Annecy 2017: Funny animals & an unlikely pair

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

A marvelous animated collaboration inbetween Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert, titled The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales premiered at the 2017 Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France. The film is a collection of short stories comprising of a fox, a duck, a lizard and a stork. The longest story, and by-far the most moving one too, has been allocated to the fox, who one day while out looking for food comes across some baby chicks that he must look after; the fox immediately switches from his major naturalistic desire to eat the chicks, to a loving and doting parent instead.

The other animals have rather equally interesting experiences of their own: a lazy stork hands over the task of delivering a baby to a rabbit, pig and duck and the lizard is a random figure, versed in Mandarin. Humorous and intelligent, the choice of animation for the movie is a mix between sketches and something primarily off the nineties, which makes the film even more of a curiosity to want to appetite. It’s the all-out adventures of a range of funny and neurotic animals running around though, which delivers, each story (complete with a lively music score as an accompaniment) just brilliantly.

Rating: 9/10

A Slient Voice

A Silent Voice is an adaptation of a seven volume manga series into one full feature length film. That thought alone suggests it’s an impossible task but the movie, which also premiered at Annecy (2017),  shouldn’t be expected to be an animated play-by-play of a comic novel because what it is, is a rendition of the key elements of the manga of the same name by Yoshitoki Oima. The movie opens with an attempted suicide by a boy called Shoya Ishida. Shoya tries to take his own life by jumping from a bridge – he’s a bully who in class use to terrify a young deaf and mute girl called Shoko Nishimiya.

Shoya doesn’t have any friends in school because of his bullying ways, and Shoko has a similar disposition herself: she is always at the receiving end of other kids’ jokes. Shoko hopes for forgiveness from Shoya and in pursuit of that the two become friends, and even wooing is thrown into the picture for a very unlikely pair. It’s a relationship filled with hurt, sporadic comic moments fetched by Shoko’s newfound friend, Tomohiro Nagatsuka, but pushed together by loneliness, and yet what is striking throughout it all, is how different Shoya and Shoko are from each other; Shoya can only communicate with the help of sign language, so her life is quiet but the isolation in school for Shoko, makes him look like he’s always yearning for, at least, a chance of redemption for his previous acts and an exit from this prevailing state of quiet loneliness.

Rating: 7/10

Amazing Spring Sounds

Bruno Mars ’24K Magic’

Bruno Mars’ new album is a fresh take on sounds of the nineties – in the R&B department. Inspired by songs from the decade, which Mars classifies as the kind of songs all the girls in school would love to listen to, which he would belt out once upon a time in his life, 24K Magic is a good follow-up to Doo-Wops & Hooligans (2010), Unorthodox Jukebox (2012) and his dubious collab Uptown Funk (2014). It’s largely a party anthem, and a glorious party anthem, centered on R&B, which is really hard to find. Expect the expected though, with audacious lyrics and new tracks stylistically springing off hits by Boyz II Men and Michael Jackson.

Rating: 4/5

Harry Styles ‘Harry Styles’

Harry Styles’ debut album, since One Direction went on hiatus, was his one chance to carve out something entirely different: a solo project, which would be just as magical as the songs his band is recognized globally for. A mix of rock – particularly, the Los Angeles rock anthem variety, and ballads, it’s very different material because the music is more mature than before in Harry Styles.

The opening track Meet Me In The Hallway, is expressively about a singer/poet from the 11th-13th centuries who travels to and fro from the south of France to the north of Italy, to entertain the rich + a lot more of similar bases, like the big rock anthem Only Angel, where Harry sings of a woman who’s a devil between the sheets and how he thinks he might just like that he cannot take her home to his mother because she loves to wear mini skirts – fascinating…a really fascinating invented tale in the lyrics for Only Angel.

Everything, surprisingly, is an exploration of rock in the album, as often a departure from a prominent pop band grows into for a young star of Harry Styles’ stature. In fact, this might just be the biggest indication of a conscious switch from pop to rock for the British star but it would have made for an even better album to have the sounds mix with pop, as much as well.

Rating: 4/5

Linkin Park ‘One More Light’

Linkin Park has gone in a brand new direction from the previous amazing genres it had placed itself in as a band – rap metal, alternative metal and alternative rock. The latest album is a cleaner pop adventure, filled with melodies and sounds, which sound more contemporary than before. It’s a shocking move away for the band towards something a lot more experimental but it really is still far greater sounds when the band sticks to what it’s known to do – what it does best, which is brilliantly chart in nu-metal, instead.

Rating: 3/5

 

Celebrating Women Authors

Tales which manage to thrill and entertain

Someday, Someday, Maybe

Franny Banks is nowhere close to living the dreams that brought her to New York: in the mid-nineties, Franny can instead be found in an ad for unpretty festive sweaters and waiting tables. Franny wanted to make it big in Broadway but all the fans she has after nearly two-and-a-half-years at it, are her two friends: Jane and Dan. Because of such minute progress, as would perhaps be common nature in deep waters, Franny finds consolation in simpler thoughts of just moving back in with her ex and leave all of these dreams behind, especially since she’s almost out of money, her agent seems estranged and Franny’s father is at her tails asking her to leave her acting classes and come back home. But Banks cannot bring herself to live out any portion of it because her dreams are valuable to her. Fighting random attention deficits caused by the acting class flirt: James Franklin, who suddenly notices her and holding out on hopes of impressing people who could recruit her, or even just a speaking role, the book is good lighthearted reading on the hopeful journey Banks undertakes to become another Meryl Streep someday.

The Forgotten Room

It is the year 1945 and Dr. Kate Schuyler, practising privately at a Manhattan hospital, discovers a mysterious picture: one of the patients in the hospital, Captain Cooper Ravenel has a tiny portrait where a woman is wearing a ruby pendant passed down to Kate by her mother. Kate and Captain Cooper begin to investigate on the story and in the process of that fall into Olive Van Alan’s life stories during the late 19th century in the the United States of America. Olive, has had an interesting life: bouncing from richness to abject poverty; the duo also encounter Lucy Young, who travelled from Brooklyn to Manhattan during the twenties in search of a father she did not know. I liked the theme of this book and the years of rich history explored through numerous characters’ lives – it’s not so very often that you come across a tale which begins in a timeframe characterized by war but still overwhelmingly portrays people’s lives affected by something other than the war.

The Perfume Collector

Grace Monroe and Madame Eva d’Orsey are two women whose lives intertwine in the most unexpected of ways. Grace is a London socialite in the fifties, married into a world she does not belong in and everyone seems to think so. Madame Eva, on the other hand, is a much older lady who leaves her entire estate to Grace, at the time of her death, even though Grace does not know who she is. But because of that entirely unexpected inheritance, Grace goes to Paris to learn more about Eva, whose life trails from New York to Paris in the twenties; she had also won the heart of a very famous Paris perfumer. Eva’s life is mesmerizing – it was imprinted onto perfumes, three of them, but what is extraordinary in the novel is the mystery inheritance left to a woman, fallen to hard times and her journey to discover more about her generous benefactor, who from the looks of it has had no ordinary life.

Diana: Her Fashion Story

Princess Diana, who is often regarded as having been a tragic princess, is so much more than all the controversies that surrounded her during her lifetime – she is also, importantly, about the clothes she wore and how that describes her long enduring love for fashion

In a new exhibition at Kensington Palace, some of Princess Diana’s most iconic dresses have been put on display and the sheer beauty of the clothes worn by the late princess is breathtaking, to say the least. Carefully selected dresses, ranging from evening wear to outfits Princess Di chose for work, reveal not only a shade of her personality, but also that fashion was an important matter to her – she never did sloppy, even when she did odd, particularly whilst channeling an eighties look of exaggerated shoulder pads.

Diana: Her Fashion Story

 

The twenty-five dresses include a Versace ball gown, with motifs of Ancient Egypt in beads and an ink-blue velvet dress, which she had famously worn during her dance with John Travolta at the White House; it was surprising Diana could even dance in the gown given it was so heavy and stiff but it had remarkably complimented the princess’ beauty and elegance.

What I expected from Princess Diana’s entire fashion set at the Kensington Palace, was for it to not break too many royal social protocols but still largely be her own unique sense of style. Maintaining that delicate balance is not easy but I wasn’t disappointed – Diana had broken with country traditions, when she had gone hunting/fishing (with Prince Charles, following her ascension into the Royal Family) in a Bill Pashley two-piece of tweed, where the top was cut slightly into the style of a bomber jacket.

One of Princess Diana’s favourite fashion designers was Catherine Walker, whose creations she would regularly be seen in and a good few of them are part of the latest fashion showcase. From a pearl-encrusted sheath evening dress, which came with a matching dinner jacket of sorts, to a sequinned dress made in the style of clothes worn in Dynasty (one of the greatest soap operas from the eighties), the clothes seemed to me more memorable than particularly extraordinary. But that is the whole point because these fashion creations are meant to compliment Princess Diana’s natural good looks, her power, her status, and also define who this modern day princess was.

The Other Mrs Walker

A mystery unravels in cold Edinburgh

The early days of spring calls for the perfect read and there is nothing quite like a piece of murder mystery fiction, which spans several decades, from pre-war London to today’s Edinburgh. The Other Mrs Walker is the debut novel from Mary Paulson-Ellis. The story of the novel involves the death of a Mrs Walker, who dies surrounded by a collection of objects gathered together during her lifetime, and Margaret Penny, who works for the Office for Lost People, and is on Mrs Walker’s tail after her death to get paperwork on the peculiar lady and her family.

What was intriguing about the book were the two characters’ backgrounds and they are very different too. Margaret is in her middle-ages, she is flat-broke and without a job. She spontaneously decides to come to Edinburgh from London, wearing a red coat (which was looted) and unfriendly shoes, on a nightbus as a means to escape from her previous life. Penny has had a difficult relationship with her mother, which is probably why upon first arrival in Edinburgh, she sleeps burying her broken past, with her doubt-filled future in a junk-filled room, shaped like a box, after offering to broker peace with her mother, unsympathetically aided by a nearly empty bottle of rum.

Mrs. Walker, on the other hand, probaby died because of alcohol. Whisky all over the floor from a cracked glass and nineteen bottles, all ridden empty of whisky, point towards how it might have also contibuted to the old lady’s death, apart from natural causes in a near-frozen Edinburgh flat on a snowy night. Walker’s collection of objects excrutiangly painfully refuse to reveal any details about the owner because they comprise of an emerald dress, a brazil nut boasting the ten commandments and and a fair few orange seeds. If anything, the curiosity surrounding who Mrs Walker really is enough to make this book a page-turner, and there is also the whole scenery that the fiction takes place in, which is interesting and rather rare to come across.

The Founder

McDonalds is one of those fast food joints which can easily be termed as an American classic. Born out of the ingenuity of two brothers Maurice “Mac” McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) and Richard “Dick” McDonald (Nick Offerman), it’s hard to escape its presence around the world. In John Lee Hancock’s (Snow White and the Huntsman and The Blind Side) latest film, The Founder, a failing salesman with a Prince Castle milkshake invention he wants to sell catapults an already successful business venture into a profitable franchise financed by middle class money (in front of which, the scenario is caricatured so that Ray is the founder of McDonalds) at first, and then into this huge independent fast food corporation, but at the expense of growing into a dishonourable businessman.

A captivating tale about the global origins of a hamburger shop
A captivating tale about the global origins of a hamburger shop

The film starts out heartwarming: when you meet an overtly-curious Ray Croc (Michael Keaton) drive out to pay a visit to a drive-in, which has placed an enormous order of milkshake makers, it’s not hard to see what might follow, despite the comfortable life Croc has been leading so far, with his wife, Ethel because Croc’s professional experience, at this point in time, is limited to being just a plain sailing travelling salesman often down on his luck. After getting a mini-tour from the founding brothers of McDonalds, at dinner, Ray convinces the two to franchise the joint, so long as both Maurice and Richard name-stamp all future changes that are about to follow. Up until here and especially when Ray struggles to franchise the joint amongst people with wealth (in the fifties) – which is similar to the experiences that had put off Maurice and Richard from the idea of franchising the joint once before, Ray comes across as a somewhat simple and hardworking businessman, struggling to make business ends meet. It’s hard to not root for Ray here but pretty soon the ugly side of the business world takes over and Ray goes from a struggling business person to a financially struggling person. Ray finds success here too, after some time and begins to offer a real estate investment window for new McDonalds franchises – it brings in more company income and follows through with the McDonalds brothers vision of the quality of milkshakes never getting compromised, in spite of initial troubles for Ray in that food department.

With Ray’s newfound success in business, he eventually reduces the quality of the milkshakes that are offered, buys out the hamburger shop and never honours the founders with their business royalties because the agreement to sell involved no contract. What is extraordinary about the movie is Robert D. Siegel’s unique script – the lengths to which a businessman can go to call an American hamburger shop his own, when he never invented it, is a morally-corrupt moment, in an otherwise inspiring film. But I liked that the spotlight is placed on the corporate universe in a honest manner because business dealings aren’t always about honesty, they are also about manipulation; naturally in a business environment, not everyone’s moral compass always functions correctly, even though what they really should be doing is prop up some moral boundaries instead. The squeaky clean image of the corporate world gets tarnished magnificently in the film – it’s not just suits and boring ties, it’s also about an enduring amount of real success, which Ray manages to bring to McDonalds on a global level.

Rating: 8/10

A Book of Mediterranean Food

A collection of fine recipes
A collection of fine recipes

I have always been a big fan of Mediterranean cuisine. I like it because it is a blend of tasty cheese and a certain fruity flavour with salty food that is not always done right. It’s a shame though because I want to have my olive-based salad done perfectly everytime I eat out, or want to snack on prepared meals. When I think of Mediterranean food, several important foods spring up on my mind, such as lentils and sweet potatoes. Even in dishes, like pilaf rice and potato salad, with a Mediterranean accent, which act as a staple part of a good diet, it’s hard to escape the mediterranean element. With those thoughts in mind, how do you know where to go for good recipes?

This book by Elizabeth David published in the 1950s when she was still a food writer at Harper’s Bazaar, is a rare classic on Mediterranean food, which has been drawn from the author’s own experiences with local food during the rationing era of postwar United Kingdom. How did she manage to do that? Well, she looked towards the country’s neighbours: Greece, the Middle East, Portugal, Italy and France, for recipes. What I found extraordinary was that Elizabeth actually wants people to sample another cuisine rather than soak in the overdone British mealtime plan at the time of the rare corned beef, carrots, onions and bread.

I know it sounds so off-putting and tawdry because meals are supposed to be enjoyed but local food is still local food. How much of another cuisine can you really afford to try out cheap, when the local food climate is so scarce? Nevertheless, there should always be room for Mediterranean food because some of it’s ingredients and recipes can be incorporated into daily diets, such as colourful veg, butter, saffron, garlic, herbs, spicy food, apricot paste sheets to make drinks, almonds, pistachios, dates and raisins – Elizabeth David’s book provides a good variation of recipes to do just that.