Friday, 13 July 2012

The Perks of Being on Summer Holiday..

..are that I have plenty of time to read. I'll write about my new found love for Jack London once I've finished The Call of the Wild, but for the moment, here's my most recent read:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky 

Through a series of letters to an unknown receiver, we witness Charlie's adolescent life developing through his enrolment at high school, exploration of drugs, desire to make friendships and maintain relationships.  As the title suggests, Charlie is a wallflower; he watches people go about their daily lives but is encouraged to "participate" by his favourite teacher who gives him classic books to read and comment on. His struggle to become involved and find his place and purpose in the world sometimes leads to unsettling episodes in the boy's life but lead me to read the book in a matter of hours.

Though simply written to fit the character's age and personality, some of the messages in Charlie's letters are beautiful and poignant. His slightly naive perspective on life's aspects and troubles were moving as well as eye-opening and ensured that this novel was more than a simple coming-of-age story.

Also the kid likes The Smiths, and that immediately makes him great.  

Charlie's 'One Winter' playlist:
Asleep - The Smiths
Vapour Trail - Ride
Scarborough Faire - Simon & Garfunkel
A Whiter Shade of Pale - Procol Harum
Time of No Reply - Nick Drake
Dear Prudence - The Beatles
Gypsy - Suzanne Vega
Nights in White Satin - Moody Blues
Daydream - Smashing Pumpkins
Dusk - Genesis
MLK - U2
Blackbird - The Beatles
Landslide - Fleetwood Mac
Asleep - The Smiths (again!)

"I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope they feel it's enough. I really do because they've made me happy. And I'm only one person"

"I guess what I'm saying is that this all feels very familiar. But it's not mine to be familiar about. I just know that another kid has felt this. This one time when it's peaceful outside, and you're seeing this move, and you don't want to and everyone is asleep. And all the books you've read have been read by other people. And all the songs you've loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that's pretty to you is pretty to other people. And you know that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing unity."

Thanks to this book, the following titles are now on my book list: This Side of Paradise, The Fountainhead, Walden, On The Road (well that was already there).

Love always,

The Amazing Spider-Man

I had been anticipating the release of this film for several months, no way near as much as The Dark Knight Rises of course (an excitement intensified by the recent behind-the-scenes featurette), but didn't have any particular expectations in mind. I wasn't fuelled by the opinion that this film would be fantastic attempt, or a futile one for that matter, at rebooting Sam Raimi's super-hero franchise starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst so I could just sit back and enjoy; and enjoy I did.

First things first, the star of the film, Andrew Garfield, played a fantastic Spider-man. I'm not going to pretend that his erm attractive appearance didn't help slightly but let's be honest, he's clearly an improvement on Tobey Maguire. Not that this was his only drawing point. Garfield was successful in creating a cooler Spider-Man than Maguire with a bit of  rock 'n' roll edge thanks to his Ramones Tees and Hitchcock posters whilst still conveying that adorable, slightly geeky charm. His love interest in the film, Miss Gwen Stacey, is played genuinely and thoughtfully by Emma Stone but it is her 
relation to the Head of Police, attempting to arrest Spider-man, that adds the most interesting element to her character.
Perhaps not completely believable as a 17-year-old, I think Garfield's 28-year-old self even achieves this better, but she is not at all as irritating as Kirsten Dunst's Mary-Jane.

Supernatural villains aren't usually my cup of tea, hence my preference for Nolan's Batman films in which they do not feature. That may sound like an odd statement because Spider-Man has powers but I often find confrontational scenes in super-hero films rather lackluster when powers are just thrown back and forth between protagonists and beings transform themselves into seemingly invincible monsters. Though a few action scenes in this film with the giant lizard, a.k.a Dr. Connors played by Rhys Ifans, were slightly tedious, this villain didn't ache on me as much as usual. His normal persona of a good-natured scientist with links to Parker's father  made the character's transformation into a mad reptile perhaps more affecting.

I haven't seen the original Spider-Man for a while but from what I can remember, this reboot maintains a much more mysterious element regarding the death of Parker's parents, including an after-credits clip foreshadowing the next film's plot. Though both deal with Parker's rise to superhero status, this new offering gives a deeper exploration of how being orphaned deeply affected the teenager.

Though I may in the minority here, I found this Marvel offering to be superior to its previous one (that little known film that's made no money...). Its humour may have been more sparse, but the leads were played perfectly and the action carefully selected to ensure that the film's key elements remained the struggle, survival and rise of one ordinary boy.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Dior's New Era

The most anticipated fashion event of the year finally arrived yesterday as Raf Simons unveiled his debut couture collection for Christian Dior which, for the majority, was not a disappointment.

Alongside walls adorned with flowers, the show's opening looks of sleek, black tailored pieces clinched in with gold clasps to create tiny waists referenced Dior's New Look and Raf's signature of minimalist dressing. The sharp designs evolved into curved bustiers over cigarette pants, with pale colours beginning to emerge as more feminine looks appeared: fuller skirts, richer colours and jewelled-embossed designs. Slightly brighter prints were seen in the middle section with strapless, full skirted gowns or full-length gowns, before the display reverted back to sharper, demure looks in grey but neon lips kept them fresh. The concluding segment was the highlight, with Dior's signature returning in the strapless ball gowns, ending mid-calf and definitely leaving a lasting impression.




It was indeed more exciting than the recent understated collections under the eyes of Bill Gayten as the house worked through its limbo period but, that said, I actually preferred the previous couture collection. It had a distinct signature: feminine, wearable, classic Dior. Though this collection evolved with ease into each different section, I found there were a few too many ideas; colours were black, pastel, rich, bright, neon; some looks were very feminine with the clinched in silhouette; some were sharp and masculine. I wasn't sure what message Raf was trying to send about the new Dior era. If certain phases of the collections had been expanded and other ideas left to the next collection, then I think I would have probably been very impressed. I don't want to sound too negative because parts of the collection were beautiful, especially the end, but some looks such as the dress to the left with its odd silhouette left me puzzled. Perhaps I'm just being being too cynical as I realise that this show has rendered Simons many rave reviews but I was just expecting a bit more. Rather than being blow away, I was left a little deflated.

Being honest, I still miss the bravado of Galliano's collections, or should we say performances, that I don't think anybody can really match. Every look that walked down the catwalk was a surprise; vibrant colours accompanied extravagant sets where each piece told a story in itself complimented with eye-catching hairstyles and make-up and concluded with masterful ball gowns almost the length of the runway itself. Galliano's Autumn/Winter 07-08 couture show is one of the first collections I can ever remember and marked the beginning of my interest in the fashion industry: a journey back to 18th century France where rich, vibrant Marie Antoinette-inspired designs travelled down spiral staircases in a true Galliano extravaganza - would this Dior collection we saw yesterday have inspired me so? I'm not too certain, but I guess dwelling on the past is not going to change it. Galliano is no more and Simons is the future. Look forward we must and embrace the new era of Dior which, even if less exciting in my eyes, promises to bring a new wave of artistic design to the iconic French house. 

Couture A/W 07-08
Couture A/W 09-10
Couture A/W 10-11

Friday, 29 June 2012

Book Time

I'm not the biggest reader but bought a Kindle earlier in the year to try to develop my literary capacities and possibly become a bit of a bookworm. That hasn't really happened as of yet...I read The Help a few months ago and really enjoyed that; the different characters' perspectives, changes in language style and dialect, and a slight history recap of the African American studies I did in school. It was the sort of novel that was easy to read, but impressive all the same; I'm definitely moving forward from my Shopaholic faze. In the last few weeks, even though I've been at home doing absolutely nothing (will somebody employ me please?), I had reached a bit of a dead end. Great Expectations and I got off to a good start after watching the BBC Christmas adaptation but I can't seem to get past the part I'm stuck in at the moment. Perseverance is needed, I know, but I wanted to read a page-turner and this is when my friends and I started a book club. Being a 19 year old is just riveting, isn't it? All these folks complaining about the state of youth culture when in reality, we're leaving the night clubs and setting up book clubs. 

The first suggestion on the list, well the Facebook wall seeing as we are still 21st century teenagers, was 50 Shades of Grey. Hmm, I wasn't too sure about this. I know everybody seems to be reading it and therefore it can't be too trashy, but I wasn't really convinced. My friend mentioned that she wanted to finish reading The Hunger Games trilogy first, an idea in which I was more interested. When I first heard about the movie adaptation of the novel, I thought we must have another Twilight on our hands. Does the world really need yet more teenagers obsessing over a seemingly average "literary series" - okay, I'm probably being a bit judgmental here seeing as I haven't actually read it, but I never will. Simple. Anyway, I started to hear that this trilogy actually had something to it and reviews were impressive so I'd be wanting to read it for a while. Though books are cheaper on the Kindle, I'm not the best at purchasing books over £2.50, but when I realised that's how much I pay for my Grande Cappuccino in Starbucks that lasts about 15 minutes, I went for the plunge and starting reading The Hunger Games at 1pm Thursday afternoon.

9pm: two parts through. Woah, this book is good. I haven't had that "can't put this book down" feeling since the last Harry Potter book - I had to fight the urge to just to go back and read those over the summer. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was enjoying it. The premise itself was fantastic and different to anything I had read before: children fighting to the death. As thought-provoking as it is addictive, I had to know how it finished. By 11.30pm though, my eyes were getting tired and I knew that I wouldn't enjoy the rest if I carried on now. So, one quick episode of Sex and the City, well it was two and half in the end, and I woke up/got woken up my brother this morning and finished it in a flash. 

Though a few of the romantic parts between Katniss and Peeta (couldn't she just have spelt it "Peter" so I don't think of the animal rights organisation?) were a little cheesy and I probably would have preferred it if the heroine had been a little bit older, I would definitely recommend this book. Then again, I'm a bit slow on the up take so most people have probably already read it. A few moments may call to the younger readers among us, but all in all I think it's a well-rounded adventure story with its dark plot appealing to a wide audience.

 I'm very intrigued into discovering the fate of the characters in the next novel because I'm not entirely sure how the author is going to develop the plot over two more books. Well, if I read the next as quickly as I read the first, I'll be finding out the answers very soon.

Summer's book list: Catching Fire, Mockingjay, The Road and No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy and finally finish Great Expectations. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The NEW GENeration

The BFC announced its recipients for Spring Summer 2013's NEWGEN sponsorship last week, a list I will always refer to for the next big things in British fashion. With past winners including Christopher Kane, Peter Pilotto and Jonathan Saunders, here's a look at the new rising stars who won Catwalk Sponsorship.

Simone Rocha - In just four catwalk collections, Simone has developed a distinct signature of monochromatic sharp, modern tailoring with pops of colour remaining whilst experimenting with texture and structure; I particularly loved the dresses encased in plastic and colourful perspex brogues in Spring/Summer 2012's show. She may be daughter to designer, John, but Simone's tightly focused and impressive collections demonstrate that she is just as deserving of this sponsorship than anyone. 

                                        “Modern and strong yet romantic.” - Rocha
Autumn Winter 2012-13
Autumn Winter 2012-13
Spring Summer 2012

J.W.Anderson Women - Originally started as a Menswear label, the boy-girl influences in his womenswear line are evident. His experimentation with material and proportion make his collections versatile and each androgynous piece is every bit as exciting as the next. That doesn't mean that femininity is lacking though; pleated mini skirts and draped dresses ensure that the girly girl as well as the tomboy can enjoy Anderson's work.
“Things that can be borrowed from a man to a woman and from a woman to a man.” - Anderson
Pre Spring Summer 2013
Autumn Winter 2012-13
Spring Summer 2012
Autumn Winter 2011-12

Michael van der Ham - Not new to NEWGEN sponsorship, Michael van der Ham needs little introduction. Creating fashion mood boards of collaged designs where bold colour mixes, fabric mash-ups and sharp tailoring combine to create beautiful feminine clothing, this man is the one to watch as he continues to excel. 
    " I made each dress like a 3D collage of clashing colours, textures, weights of fabric and cut" - van der Ham
Autumn Winter 2012-13
Spring Summer 2012
Spring Summer 2012

Monday, 25 June 2012

What I've been watching this June...

I'm one of those film-goers who puts a bit too much faith in the hands of film critics. If Empire says it's good, it's good, right? (as discussed in a previous post, we disagreed re. The Avengers). So when Empire gave The Five-Year Engagement a 4* review, a sign for an "excellent" film, I thought this rom-com was worth watching. 
Oh, Empire, our relationship is now on thin ice. Not to say that the film wasn't enjoyable - Emily Blunt and Jason Segel were a good match and Rhys Ifans and Mad Men's Alison Brie played their roles well also - but two hours for a rom-con is a tedious stretch. The film's plot was set up relatively quickly and successfully, but the couple's relocation to Michigan causing the not-so-soon-to-be groom to turn into a crazy hunter made up the majority of the film, losing the film's key premise; this section could have easily been cut in half and kept to the point. There were a few chuckles here and there but compared to last summer's hilarious wedding flick, Bridesmaids, this film is definitely the more low-key, understated ceremony.  

With a few more weeks to go until the big summer movies hit our screens, namely The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, the cinema's line-up is rather stale at the moment. This film serves as an easy watch for those who don't fancy Abraham Lincoln: The Vampire Hunter (who would fancy that?) or Prometheus (which I'm still quite intrigued about), but don't make the mistake of thinking that this film will be anything better than the average romantic comedy.

The Godfather Part I and II: that's right, from The Five-Year Engagement to The Godfather...

I'm ashamed to say that this week was the first time I had ever seen Part I and II of The Godfather trilogy, but I'm glad to say that they both lived up to my expectations. It can sometimes be a risky game attempting to watch two films that are hailed as some of the best of their time without either already deciding you're going to love it no matter what or overly critiquing it.

With both films almost reaching or surpassing the three hour mark, I didn't at all find them dragging and actually wanted Part II, which concludes around 200 minutes, to carry on for longer. Despite popular opinion, I'm inclined to say I favoured the second. I preferred Michael's journey through the Mafia than Vito's conclusion and the second part gave a wider view of their family lives; De Niro plays a big part in my decision there too.

I'll try to watch the final instalment this week with an open mind seeing as many often express their disappointment with it.

The Godfather Part I: 10/10
The Godfather Part II: 10/10

I probably shouldn't have watched GoodFellas and The Godfather in such close proximity because I couldn't help but keep comparing the two Mafia masterpieces. Having said that, I loved the music in GoodFellas and the humour gave it a lighter edge. Though not a cinema genius, there was something about Scorsese's camerawork and the frequent zooms that made the film extremely captivating and beautiful to look at. Unaware of the true story on which the film is based, the film gave me much appreciated plot turns and shocks. It definitely seemed like a film I could watch over and over again; something I'll look forward to.



Okay, where can I get my hands on this poncho?
A Fistful of Dollars

After watching and adoring The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, I had high hopes for the 1st part of the Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy. Though perhaps not as influential as the former, the film was shorter making the plot quicker and easier to follow. Eastwood's character was just as charming but the lack of another exciting character such as Angel Eyes or Tuco was evident. The cinematography and music, remembering the fact that this was released in '63, puts many modern films to shame.

It was particularly interesting watching this followed by Kill Bill: Vol. 1 as you can really see how Tarantino has been influenced by Sergio Leone. Seeing as Kill Bill only uses music sourced from other films, I wouldn't be surprised if he had taken some scores from this film or another in the Dollars Trilogy. I am now even more intrigued to see how Tarantino will take on the western genre with Django Unchained.


On the list for the next few weeks: The Godfather Part III, Taxi Driver, A Clockwork Orange, City of God, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Death Proof and For a Few Dollars More.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

A Pre-collection Convert

The speed of the fashion calendar has caught up with me once more as despite Summer 2012 not officially starting for another few days, we've already been given a glimpse of what Summer 2013 may be like with the recent pre-collections. A slight pre-collection cynic, I tend to lend them past me by in anticipation for the more exciting headline shows, but as their presence gains more and more importance, especially with them having the highest sales for many labels, I decided to embrace this in-betweeny stage and enjoy what it has to offer. With collections that show a more wearable and commercial side of a brand whilst keeping true to its aesthetic, I think I may have now become a pre-collection convert. 

Alexander McQueen - Earlier this week, McQueen's CEO announced his desire for the label to become Britain's best luxury ready-to-wear brand and this collection seems to show they're well on the way to achieving that goal. An element of the the futuristic theme seen in the Autumn/Winter show remains with silver shades, pointed shoulders and giant belt clasps whilst looking back at the '70s in flared trousers. The sharp monochromatic tailoring contrasted perfectly with an exquisitely draped orange strapless gown in the evening section, which also featured black and gold dresses varying from sleek column styles to ruffled layers.

Erdem - Quite a conservative collection from the man-of-the-moment year/last year/year before that with lengths remaining just under or over the knee and featuring high necks, tweed designs and modest shifts. Evidently though, it was enlivened with his distinctive array of bold prints; blue hues elegantly evolved into rose pinks with patchwork-like prints delivering a slightly different style to usual. A bright pink knitted jumper over a silk floral shirt paired with a large floral designed a-line skirt had to be a favourite of mine. 

Burberry Prorsum - This seems to me to be the epitome of a good pre-collection; an offering more focused on wearable, simpler pieces and workwear - tailoring itself more to Spring than to Summer with its muted palette. Acting as a transition between the last collection and the next, the high-waisted skirts and tees seemed to reflect the A/W collection whilst suggesting that Burberry's Spring Summer display will move away from cord and tweed coats towards leather and bomber jackets. The knitwear was simple and lustful, paired with tapered trousers and shorts -  a unisex pair included - and the evening wear featured sleek and elegant designs.

Jonathan Saunders - Despite a few colour combinations which weren't particularly pleasing to my eyes, Saunders' collection was reminiscent of the A/W show but its bold prints and sleeker silhouettes moved the pieces into a brighter season.

It's more of a wardrobe suggestion as opposed to a silhouette suggestion or message for the season - Jonathan Saunders

Peter Pilotto: A brand known for its psychedelic prints, this offering was no different and through more futuristic, a mastery of print clashing was seen;  for any still doubtful of this trend, look at this brand for assurance. Dress and skirt lengths were mainly short, trouser legs varied from skinny to straighter fits; but similarly to the previously discussed collections, necks were quite high and classic clean-cut shirts seem to be a must for this season - or whatever this stage is called. 

Stella McCartney: Beautifully presented on a marble floor with a glistening mirror nearby, Stella chose a softer, more pastel palette compared to the electric blues featured in March. Leopard prints appeared in oversized jackets and coats; antique floral prints began in soft yellows and transformed into rich oranges on pencil skirts and skirt suits, and checks featured on pleated skirts or trouser suits. . A cute pastel knit is worn over a buttoned up shirt (a new crisp white shirt is on the wish list)  and white tapered trousers whose extra-long lengths were slightly baffling. The latter part of the collection was slightly more demure and a 20s feel emerged with subtle fringing - the best being over a delicate white lace dress. Once again, Stella achieves the perfect balance between feminine delicacy with the exquisite tailoring giving it the edge.