10-minute protein-packed Moroccan spicy vegetarian chickpea dish

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INGREDIENTS

Chickpeas
Brocolli 
Tomatoes 
Chilli pepper 
Garlic
Egg 
Hemp milk (use any milk you like, I’m a fan of hemp milk)
Cinnamon, paprika, mint, cayenne pepper
Lemon / olive oil  

If you want a vegan version of this dish, cut the egg and hemp milk part. Without the egg part, this will still be delicious and full of protein. I haven’t worked out a vegan alternative to egg yet. Suggestions welcomed! 

This was inspired by a Moroccan breakfast I had at a festival at the beginning of August. I’ve been experimenting with variations of that dish since I got back. All have been delicious. I don’t know why I ever ate eggs any other way. 

Time: about 10 mins

  • Chop garlic, tomatoes, chilli and broccoli into small pieces and add to a bowl. Flavour with cinnamon, paprika, cayenne pepper, mint, olive oil and lemon juice

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  • If you don’t want to use the whole chilli, you can cut off the end for use and put the rest into some salt. This stops it wilting. (I don’t know why, but it works. You can keep it like this for a while. Mine normally last a week – and that’s out of the fridge, because I just leave it on the chopping board for next time. 

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  • Heat a pan on the hob. When it’s hot, pour the mix from the bowl into the pan. Stir out a little then leave. In the same bowl, crack in one egg and the hemp milk. You can skip this part if you want it to be vegan. Whisk with your fork and leave for a moment. 
  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas. I used a can of chickpeas because it was faster, but you could always cook up a batch, which can take between 40-60 mins and then pack it up into portions to use whenever you want. Because they’re already cooked you’re just warming them up here, really. Stir the chickpeas in the mix in the pan.

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  • Pour the egg mix over the chickpeas. Leave for a minute. 
  • This bit comes down to appearance. You can either mix it up a bit or try and keep it intact and turn it over. I turned it in bits and then stirred it because it seemed like the best way to not burn anything or make a mess. 

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I served it up with a gluten-free tortilla from the shop. You could use regular wraps or flat bread or even make your own.

To make your own flatbread all you need to flour and milk. I normally use gluten free flour made of a blend of rice, potato and something (from Ocado) and hemp milk. 

Pour a small pile of flour into a bowl. Add the milk. Use your hand to work into dough, adding more milk when necessary. The gluten free version will need more liquid than usual. I’d sprinkle some flavouring in. So with this dish, a bit of paprika and cinnamon into the mix would work great. 

I normally cook the bread in the pan I just made the food in. The gluten-free dough doesn’t stay together very well, so I’d flatten a ball out in my hand a little, then flatten it the rest of the way in the pan. It only take a couple of minutes to cook – remember to flip. Doing it in the same pan has two great benefits: a) it absorbs lots of the yummy taste from the other food, and b) less washing up. 

You could probably also eat this with pita bread. (I don’t know how to make pita bread, I’m afraid.)

One serving of this dish has 20g of protein and is 368kcal (not including the bread part). 

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To work those nutritional values out, I used an app called My Fitness Pal, which has a recipe input section so you can track your daily intake. 

Happy eating! 

25 must-see horror movies

I am a huge horror buff. For years, my friend and I have spent many an evening hunting down some of the most interesting, most terrifying horror movies around.

This search has most often lead us to some really awful films. Films so bad we’re not sure how they even convinced anyone to fund them. The search has also lead to a whole subgenre that has filled us with much joy – the crappy but still funny and hugely entertaining horror movie that isn’t very good but still worth watching. This is the sort we watch most of, seeing as there aren’t actually all that many good ones. Which is heartbreaking.

But this is a list of some of the greats. Obviously there are way more than 25 and many of you are not going to agree with my choices. But if you, like me, are often searching for good horrors to tick off your list, perhaps this could come in handy. I hope there are a few here that you haven’t already seen.

Without further ado, here are 25 horror movies you really must see.

1. Scream (all four 1996-2011 USA)

Anyone claiming to be a horror fan will most likely have seen all of these already. It goes without saying: Scream is one of the all-time best horror film serieses of all time. But I had to say it. Because it really is one everyone must see. Scream is the movie all slasher movies wish they could have been. It is able to deconstruct the horror genre, whilst being a fantastic horror itself and still making the audience laugh. Fantastic. Scream is most certainly the pinnacle of Wes Craven’s career, in my opinion.

2. Nightmare on Elm Street (2010 USA)

 

Another one from Wes Craven. For a long time, the original Nightmare franchise was the benchmark of fear for me when it came to horror movies. Ahead of the release of the remake in 2010, I rewatched all of them. This exercise lead to the realisation that thanks to the advancements in cinematography and makeup, these films were no longer scary. Also thanks to me not being a small child anymore. The remake, however, was fantastic. It takes the story, which is fantastic – the frightful idea that you’re not even safe in your dreams – and backs it up with some of the best horror movie cinematography I’ve ever seen. The film was beautiful and intense. While I’d suggest any movie fans watch the originals too, because they’re interesting and really quite funny in parts, I’d have to recommend the remake in particular. DOP Jeff Cutter did a great job.

3. Cannibal Holocaust (1979 ITALY)

This is one of those films that everyone should see, just so you can say you’ve seen it. One of the few films so brutal, I kept looking away. It took me three attempts before I managed to keep my eyes open the whole way through. I think what did it was knowing the animals are all being killed for real (!). This notorious film aroused a great deal of controversy, and the director was actually arrested on obscenity charges. He was later charged with making a snuff film based on rumours of actors being killed on camera. Ruggero Deodato was eventually cleared, but his film was still banned in a number of countries. This ban was the reason I wanted to see it. This film is intense. It will make you feel a bit sick and it will make you really angry and you may walk away wishing you didn’t do it; but if you’re a fan of horror, I insist. The only minus points really, is that Cannibal Holocaust lead to the popularisation of the found footage-style narrative, which in general is actually really lame (eg The Blair Witch Project).

4. A Serbian Film (2010 SERBIA)

 

A Serbian Film is probably one of the most brutal films I’ve ever seen. It’s part of the torture porn family and it’s horrible. It’s so horrible. But it’s done so well. I expected this to be another crappy B-movie; little did I know. A Serbian Film is another off the banned list, due to its graphic depictions of rape, necrophilia and child sexual abuse. This movie is painfully difficult to watch. What makes it worse is that the theme is so brutal, so horrid, that you feel like you shouldn’t enjoy the film; but actually, despite being grossed out and hating it, I couldn’t help be impressed. The juxtaposition of emotions at the time of watching was difficult to manage!

5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991 USA)

 

The Silence of the Lambs is a classic, despite not really being that old. Anthony Hopkins, who is absolutely incredible, stars in this horror / crime flick based on a novel by Thomas Harris. This isn’t like any old cannibal story: it isn’t really about Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins). He is rather this wonderfully likeable (somehow) malevolent commentator. The relationship between Lecter and Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, is one of the best (if not actually the best) relationship between any two character in horror movie history. After its release in 1991, The Silence of the Lambs was the third film to ever win Academy Awards in all the top five categories: best picture, best actor, best actress, best director and adapted screenplay. It was also the first horror to win the Best Picture category.

6. Battle Royale (2000 JAPAN)

 

Battle Royale is a film adaptation of a 1999 novel of the same name by Koushun Takami. I imagine this film (and therefore the book) was the inspiration for books/films like Hunger Games (which I love, by the way). A controversial new law in Japan means the government is now able to force school kids to kill each other as part of a deadly game. This film is another off the banned list, with many countries either banning it outright or just excluding it from distribution. But back home it was a mainstream blockbuster, becoming one of the 10 highest-grossing films in Japan.

7. The Red Shoes (2005 SOUTH KOREA)

The Red Shoes is a beautifully shot horror inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale of the same name. If you know anything about Andersen, you know his stories are all pretty brutal and very rarely end well for anyone. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more horrors based on them, actually! This film follows the tale of a woman who finds a pair of curse shoes on the subway. The storytelling, the acting and the cinematography all work together to create a fantastic psychological ghost story about betrayal and jealousy.

8. Intruders (2011 SPAIN)

Intruders tells two stories in parallel about children attacked by a menacing faceless stranger; one in Spain and one in Britain. I liked that the film was in two different languages, and I loved that I wasn’t always able to predict what was coming. I was even creeped out enough to have to turn the lights on to walk up stairs to bed.

9. Cold Prey (2006-2008 Norway)

 

Cold Prey I and II, also known as Fritt Vilt, are really good Norwegian slashers. This film is a new discovery for me. There are more in the franchise, but I haven’t watched them yet; I’ll be sure to do so soon, however! There isn’t as much blood and gore in these films as most of the movies on my list. There’s a lot less chase and struggle – mostly because the killer is so bad ass, he kills his victims pretty effortlessly. I really like that the second film carries on from where the first left off. I wish more sequels did that. It turns it into one big long story, instead of a collection of shorter separate stories vaguely strung together, that is often the case with franchises.

10. Cabin in the Woods (2012 USA)

This is the horror movie I wish I wrote. The one I’ve been planning for the last 10 years. I’d be mad that someone beat me to it, but it was Joss Whedon, who is basically a god. If anyone is going to beat you at something, it may as well be a god, right? Apparently Whedon wrote the screenplay in three days and described it as an attempt to revitalise the slasher genre (which is much needed) and as a critical satire on torture porn. Something Whedon is better than basically everyone at it dialogue, which is something that many horror movies forget about. The fantastic dialogue in this film acts as one of a number of tools to both embrace and expose the traditional horror cliches. I love it.

11. Dumplings (2004 HONG KONG)

 

I really enjoyed this film. I first saw it as part of a compilation of three short horrors, but it was later expanded to a full length. This film is gross, and really gets you where it hurts: you’re apatite. You won’t be able to watch it without at least the occasional twitch.

12. The Birds (1963 USA)

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is one of those films that changed things. It made birds scary. Birds became an ominous symbol of impending danger in horror movies for years to come. It was loosely based on a book by Daphne du Maurier of the same name and depicts a town in California suddenly hit by a series of violent bird attacks.

13. Saw (2003-2010 USA)

Saw is another one of those films to create a whole subgenre of horror: the play-a-gruesome-game-to-survive genre, where a psycho or a millionaire or someone with too much time on their hands kidnaps a group of people and locks them in a building to see if they can solve a puzzle. And kills them if they can’t. I thought the first film in the seven-feature franchise was genius. I’d never seen anything like it before. As you work your way through the franchise, the deaths and traps all get more elaborate and gruesome. After the third film it does all become a little samey, being very much just about how many kills you can get and how creative you can be with them. I’d say watch all of them, because they all tell an overall story (sort of), but definitely watch the first three.

14. One missed call (2003 JAPAN)

This Japanese horror mystery was also based on a novel, Chakushin Ari by Yasushi Akimoto. Characters start getting phone calls from their future selves just as they’re about to die. This film was remade in the US in 2008, but the Japanese version is definitely better. This film has your traditional long black-haired female ghost (standard), but it’s also got a whole lot more gore than more Japanese ghost stories do, and moves a lot faster. It seems like director Takashi Miike had a lot of fun with this one.

15. REC (2007 SPAIN)

 

Zombie movies are normally pretty naff, as as handycam films; yet somehow this basically does both of those things in an enjoyable way. It’s filmed as a found-footage film and was remade in the States in 2008 as Quarantine (which was almost identical). REC is about what happens when a rabies-like virus is unleashed in an urban area (rather than zombies persay) and is put together really well.

16. Audition (1999 JAPAN)

 

This psychological horror-drama directed by Takashi Miike is based on a novel by the same name by Ryu Murakami. This film is a reminder to not always go on first impressions. Miike is toying with the audience, as he delicately builds suspense throughout the film.

17. Hostel: Part III (2011 USA)

 

Hostel 3 is my favourite of the Hostel films. The first wasn’t really great, but they get better each time they try. Despite it’s low budget, this movie was very creative and went a long way to improve on the flaws of the first two films (though, I also liked the second one a lot more than the first). Part 3 follows a different structure, which acts as a nice surprise; in fact, this film is full of surprises. It’s smarter than before, and the torture audience aspect is really rather disturbing – mostly because it feels almost as though something like this could really be plausible. People are crazy.

18. Creep (2004 UK)

There’s something wonderful about watching a film based on home ground; so as I Londoner, a horror movie based on the London Underground really resonated. Having fallen asleep on the last Tube numerous times, and once even getting stuck in the tunnel where the trains go to sleep when they’re done, I could imagine myself in the characters’ shoes: trapped on the Underground with a creep trying to kill you.

19. The Shining (1980 UK / USA)

This incredible Stanley Kubrick film starring Jack Nicholson is definitely a must-see. It’s based on a Stephen King novel of the same name and takes a look at the supernatural and a father’s descent into madness. It’s so good. It’s creeping and gripping, and Nicolson is one of the greats. His performance in this is outstanding. This film is really clever and plays with the space in a really interesting way. The cinematography is constantly used to trick us; but it’s done so subtly it’s hard to notice on the first watch.

20. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003 SOUTH KOREA)

Based on a famous Korean folk story, A Tale of Two Sisters is the highest-grossing Korean horror film of all time and was the first to be screened in American theatres. It preys on our deep-rooted fears of adolescence, insanity and evil step-parents. The dread and the mystery pumping out of this Tale make it a classic. In 2004, it won Best Picture at the Fantasporto Film Festival.

21. The Collector (2009 USA)

This is really fantastic horror movie. Rumour has it the script, originally titled Midnight Man, was intended as a prequel to Saw; but the producers dismissed the idea early on. It is jam-packed with really gruesome murder/torture moments, and takes a huge chance on an extended period without dialogue – something that worked really well.

22. Final Destination (2000-2011 USA)

 

I really enjoy all the Final Destination films. They’re fun and clever and loop back around just nicely. It’s all about how to foresee, avoid and control death as the time comes for it to take you. This is a particularly interesting tact, because the ‘bad guy’ here is death itself. Nature is manipulated to ensure people die, and if they escape their fates, death does and loop and comes back for them. It’s smart and gory and unlike anything else on this list. It’s a great slasher movie, without there being an actual slasher doing the slashing.

23. The Eye (2002 HONG KONG)

The Eye is a wonderful film that wastes no time getting into the swing of things. Almost immediately, the film starts hitting us with ghostly apparitions. And they don’t stop, one ghost after ghost popping up to freak us out. I liked the pace of it all. It was remade three times, including in 2005 in India and in 2008 in Hollywood.

24. Dead Snow (2009 Norway)

I like this film a lot. I’ve seen it a number of times, and it’s funny every time. I’m not always a fan of the horror comedy genre, but this has been done really well. It’s a somewhat idiotic horror about Nazi zombies that will definitely keep you entertained.

25. Invitation Only (Taiwan)

Invitation Only has been billed as Taiwan’s first slasher movie – and what a great first step into the genre it was. Well worth a watch!

This is by no means an extensive list, but these are some of my favourites. These are films worth recommending to fellow horror buffs. I have no doubt that many of you will have seen a number of them already; but I’m hoping there will be at least a few new ones in here for you to explore.

Do let me know in the comment section if you have in fact seen all 25 and what movies you think would be worthy of joining the list.

I’d like to thank my friend @lauraannswift for her help in watching hundreds of horror movies over the years. And also for looking at my list and giving it her approval, comments and suggestions. She’s a good friend.

Gluten-free vegan Indian-inspired beans dish with garlic parathas

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INGREDIENTS 

For the parathas
Gluten-free flour
Hemp milk (or any other dairy-free milk, or water) 
Garlic clove
Chunk of ginger

For the beans thing
Black eyed beans (cooked/can)
Baby aubergine (or not baby, whatever’s around)
Courgette
Carrot
Tomato paste / tomatoes / something tomato-y
Onion
Garlic

Time: about 40 mins

  • Pour your chosen gluten-free flour into a bowl. I am using a blend of potato and rice flour from Ocado (Waitrose), but use whatever you prefer. Slowly add the milk – hemp milk is really nice; it’s quite thick and creamy. You could use water instead if you don’t have a milk alternative in the house. 
  • Use your hands to knead the mixture into a dough. You’re aiming for a medium sort of dough. Once you’re happy with the consistency, sprinkle some flour on to a surface, tear off a ball and roll out. This dough is a little different to handle than regular dough, so you may need to roll it in extra flour before you start rolling it flat, so it doesn’t fall apart. 
  • I grated a clove of garlic and a piece of ginger, which I sprinkled inside the dough. I then rubbed some paprika and turmeric in, too. You can add whatever you want to the inside. Once you’re happy, fold over twice and roll out again gentle. image
  • Put these to the side once they’re read to be fried. 
  • Chop onion and garlic into small bits, leaving a little bit of onion in slices (if you want) to crisp up as a topping at the end. Chop your vegetables. I used baby aubergine, okra, courgette, yellow pepper and carrot, because that’s what I had, but go with what makes you happy. I sliced the aubergine and added it to the plate with the onion, leaving the other veg in chunks on the chopping board. image
  • Put a pan on the heat with a bit of oil. Throw the onion, garlic and aubergine in. In a little bowl add paprika, garam masala, tumeric, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, salt, pepper and water and mix. Pour over onions/aubergine and stir. Add a bit more water to the bowl and pour it in to the pan.
  • In a separate pan, add the slices of onion to a bit of oil and crisp up. The trick here is to not touch the onion too much. Let it go dark, only stir a couple of times. While that’s happening add tomato paste and a bit more water to the other pan and stir.
  • When the onions look mostly black put them in a plate and leave to the side. You can put them on kitchen roll if you want to drain the excess oil.
  • In the same pan, add your first paratha. Leave for a couple of mins before you turn, it’ll be starting to crisp up around the edges and bubbling in the middle. While this is happening, throw the rest of the veg into the pan and stir. Add a bit more water if you have to. image
  • Add the black-eyed beans and stir. The beans I used where where cooked from dry a few days ago and left over, so they didn’t take long. If you’re using canned beans, they won’t take long either. If you’re using dry beans, you want to put them in hot water for 40 or so minutes before you start on everything else. 
  • I only made three parathas, so by the time my last one was finished, the bean thing was also done. Try an aubergine to check if it’s cooked yet. If the aubergine is ready, everything else is good to go. 

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I served it with some mint, leaves and flowers from the garden. The crispy onions were sprinkled over the bean dish. The flowers are edible, taste peppery; not sure what they’re called. This was so delicious. I’m really impressed with the gluten-free parathas. They were delicious. You could put anything in them. I made quite small ones, but if you made bigger ones you could really stuff them, maybe with potato (I bet that would be amazing!) or with veg. Be creative! 

Today is day seven of my no gluten, dairy or sugar challenge. It’s not as much of a challenge as I expected it to be, actually. I’ve been eating really well all week. I have been having to think about food a lot more than usual, to make sure I get to eat; but I like food, so I don’t mind. 

On day two or three I was on Southbank with a friend in the evening, and in need of dinner. There was a grilled vegetable thing in a burger bun, which I asked for without the bun. It came mixed with salad and some sort of cream cheese sauce. I wasn’t impressed that I’d just been tricked into eating cheese, but it cost me £8 and I was so hungry! 

I thought I’d really miss cheese, but actually I’ve not thought about it much. I have, however, been thinking about Nutella. A lot. I made pancakes again for breakfast this morning, and though they were great, they didn’t have Nutella on them. 

Gluten-free dairy-free pancake recipe

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INGREDIENTS

Gluten-free flour (mine is from Ocado, it’s a blend of rice, potato and some other flour)
Hemp milk
Egg
Vanilla paste (vanilla essence is also good)
Olive oil

Ignore the Hovis in the background. That was from my mum’s breakfast. She isn’t joining me on this gluten-free mission of mine, clearly! 

Time : about 15 mins

  • Pour some flour into a bowl (I used probably about just over a handful and that was enough for two pancakes) add an egg (add more eggs if you’re using more flour) and the milk. Whisk (I used a fork, but again, feel free to do it your way). 
  • When you’re happy with the consistency, add in the vanilla and a drop of olive oil. I normally use melted butter, which is like my secret ingredient for pancakes, so I figured olive oil would work the same. (They were still delicious, so I can confirm it was a good idea.)
  • Heat a drop of oil in a pan and when hot ladle in some of your mix. Now, it’s a little harder to cook that regular pancakes, so don’t panic. It takes a little bit longer and has a weird consistency at the mid-cook point, which may cause it to split. I only made two pancakes, and it only happened the first time, so I reckon it’s something you’ll get used to pretty quickly. When you think it’s cooked on one side, flip and wait. Remove from pan when ready. Takes a couple mins longer than you’re used to.
  • For the filling I used stevia and lemon juice in one, which tasted just the same as using sugar; and berries I picked from the local park drizzled with bio rice syrup for the other. Both were incredible. 

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The gluten-free dairy-free pancakes may actually have been better than regular pancakes. They were lighter. My mum even thought they were better, and said we should start using the gluten-free flour for all things and abandon the other flour. That’s huge! 

This recipe isn’t vegan, mostly because I’m not really sure what to replace eggs with. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! 

Vegan gluten-free Middle East-inspired lunch recipe

INGREDIENTS

Brown rice
Yellow split lentils 
Onion
Garlic
Spring onion
Red chilli 
Mint
Olive oil
Cinnamon 
Coriander
Vegetable stock

Time : about an hour

  • Dice the onion (leave some to slice later) and garlic. Heat a drop of olive oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Put the kettle on to make some veg stock. Add some cinnamon, salt and mint to the pan. Stir until soft. 
  • Make the veg stock and add to the pan. Add the rice and lentils. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down. Leave for between 40-60 mins depending on how much crunch you want the lentils to still have. 
  • For the crispy onion Slice what’s left of the onion. Heat a drop of oil in a separate pan. Add the onion when hot. Try not to stir too much. This can take between 10-25 mins depending on how hot and how much onion. When they’re ready, put in a plate to the side and let sit for a few mins.
  • Chop some red chilli and coriander. I also seasoned mine with some pine nuts, jalapeños, mint and some edible flowers and leaves from my garden. 
  • Add extra water to the rice if necessary. Once cooked and all the water is gone, spoon the rice/lentil mix into a plate/bowl. Garnish with the coriander, chilli and whatnot. 
  • Enjoy

There’s always lots of leeway with recipes, so do play with this. It was bloody delicious. So long as I have time to cook, this challenge shouldn’t be too hard (she says… it’s only day 1). 

No sugar, gluten or dairy CHALLENGE

My body seems to hate gluten and dairy a lot – more since I noticed. Cutting milk out has been fairly easy, but occasionally I trip up and have a delicious milkshake that leaves me in mass amounts of pain for a few hours. Cheese doesn’t hurt as much, and therefore has been much harder to cut out. Sugar and gluten seem to be in everything. 

I’ve decided to make it easier. Instead of trying to change forever, I’m going to try and stick to the diet for one month. If I can do it for a month, I can do it for longer, and if I tell you lot I’m doing it, then I have to actually try. 

I’m starting on Saturday 16 Aug, until 16 Sept. I would start tomorrow, but I need time to convince my mum to not try and sabotage me! 

Any tips and tricks will be much appreciated! Wish me luck; I’ll let you know how it goes. 

500FILMS: Enough (REVIEW)

Rating 5/10

Enough starts as a traditional love story: Slim (Jennifer Lopez) is working hard as a waitress when she meets Mitch (Billy Campbell), a rich contractor who sweeps her off her feet and turns her world around. 

Life is beautiful and they get married and have a kid. Everything is perfect – or so it seems. Turns out Mitch is actually a lunatic and he begins abusing Slim both mentally and physically. 

This becomes a tale of survival and Slim escapes with her daughter and has to grapple with the discoveries of her psychotic husband and the wreckage of her life. 

It’s all quite predictable for the most part, but it’s still pretty gripping. You really want Slim to kick this guy’s arse. 

Slim is a powerful woman, fighting for her life and to protect her child. 

The info:

Time 115 mins

Genre Drama, Thriller, Crime 

Language English (US)

Director Michael Apted

Writers Nicholas Kazan

10 lesbian films that won’t leave you wanting to kill yourself

I know what you’re thinking: ‘As if there are that many!’ 

And to be honest, maybe you’re right. I’ve past the 250 movie mark for this year’s #500films challenge and I certainly haven’t seen more than 10 lesbian films that didn’t completely suck or leave me feeling empty inside. So this list is going to have to pull from a wider pool. Luckily, I watched a lot of films before this year and it’s challenge got started. 

1. Imagine me & you

This has to be my favourite lesbian movie of all time. It was the first I came across to actually have a happy ending, which fills me with such joy. No suicides, murders or rapes; instead we’re treated to a lovely rom-com staring the incredible Lena Heady and Piper Perabo based in London. A newlywed bride starts to question her sexuality when she finds herself falling for the woman who did the flowers at her wedding. 

2. But I’m a cheerleader

This satirical comedy will make you mad and laugh in equal measure. Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is a chirpy high school cheerleader. She doesn’t much like kissing her boyfriend and much prefers checking out the other cheerleaders. Combined with her vegetarianism and interest in someone I assume was a lesbian icon of sorts in the 90s, her family decides she’s a lesbian and stages an intervention. They ship her off to camp to cure her, where she meets a group of other young homosexuals going through a reparative five-step programme. This film is great. It’s fun and witty while mocking ridiculous gender norms and the ex-gay movement.

3. Bound

This film is sexy as hell and beautifully shot. Ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon) is hired as a plumber in the building where she meets Violet (Jennifer Tilly), girlfriend to a money-laundering mafioso. Hot lesbian sex punctuates plans to pull off a major heist. Bound is a retro thriller full of complex relationships and tightly scripted suspense.

4. Fucking Amal (Show me love)

This is a Swedish coming of age story about two teenage girls in a small town who fall in love. There are some pretty intense moments. Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) is lonely and depressed, while Elin (Alexandra Dahlström) is the outgoing popular kid. Elin is mean to Agnes at first, but then feels bad and soon they fall in love. This film is touching and sad and happy; and totally worth a watch. 

5. Loving Annabelle 

Annabelle (Erin Kelly) is a ‘bad girl’ with a history of getting in trouble at school. She moves to a Catholic girls’ boarding school and quickly sets her sights on her English teacher Simone (Diane Gaidry). The first half of the film is tense, filled with close encounters.  

6. Elena undone

Elena (Necar Zadegan) is married to a pastor; Peyton (Traci Dinwiddie) is a well-known lesbian writer around the same age. These two women cross paths (literally) at the beginning of the film and set off a series of events that soon lead to a secret affair. There are tonnes of really awkward scenes that feel very realistic and a few ups and downs as soon as they realise they like each other. 

7. Nina’s heavenly delights

This British rom com focusses on a young Glaswegian cook, Nina Shah (Shelley Conn) and an old childhood friend, Lisa (Laura Fraser). The pair are running Nina’s late father’s Indian restaurant, which is struggling to survive. This is a happy-go-lucky flick about cooking, family and romance. It’s predictable and has some overly convenient ‘twists’, but that’s ok.

8. Gray matters

This film isn’t really that great, but it’s not bad and it won’t leave you depressed and curled up in a corner. It isn’t very intense and nobody dies at the end, and it wins points for treating gayness as an everyday thing. 

9. Viola di mare (Purple sea)

This is a brilliant Italian film set on a rural 19th century island and based on a true story. It’s actually really intense and will leave you rather emotionally exhausted. A film has never had so many ups and downs. Angela (Valeria Solarino) and Sara (Isabella Ragonese) are childhood friends who end up falling madly in love. Secretly at first, but then openly to stop an arranged marriage to a boy on the island. They face a lot of resistance, particularly from Angela’s incredibly scary father. This film is really good. I don’t want to tell you too much, so just watch it. 

10. Breaking the girls

This film is pretty dark (sorry, there are limited good, happy lesbian flicks), but it’s pretty brilliant. I’m fantastic at calling movie plots, and this one had so many twists and turns, it took me by surprise the whole way through. I don’t want to give too much away, so just go watch it. 

Bottled confidence: the cost of a person’s self worth

The TV wants to sell me confidence. 

And it’s not just the TV: the Tube, the escalators, the lifts, the streets, the busses and the walls. Everywhere is at it. Because confidence can be bottled. Because women just can’t have any of their own. Because a woman’s self worth is wrapped up in her image – and her image just isn’t what it should be. 

This is what we are told. Over and over again. The plan, as I see it, is to break us all down and keep us in our place. If society attacks our self worth, people won’t have the strength to fight back. When a person is consumed by the idea that they’re just not good enough, then they’ll accept the hell they’re given. 

It’s like we’re at war. So there are posters on the Underground selling confidence. Just a little nip here and a tuck there, and maybe a new nose and you’ll have that confidence you need to walk down the road. And they’ll only charge you a few grand for the privilege. 

The above poster is from 2010. It was given a little bit of a make-over by some offended commuters. There was a bit of a trend for a while in 2010 for feminist graffiti, where people went around doing such things to these awful posters. It doesn’t seem to happen anymore. I think it should. In fact, I just put a Sharpie in my backpack for next time I see one.  

This one (above) is from two years ago. The fact that we live in a society that not only allows, but actively encourages, this is a joke. The sort of joke where only half the room is laughing, while the other half tries to hide its face. 

And the media and big business are getting more aggressive in their message: you are nothing, pay us to make you something better.

This is a message teenage Pennie heard loud and clear. One that reverberated around my head as I scrolled through pages and pages of thinspiration on pro-ana sites; and one that pummeled me when I caved and ate more than I possibly could. A message that encouraged me to push my fingers just that little bit deeper down my throat to clear away the bad and make me worthy.

As a teenage girl there is very little power available to you. As a girl in general, actually. Society doesn’t want its female members to enjoy the same privileges as the males, who are brought up believing they are worthy simply for existing.

You only have to look at children’s books to realise how early this indoctrination begins. There’s that viral picture of a bookshelf in Harrods of two books side by side. One book is pink with a picture of a girl and reads: ‘How to be gorgeous’; while the blue book, which pictures a boy, is called: ‘How to be clever’.

Harrods took these books off the shelf after there was a massive backlash thanks to Twitter. But they’re hardly an isolated case. 

Girls are told the best they can be is pretty. Boys on the otherhand are told they can be anything. 

Girls are told that if they’re beautiful and quiet and do as they’re told, a prince might just marry them – if they just make a few changes. Like finding a man willing to marry you in the only prize for a girl in life. There is nothing else for you. 

This entire rhetoric is completely absurd and it wasn’t until I was about 21 that I started to realise the power I was giving away by allowing society to convince me to hate myself. I was lucky enough to have been woken up by some incredible feminist writers. The likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Peggy Orenstein and Laurie Penny all stirred something within me. Something that pre-pubescent Pennie was fully aware of: I can do anything, and I’m worthy of as much space as anyone else. 

We can’t keep bringing our youth up to think they’re worthless unless they’re pretty and submissive. Because they’re worth more than that. 

And we can’t all keep giving our power away for fear of being rebuked.

My sister had a baby this year. I don’t want her to grow up thinking her self-worth is wrapped up with what people think of her and that she has to look a certain way to get approval. I want her to grow up thinking she is incredible and can do anything. I want her to grow up believing anything is possible. I want all kids to get the chance to grow up thinking anything is possible. Believing is a pretty powerful tool. As it stands, we’re up against a lot; but I reckon we can do it. 

We may as well all start by picking back up our permanent markers. 

500FILMS: Winter’s bone (REVIEW)

Rating 8/10

Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant. She plays hillbilly teen Ree Dolly, whose family home is in danger of repossession thanks to the disappearance of her meth-cooking dad. 

Most movies I watch about hillbillies tend to focus on idiots being chopped to pieces, so this was an interesting change. Winter’s bone is a tense drama about a community few films (other than those bloodthirsty horrors) ever show us. 

Ree Dolly is trying to raise her younger siblings, while looking after her mother, while being harassed by the bail company looking for her father and threatening to take away her home. She ends up having to break some sort of code of conduct by talking to the locals about what’s going on, and even asking for help. Something that seems almost an alien concept.

Director Debra Granik and her cinematographer Michael McDonough draw us in slowly, creating an uncomfortable atmosphere around the locals. The film could almost be set in the past, with no reference to any modern technology or communication, such as mobiles or radios. This all adds to that lost land feel. 

This film has much to offer and will have you emotionally engaged throughout. I’d totally recommend it. It’s a great story, with great direction and with Jennifer Lawrence. 

The info

Time 100 mins

Genre Drama

Language English (US)

Director Debra Granik

Writers Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini