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 

misspennieisme:

Score: 6/10

Pros: water resistant, comfortable, tracks sleep

Cons: no altimeter, not much fun, not as magical as I’d have hoped

When I first came across the Fitbit Flex I had quite high expectations. This slim little wristband promises to ‘make fitness a lifestyle’, and track…

So, I wrote about my experience with FitBit last month, and wasn’t overly impressed. I mean, it was ok; but I wouldn’t dish out £80 for one.

After my review, I handed my FitBit over to my mum. I’ve been trying to convince her of the benefits of walking for ages, and she hasn’t shown any interest. 

She took the FitBit for a test drive the very next day, and walked around the park. Almost two miles. The longest she’s ever walked (at least since she was my age). She came home so impressed with herself, and so excited to see what the dashboard had to say about her efforts. 

The next day she did it again, walking a little further. She’s gone for a walk around the park every morning since, now averaging over four miles a day, and has lost a few kilos. 

This little exercise has taught me that the FitBit is perfect for people who don’t do any exercise. People who are overweight and under-motivated. FitBit provides just enough encouragement to get people, who wouldn’t usually, moving.

I’m actually quite impressed. 

The FitBit isn’t for people who exercise everyday. It isn’t for people who are already conscious of their health and wellbeing. It’s for people who have allowed themselves to fall into a circle of laziness. Who have allowed themselves to believe that they can’t walk around the block, and they’re better off taking the car to the shops. For these people, perhaps FitBit could offer some sort of salvation. 

And I guess it doesn’t have to be FitBit specifically. Any pedometer would do, though the brightly coloured user interface does make for a friendly experience. Maybe it’ll be the beginning of something better. 

I know I used a calorie and workout tracking app on my phone when I first got going. Being able to see how many calories different exercises burnt, and how much protein different foods contained, was a great starting point for me. It got me to really think about what I was consuming, and how much I was moving. It got me to walk between places when I could instead of getting the bus. 

Eventually I got to a point where moving and eating better became second nature and I started forgetting to tell my phone how well I was doing. I didn’t need it anymore. I didn’t need my phone to tell me chips were bad and running was good. And though those things are obvious, I needed to see it in writing – with red letters screaming at me to rethink. 

If anyone knows of any workout tracking gadgets for the more advanced fitfam, please do let me know! 

500FILMS: Gray matters (REVIEW)

Review 5/10

This 2006 romantic comedy directed by Sue Kramer focusses on the lives of brother and sister duo Gray and Sam Baldwin (Heather Graham and Tom Cavanagh). These two are inseparable. Their codependency sees them living, playing and even learning to dance together. 

When they’re mistaken for a couple at a dinner party, they figure its probably time to find themselves a couple of real relationships. 

Gray matters is a film toying with the lines of sexual orientation. Gray’s sexual desires are one day awakened during an impulsive kiss with her brother’s new girlfriend (Bridget Moynahan) – who happens to be both siblings’ dream girl. 

Unlike most lesbian films, it’s not painfully intense and nobody dies in the end. It wins points for its treatment of gayness as an everyday thing, and there’s no depressing fall into a pit of angst and self-hate on Gray’s discovery of new sexuality.

Only, the film isn’t actually very good. Which is really quite sad. It’s all a little stilted and has a bit too much going on to be able to do any of the things particularly well.

Somehow Gray goes from complete denial of her gayness to total acceptance in a matter of minutes. Which is great, all for the total acceptance of gayness, there should be more of that in the world. But also a little weird that it happened so fast and so drastically.

This is a happy-go-lucky film about finding yourself and being comfortable with who you are, whoever you are. Which is nice.

So overall, it’s a decent watch.

Gray Matters was the first film Sue Kramer directed, which she shot in just 21 days. Apparently the inspiration for the film was her relationship with her gay older sister.  

The info

Time 96 mins

Genre Romance, Comedy, LGBT

Language English (US)

Director Sue Kramer

Writers Sue Kramer

500FILMS: Painkiller Jane (REVIEW)

Rating 2/10

Painkiller Jane is a made-for-TV movie you’ll wish you never watched. It’s based on a comic book book character of the same name and stars Emmanuelle Vaugier as Captain Jane Browning, who is exposed to a chemical while on a mission in Chechnya. This leaves her with magical powers. 

Captain Browning now has the ability to heal abnormally fast, has increased dexterity, speed strength, enhanced senses and mental abilities, and a photographic memory. The perfect soldier. 

So of course the US army wants to cut her up and find out how she ticks. 

There isn’t very much to this film. And although I am a huge fan of movies about kick arse ladies, this wasn’t worth my time. It’s painfully slow and dull, with poor dialogue and limited acting ability. It was a couple of hours of cheese. 

Despite this, after the movie came out a full season of episodes were ordered for a Painkiller Jane TV series. 

The info

Time 106 mins

Genre Action, Drama, SciFi

Language English (US/Canada)

Director Sanford Bookstaver

Writers Emmanuelle Vaugier, Eric Dane, Richard Roundtree 

500FILMS: Fish Tank (REVIEW)

Rating 9/10

Fish Tank is an incredible English drama about Mia (Katie Jarvis), a teenage girl who lives with her nightmare mother (Kierston Wareing) and little sister (Rebecca Griffiths) in an apartment block. 

Jarvis is terrific. Mia is a lairy 15-year old in trouble with social services for breaking another girl’s nose. Her mum Joanne has no interest in her and has left her with a painful sense of insecurity and penchant for booze. 

There’s a scene near the beginning of the film where she gets in trouble with some gypsy boys, where I was genuinely concerned for her safety. 

When Joanne brings home a new boyfriend, everything changes for Mia. For what is probably the first time in her life – or at least in a very long time – somebody seems generally interested in her. Somebody seems to care. 

Love is something Mia hasn’t much experience of, so watching her try and learn how to manage it is incredibly compelling. 

I hope I get to see a lot more Andrea Arnold films. And a lot more of Jarvis. 

This one is worth a watch. It even won a Cannes Jury Prize.

The info

Time 123 mins

Genre Drama

Language English

Director Andrea Arnold

Writers Andrea Arnold 

disneysketch365:

#DisneySketch365 Sulley. It’s a slightly different style than usual, I thought I’d try something new. I don’t like it, but here you go! Sulley from Monsters Inc. This was done in coloured fine liner pens. I should have calmed down a bit with te dark blue pen around the eyes…. he’s ended up looking like he’s wearing eye liner or something…
If you like this sketch and want to get your hands on a hand signed print you can! All you have to do is donate to Great Ormond Street Hospital via my givey page, www.givey.com/gregorygaige 
I’m sketching a different Disney character every day for a year to raise money for GOSH so it’d be great if you would help me out :) To find out more about GOSH just go to www.gosh.org :)

If you haven’t already, you need to check out Gregory Gaige’s Disney Sketch 365 challenge. 

disneysketch365:

#DisneySketch365 Sulley. It’s a slightly different style than usual, I thought I’d try something new. I don’t like it, but here you go! Sulley from Monsters Inc. This was done in coloured fine liner pens. I should have calmed down a bit with te dark blue pen around the eyes…. he’s ended up looking like he’s wearing eye liner or something…

If you like this sketch and want to get your hands on a hand signed print you can! All you have to do is donate to Great Ormond Street Hospital via my givey page, www.givey.com/gregorygaige 

I’m sketching a different Disney character every day for a year to raise money for GOSH so it’d be great if you would help me out :) To find out more about GOSH just go to www.gosh.org :)

If you haven’t already, you need to check out Gregory Gaige’s Disney Sketch 365 challenge. 

500FILMS: Freaks (1931) (REVIEW)

Review 7/10

Roll up, roll up! This 30s black and white film focuses in on the lives of a bunch of circus ‘freaks’. Gather around and watch in wonder as a collection of manic clowns, human deformity and siamese twins perform for the crowds.

Freaks follows German small-man Hans (Harry Earles) as he falls in love with a long-legged trapeze artist (Olga Baclanova). She’s one of the ‘beautiful people’, so for her the love of a freak like Hans is a joke. And boy does she laugh. She finds out Hans is heir to a huge fortune and tricks him into marriage (and steals him from his wife, Frieda); all the while planning to bump off her new husband and run away with her lover, strongman Hercules (Henry Victor). 

This film is fantastic. It cast genuine circus performers as the ‘freaks’, including Earles and his sister Daisy, siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton and Prince Randian, an armless-legless man who rolls cigarettes with his teeth (and it’s bloody incredible).

Rumour has it that when the film initially came out people were so revolted, that MGM spent the next 30 years pretending it had nothing to do with it. 

This isn’t a movie about watching freaks perform for the crowds. In fact, it’s all about their ordinariness. About their lives backstage. We see their everydayness as they fall in and out of love, fight and make up, get drunk and get married. 

Here, the ‘weirdos’ display a powerful comradery, enacting the Code of the Freaks; while the ‘beautiful people’ are in fact ugly and freakish. It’s these ‘beautiful people’ who take the film to some truly nasty places. 

I wonder if there is a lesson about real life in here somewhere; about not judging a book by its cover, perhaps. About ‘otherness’. 

In a film review from 1932, the New York Times says the ‘audience apparently could not decide’ when it came to the film on opening night. ‘Although there was a good bit of applause.’

This is a beautiful film. You should watch it. And it’s only an hour long, so there’s no excuse. 

The info

Time 64 mins

Genre Drama, Horror, Thriller, Black and White

Language English (US), German, French 

Director Tod Browning

Writer Clarence Aaron Tod Robbins (inspired by Spurs)