Bad Language at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Bad Language

Manchester After Hours - Bad Language at Elizabeth Gaskell's House

Multi award-winning literature organisers Bad Language present an immersive evening of storytelling in the beautifully-restored surrounds of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House.

The city’s finest writers and live performers will read specially-commissioned pieces responding to the living history of the house of Elizabeth Gaskell, author of Mary Barton and North And South, in a promenade style performance.

This is part of the 2017 Manchester After Hours festival. Performances from 6.30pm. No booking necessary.

Thursday 18 May 2017, 6.30pm at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Plymouth Grove, Manchester. Free admission. Join the Facebook event here.

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“Except for the afro”: The surprising importance of Pam Grier’s hair

Media Diversified

By Varaidzo

Jackie Brown sits in a white robe, cherry red nails curled around a coffee mug, as she laments getting older with bondsman Max Cherry.

“I bet that, except for possibly an Afro, you look exactly the way you did at 29,” says Max.

The line is funny, because we know it’s true. Cinema-going audiences of Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (1997) were most likely familiar with Pam Grier’s face. jackiebrownWith her
film career beginning two decades earlier in the 70s blaxploitation era, Pam Grier kicked ass in cute, curve hugging outfits, becoming one of the first “female action heroes” on screen. No mean feat, either, when most exploitation films featured women as wailing damsels or sexual objects, vacant bodies that did little more than grant the male heroes an audience for their escapades.

But Pam Grier became something else, something more. Playing lead role Foxy in Foxy Brown (1974)…

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Quick Fire Review: The Imitation Game

The Imitation GameHere’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Benedict “socially awkward otter” Cumberbatch, Keira “posh lady required”Knightley, Mathew “distractingly pretty” Goode, Mark “your wig guy needs their own special Oscar” Strong, Charles “so you think you can” Dance, Tuppence “not a main character but love the name” Middleton, Rory “Classy northerner” Kinnear

What is it about?

How Alan Turing the father of the modern computer helped break an unbreakable code and the society which vilifies and degrades outsiders and the sexually different, irrespective of their immense talent.

Why did I want to watch it?

Alan Turing’s tale is a poignant one, which needs to be told.

Did I like it?

I thought it was magnificent.  The script was equally funny and touching, and the tale was told in an unpretentious enjoyable way.

Should you watch it?

Yes.  It is one of the best films I have seen in recent months.  If nothing else, if you like crosswords you will feel like you have the makings of a genius and capable of defeating despots the world over.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?

Nope.  There aren’t that many women in the film and there are discussions about how hard a time an intelligent woman has to be taken seriously.  When Joan turns up to be assessed for the Programme the patronising way she is treated says it all.

Other films it doesn’t remind me of:

The Social Network.  Whilst both about social outcast computer geniuses who have difficulty making friends,  Turinf comes across as an affable recluse, Zuckerberg is portrayed as an obnoxious child.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

I’ve still not seen it but Benedict Cumberbatch plays another real life figure, Julian Assange, in The Fifth Estate. Daniel Bruhl is in it so it could be watchable (feel free to let me know what you think in the comments)

The Kings Speech is the forties, once again scored by Alexandre Desplat (guess who I think will get an Oscar nomination?).


Quick Fire Review: Magic In The Moonlight


Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Colin “I really am rather posh” Firth, Emma “I really am rather quirky” Stone, Dame Eileen “Can anyone look at her without remembering that she turned down Colin Farrell for a jump” Atkins, Simon “Hey it’s That Guy” McBurney  and a highly competent supporting cast including Oscar nominees Marcia Gay Harden and Jackie Weaver as a stunning, blonde widow.

What is it about?

A reknowned magician and debunker of fraudulent mediums struggles to unmask a charming mystic in the South of France

Why did I want to watch it?

The inevitable Oscar nomination (screenwriting) and my friend is a huge fan of Woody Allen.  Otherwise I might have been happy to wait for the dvd.

Did I like it?

It was whimsically charming, and a very nice way to spend a Sunday.

Should you watch it?

This lifted my spirits in a way I hadn’t expected. I giggled a lot during the film and after Blue Jasmine this was a welcome relief.  The comedy is in the deft performance by Colin Firth’s austere and arrogant Stanley and his interplay with Emma Stone’s engaging Sophie.  Also some truly terrible ukulele playing is played for laughs in the most delightful way.  It won’t go down as anything extraordinary but it’s certainly not terrible.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?

It does, several times, my favourite probably being all the exchanges between Sophie’s highly calculating mother and the contrastingly trusting  Mrs Cattlidge.

Other films it reminds me of:

Easy Virtue & The Importance of Being Earnest. Well they both star Colin Firth and are set in the 20s.  Woody Allen is clearly trying to evoke Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward and is quite successful to a degree.  I thought it would remind me of Midnight in Paris but that was a more raucous affair, this was very restrained.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

An Ideal Husband.  By far and away my favourite 20’s set farce has to be the 1999 film led by an inimitable Rupert Everett.


Quick Fire Review: Belle


Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Sam Reid, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Penelope Wilton.

What is it about?

One those “we’ll flesh out the life of a real person” period dramas.

Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay was the daughter of a naval officer and a slave, making her upbringing amongst the aristocracy somewhat complicated.  Wealthy but  illegitimate she needs to navigate a society not wholly comfortable with her race.

Why did I want to watch it?

I really really like the fact that someone made a period drama about a feisty young black woman.  This ticks my romcom, period drama and representation boxes.  Also I saw a film by Amma Asante  called “A Way Of Life” a few years back and it allowed me to answer the question “so how many black, british, female directors can you name?” with “2” (thank you too Gurinder Chanda)

Did I like it?

It was stylishly shot and the performances are first rate across the board, which is only to be expected from such a classy cast.  Its themes are straight out of Austen – Love vs Money, can a woman choose who she marries,  as you grow how do you learn to define and identify yourself in spite of how others define you.  It also tackles Britain’s tricky relationship with slavery.

There is a slight imbalance in that all the characters who are outright horrible to Dido are screamingly racist, whereas their views would have been pretty popular in that society, but Emily Watson’s character straddles the line of discussing how far society is willing to tolerate Dido, as opposed to accept her.

Should you watch it?

I can’t recommend it enough, although, obviously if you hate period dramas then this won’t be your thing and the legal bits are a tad on the dry side.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?

It passes both the Bechdel and Racial Bechdel tests. In one scene it passes them both at the same time, which is pretty sweet.  This is balanced of course by the fact that after race, the key theme is the fact that women are given a value based both on wealth and status in regards to family or any taints that might be associated with their birth.

Other films it reminds me of:

The Young Victoria, The Duchess, Sense and Sensibility, Amistad

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:   

Lost In Austen, another period drama featuring Gugu Mbatha-Raw (although not in period garb), The Good Wife, because really you need to see a bit more of Mathew Goode, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, because Tom Wilkinson is always delightful and Blackadder to ask why Miranda Richardson isn’t working more.

Also A Way of Life to see Amma Asante’s earlier film, although definitely have a Disney film cued up to follow it.



Take 5…(well 7) Dramas Directed by Women

women directors

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a self-confessed film buff which went like this:

Me: “Name me 3 black women film directors”.

Random Dude: “I can’t name 1 woman film director”

Me: *sighs* Although it was a bar at about 1am so probably *swears* is more accurate.

You can apparently be a film fan these days without being aware that 50% of the population is capable of making films!  Not only that, but Kathryn Bigelow is now the proud owner of a directorial Oscar with an impressive decades-spanning body of work including that icon of testosterone filled fun – Point Break and he struggled to remember who she was.

Also someone wrote this yesterday (weird given I started this post last week – or timely becuase it never stops being true)

So here are a few unmissiable non-rom-com (I love chick flicks but I’m trying to promote a women can do drama theme here) films by women directors you may not have heard of, but who you will follow avidly from the day you watch them. Or at least be able to reference them in a conversation about film.

 A Way of Life – directed by Amma Asante

Here’s the trailer:

Long before it was common for TV actors to turn director Grange Hill alum Amma Asante made a heartbreakingly haunting film about the struggles of a teenage mother living in Cardiff stuck in a cycle of violence and poverty and butting with her neighbours at every turn.  As gritty as Shane Meadows or Paddy Considine at their best, Asante won the prestigious BAFTA Carl Foreman award for a debut feature and her second feature Belle is due for release this year, which I am very exited about.

After The Wedding – directed by Susanne Bier

Here’s the trailer:

Nerd fact – Susanne Bier’s films have been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar twice and winning on the second occasion – a record equal to Pedro Almodovar.  Even with more English language films under her belt she still doesn’t have the same level of notoriety which is a shame because her films are compelling viewing. After The Wedding follows a charity worker, played by the eminently watchable Mads Mikleson, who is forced to attend the wedding of a potential donor’s daughter and confront some demons from his past.

Sugar – co-directed by Anna Boden

Here’s the trailer:

Another film she co-directed with Ryan Fleck?  Half Nelson which gave Ryan Gosling his first Oscar nomination and helped his career no end.  For that alone we should thank her.  But whilst Half Nelson is excellent, I recommend you also hunt out this gem about an immigrant rookie baseball player trying to make a name for himself in the US and support his family.

Talk To Me – directed by Kasi Lemmons

Here’s the trailer:

Another of Lemmon’s films Eve’s Bayou is a bit hard going, but this biopic of a controversial radio DJ played by Don Cheadle is set against the backdrop of US civil Rights is primarily light hearted, but still a comprehensive portrait of racially tense 60s Washington DC.   This year is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream”speech and you can do a lot worse than watching this film to add a little context.

Pariah – directed by Dee Rees

Here’s the trailer:

OK confession – I haven’t watched this but I am going to import the dvd as soon as I can.

Another directorial debut, it tells the story of a young woman discovering her burgeoning homosexuality and her tentative fraught steps into adulthood facing conflict from her family.

Ok one rom-com, an unconventional one.

Good Dick – directed by Marianna Palka

Here’s the trailer:

Boy meets Girl and they bond very slowly over her interest in porn.  Watch the trailer it’s more charming than it sounds!

Special Mention

Winter’s Bone by Debra Granik – this woman launched Jennifer Lawrence.  Enough said.

If you want to read more about women filmmakers, I highly recommend following the excellent Women and Hollywood blog and Birds Eye View Festival.  They especially highlight films by women coming out so you can support them in the cinema where it counts to studio heads!

Ends rant!


Take Five…Films I’m So Excited about this year


Much Ado About Nothing – 14 June

On screen Shakespeare adaptations from every corner of his repertoire are never far from our screens, from uber violent Corialanus to gloom ridden Hamlet & exuberant and even horticultural takes  or Romeo and Juliet, not to mention an entire High School based sub-genre including O, She’s The Man & of course Ten Things I Hate About You.  No longer the sole domain of thespians such as Kenneth Brannagh, one of cinema and TV’s finest wordsmiths, Joss Whedon, is the latest director to be added to the fold of those who have tackled the bard in modern times.

He even comes with a cherry picked band of players plucked from his many iconic projects.  It may not have Brian Blessed but it will clearly bring its own sense of style and flair to a story of crossed wits and crossed lovers. To gear you up before Nathan Fillion joins this crew of Big Damn Heroes, here’s  a very random treat from the internet.

Other literary adaptations flying off the shelf – The Great Gatsby – 16 May, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – 22 November

Before Midnight – 21 June

Sure, since last year’s Avengers film, I’ve been anticipating the twin marvels(!) of Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 but my all-time favourite film franchise involves to 2 people walking around Europe and falling in love.

18 years ago 2 strangers met on a train and had an adventure which changed them both and which even though separated, affected their lives deeply.  9 years later we get to see how the intervening years changed them and what has remained the same, once again for a finite amount of time.  We last left Jessie and Celine 9 years ago with Jessie on course to miss his flight just to continue to bask in the presence of Celine, the one that got away.

Now we get to drop in on them like the old friends that they are, who we had been rooting for even though we don’t even know if they got together.  We get to discover if the romantic ideas they once held could endure when tested by the realities of life or if Richard Linklater wants to crush us hopeless romantics once and for all.   I, for one, cannot wait to find out.

Here are the trailers for Before Sunrise and Before Sunset – they worked as stand-alone films so  I have no doubt Before Midnight will too, but I definitely recommend catching them before plunging into another snapshot of their lives.

Other sequels out to charm us once more:  Kick Ass 2 – 14 August, Thor: The Dark World – 8 November and I’ve already seen Iron Man 3 and will no doubt revisit it.

The World’s End – 18 July

The Three Flavours Connetto trilogy concludes.  Along with Duncan Jones, Lynne Ramsay and Steve McQueen (below), Edgar Wright’s international success as a director gives me a spark of British pride.  His films embrace some singularly British traits but appeal to wider audiences and remind us why across the world people love the British sense of humour.  His heroes are not the coolest, but you root for the normal guy and  his bromantic companion of choice!

If the trilogy has an overarching ethos, it is probably that the natural refuge of a panic stricken normal British bloke is the pub and this film turns that concept into a pub crawl of apocalyptic proportions!

Also I’m a nerd and it’s a film with Simon Pegg in it!  The rest of the core cast is fantastic from Martin “Bilbo Watson” Freeman to Eddie Marsan who is always a beautifully random delight. On a personal note Paddy Considine can also take my money for retweeting a weird hen do picture I posted and Nick Frost is like the Helena Bonham-Carter to Pegg’s Johnny Depp!

It’s also the end of the world as we know it when these explode onto our screens: World War Z – 21 June, Elysium – 13 September

Ender’s Game – 25 October

I’ve been waiting for Before Midnight for 9 years, but I’ve been waiting for Ender’s Game all my life. At 11 years old I read Maps in A Mirror a compilation of sci-fi and fantasy short stories by Orson Scott Card.  One of the stories “The Battle Room” evolved into one of the most engaging stories I have ever read, about a young boy genius’ struggles to leave his home and become a soldier and eventually a leader. It’s months away so you have plenty of time to catch up on the original novel and one or two of its many, many sequels (Wikipedia has a helpful chart)  before it comes out in the autumn.

I am very encouraged by the cast which includes Hugo’s Asa Butterfield, True Grit’s Oscar nominated Hailee Steinfield and in the adult roles Sir Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford.  Let’s just hope, this beloved book of my youth, which I still reread, is more like Gavin Hood’s enthralling Oscar winning drama, Tsotsi than Gavin Hood’s underwhelming Wolverine.

Other Sci-Fi/Fantasy on the radar: Star Trek Into Darkness -17 May, Man of Steel – 14 June, and of course The Wolverine – 25 July

12 Years A Slave – December

When Steve McQueen and  Michael Fassbender team up I know I am in for a treat, albeit an emotional one.  With Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Cumberbach in the cast, as well as rising star Quvenzhané Wallis, I am hoping that it will have Oscar bait written all over it, although even if his work is overlooked by the Academy once again, I doubt it will be ignored by anyone else.  Steve McQueen has a talent for making me anticipate being uncomfortable.  The next 7 months are likely to be pure, beautiful agony.

To whet your appetite here’s a reminder of Steve McQueen’s spectacular direction – Carey Mulligan’s haunting rendition of New York, New York from Shame.

Clearly I couldn’t stick to just 5, so here are a few more films, with no particular reason or theme, to set you wishing away the weeks and months ahead.

Monsters University – June 21 : the Monsters Inc. prequel is probably the only film which will not divide my family this summer.

Don Jon – release date tbc : Joseph Gordon-Levitt is directing a film – woohooo!

Bad Santa 2 – December: I just know this is going to make my Christmas!



**all dates correct at time of writing**

 movie posters

¡Viva! el cine




Viva el cine

For a couple of weeks in March, all plans revolve around the ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin-American film festival held at the Cornerhouse cinema and exhibition space in Manchester.

Showing the best of current and classic films from directors as diverse as Carlos Saura, Alex de la Iglesia, Benito Zambrano, Icíar Bollaín and Emilio Aragón, the Cornerhouse is the place to catch up on all things cine every year in March.

This year’s offering is the 19th annual event and in anticipation of this year’s opening gala on Friday 8th March, here’s a selection of my favourite Spanish language films that I shall be re-watching between now and then.

1. ¿Qué He Hecho Yo Para Merecer Esto? (Pedro Almodóvar – 1984)

A film from before the “Hollywoodisation” of Almodóvar and the inspiration for the title of this blog, no review of Spanish film can be complete without mention of The Great One. This 1984 film was my first taste of Spanish cinema as a Spanish A Level student and I love it as much now as I did then. It centres around the lives of a dysfunctional madrileño family living in one of the cramped high-rises which line the M30 ring road. Worth watching to understand why Carmen Maura was Almodóvar’s early muse, to laugh at a fabulously clever relationship between Grandson and Grandmother and to see Madrid as the setting for a film in which the city becomes one of the characters of the film itself.

2. Abre Los Ojos (Alejandro Amenábar – 1997)

Ok, Abre Los Ojos featured in my last post and it will probably be shoe-horned into my next one but that’s how much I love it! The precursor of Hollywood’s Vanilla Sky, Abre Los Ojos has a mind-blowingly original plot and great acting from Eduardo Noriega and Penélope Cruz. Plot twists and turns will keep you hooked and true to form, Amenábar leaves the viewer with more questions than answers as the final credits roll. Would you choose to become cryogenically frozen if severely disfigured in a near fatal car accident in the hope of being “brought back to life” in the future?
Look out for a cameo appearance by Amenábar himself too.

3. Tesis (Alejandro Amenábar – 1996)

If you have already seen and enjoyed Noriega’s performance in Abre Los Ojos, you should see him in Tesis, Amenábar’s film which deals with the controversial question of violence on screen and in particular the “snuff movie”. Set on a university campus, Ana Torrent (child star of classics El Espíritu de la Colmena and Cría Cuervos) plays Ángela, a student who is researching her thesis on violence in movies. Her research leads her to suspect that someone on campus is making snuff movies. Her quest to uncover them takes the viewer on a thrilling ride.

4. Bienvenido Mr Marshall (Luis García Berlanga – 1952)

Bienvenido Mr Marshall is one of the earliest anti-Franco films to be released. It is an amusing film which uses comic realism and satire to attack the regime’s hopes to benefit from the Marshall Plan. Set in a small town called Villar del Río, this film is definitely one to watch to get a taste of cinema of this period in Spain’s unique history – don’t be put off if you are normally turned off by black-and-whites. Clever and funny on many levels, watch out for the hilarious but blink and you’ll miss it twist at the end!

5. El Orfanato (Guillermo del Toro – 2007)

El Orfanato by Mexican director has the beautiful quality of being very Spanish and yet universal at the same time. Belén Rueda’s acting is awesome as Laura, who moves her family to an old orphanage with plans to renovate it and open up a residence for handicapped children. When her own adopted son Simón, begins to play games with his “invisible friends” she suspects that there is a presence in the old building which threatens the safety of her and her family.
Cushion required! If you don’t find the film “jumpy” it may come in handy for hiding the tears at the end!


Second Time’s A Charm?


2013 has been dubbed the year of the sequel (The Hangover Part 3, Fast and Furious 6) and the remake (Carrie, Point Break) and that’s before we mention the prequels and re-releases.

Is there anything original out there this year? Does it matter anyway? 50 remakes may be rumoured to be in the pipeline for 2013 but this phenomenon of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” isn’t new.

There’s a lot to be said for “re-viewing” films and rather than looking forward to this year’s remakes, why not look back at 5 films made for English-speaking film-goer which have non-English language originals. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with piecing back together the scraps from the cutting room floor and re-casting, re-locating and re-twisting the plot of great films. Or is there? Watch these remakes and originals and you decide…

Vanilla Sky

2001 American Sci-fi directed, co-produced and co-written by Cameron Crowe and starring Tom Cruise and Penélope Cruz


Abre los Ojos

The 1997 original co-written and directed by Mateo Gil and also starring Penélope Cruz as Sofía, the same character she plays in Vanilla Sky

Both films deal with the theme of cryonics. The protagonist struggles to deal with having been severely disfigured in a near fatal car accident and is cryogenically preserved to live a virtual reality existence in which the boundaries between reality and dreams are blurred.

And God Created Woman

1988, a second version of the French original directed by Roger Vadim and starring Rebecca de Mornay


Et Dieu Crea La Femme

1956 French drama also directed by Roger Vadim and starring Brigitte Bardot

The temptress protagonist sends the men she meets into a sexual frenzy and they vie for her attention!

City of Angels

1998 American romantic drama directed by Brad Siberling and starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan


Der Himmel über Berlin

1987 Franco-German romantic fantasy film set in Berlin and directed by Wim Wenders

Exploring the idea that angels watch over humans who are close to death and guide them to the next life.

Scent of a Woman

1992, Al Pacino is directed by Martin Brest


Profumo di Donna

1974, Italy, directed by Dino Risi, the protagonist was played by Vittorio Gassman

Telling the story of the friendship that exists between a young man and an irascible blind ex-army officer who claims he can detect a beautiful woman only by her scent.

Let Me In

2010 American romantic horror filmwritten and directed by Matt Reeves and starring Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz


Låt den rätte komma in

2008 Swedish film directed by Tomas Alfredson

It tells the story of a friendship which develops between a 12-year-old boy who is being bullied and a vampire child in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the early 1980s.

Shall We Dance?

2004 American film directed by Peter Chelsom and starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon


The 1996 Japanese film of the same title, written and directed by Masayuki Suo. Its title refers to the song, “Shall We Dance?” which comes from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.

A married middle-aged man’s quest to get to know a dancer better leads him to take up dance lessons.

The Departed

2006 American crime thriller from Martin Scorsese The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg and won four Oscars


Infernal Affairs

The 2002 Hong Kong crime-thriller film directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak

Two men are undercover for the police with the Irish mafia and a Chinese triad in the Hong Kong version. The films reach a climax as identities are discovered and blood is shed.


Take Five Supplementary: Working Girls Playlist

After I wrote the post I had some thoughts on songs which would – tenuously -complement the films I referenced, so for your additional pleasure….The WHYDTDT Working Girls Playlist

Office Space – Tell Me Why I Don’t Like Mondays, Boomtown Rats
Serenity  – Defying Gravity
Friends with Money & Maid In Manhattan – Jenny From The Block (!)
The Secretary – Forever Yours, Alex Day
The Good Girl – Quiet Town, Josh Rouse
Definitely Maybe – Cigarettes and Alcohol (from the album Definitely Maybe), Oasis
Starship Troopers – Rocket to Mars, Neil Jackson
St. Elmos Fire – The World Is Mine, I Don’t Know Anything, Alex Day
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!  – Joan Amantring – Weakness In Me

Do you have any better suggestions?  Post them in the comments!