Oscars special: Kings and Swans

5 reasons to love quadruple-Oscar winning film “The King’s Speech”

1. Colin Firth’s Oscar acceptance speech

2. It makes history fun. Yawn yawn King George yawn etc. Think that kings and queens and period dramas make you sleepy? This won’t.

3. It is a film about a country going through a really difficult time, and I think everyone can relate to the need for strong governance. Hint hint.

4. The attention to detail is compelling. The microphone used in the film is an exact copy of the real one which the King used, and which is property of BBC Heritage (who – rightly – wouldn’t lend it out). The costumes and sets were all perfect, and the horses were positively best in show. The cast are all outstanding, including new faces (like “the girl from Outnumbered” Ramona Marquez as Queen Elizabeth).

5.  It’s genuinely moving. So now half of the free world are claiming to have a stammer, perhaps its being used as a new bandwagon like rehab or having a Nando’s gold card. Fortunately the film has brought much needed awareness to speech disabilities which don’t usually make it into Hollywood blockbusters. There are an abundance of films (A Beautiful Mind, The Soloist etc.) about mental disabilities but very few about physical, or as the Queen Mum in the film (Helena Bonham-Carter) puts it “mechanical” ones.

I like The King’s Speech A LOT, and that’s mainly down to the talent of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush…long live the UK film industry, despite Cameron culling the organisation which made this production possible – the UK Film Council. As always, get in touch if you have any comments, queries or just want to tell me how much you love Colin Firth.


No swan songs in sight for Nat (swan) queen (cole)

– Another film I’ve recently seen is Black Swan. Went into the cinema expecting pretentious nonsense from Aronofsky (it is a ballet film after all) but actually enjoyed it a lot. Natalie Portman definitely deserved her Best Actress Oscar for her role as tormented Swan Queen Nina Sayers (I meant what I said above about mental illness being a Hollywood go-to). I digress – Black Swan was fresher and more exciting than I’d expected, despite those slightly cringeworthy lets-throw-in-a-strobe-and-put-it-all-together-in-FinalCutPro club scenes. Without giving the plot away, Portman’s dedication to her role as the dichotomised dancer is such that her year’s worth of training can easily pass for a lifetime’s work; Natalie embodies Nina because I think the audience is actually watching her own struggles and triumphs in connecting with a new art form.

If our love wasn’t sealed, just look at her oh-so-classy and dignified acceptance speech. Not a hint of Gwyneth-esque blubbery:

Natalie Portman: Have we told you Swan Lake-ly that we love you?

A few excellent eccentricities of casting, such as playing Portman off against sleazy prof Thomas LeRoy (Vincent Cassell) and ex-ballerina Winona Ryder add to the quality of the film. Just don’t call Winona’s role as a hasbeen ironic – surely taking a lead role would have been more of an irony, plus she really enjoyed it by all accounts, describing it in an interview as a “juicy little hamburger” of a role. A WINona WIN situation all round then for the subversive starlet. Really liked Mila Kunis as Lilly – unfortunately not a contender for best supporting actress but then again perhaps this thriller was a bit too leftfield to dominate the categories (nominated in 5, won in 1), even in the year of the new revamped “indie” Oscars which are currently being panned…with good reason. Viewers prone to cringing, please avert your gaze. James Franco…I used to love you…

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Sexism rolls into a new year – – Teenage Riots on VBS

Happy February, two interesting topics to share…

(Bitter)sweet FA

Unless you live in a cave and require one of these to wake you up (yes, that is a Pokeflute, deal with it) then you’ve probably heard all about the Sky Sports sexism row.

In short, two overpaid individuals – lets refer to them in shorthand as Gropey and Dopey – decided to degrade a number of individuals, all of whom were fully qualified to hold their positions in the football world, or in the case of Louise Glass (see below), were just innocents. In light of this ridiculous stain on female capability and capacity, I do feel personally victimised.

1941: they cook, they clean. 2011: they cook, they clean?

Overreaction? You may think so, but as a sort-of-half-feminist I do find it troubling that so many sports professionals and fans gave come out in support of Gray and Keys, providing anecdotes of their “good work” in order to vindicate them…all in spite of the nature of their conduct. Replace the objects of their attack for a homogynous racial/national group, and (rightly) it would be the same type of racism which has plagued the sport for years. So, why is the defamation of women any different? Attacking people for reasons of biological predisposition and social “order” and “power relationships” is as primitive and vulgar as racism, but it seems that sexism is usually discounted because its so commonplace and usually relatively benign.

The semantics of everyday life lend themselves to the 1000 BC power relations, despite the day and age we inhabit. It literally is a man’s world, but generally that’s fine, we can deal with the reminders of ‘the way it used to be’ because to do otherwise would be madness. We can’t revise the OED in its entirety, re-write history (herstory?) and Dickens and rename manholes, but we can look towards the less benign elements, i.e.: the gross physicality with which female sexuality is described. Women are still described as “blonde”, “buxom” or “single” in seemingly irrelavnt circumstances. You know the woman who Lord Strathclyde “romped” with? Yup, she was blonde, buxom and single. Oh, and she was a single mother. Bonus points for the prude patrol there. “Single” is inter alia just a  way of implying all kinds of promiscuous, careless, non-virtous things. So, the media plays a game of quid pro quo…shame a government official and also shame his mistress to! Of course, being a poor single mother who lives above a chip shop, Birgit Cunningham was unlikely to turn down tabloid money to talk about her sex life with the peer in her flat above a chip shop. See how this humiliating strategy works? In fact, I might go and re-write that Dickens novel on second thoughts. Calling Ms Cunningham a homewrecker assumes that the Lord was truly the man of the house…

I digress. Then there’s the little things. Facebook pages have sprung up in recent years commanding women to get back to the kitchen and make sandwiches/do the washing up/perform sexual acts on men in between their endless gaming sessions.

Club Sandwich: its a club to which we're all invited apparently, genomes permitting

Facebook pages are hardly the next Communist manifesto, however with so much virtual support garnered for these ‘niche’, ‘ironic’ views it seems that laughing AT women has never been so popular. Oh, just make sure you call it banter.

Of course some women don’t help themselves…

…however, the Gray/Keys situation is thus much less innocuous than the media outlets which are going into ‘3 the Sky Sports 2’ mode would like us to believe. Blame it on a Madonna-Whore complex or whatever, but the fact that these men have the support of their wives doesn’t absolve them of their disgusting behaviour. That aforementioned banter is apparently of the “lads mag” sort. So thanks for helping to advance sexist views to the next generation as well, along with openly misogynist individuals like Danny Dyer who also claim to be “just kidding”.

Case in point 1: Gray and Keys ponder over why assistant referee (operant word there being referee) Sian Massey can understand the offside rule. Perhaps because she’s a q-u-a-l-i-f-i-e-d sporting professional, lads? The bitter twosome also made bitchy remarks about successful businesswoman and Apprentice judge Karren Brady.

Case in point 2: In footage which has only come to light as a result of the comments about Mss. Massey and Brady, perv Gray asks co-presenter Charlotte Jackson for some suggestive help. Classy content as always… Ms Jackson’s nervous giggle will act as a key part of Gray’s defence. Apparently an (obviously tense) smile at a lewd comment from a station heavyweight is a get out of jail card for dirty old men everywhere.

Case in point 3: Keys embarrasses himself with vulgar, dated sexist immaturity which isn’t even thinly-veiled enough to qualify as innuendo. Worse still, the woman at the centre of is a completely random muggle so can’t hide from the public humiliation. But hoorah, common sense prevailed, she’s suing BSkyB!

…so, my question is this. What can the FA do about sexism in football? Should we just accept that the culture of the sport facilitates such problems as this scandal? Ok, perhaps that’s more than one question but whatever. In addition to these questions, should we also be ignoring sexist comments in the media/social media spheres? I’m not talking about some crazy, Utopian equality which can suddenly erase the past and all those rude Facebook pages, but give us a break. Eve caused the fall yadee yah yah, but “keeping women in their place” seems to show a lot more about the type of males our society is producing. Moreover, moving back to Gray and Keys, mourning the loss of a seven-figure salary shouldn’t mean that these men’s wives are desensitised to the real problem here. It’s a game of two halves, and they should be wholeheartedly behind the girls. Family ties and patriarchy are so 50s.

Here come the girls: 5 Forgotten Favourites from the femmes*

*mostly artists sadly no longer recording

– Post-binary gender chores is the chant du jour.

– Question the relationship a bit Man and Machine a little bit with this as a cynical soundtrack.

– ignore the Omen-esque boy and the cake iced with “All Hail Me”. It’s purposely creepy but a powerful anthem.

– best Madonna song. Subjective, moi?

– had this on loop at the age of 14. J Pearl appearing on Gossip Girl didn’t devalue the Adventurous quality of this debut.

*you can get them all in a Spotify playlist here, apart from All Hail Me which for some crazy copyright reasons was probaly only available in the 90s as some import 45″ from Asia.

Love from your feminist-in-training!

Teenage Wasteland?

VBS.tv is releasing a new part of Teenage Riot each day this week. The story starts here, with the “siege of Millbank” and escalates through the week. Quality documentary, as diverse perspectives focus the debate around insightful and saddening questions of education and politics.

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