Loving Julia Roberts Wholeheartedly- Pt 1

julia-roberts-pretty-womanI understood obsession and awe early on in life when I first watched Julia Roberts on screen. Let’s look at Julia Roberts. As a whole I mean, really look at Julia Roberts. She’s perfect. That slightly pinched nose, her very normal smile accompanying that odd hysteria in her laugh, that green vein that dances on her forehead when she cries. That hair is iconic of course, but only due to the nostalgia. It’s as if the raging jealous vapours of the early nineties had rested on her head literally. If you look closely, there’s a pain in her eyes too. The question is, is there a lesson to be learned from loving women who are not always graceful, not always happy? Capture

I watched ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ a lot in my teen years on VHS and would label it my favourite movie. Not that I preferred to be pessimistic necessarily, but even as a teen, the realism that the protagonist did not get the man she wanted, stayed with me. He was never hers to keep. He simply wasn’t meant for her. I’d rewind the first scene and analyse the bounce of her hair; the red that was not ginger and not brown, but a flushed red hue. I then watched ‘Pretty Woman’ for the first time also on VHS, a copy my mother had bought a long time ago from Germany with no label, no cover, just a guarantee that it was ‘that film with the lady with the red hair and those long black boots.’  I thought how brilliantly simple that title was, how achingly true. How pretty she must have been for him to want to attempt to change her.  How charming was Richard Gere! How innocent I thought could a film about a prostitute could be? Not very. I recall, even in my teens feeling disappointed that Julia took on such a role. julia-roberts-945

Many other movies with Julia can still send me reeling, but more so the classic ones. In ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’, I wanted Julia’s eyebrows and her large Cape Cod beach house, minus the abusive husband of course. I hated her in ‘Stepmom’, in turn, hating myself for hating on Julia. How dare I? Still, I thought she held a coolness by virtue that I wished we all had inside us. In ‘Mona Lisa Smile’, I felt just as those young female students did; inspired by her will, her need to prove people wrong as she also did in ‘Erin Brokovich’ when she was an absolute badass and I loved it! Here, I realised not only was she naturally beautiful, but I decided that I respected her as an actress.    I encountered bliss when I went to see ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ with my best friend as we succumbed to Julia and her charms yet again, except this time we were women, grown women and we appreciated her tale of loss and discovery so much more because we had both encountered it in plain sight. nh

I walked through Notting Hill with my partner in the summer. The heat was subtle, rivalling the days earlier hot spell, offering an overall gist of serendipity in the air. I was happy, and it was summer in London. I felt the slight ripples from Julia’s coolness and the smell of old books blended like a family through the summer breeze, as I took slower, bigger steps. My sandals clicked, as if walking through Notting Hill meant I was now an actress, a music video extra. I wore a dark green maxi dress and shades and I felt like a movie star, in awe of a place I had come to know as belonging to, or I had at least visited before in my head many times.

The sky gawped at us blissfully, appearing to be powder like and sprinkled with marmalade as we thought of how the movie ‘Notting Hill’ had affected us both. He wrestled with a decision, choosing to call it ‘a nice movie’ though I knew it meant more to him. It was veiled in his voice when he said he would watch it again. Men sometimes assume women are drawn to toughness. But like how a hard sweet is better when it softens, displaying rations of sensitivity is often preferred. In comparison, I expressed that to me, the film was ‘perfect and made me cry.’

In the noughties, my movie collection began simmering as if a Bouillabaisse in a pot, as soon as I saw the title of ‘Notting Hill’, watched the trailer and noted that Julia was involved. These essential ingredients came to pass when I finally watched it. London, the bookshop, the girl in tears, the love – that line!

“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

There’s nothing wrong with a film that makes you cry. Why invite shame? To be set off by a movie and to cry is to observe beauty that has maybe dislodged you, or there’s a sadness that you’re temporarily managing which is okay to feel. The film has summoned blue feelings, some tenderness you are expressing as a token of your investment in these characters. You’re laying siege to their lives and to their woes which are maybe yours too. Or maybe you had a bad day, and you want to cry, and Julia Roberts is on TV shivering and requesting that this man who has just rejected her, please love her. It hits a nerve in you. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m wrong for blubbering at ‘Notting Hill’, for letting it all out.

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African American Vs American African: Americanah (2013) Book Review

ngoziChimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s brilliant novel  ‘Americanah’ (2013) reflects an unbelievable life journey, highly capable of impressing readers with its unending and satisfying chain of events. Adichie’s manner fearlessly tackles major topics of oppression, race and identity as well as the principal themes of love and culture. ‘Americanah’ is unlike other mainstream fiction of its kind simply due to its brash portrayal, deep rooted honesty and African flavour.

Adichie introduces brazen main characters Obinze and Ifemelu, two strangers who meet and soon create a deep mutual romantic love and bond that readers will grow to dote on. Ifemelu is a strong protagonist, direct and unassuming that we as readers should in any way understand her life and most importantly her Nigerian culture and her blackness. The writer leads us through her mind anticipating Ifemelu’s motives, at times, encouraging us to sympathize even.

At the start of the novel, the politics of black hair is very much alive as Ifemelu describes visiting a hair salon to get her hair braided. After disagreeing with the Senegalese hairdresser that she does not need a relaxer to soften her hair to fit in, the hairdresser offers a compliment on the improvement of Nollywood films lately, expecting Ifemelu to understand, speaking to her as if she is the sole person accountable for the Nigerian film industry.

‘‘She nodded in agreement because to hear ‘Nigeria’ and ‘good’ in the same sentence was a luxury.’’

The start of the book reinforces the irony that Ifemelu has become her own worst nightmare, as she strolls through New Haven, Princeton University. She begins to understand that you still cannot be a black African in America, not the way Ifemelu arrived. You must morph into an African American. This story is surprisingly refreshing with an incredible balance between the harsh difficulties in both characters’ lives, intertwined with the recurrent love story peeking through the blinds. The integral theme throughout is the importance of culture and remembering who you are, wherever one resides.americ

The other main character Obinze on the other hand is a rarity. He’s a charming and educated young man, who reveals a sensitivity one can only spot as a fly on the wall or maybe weaved into Adichie’s prose. He exudes a warmth and romance through his interests and ideals, yet eventually turns into almost the opposite person he intended to be. Both characters long to leave their small homes in search of a big dream and we completely understand. They become each other’s backbone through Lagos school, holding tight to big dreams of a visa and a life altering move to America.

“She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself. With him, she was at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size.. It seemed so natural, to talk to him about odd things. She had never done that before. The trust, so sudden and yet so complete, and the intimacy, frightened her.. But now she could think only of all the things she yet wanted to tell him, wanted to do with him.”

Obinze is inspired by his mother to read books and so he buries his head in American novels which sustain him through the years. Nevertheless, the dream is and always has been leaving home and boasting that they’ll each soon have a glowing shiny visa stamped in their passports. However, when Ifemelu is presented the opportunity to flee and study first, she promises to wait and has no choice but to leave Obinze behind. Years later, Obinze’s opportunity to change his life leaves him with England as his only option where he attempts to find solace unhappily without Ifemelu by his side. Both characters lives take unexpected turns, changing both of them forever. The couple lose touch and begin to think their journey is over.

“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America. When you are black in America and you fall in love with a white person, race doesn’t matter when you’re alone together because it’s just you and your love. ”

Obinze struggles in the UK financially and meets up with friends from Nigeria, back home, friends who have established themselves in English society; they’ve married English now and are sporting new accents. He can’t begin to understand how this much change has taken place, how the cultural differences leave him itching to argue during dinner parties where they eat on ‘ethnic plates’ alongside his old friends and new acquaintances. Obinze struggles with controversial conversations with these people who discuss ‘foreignness’ like a disease and he’s instantly infuriated. The character becomes a lone wolf and faces many hardships in England. Eventually, Obinze is forced to return to Lagos by the English authorities who catch him in a desperate act to stay in the country with no official paperwork.

Ifemelu also struggles terribly when she first gets to America. With a thick accent and no chance of getting a part time job, she slowly sinks into a depression which is maximised as she begins contemplating and eventually partaking in a sexual favour for money. Eventually, Ifemelu represses those memories finding a respectable escape as a babysitter for a caucasian family who feel a need to discuss Africa or African women whenever she is in the room. Adichie introduces Curt and Blaine (new men in Ifemelu’s life) which allows her to fasten Ifemelu to a pedestal as the token black girlfriend. Short hair, dark skin; a foreign beauty.

“When it comes to dressing well, American culture is so self-fulfilled that it has not only disregarded this courtesy of self-presentation, but has turned that disregard into a virtue. “We are too superior/busy/cool/not-uptight to bother about how we look to other people, and so we can wear pajamas to school and underwear to the mall.”

From arrival in America to her departure, Ifemelu battles the weighty topic of race relations. Race is achingly relevant as Ifemelu eventually creates a blog where she  constantly vents about race in America through her Nigerian eyes and she eventually makes enough money to stop working.

Adichie reinforces the importance of family as she paints Aunt Uju and Dikes story, reinforcing cultural acceptance when moving to the west. The story suggests  America is like a uncle who spoils children. Cousin Dikes suicidal episode reinforces the stigma of not seeing the signs of turning western so to speak, or simply the shock of how dare a Nigerian child even view suicide as an option?

“I realized that if I ever have children, I don’t want them to have American childhoods. I don’t want them to say ‘Hi’ to adults I want them to say ‘Good morning’ and ‘Good afternoon’. I don’t want them to mumble ‘Good’ when someone says ‘How are you?’ to them. Or to raise five fingers when asked how old they are. I want them to say ‘I’m fine thank you’ and ‘I’m five years old’. I don’t want a child who feeds on praise and expects a star for effort and talks back to adults in the name of self-expression. Is that terribly conservative?”

The position of Nigerian women and relationships they partake in is a huge topic in the last third of this novel too. The give and take notion whereby Nigerian women stay in unhappy relationships so their men can pay for everything, is reinforced when Ifemelu exposes her friend’s relationship. Ifemelu’s eventual return to Nigeria is intriguing as she does not so much adjust to life in Nigeria, but slips back into routine, although even she learns to accept that though she has changed, Nigeria has changed a great deal too.

Obinze becomes a rich and popular man, married even and this is where the story becomes light hearted while birthing a major cliff-hanger. By the end of this novel, the importance of Americanah is startling. Adichie cleverly critiques society’s stupidity but also cultural foolishness. This is a racially charged novel but a extremely relevant one nonetheless. Adichie writes impressively, challenging culture and loving it in the same breathe. Even at points when readers try to predict what will happen, she shocks and delivers. Adichie did not seek out to create a hero and heroine, rather she tries to bravely evoke love and the realistic truth she has lived. There is a truth to this book that will make you ache.

Conspiracy theory (1997)

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Jerry Fletcher (Mel Gibson) speeds around rainy New York City in his yellow cab, dropping off passengers whilst collecting stacks of newspapers from his buddy down the street. They dabble in talks of politics as they make predictions and reveal conspiracies to one another that one wouldn’t necessarily believe.
On his way home, a clumsy yet talkative Jerry arrives at his home uttering conspiracies out loud while he locks his steel door to his tiny, cluttered apartment equipped with three locks. Obviously paranoid, Fletcher searches through his stacks of newspapers copying stories and creating conspiracies he believes true, ready to be posted the next day.
A rather interesting turn of events as Jerry makes his usual visit to Alice Sutton played by Julia Roberts, and explains his worries about the U.S Government and the detrimental effect he feels they may have on the safety of others daily. When one of his conspiracies turns out not to be just a thought anymore, this two and a half hour film begins to unravel, displacing character profiles and testing knowledge as well as personality.  

juliaRated a 6.5 on imdb, this film may surprise you. Though starring the graceful Julia Roberts as Annie, there is little focus on her beauty as expected, rather the solving of the predicament is of key importance. The male gaze does not take over her character because she takes pride in playing a vital role in helping to sustain the U.S Governments image. Mel Gibson’s character on the other hand, attempts to unravel everyday elements of ordinary citizens’ thoughts on their safety, as well as future well being. Nevertheless, though seeming highly paranoid, Gibson does bring many interesting points to the surface.

Though from the nineties, if you have never seen this film,  it still deals with current everyday concerns Americans may carry but it also reveals fears we all have referring to the powerful leaders of our countries. A riveting action packed movie guaranteed to have you glued to your seat.

Judy Blume should have prepared me for this

“I lived in New York for eleven and a half years and I don’t think anybody ever asked me about my religion. I never even thought about it. Now, all of a sudden, it was the big thing in my life.”   – Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret.

The queen of children novels, Judy Blume, encompasses a rare ability to write classic books for years to come. As teens, we had expectations of her to teach us the truth about things that no one else would, and this revealed an obvious reliance never before presented to other authors; a social responsibility Blume clearly took seriously. Many of you have read her gripping, almost addictive and quite memorable stories as a child, myself included.blume31n-1-web Tales of divorce, losing a parent, snooping neighbours and first bras aided young children to believe that yes, maybe there was an adult out there who understood all our problems. Puberty and its dark shadows on a young child’s life was nowhere near fun, yet Blume’s many individual and intriguing characters, proved that her characters lived through what we lived through. They shared our joys and pain, and her stories proved to be a revelation in the eyes of the youth. Her gift of making almost depressing topics, engaging to a young reader, prompted her excellent ability to tackle themes of religion, American politics and racial tension as well as other topics like socialising, sibling rivalry and puppy love. Judy began her career in the in 1966, whereby after graduating from New York University, she received a B.A in education. She began with several picture books for young children in the early days and in 1972 found her big break when “Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing” (1972) was published. Initially this story was intended to be called “Peter, Fudge and Dribble” and had a different plot to the final story, but as time went on Blume decided to base Fudge on her own child and the New York City lifestyle of her memories of a close friend’s family life.

“Sometimes life in the Hatcher household is enough to make twelve-year-old Peter think about running away. His worst problem is still his younger brother, Fudge.”

CaptureIn 1980 one of the most popular and my personal favourite Judy Blume book “Superfudge” was published. I can remember purchasing it from a book shop when I was in Year 4 in primary school. My teacher had picked it out for me and I loved that the cover was bright orange with three intriguing characters on the front; two boys and a baby girl.  Surprisingly Blume claimed “I remember exactly where I was when the idea finally came to me—in the shower, covered with soap and shampoo. And the idea seemed so simple I couldn’t believe it had taken seven years. I would give the Hatchers a new baby.” Baby Tootsie the new member of the family causes friction when Peter, the oldest son, is unhappy that a new edition to the family will arrive soon and that they’re all moving home to compensate for his parent’s dream careers. Blume has many other books, spin off of the Hatcher family and they’re friends. These include “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great” (1972), “Fudge-a-mania”(1990) and “Double Fudge” (2002).

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Iggie’s House (1970)

Blume has also published a string of highly influential, if not controversial novels, which are very much cherished by fans still today. Iggie’s House (1970) was different to the Superfudge series in that it was not too focused on young children, rather was classified as a young adult novel. It deals with the topic of racism in the late 1960’s where Blume herself commented that “the late sixties was a turbulent time in America. Racial tensions were high, especially following the assassination of Martin Luther King. The ongoing fight for racial equality affected all of us, one way or another.”  The main character Winnie’s fascination with the new black family next door, allows her to quickly become friends with them. However, her own family’s disapproval of her new friends is disheartening as the story takes a turn for the worst. Blubber (1974) deals with bullying in school, a common and relatable topic, whereas the next novel by Blume called “Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself” (1977) was an autobiographical novel whereby Blume concealed herself in this character wearing a colourful  dress, reliving her past as a Jew throughout the war.

“Suppose there aren’t any more A + days once you get to be twelve? Wouldn’t that be something! To spend the rest of your life looking for an A + day and not finding it.” – It’s Not the End of the World (1972)

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“It’s Not the End of the World” (1972) chronicled a marriage falling apart at the seams whilst the story is told from the point of view of a young girl named Karen. Her parents constant fighting leads her to lose faith in love and marriage, as does her hope for her favourite teacher’s marriage lasting, instead believing it has made her evil. Her parent’s quick decision toward divorce, causes her to do anything in her power to make them stay together, even if that means pretending to be ill.

The controversial topic of religion is tackled in “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” (1970)  and follows a young girls search for a religion in the confusion of her Jewish/Christian family. She often talks to God, and begins her prayers with ‘‘are you there God?”  Her pre-teen concerns are a main factor of this novel, however throughout there remains a fierce confusion between two faiths, which causes conflict in Margaret’s family, making her angry at times. This I believe to be a poignant novel in Blume’s career, due to its popularity, but also its subject matter.

”Who says March is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb? That’s a lot of bull. All it’s done this March is rain. I’m sick of it.” –Then Again, Maybe I Won’t (1971)

then“Then Again, Maybe I Won’t” (1971) was a different spin on earlier Blume novels, because the point of view changed. It was the adolescent voice and life of a teenage boy. Blume’s success from “Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret” was the catalyst for this pleasant surprise.  Tony and his family move to a new town due to his father’s promotion, and his family’s abrupt changes being to annoy Tony. He keeps all his emotions inside, causing him emotional anguish and pain. The false pretence of people in his life, he views as fake, and so he searches for reality through his binoculars, into his neighbour’s bedroom window, where he soon becomes known as a peeping tom.

“When Deenie sees the brace for the first time, she wants to scream, Forget it…I’m never going to wear that thing! But the words won’t come out. And beautiful Deenie, who everyone says should be a model, is stuck wearing a brace from her neck to her hips.” – Deenie (1973)

Deenie (1973) deals with a young girl of the name Wilmadeene, nickname Deenie who suffers with Scoliosis but also has big dreams of becoming a model. When the doctor diagnoses her with Scoliosis and she has to wear a brace for her condition, the four year wait to take it off, begins to take a toll on her. Her decision to ditch modelling and become a Orthopaedist is not taken lightly by her pushy mother.

”Now, besides being best friends we’ll also be neighbours. And moving just a few blocks away really isn’t like moving at all. I think the only reason we moved is that our house needed a new roof and Mom and Dad just about passed out when they learned what it would cost.” – Just as long as we’re together (1987)

justMy personal favourite “Just As Long As We’re Together” (1987) deals with the teenage melodramatic reaction of a teenage girl who is moving home, dealing with new friends, compulsive liars, a new school,  and boys. Stephanie Hirsch is living with her family in a new home in Palfrey’s Pond, Connecticut and deals with an array of ups and downs with her two best friends, Rachel and new girl Alison. On a more serious note, this novel highlights the fears children have about their families and their future well-being. Divorce plays a large role here, as well as the strength of friendship and trust. In a spin off story, ”Here’s to you Rachel Robinson” (1993), best friend Rachel Robinson is a straight-A student. She practices the flute 45 minutes a day and strives for perfection in everything she does. But she grinds her teeth at night and dreads dinnertime, now that her troublemaking older brother, Charles, has been thrown out of boarding school and is now back home, acting up to get attention as usual. Her resentment for him is clear, and his attempt at breaking the family apart is obvious too. Counselling and a trip to Ellis Island, New York may put the family back together, or it may tear them apart. heres

Other popular Judy Blume novels include “Tiger Eyes” (1981), “Forever” (1975), and many more young adult novels dealing with similar themes. Blume’s simple yet fascinating writing style encapsulates even adults today who have read her novels in the past.  “Letters to Judy. What your kids Wish They Could Tell You” (1986) revealed secrets and opinions from Blume’s readers, in an attempt for parents to walk in their children’s shoes. It contained thousands of letters sent by fans, pouring their hearts out to their favourite author revealing her very profound effect on many lives.

 

Song Lyrics of the Day : Lana Del Rey – Get Free


“Lana will always be Lana, but she reserves the right to make life changes, to feel proud of what she’s accomplished, and to sing about being happy and free, for once”.

2           This is the controversial track that’s taking Lana Del Rey to court with Radiohead. The song was initially called ‘Malibu’ and when you hear it you will understand why. Del Rey claims the lyrics were personal before she rewrote it, too personal in fact and all about her experience as an artist.  In ‘Get Free’ she’s decided to let her thoughts linger, her feelings simmering throughout. The lyrics are beautifully poignant and honest, a true testament to Del Rey’s skill as a writer.

“Get Free”
Finally, I’m crossing the threshold
From the ordinary world
To the reveal of my heart
Undoubtedly, that will for certain
Take the dead out of the sea
And the darkness from the arts

This is my commitment
My modern manifesto
I’m doing it for all of us
Who never got the chance
For …[Amy] and for …[Whitney] (shut up, shut up)
And all my birds of paradise (shut up, shut up)
Who never got to fly at night (shut up, shut up)
‘Cause they were caught up in the dens

Sometimes it feels like I’ve got a war in my mind
I want to get off but I keep riding the ride
I never really noticed that I had to decide
To play someone’s game or live my own life
And now I do
I want to move
Out of the black (out of the black)
Into the blue (into the blue)

Finally
Gone is the burden
Of the crowding way of being
That comes from energies combined
Like my part was I
Was not discerning
And you as we found out
Were not in your right mind

There’s no more chasing rainbows
And hoping for an end to them
Their arches are illusions
Solid at first glance
But then you try to touch them (touch, touch)
There’s nothing to hold on to (hold, hold)
The colors used to lure you in (shut up, shut up)
And put you in a trance (ah… yeah)

Sometimes it feels like I’ve got a war in my mind
I want to get off but I keep riding the ride
I never really noticed that I had to decide
To play someone’s game or live my own life
And now I do
I want to move
Out of the black (out of the black)
Into the blue (into the blue)
Out of the black (out of the black)
Into the blue (into the blue)
Out of the black (out of the black)
Into the blue (into the blue)

The Grownup (2014) Gillian Flynn : Book Review “It’s Gone Girl too quickly.”

The Grownup (2014) is an epic short story in the form of a classic Gillian Flynn mystery, with a twist. The story was first found and read in George R R Martins anthology Rogues, and in it was titled “What do you do?” It’s funny, and slightly naughty at the start, an odd blend of hysteria running through the whole thing, but isn’t that what Flynn does? She makes you laugh while you’re scared and uncomfortable. Laugh in a way that scares you, as in, why the hell am I laughing? Dark is an understatement here as is usual with Flynn’s work like, “Gone Girl” (2012) , “Dark Places”(2009) and “Sharp Objects” (2006).

img_7993The narrator is a con artist, unreliable and struggling to survive financially. She reads auras at a place called Spiritual Palms where she does more than her job description projects. She deals heavily in doing favours for married men and feels no remorse. Rich, housewife Susan Burke walks in one day, catching her attention with talks of a haunted house that she immediately needs spiritual help for. To make her green, the unnamed narrator decides to up her fake spiritual healing antics and equipped with herbs, she visits Susan’s grand Victorian home, only to realise that the job is bigger than fake clairvoyance. It’s much bigger than she thought.

“But she did invite me to her house, and women like that don’t invite over women like me unless they want something.”

This novella is a classic take on the haunted house, ghost story and I guarantee it will creep you out before it ends quickly. Flynn has now sold the rights to Universal for a “high six figures” and it will be produced by Michael De Luca, with a script adaptation by Natalie Krinsky.