Monday, June 29, 2015

Netflix double feature picture show: The Purge, GBF

So last night I ended up having a film night on my own, watching two films I'd never get my partner to agree to slumber in front of: The Purge and GBF (Gay Best Friend).

I was in the mood for a bit of suspense and thrill, and The Purge fitted that bill without reaching Saw-like levels of twistedness (which I can't hack at all ;-). In the 2020s, America is a happy place where crime is low, mainly because for 12 hours every 21 March (7pm-7am), pretty much all crimes are allowed. The reason is that, this way, people get out their anger and the weak are weeded out. Great premise, right? Sadly the writer kept it tight (to one family). Too tight really - I think so much more could have been wrought out of the idea of anything being allowed. On that night, who can you trust? who might shaft you? what have you done during the year to avoid pissing people off and becoming a potential victim? you dont want to take part in it but why do you still condone it? what could you do to make it stop? Also it wasn't completely consistent: if you have the money for a fancy security system, why wouldn't you just go on holidays out of the country? Also there is only so many times you can pull the rope of the hero about to be killed but s/he gets rescued at the last minute by someone else hidden in a corner.

GBF is a high school comedy with your typical set of characters ending with an eventful prom. It's pretty witty, but I found it hard to go past the cheap production values - the lighting in particular sometimes made it look like a South American soap opera. Funny highlights were Jojo presiding an LGBT society without an actual LGBT person in it (until our hero is outed), a very sharp black girl (maybe a bit of cliche but she was sassy...) and Megan Mullally playing an embarrassing mum (after finding out her son is gay, she plans a gay movie night-in: they watch Brokeback Mountain. Her live commentary of the tent scene is priceless).

Both get 3 stars.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why Sintra (Portugal) is worth more than a day trip

I was lucky enough to spend a week in the pretty town and landscape of Sintra, a 35-40 min train journey west of Lisbon. (price: 2.15 euros each way! so cheap). Many tourists rock up for a day tour and leave, and I even got raised eyebrows from locals when I told them we were here for longer. "You are here until Friday!!??" said the woman behind the counter at the panaderia opposite the main square with incredulity. Even our super nice air bnb host, Daniel, had emailed us after we made our booking to check we indeed wanted to stay this long: "you'll have done Sintra in 2-3 days max".

Well actually, I wish I'd stayed longer! Here's why - with a few pics by me and the friends I was with.

The place has about 7 palaces to visit, with large gardens/estates (we only did 3). As a playground to the Portuguese aristocracy from the 1500s onwards, it's got gothic gardens (a tower carved inside the rock at Quinta da Regaleira), lots of exotic plants (some Sequoia redwoods can be found in the Palacio da Pena ground), stunningly designed rooms (the blazons room with its ceiling painted with the emblems of the Portuguese royal family and many others, at Sintra Palace) and more. The Moorish Castle is from even earlier. I found it hard to edit down my pics for instagram!

A photo posted by b (@studioincovent) on

C'est intéressant w/c 22 Jun 2015

Interesting, intriguing, exciting, amusing, enraging, fascinating things I recommend.

Long form - Alanis in Chain (Solaya Roberts, Hazzlit)
Alanis Morissette before Jagged Little Pill. Good read. This made me think of a couple of tracks from the album after Jagged Little Pill (ie the not as bestselling one): Unsent (no chorus, extracts from letters to lovers) and So Pure (with its video of Alanis Morissette dancing in a range of style - has she thought about taking part in Dancing with the Stars? She's do well I reckon)

Opinion piece - The real benefit cheats are the employers who are milking the system (Deborah Orr, The Guardian)
Lots of interesting facts for your next dinner party with your right wing friends. Only £8bn worth of benefits go to the unemployed, while an estimated £76bn go to people who are working. Why? In part because some employers don't pay a living wage or offer contracts with enough hours, so the government has to supplement the employees' income somehow. Does it sound right that Tesco has cost the Treasure £364m in pay-rate supplements in the last year? Maybe if employers paid better, the government would have to spend less on benefits, and would be able to cut taxes: all in all everyone would win!

Creative Review July issue
My big boss is on the cover of one of the best mags on creative culture. Amazing! Go, ballet, go!