and hunching over as their paper capes, fashioned from old tabloids flapped in the wind. As the credits rolled and arms, wrists and fingers prepared to point and fire, I foresaw a torrent of classist abuse, spooled around some superficial and impalpable idea of ‘taste’ that would fly and swirl in the air like confetti that fails to fall. Fortunately however, I was wrong. I was really, really wrong.

The first episode in the series previewed on the final night of the Queen’s diamond jubilee weekend. But Perry and his posse of guys and girls were immeasurably more fun than Her Royal Stuffiness. If we weren’t going to be made privy to some goose-bumpily shots of England’s reigning monarch in a paper thong awaiting her jubilee spray tan, then Perry was glad to fill her shoes. Donning a plastic shower cap and lifting his arms on cue, the artist introduced us to some of Sunderland’s pre-boozing, beauty rituals, all the while laughing and declaring, “Naturalness, it’s so, I don’t know, boring, isn’t it?”

Perry’s hour-long search for a working class taste mostly wound up focusing on style, appearance and home décor. As he ducked and dived through changing rooms, salons and tattoo parlours, he explored the significance of religious tattoos, the quasi-sacral role of men’s cars and the impact celeb culture has had on Sunderland women’s appearance. Throughout, Perry’s gift as a narrator was unequivocal and his central role in the programme painted him as a chameleon of sorts, as he happily jumped ship from male-centric, football-obsessed Sunderland to the girly world of lashes and tan.

Undercutting the fun of his physical transformations however were Perry’s own musings. As the people of Sunderland invited him into their homes, Perry in turn gave the viewer an insight into his own world, explaining how, “as somebody from a working-class background, I’ve spent most of my life in the very middle-class background of contemporary art.” He later reflected that his art was the only place that his working class roots still bloom.

At last, turning to his loom and depicting his trip up North, Perry told the first part of his tapestries’ story, introducing us to his central character, Tim Rakewell. Rakewell, he explained, was going to be a modern spin-off of William Hogarth’s Tom Rakewell, from Hogarth’s eight-part series, A Rake’s Progress. Would this be a modern-take on the classic tale of a wealthy merchant’s son, who lived it up and spent it all and wound up mad?

Outside of the pseudo-anthropological take that ran throughout the programme, the highlight of course was seeing how the ideas outlined in the show were trickled out and distilled into two carpet-sized works that referenced ideas of taste as much as they referenced major works in the history of art.

The end of course was about the big reveal. And, yes, it wound up being a bit sentimental. And no, of course no one turned to Perry and said, ‘Well, I think you’ll find my arse is nowhere near that size,’ although admittedly there were few side-portraits. But in all, Perry’s first TV entry was an exciting introduction to one of the three ‘British taste tribes’.