Saying goodbye to 2011

It’s that time of year when everyone starts putting together their top ten lists. I managed to do a top 5 list last year but this year I was a bit lax on my cinema/theatre going, not because it was a bad year for cinema or anything but because I got given notice of redundancy in February and with my uncertain future I had to cut back on luxuries for a bit and sadly got out of the habit.

Looking back, I think the best thing that happened to me this year was being under threat of redundancy. It gave me the kicking I needed to get my CV out there. I’m grateful for everything Dirty Dancing (and the Aldwych) gave me in the five years I worked there but towards the end it was starting to do me more harm than good, moving to Lend Me a Tenor was the best decision I’d made in a long time.

Lend Me a Tenor was a fun show. It was silly, farcical and a good old-fashioned musical with a great company who were all vastly talented, in contrast Dirty Dancing felt like a cynical attempt to cash in on the popularity of a mildly successful film. Don’t get me wrong, I liked working at the Aldwych (most of the time, there were days when I seriously thought about doing something else) and I made some fantastic friends but I learned a big lesson there – you need to move on. If Blood Brothers (Phoenix Theatre) was my crash course introduction into the darkly cynical world of British Theatre, Dirty Dancing was my adolescence and breathing space before Lend Me a Tenor led me blinking into the light of adulthood and the reality of theatre. I feel more settled into the reality of my work and I’m much more comfortable, I’m also making steps towards my current goal. Last month I had an interview where I was told I’m on the right path and that out of seventy-five applicants, he was only interviewing five people.

On a more personal level, I decided to get help for my social anxiety issues and I think this has contributed greatly to my general feeling of comfort in myself. Sure, I’ve got a long way to go and I need become more active socially but change doesn’t happen over night. I’ve also successfully passed my first two Open University modules and am part way through my third module, if all goes well I should complete my degree in 2014.

I managed not to pick up any new obsessions this year (thankfully!), poked around in the Steampunk community and hopefully will start joining in a few events in the new year as well as getting out  more with my camera. I have rekindled my joy with The Thick of It, partly because watching Peter Capaldi in Getting On and The Ladykillers reminded me how brilliant he is and partly because I genuinely cannot wait to see how they deal with the coalition. We’ve already seen what happens to Malcolm when you take his job away (which I didn’t find funny, just fucking terrifying!) so whether he’ll thrive with the challenge of being in opposition or if he’ll get shafted by the Dan Miller cabal, who knows? Apparently they start work in March 2012 so fingers crossed for a series at Easter (my dream would be a two part election special covering the election [obviously] and the coalition negotiation, followed by the leadership election… then a series).

I’ve been watching Glee (mostly on fast forward, some of those songs are so badly auto-tuned it’s painful) and can’t quite decide if I like it or not. I go through phases where I think it’s doing a really good job of bringing out issues that do need to be talked about ( Kurt’s storyline with the closeted bully, first time sex and when Sue’s sister died) but other times they make me want to strangle the writers. I’m a particular fan of Santana and a huge supporter of her coming out storyline but I thought it was really badly handled. Finn had absolutely no right to publicly out her (I don’t care what you say, yes she is a bully but what Finn did actively endangered her life and threatened her home life, did he not learn anything from what Kurt went through?!) and nor did he have the right to ride in on his horse of white male privilege to make it all okay. That was all awful, but what was worse was Finn insinuating that Brittney doesn’t love Santana back, way to attack someone’s self-esteem when they’re already struggling to accept their same-sex feelings. Also, on the subject of Brittney – last season we saw how she’s not actually that stupid but she seems to have gone completely backwards this season, and did no one else think Rory was incredibly creepy and borderline rape-y pretending to be a leprechaun to get into her pants thing? A lot of this has been echoed by the larger Gleek community and I have hopes that they’ve listened and we’ll see some better things in the next half of the season, oh and would it be too much to ask for Santana to actually kiss her girlfriend?

From the same writers of Glee I gave American Horror Story a go and it’s actually pretty good. I’m liking the vibe and really enjoying the overall creepiness. I don’t think it’s the type of show that could lend itself to more than one series but you never know, I’ve got the end to watch later today so fingers crossed. Parks and Recreation is another of my recent favourites, I tried to like Community and I did get into it but something about the characters bothers me a bit.

So, top lists.

Top Five TV Shows:
1) Getting On
2) Downton Abbey
3) Frozen Planet
4) Game of Thrones
5) Parks and Recreation

(Honorary mention to The Thick of It because I re-watched it recently and it’s awesome)

Top Five Films:
1) We Need to Talk about Kevin
2) Snowtown
3) Monsters
4) Hugo
5) Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Top Five Books (that I read this year, not necessarily new):
1) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
2)  The Lost City of Z by David Grann
3) The Help by Kathryn Stockett
4) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
5)  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Top Five Audiobooks:
1)  Night Watch (unabridged) by Terry Pratchett (read by Stephen Briggs)
2) the Jack Daniels series by JA Konrath (read by Susie Black and Dick Hill, and Angela Dawe)
3)  The Dark Tourist (unabridged) by Dom Joly (read by Dom Joly)
4) Freedom (unabridged)  by Jonathan Franzen (read by David LeDoux)
5) Rivers of London (unabridged) by Ben Aaronovitch (read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith)

Only saw nine theatre shows this year so I can’t really do a top 5 (particularly as I didn’t like most of them!) but I definitely think that Seasons Greetings, Frankenstein and The Ladykillers are my highlights of the year. I could always put Lend Me a Tenor down as my favourite show of the year but I don’t count stuff I’ve worked on.

Roll on 2012.

Steph’s Movie Review Round Up

Fantastic Mr Fox – 2/5
Lacked the charm, the darkness and the humour of the original book. Trying too hard to be clever and far too long. Not sure who Wes Anderson made the film for, I was bored and accidentally went during half-term and based on the moaning children I don’t think they were too engaged. Looked pretty though.

Plan B (3.5/5) (London Film Festival)
The basic premise was a guy dumps his girlfriend because he’s bored, sees girlfriend with another guy and hatches a plot to get back together again with the girlfriend by seducing the new boyfriend… the new boyfriend and the guy end up falling in love. A rather sweet, gentle film considering the plot could have turned malicious, it struggled towards the middle and the passage of time stills got a bit over-long. The characters were very believable and it was played very well.

The White Space (3/5) (London Film Festival)
A teacher in Italy gives birth to a three month premature baby, and the film is set in the premature baby unit at the hospital where the mothers wait for their babies to be ‘born’. A very different sort of film, nicely shot and with a very intriguing plot. In a way it made me think of Pedro Almodóvar’s films in that women are the central characters and it’s about them rather than the people around them.

Glorious 39 (3/5) (London Film Festival)
Stephen Poliakoff’s return to film. A very televisual tense second world war conspiracy thriller. Great performances from the cast, interesting story with a twist that even though I could see coming didn’t feel forced. Did feel a little long in places and felt like it would have played better as a two part TV drama but that’s not exactly a criticism. It goes on general release soon and I think it’s worth checking out, good Sunday afternoon flick.

ASSA II (3.5/5) (Russian Film Festival)
I’m afraid I don’t know how to describe this film, other than it’s a follow-up to what I believe is a generation defining Russian film (ASSA). Bizarrely compelling, amazing visuals and one hell of a soundtrack (I think Shnur is kinda the REM of Russia… I think). I don’t even think this is going on general release in Russia but if somehow you can get hold of a copy it’s worth giving a go… I saw it last Sunday and I’m still mulling over how I felt about the film. I’d really like to see ‘ASSA’ but it’s hard to find.

9 (3.5/5)
Very intriguing plot with some very interesting ideas, visually it’s absolutely amazing – steampunk fun! It’s not the best film I’ve seen but certainly something I would like to see again because the ideas are very big, and the story is… pretty dark. Worth seeing, but whether or not you see it at the cinema is another matter… might be worth it just for the design.

An Education (4/5)
A very British sort of film, with a compelling plot and interesting characters. The lead actress is being tipped for an Oscar and I think that if she got it (or was even nominated) it would be very deserved. Definitely a film to watch on an evening out with the other half.