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