TGR: Midnight in Paris

Some may say that the best thing about being a student at Goldsmiths is the facilities, or the quality of the education, or the fact that most of our buildings are epic labyrinths. Not me. I mean, those are great. But the best part of being in Goldsmiths definitely is the extensive DVD collection in the library. And the hot chocolate at Natura cafe.

But lets focus on the former. Since I’ve found myself with a glorious amount of free time on my hands ever since the abrupt end of my degree, I stopped by the library the other day to take a few DVDs out, for the purposes of whiling away the long and lonely nights. *quiet sniffles*

And hence it was that I stumbled upon this wonderful gem of a film!

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Going into it, I thought this movie was going to be nothing more than an easy, moderately thinking-free chick flick, of the Eat Pray Love variety. I mean, Owen Wilson on the cover strolling beside the Seine, with the background melting with painterly abandon? You can’t blame me for the assumption. Also, the first and only Woody Allen film I’d seen before this was To Rome With Love and it was wierd. Very trippy, not in a desirable way. So imagine my shock when it turned out to be something of a romantic sci-fi thing – this really took me on a wild ride. But it was lovely. It was also chock full of some of Hollywood’s, and history’s, biggest names, which you might’ve gotten a hint of from the poster above.

Gil (Wilson) is an aspiring writer with his head in the clouds, who arrives in Paris with his fianceé Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents, with whom they’ve tagged along on a business trip. Inez is rich, spoilt, bratty, and casually dismisses all of Gil’s enthusiasm for the city of love. Yes, McAdams is basically being Regina George all over again, but this time in Paris. They meet a pair of Inez’s fancy, I-hang-out-in-art-museums friends (I get how ironic it is that I of all people am whipping out this adjective), Paul and Carol. As they spend days meandering through d’Orsay and the manicured gardens of Versaille, Inez makes casual habit of singing praises of ‘intelligent’ and ‘romantic’ Paul, all the while callously berating Gil for being less so. Understandably, Gil finds Paul an impeccably coiffed pain in the ass.

So it is that poor Gil, who pines for the romantic air of 1920s Paris in the rain (of course), finds himself bored out of his wits and generously condescend-ed upon. One evening, a slightly drunk Gil implores Inez to take a stroll through the city with him, instead of going dancing with Paul and Carol. Inez, of course, flat out refuses. Gil ends up taking said stroll by his lonesome, inebriated, self. He ends up slightly lost in a maze of cobblestone streets and dim street lights, and, defeated, ends up taking a rest on an inconspicuous flight of marble stairs beside a small street where the odd car comes and goes.

After not more than 5 minutes, what does he see but a vintage car chugging up the street. It stops by him; the door is flung open, and the passengers, decked in elaborate 1920s costume, gesture and call out to him in french to come join them. He is convinced they’ve made a mistake, but goes along anyway.

What results is a remarkable trip back in time to the 1920s, which I, like Gil, initially assumed was nothing more than an elaborate costume party. He bumps into two other Americans, who introduce themselves as Scott and Zelda (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill). Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. (Hiddleston is madly charming. And so tall.) Gil is, obviously, mind-blown and very confused, but I myself was no less excited. I felt like I was living that moment with and through Gil, who, through the confluence of some highly unusual circumstances, has managed to step back through time and come face-to-face with, no, to share a drink with, some of the greatest names in art, music, and literature. What a dream. I would turn red with excitement, had that been me. Which would’ve been embarrassing. But so. Much. Fun!!

A stunned Gil, eyes wide as porcelain dishes, returns night after night via the same mysterious car, and proceeds to meet Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Picasso (Marcel Di Fonzo Bo – he bears a striking resemblance to the enigmatic painter), Dali (Adrian Brody), Man Ray (Tom Cordier), and a host of others. Each time, I relived that excitement, right alongside Gil. I was so invested in each discovery of a new legend, I felt as if I might have been right next to Gil as he navigated these meetings, peeking over his shoulder, blushing like mad and going ‘OMG ITS PICASSO omg omg omg!!!!’.

Adrian Brody is particularly fantastic in his short stint as Dali, incredibly comical and charming. The first thing he asks Gil is, ‘What do you think of the rhinoceros?’, which is, of course, such a very Dali thing to ask. As the conversation proceeds, they are joined by Man Ray and Luis Buñuel, but Dali keeps harping on about that rhinoceros, a cheeky smile emerging from beneath that iconic moustache. Adorable. At some point, Matisse (Yves-Antoine Spoto) makes a brief appearance in Gertrude Stein’s studio, and Stein tells Gil they are planning to purchase one of his paintings for 500 francs. ‘500 francs?!‘, Gil exclaims, before inquiring if he can pick up ‘five or six of those’. Having just seen a Matisse go for 7 million pounds at a Christie’s sale, I totally get Gil. Totally.

Gil meets big name after big name, but only one person truly makes a deep impression on his heart, and that happens to be a woman whose face has been preserved in world-renowned paintings, but whose name would barely cause a stir. And that is none other than Adriana (Marion Cotillard), muse of painters from Modigliani to Picasso, and who swiftly captures Gil’s dreaming heart.

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Paris at night, city of love (if you ignore the occasional shady character in the dark corners)

Cotillard is breathtakingly alluring, delicate, and emanates that special charm that only French women seem to have. A cigarette between her dainty fingers has none of the bold crudeness and vulgarity it normally does, but looks as natural as a perfectly-poised piece of jewellery. Her accent, smooth and velvety, is probably best compared to silky, thick, hot chocolate on a rainy day. The fashion, on Adriana as with everyone else from the 1920s, is fascinating and delightful. Real effort was taken to recreate the vibrancy and vitality of the era, and on each actors’ part, they have obviously done a painstaking job of imagining what these legendary names, normally only seen on the covers of books or signatures on the corners of paintings, might have been as living, breathing, people.

As Gil gets to know each unique character intimately, he begins to get a sense of something bigger, some crucial piece of knowledge about life, nostalgia, and the inevitable progress of time. At one point, Gil and Adriana skip further back in time, and find themselves in the Parisian Belle Époque. Art was flourishing, and it was the period of the Impressionists; they meet Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaugain, and Degas (Vincent Menjou Cortes, Olivier Rabourdin, François Roustain) at a buzzling cabaret. Adriana falls in love with the era, and begs Gil to stay with her there, never to return to the 1920s. Gil reveals to Adriana that he actually harks from 2010, and tries to reason with her that, through his experience, one can forever find faults with their present, whichever present that may be, and that there will always be another ‘golden age’ to chase. ‘There are no antibiotics here!’ he tells her in exasperation, but she doesn’t understand. They part there, and Gil reluctantly returns to modern day Paris by himself.

There is a bit more of an ending, but I shan’t break that to you. This whole post has been one whole spoiler, so I’ll save a little morsel for you.

 The film is more than just a whimsical tour through 1920s Paris in the rain, and all the delightful (for some, delightfully drunk) characters that twirled through its gas-lit streets and dancing halls. What Gil learns, as the audience, I think, does too, is that nostalgia for a time before us is always in part a fantasy that the people in that time did not experience equally. People are never satisfied; there is always some place better, a better era, a better partner. Anything can be contested with not much effort. Maybe you think that your creativity would flow more freely if you were sat before a Burlesque performance, in the company of the Impressionists in top hats, instead of in a Starbucks with your name misspelt on a paper cup. Or that you would find a superior kind of love in a Parisian cafe at midnight, with soft Jazz playing, instead of through swiping right on a dead, lifeless, screen. Admittedly, the latter example is hard to argue with. The point, however, is that we are not Gil – we can’t hop back through time each day at midnight. And even Gil had always to return to the present reality for each new day. We are only given one present, one reality, and we might as well make the best of it instead of ever pining for a time past, which, honestly, is probably viewed through rose-tinted glasses instead of as a sobering reality.

Coming out of a degree, bidding goodbye to student-hood and saying a timid hello to working-life, no-London-life, and all the big scary unknowns that come with it, I’m having a timely encounter with this film. London is to me what Paris is to gil; although, actually, Paris also is to me what Paris is to Gil. I know I will always, always, miss London, and the life I’ve had here. It’s been exhilarating, joy-filled, adventure-laden, pleasantly chaotic at times but also gifting the deepest, most satisfying quiet moments. I’ve not been looking forward to going back, but what I do know is that I must go forward. London, however sad I may be to admit it, is past. Now, my life has to be built back home again, and I have to learn to be happy, and find my joys in an entirely different circumstances. All I have is the one present, and I want to make it the best present. I have to learn to be content wherever I find myself.

On a lighter note, let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge the fact that Rachel McAdams is once again playing the role of a time traveler’s wife (The Time Traveler’s Wife; this film; About Time). It’s like they can’t write a movie about a man who gallivants through time without bringing her on board as well.

Me Thinks: I told my boyfriend all about this film, and he wasn’t as enthusiastic as I was, partly because names like Hemingway and Dali weren’t quite common knowledge to him, as I suspect might be the case for lots of other people as well. Granted, if they had made a version of this film that orbited around the biggest names in Science in the 1920s, I would’ve been a fish out of water, and a pretty bored one at that. So this might not be the film for everyone, though I would definitely recommend you to give it a try, especially if those big names listed above ring a bell with you. It’s fun and lighthearted, but poignant as well, with an underlying message that is important for anyone, in any time, whether you’re living life with renewed zest each day, or constantly moaning about the prospect of greener grass.

Of course, it’s also always a charm to take a twirl through beautiful, captivating, Paris, in whichever era. One of the most beautiful cities I have ever had the pleasure of visiting, and I relish every chance I have to relive my memories of that magical place.

Cheers (to time, and timely messages! and to Paris. Eternal Paris.) x

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TGR: Rainbow bagels

A couple of months ago, rainbow bagels burst into my life, opening my eyes to a kaleidoscopic world of colour that made my life up till then seem as dull and monochrome as a minimalist penguin. I first read about them on buzzfeed, and found out that, of course, they were born in NYC, a city where even the bagels from the droll street-side carts are better than decent. Scot Rosillo, at The Bagel Shop in New York, is the father of these magical foodstuffs. This being the hyper-connected world it is, it didn’t take long for the colours to waft across the Atlantic and find their way into the eager bakeries of (east) London. Famously, the Bagel Shop on Brick Lane has taken on the rainbow, but they put their usual savoury spreads in them, and pardon me if I can’t imagine salt beef in a rainbow bagel.

So anyway, today the BFF and I decided to head to Rinkoff’s Bakery in Whitechapel (famous for their ‘crodoughs’ – essentially cronuts) to try these little delights.

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Taste the rainbow!

Charming, aren’t they?!

First things first, they really are little delights.They are a bit wee. But they more than make up for that with the colours, oh the colours! The aesthetic really lives up to they hype, as you can see. They sit pretty in a basket on the counter, beckoning to one as one enters. ‘Heather!‘, they squealed, ‘Buy me!!’.

I did as they pleaded and ordered one to eat in. The nice guy behind the counter asked, would I like anything in them? I hesitantly glanced through the list of fillings on their chalkboard menu – egg mayo, cream cheese, smoked salmon, etc. I thought I may have to resort to a savoury filling, but then nice guy swooped in to save the day with the suggestion: ‘how about oreo cream cheese?’ Uh, yes please. They also offer pink marshmallow filling, which is very pretty indeed. Rach had it half-and-half and I decided to ‘keep it simple’ (my ass!) and go for just oreo. At 80p for a plain and £2.50 for a filled one, they aren’t too taxing on the wallet, which is quite a relief.

Now, the taste. The all important tastebud evaluation. Well, they don’t taste like normal bagels to me. They veer more towards the bread side of things, which is a little odd, really. Bit dry, whereas I like my bagels really dense (in stark contrast to how I like my people). The oreo cream cheese is pretty swell but after a few bites it just tasted like cream cheese. Overall not bad, but certainly not as exciting as it looks.

BUT, they remained beautiful till the very end.

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Yeah I had a crodough too. What? It’s been a long and hard week!

Me thinks: A really fun novelty treat, but not quite matching up in taste. Definitely try it once at least, and sprinkle some rainbow in your life, but I don’t think I’m going for these again – a plain ol’ bagel is more my cup of tea.

Cheers (to colourful sundays!) x


Rinkoffs Bakery

222-226 Jubilee St
London
E1 3BS

Whitechapel or Stepney Green station

TGR: Murakami’s ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’

I’m re-reading ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running‘ (henceforth referred to in this post as WITAWITAR), and it’s lovely as usual. This is the 3rd time or so that I’m reading it, and believe it or not that’s actually a small number of re-reads for my Murakami collection. I’ve read 1Q84 at least 4 times, Norwegian Wood around 4 or 5, and I desperately want to re-read my Kafka, but for all my hopes and prayers it isn’t turning up anywhere. Anyway, with this 3rd reading of WITAWITAR I’m re-discovering all sorts of nice bits that I didn’t notice before.

For anyone of you who have read a Murakami novel and been both wondrously enchanted and simultaneously terrified of it’s bizzareness, much too terrified to try another one, maybe WITAWITAR is the book for you. It’s a non-fiction piece, written in real-time over 1 and a half years, about Haruki Murakami’s passion – obsession, even – about running. As the title might, y’know, suggest. It’s casual, funny, lighthearted and yet profound in its study of everyday life. A real good read, in other words. If you’re a Murakami fan, it’s also so wonderful to be able to read Murakami speaking as himself, and you feel like this is a little window opened into the life and mind of a very admirable man and novelist.

I’m still early on in the book, and am at the chapter where Murakami writes, simply, yet evocatively and beautifully – the usual – about how he became a novelist. He recalls the afternoon of April 1, 1978, where, watching a baseball match at Jingu stadium, the thought suddenly hits him – ‘You know what? I could try writing a novel‘. He goes on to write Hear the Wind Sing (handwritten on 200 pages of manuscript paper)(!!!), and noncommittally sends it off to a new writer’s prize. Despite this being his very first literary attempt, he wins, of course, because he is amazing. Pinball comes next, written, as with the first novella, at the same time as he juggles the responsibilities of running a jazz bar. After these both get shortlisted for the prestigious Akutagawa prize, he begins to seriously consider a life as a novelist, and takes the massive risk of closing the bar to focus on writing. Of this venture is borne A Wild Sheep’s Chase, his first full novel and, coincidentally,the first Murakami I ever read, the one that pulled me head-first into his wierd, twisted and wonderfully macabre world, and I’ve been falling deeper into this fascination ever since. The rest of the story, well, you’ll know how it went once you’ve been into a bookstore and seen the number of titles in his name.

You may wonder, what has all this have to do with running? Well, as Murakami writes at the beginning, running is such a big part of his life that it’s almost inextricable from every other aspect of it – whether it be the novels, his relationships, or the banalities of his daily grind. He continues on to write about running, but also provides substantial coverage of his work and life.

Anyway, the point I want to make here is that this chapter made me think of how silly Murakami is. How silly a man must be, to not be able to see his own genius; to not identify the extraordinary talent involved in writing something led by little more than instinct, and yet produce from that literary masterpieces! From the book it is apparent he does not think much of his talent; not in a condescending or self-bashing manner, or, worse, in a manner that is meant to evoke sympathy or assuring compliments. Simply in a manner that thinks, hey, I write novels, they’re pretty good, ah, great! Perhaps I speak only for myself, but his novels have become such a big part of my life that I simply cannot consider his writing any small feat, or dismiss it as ordinary. Never have I come across anyone who could, with a configuration of the simplest words and phrases, write as powerfully and compellingly as he does. Every single time I’ve turned the last page of any of his books, my mind has been so completely reoriented that it feels like I’ve been physically moved. His words breaks the perfectly smooth cube of my mind into 27 pieces and proceeds to shift them about like a rubik’s cube. For this reason I can read them over and over again, never tiring of any. And my mind has never returned into the initial perfect state of the completed rubik’s cube, which is not bad, not bad at all – in fact, I’m thankful for it! I am endlessly grateful for all the many ways Murakami’s stories have changed my life.

Me thinksWITAWITAR is a work of subtle brilliance, but then again, most, if not all, of Haruki Murakami’s books are. If you’ve never tried any, I urge you to do so. If you don’t like his enigmatic style, you can always put the book down and never return to his world of writing again. But if the opposite happens, and you fall in deeply in love as I do, then I’m sure Murakami’s works will change your life too, shaking it up and tossing it around.

Cheers (to lines read and distances treaded!) x

TGR: Valentines!

Yesterday while sitting at Starbucks, with a pile of books slightly interrupting my view of Jess sat across from me, a small thought creeped into my head from the back door where all questionable thoughts enter from: Give yourself a break, it’s Valentines tomorrow!

For a moment I was about to shut my page without even so much as making a dog-ear, when I wondered – so what if it’s Valentines? It’s not even a real holiday! WHAT COULD THE BIG DEAL BE? IS THIS WORTH STOPPING ESSAY WORK FOR??

See the thing is, I love Valentines. I simply just do. It’s in February, for one, which is always a pretty nice month, in terms of weather, lack of pending examinations, etc. I also love flowers, and during this period you see flowers everywhere; though, admittedly, a minority are severely lacking in taste. Blue roses are a HELL NO. It’s also nice to have a day to celebrate love! Whether romantic, platonic, or familial (is there such a term? Familial love?), it’s nice to have a day set aside to make sure those you love know you love them.

I can already see most of you, especially the men, God bless your stone cold hearts, rolling your eyes. I’m all too well acquainted with the argument: Why do we need a special day to show someone we love them? We can do it any day and everyday! Well, sure, but until you show up everyday with a bouquet in hand or prepare a home-cooked meal regularly, just as a nice gesture, maybe try taking another approach to the holiday spirit. The truth is that, when you care about someone over the long term, it’s too easy to slide into comfortable monotony, and although this does nothing to discount the love between two people, one day a year of spontaneity, exceptional effort and general mushiness should always be quite welcome. Perhaps you think it’s unnecessarily extravagant, but I suppose it’s extravagant in the same way that Christmas, or New Year’s, or even a Birthday is always, to a certain extent, ‘unnecessary’ fanfare, but sometimes you just do it because it’s nice and kind of fun to indulge in.

Of course there are those who will say, Valentines is not for me, I’m single. O that dreaded word in the middle of February – single. Well, can I say that I think Valentines (as with life) is what you make of it, and there are many many more kinds of love than romance. Sometimes when I cuddle my dog I think about how much more I love her than I love some humans, although I also remind myself not to mention that to said humans. I loved Valentines even when I was single, mostly because in school it was cleverly directed into Friendship day, which I suppose aided in teenagers exchanging gifts and balloons instead of holding hands and getting handsy in the science labs. Throughout the years it was always a day where I felt happy, and excited, and generally caught up in high spirits. I never felt lonely or wanting of anything more than I had, which, back then, was just lots of wonderful friends. I also stuffed myself on chocolate and we all know chocolate has endorphins and endorphins make you EVEN happier. Wheeeeeee.

Me thinks: I hope that wherever you are and whoever you are with this Valentines, you feel loved, but more importantly that you feel capable of loving, because I think the latter is sometimes a far greater blessing. I hope everyone you love is there with you, whether in person or in spirit, whether there to offer a tight hug, or simply as a memory and a whisper on the wind. And I encourage you, most of all, to keep an open mind, see past the capitalist agendas, and adopt this as a day to show the important few that they are just that: important, essential to your happiness, and worthy of a little effort on the one day a year that’s set aside for that little bit extra.

Cool tip: If you haven’t tried the Love letter button on Facebook messenger, do! Also, Yahoo mail (yeah, not 100% sure why I’m still using Ymail) has a little button that lets you customize your emails into cheesy love letters. Too much fun.

Cheers (to singles, pairs, furries, and everything and everyone in between!)


Quick shoutout to my Valentines:

Thankful each day for everyone of you. x

 

TGR: The Goldbergs

During the grim winter days, when the sun decides to take a hiatus from its job at sustaining life and high spirits, and Night surprises you at how early it shows up to the party, one must find ways to keep one’s sanity intact. I would love to say that, being the intellectual and sensible woman I am, I choose to while away the many hours of darkness at my desk, reading, writing, and generally investing in personal growth and development. In the background, soft classical music plays. I also have a roaring fireplace and wear a velvet robe.

Instead, I spend these hours curled up in bed, swathed thick in many layers of clothing, and watching TV. Lots of TV. I move as little as possible and my beverage of choice is wine. There is no fireplace, but the heater is on at full power and makes my face turn an embarrassing and frankly quite perplexing shade of red.

For all the kinds of degenerate forms this vivid description calls to mind, there is one upside. The hours I spend lost to the droning of the television means I sometimes strike TV gold: a show that’s actually good. Now, we all know that TV is filled with many a useless show and even more uninspiring and unsavoury characters; if you need an example, consider that Kim Kardashian has released a book of selfies. It’s called Selfish. And yes, they’re all her selfies. Need I say more? That cringey nonsense aside, we are here to talk about the TV that’s not quite as ridiculous, so here it is:

THE GOLDBERGS.

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The premise of the show is simple but intriguing: as a child growing up in the 80s, the show’s creater, Adam Goldberg, was the proud owner of a camcorder, with which he made clips of life with his big, boisterous, dysfunctional-but-fun family. Fast forward to 2013, and Goldberg has since teamed up with ABC to turn all that footage into the basis for this TV series. The real members of the family are all represented by a corresponding TV character: Adam, played by little Sean Giambrone; Barry, his older brother, played by Troy Gentile; Murray and Beverly Goldberg, his fumbling dad and over-enthusiastic mother, played by Jeff Garlin and Wendy McLendon-Covey (seen also in Bridesmaids) respectively. There’s also pops, Adam’s cheeky, playboy grandpa, the effervescent George Segal. The one discrepancy is where Adam’s brother Eric is made ‘Erica’ for the show, played by Hayley Orrantia. Not a bad move; having the rebellious, snarky Erica around spices up the show’s plot a great deal.

Each episode centres around a real-life event; we know this because at the end of every episode, Goldberg throws in a short clip of the original video, and often the scenes in the show are remarkably and hilariously similar to the real events. These little snippets at the back are so cool and lovely to watch, and make me feel nostalgic for a time before I was even born.

 

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Beverly Goldberg – the boss of everything and everyone.

The centre of the family, and arguably the whole show, is Beverly Goldberg, Adam’s strong-headed, overly-caring, overly-involved, overly-anxious mother, who also happens to be brilliant at providing for three defiant children – who take pains to wiggle past her all-encompassing cares and concerns – and a husband who spends most of his day in front of the TV, in his tighty-whiteys. She reaches as far as she can into each child’s private lives, attempting to influence everything from the friends they make to the clothes they wear. When Barry finally learns to drive, she hands him a personally colour coded map of the places he can and cannot drive in, divided into zones. When Erica has a friend to sleepover, Beverly crouches by the vent to listen in on their conversations. When Adam tries to learn to dance to impress his date (o young love), she hops in with him. Beverly is EVERYWHERE, but it’s also incredibly obvious that she does all she does out of immense and unconditional love for her family. What I love so much about her is how startlingly similar she is to my own mother, who is my best friend, house-manager, chef, chauffeur, guidance counselor, and Shazam, all at once. Yeah, Shazam, like the app. My mum can tell me a song is ‘by the Ke$ha girl’ (in all manner of condescending tones) way before I’ve even heard the song. I suspect many of you might find Beverly a pretty accurate mirror of your own mothers as well.

 

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Barry Goldberg gon’ teach YOU how to roller-skate and KA RA TE. *kick kick*

Then there’s the amazing Barry, who, I’m slightly ashamed to admit, is quite an accurate reflection of my role in my family. Boasting slight emotional instability and an unshakeable confidence in his less-than-mediocre talents and personality traits, Barry thinks himself the King of the Universe, Knower of All Knowledge and King of Karate. He is hilariously unsuccessful at many things, but his ability to always pick himself up and encourage himself that he is, indeed, special and amazing, is surely inspiring to all. Troy Gentile does a stunning job at bringing Barry to life, and, as we see in the original clips, the REAL Barry Goldberg was quite the personality himself.


The epitome of awesomeness, Barry Goldberg, as his rapper, break-dancer, alter-ego, Big Tasty

BARRY IS SO MY FAVOURITE PERSON EVER. 

The others are worth mentioning as well, but Beverly and Barry are the real stand-outs, so I think I should let you discover the family in its entirety for yourselves.

The charm of the whole show lies in the dysfunctionality of the family – in this sense, other shows may appear to have ‘been there, done that’, but I think the fact that this is all true (rather true) makes it better than most. The characters are lovable and engaging, and no one character is ‘too much’ of him or herself as to become overbearing.

To top it all off, the show is set in the EIGHTIES, so prepare for a whirlwind of colourful sweaters, pouffy hair-dos, side-ponytails and AN AMAZING SOUNDTRACK! I now have ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot‘ looping in my head over and over and I can’t make it stop, though I’m not sure if I want it too, anyways.

Me thinks: The show is 3 seasons in and I’m still chewing through Season 1, so I’ll get back to you ASAP if its allure starts to dwindle, although I’m quite sure it won’t. Each member of the family is a star in their own right, a real joy to watch, and it almost makes you feel like you’re right there in the kitchen with them, watching Murray (affectionally) calling all his kids ‘morons’ and Beverly aggressively articulating her hatred for the microwave.

If you’re in the UK, The Goldbergs currently has episodes from season 1 showing on E4.

Cheers (to raps, relatives, and reminiscence!) x

 

P.S.: It wouldn’t make sense not to end with this:

TGR: Waterstones (Tottenham Court Rd)

While running some errands in central London today, I found my new favourite spot in town. It is lovely and warm and WONDERFUL and absolutely worth writing about, so, tada!

I was actually in town to pick something up and visit two galleries (that are part of the Condo collective exhibition across 8 galleries in London), but neither was particularly engaging. Since both were in Soho, I figured I could take a trip to Foyles, because Foyles is awesome, and there should always be time for Foyles.

Imagine my dismay, then, when I emerged from a dank alleyway to discover that FOYLES IS GONE! The iconic red signboard on Charing Cross road now reads: O YE S. Oh NO is what it is. Devastating!

As it turns out, Foyles did not leave. Foyles did not disappoint. On the contrary, it shifted down the road to a huger, gooder, swankier location. Which sounds and looks pretty heavenly.

Sadly, I was only to find this out about 5 minutes ago as I sat at home in my PJs and googled it. Back in the afternoon, reeling from the presumed loss of Foyles, I wandered down the road, past TCR station, and not 5 minutes away I stumbled upon a brand new Waterstones in the first floor of the big black building that houses Odeon. Of course this was quite a relief; seems I was going to get my literary fix after all. From afar I spotted the ubiquitous ‘W’ sign sticking out like a hitchhiker’s thumb; a chalkboard at the entrance read ‘Foyled again? Maybe we can help …‘, and in my head a collection of voices chimed, hooray!

Walking in, it looked a lot like heaven. Actually, that’s probably what it is: This Waterstones is heaven incarnate, and it’s only a tube ride away. In their typical style, shelves of books line the walls, while selected titles are gathered on tables in various categories. The lighting is warm and comforting; the array of wooden furniture calls to mind a snug but stylish Scandinavian residence. From the ground floor, the cafe on the second floor is visible through glass panels, and a sign points out that upstairs is the world of coffee and fiction. I’ve never been big on non-fiction (what a strange thing to say, huh), so I trooped upstairs.

The second floor was smaller, but equally lovely: again, wooden furniture was scattered around, both to peruse the books and to sit down with a coffee. After poring over a handful of synopses and noting some pretty covers, I ordered a hot chocolate and sat down to mull over life.

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the view.

The coffee bar is small and the menu simple, but I personally think it more than suffices. An extensive, fancy menu doesn’t seem congruent with a bookstore, where, presumably, sensible people hang (*eyebrows**eyebrows*). Evidently, the staff were still ironing out some bumps in the service and finding their footing a little: my hot chocolate took way too long to be served, especially since it was self-service and I had to hover awkwardly while waiting for it. If she was a tad fumbly, the barista more than made up for it by being sweet, and besides, a bookstore isn’t quite the place to rush through things.

Disappointingly, the hot chocolate was, quite frankly, bad. I had trouble finishing it: the chocolate wasn’t very good, and the whole milk just overwhelmed the flavour so it just ended up tasting like sweet milk. Hopefully their coffee is better, but anyway, from my own experience working in a cafe, these things improve with time.

In addition to a second floor, there’s also a basement. Another sign points out that the basement is for, among other things, the travel section, and a BAR! How cool is that? Cafe, bar, books: Told you this was heaven.

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You had me at ‘cocktails’.

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The vibe is gud and the happy is many!

Downstairs, I found a selection of art, cooking, and travel books. In the middle of the floor, as pictured above, is a bigger seating area than upstairs, and the dim lighting suggests more of an evening venue than a daytime spot. I slowly browsed the shelves, and the collection was great, so vast that there’s definitely something for everyone in there. Again here the staff seemed to be fumbling slightly: I heard a crash and glass shattering, and then the waiter sheepishly came out to tell the man at the table nearest to me that his drink would be coming in a bit, just that they’d dropped the one they’d already made. Oh well! No big inconveniences I suppose, and its rather nice to catch an establishment in their early days, when it’s still wobbling ever so slightly on its feet.

Me thinks: So cool! I adore it (evidently) and am defo coming back, hopefully for evening drinks sometime. I wish more bookstores would branch out like this; this store, in particular, did it in such a well-rounded manner. It helps that everyone working there has such a sunny disposition, real pleasures to be around. A sacred haven away from the bustle of central London, you’re sure to find something here to like, whether its words on a page, coffee in a cup, or something less innocent to rub out your week’s troubles.

Cheers (to books, brews & booze!) x


Waterstones

19-20 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 1BJ

Website here.

also …


(The new and improved) Foyles

107 Charing Cross Road (the old Central St Martins college)

 

 

TGR: The Danish Girl

the-danish-girl-poster

In London, the perks of being a student abound. Besides getting discounts everywhere, from high street stores to world class museums, there’s also the wonderful ‘£5 Tuesdays’ at Barbican films. Every tuesday I spend not at a £5 film seems like a tuesday wasted, so despite being by myself today I decided to catch The Danish Girl. And it was worth so much more than a fiver.

I’ve seen the poster around, of course, and I’ve heard the awards buzz about the film. Its hard to ignore Eddie Redmayne‘s immaculately made-up face, really, no matter how fast you’re tearing through the tube interchange tunnels. Besides the fact that Redmayne stars, and that there’s cross dressing involved, I knew little else. But, it’s Eddie Redmayne. It can’t go that wrong. He’s a true world class actor; and besides, those cheekbones are a pleasure in themselves – 100% sure they could cut through paper.

The story revolves around the lives of the married couple Einar and Gerda Wegener (played by Redmayne and Alicia Vikander, brilliant also as Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth, respectively), painters in 1920s Copenhagen. One day Gerda, a portrait artist, enlists Einar’s assistance in donning stockings and heels to sit for her, in place of a model who has cancelled at the eleventh hour. This sparks a game where they together create ‘Lili’, Einar’s female alter ego – Einar, of course, in cross dress. They attend a number of events and introduce Lili as Einar’s cousin; soon, however, Einar realizes that the female Lili is more and more a part of him, an expression of the woman he believes he has always been inside, until one day Einar slips away completely. Gerda at first rejects this transition entirely, of course – ‘Lili doesn’t exist, we were playing a game’ – but as Einar becomes more and more woman, Gerda is forced to accept the change, love Lili for who she is, and who Einar has become.

Firstly, the film is composed of breathtakingly beautiful shots. The story unfolds over three incredibly picturesque cities: Copenhagen, Paris, Dresden. The fashion is so elegant, with the men in perfectly cut suits, and the ladies in stunning Flapper pieces and flawlessly coiffed hairdos. Everything Vikander dons, as Gerda, is magic. The 1920s cityscapes are captured perfectly and with care. Its a plus that everyone in the film is so beautiful, too: you won’t miss the gorgeous Amber Heard as the dancer Ulla, Gerda’s best friend.

The story, though, is not an easy one to watch. If you’re looking for a breezy, feel-good movie, this is not the one for you. Redmayne is a master of human emotion, and captures with extreme tenderness and intimacy the traumatic turmoil Einar faces as he copes with his conflicting identities. With every coy smile, shaky gaze and that ever-so-slight tremor of the lips, Redmayne brings Einar’s character to life so brilliantly, yet so sadly. In fact, its almost difficult to believe that a fully male actor could so accurately navigate the path toward transgenderism, with an understanding that eludes even the most empathetic individual. Redmayne himself has spoken quite publicly about the efforts he took to fully step into character, and they are quite remarkable, above and beyond the standard duties of a run-of-the-mill actor. The film is not one about war, and yet it somehow is: the battle is one of emotions, the violence self-inflicted through the unbearable repression of what one believes is a natural, primal instinct. Many times the scenes made me uncomfortable, not because I was offended or embarrassed, but rather because of how true it was. You would be unwise to discount Vikander’s role – throughout, we see her evolve from the cheerful, carefree wife, to the confused, defiant partner, and finally to the strong character that refuses to flail in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles to the marriage. Gerda’s pain was so evident, her internal conflict as important as that of Einar’s. Together, these two brought such poignancy and depth to the film.

On a lighter note, everyone’s crisp, british accents, particularly Vikander’s, were so lovely to listen to. One thing that confused me from the beginning though, was why a bunch of danes in the 1920s all spoke impeccable british english – although, I suppose, if they all spoke in danish the film might be quite incomprehensible.

The film is so important, I think, because it makes people think about how flimsy and questionable the binaries that we set out for identities are. There is a scene early on where Einar (still Einar), tortured by his confusion, visits a brothel, where he pays to watch a prostitute and attempts to mimic her gestures, learning to adopt her femininity. It really makes you wonder: what makes a woman a woman, and a man a man? Is it in the way we delicately choose a fish at the market (part of the film), or the demure poses we strike? Is it in the way we wear a skirt instead of trousers, ‘beachy waves’ instead of backcombs? Why should anyone be repulsed when someone tries to break the mould?

Another difficult part was watching Einar visit different ‘doctors’, who label his condition as everything from hormone imbalance to schizophrenia and pure insanity, and try in vain to ‘cure’ him. Today, of course, a transgender woman would hardly be seen as anything close to insane, except by some extremists. To think that what is (generally) widely accepted today as a human right and freedom of expression, was once classified as a mental disorder, again makes me wonder if I am quite sane. Or if anyone is, for that matter. I’ve encountered the notion that physical disability is relative, but what of sanity? If there is a spectrum, who gets to decide where the median point is? As the film shows, people get hurt when we mistakenly adopt human preference as natural obligation.

The film also contains what I consider to be the most beautiful line I’ve ever encountered in movie history:

(Einar to Gerda)

‘You made me beautiful. Now you’re making me strong. Such power in you.’

I’ve heard that many wept buckets in the film, presumably because of the pain Lili suffered, but for me it was these lines that struck the most: lines uttered in gladness and gratitude. It reminds me that there is strength to be drawn, and joy to be had, in human relationships, and that is where we find hope even in the darkest of days.

Me thinks: Nothing has moved me so powerfully in such a long time, which is also why I haven’t been writing. An incredible, incredible film, but not necessarily for everyone. Already, during the movie it made me flinch to think of what close-minded, stubborn critics might hurl against a film about transgenderism. Unless you are prepared to watch it with openness, and to acknowledge that, no matter what your stance on gender is, at its essence there is love, love unyielding and unconditional, then you’re better off watching something else.

Watch the trailer here:

Cheers (to bravery, love, and Barbican tuesdays) x


 

P.S.: I found a great article on the real Lili Elbe, whose story the movie is loosely based upon. Read it here.