Sunday, January 30, 2011

The King's Swan

Natalie Portman in Black Swan (Photo credits here)

I love this time of year for movies. In the run up to awards season all the big guns start getting released. Yes we've already had the pleasure of Inception and The Social Network (not seen and on the LoveFilm list/seen and loved, respectively) and the superb Toy Story 3, but January is the time when the front runners get their time to shine on the silver screens for us to see what all the Hollywood noise has been about.

Last night I went to see Black Swan. I was looking forward to it because I loved the idea of a thriller set in the gruelling world of professional ballet. The pain they put on their bodies, the pressure of a cutthroat profession, the beautiful dancing and costumes and stories they tell. OH THE MELODRAMA! Surely this would be right up my alley?

First things first - props to Natalie Portman, holy crap, she puts the method in method acting. I read somewhere she lost 20 pounds to play the role of Nina and trained as a ballet dancer for a year before filming started and boy did it show. It was an intense and believable performance of a young woman carrying the burden of prima ballerina. Loved Winona's brief appearance as the cast-aside hasbeen fallen star of the New York ballet (especially in that scene - at the risk of getting too spoilery - I haven't been able to go near a nail file since), and Mila Kunis was a welcome laid-back rebellious foil to Portmans uptight lead, and it was nice to see her not in comedy mode. And she can also do lesbian sex scenes too, so you know, there's something for everyone.

Mirrors were used in nearly every scene to convey the split personality themes, and the use of black and white and dark and light with flashes of (literally) blood red to punctuate key moments in Nina's descent into madness were the right aesthetics to set the mood. If anything I felt the soundtrack borrowed too much from the book of cheesy old-skool horror (scary moment = LOUD CHORDS!), but I can forgive that, as the storyline was so gripping (butt-clenchingly so) and the cinematography so gothicly gorgeous.

 Colin Firth in The King's Speech (Photo credits here)

The other Big Movie That Everyone Is Talking About is The King's Speech. I went to see this a couple of weeks ago and loved loved loved it.

I've never been Colin Firth's biggest fan. I mean don't get me wrong, he's not on the hate list (see: Tom Cruise, Nic Cage, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley - and that's just for starters) but he never really struck me as a stand out actor.  I was never part of the whole Mr Darcy wet shirt brigade, thought he was alright in Bridget Jones, pretty inoffensive in Mamma Mia (although nothing was more offensive in that than Pierce Brosnan's singing, but that's a whole other story). But then along came a A Single Man and I saw him in a whole new light. Well, a whole new different kind of role to be precise.

This guy can act. And he's proven it all over again in The King's Speech. I've never suffered from a stammer but I've heard from people that have that its the most suffocating, frustrating feeling. Firth really portrays the lifelong struggle of a pretty ordinary guy, with a loving wife and doting daughters, suffering but muddling through with an almost dibilitating afflication, when fate deals him a cruel blow. For this ordinary guy just so happens to be a member of the Royal Family, and is forced to take on one of the most public roles of all - the King of England - against one of the most turbulent political times of recent history. The country is on the brink of war, his brother has abdicated, and the world needs to see England has a strong confident ruler.

Firth brings out the frustration, the fear and the tragedy of this poor man and his situation. But also demonstrates the inner strength in the character. It is a heartbreakingly real performance and had me laughing and crying, sometimes at the same time. Helena Bonham-Carter is, as always, fantastic as his loyal and forthright wife, our dear old Queen Mum, and Geoffery Rush is also excellent as the antipodean voice coach who, after initially getting off on the wrong foot, went on to become Bertie's lifelong friend and confidante.

I really hope The King's Speech does well this awards season and flies the flag for Brit cinema this year. Roll on the Oscars on Feb 27.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Work In Progress

Give Me Work To Last Me All Of My Life

Today I thought I'd share my current project that I'm working on. Mostly on Sunday afternoons in front of movies I've seen a thousand times before (today's offerings: Muriel's Wedding and, er, The Wedding Singer. Wow, if we could just ignore the subtext there. I'm sure it means nothing)

This is a cross-stitch tapestry, a set that I got for Christmas from my super housemate and even more amazing friend, Holly.

Hanging by a thread

The set comes with everything you need to get started: pattern, backing fabric, tapestry thread and needle - which meant that I picked it up a couple of days after Christmas and could just get cracking.

It's also huge. You can't really tell from these pictures but this is shaping up to be a substantial piece of work. I have no idea where I'm going to put it, but I know it's going to look beautiful. I've always loved cross-stitch since I was little. There's something about the rhythmic back and forth motions, and the neatness of the tiny little crosses all lined up in a row that appeals to me. I haven't done any for ages as it kinda got superceded by knitting in my craft repertoire but I'm really glad that I have this mammoth project to get me back into it for a little bit.

Rob Ryan and Emily Peacock. Match made in craft heaven. 

As you can see, it's a set that's a collaboration between Rob Ryan and Emily Peacock. Which made it the perfect gift for me. I've been aware of Rob Ryan's work for a long time now. He usually works with paper, and has the most intracate, delicate, touching of designs. If you ever get the opportunity, please check out some of his work. Or better yet, buy it.

Needle your way out of this one

Emily Peacock, I hadn't heard of until just before Christmas when some of her tapestry cushion designs were featured on Kirstie's Homemade Home. Or it might have been Kirstie's Homemade Christmas. Or Relocation Relocation. Who knows, but Kirstie Allsopp was definitely involved. Holly and I both were watching that programme and commented on how we loved the cushions featured. Apparently, she originally tried to get the kit to make those cushions but they had all sold out, so picked up this one instead. I'm actually happy about that because that means that a) I get to make my very own Rob Ryan and b) I actually prefer this design.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must get back to it. This tapestry won't work itself you know. I hope to show you the finished article soon.

Plus also, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are totally about to get. it. on. Woop woop!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

War and Peace

NNNEEEEAAAAOOWWW. That's a plane noise. 

I last went to the Imperial War Museum when I was 14 on a school trip and it's always been on my list of places to return to since. I was really taken with the exhibits on display back then, particularly the Blitz and Trench "experiences" - for a kid with an extremely vivid imagination it was a fantastic way of bringing the dusty history books from school to life.

So this weekend I finally went back. I remember the atrium with the wartime planes hanging from the rafters being impressive back then, and that certainly hasn't changed. But the main thing I really wanted to see on this visit was the Holocaust Exhibition.

It was certainly not easy viewing, and I have no pictures of that exhibit as it just didn't feel appropriate, its such an emotive and horrific subject, but I would very definitely recommend it. One of the most horrific things for me is how the Nazi beliefs became so widespread and more and more extreme in such a relatively short amount of time, to be able to get that many people think and believe or at the very least accept that this was the right thing to do sends shivers down my spine.

So, on a lighter note (if there is such a thing in war), I found the rest of museum really really super geek-fest interesting. From the mock-up of a war time house to the sweets and toys on display from that era - I don't know what it is about that period (30s/40s) but I can't get enough of it at the moment! The politics, the fashion, and what it was like to live during that time. It's still within living memory but seems so alien to my generation as we haven't had to cope with anything remotely like that.

The perseverance of the human spirit through the most awful atrocities of war was the biggest theme I saw running through the tales that the artefacts had to tell. And that is what makes me smile. That and this poster:

Roger that

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Will I Hold It Against Her?

This caption is dedicated to photo credits 

Just so you know, I do more than bake and knit and trapse around London. I also love music and movies and spend a lot of time with both. I think it's high time that side of me got more of an airing around here. So, step forward Britney Spears, as my first subject.

Those who know me, know I love the Spears. Hell, who am I kidding, I have a healthy appetite for most things pop, diva or slightly dramatic. Which means that I have followed the car crash ride that is Britney Jean Spears' career since it started way back in 99 and I too was a fresh faced school girl with pigtails, staring at the clock and tapping my fluffy pen-topper until 3.30 rolled around.

So, this week I have mostly spent my time getting just a little bit excited about the new single which was released to the world the other day. Links have been torn down left, right and centre across the interwebs but I believe good old Perez is still working. Here, have a listen:

Well, it's no 'Toxic', but it's definitely on the right side of 'Born To Make You Happy'

I don't know what I was expecting but I'd heard loads of good stuff doing the rounds about how totally brilliant awesome it was. But, sadly, I walked away feeling underwhelmed if anything. There were bits I would give the definite thumbs up - I love the nods to dance music, and the dubstep break is genius, although I can't help but wonder at the decision of including such a reference to a genre that isn't hugely mainstream outside of the UK yet. Will America take to it? Who knows about those guys. Oh and how could I forget: 'hazaaaayyyy'?! - HELLO! - best bit of the whole song.

But I have to say, if I'm going to try and put my finger on it, the chorus is what lets it down - the melody doesn't ever really take off, and I know Britters has never demonstrated the most expressive of voices, but it is almost monotone in delivery. I think it's definitely the right direction, I am much more of a fan of her uptempo, slightly edgy stuff than the earlier more commercial offerings (think 'In The Zone' onwards, although 'Blackout' is clearly her best work - clearly being in the midst of one hott mess agrees with her, musically-speaking) but it's just missing that somethin' somethin' to push to the next level.

Shame Britney. Shame. 7/10. MUST TRY HARDER.

If anyone needs me, I'll be listening to Britney's Greatest Hits and writhing around with a python to remind myself of better days.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

My Ovaries Hurt

Tiny hoody for a tiny person

Don't jump to conclusions. I haven't been that kind of busy while I've been gone. So shhh.

Teeny tiny buttons

No, this cutest cutest knit is a wee little hoody for a friend of mine who had a baby at Easter. Yes I know, Easter was a while ago - but I have been super clever and knitted for a one-year old, so this should fit. I hope it fits. It better bloody fit.

Pocket detailing. For keeping your baby money and baby keys and baby mobile in. I think. I mean, I assume.

I finished off this little knit last night, sewing on the finishing touches, like the cute buttons and sewing the casing for the weeny waist cord to keep babies tummy warm. It's now ready to be sent to its owner, but just had to post about it before it left my hands because its so SCRUMMY CUTE. I mean, come on, even if you're not remotely interested in babies - it has to stir something in you. I mean, look at the TINY SLEEVES!

An icord. Nothing to do with Apple.

From a knitting point of view, it was really satisfying to work up. It was a Rowan pattern, called 'Jay', and had lots of interesting detail that I'd never done before, like a hood and a waist icord - so it was nice to attempt these things for the first time on a smaller version, as if it went wrong it wasn't too much hassle to put right.

Also, I don't know if I've mentioned but this thing is teeny tiny. TINY. So it was really quick to do, which is always nice for those impatient among us (i.e. me).

They even do up and everything.

Seriously the best thing I've ever knitted. My ovaries have hurt a lot but I'm sure it's been worth it.

Now, someone restrain me from contacting the nearest sperm bank.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New Year Culture

Last piece of Christmas until next year. Sad sad times.

Yesterday it was the last day of my festive break before returning to the daily grind of "normal" life. Not sure, but you might be able to tell I am really reluctant for this time of year to end, there is just a hint of that coming through. A tad!

I had returned from spending a lovely time with my family on Sunday afternoon and so had the first Bank Holiday of the new year free to do something fun!

My housemate Holly, her boyfriend Jonathan and I had decided we were going to check out the current exhibitions at the Design Museum. We had a lovely walk along the Thames from London Bridge, past Tower Bridge to get to the museum. It was a very cold, typical, steely grey, London winters day, and I think I even spied a few flakes of snow, but I have always enjoyed walking along the river.

Spotted: The backs of Holly and Jonathan (or HoJo), bottom right.

I also love Tower Bridge, I see it most mornings on my way into work and it never fails to cheer me up. It's such an iconic sight, a true London landmark. And by that I am using the Matt Groening definition of iconic - whereby if you see something in silhouette it is instantly recognisable. That's how he designed The Simpsons characters don't you know? And you can have that fact for free. Tell it at parties. Go nuts.

Le Pont de la Tour. Continental.

The exhibition we were particularly keen to see was 'Drawing Fashion'. It was a reterospective tour through a collection of artwork which charts the history of fashion illustration. It was absolutely fascinating to see the important and prominent role that this artform had for the fashion industry in the days before photography was mainstream. The 90-odd year old copies of Vogue on display behind glass from the 1910s and 1920s were amazing to view. Mainly to note how thin they were compared to the hefty tomes published on a monthly basis these days as they are now stuffed full of ads. And as photography took off in the 1930s, grew in terms of technological ability and became the default method of capturing fashion, how the role of fashion illustration changed, and what the future holds for it... all made for a very interesting afternoon.

Photography was banned in the museum itself, but Holly HANDILY bought some postcards in the gift shop of her fave illustrations, which I then duly stole in order to demonstrate what I have been waffling on about below:


I can't decide whether I prefer illustration or photography as a medium for documenting fashion collections. I am a keen photographer, and love to look at fashion photography in the likes of Vogue et al, but some of the artwork I saw on display this afternoon was absolutely stunning and I hope both still continue to have important roles in the future.

The exhibition is running until March 6th so if you are remotely interested in fashion or art, get yourself down there.

Monday, January 03, 2011


Cos nothing fuels a reboot like a cappuccino

Hi, remember me?

No? Don't blame you. I last clicked 'Publish' in Oct 2009!! That was like, a whole other decade ago. Christ.

My blogging career stalled abruptly then due to those issues with my camera I was alluding to over the last posts I wrote here. Eventually the camera gave up the ghost, and it has SHAMEFULLY taken me until now to get a camera that is good enough to enable me to slip back into the blogging saddle again.

And I've really missed it! I love photography, I love writing, and I love connecting with new people - it was my little creative outlet and I let it shrivel up and die. I'm sorry to any readers that I may miraculously still have and most of all sorry for myself. Sad times!

But, it's a new year, a new start and a reboot for There And Back Again so I want to kick off on a positive note. Let's chalk 2010 up to a camera-less blogging void, and start fresh now in 2011, with a new camera, new exciting adventures to be had, new friends to be made and hopefully reconnecting with some old ones along the way.

Here's to a Happy New Year, and a happy new era here!