Song for Marion is a British comedy-drama, directed by Paul Andrew Williams, and was originally released in 2012. I only managed to watch it for the first time this week. Hence, I thought that ‘belated’ was the best word to use for this piece but the film struck a chord with me so I thought it was still worth writing about.
The film stars a series of household names including Gemma Arterton, Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp and Christopher Eccleston. The movie narrates the tale of Marion, who is suffering from terminal cancer, and her husband Arthur’s struggle with his emotions, relationships and facing the death of his beloved. The sub-plot to the film is Marion’s participation in the local community choir that have been entered into a national competition by their leader Elizabeth (played by Arterton). Marion performs a solo at the audition but passes away before the main competition, leaving the grumpy and slightly misunderstood Arthur to fill in as her replacement.
I am generally a massive fan of such British films anyway which tackle serious issues but deal with it through the use of wit and utilise the well-known ‘Keep calm and carry on’ attitude. However I thought that I would share just a few things that made this film particularly stand out for me.
I like to think that British films, or at least the ones which I have seen, are often sincere in the way which they tell a story. They do not feel the need to subscribe to the commonly used technique of plots following an endless cycle of going from terrible to wonderful; life is not like this and they are happy to show this. Thus, one of the most pleasing things about this film is its honest portrayal of a romantic relationship. Marion is an optimistic and warm individual whilst Arthur is distant, bad at communicating and often keeps his feelings to himself; ultimately, the pair are polar opposites. Those who are friends with Marion appear unable to understand why she puts up with such an un-supportive and grumpy man. Generally though Marion carries on smiling and says how much she wants to be at home with Arthur. This devotion is explained in a scene where Marion tells of how Arthur was always as distant as he is in his old age and that she knew what she was signing herself up for. This is where we see Arthur open up slightly when he calls Marion his rock. However, Marion’s illness does place strain on the pair and there is one particular scene whereby they are shouting in each other’s faces to the point where a care assistant tells Arthur to leave the house. On the other hand, we see scenes of Marion and Arthur playing the silent treatment on each other until Marion gets her own way. It truly depicts the genuine ups and downs which you would expect from a real-life love story. This couple, like most, adhere to that persistent and ‘carry on’ attitude which I mentioned earlier; facing up to and embracing life.
The camera angles used within the film was an additional notable element. The use of wide shots as Arthur walked down the street appeared to add to the demonstration of his slowed pace; whether this be due to old age, apathy, pain or thoughtfulness. There was something striking about a man walking down a long empty pavement. The cameras were also forever patient in order to establish the right tone. In the previously mentioned scene where Arthur opens up to Marion, the camera is positioned behind the pair and very slowly pulls away from them; allowing us to absorb the scene’s information, to get a sense of the couple’s intimacy and it demonstrates the atmosphere within the room- one of waiting and wondering.
The death of Marion is one which occurs suddenly and is played out rather swiftly too. Many films which deal with terminal illness resort to scenes of high emotion and a knowingness that death is about to occur. However Marion slips away in her sleep. This cuts to a scene of Arthur’s son (Eccleston) dealing with the undertaker and overhearing his dad’s anguish. This cuts to the scene of the wake. This all happens within the space of a few minutes of screen time; much shorter than many films. This could be described as a way of diffusing the emotion of Marion’s death because the film is more about Arthur’s development after her death and what he chooses to do for her by partaking in the choir competition.
It should be noted that the film is filled with scenes which are near tearjerkers; Marion’s beautiful solo of ‘True Colours’, Arthur’s moving performance at the competition and his anger outside the community centre when he is unable to solve his issues with his son. However, the film almost appears to be designed to steer away from the deep emotion of Marion’s illness and instead wishes for us to focus upon the realistic portrayal of a relationship, the changes a partner goes through upon the death of his spouse and ultimately wants us to feel slightly uplifted with its often use of humour too.
If you do get a chance to watch Song for Marion, I certainly recommend that you do.
Last night saw the return of the only UK talent show that invites anyone of any age to compete for a spot on the bill at the Royal Variety Performance 2014. The competition is returning for it’s eighth series and last night saw David Walliams, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell all reunited on screen to get proceedings underway – David even gave Simon’s chauffeur a day off as the comedy actor drove to Mr Cowell’s house to pick him up for the London auditions.
The first show of the series quickly demonstrated that the competition’s efforts were worthwhile as they were eager to demonstrate that Britain does still have talent. However, as ever with such talent shows, we were eased into the show with some auditions from acts typically described as ‘novelty’ contestants. Thus, following the pattern of the show, I will similarly begin with discussing some of these acts before moving onto the more successful auditionees.
Let’s begin with Andrew and his ‘performing’ owl, Rocky. The crowd were left in hysterics when Rocky decided that he could not care less about flying through to the next stage of the competition (in fact he could not be bothered to fly anywhere) and instead chose to have a nice sit down on his perch and have a look at what was going on offstage instead. After much persistence Andy did manage to convince Rocky to walk through a play tunnel but then the judges brought the performance to an end. Sadly, Rocky and Andy did not make it through- it was probably best as Rocky looked rather terrified of the audience so perhaps the stage is not for him. Joining them on the path towards the exit included Luke Joseph who did a rather abstract freestyle dance routine to LMFAO’s ‘Sexy and I know it’. Although, in all fairness to Luke, he did manage to get Mr Cowell to join in with his performance which is a rather rare occurrence! Violinist Peter Paduranga and roller-skating performer Mzz Kimberley also failed to make the cut.
Have you ever been making a Spaghetti bolognese for dinner and when looking at the raw onion you have thought to yourself ‘I wonder how quick I could eat that raw?’ Well, me neither. However, Sean Wozencroft has and last night he attempted to impress the judges with a world record attempt for eating a raw onion in the fastest time. Sadly he failed in his attempt but I cannot help but think that even if he had succeeded, he probably still would not have made it through to the next stages. Instead, all he left the stage with was rather smelly breath.
Take a look at Sean’s world record attempt…
So, who were the winners of the night? Well country dance group Countryvive certainly raised the judge’s spirits with their upbeat routine which even left Ant, Dec, Amanda and Alesha getting into the full swing of the act whilst wearing cowboy hats. Simon even named them the best act that they had seen all day! Although…this was said just after we had seen Rocky the owl and the onion eater so I am not sure how big of a compliment that was. Boy band Collabro also gave an alternative take on the likes of One Direction and The Wanted as they sang ‘Stars’ from Les Misérables. Mr Cowell certainly seemed impressed with the group and you could pratically see the pound signs in his eyes, proclaiming as they left the stage that Collabro’s song was a ‘hit record’. Lucy Kay also performed an extremely moving audition with an impressive operatic performance, made even more poignant after hearing her back story of having to overcome a great deal of bullying. I can see a voice like hers easily making it into the live shows! My favourite act by far of last night’s show goes to dance troupe Light Balance who delivered a mesmerizing performance which combined dancers, darkness and flashing lights- they are like a more night club-friendly version of last year’s winners Attraction. Take a look at their very impressive first audition below.
This year’s show also sees the addition of a brand new feature of the show called the Golden Buzzer. The judges continue to keep their red buzzers but in addition there is also a single golden buzzer on the desk and each judge is only allowed to press it once per
series. If a judge is so impressed by an act that they think that they should go straight through to the live semi-finals, then they can press the buzzer and fast track them straight through. Last night we saw the buzzer come into action as Amanda Holden golden buzzed dance act Paddy and Nico straight through to the live stages. Paddy is 79 years old and was accompanied by her dance instructor Nico.. The pair started off by boring the judges ever so slightly with their typical ballroom dance routine but suddenly the theatre came to life when Nico began to throw Paddy around every corner of the stage showing just how talented a dancer she is. It certainly was no mean feat for a lady of her age and they impressed the judges and audience alike. So that’s one act through to the live stages but now we have to wait and see who David, Alesha and Simon will choose.
BGT was back on fine form last night and the show actually managed to show a fair amount of auditions rather than taking an excruciating long time with back stories and other hype building techniques; as such shows often do. The only thing that I felt was lacking was much conversation or banter between the judges which we often see, let’s hope that some of that returns. The show certainly did well with the viewing public as this afternoon the show’s official Twitter account boasted the highest viewing ratings for any launch show in the programme’s history with a peak viewership of 12.34 million. Thus, this year’s competition is off to a good start.
In December 2012, I wrote a blog post about my experience of moving to London after starting university in the capital. Well it has now been about eighteen months since my London life began, so I thought that it was about time to review some of my earlier thoughts and to see whether my perspective has changed. Thus, I thought that I would discuss eighteen observations about my eighteen months in London town. (I realise that many of them are public transport-related, I am putting this down to the fact that I wrote this whilst on the tube!)
1. You no longer hold the tourist mentality of ‘Why is everyone so annoyed that they’ve just missed that tube? Another one’s along in a minute.’ You’ve been equipped with the commuter mentality now. That one minute makes a big difference and you’ll happily
perform a James Bond style stunt to proceed with your journey….the other day the tube was so packed that I had to perform one just to disembark from the tube!
2. You still have an ever-growing list of sightseeing that you want to do. A dedicated tourist would get through them in a weekend. In reality you’d rather just sit at home, watch cat videos and catch up on Netflix.
3. You endlessly catch snippets of what sound like important business meetings on public transport and you often have the urge to jump in just to see how they would react. ‘Yes Barbara that report needs to be on my desk by 5 and Phil you really need to restructure point four of section nine.’
4. You have begun to find it harder to decide whether you should stop and wait for tourists to take their photographs (like you are supposed to) or just to photobomb the picture and carry on with your life. Imagine how many times you’ve been unintentionally photographed in London?
5. If you’re originally from anywhere further up the map than Luton, you have now lost your identity. Southerners continue to call you a Northerner (I’m from the Midlands!) whilst your family now insist that you speak posh and sound like a Southerner. You are no longer a Midlander, Southerner or Northerner! (What am I?! What have I become?!)
6. You develop a strangely accurate impersonation of the lady who does the voice-over on buses and tubes. ‘This is a Victoria Line train to Brixton.’ ‘Please stand clear of the closing doors.’ (Even as I am typing this the voice inside my head is doing the woman’s voice, not my own. Talk about invading my subconscious!)
7. Whenever you brave Central London (especially on a weekend) you have to constantly remind yourself to keep calm, carry on and remember that you were a tourist once too.
8. You feel a sense of accomplishment, akin to one you would feel if you met your favourite celebrity, when a fellow commuter acknowledges your existence (unless you are being shouted at!)
9. You have been on a night bus at 4 o’ clock in the morning and felt a sense of shame when everyone else on the bus is on their way to work. You just put your head down and dream of getting into bed after being awake for 21 hours!
10. You have also been on public transport surrounded by drunks whilst you are sober after a late Friday night studying at university. You just sit there wondering why you are not having as much fun as they are. (Although I guess as most of them were probably on their way to work at 4am and now celebrating the arrival of the weekend, I suppose it averages itself out.)
11. I think anyone in London, every now and again, needs a quiet spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of the capital. My favourite spots are a little garden with some benches just off Oxford Street and a short walk along South Bank can also clear your head!
12. If you have any sense, you probably would have made use of all the amazing FREE STUFF that London has to offer. On Pancake Day this year, my housemate and I managed to have some savoury pancakes cooked for us for free in John Lewis at a promotional event for Tefal pans; we even got a set of free pans worth £60 too. We’ve also been to a number of TV recordings including The Graham Norton Show, Let’s Dance for Sport Relief, The Last Leg and Backchat. There are also plenty of free music and comedy gigs around London as well. I personally recommended the comedy nights at The Camden Head in Islington.
13. You’ve become an established reader of all free publications; The Metro, Evening Standard and Time Out are all on the list of reading material.
14. You’ve convinced yourself that one day you’ll be commuter free with a studio apartment overlooking the River Thames.
15. You now have several versions of photographs of you stood in front of the same famous landmarks. No matter how many times you’ve visited the sight-seeing spots, every time your family and friends join you for a weekend in the capital, you still feel the need to have a photograph in front of Big Ben.
16. If you’re a keen shopper then you’re in luck because London has pretty much every high-street store that you can think of. I endlessly find myself lost in the Oxford Street Topman wishing that I could take it all home with me!
17. Sports cars like Aston Martin’s suddenly become common sights, especially in places such as Kensington. It is only when you leave London and you see one driving around your local town that you realise how out of place such an expensive vehicle is. However, in London, you now barely notice when a fancy car drives past.
18. Every time you stroll down the street and see a camera crew filming something you suddenly convince yourself that it will be for something important. You begin to slow down, having a little peek at who the crew are filming whilst convincing yourself that you could make the six o’ clock news. You then realise that it is actually just a few students making a university film and then increase your speed again to make sure that they know that you were never interested in getting your face on TV anyway. Although yesterday on my morning run I ran past Gareth Malone OBE being filmed in my local park. I knew it was probably for something rather big but I put my head down and kept running because I did not want one of my first ever big TV moments to be me with a rather sweaty face!
Send in your London observations via the comment section below.
Cast your mind back to 2010 when an American singer-songwriter had us all singing his infectiously brilliant track, ‘I Need a Dollar’ (that’s right, it really has been four years since that track was released!) Last year he also featured on the hugely successful Avicii record ‘Wake Me Up’. Now though, four years on, Aloe Blacc has well and truly returned with another big solo track, ‘The Man’.
According to an interesting article on the billboard website, the track had been in the making for a couple of years. Blacc recalls how he was invited to meet Dr. Dre (Beats By Dre) who claimed to be a big fan of ‘I need a dollar’. At their meeting, Blacc played Dre a sample of ‘The Man’, only to discover that Dre was not a big fan of it. Initially disappointed, Dre gave him some tips and he went back to work on the track. Aloe had been looking to release something which incorporated Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ and thus he eventually decided that ‘The Man’ was the perfect track to mix it with. The new version of the song became the soundtrack of a new Beats advertising campaign.
I personally think that Blacc made the right decision by mixing these two tracks together because it actually works incredibly well. When I first heard the track played on the radio, I thought that it was just a pure Elton cover but as soon as it moves past the ‘You can tell everybody’ lyrics, Blacc puts his own stamp on it. Elton John has a very recognizable voice and many have tried and failed to make new versions of his songs. The lucky thing for Aloe is that he too has a very soulful voice that similarly has a familiarity to it.
Blacc seems to have a skill for creating big hits with ‘I Need a Dollar’, ‘Wake Me Up’ and hopefully now ‘The Man’ will follow the similar pattern; it certainly has the making to be a big hit by the amount of radio play that it is receiving. My only wish is that we will now hear lots more from the singer. The artist is a pleasure to listen to so let’s hope that more successful tracks will be on the way from him later this year.
‘The Man’ by Aloe Blacc is out now. Blacc’s new album ‘Lift Your Spirit’ is expected to get its UK release on 7th April 2014.
My Rating: 3/5
5 more tracks I’ve been listening to this week!
I have recently discovered the two-piece New York band, A Great Big World. The band was formed by Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino whilst studying at New York University. A Great Big World have already achieved recognition in the US after their track ‘This Is The New Year’ was featured on an episode of Glee. The band released their track ‘Say Something’ last year but have recently re-recorded the track to incorporate vocals from Christina Aguilera. It is this version of the song that has managed to increase the awareness of the band here in the UK with the song reaching number four in the official charts; the same position that it achieved in the US. ‘Say Something’ is a perfect easy-listening ballad which collaborates the vocals of the band and Aguilera perfectly. Upon hearing it, I headed over to Spotify to listen to the band”s full album and was surprised to hear that this was a rather rare slow-paced track. Their debut album, ‘Is There Anybody Out There’, is filled with upbeat songs that are scattered with humour and character. Since then, I haven’t been able to stop listening to the track and always put it on whenever I am in need of something happy to listen to.
Thus instead of making their current hit ‘Say Something’ the Track of the Week, I decided to choose another track off the album called ‘I Really Want It’. There are a number of tracks which equally could have been chosen but I picked this one as it is one which particularly stands out and the band have already released a lyric video for it too. I felt that ‘I Really Want It’ represents the tone of the band much better than their current single does and as I am aiming to urge you to have a listen to their album, I thought that this would be best.
I would certainly recommend A Great Big World to anyone who is looking for something to listen to on their way to work on a rainy Monday morning or some music whilst studying. The band remind me greatly of the US artist Owl City (‘Fireflies’ and ‘Good Time’) as both create tracks which guarantee to put you in a good mood. As a big Owl City fan, A Great Big World are the perfect addition to my music collection.
A Great Big World’s debut album ‘Is There Anybody Out There’ is out now. The single ‘Say Something’ is also available. Find out more about the band at www.agreatbigworld.com. You can also have a listen to more of their music on Spotify or on their official Youtube channel.
My Rating: 3/5
5 more tracks I’ve been listening to this week!
American singer-songwriter Christina Perri has returned to the charts with the lead single ‘Human’ taken from her upcoming album ‘Head or Heart’. The star received initial fame in 2010 with the release of the ballad ‘Jar of Hearts’ which was a huge success both here in the UK and in the US. She preceeded to release her debut album ‘Lovestrong’ in 2011 and her arguably next big hit came about when she provided the soundtrack ‘A Thousand Years’ for the film Twilight: Breaking Dawn. In 2012, Christina got all festive with the release of a Christmas EP named ‘A Very Merry Perri Christmas’. Thus, it is clear that Perri has been working hard to make a name for herself in the industry with frequent releases and now, two years on, she is back with a second full-length album and single.
Before discussing ‘Human’ further, have a listen to the track and a watch of the rather artistic video.
Many artists choose to take their music in a new direction when releasing their second record but the powerful ballad ‘Human’ takes the opposite approach; sounding very much like Perri’s previous material. Perhaps Christina’s new album may contain a new sound but to be honest I do not think that it really matters for this artist. Her vocals are so striking and her lyrics powerful, that I could happily listen to her music for hours on end without getting bored very easily.
Fans of Perri may have noticed that the creators of the ‘Human’ music video have been experimenting with the use of some graphics editing software. When I first watched the video I was left questioning myself, ‘I know that it has been a couple of years since I last saw one of her videos, but I am certain that she used to have lots of tattoos?!’ It was only at the end of the video when Perri’s tattoos reemerged that I was assured that I had remembered rightly. The use of this effect was a powerful addition to the music video and helped to portray the meaning of the lyrics even more.
Whilst on the subject of the lyrics, Perri has once again created a song that stands out from many of the other songs in the chart. Tonight I listened to the Official UK Top 40 Chart show when it was revealed that ‘Human’ had debuted at number fourteen. However, hearing the track played on the radio created a real contrast from the other major pop songs that are currently being released; Perri’s vocal, emotion and most of all lyrics stood out as a track which contained true raw meaning. I thought that I would highlight just a few of the lyrics:
Cause I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human
The lyrics may be similar to many uplifting songs that we have heard in the past, stretching back to the likes of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’ but it is only very rarely that such songs truly strike a chord with the listener and when you do hear it, you feel like the artist is speaking from real life experience; this true emotion is what anybody wants from a ballad like this. Perri’s track does this.
Christina Perri’s single ‘Human’ is out now. Her second album ‘Head or Heart’ is due for release on 1st April. Find out more at www.christinaperri.com
My Rating: 4/5
5 more tracks I’ve been listening to this week!
In early February, Nick Grimshaw and his Radio 1 Breakfast Show team were having an on-air discussion about the strangeness of people who create Twitter accounts for their own pets. Creating an account for your pet is one thing but, as the host pointed out, what is even stranger is when they use the account to tweet themselves about how much their pet is missing them…it’s just a little bit odd.
However, perhaps those who judge such accounts are the ones that are strange because in actual fact some of them are a real hit. For example, a Twitter account that hasn’t been verified but claims to be the official one for the world-famous Grumpy Cat (can a cat have his account verified?) has over 137, 000 followers; that is a lot more than most of us ‘non-famous’ users of the Twitter-o-sphere! In fact, a second account also claiming to be Grumpy Cat, but seems less genuine, has 1.19 million followers; that’s nearly as many as Nick Grimshaw himself- who currently has 1.55 million.
So why are pets drawing in nearly as many followers as actual humans?
Well it is a tough one to answer because I cannot answer for every user of Twitter. However, I would suggest that it makes a comment on the way that we use it. The micro-blogging site provides a great way for people to communicate with one another in less than 140 characters; a world for friends to connect, celebrities to communicate with their fans and for brands to promote their latest products. The shortness of Twitter posts means that it makes the perfect site to scroll down in your lunch break and see what people have been up to. However many Twitter posts, including my own, are often quite dull; many of our Twitter feeds often just display endless streams of information about what our friends have been eating. Thus, is it any surprise that we are looking for more entertaining posts? I think not. On my own personal Twitter account I follow a variety of novel and funny accounts alongside the friends and celebrities that I follow; from random fact accounts, comedians to the Meerkat from the Compare The Market adverts. Now I know that Aleksandr Orlov is not really a billionaire business-cat from Moscow who loves promoting a meerkat comparison site and walking around Coronation Street, his account is probably run by a guy called Dave who works in the Compare the Market marketing office, but that does not stop me from following him. And why? Simply because it is amusing.
Of course, we all love staying in touch with our family and friends and hearing from our favourite celebrities but sometimes we are also searching for the surreal that can give us 140 characters of entertainment in a spare five minutes and I think that this is great. The popularity of such accounts is reflected in some of the success that such characters have achieved. Aleksandr, who has over 65, 000 Twitter followers, has starred in numerous adverts, is the reason for a series of soft toys and has even done TV interviews on shows such as ITV’s Daybreak; ultimately a success for the advertisers who came up with the idea. Meanwhile, Grumpy Cat is regularly posting on Twitter of his attendance at various shows and events where people are desperate to meet him; he also has a big range of merchandise too. All of this started from a series of memes that circulated around social networking sites.
So is it easy to get such a big following for a pet on Twitter?
Well, I’m interested in pursuing a career in journalism so I decided to set myself my first investigative assignment; I gave myself a month to run a Twitter account for my very own pet cat, Brisbane. Thus, in mid-February I set up the account and gave it a go. As it was supposed to be a little bit of an experiment, I did set myself some ground rules.
1.) I was not allowed to promote the account in any way to ensure that the account did not become popular simply because my friends knew that I was running it.
2.) I was only allowed to follow a maximum of 20 people (I thought that this was a fair number) and these were mainly fellow cat accounts, cat charities and cat-loving tweeters including Ed Sheeran and Sarah Millican. Oh…and Cat Deeley too- Brisbane is a big fan of her presenting skills.
Now I will be honest, I am not the wittiest person in the world and upon following some fellow cat Twitter accounts, it became clear that some people are really good at pretending to be animals; I didn’t quite live up to their success but never mind. I have, however, included some of the highlights of the past month as I tried to imagine what might go on in the mind of my cat.
Brisbane made comments on his human interaction…
He tweeted his idol on his birthday…
He provided his take on modern day pop songs…
He tweeted pictures of himself practicing his boxing skills whilst trying to catch butterflies
And he even created his own daily competition; #TodaysCoolCat
Now ultimately Brisbane’s account, due to my lack of comedy skills and I’m going to try and console myself by saying that it has only been a month, only managed to gain a few hundred thousand followers short of other cat Twitter accounts. However, the thirty-one followers that he did gain were about thirty more than I had expected.
Whilst my personal experiment did not prove a great deal, I did find it interesting to observe our social media behavior and even if some people do judge those who run Twitter accounts for animals, it is very obvious that there is a demand for them; Grumpy Cat and others prove that. It simply shows that Twitter is more than a site for connecting with family, friends and celebrities but is also a place to be entertained.
I don’t intend to keep Brisbane’s Twitter account up for much longer (he says that he has decided to publicize his life via a weekly newsletter instead- he’s joking, I think!) However, I will leave it up for long enough for you to take a quick look if you are interested, especially as the screenshots above are rather blurry. You can visit his page by clicking here. The final statistics of his Twitter account can be seen below.