Monday, 23 January 2017

La La Land

If you haven't heard of La La Land, can I start this post by asking WHERE ON EARTH HAVE YOU BEEN? Living under a rock perhaps? It has all anyone has been talking about since it came out in the UK and totally cleared up at the Golden Globes in the same weekend. I have seen it twice in the past week and may or may not go see it again because it has given me a lot of feelings. A LOT of feelings. Which I thought I would talk about here. As it is one of the jobs of this blog to be a haven of all things wonderful. And this was certainly wonderful.

Just before I begin my discussion though I would like to put a really big SPOILER ALERT right here. I just need to splurge a little bit and talk about everything to do with this movie so if you haven't seen it, stop reading here and go and see it at once.

There is no doubt that everything about La La Land is truly beautiful. The cinematography is stunning, the costumes are wonderful (I would like to own every single one of Emma Stone's outfits), and the acting is fabulous, particularly from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone - all those intense closeups where you can read every single emotion in their face. Truly incredible. And the music is just dreamy. You go into this little bubble of beauty when you watch it and you simply don't want to leave. But these are aspects that are obvious to everyone. I am not here to rehash what the critics of the papers have said so I will discuss it no further in that way. I want to get into the nitty gritty of it. Which basically means I am going to take little bits and analyse it to death. Sorry not sorry.

The character progression depicted within the course of La La Land is spot on. Actually I have often said how films normally don't manage to get this as right as La La Land has. Books do it well, because they have 300-800 pages to play with. TV series also do it well because they have 8 hours to achieve it. Films with a mere two hours of time often can't manage it. Particularly if it is an original film. But over the course of a little over two hours, you are invited into Mia and Seb's magical yet frustrating world of trying to succeed in their artistic dreams. You travel with them, sharing in not only the journey of their relationship with each other but the relationship with their art. And it's interesting that both try to achieve their aims in a different way - Mia relentlessly goes for audition after audition and is on the brink of giving up. And Sebastian sells out a little to do something that he doesn't want to do in order to sidestep into what is his ultimate dream. And you watch as they find each other and realise how much they both need the other to put them on the right track. Mia needs Sebastian to push her forwards, Seb needs Mia to pull him back and remind him of who he is and what he is working towards. And that leads to their success at the end.

As an artist myself, in the form of writing, the struggle of both Mia and Seb spoke to me in so many ways. Both characters had moments that I related to. Seb at the beginning had this moment when you first saw him perform in the restaurant. His boss (with a cameo from JK Simmons) was very insistent that he should stick to the mind numbingly dull versions of Christmas carols. But Seb can't stop himself from performing something else. He threw everything he had into that performance but when it was over, the people in the restaurant continued as if nothing had happened. Nobody eating even glanced his way. And where I am applying to literary agencies at the moment, it feels exactly like that.

I think anyone pursuing a career in a creative art can also relate to the conversation that Mia had with her parents just after she had moved in with Seb. I know I certainly can. Here, they were clearly asking her how she was going to survive if neither she nor Sebastian were making any money and yes it was all very well that she was putting everything into her acting, but how was she actually going to eat? These questions (which my parents have asked me numerous times) are the little shout realism that are in the outer edge of the artists' brains. The parents are telling them things that they have pushed to the back of their minds because they can't cope worrying about not eating as well as the possibility of failure in their chosen career. The fact that Mia was having this conversation out of shot was a clear indication of how this was something that she was very much not focusing on, something that she was trying to ignore but she couldn't help but hear it from her parents. And it was Sebastian who was in shot who could see the damp stain on his ceiling and took the realistic advice on board, sacrificing his own dreams to support hers. They couldn't both be earning nothing after all.

I feel like people in general are saying how they related to Mia and sympathised with her a lot more. Most too, have been taking her side in their argument. But I became completely heartbroken for Seb at this moment. He was a bit of an arse, I admit that. But this was the beginning of the end for their relationship and I think he could see that. She was almost there and he knew that once she succeeded, she couldn't give her all to it without leaving him behind.  He had the hardest job of all in this movie. Because, having pushed Mia forward he had the joy of watching her fly but then, immediately, he had to let her go. Which he was more than willing to do because he was amazing and understood how important her dreams were to her. But I found that totally heart breaking.

There are a couple of quotes from Seb that spoke to me, in particular - firstly was when he told Mia to 'write something as interesting as you are' - YES! I am very much going to take this on board. Don't half arse things, do it properly and make every single thing I write as amazing as I am (within the limitation of the amazing I actually possess, of course). I am so passionate and I need to put all of my passion into all of my writing, all the time. The second of his quotes that I adored was when Mia asked 'Are people going to like it?' And his response was  'Fuck em.' DOUBLE YES! You can not write or sing or act or paint because someone else may or may not like what you are doing. To be able to throw your all into it, you have to do something which YOU are fully behind. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. It's the passion that counts and you can only give that if you like it. As soon as you start worrying about someone else liking it, you are only going to fail. Because not everyone is going to like it obviously. You just can't win if you think like that.

In terms of quotes I love, I could actually write down the entirety of The Fools who dream, which Mia sang at her audition. In fact, I could write an entire blogpost just on that song. Maybe I will. It was stunningly done, simple and effective. Just Emma Stone's face and the camera and those beautiful words.The lyrics were spot on. 'Here's to the ones who dream. Foolish as they may seem. Here's to the hearts that ache. Here's to the mess we make.' And later the lyric changed to 'crazy as they may seem. Here's to the hearts that break.'  I can't stop listening to the song and it resonates so so highly with me and my attempts to become a published author. You do start going a little bit crazy the more you get rejected, (but as Emma Stone also advised us during this song, a bit of madness is key) and your heart does break a little when you throw everything into your art and get nothing in return. But you have to keep doing it, and when you finally do go into the Seine (ie. achieve your dreams), you wouldn't change a bit of it, you would do it over and over again. Did you notice when Mia and Seb were dancing through their alternative life together, that when Seb and Mia danced up to the Seine, they turned away from it? She didn't jump into it like her aunt did in the song and therefore she didn't achieve her dreams when she was with him. Ugh *sobs*

Because there at the end, we had the crux of it. If you are going to succeed in your art, there are things you are going to have to sacrifice. And for Mia/Seb this was each other. Having pushed each other into their successes, they couldn't have each other too. Mia's stricken face when she realises she is in Seb's bar tells us exactly how OK she is with that. The look between Mia and Sebastian across Seb's, was so full of love and gratitude and the nod was the final thank you - the huge thank you that they gave to each other, for getting them to their successes against all the odds. Neither of them would have made it without the other.

I would urge anyone to watch La La Land and it is possible to simply enjoy the ride. But if you are an actor, musician, artist, writer or anyone else wanting a career in something creative, it will speak to you on such a strong level, you definitely shouldn't hesitate. It gives you such hope to see your struggles depicted so epically on screen with them both succeeding in the end. If they can, anyone can. And that's what we have to bear in mind as we continue along our personal journeys. Thank you Damien Chazelle, Justin Hurwitz, Emma Stone and Ryan did good. Really good.

(photo courtesy of

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Saturday, 7 January 2017

Reading Roundup

Last year I read 88 books. Can you believe it? I can barely believe it myself. That's an insane amount and considering that I was aiming for 55, I think I did really really well.

Out of those 88, I read 43 classics, 4 of which were Shakespeares, 2 were Austens and 3 were Dickens. I also reread all of the Harry Potters and 77 of my reads have been books I've never experienced before.

I have found some incredible new literature this year that have snuck into my list of favourite books so I thought I would share a few of these with you.

Firstly, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I have no idea why it took me so long to read this book. People have been recommending it to me for absolutely ages and I can see why. Immediately I was sucked into the world of intrigue that Zafon wrote about expertly. The mystery set within the beautiful descriptions of Barcelona and the bookshop where Daniel works, kept me turning the pages and I loved all the characters. It was satisfying and engaging and the plot involved around a book/author. What more could you want out of a novel?

Next up I read and adored Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale. Later in the year I read one of her newer ones The Heart Goes Last and I have bought Blind Assassin. It is safe to say I am now a huge Atwood fan. She is the queen of Dystopian future fiction. She just has this uncanny ability of finding the very worst in human beings, breaking down society and making stories around it. It is an epic, exciting read that definitely touches a nerve.

To see the good in human beings once more I read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. This is technically not fiction as it is based around Albom's own experiences, meeting weekly with an old tutor of his who is dying, but it does read as easily as fiction does. It is a beautiful, highly emotional read which makes you view life in a slightly different way and reconsider what is important.

Another author who has fast become one of my favourites this year is HG Wells. I read Kipps shortly after seeing Half a Sixpence at the theatre and found myself really relating to the retail struggles that he wrote about within this classic novel. Wells has a very readable style and I now really want to read The Invisible Man and The History of Mr Polly. I also love that he grew up down the road from me.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and The Tennant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte were two more classics that I hadn't read before and absolutely adored. Both were easy to read and had an element of mystery which kept me enthralled. But, most excitingly, each one had a very strong female protagonist which was quite unusual for that kind of literature. They were flawed and determined and jumped off the page to become real people. They were a joy to read.

And finally, I read what is now one of my favourite books at the very end of the year, The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This has been on my TBR list for a very long time after being recommended it repeatedly on Instagram. I am a huge fan of Fitzgerald, and I feel that this had echoes of him in it. Tartt has such an easy to read style and I was totally gripped by the intensity of the situation that the extremely normal main character found himself in. I feel like it could have happened to any of us and that was both exhilarating and exciting. Great book.

Talking of Instagram and while I am on the subject of rounding up 2016/books, I thought I might officially introduce my Bookstagram that I started last June.

I have been planning to start this up for a while as my love of books is so strong, I wanted to devote a whole account to pretty bookish pictures. And I figured it all makes sense. I travel around so much and whenever I do, I have a book with me to read whilst I am on the train/plane. Therefore, when I take my bookish picture in whatever fresh town I am, it records not only the place I am in, but the excellent book that I am reading too.

I have loved my 7 months that I have been a part of the bookstagram community. They are so welcoming and lovely and I hugely enjoy all the bookish discussions we have on there. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, do come and join me over there. I'd love to have you. And here's to a fabulous 2017 with many more fantastic books.

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