Tuesday, 28 December 2010


If you are interested in ballet, Russia or just have some time on your hands that you’d like to spend with purpose, this exhibition is what you are after. You’d have to hurry up though – it ends on the 9th of January. The exhibition tells the story of the Russian Seasons between 1909 and 1929 in Paris and later in London and North America. It focuses on the famous impresario Serge Diaghilev who founded the troupe, the set and costume designs that were considered innovative and sensuous at the time, the influence of Ballets Russes on modern ballet and the interpersonal relationships between the dancers, Diaghilev and various artists.

There are tons of original costumes on display designed by Leon Bakst, Pablo Picasso and Benois, many of them are inspired by the Orient and must have been considered very risqué at the time – for example, Sheherezade’s costume was completely sheer. It’s a shame that there are very few recordings of the dances, because it’s one thing to see the costume on a doll and another to watch it move on a dancer. I was shocked to see how tiny all the dancing shoes were! They looked like children’s shoes, hardly 15 cm in length. Another highlight was a collection of Yves Saint Laurent dresses from fifty years ago, inspired by the ballet.

I was also surprised to learn that the ballet’s star, Vaslav Nijinsky and Diaghilev were lovers and that the two had a very twisted relationship, where Diaghilev was obsessed with the dancer and hardly allowed any outside access to him. Nijinsky had a short but intense career and retired quickly, due to his schizophrenia. His place as the genius of male ballet was empty for twenty years after his death.

Although the Ballets Russes ceased to exist after Diaghilev’s death, it is still possible to watch some of the most famous performances associated with the troupe. A couple of years ago, the Bolshoi theatre troupe performed the highly successful ‘L’apres Midi d’un Faune’ in Paris, and I am hoping that they will do more in the future.

Here is a short video of Rudolph Nureyev's Faun.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


Unless you live on a desert island with a Wilson ball for company, it is extremely difficult to get away from being constantly reminded of the Oscar contenders. And although the list hasn’t been finalised yet, three films have already been marked as “worth seeing”: Black Swan, The King’s Speech and 127 Hours. There are also the marketing behemoths Harry Potter 7, Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and The Hangover 2 that everyone’s going to see without my blabbing. So, instead of polluting your minds with their descriptions, I am going to survey the less publicised films that will be coming out next year. The release dates are for UK only.

Part 1. Completed films, with final release dates and trailers.

1.    Biutiful. Focus Features. 
     Dir.: Alejandro González Iñárritu
     With: Javier Bardem, Bianca Portillo.
     28th January

This is a new film from the director of ‘Amores Perros’ and ‘Babel’. Javier Bardem won the Best Actor award at Cannes this year for his portrayal of a single dad-come-underworld dealer in this film. It is said to be a heavy, foreboding story that was well received by film critics. If you don’t like following subtitles and don’t speak Spanish, don’t go see it : )

2.    Norwegian Wood. 
     Dir.: Anh Hung Tran. 
     With: Rinko Kikuchi, Ken’ichi Matsuyama.
     18th March.

The film is based upon the bestselling novel by Haruki Murakami. It is, in essence, one man’s flashbacks of the events of his youth, triggered by the Beatles song “Norwegian Wood”. It was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

3.     How I ended this summer. Bavaria Film Intl. 
      Dir.: Aleksei Popogrebsky. 
      With: Grigoriy Dobrygin, Sergey Puskepalis.
25th March

This Russian movie won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlin Film Festival in 2010. Set in a remote Russian region, it tells the story of two meteorologists who begin to lose touch with reality. It is supposed to be a very good thriller, with a generational conflict at hand.

Part 2. Films whose release dates haven’t been finalised.

1.     Shanghai. The Weinstein Company
      Dir.: Mikael Håfström. 
      With: John Cusack, Gong Li, Chow Yun-fat, Ken Watanabe.

I’ve been dying to see this film, it just looks so good! The crème de la crème of modern Asian cinema seem to have gravitated towards this thriller, set in the 1940s Shanghai.

2.     Jane Eyre. Focus Features. 
     Dir.: Cary Fukunaga. 
     With: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench.

A new take on the classic. The film looks more gothic and haunting than the famous BBC series from 1983 with Timothy Dalton as Mr Rochester. Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska make a strange pairing but I am still curious to see how it pans out.

3.     The Tree of Life.
      Dir.: Terrence Malick. 
      With: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn.

The details of the plot have been well protected and all we know about the story is that it tracks the development of a little boy from childhood to adulthood with his father (Brad Pitt) playing a major role in his formation.

4.     The Grandmasters
      Dir.: Wong Kar-Wai. 
      With: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi.

Finally, a new feature from the elusive director of ‘In the Mood for Love’ and ‘2046’. It tells the life of Ip Man, played by Tony Leung, an enigmatic martial arts expert who trained the adolescent Bruce Lee.

5. A Dangerous Method
     Dir.: David Cronenberg. 
     With: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel.

I was only just complaining the other day that there isn’t a film about Sigmund Freud. And then I read about ‘A Dangerous Method’ which stars Viggo Mortensen as Freud and Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung, Freud’s colleague, friend and rival. The film explores their relationship and the birth of psychoanalysis.

6.     Coriolanus
      Dir.: Ralph Fiennes. 
      With: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler.

This feature is Ralph Fiennes’s directorial debut. Based on the Shakespearean Roman war play, this piece is set in modern day Serbia. In the play an exiled hero allies with his enemy to take revenge on the city of Rome. It premiers at the Berlin Film Festival in 2011.

Part 3. Films in production or post-production, with final release dates.

1.     Puss in Boots. Paramount
     Dir.: Chris Miller. W
     With: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek,
9th December

A spin-off from Shrek, this animation tells the story of Puss in Boots in his gangland days.

2.     Hugo Cabret. Columbia Pictures

      Dir.: Martin Scorsese. 
      With: Chloe Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen.
9th December

Martin Scorsese’s first children’s film about an orphan who makes an extraordinary discovery in nineteenth-century Paris.

3.     The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Sony Pictures. 

      Dir.: David Fincher. 
      With: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Max von Sydow.
26th December

A Hollywood take on the Swedish phenomenon. David Fincher promises to make the dark story even darker. The world’s favourite hacker Lisbeth Salander is played by an unknown actress, Rooney Mara, and the crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist by Daniel Craig (a strange casting decision, since Mikael comes across as a bit of a softy in the books).

Sunday, 19 December 2010

REVIEW: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Dir.: Woody Allen.
With: Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, Frieda Pinto, Josh Brolin. 
Already released in mainland Europe, on limited release in the states. UK – March 2011.

‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ opens with the famous quote from ‘Macbeth’ that “life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing”.  The story truly reflects this, it focuses on the futility of life; the character’s trifling passions have no meaning on the grander scale of things. It is a bitter comedy that demonstrates that when you think that things cannot get any worse, they do. The movie is another typical creation by Mr Allen. If you like his style, this film is not going to disappoint. It has the same glossy feel as the other films by him – London is sunny and the people are beautiful. The characters are sketchy caricatures of the types we are bound to meet in real life: a well-to-do man going through a mid-life crisis, buying sports cars, hitting on women in clubs and acquiring the most ridiculous new wife called Charmaine (Anthony Hopkins, I salute you for having enough self-irony to be able to play this guy), a washed-up one-hit writer (Josh Brolin), a beautiful stranger in red (Frieda Pinto), a sensible daughter with a crazy mother (Naomi Watts) and her artsy, Spanish and extremely seductive boss (Antonio Banderas).  Sounds like Woody Allen decided to capitalise on the success of Javier Bardem in ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’.

The story is not very deep, the dialogue lacks the sharpness of ‘Annie Hall’ and London is meek in comparison to Barcelona; and yet, the film is funny and enjoyable, mainly through schadenfreude. Allen does not sympathise with his characters, they populate his fictional world, bump into each other, have arguments and carry on living their train-wreck lives.

But you know, Woody Allen is 75. He’s made over 40 feature films, each one of them tackling similar issues, his voyeuristic tendencies and fetish for younger women have been made fun of on million occasions. Give the guy a break. He’s clearly seen enough of life to be bored by it and his lack of sympathy for people is probably caused by the many disappointments he’s experienced. He still weaves entertaining stories, their success over the years show that the audiences can relate to his basic existentialism. 

Friday, 17 December 2010


















Post your answers in comments!

All images taken from http://www.mocpages.com/home.php/7120

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Voilà! Here’s a list of the TV series I enjoyed the most in the past year. Some are new and some have been running for years. Some have been showered with awards and others are pretty obscure.

1.     Mad Men. AMC.
4th Season. Drama.
Created by Matthew Weiner. 
With: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss.

No surprises here. ‘Mad Men’, the 1960s drama about everybody’s favourite ad-man, has been my loyal companion over the past couple of years. The fourth season of the series is as beautiful, enticing and scandalous as the previous ones; however it is slightly different in tone: we finally get a glimpse into the inner workings of Don Draper’s mind. The season is also full of hope for Don – hope for a new life after divorce, hope of improving his health by cutting down on the drinking, hope for success in his new company and new romance. The choices he made now demonstrate his wish to break free from the vicious circle of past mistakes. I shan’t spoil the ending of the series, I’ll just say that I was very shocked and somewhat disappointed in Don for choosing the “easy option”.

Sally Draper had some really interesting scenes this season. Her therapy sessions and the constant struggle with her mother turn her into an unusually troubled little girl. Betty’s neurosis is the culprit, I think. As usual, Peggy was a delight to observe not only as the only female character with enough grit to make it in the male-populated world of advertising, but also because she’s finally gotten over her insecurities and is not afraid to explore the more alternative side of 1960s culture.

Matthew Weiner is responsible for creating and developing the two most enigmatic and contradictory characters of recent American television, Tony Soprano and Donald Draper. My wish is that his next work will feature a female protagonist of equal notoriety.  

Best Episode: The Suitcase.

A very dramatic episode where Peggy and Don’s bonding results in a messy night and Don showing emotion for the first time.

And another highly amusing mashup video where Don displays his ability to say “what?” in many different ways.

2.     30 Rock. NBC.
 5th season. Situational Comedy.
Created by Tina Fey. 
With: Tina Fey. Alec Baldwin.

The series has a small but dedicated audience, it’s already acquired a cult status and won many awards. This year too, both Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin have been nominated for Golden Globes. I am struggling to describe the type of humour that is unique to 30 Rock, the show is often borderline absurd and offensive. It’s critical of NBC, political Conservatism (and Liberalism), celebrity culture and American values. There are many eccentric guest appearances this season, including Jon Hamm, Queen Latifah and Matt Damon. The highlight of the series is the strange, platonic and symbiotic relationship between Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin’s characters. His Jack Donaghy is a sophisticated, charming and high-functioning corporate boss with a deep voice and a great shock of hair and her Liz Lemon is…well…the opposite.  The pair produce the most memorable quotes of the show: “Men need alcohol, Lemon. It’s the first thing civilizations make along with weapons and shelters to enjoy prostitutes…”

Best Episode:  College.

Liz Lemon learns what it’s like to be popular.

The Trip. BBC 2.
1st season. Comedy.
Created by Michael Winterbottom.
With: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon.

Here’s the setup – Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictional versions of their real selves and tour around the North of England, visiting restaurants and staying at B&Bs. Each episode is set in a new restaurant with the two actors talking over a meal, most of the dialogue is improvised. They speak of their film and TV careers, family and fellow thespians. There is much antagonism between the two egos and it’s clear that Steve cannot stand Rob most of the time. This results in many arguments based around who can do a better impression of Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Stephen Hawkin, you name it. I stumbled upon ‘The Trip’ by chance and literally cried with laughter from the very first episode.  It’s done in a mockumentary fashion, with beautiful scenic shots of the country and a dark, melancholic tinge.

Best Episode:  The Inn at Whitewell.

“She was only 16 years old.”

4.     Sherlock. BBC 1.
1st season. Crime Drama.
Created by Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat. 
With: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman.

Arthur Conan-Doyle’s creation has been given two re-vamps this year: Guy Ritchie’s dire ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and this BBC adaptation. The BBC version wins by a clear margin – although the series is close to the books in spirit, the story unfolds in modern day London. Whereas, originally Sherlock Holmes could guess the person’s profession by looking at the mud on their boots, the modern Sherlock does so from scratches on the mobile phone. The acting is incomparable, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is haughty, rude, piercingly intelligent and extremely likable.  John Watson is emphatic and very human and is definitely more in touch with reality than his flatmate. Martin Freeman is to play Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming Hobbit film, a very good casting decision, I think. Due to the popularity of this series, BBC is planning to film a second season (not such a huge surprise, considering the cliff-hanger at the end of the final episode).

Best Episode:  A Study in Pink.

Our first look at Sherlock’s world of deduction.

5.     Nikita. The CW Television Network.
1st season. Action/Thriller/Drama.
Created by Craig Silverstein. 
With: Maggie Q, Shane West.

Another example of Hollywood’s lack of new ideas. ‘Nikita’ is loosely based on the Luc Besson film; also, do not confuse it with the old Canadian TV series of the same name with the platinum-blonde lady. The new Nikita is not as vulnerable and troubled as her French predecessor and much better-looking than her Canadian sibling, instead she can be described as James Bond in a skirt or a more attractive version of Mother Theresa. Maggie Q is a pleasure to watch, she is unflinching, tough and wise. Nikita becomes disillusioned with the secret government organisation that initially recruited her and is now on her path to revenge. Her opponent is Michael, played by Shane West, channeling his inner Jack Bauer; he clearly harbours some feelings for Nikita that would be considered inappropriate for enemies. Each episode has the same outline; still, they are fun to watch, the general look of the show is robust and expensive. Maggie Q showcases her linguistic abilities on several occasions, she speaks Chinese, which she picked up whilst modeling in Hong Kong, and Russian.

Best Episode:  Pilot.  

Nikita’s lipstick.

Monday, 13 December 2010


Here is a list of films from 2010 that I think were i) the most entertaining ii) cleverly done iii) or simply beautiful. Unfortunately, there is a number of films I haven’t been able to watch, otherwise they would have probably made it to the list: Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives, A Prophet, The Illusionist, The Kids are Alright. Without these films the list is rather midatlantic.

1.     Toy Story 3. Walt Disney/Pixar. Dir.: Lee Unkrich. With: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen.

Having a little brother really helps sometimes, I’ve seen all the Pixar/DreamWorks animations released in the past few years, hence 2 of these made it to this list. Now, TS3 was definitely a highlight for all the cinemagoers around the world. I distinctly remember watching the first two films on creaky VHS, very badly dubbed in Russian and still loving them.  I was quite curious but also apprehensive about the third instalment – so many years have passed, things have changed and the original audiences have grown up. TS3 wooed me completely as an old fan, but the children and parents in the audience, including my brother, were shrieking with laughter too.  Much has been said about the melancholic feel of the story and whether it is appropriate for young children to be upset in such a way; however, I think, it is not necessarily a bad thing, now with kids growing up so much faster and people constantly coming in and out of your life. It’s nice to be reminded of one’s childhood every now and then…

Favourite Moment: Buzz Lightyear’s Spanish Mode and Chuckles the Clown’s rainy story.

2.     The Ghost Writer. Summit Entertainment. Dir. Roman Polanski. With: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan.

The much persecuted, drug-taking, child-molesting director has delivered once again. I am always surprised to find Roman Polanski to be on top form despite his age and multiple legal problems. Compare him to Martin Scorsese who, despite being relatively untroubled, manages to produce very weak films lately. The Ghost (which is the film’s original title) is a delicious thriller. I really do appreciate being kept on the edge of my seat, the minimalist décor, unexpected people having sex and great casting. I don’t particularly want to go into the political side of the story, I only discuss the film as a whole and I must say that the dark tones, the abrupt ending and the constant feeling of confusion and isolation were certainly masterfully achieved. Pierce was lurrvely ; )

Favourite Moment: Ewan McGregor talking to his reflection in the bathroom “this is a very bad idea” before fucking the PM’s wife.

3.     A Single Man. The Weinstein Company. Dir. Tom Ford. With: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore.

Many have been crooning about Tom Ford’s debut. It is truly a beautiful film, looking much like a Vogue photoshoot. It is clear that every scene, every fleck of the sun were carefully and meticulously planned out. Tom Ford probably has mild OCD. The story is secondary to music, outer beauty and the perfect gentleman’s wardrobe. If I ever watch it again, it’ll be for aesthetic pleasure and Julianne Moore.

Favourite Moment: Carlos.

4.     Up in the Air. Paramount. Dir. Jason Reitman. With: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga.

I think that this is a really nice film even though it is quite predictable. It looks like it took no effort from George Clooney to play the emotionless and aloof corporate type. Maybe he meets them all the time or maybe he is a bit cold-blooded himself. Nevertheless, it is supposed to be a truthful and timely representation of life on the plane.

Favourite Moment: Clooney’s tips on how to go through airport security in the quickest way possible.

5.     The Town. Warner Bros. Dir.: Ben Affleck. With: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall.

Bravo Ben Affleck! I am incredibly impressed with the man as director, writer and actor. Who doesn’t love a good heist movie about a criminal with a heart? The acting and the story were both great. Rebecca Hall is becoming one of my favourite actresses. It’s funny how our sympathies can be manipulated so easily: on the one hand we have the dashing cop played by Jon Hamm of ‘Mad Men’, on the other the über-manly gang leader, Ben Affleck with an annoying accent. I felt that my allegiance depended on whoever was on the screen. You want Ben Affleck to be caught but at the same time you want to see just how much he can steal and what new disguises he can doll up.  One minor criticism – the ending was pure CHEESE. Not quite my cup of tea. I’d prefer some gruesome deaths and broken hearts instead.

Favourite Moment: The nuns’ masks.

6.     Inception. Warner Bros. Dir.: Christopher Nolan. With: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

This is the big summer blockbuster and for a blockbuster it is a very good one. I still think that much of the “philosophical” aspect of the story has been blown out of proportion and it looks pale in comparison to, say, The Matrix. Nevertheless, it’s a very entertaining, slick and clever film, I just wish it wasn’t so obvious that Christopher Nolan was out to confuse the poor unsuspecting audiences with the ambivalent ending. As far as ambivalent endings go, this one was just annoying (just as another DiCaprio movie this year, Shutter Island). I like the international cast very much but I think that Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have stolen the show.  Another complaint is that the dreams could have been a bit more surreal…Nolan’s clearly not a fan of Dali and Freud. Just imagine how mindboggling dream sequences with giant melting cheese, burning giraffes and Oedipus complex could have been!

Favourite Moment: Joseph Gordon-Levitt fighting/dancing in the rotating hotel corridor.

7.     How to train your dragon. Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks. Dir.: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBois. With: Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill.

I love this film. I really do. There is something about stories about taming your fears and learning to control them that always gets me. The unusual setting in a Viking village, the nerdy protagonist and his scaly friend proved to be a winning combination. I generally prefer Pixar animations to DreamWorks, but this particular one had a great story and beautiful graphics. Not sure that the violence in the film was appropriate for younger viewers – my brother was scared! But I do hope there is a sequel.

Favourite Moment: all the flying.

8.     Kick-Ass. Lionsgate/Universal. Dir.: Matthew Vaughn. With: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz.

Hit Girl, you are the best, I would marry you if I could. This slightly bonkers film about super hero wanna-bes features many talented actors. Even everybody’s favourite laughing stock, Nicholas Cage has a nice little role here as Big Daddy. Nice name, Nic! I am a little apprehensive of the number of Mark Strong’s appearances as a villain in this year’s films (Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes). He is slowly becoming the number 1 go-to-villain. Move over, Ralph Fiennes. Something has to be said about Chloe Moretz. She has the sweetness of the young Drew Barrymore and is just as edgy as Jody Foster in Taxi Driver. She has several films coming out or out already and I wish her all the luck, she’ll make a great actress. I cannot imagine how Mark Strong felt when he was beating her 11-year-old body up at the end of the film.

Favourite Moment: whenever Hit Girl was on screen.

9.     I love you, Phillip Morris. Roadside Attractions. Dir.: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. With: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor.

Ewan McGregor – again! Only this time he is soft-spoken, blonde and gay. The film has many downsides but it is, nevertheless, highly entertaining – mainly because the unbelievable story did take place and Jim Carrey’s character is still imprisoned.  This film is camp, bright and outlandish, in the best sense of the word.

Favourite Moment: Jim Carrey’s fluke job interview.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1. Warner Bros. Dir.: David Yates. With: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson.

First and foremost, I detest HP films. But ignoring them would be stupid as they made up such a big chunk of cinemagoers’ experience over the past 7 years. This particular film was criticised for lacking action and praised for being so true to the book. I have to say I enjoyed it more than the previous one, Harry and Hermione’s acting seemed to have improved and it was nice to be out of Hogwarts for a while. It’s a pity how the majority of the adult actors in the film think that because this is a children’s movie they should overact. Bellatrix, Voldemort, Xenophilius Lovegood and others are just over the top. Snape, on the other hand, always displays the most perfect balance of butter-wouldn’t-melt face and hidden emotion. One major criticism – Ginny Weasley is one of the most miscast people I have ever seen!! What were the producers thinking?

Favourite Moment: the seven Harry Potters.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Fucking Sleep On It

A great site if you are looking for some smile-inducing advice. Words of wisdom and cliches have never sounded so close to home. Although it is aimed primarily at designers, the good fucking advice is applicable in any sticky situation.